Guiding Light of The Month

WHY all this noise, all this movement, this vain and futile agitation; why this whirlwind carrying men away like a swarm of flies caught in a storm? How sad is the sight of all that wasted energy, all those useless efforts! When will they stop dancing like puppets on a string, pulled they know not by whom or what? When will they find time to sit quietly and go within, to recollect themselves and open that inner door which screens from them Thy priceless treasures, Thy infinite boons? - The Mother

The Entry into the inner countries


In Matter’s body find thy heaven-born soul.


Botanical Name: Arctotis Venusta
Common Name: Blue-eyed African Daisy
Spiritual Significance: Cheerful Endeavour


Then Savitri surged out of her body’s wall
And stood a little span outside herself
And looked into her subtle being’
s depths
And in its heart as in a lotus-bud
Divined her secret and mysterious soul.
                                                                                           
-          Savitri, Sri Aurobindo

From the Editor’s Desk (Sep 2018)

This month’s newsletter edition catches a glimpse of Book 7, Canto 3 of Savitri, ‘The entry into the Inner Countries’. Savitri determined in the previous episode to pursue the finding of her Soul. In this canto, each line reveals something that will aid us, in our journey’s course as we search the inner countries for our now, ‘lost’ soul. Savitri’s initial entry onto the inner countries faces resistance, but resolute Savitri persists and pushes her entry inside and moves on discovering or encountering various parts and planes of her being. 

Before proceeding on, it is useful to reckon why Savitri had decided to enter into her inner countries. It is to discover her soul as commanded by her inner voice in her moment of despair, in the dense and dark night, as she was sitting beside sleeping Satyavan. She first enters the world of subtle matter and then into the sense-driven life (or the Kingdom of Little Life). Then she ventures into the Kingdom of greater life. In all of these, there is no sign of the soul-presence and entities therein move on mechanically or chaotically in all randomness, amounting to wasteful energy with no fruitful culmination. Savitri then enters a brilliant and ordered space with a distinct touch of the organizing mind with its monarch at the helm, Reason. In this tight ordered space, there is no room for imagination to take flight into viewless vistas nor is there scope for the high leaps of thoughts that fashion new, unknown worlds. The presence of the soul is still lacking and Savitri   moves on, politely declining that space, for she was seeking her Soul. At last she breaks into a new world of subtler breath where she watches beings moving, "strange goddesses with deep-pooled magical eyes" who seemed to hold in them more than any of the other beings she had met before. She resists the temptation to settle in this space and live with the goddesses. As determined earlier, resolute Savitri moves on the less trodden path pointed out by these goddesses, seeking for her Soul. On this path Savitri meets "a few bright forms" who look at her "with calm immortal eyes”. In this realm,

“There was no sound to break the brooding hush;
One felt the silent nearness of the soul.”

What is the inherent message in this for us, since Savitri is but a guide on our Spiritual journey? The answer to this question needs to be worked out by each one of us. No one journey will be exactly the same, one can presume, since each nature, although generically similar, comes with its special combination of hues, habits, tendencies to be looked into and worked out. This inward journey, we have been promised, if it brings us to the central truth of our being, would then launch us into another realm of existence, that exists only to express that truth of our being re-discovered. Between that and our current state of being appear an endless single path, winding most of the time, lost to the horizons far, far away. But a first step is needed and usually it will be a testing first step, which all the forces of the nether world would seek to hamper and hinder. It is a higher quality in us that would be eventually the saving grace, with blind faith, perhaps, that would enable that first move to be attempted, and later on, to stay on course. Let us allow the prayer above to urge us on to surge forward.

Savitri, a journey of Love and Light (Sep 2018)



Then smiled again a large and tranquil air:
Blue heaven, green earth, partners of Beauty’
s reign,
Lived as of old, companions in happiness;
And in the worlds heart laughed the joy of life.
                                                                               
All now was still, the soil shone dry and pure.
Through it all she moved not, plunged not in the vain waves.

Out of the vastness of the silent self
Life’
s clamour fled; her spirit was mute and free.

