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James Anderson

Editor's note

Can one journey through life, illness, and adversity yet rise above disenchantment and despair on the strength of an inner fortitude? The author of this article gives some valuable clues based on his own personal experience.

Harmony is my aim and all that leads to harmony makes me happy(1).”

—The Mother

Whenever I progress in harmony, I find myself approaching a state of wholeness. I believe that when I manage this, I am beginning to fulfil the work that the Mother has given me. When I am able to live and express my inner truth, I live in harmony. As I understand it, harmony implies alignment: all the different parts of the being working in unison and complete collaboration. Deep inside the core of my being lies the psychic: it is my role to bring it forward. When that happens the way to harmony becomes very clear. It is a function of the inner being to spontaneously harmonise the disparate elements of the lower nature. I know of no surer foundation to psychological health: real balance and equilibrium emerges. I find then that the mind quietens and detaches, the vital is aglow with a sense of joy and the body becomes more poised and luminous. I am grounded and alive in the body but a spontaneous felicity radiates from inside. I can then stand erect in my truth.

Indian wisdom tells us that we are all part of a vast multiplicity, one in essence but each distinct in the cosmic play. Each part, Sri Aurobindo says, is a portion of the Divine. This unique element is intrinsic to every one of us. That is why, I feel, the Mother gives us all a particular path to follow. I believe that She lays this destiny so that the hidden attributes of our individual nature can step forward. To walk this path is to live in the Truth, to fulfil our role in the divine manifestation. Perhaps that is why She said, “Cling to Truth(2).” because to live in one’s truth, to live in harmony, means to organise one’s whole being around it. When that happens, I find my whole being gets uplifted. When my entire being is in alignment with this truth, I can walk this path in love and joy.


From the moment that I had started settling here in Pondicherry, I have tried to instil in myself a total harmony. Evidently there was a cogent reason for this: there was a pressing need to work more on the body. Deep down, there was a conviction that something new, call it a greater force, could move the body. I felt the alchemy could not really be achieved through the confines of the lower nature. A new mastery had to emerge, away from the narrow dictates of the ordinary mind. I still persist in that belief. The harmony I envisage begins from inside and the very atmosphere of the ashram environs very tangibly gives itself to this work. I have discovered that the presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, still so alive in the material, creates an enormous force-field for this transformation. Sometimes I can just catch a tiny glimpse of the Truth Consciousness that She had brought down here to the earth over 50 years ago. But the transformation always emanates from inside.

Living here, I can see why the Mother laid such emphasis on the need for harmony. I feel that Her Force is entirely directed in each one of us for realising this aim: to manifest our inner truth. When I live in consonance with this energy, harmony reigns and a greater lightness and plasticity pervades the body. A feeling of expansion emerges. I no longer require proof of this. Repeated experience has eradicated any doubt. When I am able to rise to a state of inner alignment, the body spontaneously changes. A sense of strength and vigour returns. But I must give myself entirely and repeatedly to this Force, because when I don’t, resistance appears and something unpleasant jars inside. When that happens, the body cramps and suffers. I’ve burnt virtually all my boats: this Force is my only refuge now.

I find that the ordinary mind can be a considerable barrier to this process. Harmony is not a compromise which this part of the mind is only best able to achieve. Harmony cannot be coerced too. I feel that it is a natural condition which somehow some of us seem to have lost. I don’t know whether we are entirely born into this state as there are so many negative patterns which run extremely deep, perhaps even before our birth, but there is no doubt that as we get older, these grooves get steadily reinforced and we become more rigid. Our resistance to the Divine Force solidifies. I believe these patterns are what govern the lives of most of humanity and as man lives almost entirely on the surface these grooves become more and more entrenched. When we observe children at play on the other hand, we witness a play of harmony. We see spontaneity in action and there is no sense of restriction or inhibition. Indeed, when we witness animals in the wild we witness harmony too, in a more exterior form perhaps, but one totally in tune with the rhythms of Nature. Man, on the other hand I feel, has the capacity to raise himself to a higher vibration. He can discover an inner harmony by realising and manifesting his inner truth. That, I feel, is the basis of the work that the Mother gives him.

