On 4 December 1973 Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya (the Mother’s attendant and Director of the Department of Physical Education of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry) had given a talk on the last days of the Mother’s life carefully describing the events which he personally observed and experienced and also answered some of the questions which were put to him by many individuals after the Mother left her physical sheath.
The text of the talk—which was given at the Ashram Playground—was published as a supplement to Mother India (the monthly review of culture published from Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry) on December 5, 1973.
The said text has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation on the occasion of the Mother’s forty-first Mahasamadhi anniversary.
With warm regards,
Being advised by my elders and with their blessings, as well as requested by my friends, brothers and sisters, I now present myself in front of you to say a few words about our Mother.
I must tell you from the beginning that what I shall relate will be what I have seen and felt personally. I am sure, another person in my place would have seen and felt in a different way and I do not wish to go into a controversy about it. I shall be faithful to my own feelings and observations.
After Mother left Her body on the 17th of November, I have met people in small groups and answered their questions. I have now an idea what pattern of questions people generally bring. I shall take up some of them and try to say all that I know.
The first thing people ask is: “Please tell us something about the last days of Mother.”
All of you know that at the beginning of April this year the Mother became unwell while She was giving blessings. We stopped it as well as the special interviews. She took to Her bed, She rested more and after a few days She became a little better. She wanted to see people again as usual, but immediately She understood that it was no longer possible. So She saw only a dozen people, who used to come to Her daily for work. She went on attending to it.
It continued like that for some time but, to be exact, on the 20th of May, at about 9:30 p.m. when I had just gone out from Her room to the terrace after Champaklalji had come in, I was suddenly called to see what had happened to the Mother. I found Her extremely restless, a bit dejected and, I must say, annoyed with Herself. At least that was what I saw, what I felt. She said she didn’t have any control over Her body. From then, She completely stopped seeing people and almost all the time remained in Her bed with Her eyes closed. In the beginning, She refused to take any food or drink, but somehow we persuaded Her to take them. It kept going on in this way.
According to the advice of Dr. Sanyal we were to give Her about 20 to 25 ozs. of food everyday. It consisted of a little vegetable soup, milk with some protein compound, a paste made of almonds, mushrooms, artichokes or things like that and some fruit juice at the end. She took them all right; and sometimes the quantity was just what the doctor had suggested, sometimes it was more, at other times less. All those who were in the courtyard below must have heard how we had to fight with Her to make Her eat a little. This continued for quite a long time. On the 10th of November, we noticed that a kind of hiccup had developed.
Actually, we had seen this kind of hiccup about eight or ten days before, but that had lasted for a short while. This time, I noticed this hiccup coming soon after Her lunch, I think it was at 12:30 p.m. or so, and in the evening when She started taking Her dinner it was still there. Then the doctor examined Her and found that Her blood-pressure was very low, Her heart extremely weak and there was a frequent missing of beats. In fact, the heart started failing from that time. That day and on the following two days She took very little food. On the night of the 13th, at about 10 o’clock, She told me to lift Her shoulders up from the bed. From 10th November onward She remained absolutely in bed. After the doctor had examined Her he said we should not bring Her out of the bed any more. On the 13th night, at about 10 o’clock, She asked me to just lift up Her shoulders so that She might be for a little while in a sitting position. I did so. Afterwards, She told us to lift Her legs also a little. I did that, too. Then She said Her whole body must be lifted up from the bed. With Champaklalji on one side and I on the other, we lifted Her. I noticed that She was finding it very comfortable. But we could not hold Her in that position for long. After a few seconds we lowered Her.
I must tell you that She had developed some bed-sores on Her back, on Her hips and on other parts of Her body. She was remaining constantly in one position, semi-reclined, leaning on the raised back of the bed. That habit She had formed probably from Her early youth or childhood. As She lay only in one position, we could not give relief to the parts concerned. And our lifting Her must have given Her some comfort. She asked that night, after every ten, fifteen or twenty minutes, to lift Her up. So the whole night, from 10 to 4 o’clock, every few minutes, Champaklalji and myself kept lifting Her up from the bed. At 4 o’clock She went to sleep.
