Pavitra (Philippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire)
Pavitra (Philippe Barbier Saint-Hilaire) (from the Sanskrit word for ‘pure’) was one of the very early disciples of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. He was born in Paris, January 16, 1894. In 1914 he graduated from the Ècole Polytechnique with a degree in Engineering. He served in the army in World War I as an artillery officer, and after the war worked as a junior engineer in Paris, at the Ministry of transport and communication.
He was interested in occultism, and in 1920 departed for Japan to study Zen Buddhism. In 1924 he left Japan and spend time with tantric lamas in monasteries in North China and Mongolia.
In 1925 he came to India and met Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in Pondicherry, where he was accepted as a sadhak, and Sri Aurobindo gave him the name Pavitra (“Clearness”). In 1951 the Mother appointed him director of the just founded Sri Aurobindo International University Centre. He served in this position for eighteen years, as well as the general secretary of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, until his death in 1969. The Mother reports in Agenda (May 1969) that Pavitra left his body in a totally yogic way and merged with her.
According to Satprem (see “The Mother on Pavitra”), Pavitra left some very interesting memoirs of his conversations with Sri Aurobindo and Mother in 1925 and 1926, large parts of which were destroyed (almost a third of Pavitra’s notebooks) by his closest collaborator, with the pretext that it would be “better left unsaid”. What was left was published originally in French as “Conversations avec Pavitra”.
Pavitra Books Download:
The Mother on Pavitra
17 May 1969
(On Pavitra’s Departure)
Mother : You know that I used to see Pavitra every day, in the evening. He was in a poor state. But I had been forewarned (long ago) that his inner being was waiting for A. [[XX’s note: A. lives in Paris. ]] to return before it would leave. I don’t know whether he was aware of something in his outward consciousness, but at any rate he had never said anything. But I knew … The day A. arrived, that very day [May 31, just before coming here, Pavitra fell down. He came here with quite a few scratches. I thought it would stop there, but the day after A.’s arrival (I don’t remember, I never keep a clear memory of dates), at any rate between the 15th and 16th, at night, after 9 (I didn’t look at the time, so I don’t know precisely, but I was on my bed), Pavitra’s whole individualized consciousness (but not in a form), his conscious, fully awakened consciousness, down to all that can come out of the cells, began to come and enter into me according to the ancient, the very old yogic practice of merging into the Supreme in that way that practice. It came while I was lying on my bed; it began, and it was so material that there was a very strong friction in all the cells, everywhere. It went on for three hours. After three hours, it became … not exactly still, but no longer active. Then, the next morning, I saw A. (it was on the 16 h), I saw A. at about 8:30 (naturally, Pavitra had been in bed since the day before, they had put him to bed), and in the morning, A. told me that just as he was about to come here, Pavitra opened his eyes and looked at him … So I told him, I don’t know, but with a yogic knowledge of the process, quite an extraordinary knowledge” (he had never boasted of having it), “his conscious being melted last night and entered my body, this body …” [[XX’s note: As a matter of fact, Mother looked quite surprised when A. told her that Pavitra had opened his eyes. ]] I told him, “We’ll see.” But half an hour later, they told me that just as I was talking with A., the doctor declared he had left. Have you seen him? I am told he looks very good.
XX : Oh, Yes!
Mother : I had first said that he would be buried this morning at 10 o’clock, since the end took place even before the doctors declared it was over, but I had it delayed until 4 …. I can’t say he has remained separate [from Mother], not at all, but now and then, for one thing there’s his way of reacting; it’s quite interesting. And he has brought with him an extraordinary sense of satisfaction! As if, “Ah, at last …” Like that. It’s constant, night and day. I wanted to see last night whether something of him would still come, but it was all over, there was nothing more …. It was done as a super-yogi might do it! He’d never boasted about it, I don’t even know whether he actively knew it. He did it wonderfully. You know, the stories that are told of those who would have themselves shut in a cave and who would leave like that – that’s it.
