Guiding Light of The Month

O Lord, how ardently do I call and implore Thy love! Grant that my aspiration may be intense enough to awaken the same aspiration everywhere: oh, may good- ness, justice and peace reign as supreme masters, may ignorant egoism be overcome, darkness be suddenly illu- minated by Thy pure Light; may the blind see, the deaf hear, may Thy law be proclaimed in every place and, in a constantly progressive union, in an ever more perfect harmony, may all, like one single being, stretch out their arms towards Thee to identify themselves with Thee and manifest Thee upon earth. - The Mother

IEP cycling at Pulau Ubin: 15th June 2008

Our cycling trip began a little later than had been planned as some of our group had lost their way to the meeting point. Nevertheless, it was a merry 19 people who departed from the Changi Point ferry terminal at 9am on Sunday, 15th June for the island of Pulau Ubin for a long awaited cycling trip.

Our ferry took us over swirling waves to the rustic island, whose jetty reminded one of a place that had grown too fast to keep up with itself. More bicycle shops lined the main road than I remember seeing two years ago. The friendly place selling tender coconuts was not so much a drink stall, but a full-fledged sea view seafood restaurant!

However, after we got past the bustle of the village, it was a different story. We entered the rural areas, most of us on the bicycle, a couple of the women on foot. Speeding across smooth roads, we finally came to the point where we would take a turn into a dirt and rutty road leading to Mamam beach. It was fun, riding along the bumps, and getting down to push the bikes when the road got too rough. Dheeraj, the smallest off the children was in a bit of a difficulty, as his bicycle, with training wheels, simply required far more effort than the smooth sailing mountain bikes of the others.

This part of the adventure brought us to Mamam beach where we admired the hundreds of wasps building their nests in sand and foraging for food (from a safe distance, of course) while we were happily eating chocolates and other snacks. Then began the hardest part of our journey to Chek Jawa.

The uphill road proved almost impossible for Dheeraj’s bike, which he had to push for most part. Even for the rest of us, there were long stretches when we were exhausted pushing the bicycles uphill. Finally we made it to Chek Jawa, only to discover that the place was totally different from what it had been the last time we were there two years ago. Two years ago, Chek Jawa had been a wild spot, one could walk along the intertidal zone to some exposed rocks and have lunch on those rocks. And if one stood absolutely still, the crabs would come out, one by one, out of their holes to play in the sand. And one movement, they would flee, faster than one would have imagined crabs to move, back into their little sand nests.

Now, the crabs were still there, only that they had to be viewed from the top of an observation boardwalk. It was a bit disappointing for some of us, who missed the rustic nature of Chek Jawa. However, the government’s effort to prevent over invasion of the flora and fauna of the intertidal zone is understandable. We made our way to the viewing tower, five storeys of steep stairs, after climbing which we were awarded with a breathtaking view of the forests of Ubin, mangroves, the sea and in the distance, Changi beach. A quick ride back to the jetty, a tender coconut, and we were ready to return to the mainland.

- Kiruthika

The Mother says...

Care should be taken of the body certainly, the care that is needed for its good condition, rest, sleep, proper food, sufficient exercise; what is not good is too much preoccupation with it, anxiety, despondency in the illness, etc., for these things only favour the prolongation of ill-health or weakness.

The dauntless

I fear none! ,
For, I worship Him
Who fills with His energy the life universal.
I have a strong mind and a strong body by His Grace.
His energy sings all the time in my heart.
His Beacon Light is within me guiding me always
And showing me all possibilities from His golden chariot.
I have thrown all my problems of life and death at His feet.
He is the pilot who guides my boat according to His Will.
Let distrust and deceit come on me as much as they like,
Let despondency and fatigue attack me with all their violence,
Let even the hell of vanity and desire come in their fury to pull me down-
Yet He will be there to prevent any calamity overtaking me
and help me to soar upward always.
His assurance and His benediction I have received and I fear no one!

He will remove all my weaknesses and make me all powerful.

- Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya

Philippides and the marathon - duty to die for

The 2008 Olympics is upon us and while not trivializing some of the honest sentiments expressed, I am a little relieved that at least some of the high decibel protests associated with the Olympic torch have calmed down.