That day, the l4th, She was more or less normal. She took some food and the day passed quite well. Then at night She started telling me again to raise Her shoulders, Her legs and later Her whole body. We did that several times. Then She said, “Make me walk.” We were very hesitant, but as She insisted, we lifted Her up from the bed. She could not walk, staggered a little, almost collapsed. Seeing this, we put Her back in bed. We saw that Her face had become absolutely white and the lips blue. Then we decided that whatever She said, we must not take Her out from the bed again to walk. She took about twenty minutes to recover; She started saying, “Lift me up again, I shall walk.” We refused. She asked us why we were refusing. We said, “Mother, you are in such a weak condition that it will do you harm.” Then She said, “No, lift me up.” We did not. She began to plead, sometimes shout. All this continued until fifteen minutes past one. At that time we thought we would give Her some sedative, so that She might rest quietly. Then we gave Her Siquil as the doctor had prescribed. It took Her about 45 minutes to become quiet and She slept from 2 to 4 o’clock, but after getting up She started saying, “Pranab, lift me up and make me walk. My legs are getting paralysed; if you help me to walk again, they will become all right.” But we did not listen. After the first frightening experience, we had to remain quiet. She went on entreating till about 6 o’clock when She fell asleep.
The 15th passed off quite well. She took more food than usual. At night again She began asking me to lift Her up. We lifted Her up, then She wanted us to help Her to walk, we refused to do that. We said, “Mother, you should not walk.” She immediately obeyed us. We had to lift Her up several times and the night passed smoothly.
That was on the 15th. From that day She became absolutely obedient. Whatever we told Her She did; She ate the food we gave and She did whatever we suggested. The l6th also passed nicely.
The 17th morning passed very well. Every morning we gave Her a laxative. She took it without any objection that day. Her breakfast She took very well, lunch also. Then when Kumud and Champaklalji had left after Her lunch, I was with Her; I noticed that She was making some strange sounds, and sometimes lifting Her hands, but as She used to do this often in Her sleep, I did not pay much attention. I left at 2 o’clock, for Champaklalji and Kumud came. I reported to them what I had seen. When I came back at 5 o’clock, Champaklalji told me that he had seen the same thing, but sometimes the Mother had been shouting a little louder. I was with Her from 5 to 6:30. At 6:30 Champaklalji and Kumud came. While I was leaving, the Mother called me and said, “Lift me up.” Again from two sides Champaklalji and I caught hold of Her hand and lifted Her up. Then we lowered Her on the bed and I left. At that time Kumud as usual asked Her if She would take a few spoons of glucose water. The Mother said, “Lift me up.” Kumud lifted Her shoulders up. The Mother wanted that Her whole body should be lifted. So that was done. After She had been lowered on the bed, André came in. A few minutes later Kumud noticed that there was some sound coming from Her throat and the head was moving in a certain way which she did not like. She consulted Champaklalji and then sent for Dr. Sanyal and for me.
I arrived at about five past seven and saw that Dr. Sanyal was already there examining Her. Dyumanbhai also had come. I went and felt the Mother’s pulse. It was still there, beating at long intervals. There was still some respiration. But slowly everything stopped. The doctor gave an external heart massage to Her. It had no effect. Then he declared that the Mother had left Her body. This was at 7:25 p.m. Then, being present and feeling my responsibility, I thought what I should do. At that time, there were present André, Champaklalji, Dr. Sanyal, Dyumanbhai, Kumud and myself. I talked with André and told him that I wanted to wait for some time and then take the Mother’s body down, place it in the Meditation Hall for people to see. We would keep the body in such a way that it was not disturbed, then we would decide what to do. André agreed to my proposal. He wanted to remain with us but as he was not well I suggested that he should go home and take rest and come back the next day. He left. We remained there and discussed what to do.
Now we thought that if people immediately came to know about the Mother’s passing there would be a big rush, and the crowd would all clamour to see Her. There would be noise and shouting and a tremendous confusion. So we thought of keeping the event secret for some time. Also Dr. Sanyal said that we must not disturb the body in any way for several hours. So the Mother was left as She was and after 11 o’clock, when the gate of the Ashram was closed, we cleaned Her body with Eau de Cologne, put a nice dress on Her, arranged everything and then Dyumanbhai and I went down and called Nolinida. Nolinida came up, saw everything, and asked what we were going to do. I mentioned my plans to him. He said the Mother had once told him that if it looked to us that She had left Her body we should not be in a hurry, but see that Her body was properly kept, and then wait. I said, “We are just about to do the same. We have cleaned Her, otherwise ants and insects would have come. We have put on Her a new dress and we shall carry Her quietly, carefully downstairs and lay Her in the Meditation Hall. After some time we shall call people.” He agreed to our proposal. We came down—Dyumanbhai, Bulada, Nirodda, Kumud and myself—and arranged the place, with the bed there as you saw. At about 2 o’clock we brought the Mother’s body down, placed Her on the bed, arranged everything. Then I went out, called Mona, told him to come and see me with four other boys, five of my lieutenants, so to say. When they came I explained to them what to do: to call the photographers first, then to call the trustees, then all those who were very close to Her. I told them also to organise volunteers to look after the work that was coming. They went out and did their work wonderfully well. Then, from 3 o’clock the people who had been called started coming. While we were upstairs, we prepared some kind of statement that would go to the Press and to All India Radio so that no wrong information might go out as it had happened some time back. Our draft of the statement we got corrected by Nirodda and gave it to Udar to circulate. At 4:15 in the morning we opened the gate of the Ashram for people to come in and have a last Darshan. You know everything that happened afterwards.