They didn’t exactly pick him up, because he hadn’t fallen down, but they found him standing, unable to move. It was after lunch (on the 15th he had his lunch with A.), and immediately after lunch, he asked A. to leave, [[XX’s note: Because he did not want to show A. the difficulty he had moving. ]] and wanted to go to his terrace – it took him an hour to go there! It’s while coming back from there that he remained like that, standing – he nearly fell down, so they had to carry him to his bed (that was in the afternoon of the 15th), and during the night he did that. So then, I had said he would be buried this morning, that is on the 17th, then A. came and told me he was quite intact, not stiff (he went to see him with N., who’s a doctor, and N. said that was because Pavitra was so thin), so I said we might as well wait till this afternoon. It has been postponed till 4 o’clock. But as for me, last night I saw carefully: there’s nothing. [[XX’s note: No more consciousness left in the body. ]] Even if there is something, a little consciousness left, it’s better to let it go peacefully.
But I wasn’t expecting it, I didn’t think about it, didn’t even know that he knew how to go out like that-it must have been something deep down in him that knew. I didn’t even know he knew how to do it. Because the evening before Pavitra left, A. told me what had happened at lunch time, and I told him, “Generally, I don’t see Pavitra [at night], it’s very rare, very rare, it happens quite accidentally, and it’s more symbolic visions than …” I said to him, I don’t see him, I don’t know, but this night (of the 15th, that is) I’ll inquire to see what it is, in what state he is, and see if he goes out of his body or comes to me ….”
There was nothing in a form, nothing. And some time after I’d lain down, it started coming, but then with an extraordinary SCIENCE of the process! And for THREE hours without stop, continuously, in the most steady manner, like that: an action. After three hours, it was as it is now; I felt as if he said, “Now it’s over.” Only, you never know, of course: there might be some consciousness lingering in the body … I thought it was better to wait till this afternoon, not to shut him up with something in his body.
It has brought to the body consciousness a sort of sense of satisfaction: the appeasement that satisfaction gives. That’s there quite concretely.
Did he know it from a previous life, or …? I don’t know. Or else, he just didn’t talk about it. Because the way he spoke, he didn’t seem to know the secrets of yogic processes. [[XX’s note: We are convinced that Pavitra had learned many things in Mongolia’s lamaseries, where a highly advanced occult science was practiced. ]] It was done with a rare perfection …. Three hours without stop, without flagging – three hours – continuous, continuous. Naturally, I was lying on my bed ….
When Sri Aurobindo left, I was standing near his bed (later on, when he was alone, when there was no one left), and all the supramental force he had concentrated in his body (what was left in his body), he passed on to me. I stood near his bed; he had been declared “dead,” but all that supramental consciousness which was there came out of his body, slowly, and directly entered mine. It was so material that I felt the friction of the force everywhere, all over. But it was slightly luminous. That was something different than with Pavitra. As for Sri Aurobindo, he … (how can I put it?), he stayed mainly … I found him everywhere: I found him all the way up, absolutely one with the Supreme Consciousness; I found him spread about in many places to see many people and do a lot of work; and I found him (but then, in a precise form, though NOT FIXED – A precise, rather supple form that looked like him, like what we knew of him, with more suppleness, without the fixity of the physical, but quite precise, a form in his likeness, quite in his likeness), I found him in the subtle physical.
There he has a dwelling, he is settled and stays permanently (which doesn’t prevent him from being at many other places and …), but there is a Sri Aurobindo there whom I see almost every night, who looks after the whole work, sees people, and who is almost constantly with me. In the subtle physical, it’s a specific place, and very large – huge, you know, he is there, seeing people, doing all kinds of things ….
Apart from that, in Amrita’s case, it was something different again. Amrita used to come in spite of his illness, he used to come and see me every day; he would come upstairs in the morning and sit down here, and once again in the evening (you saw how much work it was to climb the stairs). In his case, when he left … The doctor had told him, “You can’t go upstairs for a month,” and it’s after that, later on that day, that he came: he didn’t accept, he left his body and came – he came straight to me. But he was IN HIS OWN FORM, more subtle, but precisely defined (Mother draws an outline showing Amrita’s form), it was his form, in his likeness. And he remained there, now active and now at rest (he rests more than he is active, but now and then he is still active). It’s like … like a shadow, you understand, which is wholly in my atmosphere. And he has stayed there-he stays there, rests there. But in Pavitra’s case, it was something else altogether: it’s the entire conscious being which gave up … (how can I put it?) its limits, the personal limit and form, so as to identify totally – he entered like that, like a stream of consciousness and force, but very material, very material: it produced a friction, I felt a friction, and for three hours. I had never seen that before, it was the first time – I had heard about it very often (it’s often mentioned), that knowledge the great yogis had: they would go like that deliberately.
