Before she became the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mirra Alfassa was a spiritual seeker like any other, reading books on mysticism, communing with nature, probing the recondite worlds of her dreams, meeting with fellow seekers, and generally assimilating the mysterious intimations of a vaster consciousness that were being disclosed to her from time to time. Along the way, she read Swami Vivekananda’s book on Raja Yoga and found it illuminating. Jnanendranath Chakravarty, who was visiting Paris, gave her a French translation of the Bhagavad Gita and asked her to read it with the understanding that Krishna was the symbol of the immanent God, the inner Godhead .
Sometime before 1905, the Mother had several dreams in which she found herself prostrating in a peculiar fashion before an Asiatic man with a golden-bronze hue and rather sharp profile, an unruly beard and long hair, dressed in a “vision attire” with one end of it thrown over his shoulder, arms and chest bare, and bare feet. She would wake up dumbfounded by the strange gesture of prostration and wonder, “What is all this?” Not knowing who the individual was, she called him Krishna. When she met the occultist Max Theon in 1905, she saw that he had a similar profile but he was clearly not the man of her visions. When her husband, Paul Richard, visited Pondicherry in 1910, he came back with a photograph of the Indian mystic, Sri Aurobindo, who had impressed him as an “intellectual giant”. The photograph did not spark any recognition in her but she still chose to accompany Paul to Pondicherry in March of 1914, a few months before the First World War began, to determine if this Indian mystic could guide her further than Theon. She had an afternoon appointment to see Sri Aurobindo at his house, and it was only when she began ascending the stairs of the house that suddenly everything fell into place. As she looked up, she saw Sri Aurobindo standing at the top of the staircase, head held high exactly as she had seen in her dreams. She felt a decisive shock as “the two things clicked, the inner experience immediately became one with the outer experience and there was a fusion”. The dazzling “vision attire” that she had seen him draped in was actually the modest Indian dhoti that he was accustomed to wearing. And the puzzling manner in which she had bowed to him in her dreams – it turned out to be the Hindu form of prostration .
A short story “A Sapphire Tale” written by the Mother in October, 1906 presciently anticipates the adventitious manner in which she met Sri Aurobindo in real life in 1914. In this story, a wise old king of a prosperous country in the Far East wishes to transfer the crown to his son, Meotha. He asks the latter to marry a suitable woman before ascending to the throne. Meotha requests his father for some time to travel around the world so he can find his destined partner. The rest of the story is best read in the original. I have omitted the preliminary portions of the story which describe the state of the kingdom.
A Sapphire tale – by the Mother (1906)
ONCE UPON a time, far away in the East, there was a small country that lived in order and harmony, where each one in his own place played the part for which he was made, for the greatest good of all.
This orderly and harmonious country was ruled by a king who was king simply because he was the most intelligent and wise, because he alone was capable of fulfilling the needs of all, he alone was both enlightened enough to follow and even to guide the philosophers in their loftiest speculations, and practical enough to watch over the organisation and well-being of his people, whose needs were well known to him.
At the time when our narrative begins, this remarkable ruler had reached a great age—he was more than two hundred years old—and although he still retained all his lucidity and was still full of energy and vigour, he was beginning to think of retirement, a little weary of the heavy responsibilities which he had borne for so many years. He called his young son Meotha to him. The prince was a young man of many and varied accomplishments. He was more handsome than men usually are, his charity was of such perfect equity that it achieved justice, his intelligence shone like a sun and his wisdom was beyond compare; for he had spent part of his youth among workmen and craftsmen to learn by personal experience the needs and requirements of their life, and he had spent the rest of his time alone, or with one of the philosophers as his tutor, in seclusion in the square tower of the palace, in study or contemplative repose.
(The king asks his son to find a wife…) But as you know, according to age-old custom, no one may ascend the throne who is not biune, that is, unless he is united by the bonds of integral affinity with the one who can bring him the peace of equilibrium by a perfect match of tastes and abilities. It was to remind you of this custom that I called you here, and to ask you whether you have met the young woman who is both worthy and willing to unite her life with yours, according to our wish.
(Meotha asks for time to find his wife…) I wish therefore to travel the world for a year, to observe and to learn. I ask you, my father, to allow me to make this journey, and who knows?—I may return with my life’s companion, the one for whom I can be all happiness and all protection.
Amid the western ocean lies a little island valued for its valuable forests.
One radiant summer’s day, a young girl is walking slowly in the shade of the wonderful trees. Her name is Liane and she is fair among women; her lithe body sways gracefully beneath light garments, her face, whose delicate skin seems paler for her carmine lips, is crowned with a heavy coil of hair so golden that it shines; and her eyes, like two deep doors opening on limitless blue, light up her features with their intellectual radiance.
Liane is an orphan, alone in life, but her great beauty and rare intelligence have attracted much passionate desire and sincere love. But in a dream she has seen a man, a man who seems, from his garments, to come from a distant land; and the sweet and serious gaze of the stranger has won the heart of the girl— now she can love no other. Since then she has been waiting and hoping; it is to be free to dream of the handsome face seen in the night that she is walking amid the solitude of the lofty woods.
