But then the First World War intervened. In February 1915, Paul Richard had to go back to France to join the French Reserve Army and the Mother returned with him. Soon after, she fell seriously ill and the doctors gave up all hope. She recovered by the sheer force of her inner strength. In 1916, she sailed for Japan as part of her spiritual quest.
The Mother was greatly impressed by the beauty of Japan. She learned several typical Japanese customs–the tea ceremony, the flower arrangements and to dress in the Kimono. She said later:
“For four years from an artistic point of view, I lived from wonder to wonder.”
In Tokyo, the Mother stayed with Dr & Mme Okhawa. Dr Okhawa writes:
“Something in her drew me to her,–call it grace, call it the immutable light of the polar star that makes the magnet point to its own centre. A fragrance was wafted from her to me as from Paradise, sweet with the scent of immemorial days.
There was a light in her eyes as of the great morning of the world that was about to dawn. ... I was a friend, an intimate member of the family. I was her brother. You have known her as the Divine. And the Divine I have known as a friend and sister. She was beautiful in 'Western clothes’. And she looked surpassingly lovely when she wore a Kimono. If I could but see, I would surely have said that she looked equally lovely in an Indian saree.
To measure is to be apart and to assess is to be far away. Distance alone can ensure description. How could I, who lived in the very heart of Fujiyama, tell you about the volume of its fire and flame and the dimensions of its light?”
And from the recollections of Mme Okhawa:
“I knew her very well. She was one of those blessed spirits that one learns to love heart and soul.
She came from the far-off land of France. But it was my feeling that she was all along, like me, a daughter of Japan. I could swear that she was my very sister whenever she wore a Kimono.
It was for a brief while that she sojourned here. But great was my happiness when I lived with her. And when she went away, there was a mist in my eyes like the autumnal mist that hangs over Tokyo and on the ocean around.
I do not know what it is to be a mother. But I probably know more than any other what it is to be a sister.”
The Mother had many interesting spiritual experiences in Japan. Once she completely identified herself with the consciousness of a cherry-tree:
“A deep concentration seized on me, and I perceived that I was identifying myself with a single cherry-blossom, then through it with all cherry blossoms, and, as I descended deeper in the consciousness, following a stream of bluish force, I became suddenly the cherry-tree itself, stretching towards the sky like so many arms its innumerable branches laden with their sacrifice of flowers. Then I heard distinctly this sentence:
‘Thus hast thou made thyself one with the soul of the cherry-trees and so thou canst take note that it is the Divine who makes the offering of this flower-prayer to heaven.’ When I had written it, all was effaced; but now the blood of the cherry-tree flows in my veins and with it flows an incomparable peace and force. What difference is there between the human body and the body of a tree? In truth, there is none: the consciousness which animates them is identically the same.
Then the cherry-tree whispered in my ear:
‘It is in the cherry-blossom that lies the remedy for the disorders of the spring.’”