Learning with the Mother

— Tara Jauhar


Price: Rs 150

Pages: 156
Dimensions (in cms): 24x18
ISBN: 978-81-88847-55-6
Soft Cover
Publisher: Susmita Chanda, New Delhi

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About Learning with the Mother

From the arrival of the first children in the Ashram in the early 1940s the Mother took a keen interest in their development. In this book the author recounts how the Mother helped her from an early age to develop the qualities of leadership and strength of character. At the same time, the book provides an inside look at the beginnings of the physical education activities. Also included are descriptions of the Mother's work from 1950 to 1954 with the youngest children and the genesis of her French classes with them. The author has collected the dictations, recitations and poems, stories, and translations used in class as well as a record of other topics that arose. The Mother's method of teaching and the manner in which she instilled discipline and inspired a thirst for progress in the children are revealed in these pages.


The Singer Not the Song is the title of a film that was shown in our Playground. It metaphorically questioned whether the message of the song (religion or the Church) was important or the charm of the singer (the priest) for the atheist character who was asked to convert by the priest. In the movie the dying atheist murmurs the line, “It’s the singer not the song.” If one plays with the movie’s title by inverting the order of the words to “The Song Not the Singer”, one could say that Tara’s book should be read in this spirit. This is not to belittle or bypass the author. On the contrary, the author deserves all praise for her forethought and diligence in noting down those precious “words” of the Mother for all posterity.

An offshoot of these notes is that one gets a glimpse into the history, at least one facet of it, of those times, of this institution – our Ashram in Pondicherry – during its golden era. Moreover, reading the book widens the vistas of the mind towards a variety of thoughts from many authors and important figures, such as the Buddha (India), Victor Hugo (France), and Cicero (ancient Rome). It is a treasure-trove for a child or an adult, for a seeker or a man of the world who would be guided for a life in decent society.

The book has one thing in common with most such books that are inspired by the past: it awakens a sort of nostalgia. Often, nostalgia is tinged with a touch of sadness. But I would think one could get over that sadness or replace it with its opposite, a cleansing gladness, quite appropriate for this occasion. A gladness engendered by a casting of oneself into a future (for nostalgia belongs to the past) suffused with youthful vigour, every dawn bringing in new possibilities for progress and achievements, all made possible by the Great Mother’s Presence, and her encouragement beckoning us from ahead and urging us on from behind.

Now, in the present, the whole scene has shifted to a subtler plane—something that is harder to feel and act upon. But nothing is there that trying will not one day get. And who has promised an easy, safe path and/or an easy goal?

My one hesitation in writing such a “review” was that when I saw some of the group photographs, a question crossed my mind: “Where are all those people now?” Then, as I turned the pages, some sayings of those assuredly wiser than me struck home:

Do not pay attention to the stupidity of others, pay attention to your own. —The Mother
Question attentively and then meditate at leisure over what you have heard. —Confucius
He who loves to question, expands his knowledge; but he who considers only his personal opinion becomes more and more narrow. —Tsu-Ching

To sum it all up: “Let us sing the Song and thank the author.”

Prabhakar Rupanagunta, known to all as Batti-da, is a trustee of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and in charge of the Sportsground, where he has worked since 1957.

December 2016