The dazzling sunlight cannot pierce the thick foliage; the silence is hardly broken by the light rustle of the moss beneath the footsteps of the walking girl; all sleeps in the heavy drowse of the noonday heat; and yet she feels a vague unease, as if invisible beings were hiding in the thickets, watchful eyes peeping from behind trees.
Suddenly a bird’s song rings out clear and joyful; all uneasiness vanishes. Liane knows that the forest is friendly—if there are beings in the trees, they cannot wish her harm. She is seized by an emotion of great sweetness, all appears beautiful and good to her, and tears come to her eyes. Never has her hope been so ardent at the thought of the beloved stranger; it seems to her that the trees quivering in the breeze, the moss rustling beneath her feet, the bird renewing its melody—all speak to her of the One whom she awaits. At the idea that perhaps she is going to meet him she stops short, trembling, pressing her hands against her beating heart, her eyes closed to savour to the full the exquisite emotion; and now the sensation grows more and more intense until it is so precise that Liane opens her eyes, sure of a presence. Oh, wonder of wonders! He is there, he, he in truth as she has seen him in her dream… more handsome than men usually are. —It was Meotha.
With a look they have recognised each other; with a look they have told each other of the long waiting and the supreme joy of rediscovery; for they have known each other in a distant past, now they are sure of it.
She places her hand in the hand he offers her, and together, silent in a silence filled with thoughts exchanged, they wend their way through the forest. Before them appears the sea, calm and green beneath a happy sun. A great ship sways gently near the shore.
Meekly, trustingly, Liane follows Meotha into the boat which awaits them, drawn up on the sand. Two strong oarsmen put it to sea and soon bring them alongside the vessel. Only as she sees the little island disappearing below the horizon does the girl say to her companion:
“I was waiting for you, and now that you have come, I have followed you without question. We are made for each other. I feel it, I know it, and I know also that now and forever you will be my happiness and my protection. But I loved my island birthplace with its beautiful forests, and I would like to know to what shore you are taking me.”
“I have sought you throughout the world, and now that I have found you, I have taken your hand without asking you anything, for in your eyes I saw that you expected me. From this moment and forever, my beloved shall be all to me; and if I have made her leave her little wooded isle, it is to lead her as a queen to her kingdom, the only land on earth that is in harmony, the only nation that is worthy of Her.” 
The story in Savitri
Sri Aurobindo would later integrate this story into his epic poem Savitri. In his rendition, it is Savitri who travels to meet Satyavan, as it transpired in real-life. The following verses are from Book V of Savitri.
An unknown imperious force drew him to her.
Marvelling he came across the golden sward:
Gaze met close gaze and clung in sight’s embrace.
A visage was there, noble and great and calm,
As if encircled by a halo of thought,
A span, an arch of meditating light,
As though some secret nimbus half was seen;
Her inner vision still remembering knew
A forehead that wore the crown of all her past,
Two eyes her constant and eternal stars,
Comrade and sovereign eyes that claimed her soul,
Lids known through many lives, large frames of love.
He met in her regard his future’s gaze,
A promise and a presence and a fire,
Saw an embodiment of aeonic dreams,
A mystery of the rapture for which all
Yearns in this world of brief mortality
Made in material shape his very own.
On the dumb bosom of this oblivious globe
Although as unknown beings we seem to meet,
Our lives are not aliens nor as strangers join,
Moved to each other by a causeless force.
The soul can recognise its answering soul
Across dividing Time and, on life’s roads
Absorbed wrapped traveller, turning it recovers
Familiar splendours in an unknown face
And touched by the warning finger of swift love
It thrills again to an immortal joy
Wearing a mortal body for delight.
There is a Power within that knows beyond
Our knowings; we are greater than our thoughts,
And sometimes earth unveils that vision here.
To live, to love are signs of infinite things,
Love is a glory from eternity’s spheres.
Abased, disfigured, mocked by baser mights
That steal his name and shape and ecstasy,
He is still the godhead by which all can change.
Rare is the cup fit for love’s nectar wine,
As rare the vessel that can hold God’s birth;
A soul made ready through a thousand years
Is the living mould of a supreme Descent.
These knew each other though in forms thus strange.
Although to sight unknown, though life and mind
Had altered to hold a new significance,
These bodies summed the drift of numberless births,
And the spirit to the spirit was the same.
Amazed by a joy for which they had waited long,
The lovers met upon their different paths,
Travellers across the limitless plains of Time
Together drawn from fate-led journeyings
In the self-closed solitude of their human past,
To a swift rapturous dream of future joy
And the unexpected present of these eyes.
By the revealing greatness of a look,
Form-smitten the spirit’s memory woke in sense.
The mist was torn that lay between two lives;
Her heart unveiled and his to find her turned;
Attracted as in heaven star by star,
They wondered at each other and rejoiced
And wove affinity in a silent gaze.
A moment passed that was eternity’s ray,
An hour began, the matrix of new Time.
(Sri Aurobindo. Savitri Book V, Canto II)
- Mother’s Agenda. 25 August, 1954.
- Mother’s Agenda. 20 December 1961
- Mother’s Agenda. 5 November 1961
- Mother’s Agenda. 20 December 1961
- Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 2, pp 8-12.