Guiding Light of The Month

IN Peace and Silence the Eternal manifests; allow nothing to disturb you and the Eternal will manifest; have perfect equality in face of all and the Eternal will be there. . . . - The Mother

Flowers of the month

Mahasaraswati’s Perfection in Works

Botanical Name: Rondeletia
Common Name: Rondeletia
Light terminal corymbs of small orange-red or deep pink salverform flowers.
Spiritual Name: Mahasaraswati’s Perfection in Works
It is not satisfied with makeshift.

Psychic Work

Botanical Name: Cassia javanica
Common Name: Apple-blossom cassia, java cassia;
Cluster of fragrant rose-pink flowers turning white.
Spiritual Name: Psychic Work
A work governed by harmony.

Skill in physical work

Botanical Name: Phlox drummondii
Common Name: Annual Phlox - Carmine red
Spiritual Name: Skill in physical work
Skillful hands, a clear vison, a concentrated attention, an untiring patience
and what one does is done well.

Organised Team-Work

Botanical Name: Averrhoa carambola
Common Name: Carambola
Compact clusters of small fragrant rose-pink bell shaped flowers with red calyces
Spiritual Name: Organised Team-Work
Each in his place and all together.

Thoughts and Aphorisms: Karma

227. He who will not slay when God bids him, works in the world an incalculable havoc.

310. Fix not the time and the way in which the ideal shall be fulfilled. Work and leave time and way to God all-knowing.

311. Work as if the ideal had to be fulfilled swiftly & in thy lifetime; persevere as if thou knewest it not to be unless purchased by a thousand years yet of labour. That which thou darest not expect till the fifth millennium, may bloom out with tomorrow's dawning and that which thou hopest and lustest after now, may have been fixed for thee in thy hundredth advent.

329. Imperfect capacity & effect in the work that is meant for thee is better than an artificial competency & a borrowed perfection.

338. Tangled is the way of works in the world. When Rama the Avatar murdered Vali or Krishna, who was God himself, assassinated, to liberate his nation, his tyrant uncle Kansa, who shall say whether they did good or did evil? But this we can feel, that they acted divinely.

371. The path of works is in a way the most difficult side of God's triune causeway; yet is it not also, in this material world at least, the easiest, widest & most delightful? For at every moment we clash against God the worker & grow into His being by a thousand divine touches.
- Sri Aurobindo

Taking up work as Karma Yoga in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga


The past – what work meant
In the history of man, work and action have taken different meanings and forms, and has been for different ends, evolving along with the species. We can trace this change and its broad stages and shades. In Stage 1, man worked or rather hunted to satisfy the basic need of hunger. In this, man was driven by the raw instinct to survive. This is the beginning of human action and work. At some point, call it Stage 2, work became more than a way to earn the daily bread. The daily labour began to provide an avenue for intellectual progress, cultivation of individual talents and satisfaction of personal interests. Work in that sense was a “career” and not just an “occupation”. Moving beyond this work as “career” stage, there is now a small minority who do not merely seek to satisfy their personal interests, intellectual curiosity or talents. Call it Stage 3. Man has begun to seek “meaningful work”. Not only individuals, even corporates with profit motive have found meaning and satisfaction in working for the “greater good”. For example, from mere profit centered corporations, we see growth in “corporate social responsibility”. All these developments and urges represent the changing role of action and work for mankind reflecting the human evolution. At the same time, it is true that man still “slavishly” clings to jobs for the financial security it provides (unless other financial provisions have been made). In that sense, the higher meaning of work is still laid on top of the “basic” function of providing for our daily bread.

In his essays on Sri Aurobindo’s poem “The Divine Worker”, the great Aurobindonian, Professor Seetaraman says, “We see the beginnings of enlightenment when he (man) realises that he should not drift aimlessly and be a puppet in the hands of every chance force from outside or whim of his own nature and tries to govern his life and actions by mental standards of conduct given to him by the best cultured minds of the race – the thinkers, artists and moralists. This way of life ensures a regulation of the energies in his nature and a balance in and a sense of proportion to his conduct. He is dominated now by Sattwa and not by Rajas or Tamas as before. But he perceives sooner or later that this regulation or balance is precarious and the peace or light of mind not at all inviolable. Nature binds him still though with a golden chain”[1].