Never having been one gifted in any aspect of the celebrated arena of sports, my approach to the Olympics has always been to dig out legends, interesting stories and trivia associated with the event. I first started doing this when I was in school in Class IV. It was 1988 and time for the Seoul Olympics. We had a quiz organized at school which also happened to be the first quiz I had ever taken part in. So, my preparation involved going through all my text books (Hindi and social studies included) to see if something related to the Olympics was mentioned there (that explains the “Not in text-book” response that I gave to most of the questions in the quiz). It was on a day just before the quiz that I happened to overhear my sister mention the story of some “Philippides” to one of her friends. I found the story absolutely captivating. Imagine my delight when I saw a question in the quiz that read “In whose honour is the marathon in the Olympics held?”. I nailed the answer then and there! I felt on top of the world! Imagine the co-incidence! I spent the rest of the quiz dreaming about Philippides’ feat…and of course providing the response mentioned above to most of the other questions. I may as well mention here that against an average of 6 correct answers for the class, my score in the quiz added up to the grand Unity. Philippides had saved me from the ultimate ignominy of scoring a naught. But the result of the quiz didn’t really matter. I was just thrilled at having come to know of such a fascinating event in history. I went around telling the whole class the story of Philippides (which roughly went “He ran till he died…wasn’t that great?”).

Twenty years on, one of my colleagues, a couple of weeks go, made a reference to Philippides during one of our conversations. I was at once harked back to that afternoon in my classroom where I wrote the word “Philippides” as the answer to the question and went through it again and again to make sure the “P” was in capitals, that I had got the spelling right, that I had put in two “p’s” in the name…the sheer pleasure doing all that gave me! I felt a thrill go through my body on this trip down memory lane. I had to know more on this, my first hero. I launched myself into the ubiquitous Wikipedia (where was Wikipedia while I was taking the quiz?). Co-incidentally it was on the same evening that I received information on the theme for the forthcoming edition of this newsletter. This article is an output of these events and interchanges.

The sheer magnitude of what this Greek hero achieved in the space of a few days is staggering. The backdrop was the landing of Persian troops at Marathon in Greece in 490 B.C. The Persian Empire back then was the most powerful in the known world. Needless to say, this landing caused panic amongst the Greeks who were unsure of defending themselves against the might of the Persian army. They decided to ask the hardy Spartans for help. But how was the request for help to be relayed to the Spartans? In those days the chief forms of communications were on horseback or through a professional long-distance runner. The former was ruled out since the terrain was not conducive. It was decided that a human messenger would be sent to the Spartans with a desperate plea for help. On whom would this arduous task fall? Who amongst the Greeks would have the courage, temperament and stamina to carry out this mission? When you stand against the wall, you throw your very best resources against your adversary. It was decide to entrust the long-distance ace, Philipppides, with the responsibility of conveying the situation in Marathon to the Spartans with extreme urgency. History, through the Greeks, had chosen one of her heroes.

This is what Philippides did…he ran 240 km in two days all the way to Sparta, through harsh and inhospitable terrain. He conveyed the Greek plight to the Spartans (the Spartans, due to one of their religious customs that forbade them to fight till the moon was full, could not enjoin battle immediately). Success, however, was on the side of the Greeks and they defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. It was now necessary for the Greeks to inform the people of Athens of their victory in order to prevent panic spreading further. Who do they rely upon to convey this equally urgent message? They didn’t have to look too far for an answer. Philippides was entrusted with the mission once more. He ran forty-two kilometres from the battlefield of Marathon back to Athens. Upon arrival he declared “Nenikekamen” (“We have won”)…and fell dead on the spot.

(Painting by Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869)
“When he reached the agora, he gasped “Nenikekamen”, and exhausted, fell dead”.

I still feel a rush of blood when I read his story. The sheer courage, large-heartedness and dedication to his duty that he had are beyond our normal comprehension. It was a simple, physical act that did not involve the vanquishing of any powerful adversary or a performance to an applauding audience. It was a feat performed in vigour but in complete solitude. The person performing the act was engaged in a fierce battle against his own perceived limitations. Victory was his in that battle.

What I find most inspiring about Philippedes’ story is his run from Marathon back to Athens. What could have inspired him to perform this act with the same dedication that he had done in his run to the Spartans? After all, victory had been achieved. The threat to the nation and family was no more there. This was the time to celebrate. Would such thoughts not have crossed his mind? While he was traversing the harsh terrain would it not have occurred to him that he probably could find a less inconvenient but far less urgent way of doing what he was entrusted to do? Would his “thinking” mind not have told him to “take it a little easy “, now that victory had been achieved?

We would never know the answers to these questions. Philippides did not live to tell his tale. Anything we say in this regard would be from the realm of pure speculation and it is into this realm that I now wish to enter.

My own feeling is that Philippides, while carrying the message back to Athens, had knowingly or unknowingly surrendered himself to a higher Power to take over his actions. A feat of this stature, I believe, could not have been achieved with the “rational” mind and intellect intervening. It required an effort that was, by definition, superhuman. A complete commitment to the task at hand and performing it without ego (for we know that if Philippides wanted to live on and bask in the glory of his run to the Spartans and being the messenger of victory, he could always have toned down his effort and reached Athens with enough breath to ensure he lived) and without a consideration of personal gain. It was, I would like to believe, a “vigorous and dynamic surrender” that Dr. Alok Pandey had mentioned in one of his talks at our Society.

