Birth of Mirra Alfassa, Spiritual Leader and Holy Figure

February 21, 1878

Mirra Alfassa, known as "Mother." Copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Mirra Alfassa was born on February 21, 1878. She became a revered spiritual leader, holy figure, and yogic guru in India, founding multiple ashrams, a school, and an intentional, self-sustaining community. She held the title of Mother because of her connection to the divine mother.

Alfassa was born in Paris to a Turkish Jewish father and an Egyptian Jewish mother. Alfassa began practicing sadhana, a spiritual surrender of the ego, at a very young age. She was a voracious reader, reading through her father’s entire library by the age of fourteen. In her early teen years, she had multiple psychic and occult experiences.

Alfassa trained as an artist at the Académie Julian but continued to be drawn to mysticism. She traveled to Algeria and met Max Théon, a Polish Jew leading a Kabbalist mystical circle. Upon her return to Paris, she established her own mystical circle drawing on Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu teachings.

In 1914, Alfassa moved with her husband, Paul Richard, to Pondicherry, India, at that time a French colony. There she met Sri Aurobindo, an Indian philosopher and yogic guru. Alfassa wrote that upon meeting Aurobindo, her mind quieted, and it continued growing quieter until she reached complete silence and yogic consciousness.

Alfassa became Aurobindo’s devoted follower.  After divorcing her husband in 1920, she moved into Aurobindo’s house. Aurobindo bestowed on her the title “Mother,” because he saw in her an incarnation of the Divine Mother of the universe. Together, Alfassa and Aurobindo amassed many followers, eventually turning their home into an ashram. In December 1926, Aurobindo retreated from public life and appointed Mother as the sole head of the ashram.

During World War II, Alfassa donated much of the ashram’s funds to support the Allies. Many families fled to the ashram in search of shelter from the war. On December 2, 1943, Mother established a school, later named Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, for the children of these families.

Mother established two additional ashrams, in Delhi in 1956 and Gujarat in 1967. Her teachings were published in a thirteen-volume book around the same time, later expanded to seventeen volumes. In 1968, Mother established Auroville, an intentional and self-sustaining community for peace, spirituality, and harmony. Hundreds of people from around the world came to live in Auroville.

Mother Mirra Alfassa died on November 17, 1973. Her legacy as a holy figure persists in India to this day.

Sources

Goldberg, Michelle. “India’s (Jewish) Mother: How Mirra Alfassa went from being a French bohemian to an Indian goddess.”  Global Jews, March 11, 2010. https://globaljews.org/articles/world/indias-jewish-mother-how-mirra-alfassa-went-from-being-a-french-bohemian-to-an-indian-goddess/.

Jew Age. “Mirra Alfassa–Biography.” Accessed June 10, 2022. https://www.jewage.org/wiki/en/Article:Mirra_Alfassa_-_Biography.

Jew of the Week. “Jew of the Week: Mirra Alfassa.” January 5, 2017. https://www.jewoftheweek.net/?s=mirra+alfassa.

Mohanty, Sachidananda. Cosmopolitan Modernity in Early 20th-Century India. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2018.

Mother Service. “Life and Teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.” Accessed June 10, 2022. https://www.motherservice.org/Life%20&%20Teachings/Life%20and%20Teachings.htm.

Rawlinson, Andrew. The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions. Illinois: Open Court, 1997.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram. “The Mother.” Accessed June 10, 2022. https://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/mother/.

Van Vrekhem, Georges. The Mother–The Story of Her Life. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000.

 

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Nice enlight peace

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Birth of Mirra Alfassa, Spiritual Leader and Holy Figure ." (Viewed on April 22, 2024) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/feb/21/1878/birth-mirra-alfassa-spiritual-leader-and-holy-figure>.