The Role of Flowers

Amongst all the offerings made to the Divine, the flower is the most subtle, and also the most mysterious; for, in its simplicity, it carries the vibrations of the akasha, the ethereal element itself, –that is, all that is most abstract, pure, and perfect. It is, above everything else, the form behind which is the sound, the all-powerful creative mantra. 

Moreover, the flower represents all the other elements of nature, of which it is a perfect synthesis: air, water, fire, earth; it also corresponds to the different senses of man, for it can be seen by its colour, smelt by its perfume, tasted by its honey, touched by the fingers which pluck it, and even heard by those who have enough patience and an ear subtle enough to perceive the unfolding of its petals. There are some flowers – the evening primrose, for instance – which open in a few minutes, and which one can see trembling on their stalk, so strong is the life vibration which seizes them at the time of their opening. 

The flower is the psychic consciousness of nature, expressing the highest and the lowest, the most precious and the most diminutive. It is a big non-revealed power. 

If the flower is the Name itself – each vibration of the sound having inscribed itself in the heart of the flower inside a triangle where it has taken shape –, it is also the Number expressed by its petals, by its stamens, by the sepals of its calyx. All its components have a precise significance: the familiar lotus with five petals is the “Supreme descended on earth,” whereas the gods created by man have a thousand-petalled lotus as a seat in his temples. The flower discloses to us psychic qualities much before we are able to see them for ourselves. Quite at hand, for instance, chrysanthemums symbolize energy; petunias stand for enthusiasm, phlox for skill in works, zinnias for endurance, etc. Other flowers speak more of soul qualities: the thoroughness of vervains, the wider and wider opening of barleries, the receptivity on all planes of gladioli, the surrender of hollyhocks, up to the ultimate goal of mystical life where the rose plays the crucial role of the meeting between the Divine and the worshipper, at the central point of the cross, where the unthinkable takes a form and is projected in the innumerable manifestation. The Rose always gives itself. It is at the same time the call of love for the Divine, and the abandon of the Divine who always gives himself unreservedly. All the mystics pluck roses in the secret garden of spiritual experience, and give them to us, a symbol of the quaternity, the necessary link without which there would be no intimacy between God and the worshipper.

* * *

The Mother has often been asked how she had given each flower its deeper significance. She sees it, whereas we don’t, in that point of unity where, from the captured lights, the flowers have taken birth with their exact significance. She knows what can be tangibly transferred of the extreme values, which are indeterminate on the positive as well as on the negative side. She has also often been asked “Why” and “How” she gives such and such flowers to certain disciples and not to others. The questions even go so far as to aim at piercing the mystery of what is transmitted by the given flower, or of what is hidden in the heart’s cave of the sadhak and ignored by himself. 

Here one enters into a symbolism where all explanations are good in order to say the following very simple thing: there is the impulse of the one who asks something or expects something and there is the answer or the gift, the granting. Between the two, the Mother is the instrument; she is “what acts”, remaining at the same time beyond all thinkable opposites, beyond all emotions that can be felt. The one who receives a flower receives a flower from her hands knows that it is a living mantra, which will act profoundly, at its time; all depends on the opening, on the sincerity, on the surrender of the one who delivers himself to the divine influence. There is here a process of transmutation, of stimulation, which is evident. The flower is the active agent which accomplishes the aim, because 

“the divine grace is acting, 
the hand which gives is love" 

The flower thus establishes a direct connection between the Mother who gives and the disciple who receives, or, inversely, between the disciple who offers and the Mother who accepts – in a language whose effectiveness comes from its expressing itself in silence. The mute message of the flower is neat, precise, often as sharp as a razor’s edge; but it can touch what must be touched without any words provoking revolts or absurd oppositions of the rebellious nature. All the flowers are beautiful, those symbolizing qualities to be acquired as well as those signifying obscurities to be overcome; for such aspects exist only in the objectivised relativity of the disciple who sees the road still to be covered and the point from which he started. At the very moment he receives the flowers they become for him literally the steps of the stairs of light he has to climb. The adjustment comes progressively, in the love of the Divine Mother, the creatrix of manifold forms, outside time’s measure because to the guru who helps in the transformation a day or a month are not so different in value. The only thing that counts is the hour of the awakening, the moment of the opening when the flower, however beautiful, disappears and only its sweet perfume remains. 

On the heights where the Mother gives power to the flowers, these mantric conceptions are indisputable; from there the importance of the flowers exchanged between the Mother and the disciples, as well as the understanding in which the flowers have their absolute value. 

Little children in the Ashram bring flowers to the Mother because they like them for their beauty; but very often they even play with the significances and they know quite well, in case of need, where to find the force or quality which they require. They come to Mother with the pure offerings in their hands, without their flowers getting suddenly charged with the secret desires of the soul, the heart or the body, with the subtle and often unconscious lies, as happens frequently with grown-ups. And the latter know it quite well! In the great family of disciples, the moving humility with which everyone prepares their bouquet before bringing it to the Mother is perhaps the most spontaneous expression of self-surrender, of aspiration materialised. A minute analysis, expressed by a flower, loses its harshness without losing its acuteness, for “what must be done will be done”, sooner or later, in one way or another. The flower is only a “bridge over the abyss” between inexpressible values. 