And it has ADDED something to the body consciousness. In the body’s spontaneous attitude, its way of being, I have noticed a slight change; it has added a sort of … stability in the body: a satisfied stability, like that. It’s not like something that comes and might go, it’s not that: it’s here [in Mother]. It has been really quite interesting – and unexpected.
I wanted to be sure that there was nothing left that could make the body suffer, but now I think it’s over.
XX: Does it mean that his individuality has been dissolved?
Mother: Those notions of individuality, you know … for me, they’ve changed a lot, quite a lot. This whole morning again … But for a long time, at least for a month, it has become something else.
When people speak of individuality, there’s always a sort of at least a background of separation, that is, something that exists independently and has its own destiny Now, as the body consciousness knows it, it’s almost like a pulsation of “something” which MOMENTARILY has a separate action, but which, deeply, essentially, is always ONE. Like something projected like this (gesture of expansion), momentarily with a form, and then … (gesture of contraction) it can cancel that form at will. It’s very hard to explain, but at any rate, the sense of the permanence of separation has completely disappeared, completely The universe is an exteriorization (same gesture of pulsation) of the Supreme Consciousness; it’s our incapacity of total vision that enables us to have that sense of fixity: there is none, it’s something like pulsations or … really a play of forms – there is only ONE being. There is only one being. There’s only one, only one Consciousness, only one Being.
Separation is really … I don’t know what happened …. And that’s what made all the mischief – all the misfortune, all the misery …. For the last few days, this body has gone through a series of experiences (it would be much too long to tell), through all the states of consciousness one can go through, from the sense of the single reality of this (Mother pinches the skin of her hands), of the substance, with all the misery, all the suffering which is the consequence of seeing matter as the single reality-from that to liberation. Hour after hour, it has been a whole work. And this incident of Pavitra’s departure has come as an example, as a demonstration.
But even before that, the consciousness of the cells had realized the oneness – the true, essential oneness – which CAN become total … if this sort of illusion disappears. You understand, the illusion which has created all this misery was lived so intensely that it became almost unbearable, with all the horrors and all the terrors it has created in the human consciousness and on the earth …. There have been … dreadful things. And just after that, just after: liberation.
What remains to be lived, that is, the experience that remains to be had, is … the next progress of the creation, of matter – the next step to return to the true Consciousness. That’s …
It seems to have been decided that something like a beginning, or an attempt of experience, is going to be made (Mother touches her body).
It’s a question of intensity of faith, or of the power to bear that faith gives. All depends on the capacity to go through the necessary experiences.
In any case, all the old notions, all the old ways of understanding things, all that is quite over, it’s past.
And all that is necessarily the return path; we had to walk that path and we still have to walk it (though not the same thing), but all the while progressing until we can … until this [the body] is ready to live the Truth. I don’t know, the impression is that things are going as fast as they can possibly go; the Consciousness is really making us move forward as fast as possible. It’s no longer the time of a drowsiness that drags on.
I can say (and it was almost like a surprise, I mean I didn’t know it), I can say that the consciousness that came out of Pavitra’s body was a consciousness without ego – without ego. Without SENSE of ego. There was a clear will to merge, a will with an intensity of aspiration, it was fantastic! Fantastic.
But by individuality, I don’t mean an ego: I mean the “something” that’s identical through all lives, the one thing that progresses through all lives. The something that remains the same and pursues its development.
That’s the Supreme.
Yes, but there is something that …
It’s the Supreme conscious of Himself …
Yes, that’s it, there is something …
The Supreme partially conscious of Himself.
… that pursues a line of development.
Yes, that’s the process. It’s the process that has been used for evolution.
Yes, that’s what I call individuality.
That’s agreed. It’s the process-it has been the process of the creation.
And it’s because it was the process of the creation that men have confused it with …
With separation: the ego.
But that [the “something” that persists] is obvious. It’s there, very strong, in this action of Pavitra’s – it was very strong. And in fact, it was free from the illusion of ego and had the full force of That. But that [center] remains! It can’t disappear.
What’s going to happen? I don’t know.