For the sadhaka trying to follow the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, work is Karma Yoga - much more than a “career” which is usually driven by “rajas” and binds as a “silver chain”; and much more also than “philanthropic work” or “work for the greater good” which may be an expression of “sattwa guna” but is still a “golden chain”. It is the next step of the evolutionary ladder that we are trying to climb - call it Stage 4 or Rung 4. That is where we want to be as aspirants on the path. Work, in this yoga, is not even just an expression of “love” or “desireless action” in the remaining years of earthly life while we actually aspire for nirvana and escape from the earth. After all, the integral yoga represents the next step in the human evolution. Work also takes a different dimension altogether in the yoga.

Work as the means and the end – for a higher, truer, sweeter life on earth
The Mother has said that if we remain in meditation and contemplation, we will not know if we have truly progressed. On the other hand, engaging in action and work shows us the true work to be done to purify our being. Indeed, it is our personal experience that the poise and consciousness one attains in prayers and meditation are hard to attain at work and family dealings. Work is hence where sadhana reaches its highest effort and that is how it is meant to be in the integral yoga.

Professor Seetaraman continues, “this perception (of “golden chain”) makes him ready to look deep within him and the world and discover that he had left all along out of reckoning the One for whom, in whom and by whom the world and man exist and indeed considered his life and the world to be fields of gratification for his fantastic and preposterous egoistic desires. So he begins to live and act increasingly in the awareness of God, trying to give up desire in all its forms and to open more and more to the Will of the Lord. Karma Yoga has its beginnings here”.

Professor Seetaraman quotes Sri Aurobindo from the Synthesis of Yoga, “We may indeed distinguish three stages of a growing progress by which first, the personal will is occasionally or frequently enlightened or moved by a supreme Will or conscious Force beyond it, then constantly replaced and, last, identified and merged in that divine Power-action”[2].

In our lives, we may not yet be even in the first stage where the personal will is “occasionally or frequently” enlightened or moved by the Divine Will. Indeed, we may even not have a “will”. Often, we are a cork on the sea, tossed by different influences, though we tend to think we are a complete and independent “individual”. That should, however, be our aspiration. We may not even be in touch with the Divine, be it personal or the impersonal Divine. That should not deter us. This is the purpose of our life and “all life is Yoga”, the Master says.

The marvellous adventure of Karma Yoga – it is ours to live out this adventure
Professor Seetaraman writes, “The Divine Worker does the Divine Work in the Divine Way for he has by conscious union realised identity in nature, likeness to the Divine, sadharmya.” To get there, the Master has given us guidance in Savitri.

“My light shall be in thee, my strength thy force.
Let not the impatient Titan drive thy heart,
Ask not the imperfect fruit, the partial prize.
Only one boon, to greaten thy spirit, demand;
Only one joy, to raise thy kind, desire.
Above blind fate and the antagonist powers
Moveless there stands a high unchanging Will;
To its omnipotence leave thy work's result.
All things shall change in God's transfiguring hour."[3]

My light shall be in thee, my strength thy force
Trying to do work as an offering to the Divine, in a truly higher consciousness, is typically a difficult endeavour. After all, we live through our egos. The Mother’s light and strength is with us and inside us to help us. Wisdom and Force are two of the Mother’s powers. As we know in life, Wisdom alone is not enough to succeed or bring about change or progress. Strength, Courage and Force are also needed. She is promising us HER Wisdom (Light) and Strength (Force) in the sadhana. This means in small and big things, she will help us walk the path. Small things? Whenever we have Monday blues; when we are stressed about the challenges at work; we can offer this to the Mother. Big things? personal ambition; lack of contentment; mistaking the instrument to be the real doer; feeling more than a tinge of pleasure when we are praised; feeling ashamed when we are faulted; or a lack of aspiration - we can simply offer this to the Mother. We do not have to conquer these natural movements of the “ego-self” by ourselves, entirely. We need to simply offer these movements to the Mother. We then open to Her influence and Her Wisdom and Force works in us and takes up the sadhana.

The Mother has said that we do not do the sadhana (Who is the real “I”, anyway?) and that it is the Divine in us who does the sadhana. The Divine in us does the sadhana – our role the Mother says is to “keep the pot upright” (to receive the Divine Grace and Force that will transform us). Significantly, when we rely on and open to the Mother’s Light and Force, She throws light on our insincerities (and that of others). Insincerity is dangerous. When we are insincere, we fool ourselves and others even *without our knowledge*. Transparency is just the opposite. No matter what our ills and weakness, She can change it to strengths if we are transparent to Her. On the contrary, if we are insincere, we may think we are doing the “right thing” or even “the Mother’s will”, when it is actually our desires and opinions that we are furthering. We don’t lie to a doctor. We should certainly not hide anything from the Divine doctor.

