- Mother, The
- (Mirra Richard)(1878–1973)revered utopian yoga teacherFrench-born Mirra Alfassa was a revered teacher of YOGA in a modern context and of utopian social thought. The title Mother was given to her by her associate, the great Indian sage Sri AUROBINDO. It indicated that she was considered a form of the GODDESS.Mirra Alfassa was born to an Egyptian mother and Turkish father in Paris on February 21, 1878. Though she lived in a strictly atheistic household, young Mirra began to have spiritual and occult experiences as a young girl. She would often fall into a silent trance for minutes at a time. As she grew older she had experiences of distance sight and astral projection. As a young woman she took full advantage of the cultural excitement of Paris at the turn of the 20th century. Her first husband, with whom she had her only child, was an artist associated with the burgeoning modern art scene.At the age of 28 Mirra went to Algeria to study occultism under a little-known teacher, Max Theon, and his wife, Alma, but decided in the end that Theon was not a pure master. She felt that he was ego driven and self-centered. On a 1914 trip to India with her second husband, the diplomat Paul Richard, she met Sri Aurobindo, who had recently taken refuge in Pondicherry. She describes this visit dramatically in her diaries. She had dreamed of just such a person, with flowing robes and beard, when she was much younger and she felt that she had met a person of pure and powerful spirit. She relates how she was enveloped in his presence in the most profound silence of the The Mother (1878–1973), spiritual partner of Sri Aurobindo and founder of Auroville Community, Tamil Nadu (Courtesy Sri Aurobindo Archives, Pondicherry) mind. She did not, however, join Sri Aurobindo at that time, but went with her husband to Japan.After leaving Japan and spending some time in Europe, Mirra Richard abandoned married life and joined Sri Aurobindo as his spiritual partner in 1916. At first there were questions about her status at his ASHRAM from people close to Sri Aurobindo, but he quelled them by declaring that his consciousness and the Mother’s con-sciousness were one; it was he who gave her the important spiritual title, Mother. In his book On the Mother he explained her spiritual role in the new world.The yoga that she and Sri Aurobindo practiced was worldly. Rather than the isolated transcen-dence of the renunciant in a cave, it was a trans-formative yoga aimed at changing all of reality in its wake. They wanted to bring to earth the divine superconsciousness, termed the supramental, by Aurobindo, which would, they thought, alter the nature of reality itself. The Integral Yoga, or complete yoga, of Sri Aurobindo and Mother was designed to orient its devotees yogically toward a life in the world that would progressively become divine.In 1926 Sri Aurobindo went into seclusion in the ashram and left Mother in charge of day-to-day affairs. He declared that he had reached the Overmind in his yogic work and needed seclu-sion to work with the powerful forces in order to expand this into a supramental manifestation. Mother from then on managed all ashram affairs, designed the movement’s educational programs, and provided inspiration to the burgeoning group of followers who began to attend more regularly.Sri Aurobindo died in 1950 without complet-ing his spiritual project. He declared that it was the Mother herself who would succeed in bringing about the supramental manifestation that would begin the transformation of all life, all matter, and all the cosmos toward perfect consciousness and bliss. In 1956 Mother announced that she had succeeded in bringing down the supramental and proceeded from that day to prepare the world for the power of a new consciousness that she felt would now inevitably manifest.Mother had already, in the early 1950s, envi-sioned a utopian ground where all nations could join to manifest the unity on Earth that she felt would accompany the new consciousness. This early vision of an international center for edu-cation gradually changed into the idea of a city to be built in South India under her auspices. In 1968 she broke ground for this city—AURO-VILLE—which was to be a guide for the new earthly transformation. People from around the world flocked to the city to begin the new spiri-tual experiment.Mother died in 1973 at the age of 95 and was buried in a tomb beside her beloved spiritual partner, Sri Aurobindo. She left a legacy of prac-tice and commitment that few women spiritual teachers in the 20th century could match. Her writings were not vast as her mentor’s were, but her words and wisdom were dutifully recorded by her student Satprem, who transformed them into a many-volume series, The Mother’s Agenda.Further reading: Kireet Joshi, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: Glimpses of Their Experiments, Experiences, and Realisations (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1989); Satprem, Mother’s Agenda, 12 vols. (Paris: Institut de recherches évolutives, 1991); George Van Vrekhem, The Mother: The Story of Her Life (New Delhi: Harper-Collins Publishers India, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.