Because it [this merging of Pavitra] is very clearly part of the work: there are no accidents, nothing, nothing of the sort (all that has vanished), everything very clearly happened exactly as it had to happen. It seems to mean that “one” is attempting something (Mother touches her body). But what? I don’t know …. The body isn’t at all worried, it’s like this (Mother opens her hands); always this: “What You will, Lord, what You will ….” And with a smile and perfect joy – this way, that way, that other way … (fluid gesture, as if to indicate this or that side of the world, or all kinds of other sides) …. Very strangely, it has been given a consciousness that no longer has anything to do with time: you understand, there isn’t “when it was not,” there isn’t “when it will no longer be,” there isn’t … It’s not like that, everything is something in motion. But it’s really very interesting. And all, all those reactions, those sensations, those feelings, all that has completely changed – changed even in its appearance. It’s something else.
You understand, the states one could be in when one was in the highest consciousnesses – those that were united, were automatically one with the Supreme Consciousness and were conscious of the whole – those states have become the body’s natural state. Effortlessly, spontaneously: it cannot be otherwise. So what’s going to happen? How is it going to take expression? I don’t know …
It’s contrary to all habits.
Does this consciousness know what needs to be done on the material level? I don’t know. But the body isn’t worrying about that at all, it does what it has to do from second to second, without asking any questions. No complications, no plans, nothing, nothing.
We’ll see, it’s interesting!
May 21, 1969
(Regarding a photograph that was taken just before Pavitra’s coffin was closed and lowered into the ground. XX was standing near the coffin, to Pavitra’s right.)
Mother: ….I saw the photos – have you seen them? Have you been shown the photos? They took some there. I am telling you about it because there was something interesting …. There was a photo with you there (there was A., there was the governor, there was …), just when you were all lowering the coffin. And then … (you know, this presence of Pavitra hasn’t merged with the rest: it has remained there very peacefully, he is very peaceful-it hasn’t merged), and then, just as I looked at the photo and saw you, there was something like this within (gesture to the heart, like an emotion), I don’t know, it was almost like a tenderness, and he was almost happy I can’t explain what it is, he was like this: “Oh! XX …”
He was really very pleased.
It’s curious. I wasn’t expecting it: I was given the photos and started looking at them, when I suddenly felt something (same gesture to the heart) … It struck me very much. Because you had asked me, “Is he going to merge?” So even that, even that contact he has kept. Now and then, when someone says something regarding the work, he has his remark to make (I’ve noticed that), but there, it was very strong, almost like an “Oh!” of joy, you understand: “Oh! XX.” So I thought, “It’s good, since it really pleased him.”
I am wondering whether the consciousness [of Pavitra] has been especially preserved intact because it entered here [into Mother], or whether it’s always like that? … Where does someone conscious go? Does he remain here? … [[XX’s note: Mother means “here, conscious of the things of the earth.” ]] I told you, with Amrita, it’s a sort of not too precise form; it’s always there, now resting, now waking up, but he doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in material things. While Pavitra, from what I see, seems to be conscious of them. It’s something rather remarkable, I think.
I have seen cases of people who took interest and continued to take interest in what goes on [here], but then they have an independent form. While with Pavitra, it’s something else.
It struck me because it was strong, like this (same gesture to the heart).
All these last few weeks, there has been a sort of constant … I can’t call it “preoccupation,” but a sort of need to know: to what extent and how do those who have left remain conscious of the things they used to do, for instance, take interest in them, look after them (supposing they have the means to do so)?
A case such as Sri Aurobindo’s is quite different: it’s as if he had been multiplied. He has a constant presence in the subtle physical: he goes about, visits a number of people, and he is conscious of a lot of things, he intervenes in a lot of things, but a considerable number – it has multiplied his action. But that’s exceptional.
XX : I have often wondered about the same thing. I’ve often asked myself whether on the other side I’ll be as unconscious of this side as I am here unconscious of the other side!
(Mother laughs heartily)
Mother : Most people – the vast majority of people – go into a sort of assimilative sleep: all the experiences they had in their lives, all they learned, the consciousness seems to ruminate over that.