Let not the impatient Titan drive thy heart,
Ask not the imperfect fruit, the partial prize.

To aspire and be vigilant, aware that the “impatient Titan” is not driving our heart. Let us not ask the “imperfect fruit, the partial prize”. That next promotion or raise is an imperfect fruit, a partial prize. A bigger house, more savings, better returns on investments, more recognition at work and at home, praying that our kid lands a great job – and if we are sincere, we find the entire list of what most of us aspire fall under this category. Our lives are made up of desires. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the Mother for these things. Asking Her is much better than not talking to Her at all. Asking her builds a relationship with Her. However, do we want to ask for a million dollars or a billion dollars? A billion, surely. This is the point we often miss as we weigh everything with our rational mind. A much greater prize awaits us. So, what is that? What should we really ask for?

Only one boon, to greaten thy spirit, demand;
Only one joy, to raise thy kind, desire.

We ought to ask Her for only one boon and one joy – to greaten our consciousness and that of our fellow human beings. This does seem to present itself with some practical challenges. Our choice of our work reflects our desires and ambitions. We do it to further our “mental knowledge” and our “bank balances” amongst other things. Besides, we do our work through and with our mind. We don’t see any wrong in loving and caring mainly for our family and friends rather than widening to embrace all humanity. So how do we even reach the state where raising human kind is the “one joy” we desire? There is a way out and the Mother has lovingly shown us an intermediate path. It doesn’t involve “sheer will power” or a “just do it” attitude. We don’t have to go cold turkey and kill our desires. The Mother has made it simpler for us. She has asked us to “aspire (for higher consciousness), reject (weakness, all that keep us in our ego consciousness) and offer (all movements to the Mother)”. Slowly, we will “remember” more often and “offer” more often.

Above blind fate and the antagonist powers
Moveless there stands a high unchanging Will;
To its omnipotence leave thy work's result.
All things shall change in God's transfiguring hour

The Mother will then open our eyes, make us aware of our ego, give us Her Light and Force, and do the sadhana for us. “To its omnipotence leave thy work's result” then becomes a reality. Slowly, we become unified around our divine centre, the psychic. Slowly, the mind falls silent and can listen to the Divine Will. We become aware that it is the Mother who does the work through us. We truly realise our potential and our purpose - it is much more than a PhD degree or a CEO post - She will change the world and establish a harmonious divine life on earth – All things shall change in God’s transfiguring hour. It is to this great adventure that the Mother is beckoning us. “It is the pearl of great price which is offered for our Realisation”. As long as we open to the Mother, we will be gradually guided. Gradually, once we are “ready” to really serve the Divine rather than our desires and ambitions, the Divine will guide us to the “purpose” for which we were born. Then, life and work truly begin.

From “The Mother’s Prayers and Meditations”[4] (December 25 1916)
(What I heard in the silence and noted down last evening)
“By renouncing everything, even wisdom and consciousness, thou wer’t able to prepare thy heart for the role assigned to it: apparently, the most unrewarding role, that of the spring which always lets its waters flow abundantly for all, but towards which no waters can ever run back; it draws its strength from the depths and expects nothing from outside. But thou cans’t already sense the sublime felicity that accompanies this inexhaustible expansion of love; for love is sufficient into itself and needs no reciprocity; this is true even of individual love, how much more true then of divine love which so nobly reflects the infinite.
“Be this love in all things and everywhere, ever more widely, ever more intensely, and the whole world will become at the same time thy work and thy wealth, thy field of action and thy conquest.

Fight with persistence to break down the last limits which are only frail barriers before the expansion of the being, to vanquish the last obscurities already lit up by the Illuminating Power. Fight in order to conquer and triumph; fight to overcome everything that was till today, to make the new Light spring forth, the new Example the world needs. Fight stubbornly against all obstacles, inner or outer. It is the pearl of great price which is offered for thy Realisation.”
Divine worker[5]

I face earth's happenings with an equal soul;
In all are heard Thy steps: Thy unseen feet
Tread Destiny's pathways in my front. Life's whole
Tremendous theorem is Thou complete.