                                                            (Savitri)    

Flowers Speak…(Sep 2018)


Faith

Happy are men anchored on fixed belief
In this uncertain and ambiguous world,
Or who have planted in the heart’
s rich soil
One small grain of spiritual certitude.

Happiest who stand on faith as on a rock.

 ***

Silence

A few bright forms emerged from unknown depths
And looked at her with calm immortal eyes.

There was no sound to break the brooding hush;
One felt the silent nearness of the soul.

Savitri

***

Order



Then journeying forward through the self’s wide hush
She came into a brilliant ordered Space.

There Life dwelt parked in an armed tranquillity;
A chain was on her strong insurgent heart.

(Flowers and Messages, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)

One felt the silent nearness of the soul.


Savitri's problem is to penetrate appearance and reach the reality about herself. This is a spiritual quest leading to a spiritual end. The nature of the quest, the stages in the progress, and the configuration of the goal, all must defy description in everyday language, which is no more than one of the functions or manifestations of the appearance.

Hence the poet is obliged to resort to a parable and to the language of symbols. The 'parable' of Savitri's search for her soul spans across several cantos, and symbol regions with their contours, laws and inhabitants are passed in review, and Savitri is shown as making her progress through the 'inner countries', even as, in Book II, Aswapati is shown as careering through the occult worlds in the cosmos.

      Right at the commencement of her quest, a voice tells Savitri that her aim should be to "help man to grow into the God", not to achieve her own salvation alone; in other words, the sorrow and darkness threatening her life with Satyavan, being symptomatic of the present human destiny, should be tracked to their source, struggled with and mastered finally.

      As Savitri approaches the 'inner countries', she is confronted by an ebony gate barring her passage. From within comes the porter's "formidable voice" of forthright warning to Savitri. Although this serpent-guardian and its attendant hounds, trolls, gnomes and goblins raise hideous rout, Savitri forces the gate open and enters, unconcerned and unaffected, the inner worlds. Who is this forbidding portress? Who are her attendants? Always, when one starts on a new adventure, a nameless fear and its progeny of hesitations and vague premonitions seem to bar the way.

One needs courage and resolution to withstand these sullen initial impediments that try to prevent the first step being taken. However, they have no effective power to throw back; they can frighten, and if their bluff is called, they are really powerless.

      The occult inner continents follow one after another; these are the new fields of Savitri's cognitive experience. There is, first, the world of 'subtle matter', analogous to the world Aswapati (as described in Book II, canto 2) passes through—analogous but not identical, for no two spiritual quests are exactly the same. This dense region "of subtle Matter packed"—a sort of no-man's land between the dusk of subconscience and the first streaks of life—leads presently to,

      ...a form of things,
      A start of finiteness, a world of sense:

This sense-driven life is without order, without direction, without meaning; as with ignorant masses clashing in the dark, there is motion without aim, or striving without positive result. Such must be the fate of all endeavours when "the sense's instinct (is) void of soul/Or when the soul sleeps hidden void of power".

      Savitri, guided by "the saviour Name", edges round this chaotic world of "disordered impulses", the kingdom of little life, and enters the kingdom of greater life, "a giant head of Life ungoverned by mind or soul". The Life-Force itself rages here in its elemental vastness; it is no tenuous trickle, but verily "a spate, a torrent of the speed of Life" breaking "like a wind-lashed driven mob of waves/Racing on a pale floor of summer sand". Blind but fierce, aimless but irresistible, the heady current of this unleashed force achieves marvellous results through inadvertence:

Out of the nether unseen deeps it tore
Its lure and magic of disordered bliss,
Into earth-light poured its maze of tangled charm
And heady draught of Nature's primitive joy
And the fire and mystery of forbidden delight
Drunk from the world-libido's bottomless well,
And the honey-sweet poison-wine of lust and death,
But dreamed a vintage of glory of life's gods,

And felt as celestial rapture's golden sting.