The way to harmony

The first step, the Mother explains, is to recognise and distinguish each movement from the various strands of our nature. Every one of us represents a complexity of different elements and for most people, everything is terribly intermixed. It is all a stew:

“The ordinary human being is conscious only in his physical being, and only in relatively rare moments is he conscious of his mind, just a little more frequently of his vital, but all this is mixed up in his consciousness, so much so that he would be quite unable to say ‘This movement comes from the mind, this from the vital, this from the physical.’ This already asks for a considerable development in order to be able to distinguish within oneself the source of the different movements one has. And it is so mixed that even when one tries, at the beginning it is very difficult to classify and separate one thing from another(3).”

The Mother then provides a most appropriate image:

“It is as when one works with colours, takes three or four or five different colours and puts them in the same water and beats them up together, it makes a grey, indistinct and incomprehensible mixture, you see, and one can’t say which is red, which blue, which green, which yellow; it is something dirty, lots of colours mixed. So first of all one must do this little work of separating the red, blue, yellow, green putting them like this, each in its corner. It is not at all easy(4).”

However, if one is sincere in achieving this aim, I feel this is a work that cannot be avoided. A constant vigilance is required, a vast will. Ultimately, though, I find help is always at hand and, simply by asking for it, the Mother’s guiding hand invariably comes forward. We all have one gift at our disposal, our awareness, and I do find that in time this awareness becomes sharper and more single-pointed. I simply try to observe and each movement is eventually traced back to its source.

The Mother says that an inner harmony must be established and, to reach that state, all that stands in its way must be observed. One must first be conscious of the inner condition:

“Look for the inner causes of disharmony much more than the outer ones. It is the inside which governs the outside(5).”

At this point, I keep in mind the Mother’s words:

“An illness of the body is always the outer expression and translation of a disorder, a disharmony in the inner being; unless this inner disorder is healed, the outer cure cannot be total and permanent(6).”

Again, I feel, it is the searchlight of our awareness that provides the key. Healing, I feel, comes through clarity, by seeing things as they truly are and, generally speaking, when I manage to keep the true poise, I can see clearly inside.

I observe the outer frontiers of my being, the gross body, and through that I obtain a reflection of all that is happening within. Ultimately, all I can do is watch and I believe it is better not to actually seek change. For me, that can even sometimes imply a judgment on my part. It is not a question of enhancing the ‘good’ and weeding out the ‘bad’. It is rather my understanding that some things are simply not in their right place. It is rather a matter of internal reorganisation, but really, it is not ‘me’ ‘doing’ it: something much greater takes over.


So I can only do this work with the help of the Mother. She stands at the core of my being and by invoking Her Presence there, a vivid clarity emerges that makes my whole nature somehow more transparent. Otherwise everything gets very hazy. Whenever I am in contact with the Mother, She provides me with a true image of myself. It is almost as if She were holding a mirror in front of my eyes, except that this glass reflects a picture that goes deep inside the surface. This, I feel, is the psychic consciousness: it shows things as they really are.

So I invariably call Sri Aurobindo and the Mother before I do this work. I then start scanning from the top, above the head and gradually work my way down, stopping and particularly observing each energy centre. I try to connect with what the body is trying to tell me. I find everything is stored there. Sooner or later a vivid picture emerges and I come across images which are sometimes comprised of colours and shapes; they often emit particular sensations or vibrations. What I often witness is not particularly pleasant. I know that there are dark secret caverns inside me which are still starved of light. I don’t feel one can squirm in this work: one must courageously face what is inside. It is better not to judge too.

