The Mother’s Symbol, as shown above, has become a representative icon for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and The Mother herself. In Auroville, you will see this symbol everywhere – as it is The Mother who started Auroville and who remains a beacon and guide for many community members.
The meaning behind this symbol is elaborate, and each layer has its deeper meaning. We take you through the layers to get a sense of the different aspects of The Mother represented in this elegant piece of art.
The Mother, The Mahashakti.
Many may think that the symbol refers to The Mother, or Mira Alfassa herself. In reality, the symbol is a representation of the Mahashakti or Supreme Mother in Indian scripture, the source of all manifestation. As Sri Aurobindo recognized in Mira Alfassa a direct incarnation of that original source, it is also the symbol associated with her.
The central circle represents the Divine Consciousness, the Supreme Mother, the Mahashakti.
The four central petals are the four aspects of The Supreme Mother—and the twelve petals around it, Her twelve attributes.
The Four Aspects
The four central petals represent the powers or personalities of The Divine Mother. These are:
Maheshwari (Wisdom) Mahakali (Strength)
Mahalakshmi (Harmony) Mahasaraswati (Perfection).
For those not familiar with the significance of these 4 aspects, you can find what Sri Aurobindo writes of them here
The Twelve Attributes
The twelve attributes represent the powers The Mother manifested in Her work. Here are the explanations of these attributes given by The Mother (Mira Alfassa):
Sincerity : To be sincere is to be pure. As Sri Aurobindo tells us, ‘Desire nothing but the purity, force, light, wideness, calm, Ananda of the Divine Consciousness, and its insistence to transform and perfect your mind, life and body.’
Humility : True humility is humility before the Divine. It is a precise, exact, living sense that one is nothing, one can do nothing, understand nothing without the Divine… Even if one is exceptionally intelligent and capable, this is nothing in comparison with the Divine Consciousness.
Gratitude : There is nothing which gives you a joy equal to that of gratitude. One hears a bird sing, sees a lovely flower, looks at a little child, observes an act of generosity, reads a beautiful sentence, looks at a setting sun – no matter what – suddenly, this kind of emotion comes upon you so deep, so intense, that the world manifests the Divine, that there is something behind the world which is the Divine.
Perseverance : The road of yoga is long. Whatever method is used, persistence and perseverance are essential. A yoga like this needs patience, because it means a change, both of the radical means and of each part and detail of our nature.
Aspiration : One must have a fixed and unfailing aspiration, vigilant and constant – an aspiration of the entire being – an aspiration that takes hold of you completely, an aspiration to unite with the Divine… to give oneself totally to the Divine, not to live outside the Divine Consciousness, so that the Divine may be all in all.
Receptivity : This means… to receive the Divine Force… and allow it to work, guiding one’s sight, will and action.There must be a complete and never-failing assent, a willingness to let the Divine Power do with us whatever is needed for the work that has to be done.
Progress : The very first condition of inner progress is to recognise whatever is or has been a wrong movement in any part of our nature – wrong idea, wrong feeling, wrong speech, wrong action – and by wrong is meant what departs from the truth, from the higher Consciousness and the higher Self, from the way of the Divine. Once recognised, it is offered to the Divine for the Light and Grace to descend and substitute for it the right movement of the true Consciousness.
Courage : As Sri Aurobindo says: ‘The forces that stand in the way of the sadhana – the spiritual discipline – are the forces of the lower mental, vital and physical nature. Behind them are the adverse powers of the mental, vital and physical worlds…. All I say is, keep the mantra of success, the determination of victory, the fixed resolve… and go bravely on with your yoga…. The inner doors will open.’
Goodness : One should not be good with an interested motive…. One should not be good so that others may be good to you. It is always the same lesson: One must do as well as one can, the best one can, but without expecting a result. One must be good for the love of goodness
Generosity : It is to give unstintingly, selflessly, without bargaining or any expectation. It is to give for the joy of giving. It is an opportunity that the Divine gives us for the liberation of the ego and the servitude to self-indulgence, replacing it by the joy of participation in the divine work upon earth, for a true and beautiful and harmonious equipment and ordering of a new, divinised mental, vital and physical existence in whatever way the Divine Mother herself decides in her creative vision.
Equality : The very first necessity for spiritual perfection is a perfect equality…. The perfect equality of our Spirit and nature is a means by which we can move back from the troubled and ignorant outer consciousness into the inner kingdom of heaven and possess the Spirit’s eternal kingdoms of greatness, joy and peace…
Peace : In the liberation of the soul from the Ignorance, the very first foundation is peace, calm, the silence and quietude of the Eternal and Infinite…A consummate power and greater formation of the spiritual ascension takes up this peace of liberation into the bliss of a perfect experience and realisation of the eternal beatitude, the bliss of the Eternal and the Infinite.
The Incorporation of the Symbol into Life in Auroville
You will find this symbol everywhere in Auroville and if you ever come to visit, you might meet people who keep it close to their body to remind themselves of their spiritual purpose. Rings, tattoos, bracelets, earrings – you name it! There are several jewelers in Ashram and Auroville who specialize in The Mother and Sri Aurobindo’s symbol.
Schools of Auroville and the Ashram incorporate the 12 qualities into classes and give children a place to explore them as guiding stars for life. For example in the Ashram, children explore on of the qualities through art and then take care of the plant representing that quality for 6 months.
If you are curious about how children relate to The Mother’s qualities, you can have a look at this report of what the 8th grade Auroville School students’ say of the qualities.
The Matrimandir is built on The Mother’s symbol, and when viewed from above follows a similar layout. This ‘Temple of the Mother’ is the spiritual heart of Auroville. Its 4 entrances are named after the 4 powers in the centre: Maheshwari, Mahalaksmi, Mahakali, and Mahasaraswati. On the outer ring the Matrimandir has 12 ‘petals’, meditation rooms named after the 12 qualities of The Mother. Aurovilians and guests go to these rooms to work on recognizing and cultivating these qualities inside themselves. The inner staircase, as shown above, also takes the form of the symbol.
The symbol is a philosophy to strive towards. According to the Auroville Charter, those living in Auroville must be ‘a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness’. By remembering The Mother and her qualities, the symbol becomes a reminder and a guidance on how we can move towards being the realization of The Mother’s dream for Auroville.