Guiding Light of The Month

All is light, all is love, ignorance and egoism are but vain phantoms, they can be dissolved. And over all things spreads Thy sovereign peace, Thy fecund calmness. - The Mother

“Evam pravartitam chakram……” and the credit crisis

In the 3rd Chapter of the Bhagvad Gita (Karma Yoga, verses 14 to 16), Sri Krishna explains the working of the cosmic wheel of action. The idea of cyclicity and balance is conveyed in these verses in such a pithy and elegant manner that it can sometimes escape true appreciation by its sheer obviousness. Perhaps it is topical to mention here something I read a while ago….”A work of genius is something that seems obvious after someone has stated it”. This, at least has been the case with me. I have “learnt” of cycles of all sorts since my school days (the carbon cycle, oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle, Carnot cycle), but I never quite appreciated the fundamental idea behind cyclicity in nature until I was explained these verses. The point hit home even more emphatically when the credit crisis struck.

The time we are living through right now has been described by many as the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Confidence, trust and sentiment have all but evapourated. Once-venerable institutions have now gone out of existence, consumer confidence is at multi-year lows, banks have stopped trusting each other and those lucky enough to have excess cash prefer hoarding it to lending it out. Asset prices have fluctuated wildly over the past few weeks but have headed mostly downwards. The idea gaining favour, as a last resort, is for Governments to spend their way out of this crisis either directly through expansionary fiscal policy or indirectly by supporting asset prices.

But behind all this chaos there seems to be a force that is relentlessly working towards a definitive goal. What we are experiencing, through the meltdown, is active demand destruction. Demand is classically defined as the willingness and the ability to buy a good or a service. Both the willingness and the ability are present in varying degrees in all of us. They have historically grown or reduced in relatively moderate measure. The willingness aspect has always received a push from our egoistical nature but has not always found proportional support from the ability aspect and this mismatch kept demand at sustainable levels. The credit boom of the last six years shook that balance.

The loose monetary policies adopted by central banks all around the world in the aftermath of the dot-com crash of 2001-02 ensured that the global financial system was flush with cash. As growth began to pick up, driven in large measure by China and other emerging market economies, there was a pressing need to make this excess cash “work”. The hungry rush for yield started in right earnest and herein lay the genesis of the sub prime crisis where loans were made out to individuals, sometimes even without elementary due diligence done on the individual, (the so-called “ninja loans”) who didn’t have the ability to service those loans. Billions of dollars of such loans were made in the last five years. But the problem did not stop there. These loans were then packaged into pools which were then sliced and diced (through securitization) into tranches (French for “slices”) and spiced (through leverage) and were thus made tradable by entities all over the world, from the usual suspects (hedge funds) to large pension funds, to wealthy artists in Europe, to retirees in Singapore, to Norwegian town councillors. Financial engineering had, through some genuinely brilliant structuring and some very questionable assumptions (the ability to fund these liabilities at low rates, in particular) fuelled the “ability” to fund a purchase to levels not seen before in human economic history. The indirect consequence of this was a rampage on the earth’s resources as the boom in housing fed voraciously into demand for natural resources. As this happened, and as near-term profits and an inflated wealth effect took charge, the fact that a lot these resources were non-renewable was thrown to the winds. We behaved like we had an infinite supply of these resources to gorge upon. Not much thought was spared for future generations. Greed had cast its vice-like grip on us. The balance of life had been disturbed. The cosmic wheel of action that sustains all of us had come unhinged.

In “The Mother”, Sri Aurobindo writes on Mahakali’s powers “….she is there for swiftness, for the immediately effective process, the rapid and direct stroke, the frontal assault that carries everything before it.” He goes on to say, in reply to a question on Mahakali’s power, “It is felt as something swift, sudden, decisive and imperative. When it intervenes, it has a kind of divine or supramental sanction behind it and is like a fiat against which there is no appeal”. One cannot but be struck by what Sri Aurobindo says and juxtapose it with the rapidity and intensity with which the credit crisis has taken hold of the world, to correct our excesses. Demand has fallen dramatically, across the board, to levels that are seen as more sustainable. Efforts at developing “alternative”, renewable and “green” energy has taken on a new-found urgency. Complexity in financial trading is being shunned (a lot of the instruments that were built on sub-prime loans and whose acronyms had a nasty habit of starting with the letter “C”, have since disappeared) and a realization that human material progress should be achieved through more sustainable means is quietly gaining ground. In most people’s view the process has some more way to run. Mahakali, it seems, has yet more work to do in the coming months. All this is not to say that human innovation in conducting finance and economics will permanently grind to a halt and that we would revert to a primitive way of doing business. Many man-years of creative work have gone into the development of the complex financial instruments that had quite unintended consequences. And they all dealt with a problem that we as human beings would always look for a solution to, namely, credit risk. Newer, simpler and more trustworthy instruments would emerge. Development would, hopefully, happen at a more sustainable pace. We would, hopefully, stop exploiting the earth and the resources that she so generously offers us. We would offer genuine hope to our future generations. We would accept Mahakali’s actions as a means for our own evolution.

We, quite simply, have no choice. The alternative is that sambhavami yuge, yuge might be a visitation we would have to contend with more and more frequently.