If “Yogah karmasu kaushalam”1 be our credo, Philidpiddes can be one of our role models. If “Samatvam yoga uchyate”2 (it is in this regard that I find his run from Marathon to Athens particularly poignant) be our ideal, Philippides is truly an inspiration.

Question of the month - What is the importance of Physical Culture?

The Mother during the Wednesday class at the Playground

The soul's descent into the physical body is necessarily a descent into darkness, ignorance, unconsciousness; for a very long time it must labour simply to bring a little consciousness into the material substance of the body, before it can make use of it for the experience it has come for. So, if we cultivate the body by a clear-sighted and rational method, at the same time we are helping the growth of the soul, its progress and enlightenment.

Physical culture is the process of infusing consciousness into the cells of the body. One may or may not know it, but it is a fact. When we concentrate to make our muscles move according to our will, when we endeavour to make our limbs more supple, to give them an agility, or a force, or a resistance, or a plasticity which they do not naturally posses, we infuse into the cells of the body a consciousness which was not there before, thus turning it into an increasingly homogeneous and receptive instrument, which progresses by its activities. This is the primary importance of physical culture.

When you observe the moving body of a person who has practised physical culture in a methodical and rational way, you see a light, a consciousness, a life, which is not there in others.

Extracted from "A Divine Life Manifesto” - An Integral Education for a Divine Life.
Published by Sri Aurobindo Divine Life Education Centre, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, India.

From Savitri...

Light shall invade the darkness of its base.
Then in the process of evolving Time
All shall be drawn into a single plan,
A divine harmony shall be earth’s law,
Beauty and Joy remould her way to live:
Even the body shall remember God,
Nature shall draw back from mortality
And Spirit’s fires shall guide the earth’s blind force;
Knowledge shall bring into the aspirant Thought
A high proximity to Truth and God.

- Savitri (Book Eleven, Canto One)

Flowers of The Month

Physical consciousness turned entirely towards the Divine

Botanical Name: Tithonia rotundifolia
Common Name: Mexican sunflower - striking orange-red sunflower with velvety petals.
Spiritual Name: Physical Consciousness Turned Entirely towards the Divine.

It thirsts for the Divine and wants Him alone.

Peace in the Physical

Botanical Name: Calophyllum Inophyllum
Common Name: Ball tree, Alexandrian Laurel branching racemes of fragrant white rotate flowers with numerous yellow stamens.
Spiritual Name: Peace in the Physical

To want what God wills is its best condition.

The Mother says...

To think constantly of the harmony of the body, of the beauty of the movements, of not doing anything that is ungraceful and awkward. You can obtain a rhythm of movement and gesture, which is very exceptional.

Explanation given by The Mother about the department of Physical Education

The tortoise is the symbol of terrestrial immortality- that is to say, immortality of the physical being on this earth. The red centre symbolizes the Illumined Physical and from this radiate the twelve white rays of the integral Light of Truth. The rays are curved in form indicating that the Light is dynamic in its nature and is in action.

The golden colour of the tortoise itself shows that it is the Supramental which supports this terrestrial immortality and which alone can effect the transformation

The Mother on the Olympic rings

It has been officially stated that the five rings of the symbol of the Olympic Games represent the five continents, but no special significance has been attached to the colour of the rings, nor has there been any intention of allowing a specific colour to each continent.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to study these colours and to find out what meaning they may have and what message they may convey.

It is quite well known that each colour has its significance, but the meaning attached to the various colours by different interpreters vary and are often conflicting. There does not seem to exist any universally accepted classification of these significances. This is because these colours are considered from a mental standpoint, or at least because the vision is influenced by the mind of the interpreter. But if one rises above the mind to the truly occult regions beyond, the real meaning of each colour is the same for all those who can read it directly. This is true not only in this particular case but for all occult and spiritual experience. There is a remarkable similarity in the experiences of mystics of all times and places.

Consequently, if the colours of the rings in the Olympic Symbol are viewed from this standpoint, we shall be able to find their real esoteric meaning and see how they apply to the five continents.

Green denotes a vast peaceful feeling with a direct contact and a very harmonious relationship with Nature. It could represent a continent with vast open spaces and an unspoiled population living close to the soil and Nature.

Red is the colour of the physical and material world. The red ring could therefore be allotted to the people that have achieved a great mastery over the physical world. This colour would also indicate that material success has given it predominance over the others. In any case, it represents a people that stresses physical and material things.