In the beginning … (Théon knew a lot of things – I don’t know how he came to know them, but I verified them and found them to be correct), in the beginning, the span of time between two lives is very long, and it’s a sort of assimilative sleep in which the consequences of what one has learned develop inwardly. Then, as the psychic being is formed and as one grows more conscious, rebirths take place more and more closely, until the time when rebirth becomes the result of a choice: at a precise place, for a specific length of time. And then, depending on what the psychic being wants to do, depending on the action it has to do, the new birth may be near or distant. There, we have all possible differences. But in the formative stage, that’s how it is: very distant rebirths. So then, I’ve often wondered … You see, Théon says there is a psychic STATE in which those beings rest (it’s true, there is such a place, I know it), but many people, especially at the beginning of their evolution, are quite tied down to the earth; I have seen quite a few people in trees, for instance. Very often I saw them in trees; often, while following someone [with the inner vision], I saw him enter into a tree; and often, while looking at a tree, I saw someone in it. I saw others who were … oh, people clinging to a place they were interested in: for instance, I saw a man who was interested in nothing but his money, which he had hidden somewhere, and as soon as he left his body, he went there, settled there, and refused to budge from there! … Incidentally (laughing), it had a curious result: it led people to discover the place! You see, it caused movements of forces, and some people felt it and thought, “Oh, there must be something here.”
There was a time when I concerned myself with that a good deal, and I made a good number of discoveries (following Théon’s indications); later on, it no longer interested me. And now, quite lately, I have been reviewing all kinds of things, all kinds of things ….
But Pavitra’s case, I really believe it’s exceptional. It’s the first time it has happened to me – with nobody, nobody else before. I told you, when Sri Aurobindo left, for hours he passed on to me the whole supramental force and consciousness he had concentrated in his body. It was immediately after he left. I felt he had called me; I stood there, near his bed, looking at him, and … I saw it, you understand: he passed on to me the force, the whole supramental force he had concentrated in his body, and I felt him everywhere enter like that, with a friction. It lasted for hours. But that’s quite an exceptional case, as I told you. But what took place with Pavitra is really … it’s really … It’s not the same thing: he simply came out of his body deliberately (and not his psychic being: it was as material as he could), and I felt him, felt it enter and enter everywhere, all over my body … And now, if I look within, I can’t say I see a form, but … it’s not completely fused. And for certain things – certain things that have to do with people, or the School [[XX’s note: Pavitra was the School’s director and the Ashram’s general secretary. ]] – there’s a very clear personal reaction. And then, those photos … I think that’s quite exceptional.
I felt something in the brain. You know that since Sri Aurobindo gave me mental silence, it has been absolutely still; it never started up again as before, and the consciousness has been there (gesture above Mother), working from there. But then after Pavitra came here, something (gesture to the forehead) impelled me to ask (I asked what’s here, within), “Could I get the mathematical knowledge you had?” I asked him that. And his answer was, “Of course, it would be easy if you set this in motion again!” But that I don’t want to do. Anyway …
Anyway, that’s how it is, as if I were talking to someone within! How happy he was! I think he loved you very much. He never spoke a word about all that. It has pleased him a lot.
I always used to keep back from Pavitra, because he had two sides: the luminous side that I liked, and then a whole other side … that resembled my father: a somewhat rigid mental side. So I used to keep back, it prevented the contact.
XX: Yes, he was rigid.
Mother: He had ONE side like that.
But the strange thing is that it has given a sense of the complete unreality of death – instantly. And then, this body (laughing) is funny (!), now and then it asked, “Am I alive or am I dead?!” Like that. “Am I alive or … I’m not sure!” It had a very high fever, [[XX’s note: Pavitra had a very high fever before leaving his body. Might that be what Mother felt in her body? ]] it was quite in a bad state, and it wasn’t too sure whether it was the one involved! … That didn’t last. And, I don’t know … all that seemed to be a demonstration to make us understand the secrets of existence. It’s strange.
(Mother goes into a contemplation)
Something has changed in the nights too. That is, the last two nights have been extremely active; I went to some places (if I went there before, I didn’t stay long) where there were lots of people, but mingled, that is, the so-called living and the so-called dead together. Quite together, and used to being together, and finding it quite natural-but CROWDS of people! Last night, I noticed Nolini there – he was there, he was used to being there – and we arranged things, organized, made decisions …. It seems to me to be in the subtle physical.