Early in the morning, each of the gardener-disciples brings to the flower-room a full basket of flowers plucked in the Ashram gardens. These are sorted with care. The stalks are cut, the leaves removed. The corollas are disposed according to their colour and size. The smallest details assume great importance at this “flower-fair” where the dealers give everything for nothing, with an affectionate patience, where the buyers have no money and bring a refined fastidiousness, for their psychic being must be satisfied above all. The children are in a hurry and anxious because the school bell is about to ring; the teachers, the workers, have a set time for beginning the daily task. Everybody, however has enough time to scrutinise the flowers offered to them, to examine each in detail, because one can never be too exact in expressing clearly...what is sill in the mounting aspiration ! The more so does it fall on the flower to crystallise this aspiration which seeks to shape itself, to be the rigorously exact figure of the chakra consciously or unconsciously evoked, of the Name itself in its form as rarefied as can be... 

 “This petal is shrunk,” a disciple says to the gardener; “this flower is pale, give me another. This morning I simply must have: joy in the vital and spiritual healing, it is very important...”.' And indeed it is very important. The offering of a flower sums up all that is implied in the traditional sacrifices which are now obsolete-be it a pair of doves or a white buffalo, the Vedic horse or the produce of the earth: cakes, honey, fruits and perfumes, water, salt or incense. There is “what is offered to the Divine”, and “what the Divine gives” in his turn to the beloved disciple as a token of alliance. Here in the Ashram, the flowers are the “Sign of the manifested Spirit”, the rainbow which fills the open hands, the promise of realisation in the supreme compassion. “The grass thrills with joy, the air quivers with light, the trees raise to the sky their ardent prayer, the singing of the birds becomes a canticle… The flowers bring with them the smile of the Divine...” (The Prayers and Meditations of the Mother.) 

The offerings have their altar – the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo in the Ashram court-yard, a place of peace and Presence, of ardent communion between the Spirit and the form. Twice a day the variegated carpet of fresh flowers is laid anew, with a slightly raised centre where a design of scarlet pomegranate flowers make the emblem of two intercrossing triangles which is the seal of the Master. Also every morning the Mother receives a number of disciples who, day after day, are in need of her and of being at the heart of the direct teaching given by her, during the long period of inner work, difficult progress, deep transformation of the being. 

But this transformation can cover a much larger field; the flowers can become the sacrifice of an expanse covering the earth and growing universal. During the whole of the last World War and the two years which followed it, the Mother had all the flowers growing in the Ashram counted with minute accuracy, corolla by corolla, button by button and a meticulously drawn list was made. The disciples in groups, counted the flowers, thousands of each kind, with blind patience and perfect calm. Visitors used to join them at certain times of the year. In full baskets the flowers were brought to the Mother – a huge offering mute and secret, an ardent sacrifice of beauty to counterbalance the brutal delivery of Nature in one of her crisis of destruction. The neutralising Force was acting through the eternal smile of compassion; love was enveloping the dark night, love was answering the calls, calming down the pangs of what was being born and what was dying-huge sacrifice in the accomplishment of the Word. “All that comes from the Divine must return to the Divine.” Tears had become the perfume of offered flowers. 

* * * 

In the Ashram, three times a week, all the disciples, the children of the school and the visitors, pass in a file, before the Mother. This movement is called “the Blessings”. Some disciples bring to the Mother a tray covered with a mosaic of flowers, being sure that one of them will be handed back to them. Others hold a few flowers, enclosed in their joined hands as if in a cup. Others bring nothing at all. These latter are the wave of the river, the witnesses of the experience in its flow, the faithful and patient sadhaks who do not exteriorise their wishes because they know a deep inner quietude. They are the believers who know that the hour shall come. There are also in the file people who are passers-by of a day, who are urged by curiosity, and suddenly get stirred because they feel that something is happening which cannot be explained to them, which cannot be given to them. But they are seized by the beauty of the scene and by the tangible serenity which emanates from it. 

Usually, at “the Blessings”, the Mother gives the same flower to all, unless she has a special message to convey to someone. It is often a red hibiscus, a button which never opens, symbolising divine solicitude in its promise of blossoming; or the white flower of the jasmine tree signifying the psychological perfection which will be reached when all the parts of the being consent equally and are harmonised. 

Some disciples touch their foreheads with the flowers they receive, also their eyes, their lips and their heart. Others get away in a hurry, suddenly shy because her hand has touched them, her eyes have seen them. Mother has given, and she has received – she has created. 

* * *

The flowers have no other function in the Ashram but to convey a rigorous teaching of which none speaks because each one lives it according to his own measure, his own capacity. The language of the flowers, like that of the hieroglyphs, requires a key. This key is that of the most absolute sincerity which sooner or later draws the line between the things that belong to the imagination and the emotions, and those that belong to the spontaneous movement of the being itself when it cries out: “Lord, enlighten us, guide our steps, show us the way towards the realisation of Thy law.” There are many things to clear until the moment of the creative life kindles up. The first steps only can be escorted until the walking becomes more assured; afterwards it is a question of direct experience alone. There was a time – some twenty years ago – when Mother was writing mantric phrases with flowers for a very small number of disciples. These phrases are still meaningful, living, with the same intensity of aspiration; they can be landmarks on the path of integral yoga. 

But this teaching, essentially subjective and individual, must remain a harmony and an equilibrium in all its degrees. May the words which convey the effort of the whole being in travail, in full transformation, remain impregnated with the perfume of the flowers, with their beauty, and above all with the smile of the Mother who gives them, for that is as it should be. 

Lizelle Reymond 
(Translated from the French by Repiton Préneuf) 
(Reproduced from Mother India, February 1954 issue.)