Blue, on the other hand, indicates a young continent with its whole future before it and great possibilities but still new and growing.

Black is a very unfortunate choice of colour as it can only represent a continent which is fast falling into deep obscurity- the descent of a declining people into dark oblivion.

On the contrary, yellow is the most glorious colour of all. It is the golden colour of Light- the Light which comes from the Source and Origin of all things and which, with its helping hand, will lead evolving humanity back to its divine Origin.

The arrangement of the rings also has significance. Black is the central colour upholding all the others, and this is indeed an indication of the black chaos which now governs the world and of the blindness of those who are at present struggling to guide the ship of humanity on the dark sea of ignorance.

It is our hope that in the future this black ring will be replaced by a white one, when there comes a turn in the tide of human affairs, when the shades of ignorance are dispelled by the dawn of a new light, the bright, white, self-luminous light of the new Consciousness, and when at the helm of the ship stand those who will face this brilliant radiance and set course towards the Promised Land.

Olympic games

Replace the ambition to be first by the will to do the best possible.
Replace the desire for success by the yearning for progress.
Replace the eagerness for fame by the aspiration for perfection.
Physical education is meant to bring into the body consciousness and control, discipline and mastery, all things necessary for a higher and better life.
Keep all that in mind, practise sincerely and you will become a good athlete; this is the first step on the way to be a true man.
-The Mother

The similarity that can be observed between what the Mother and Sri Aurobindo say and what the Olympics expound is remarkable. The motto of the Olympics, to be found beneath its symbol- five interlocked rings-on its flag is: “ Citius, ALtius, Fortius”- “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a dedicated promoter of international goodwill, who was chiefly responsible for the revival of the ancient Greek Olympic Festivals from 1876, put down the creed of this great institution in these words.

“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
- The Mother
Extract from All India Magazine, August 2004

From the Editor's desk

The human body must be one miracle that we probably take for granted in our day to day lives. It is said to be a vehicle that carries Brahman or the Eternal Spirit itself, while being carried in it! What a mind-boggling paradox, or so it seems for those of us existing within the confines of the consciousness of a small “I”, a personal individuality around which the entire universe seems to revolve; this small “I” for whom life, mind and this body seem to exist and by whom too.

Moving away from this small “I”, moving a little further up, we can put on the glasses of objectivity and view the human body as would an anatomist or a physiologist. This is a body that comes into the world wired to respond to both internal and external stimuli in such a way as to ensure maximum chances of its survival. In normal conditions, the functions of the body work to clock work precision. Consider the heart that beats, non-stop, the same “lub-dub” rhythm, as long as the body is alive. Consider the breathing movements that continue on without our conscious control, regulated according to the concentration of carbon dioxide that the brain senses in the blood that reaches it. Consider the reactions of the body to heat and cold and how, within seconds it is able to prepare itself to counter the temperature changes in the environment. One point in case is the activity of shivering as an attempt to generate heat to keep the body warm as one emerges from a pool of water, or the dilation of the arterioles of the skin in order to lose heat, after a hot shower. Consider, the moments that follow a sudden trip. Watch the body right itself, in every fiber of the concerned muscles on the back, the buttocks, the legs and even the arms, to bring about a balance that prevents a fall, or when falling, that breaks it. Consider the reactions to falling water concentration in the blood and immediately, the sensation of thirst builds up and the body has us drinking some water. Rarely do we disobey this urge to quench our thirst, least aware of the mechanism that first prompted one to reach out for that glass of water. We consume food and this food is processed, its nutrients absorbed and the waste matter evacuated, all without any conscious control on our part. Consider the times when we needed some information. One scan through the drawers of our mind and a quick search through the files yield the right information we need for a particular activity. The myriad poisons and germs that enter the body are regularly countered and destroyed and very often, we emerge victors against battles against foreign invaders. The instances can be stacked up sky high and beyond. This body is a wonder and kudos to the creator of such a miracle.

Have we done justice to this grace that has been given us? Have we used our mind and our vital being to nurture this body that it will be a fit instrument that reaches out towards more and more perfection in the intent, from whichever plane, that it translates here in the physical world through work? Is it the case of our body dancing around to the whims and fancies of an ignorant mind and ambitious vital, abused and wearied and worn out in the process? Or is it a case where one has attempted to offer this body to a higher will or at least an enlightened mind and vital, to carry out its work to the fullest, in harmony and beauty?

This body can probably go far, further than we think it can. The bodies cultured by Olympians and the frontiers they have attempted to push and in some cases succeeded, must be testimony enough to the wonders this miraculous body can achieve with a conscious physical culture.