One word about discipline

by Nirodbaran 
T he following incident took place in 1961.The gymnastics 
 Group in the Playground were reorganised. A propos of it a point 
was raised about the need of a certain degree of compulsion for those who 
joined them. This was especially in the case of those above the age of 
forty, I believe. It was decided by the captains one day in a week, 
preferably Monday, there should be compulsory marching for the "Blue 
Group", i.e., the senior most male members. On other days the members were 
left free to do exercises as they liked. The word "compulsory" raised a 
small storm of indignation among us. Why should we, responsible sadhaks, be 
treated like school-children? This was the burden of the controversy. Some 
of us left the Group on this account. I was one of those who had a dislike 
for any sort of compulsion. All the same, I thought I would take the 
Mother's views on the matter, though I suspected that she had already been 
consulted before the step was taken. 

It was the usual morning Pranam time and people who had gathered, among 
whom were Nolini, Amrita, Pavitra, Champaklal, Madhav and others. The 
Pranam being over, the Mother was on her way to her room on the top floor, 
when I asked her, "Mother, what should I do? Shall I join the Group?" The 
question led to a discussion lasting nearly half an hour, the entire 
assembly listening with rapt attention and the Mother standing all the 
while. She replied, "That was what A was telling me about. He said that he 
had been doing regular exercise; so he need not join the Group. Beside, he 
said, all his friends were keeping out. Of course, he can't carry the flag 
(During the Darshan and 2nd December March Past, the Groups are led by 
standard bearers.). P says March Past will be done without the flag. Well, 
what I want is that everyone should do regular exercise, not doing it one 
day only to drop it the next. It must be done regularly to keep the body 
fit. There is also a provision made for those who don't want to join the 
Group. All the facilities will be given to them except the March Past on 
special days. That also does not matter very much since it is held only 
four or five times a year. 

Myself: People are making two objections to the scheme, one about the "Mass 
Drill". It is neither interesting nor useful. 

Nolini: (suddenly raising his voice) Why, I find it very interesting. 

Myself: It seems more like some amusement; that was the impression given by 
our captain. 

Mother: I don't know why he gave that impression. The drill is meant as a 
preparation for the December show. If one starts learning it very early, 
then there is a chance of its being perfect. The previous ones had many 
defects. Though I am not an expert judge of these things, I have seen the 
photographs taken of them and there the defects can be seen. So they want 
to give training very early. 

Myself: Next is the point of compulsion. 

Mother: Compulsion is necessary. If you want to remain in the Group, you 
have to obey the Group discipline. That is quite reasonable. I will tell 
you one thing: without discipline, strict discipline, no progress can be 
made in life. No yoga is possible without it. You can't take one step 
forward without strict discipline. You may utter a mantra for a hundred 
years, but without discipline you won't be able to see beyond the tip of 
your nose. 

Tnother point is about the uniform. You know it costs quite an amount of 
money. Those who won't join shall not have uniforms. They don't need them, 
besides. Not that a few uniforms cost much, but when it comes to a big 
number the expenses become quite heavy. 

No, I have read the whole program; it is quite reasonable. You have a 
choice: you can go to the Non-Group. But once you have made your choice, 
you have to stick to it till the end of the year. If you can't follow any 
discipline yourself, well, then submit to the discipline of those who have 
some experience of life. So make your choice. Au revoir! 

With those words, the Mother went up, leaving us stunned 
 in an atmosphere charged with force and silence. As soon as I had 
touched upon the last question, that of discipline, the tempo of her voice 
had begun to rise in a crescendo till it reached its peak at the end of her 
advice. All the while, her gaze had been fixed on my eyes and the words hit 
like bullets my vital nature's self-will in the name of freedom. The entire 
assembly had listened, standing still like statues. Many years have passed 
since then, but I am continuing my compulsory Monday attendance, so much 
force had been generated in that dynamic utterance. We named it "Black 
Monday", a la Charles Lamb. 

Nolini who was one of the listeners was also in our Group; he did not, of 
course, need any such compulsion from outside, neither was Monday black for 
him; it was golden. But Nolini is Nolini. He joined also the Mass Drill 
which, as he said, he found interesting, and attended both the items 
regularly till he retired due to age. There were others too who had left 
for other reasons, but somehow, however reluctant and antipathetic I am to 
this Black Monday, when the day arrives some force drags me on to the 

Te hear very often that the Mother has given us freedom. Freedom and 
discipline are therefore contradictions and people justified their free 
ways by quoting the Mother's authority. When it was referred to her, she 
vehemently protested and said, "Where and when have I supported 
indiscipline?" Well, this strong admonition should now dispel all such 
wrong ideas still going about in the Ashram. 

Nirodbaran is a long-standing member of the Sri Aurobindo, and has written
several books about Sri Aurobindo. This excerpt is from his book Memorable
Contacts with the Mother, pp. 82-85.
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