I may sometimes find one particular area may stand out and call my attention. I will pause there for as long as necessary. Some times though, a disorder may try to hold itself back, hiding in a corner, trying to avoid my gaze. An intense vigilance is required, not a mental concentration, but a gaze illuminated by Her dazzling torch. It is all a matter of contact. I feel I have to simultaneously immerse myself in Her Presence whilst acutely observing the body.

Only that way, I feel, can matter and Spirit ultimately become one.

When I witness a knot or distortion, I probe still deeper at that point and observe its nature. I enquire into its source. I go as deep into its centre as I can. The searchlight of consciousness inevitably brings with it a knowledge. As I hold my gaze, this awareness appears spontaneously. If it doesn’t, I try to relax and ask the Mother for help. I offer and leave it to Her wisdom to give me the clarity. I find it helps to articulate what I see out loud. With this expression, the distortion disappears: it is as simple as that. It is as if the Mother were presenting me with the key to another door. When that door opens, I can expand into a new and higher level of harmony.

I have discovered that as one element of disharmony dissolves, it often leads to an opening for another, still deeper one, to emerge. The same patterns often return again and again, though in a different guise, with successive sittings. These are the grooves of nature, negative formations that often come from outside but which evidently acquire some resonance from within. Their effect is to make the body wither and shrink. Many of them go far back into my childhood. At times it can seem an interminable work. But my role is to merely observe. It is by focusing on a particular area of the body that the Mother’s work unfolds. By diverting my attention onto an element of disharmony, it is almost as if the Mother then plucks that ‘object’ out by its very roots!

When there is a free flow of Light and Force radiating down through the body, total harmony is restored. It is a harmony which is always characterised by an exquisite rapture. It is quite outside the vocabulary of mental comprehension: I feel it is the beginnings of soul embracing matter as wholeness is restored.

From experience, I have observed how this process makes such a difference to the body. When I feel clear, in a state of harmony, a new poise and solidity is restored to my steps. There is a sense of joy in being alive and moving in this body. But I feel the process must be constantly reinforced and persistence is essential as nature will always try to recover what she has reluctantly forfeited. But I do believe that a new Force can gradually settle into the fibres of the body. It can take time for the inner harmony to consolidate in the physical form. So there are no shortcuts here: the work can never be rushed. This calls to mind the Mother’s own words:

“One goes much faster when he is not in a hurry.

To really move forward, one should feel, with complete confidence, that eternity lies before him (7).”

An enduring patience is always required. But I trust that the body itself can finally be taught a new way: the way of harmony.

Outer harmony

It is from inside that the alchemy unfolds. Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother affirm that. But I do believe it is essential that our outer living should mirror as closely as possible the harmony that is being installed inside. Perhaps, with aspiration, the shift happens naturally. In the initial phases at least, I feel we owe it to ourselves to try and make the outer conditions as conducive as possible to our inner change. A clean and tidy environment, a healthy diet, sufficient rest and cordial working conditions are all examples of this. These factors can act as a base for our journey inside. I believe they will reinforce the necessary transition.

One hears of realised men from the traditional yogas who had pioneered brilliant passageways within. But outside, it is alleged, their lives were a mess. Underlying this, I believe, lay almost a contempt for all things pertaining to the physical plane. In the Integral Yoga we are taught that the transformation must descend into the most material. So I feel that it is essential that we at least try to create some order in matter around us. There can be a beauty, too, in form as well as the formless. Harmony can radiate outside into ordinary life once it has found its home within. I don’t believe anyone can claim to be fully realised in this yoga until he has found a way of integrating this inner harmony with his outer actions. I feel it is only really a question of making that link.

Once I realised this, I began to understand that harmony can indeed spread all around me. I can then become vaster and more capable of transmitting love. The Mother says that we are surrounded by what we think. So if I establish these conditions inside, then the world outside automatically resonates to this light too. Everything, She states, is but a reflection of our inner state.