No danger can perturb my spirit's calm:
My acts are Thine; I do Thy works and pass;
Failure is cradled on Thy deathless arm,
Victory is Thy passage mirrored in Fortune's glass.

In this rude combat with the fate of man
Thy smile within my heart makes all my strength;
Thy force in me labours at its grandiose plan,
Indifferent to the Time-snake's crawling length.

No power can slay my soul; it lives in Thee.
Thy presence is my immortality.

- Sri Aurobindo

- Ramya Suryanarayanan
Sources:
1. “Meditations on Sri Aurbindo’s Hymns”, Seetaraman, Pages 23-24
2. “The Synthesis of Yoga”, Sri Aurobindo (International Centre Edition), Pages 250-251
3. Vision and the Boon, “Savitri”
4. “The Mother’s Prayers and Meditations, December 25 1916”.
5. “Collected Poems”

The four aspects of The Mother: Mahasaraswati

Mahasaraswati is the Mother's Power of Work and her spirit of perfection and order. The youngest of the Four, she is the most skillful in executive faculty and the nearest to physical Nature.

Maheshwari lays down the large lines of the world-forces, Mahakali drives their energy and impetus, Mahalakshmi discovers their rhythms and measures, but Mahasaraswati presides over their detail of organization and execution, relation of parts and effective combination of forces and unfailing exactitude of result and fulfilment. The science and craft and technique of things are Mahasaraswati's province. Always she holds in her nature and can give to those whom she has chosen the intimate and precise knowledge, the subtlety and patience, the accuracy of intuitive mind and conscious hand and discerning eye of the perfect worker.

This Power is the strong, the tireless, the careful and efficient builder, organiser, administrator, technician, artisan and classifier of the worlds. When she takes up the transformation and new building of the nature, her action is laborious and minute and often seems to our impatience slow and interminable, but it is persistent, integral and flawless.

For the will in her works is scrupulous, unsleeping, indefatigable; leaning over us she notes and touches every little detail, finds out every minute defect, gap, twist or incompleteness, considers and weighs accurately all that has been done and all that remains still to be done and all that remains still to be done hereafter. Nothing is too small or apparently trivial for her attention; nothing however impalpable or disguised or latent can escape her.

Moulding and re-moulding she labours at each part till it has attained its true form, is put in its exact place in the whole and fulfils its precise purpose. In her constant and diligent arrangement and rearrangement of things her eye is on all needs at once and the way to meet them and her intuition knows what is to be chosen and what rejected and successfully determines the right instrument, the right time, the right conditions and the right process.

Carelessness and negligence and indolence she abhors; all scamped and hasty and shuffling work, all clumsiness and 'à peu près' and misfire, all false adaptation and misuse of instruments and faculties and leaving of things undone or half done is offensive and foreign to her temper. When her work is finished, nothing has been forgotten, no part has been misplaced or omitted or left in a faulty condition; all is solid, accurate, complete, admirable.

Nothing short of a perfect perfection satisfies her and she is ready to face an eternity of toil if that is needed for the fullness of her creation. Therefore, of all the Mother's powers she is the most long-suffering with man and his thousand imperfections.

Kind, smiling, close and helpful, not easily turned away or discouraged, insistent even after repeated failure, her hand sustains our every step on condition that we are single in our will and straightforward and sincere; for a double mind she will not tolerate and her revealing irony is merciless to drama and histrionics and self-deceit and pretence.

A mother to our wants, a friend in our difficulties, a persistent and tranquil counsellor and mentor, chasing away with her radiant smile the clouds of gloom and fretfulness and depression, reminding always of the ever-present help, pointing to the eternal sunshine, she is firm, quiet and persevering in the deep and continuous urge that drives us towards the integrality of the higher nature. All the work of the other Powers leans on her for its completeness; for she assures the material foundation, elaborates the stuff of detail and erects and rivets the armour of the structure.

(Selection from “The Mother" by Sri Aurobindo)

Mahasaraswati


Supreme Artisan and Fashioner of perfection,
Atom by atom she builds up the world – she is slow, patient, faultless.
And by her consummate craftsmanship the universe- and each object in the universe-
Is a marvel of pattern, a model of divine arabesque,
A carefully wrought jewel.
Hers is the keen eye, hers the deft finger, the sure handling
And they compel intractable Matter
To bend and bow down to her as to its sovereign Mistress.