The next question people ask is: “Did the Mother give you any indication that She was going to leave Her body?”
To this I would say, “No.” She fought and tried up to the end. She had a tremendous will and She was a great fighter and She fought and tried to do what She had taken upon Herself. She suffered a lot, there was much suffering. Once, a few years back, when She was suffering terribly, She sometimes said that perhaps death would not be so painful, death would perhaps be better. But She never said that She would like to leave Her body. And the explanation for Her suffering, I can give like this: because She resisted, because She fought, She suffered. If She had yielded to what we call natural laws, that is, decay, disintegration and death, there would not have been so much suffering for Her. But that She did not want; She tried, She fought and She suffered and showed us how suffering could be taken.
Another question asked is: “Did the Mother say anything before leaving Her body?”
To this also I say, “She said nothing.” In fact, for the last six months that She was confined to bed, She spoke very little. Most of the time She remained with Her eyes closed. At regular intervals we raised Her up from the bed, gave Her food and drink, cleaned Her, put a new dress upon Her… Whatever She said was mostly about Her body—that She was feeling pain, She was feeling cold, She wanted water or we must place Her in such a way that She did not have pain but could be comfortable. This is all that She said. She never said anything about our work, about the Ashram or about anybody. One thing She repeated to me often quite some time back, and to some other persons also. She said that all the work She was doing on Her body could be spoilt in two ways—one, this force She was pulling down on Her could be so strong, so great, that the body would not be able to tolerate it and the body might fail. That was a possibility. The second thing was that if ever She went into a deep trance and it looked to us that She had left her body, then if by mistake we put Her in the Samadhi, that would absolutely spoil Her work. And She gave instructions that we should give the body necessary protection, we should watch, and only when we were absolutely sure that She had left Her body we should put Her in the Samadhi. I think we have done as She wanted.
About the first possibility that She mentioned, it is left to you to find out and draw your own conclusion. But it is quite certain that She did not want to leave Her body and She worked up to the end. After She had been seriously unwell since the 20th of May, when Dr. Bisht came for the first time to examine Her, She said that She was undergoing a process of transformation, something was happening to Her, she didn’t know what it was, She didn’t know what to do and She asked Dr. Bisht if he could help Her in any way. Naturally, Dr. Bisht, a scientific man, could not see the inner things, and he said, “Mother, to see and tell you what is happening, I must make a big .progress; then only I can give my answer to you.” The Mother immediately said, “Make a big progress!” So from that we can understand how eager She was to continue Her work of physical transformation.
The next question comes: “Have you seen on Her body any sign of physical transformation?”
Well, this is an inner process and with our human eyes it is not possible to see anything outwardly. Perhaps, a man with an extraordinarily high spiritual capacity could have seen; but for myself, I did not see anything. During all this time I appreciated how She was trying, and that invincible will of Hers I appreciated so much that I thought that unless one was doing one’s work effectively according to one’s plan one could not have this kind of will, this determination and strength.
Then I am asked: “What did you feel when the Mother left Her body?”
Actually, I was holding Her when She left Her body. It looked to me as if a candle was slowly extinguishing. She was very peaceful, extremely peaceful, and when Dr. Sanyal declared that She had left Her body, truly speaking I did not feel any want. Since that time I have felt that my heart is never empty and I feel no want. Another thing, what relieved me much, was that, having seen Her suffering so much, when the end came, to tell the truth, I was quite pleased and thought that at least the suffering had stopped. Her sufferings had to be seen to be believed. Those who were there have seen how She suffered. When that ended, at least for myself I felt that at last She had come out of this agony. And really, I, like many others, don’t feel that She has gone physically. After seeing the message signed by Nolinida, all of us know that She promised to him that if ever She left Her body She would not withdraw Her consciousness. This thing which came now, I think She had prepared me enough for it from quite a long time back. Long before, say, in the year 1948, when Sri Aurobindo was still living, She told me, “I am not willing to go, I will not go, and this time there will be no tragedy; but if it so happens that I leave my body, then put my body under the Service Tree.” At that time there was a kind of brick-made platform on which there were some fern trees. She said to lay Her body there. And when Sri Aurobindo had passed away, She ordered Udar to make two chambers in the Samadhi vault, one upon the other. Then several times She said how She was working, how She was finding resistance and how sometimes She was finding the work difficult; and lately, say, after 15th August 1972, I felt that perhaps what has happened was going to happen. I could not tell anybody and everybody, but to my close associates I said what I was feeling. Afterwards, I felt strongly that it was going to happen, I was counteracting this idea, saying that it should not happen. But behind everything the idea was there. So I was fully prepared from almost the beginning and as I told you that I did not feel any want inside me when She left Her body, so I did not feel any difference.