A link

I feel that each one of us is equipped with a tool that can produce that bridge. One of them, I feel, is our breath. It can serve, if you like, as a link between the inner and outer worlds. It can bring me back to the centre but it can also help me expand and bring vitality to the physical form. Again, I believe, the key is awareness. It is just by watching that a harmony unfolds. I don’t try and correct anything: I just observe where the breath is coming from. If the breath is shallow in a particular region, I try and hold my attention there in a disinterested way. I may place my hand on that region of the body or even do some gentle exercise to bring expansion to a particular area. Gradually, through this, the breath becomes more profound. It widens and I start to expand and breathe life into all parts of the body. I find this process a beautiful way of harmonising my inner and outer states. It helps to integrate the being and the body becomes uplifted by a superior force.

A shield

Ultimately, I feel that harmony is my best protection. By maintaining this poise, my life unfolds in trust and joy. Whenever I neglect this armour, the forces of disintegration can attack. I find that particularly evident here, in Pondicherry, where there are many forces which invariably try to manipulate openings through the shield that the Mother has carefully built around me. If they succeed, illness and accidents can always arise. The only solution, I believe, is to immerse myself so much in Her Presence that nothing adverse can intrude. By doing that, a sense of harmony descends. Whenever I find myself in a harmonious state, a supreme confidence in Her protection prevails: I find myself living inside Her ‘bubble’, totally safe from any harmful influence. However if I am not so centred, I try to call Her name repeatedly, particularly when it seems that perils are not far away. Ultimately, Her name is my final bastion.


Nothing, for me, can induce harmony more than calm. I feel this state gives me so much more than just a sense of tranquillity. It quietly allows my truth to come forward. But latent inside it, I believe, there is a power. I feel it to be a power of immobility, held back but poised. Something solid and concrete prevails in the entire being when this force descends: it is like that. So I often call it into the body: I start at the top of the head and gradually work my way right down to the soles of the feet. I call calm into each individual part of the body and end by calling it into the bones, the muscles, the tissues and cells. I call calm into the mind. I call calm into the vital. I call calm into the nerves and the breath. I finish by inviting it to surround and envelop me in its entirety. I then ask it to expand and become vast.

“The method of the Divine Manifestation is through calm and harmony,” writes Sri Aurobindo, “not through a catastrophic upheaval(8).” So, like many of us here, I often feel my life to be a preparation for something much greater to descend. The transformation, Sri Aurobindo affirms, can only come when these two forces reign. It is almost as if they nestle between its very wings. In this way I hope to become a vessel for the Mother’s golden touch.

A harmony must be created inside me and all around me: the two movements go hand in hand. It is by following my truth that harmony arrives and it is through calm, I believe, that harmony will finally settle. I feel that nothing worthwhile can be achieved without it. This harmony can descend into the most material, but it has to be nurtured and protected. It can easily be lost and I don’t feel it comes overnight.

Finally I feel, harmony invites the appearance of beauty: beauty in form as well as beauty in the formless. Beauty is its face, its very stamp. So if I were to be granted just one aspiration in this life, it might be summarised in the Mother’s own words:

“Build in yourself the total harmony, so that when the time comes Perfect Beauty can express itself through your body(9).”


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 14. Pondicherry; SAA Trust, 1980, p. 197.
2. Ibid., p.206.
3. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Pondicherrry; SAA Trust, 1979, pp.42-3.
4. Ibid., p.43.
5. Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 14. Pondicherry; SAA Trust, 1980, p. 198.
6. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 15. Pondicherry; SAA Trust, 1980, p.149.
7. Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 14. Pondicherry; SAA Trust, 1980, p.177.
8. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 24. Pondicherry, 1970, p.1748.
9. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 12. Pondicherry, 1978, p.287.

Mr. James Anderson, a sadhak, is following the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and working at SAIIIHR, Pondicherry.

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The Mother


Cosmic play


Negative patterns


Working with colours


The inside governs


Secret caverns


Through the body




A reflection




Perfect Beauty