Editor’s Note: In these passages, the Mother answers to a wide range of questions on choosing right books to read. She shares that today’s world is filled with worthless literature. There are many books that lower or degrade one’s consciousness. One needs to consciously choose books that are filled with light.
The whole world is full of worthless literature
Disciple: Sweet Mother, how should one choose one’s books?
The Mother: It would be better to ask someone who knows. If you ask someone who, at least, has taste and some knowledge of literature, he won’t make you read badly written books. Now, if you want to read something which helps you from the spiritual point of view, that’s another matter, you must ask someone who has a spiritual realisation to help you.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 7, p. 308)
So, things like vulgar stories which are written in a vulgar way, about these, you see, there’s no longer any question. These things you should never touch.
And yet this is the currency which circulates everywhere, above all in our times, it seems, because men have invented methods for cheap printing, for making cheap illustrations. So they flood the country and all other countries with worthless literature, which is badly written, ill-conceived, and which expresses vulgar things and coarsens you with vulgar ideas and completely spoils your taste through vulgar pictures. All this happens because from the point of view of production they succeed in making things very cheap, what are called popular editions “accessible to all”.
But as the aim of these people is not at all either to educate or to help men to progress, far from that—they hope on the contrary that people don’t progress, because if they did they would no longer buy their wares—so their intention is to make money at the expense of those who read their literature, and so the more it sells, the better it is. It may be frightful, but it’s very good if it sells well. It’s the same thing with art, the same thing with music, the same thing with drama.
The latest scientific discoveries, applied to life, have put within the reach of everyone all kinds of things which formerly were reserved only for the intellectual and artistic élite; and to justify their effort and profit by their work, they have made things which can sell most, that is, the lowest, most ordinary, most vulgar things, the easiest to understand because they require no effort and no education.
And the whole world is drowned under these things, to such an extent that when there’s someone who has written a good book or a fine play, there is no longer any place for him anywhere, because the whole place has been taken up by these things.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 7, pp. 306-307)
Disciple: Sweet Mother, You have said that I do not think well. How can one develop one’s thought?
The Mother: You must read with great attention and concentration, not novels or dramas, but books that make you think. You must meditate on what you have read, reflect on a thought until you have understood it. Talk little, remain quiet and concentrated and speak only when it is indispensable.
Do not choose books that lower and degrade the consciousness
Disciple: I am reading a book on motor-cars, but I read it hastily; I skip the descriptions of complicated mechanisms.
The Mother: If you don’t want to learn a thing thoroughly, conscientiously and in all its details, it is better not to take it up at all.
It is a great mistake to think that a little superficial and incomplete knowledge of things can be of any use whatsoever; it is good for nothing except making people conceited, for they imagine they know and in fact know nothing.
Disciple: Do you think I should stop reading Gujarati literature?
he Mother: It all depends on the effect this literature has on your imagination. If it fills your head with undesirable ideas and your vital with desires, it is certainly better to stop reading this kind of book.
Disciple: Is there any harm in my reading novels in French?
The Mother: Reading novels is never beneficial.
Not to be a Sadhak of Books but of the Infinite
Disciple: When one reads dirty books, an obscene novel, does not the vital enjoy through the mind?
The Mother: In the mind also there are perversions. It is a very poor and unrefined vital which can take pleasure in such things!
In unformed minds what they read sinks in without any regard to its value and imprints itself as truth. It is advisable therefore to be careful about what one gives them to read and to see that only what is true and useful for their formation gets a place.
I do not approve of these literature classes in which, ostensibly for the sake of knowledge, they flounder in the mud of a state of mind which is out of place here and which cannot in any way help to build up the consciousness of tomorrow. I repeated this to X yesterday in connection with your letter, and I explained briefly to him how I saw the transition period between what was and what will be.
(A teacher suggested that books dealing with subjects like crime, violence and licentiousness should not be available to young people.)
It is not so much a question of subject-matter but of vulgarity of mind and narrowness and selfish common-sense in the conception of life, expressed in a form devoid of art, greatness or refinement, which must be carefully removed from the reading-matter of children both big and small.
All that lowers and degrades the consciousness must be excluded.
Disciple: The selection [of books] has to be carefully done. Some of the books contain ideas which are sure to lower the consciousness of our children. Only such books are to be recommended as have some bearing on our Ideal or contain historic tales, adventures or explorations.
The Mother: One is never too careful with books which have the most pernicious effect.
Disciple: I have been laying great stress on the stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and on the songs of Kabir, Mira, etc. Is it against your way to continue these old things?
The Mother: Not at all—it is the attitude that is important. The past must be a spring-board towards the future, not a chain preventing from advancing. As I said, all depends on the attitude towards the past.
Disciple: Some of the best poets and saints have written about the love of Radha and Krishna as if it were carnal love.
The Mother: I always considered it as an incapacity of finding the true words and the correct language.
If you want to know what is really happening in the world, you should not read newspapers of any sort, for they are full of lies. To read a newspaper is to take part in the great collective falsehoods.
Disciple: Mother, How can one know what is happening in other countries and even in our own, if we do not read papers? At least we get some idea from them, don’t we? Or would it be better not to read them at all?
The Mother: I did not say that you must not read papers. I said that you must not blindly believe in all that you read, you must know that truth is quite another thing.
Disciple: I want to see what will happen to me if I stop reading completely.
The Mother: It is difficult to keep one’s mind always fixed on the same thing, and if it is not given enough work to occupy it, it begins to become restless. So I think it is better to choose one’s books carefully rather than stop reading altogether.
A library should be an intellectual sanctuary where one comes to find light and progress.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 12, pp. 141-149)
How To Read Sri Aurobindo And Get Answers From Him
~ Design: Raamkumar