Climbing up the long flight of stairs leading to the Matri Mandir, I now pause awhile to recall the days of yore. These were the same steps that I used to run up instead of simply walking, as a child. I could hear my father holler from behind, warning that if I tripped, I would break a bone or two. But I never heeded them. Now, I think twice before attempting the feat, after all, I am all grown up.
Meditation begins at 6:15 sharp in the evening, and the soft music issuing from the music player inside the Mandir, slowly percolates into the air outside through the half open door, mingling with the soft breeze. A loyal companion is the delicate scent of the burning incense sticks inside, that courses its way outside, through the door. Music and fragrance flow through the cool air surrounding the Mandir, and slowly engulf the latter in its entirety.
Stepping inside the Mandir, you get a whiff of the same aroma that almost instantaneously lulls your senses, inviting you to unite with the ambient mysticism and divinity. As you sit and meditate before the life-size portraits of the great saint Shri Aurobindo and the sweet Mother, you are gradually transported to someplace else. As you open up your heart to them in the pervading silence, all your anxiety has been taken care of, and your worries gently removed.
Situated comfortably in the lap of nature, surrounded by the lush greenery of Digboi, the Mandir enjoys the undivided attention of Almighty God.
The serenity of Matri Mandir has always spoken to me in unvoiced words. Even as a child, I have heard amidst the quiet, the soft voice of Nature. Somewhere crickets chirp merrily, while a frog croaks with joy. Moths are in love with the Mandir lights while fireflies light up the adjacent thick forest in the evening. If you are in luck, you might just behold a deer spring up playfully from behind the thick foliage and pass you by.
I have grown up with the firm conviction that Matri Mandir has been my personal source of happiness and inspiration. My childhood flourished underneath the feet of the loving Mother. I have sung countless devotional songs on numerous occasions and my 1st real performance was staged here inside the Mandir.
I might have been nervous and shaky while my fingers numbly traced the keys of the old harmonium, my voice might have quivered at the thought of the huge throng of devotees expecting a melodious Bhajan from a budding singer on the edge of a nervous breakdown, but now when I look back, I simply chuckle over my ludicrous apprehensions.
I distinctly remember, it was a cold winter evening and despite having rehearsed the Bhajan a million times and gurgled with warm saline water for what might have been a zillionth time, I seemed to be losing my voice as I sat down with the harmonium before me. The old musical instrument had served a good job by concealing my trembling fingers in the soft lights of the Mandir.
And there I had sung my 1st ever song before an audience and felt the thrill of being extolled and praised by one and all. I had just started my journey as a singer. And the sweet Mother smiled upon me, wordlessly urging me to make my songs a source of joy for all those who heard me sing.
Today when in solitude, I look to those days for some solace and peace. Those were cellphone-free, Whatsapp-free, Facebook-free days, a time that gifted us the golden opportunities to assemble on a divine platform, the Matri Mandir, and share wonderful thoughts from ‘The Sunlit Path’.
Once back home, and back to our mundane life, our mind constantly remained illumined by the sweet messages registered in our sub-conscious selves. We had known the value of being united by the bond of togetherness and love. The beauty lay in the tranquillity of it all. We spoke in hushed tones, we listened more, we meditated while the Mother’s music flowed into our hearts and brought peace to our disturbed minds.
The customs and traditions of meeting in this common platform have pretty much remained unchanged. And this is perhaps the only place that has remained impervious to the changes around the world. People, who come to visit the Matri Mandir, switch off their cell phones, they revere the sanctity of this divine place, and they respect the institution’s firm belief in the power of meditation.
Matri Mandir is God’s own temple, where calmness and spirituality prevail, a stark contrast to the frenzied world outside.
Now as I quietly sit in a corner of my room, penning down my thoughts, I am transported back to the Mandir stairway on which are scattered dried yellow leaves of an old tree standing proudly beside the steps. It’s autumn and the previous shower has left behind traces of water droplets on the leaves and the flowers. I hear frogs croak cheerfully that God has answered their prayers. I see myself hurrying up the Mandir steps as soft mystifying music slowly glides out through the half open door, a subtle reminder that I am late for the meditation session.
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan
All alone in the moonlight
I can dream of the old days
Life was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again.”