1 May 2014

The History of the Ashram School (4) – Kittu Reddy

We shall now take up the period from 1968 to November 1973 when the Mother left Her body.

As already mentioned En Avant was started in December 1967. We still had the two separate sections En Avant and Vers La Perfection, functioning separately. However in December 1968, the two sections got united and we had one section called En Avant Vers La Perfection. In the first two years, the responsibility of running these sections were given to Tanmay, Amita and Kittu. Despite the two sections being united, they were still sitting in two separate blocks in the Eastern and Western parts respectively. One revealing incident happened at that time. I asked Mother through Pavitra-da whether we could start the classes in our part of the section also at 7-45 am with Mother’s music. She replied to Pavitra-da that She wanted to know why I wanted to start with Mother’s music. Do the students want it? Besides it should not become a ritual that we should start with Mother’s music wherever there is a Sri Aurobindo School. So I checked with the students and the majority wanted it. I then wrote a letter to Mother and She replied as follows:

Here is the English translation:

Sweet Mother,

Next year we would like to start cleaning the rooms of En Avant. This work will be done each morning by some teachers and students. We shall start at 6 in the morning and the work should be over by 6.45.

Many students and teachers have asked me if we could start the classes daily with Mother’s music. We are praying for Thy permission.

Thy child 


Mother’s answer:

That is good. Blessings


In 1970 it was decided to divide EAVP into six sections and give the charge of each section to a group of teachers. That system is still continuing today.

It will not be out of place to relate one interesting development that took place in 1967. Many teachers felt that during the last few years there was a marked lack of interest among the students to become more conscious of why they are here; one of the reasons could be that the Mother had stopped taking classes since 1958; after that the students had very little direct contact with Her. The teachers were concerned as to how to remedy this state of affairs. Therefore after a great deal of discussion among the teachers and  Kireet-bhai, a proposal was made that a study project named “The Spiritual History of India”  should be taken up; it was decided that all the teachers and students of the Secondary classes would get involved in it. An outline was prepared and was sent to the Mother for Her approval. After reading it, this is what She commented:

 No! It won’t do. It is not to be done that way. You should begin with a big BANG! You were trying to show the continuity of history, with Sri Aurobindo as the outcome, the culmination. It is false entirely. Sri Aurobindo does not belong to history; he is outside and beyond history. Till the birth of Sri Aurobindo, religions and spiritualities were always centred on past figures, and they were showing as “the goal” the negation of life upon earth. So, you had a choice between two alternatives: either —a life in this world with its round of petty pleasures and pains, joys and sufferings, threatened by hell if you were not behaving properly, or —an escape into another world, heaven, nirvana, moksha.... Between these two there is nothing much to choose, they are equally bad.

Sri Aurobindo has told us that this was a fundamental mistake which accounts for the weakness and degradation of India. Buddhism, Jainism, Illusionism were sufficient to sap all energy out of the country. True, India is the only place in the world which is still aware that something else than Matter exists. The other countries have quite forgotten it: Europe, America and elsewhere.... That is why she still has a message to preserve and deliver to the world. But at present she is splashing and floundering in the muddle. Sri Aurobindo has shown that the truth does not lie in running away from earthly life but in remaining in it, to transform it, divinise it, so that the Divine can manifest HERE, in this PHYSICAL WORLD. You should say all this at the first sitting. You should be square and frank... like that! (With her hands Mother makes a big square sign on the table.) Then, when this is told, strongly, squarely, and there is no doubt about it—and then only—you can go on and amuse them with the history of religions and religious or spiritual leaders. Then—and then only—you will be able to show the seed of weakness and falsehood that they have harboured and proclaimed. Then—and then only—you will be able to discern, from time to time, from place to place, an “intuition” that something else is possible; in the Vedas, for instance (the injunction to descend deep into the cave of the Panis); in the Tantras also... a little light is burning.”

31 March 1967
(CWM, Volume 12, On Education, pp 210-11)

After receiving Mother’s comments there was a discussion among the teachers in Kireet-bhai’s office; there were many differences of opinion as to what should be done. I wrote a letter to the Mother. The letter is reproduced below. I am giving first the English translation: 

Sweet Mother

This Sunday Kireet read to us what you had said on the project “The Spiritual History of India”. Among the teachers there are differences of opinion as to what should be done now.

There are those who believe that we should abandon the project and that we should concentrate solely on Sri Aurobindo.

The other say that we should not abandon the project but we should insist first on Sri Aurobindo as you had wanted and then gradually introduce the other parts like the Vedas, Buddhism etc by stressing on what Sri Aurobindo had said on these topics.

We pray to you in this situation to tell us what you would like us to do.

Thy child


The Mother picked out the second suggestion and wrote:

This is good. Blessings.  


It was early in 1967 that I was approached by Sisir-da and Sanat-da to take charge of the History Board. I told them to refer the matter to Kireet-bhai who would refer it to the Mother. The Mother warmly approved of it and let me know this through Pavitra-da.