She is the growing divinity within us that like inevitable fate
Is slowly taking possession of our human life,
She is moulding it as she wills it to be-
A vessel and an instrument- a visible embodiment
Of the Consciousness, the Power, the Bliss
Of the Divine Mother.


(Nolini Kanta Gupta, “To The Heights” translated from “Vers Les Hauteurs”, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education Pondicherry)

Question of The Month

“Mahasaraswati is the Mother’s Power of Work and her spirit of perfection and order. The youngest of the Four, she is the most skilled in executive faculty and the nearest to physical Nature.... Always she holds in her nature and can give to those whom she has chosen the intimate and precise knowledge, the subtlety and patience, the accuracy of intuitive mind and conscious hand and discerning eye of the perfect worker.”
(Sri Aurobindo in “The Mother”)

Q : Sri Aurobindo speaks of a ‘ conscious hand’; what does that mean ?

What! I have told you this I don’t know how many times, I have explained it hundreds of times and you still ask this question? I have told you that no matter what you want to do, the first thing is to put consciousness in the cells of your hand. If you want to play, if you want to work, if you want to do anything at all with your hand, unless you push consciousness into the cells of your hand you will never do anything good- how many times have I told you? And this is felt. You feel it. You can acquire it. All sorts of exercises may be done to make the hand conscious and there comes a moment when it becomes so conscious that you can never leave it to do things; it does them by itself without your little mind having to intervene.

(“Collected Works of The Mother- Centenary Edition- Volume 4”, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1972. Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

From Savitri

This bright perfection of her inner state
Poured overflowing into her outward scene,
Made beautiful dull common natural things
And action wonderful and time divine.
Even the smallest meanest work became
A sweet and glad and glorious sacrament,
An offering to the self of the great world
Or a service to the One in each and all.

Editorial

If work is to mean “action” or “deed” or “karma”, then it exists every moment. The body is continuously working, even when at rest or in sleep. The outer actions may seemingly be halted for a period of time, but the internal organs do not rest, including the nervous system and the heart. The waking mind continuously churns out thoughts. Even when the state of no-thought is reached, the very action of experiencing an emptied mind, in being “with it” must also be action, or work, since consciousness is active. It is work that enables the expression of the essence within. It is work that helps us to arrive at self actualization, at forming an identity of the self and revealing it to the self itself. The very act of being must be work.

If what is work is this, and when it is performed every moment of one’s life-span, the next enquiry settles on the nature of how a particular work is done. Work can be a spontaneous act, where it proceeds naturally, as in eating, walking, blink or even sleeping. Work can be pre-planned, with steps and directions drawn up, even mentally, as in learning how to drive for the first time, in operating a machine or device or in drawing a scientific diagram and in cooking. The next enquiry settles on the nature of the state in which a work is done. Is work done with deep involvement, or is it done without much thought given to it, or is it done with disinterestedness, or in a hurry? Is work done with joy, happiness, with love? Or is work done with disgust, anger and bitterness? What is responsible for these states that we experience when doing work? In fact, the experience is different with different works. There is preference for work and this stems from the being’s history of likes and dislikes, from biases, from the law of attraction and repulsion.

What kind of result do we seek from our work? Do we do specific work for specific results? Earning a living through various physical and mental activities is said to be carried out because of the need to survive in today’s society. The work of eating is performed for physical build-up and existence. We may do a particular work for the well-being of someone we love, or for our nation, or for the world. The reasons for which work is done may range from subjective to objective reasons, from very personal to impersonal reasons. Work seems always to proceed from a need or a desire for a specific outcome. How then, about the measure of quality we seek in work?

What kind of works do we carry out and for what end? How do we actually work? In what state do we perform it and with what mark of quality? These must be questions we need to ask if we want to find out more about the works we engage ourselves in, every moment of our lives. As long as work walks in us, with us, lives and breathes in us, its nature is also something one ought to understand.

But why bother to understand something as natural and as common place as work? There is one possible answer. If we do not understand work as it exists with us at present, the course of our future direction cannot be altered. All of human kind strives for some kind of progress, at whatever level. Progress itself is an output of work of some kind that has been aligned towards this progress, its measure inevitably resting on the quality of work. And perhaps, the nature of progress we seek tend also to influence the quality of our work?

Is there perfection in work? Let’s find out. This edition of our Newsletter details out work, through the words of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, with some insights and reflections on the topic by a few writers.