This is the world of primitive heroism, compact of great striving and impressive results; fighters, daring explorers, uncalculating hedonists, restless dreamers, magicians, lovers, haters, fill this world. There is the clash of violent opposing furies, there are alternations between fear and joy, ecstasy and despair. But, whatever its particular tinge, life in this region is everywhere intense; and speech has a downrightness, and song "its ictus of infallibility". Yet all this marvel and splendour has no sure base on Truth, but are reared on shifting sands compounded of half-truths and gross-errors. Total perversion is possible and sometimes reigns unabashed:

Here in Life's nether realms all contraries meet;
Truth stares and does her works with bandaged eyes
And Ignorance is Wisdom's patron here:
Those galloping hooves in their enthusiast speed
Could bear to a dangerous intermediate zone
Where Death walks wearing a robe of deathless Life.

Here too lies "the valley of the wandering Gleam", a self-created self-perpetuating nightmare death-in-life. Savitri withstands the terror and the lure, the passion and the pain, and steadily journeys forward to 'fresh woods and pastures new'.

      The next region is "a brilliant ordered Space", fed and fostered by reason. The impetuous Life-Force is held in leash by reason. The passage has thus been from a Dionysian to an Apollonian world. Yet control too can be carried too far. Fleeing from the riot of exuberance, one can canter into the utter formality of death:

The ages' wisdom, shrivelled to scholiast lines,
Shrank patterned into a copy-book device.

It is, no doubt, a balanced reign, but also a cabinned reign; there is no room or scope for the play of imagination, for daring leaps of thought, for the unrestrained climb of the spirit. It is like the cloistered virtue of "a highbred maiden with chaste eyes/Forbidden to walk unveiled the public ways". There is a mean self-sufficiency, a petty perfection here that effectively rules out "rhythms too high or vast", the play of high ideas, and the sovereign richness and variety of life in the Spirit. In this "quiet country of fixed mind", an authoritative spokesman accosts Savitri and assures her that this is truly "the home of cosmic certainty" where all is "docketed and tied"; thoughts apotheosis has fashioned this realm; here reign order and safety, clarity and peace. But Savitri is ill at ease in this cold small world, "this ordered knowledge of apparent things"; she cannot abide here, she must seek her soul elsewhere. Her decision surprises, and even offends, some of the self satisfied inhabitants of this place, while one, wiser and sadder than the rest, murmurs:

      Is there one left who seeks for a Beyond?
      Can still the path be found, opened the gate?

Undaunted, unwearied, Savitri passes on till she arrives at a place thronged by a crowd of, "brilliant, fire-footed, sunlight-eyed... messengers from our subliminal greatnesses/Guests from the cavern of the secret soul".

Savitri is attracted by these "strange goddesses with deep-pooled magical eyes", and she would like to live with them and share the light of their life, but first she will pursue her quest for the discovery of her secret innermost soul. Surely, these bright creatures will help her in her quest. How may I, she asks,

      .. .find the birthplace of the occult Fire

      And the deep mansion of my secret soul...

The amazing answer comes:


      O Savitri, from thy hidden soul we come...
      O human copy and disguise of God
      Who seekst the deity thou keepest hid
      And livest by the Truth thou hast not known,
      Follow the world's winding highway to its source.
      There in the silence few have ever reached,
      Thou shalt see the Fire burning on the bare stone
      And the deep cavern of thy secret soul.

Inaccessible to—not negotiable by—any but "rare wounded pilgrim-feet", the great winding road now bears the tread of Savitri's feet, and "a few bright forms" emerge from unknown depths and look at her "with calm immortal eyes":

      There was no sound to break the brooding hush;
      One felt the silent nearness of the soul.
                 