I remember that in both cases, yesterday and today, when I got up, I thought, “Well! I told this and that person that I didn’t use to see them at night, but I see them regularly!” And to one of those people (in fact it was … who was it?) I said, “Of course, I see you constantly, and we constantly do things together.” It seems to have opened in me the memory of a new activity – not “new”: a new memory of an old activity.
There is increasingly an impression that our head and our way of seeing are what makes clear-cut limits like that [between life and death, between the ones and the “others” ] – but it’s not like that! It’s all mingled, it’s consciousness … (gesture of stirring and mixing) interdeveloping, I don’t know. And all that is together.
It’s far more interdependent than we think.
At any rate, with this departure of Pavitra, one thing has been categorical: if there was in the body the least fear of death, or anxiety, it’s com-plete-ly gone. With Pavitra’s case, it’s completely gone, completely. The impression is: “But … but why do people make such a fuss about that!”
There. it’s strange.
May 28, 1969
XX: Pavitra’s experience on night of February 5, 1966
“It is a night of fully conscious spiritual experience, a night of torture and glory.
“I walked through large rooms in which beings without communication with outside were living. And other rooms where wretched beings were dragging out a wretched life. They took notice of my presence, which seemed to bring them a ray of light from outside. A few reacted well, with a smile; others fled. A few knocked against me. Then I went into other rooms. The same goal always seemed to justify my presence. For, as I went by, a few showed a sign of hope. But at the same time obstacles, sufferings, tortures of all kinds fell on me. They were not deliberately inflicted tortures, but sorts of reactions of ignorance and suffering.
“This work progressively became more and more difficult for me. I moved about with difficulty, walked more and more slowly, as though overburdened, until it finally became difficult for me to find my way … to escape.
“These experiences seemed to last forr a long time. When they ended, I found myself in my physical body, surprised that it bore no marks of all that I had just undergone.
“But I slowly began to understand the meaning of all that had taken place. An immense gratitude rose from my heart towards the Supreme, as did an entire self-giving so that His Will may be accomplished everywhere.
“I perceived the meaning of the great promise:
‘I shall deliver you from all evil, fear not.’
“That promise of victory from the Divine embodied on the earth carried me away with joy.
“I repeat that I was fully conscious for as long as those experiences lasted.
“That is all I have to say.”
Mother: Is it after this that he fell ill?
XX: It’s about that time. That’s when he started walking with two canes.
Mother: (After a long silence) It would mean that he took upon himself quite a few people’s burdens …. So that would explain what happened: on the day he left, a number of people were terribly attacked by things, as if those were coming back onto them; things that had been taken away from them and which were coming back onto them-especially women.
There was in him a being more conscious than he. That’s obvious. It was that same being which absorbed [others’ suffering].
14 September 1971
(ZZ’s visit to Mother. The day before, ZZ had gone to the Cazanove gardens, in the suburbs of Pondicherry, to see the tombstones of Pavitra and Amrita.)
ZZ: Yesterday I went to visit Cazanove.
Mother: Oh, why?
ZZ: To see Amritada and Pavitrada…. You know, nothing has been done, no work until now to cover the tombs, in two years.
Mother: How are they?
They are covered with “Sri Aurobindo’s Compassion,” and near the head, there is a slightly broken pot with “new creation,” and near the feet a pot of “devotion,”[[Portulaca, tuberose, and basil. ]] the same for both…. I found that very nice, but nothing has been done.
Mother: I’ve never heard Pavitra complain about it! (laughter) I see Pavitra very often, almost every night. Maybe he likes it that way. Even last night I saw him: he was in Japan. When did they leave?
ZZ: Amritada left on January 31, 1969 and Pavitrada in May, May 16.
Mother: Oh, Pavitra left after.
You know, time and me….
Pavitra is here, he’s very active, he stays near me, I see him very often. Amrita I don’t see that much. Pavitra was absorbed into me and I put him back into a form little by little, and when he was completely formed, I brought him out and he stays very close here.
ZZ: What does he do?
Mother: He meets people, he does all sorts of things.
ZZ: What work does he do?
Mother: He meets people, talks, but he’s here, he hasn’t left the earth’s atmosphere. Amrita left to rest; Pavitra is here, in the subtle physical – that’s where Sri Aurobindo is and it’s a physical that has a strong tendency to materialize.