Then I have been asked: “What do you think were the causes that made Her leave Her body?”
It is a very delicate question, very difficult to answer also, but I would say that the physical laws still held tight and they could not be brought under control. That was on one side. One the other side, our insincerity, our unfaithfulness, our deceptions, our treachery. With all these we were throwing lots of mud upon Her and She had to fight on two fronts. On one side She had to fight the onset of decay and old age and on the other She was fighting against this dirt that we were constantly throwing upon Her. But more the failing body I hold responsible for what happened. Often I have seen that she was trying to counteract these forces but when She saw that She could not concentrate much, She could not talk much, She could not write much, She could not see people, She could not do as She wanted, because the body was failing, and the dirt and dust that we were throwing upon Her was increasing, increasing and increasing, I felt and I have seen also some kind of despair and I think these two things were fully responsible. If She had been in good health and if She had possessed a strong body I am sure She would have fought the other side out; but if the heart went wrong, if the kidneys went wrong, if there was trouble in the teeth and gums and other body-areas and if She was losing control over Her body-functionings, She couldn’t do much. So these two factors come to my mind when I am asked what were the causes that made Her leave Her body. But I still think She had not decided—nobody can convince me that She had decided and therefore She left. I think this happened because it could not be otherwise. I am absolutely sure that if She had not the conviction that She would bring the Supramental Transformation in Her present body, She would not have been able to do all the Great Work that She has done. This conviction has made it possible to establish this Truth firmly in the earth- consciousness. For the moment perhaps what has happened is just a postponement of the work that She was doing on Her own body.
Then I am asked: “Will she come back again in the same body?”
To this I say—my feeling is—“No.” If she is to come back, there was no necessity of leaving the body. And the body itself was worn out—all the organs worn out by age; and to come inside such a body and to cure all that and to bring back health and youth, I think—it is my feeling—that is not possible.
Then I am asked: “Will She come back in a new body amongst us?”
To this I must say, “Certainly.” Throughout the ages, from the beginning of creation, She has come several times, many, many times, to help us progress, to help us go forward, and I think and I am sure, and all of you will agree with me when I say this, that She will come again in the future to lead us further.
Then somebody has asked me: “Before, whenever we were in trouble, we wrote to Her and She helped us. Now what should we do?”
To this I must say what She used to tell us constantly. She was telling, “I am installed in all of your hearts. Just be quiet, try to hear what I say inside you and act according to the directions I give. But for that you must be very very sincere and you must allow only the right type of vibration in you.” I think there can be no other solution than this.
And the last question that I am often asked is: “Do you think we shall be able to go through on the path She has laid down for us?”
To this I must say: “Yes, if we have a strong aspiration, a strong will, and the maximum of sincerity. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo came to us and They have shown us our goal. They have brought down the necessary powers into this world so that this goal may be reached. They have given instructions, which if we follow, we are sure to go forward, and They have given all their support and blessings to us. So, being the Mother’s children, I don’t see why we should not be able to go through. Truly speaking, the Truth and the Power, the Truth that They have established upon earth and the Power They have brought down for the implementation of that Truth, are spread throughout the length and breadth of our country and the whole world, and I am sure that wherever there will be sufficient sincerity, sufficient aspiration, this Truth will work itself out, and this Truth will be realised. But staying in the Ashram, we are in a more privileged position. We have seen Them, we have heard Them, we were personally guided by Them and I am sure that it would be easier for us to walk on Their path here in the Ashram where They have created a suitable atmosphere. I think two things are absolutely necessary. We can already feel there are people who want to see us disintegrated, they would be very happy if we are all demolished. To them we can give a fitting answer if we remain strictly on the path of Truth. This will enable us to get the maximum protection from the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and there is no power on earth that can harm us in any way. The second thing that we must do is to remain strongly united, forgetting “I” and “Mine” and replacing them by “We” and “Ours”.