 (An excerpt from “Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri – A study of the cosmic epic”, Dr. Premanandakumar, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)
                                                             

July-August Sunday Activities at the Centre - A glimpse


July 29th – Talk by Prof Vladimir Yatsenko

The Cause of Creation.  THE BEGINNING:
Taking a brief look into Vedic Cosmogony. Shatapatha Brahmana depicts the Myth of Creation in this way.   “At the beginning was the Self (Atman).  He was Alone. He looked around and found nobody else except himself.  He said: “I Am…” But there was no other name to say, for he was alone. … He was not happy. He wanted Another. it can be only for one reason, for delight.”
THE FIRST CREATION: The Eternal Night
“Out of Himself He cast “a luminous shadow”:  - gradually denying himself, withdrawing his Supreme Knowledge from His Supreme Power, becoming unaware of these worlds as Himself. 
THE SECOND CREATION:
When the first Involution took place and the Light was turned into the Darkness, “the Creation became as if unsteady.  It could not sustain itself, so the Supreme Self had to enter it.  And when He has entered, as the text says: “Himself by Himself”, the Creation became steady.”
From this point onward the Evolution starts to takes place:
“A soul of the Divine is here slowly awaking out of its involution and concealment in the material Inconscience.” - says Sri Aurobindo in The Synthesis of Yoga. So, actually there were two Creations (Involutions) before the Evolution could take place: first, out of Himself he created the worlds, and then he entered them, plunging into the darkness and lying down at the bottom of the Inconscient.  

August 4th -  Talk by Prof Vladimir Yatsenko

Above are four operative functions of the consciousness in the Vedantic tradition: which are defining consciousness as an interaction of Knowledge and Power, Name and Form.
Samjnana is the contact of consciousness with an image of things by which there is a sensible possession of it in its substance; if Prajnana can be described as the outgoing of apprehensive consciousness to possess its object in conscious energy, to know it, Samjnana can be described as the inbringing movement of apprehensive consciousness which draws the object placed before it back to itself so as to possess it in conscious substance, to feel it.
Ajnana is the operation by which consciousness dwells on an image of things so as to govern and possess it in power.
Vijnana is the original comprehensive consciousness which holds an image of things in its essence, totality and parts and properties; it is the original, spontaneous, true and complete view of it which belongs properly to the supermind and of which mind has only a shadow in the highest operations of the comprehensive intellect.
Prajnana is the consciousness which holds as image of things before it as an object with which it has to enter into relations and possess by apprehension and analytic and synthetic cognition.
These four, therefore, are the basis of all conscious action....There are secret operations in us, in our subconscient and superconscient selves, which precede this action, but of these we are not aware in our surface being and therefore for us they do not exist. If we knew of them, our whole conscious functioning would be changed.             
- Sri Aurobindo       

August 5th – Reading from AIM magazine – July 2018

1. Renunciation and enjoyment

It talks about how human mind is currently attached to sensuous satisfactions. To overcome that self-denial or external renunciation is necessary for the soul to break out of the clogged sensory pleasures. That does not mean self-torturing which is an offence to the Divine seated within us. The enjoyment should be to see and feel the divine expressing itself in everything within us and without us.

2. Detachment

Our mind has the power of detachment and it can be strengthened by a certain attitude of indifference to the things of the body. While keeping the body in order, we should not be too much worried about what best to eat and how much sleep etc....More than the aid of physical ailments the mind should be trained to a greater potentiality of vigour from the mental and vital energy.

3. Knowing and Seeing God in the world

When one becomes a Yogin raising his step from lower knowledge and gets higher illumination, he can illumine the lower and make it a part of higher knowledge. He becomes a channel of God consciousness and God action in the world. He sees nothing but God in every form and action whether be data of science, philosophy, all activities of past, present and future. In everything he can bring the illumined vision and his liberated power of the spirit.

4. The Yoga of Divine Love
The Supreme Being
Supreme Being is also the Universal Being. To enter into more intimate relation with him we should approach in the growing knowledge, not in ignorance. This supreme Being guides us in whatever way we approach correcting our distorted ways which is the beginning and finally with developing consciousness complete Divinity is realised.

August 12th – Reading of passages from Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, War and Self-Determination

The Spiritual Aim and Life
Jared guided us in the process of understanding the passages read.
Right now our society is founded upon the contracts and associations to bring harmony, otherwise there will be never ending conflicts, clashes of egos. Sri Aurobindo says still it is far from a society founded upon spirituality. Our civilised mentality has only created excessive needs and desires with science developing more mechanical devices and Nature not allowed to bring about the spiritual heart in man.