It was later in the year that the concept of Spiritual History of India was mooted. Regarding the project, The Spiritual History of India, I wrote another letter to the Mother; this letter was concerning the part that I was entrusted with two other teachers. I was to take up Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. One of the students in the group wrote a letter to Mother which prompted me to write to Mother a question.
Here is the letter to the Mother which I wrote and Her reply.

Kittu’s letter to Mother

We have started the project “The Spiritual History of India”.  Priti, Ratna and myself are doing the part related to Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. There are 16 children who have joined the project and most of them are between the ages of 11 and 14. One of the students showed me a letter written by you to him, which says: “There is no harm in studying but their teachings have been surpassed; and to know the Truth it is safer to understand Sri Aurobindo’s teaching.”

After reading this, the question that comes in front of me is: Is it really useful to speak to such young children about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and is there not a risk in doing this? Will they be able to understand all this in the proper perspective even after it is explained to them? Personally, I have my hesitations, but we would like to know what you have to say on this.

Mother’s Answer

All studies or at least the greater part of studies consists in studying the past with the hope that this would make one understand better the present. But if one wants to avoid the danger that the students would get stuck to the past and refuse to see the future, one must take great care to explain to them that all that has happened in the past had the aim of preparing all that is happening now and all that is happening now is preparing the road to the future which is really the most important thing for which we have to prepare ourselves. It is by cultivating intuition that one prepares to live for the future.

In 1972 I organised an exhibition on Sri Aurobindo. Mother gave me her fullest support and the exhibition which was held from August 12 to 20 was a tremendous success; in fact Mother told Satprem that Sri Aurobindo was present in the hall during the Exhibition. I requested Mother to grant me permission to meet her to express my gratitude. She fixed 31 August at 10 am to meet her with André. After some initial talk about the exhibition, I told Mother that after coming in contact with  the manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo which we had exhibited, I had fallen in love with them and would like to help in preserving them in the new department of the Archives. Mother asked me if I knew anything about the preservation of manuscripts and as I was preparing to answer, André intervened and said that I was very much needed in the school. Mother paused for a while and then said: “Kittu, my dear child, Kireet is often outside travelling and Tanmaya has gone to France; I count on you to do something for the school”. I replied: “Mother, I am already working in the administration of the school and also taking classes, what else do you want me to do?” Mother replied that André would tell me.

After a few days, André called me and told me that after a detailed discussion with Mother the following points were decided.

1.     I was to take immediate charge of the Avenir section in the Flower Room. This section consisted of children from the age of 6 to 9. She wanted me to observe the classes and see whether even at that age there were some children who could be given some freedom. In fact, after Tanmay’s return from France in November, he was requested to go and pick out children who were ready to use the freedom. More about that later.

2.     I was also told that after a year or so, I should do the same thing for the next higher group of classes from the age of 10-12. Mother was very clear in her mind that we should start choosing children right from the early stages who were to be the future leaders.

I started my work in dead earnest and many teachers of that section wrote letters to Mother and sent them through me; Mother sent the replies generally written by André and these were communicated to the teachers by me. Mother was not writing much at that time. André also met many of the teachers to get a first hand report of their views which he then conveyed to Mother.

I was also assigned an unpleasant task by Mother. Mother expressed her wish that a few teachers needed to be weeded out of the school and She asked André to find out how it could be done. When André stated the problem to me, I told André quite clearly that it was beyond me to do it, but since Mother wanted it to be done, I can make a suggestion.  I proposed that I could meet the section heads and ask them to give a written report on the teachers they felt should to be removed with the reasons. I also told the section heads that these reports should be shown to the teachers concerned. After that they would give them to me and then I would show them to André; this was followed by a detailed discussion with the section heads. After he was fully satisfied, he would present them to Mother. Mother rapidly went through the reports and then took her decision. She decided that some teachers would be given a warning and a few others were asked to work in some other department. What is very clear is that Mother was taking a lot of interest in the School and trying to bring it on line to fulfil the ideals set before us.

In November André left for France and Tanmay returned from France; Kireet-bhai was also back in Pondicherry. Mother started meeting them for discussing matters relating to the School. This started in the end of November. In the first week of December I joined them in the meetings. The meetings were held with the Mother every alternate evening between 7 and 7.30. These meetings lasted till March 29th after which they were stopped as Mother started meeting very few persons. Tanmay recorded most of the talks with a small tape recorder and transcribed many of them which he passed on to Kireet-bhai and myself. I still have them with me. In all there were about 60 meetings with the Mother in four months. Evidently many areas of great importance regarding the School were covered, besides some other topics connected with the Ashram and even her physical transformation. Another point that needs to be noted was that Mother clearly indicated to Tanmay that all the tapes should be given to Satprem who would then decide what to publish.

I shall not give all the details of the talks that took place, but I shall highlight some of the points that emerged which are very relevant to the Centre of Education.

(To be continued)

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