August 19th – Reading of passages from Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, War and Self-Determination
Continuation of The Spiritual Aim and Life
When the more advanced minds begin to declare civilisation at the peak brings only more confusion, stagnation and decay, to remedy this human mind goes back to think of more science and more mechanical devices. This means to carry a disease to its height is the best way to cure.This will push back the spiritual element in man far back.
The socio-religious machinery in the name of giving spiritual freedom only binds man in imperious yoke and an iron prison. So salvation of true nature of the soul is lost!
Looking forward to Sri Aurobindo’s remedy for all these traumas in the later passages when read.
August 15th – Darshan Day, Sri Aurobindo’s 146th Birth Anniversary

It was indeed a great blessing for all the members to get immersed in  Sri Aurobindo’s consciousness when our youth and children through their prayer reading and the enacting of Sri Aurobindo’s and  Mother’s life made it immensly soulful! Sri Ramanathan gave us the joy of hearing to the Spiritual journey of Sri Aurobindo in a very clarified way.
 As always Popat Bhai arranged for a delicious dinner after the programme.
Thanks to Sanjay and Shailaja for a beautiful introduction and vote of thanks.
-          Jayalakshmi

Along the Way… August Walk Review (walk no 396)

There is an old Hindi saying, “if you want to find a person who has not taken bath in the Holy Ganges, you do not have to go far, they will be among the residents of Varanasi (Benares)”. So who does not know the significance of Fort Canning Hill in Singapore’s history? Well, many residents of Singapore, that’s who. Many of us often work near the hill (yours truly included), some go for walks on its manicured lawns with their partners, while some often shop near the place, some others even stay in its vicinity. The hill in the heart of the city looks over us like a guardian angel, like it has always done for hundreds of years, while we simply ignore it and rush to earn a living, marry someone dear, or offer a prayer at a church, mosque or temple at its foothills.

It probably also gave refuge to a fleeing Srivijayan prince, Parameswara who arrived in Singapura, hundreds of years ago, probably one of his descendants, Sultan Iskandar Shah, the fifth and last ruler of pre-colonial Singapore, even lays buried there. But what we learnt for sure was it was the last hiding spot for Lieutenant-General Percival and his core team of commanders. Lt-General Percival was General Officer Commanding Malaya in World War Two when the Japanese invaded Malaya. While he is remembered often as the man who surrendered the island and over 130,000 men when Singapore surrendered to the Japanese, we learnt that he did not have the resources to defend Singapore. With HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse destroyed 3 days after the attack on Pearl Harbour, with not enough tanks, nor enough planes to defend the island, and finally blindsided by an attack on the western front, there was not much his British army could do.

Thanks to Jeya Ayadurai, Savita Kashyap, and their colleague Joanne, we had a refreshing multimedia history lesson at The Battlebox on Fort Canning, just four days before Singapore’s national day which falls on 9th August. The ‘walk’ itself was much shorter than usual as we only had a short walk from the meeting point to The Battlebox via the Spice Garden and passing by the tomb of Sultan Iskandar Shah. Certainly Fort Canning is worth a visit again for one and all, both for its greenery as well as its historical significance.

The uniqueness of this walk did not end there, it was one of the rare walks where the brunch was held at the Sri Aurobindo Society’s (SAS) room inside SIFAS. While the walk started with a small group in the morning, by the time we were at The Battlebox, the group had become larger and it included Mr and Mrs Yash Mehta who both grew up in Pondicherry Ashram and their daughter Mili. When we reached the SAS room, a larger group of devotees were waiting, including Prof Vladimir Yatsenko and the host Arjun Madan. The sublimity of the meditation at the centre had its own uniqueness and that spread to the prayers that followed. While most of us left after partaking the brunch, a dedicated group of youngsters went back to rehearse for the programme on 15th August.

- S N Venkat