NOTES:

evam pravartitam chakram, na’nuvartayati’ha yah,
aghayur indriyaramo, mogham partha sa jivati.
(Verse 16).

“ He who does not follow here the wheel thus set revolving, who is of sinful life, rejoicing in the senses, he lives in vain, O son of Pritha. “ (Swami Chinmayananda)

Flowers of the month

“…for Kali is the most loving of all the aspects of the Mahashakti; hers is the most active and most powerful love.”

- The Mother

Divine Love


A flower reputed to bloom even in the desert

Common Name: Punica Pomegranate tree, fully double vermilion flower
Spiritual Name: Divine Love

Divine Love Governing the World


A beautiful and happy world for which we all aspire

Common Name: Scarlet flame bean
Spiritual Name: Divine Love Governing the World
Large striking dense rounded clusters of numerous brilliant orange red cup-shaped flowers with extended stamens. A small to medium-sized tree with soft pendulous translucent
new leaves.


Unmanifest Divine Love


The splendour of that marvellous love which the Divine keeps for the pure in heart

Common Name: Punica Pomegranate tree, Fully double white flower
Spiritual Name: Unmanifest Divine Love

All reeled into a world of Kali's dance

Every year during the great festival of Navaratri or Dassara, Hindus chant the powerful hymn called Durga Saptasati or Chandi which comprises of seven hundred majestic verses told as an interesting story addressed to the Divine Mother. As one chants these seven hundred verses, one is awestruck at the mighty power of Mahasakthi as she annihilates and violently battles the titans in their forms as Chanda, Munda, Dumralochana, Nishumbha and Mahishasura.
As she battles these mighty asuras one is reminded of the immortal words of Sri Aurobindo on Mahakali:
“Mahakali embodies her power of splendid strength and irresistible passion, her warrior-mood her overwhelming will, her impetuous swiftness and world-shaking force.”

Some years ago I looked up the meaning of some of the verses of Chandi and was struck by its graphic and violent description of this battle and the victory of the Divine Mother, such as these below:

“She seized one by the hair and another by the neck, one she crushed by the weight of her foot, and another of her body.
And she caught with her mouth the weapons and the great arms shot by those asuras and crunched them up with her teeth in her fury.
Some were killed with her sword, some were beaten with her skull topped staff, and other asuras met their death being ground with the edge of her teeth.”


The Mother said that this annual battle and victory of Durga symbolizes “the rhythmic intervention of the Supreme Divine Consciousness that periodically gives a new impetus to the universal progress”. The unfolding of the events in the world coinciding with this annual battle of Durga and the violent turmoil of the financial markets seems very much like the action of Mahakali which has intervened in its “warrior mood and impetuous swiftness” to make us shake off the egoism, ignorance, greed, selfishness and obscurity into which we have sunk. It does feel like Mahakali is literally seizing us by the hair and neck and crushing us with her anger and wrath. Everything around us is reeling in this dance of Mahakali’s overwhelming intensity and “warrior-mood”, which is doing in a day what might have taken centuries.

In the Prayer of August 31, 1914, the Mother writes prophetically that it is from the disorder and terrible destruction that will be seen a “great working, a necessary toil preparing the earth for a new sowing”. We turn to the Mother in this time of disorder and chaos and join the Gods and Sages and chant to the Mother who is “at once the destroyer and the builder”… and in “whom the whole Universe lives with all its life innumerable”.

“O Devi, you who remove the suffering of your suppliants, be gracious. Be propitious, O Mother of the whole world. Be gracious, O Mother of the Universe, Protect the Universe. You are O Devi, the ruler of all that is moving and unmoving.”


REFERENCES
“ The Mother” , Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
“Devi Mahatmyam “, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras.

The working of Kali


Behind all destructions, whether the immense destructions of Nature, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, floods, etc, or the violent human destructions, wars, revolutions, revolts, I find the power of Kali, who is working in the earth-atmosphere to hasten the progress of transformation.

All that is not only divine in essence but also divine in realization is by its very nature above these destructions and cannot be touched by them. Thus the extent of the disaster gives the measure of the imperfection.

The true way of preventing the repetition of these destructions is to learn and make the necessary progress.

(All India Magazine- October 2006- “Mahakali Aspect of the Mother”)

Mahakali



She burst open the veil and leaped to the front,
Into the very thick of the comba -
Our Captain, our Warrior - her flaming sword, her battering mace,
Her thundering cry sweeps the field.

She brooks no delay, has no mercy for weaknes -
Straight is her path and swift she speeds to the goal:
Here and now shall be her victory.
Terrible Mother who presses her children through blazing fire,
The sooner to burn out the dross and free the gold-
The sooner to smother them with her passionate bliss!

Her every tread crushes a demon’s head,
Unseals for mortals a fount of immortality.


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

Question of the month

Q : About the Mother’s Mahakali aspect it is said in “The Mother”: “When she is allowed to intervene in her strength, then in one moment are broken like things without consistence the obstacles that immobilize or the enemies that assail the seeker.” How is this intervention of the Mahakali force felt?


It is felt as if something swift, sudden, decisive and imperative. When it intervenes, it has a kind of divine or supramental sanction behind it and is like a fiat against which there is no appeal. What is done cannot be reversed or undone. The adverse forces may try, may even touch or invade, but they retire baffled and it is seen as soon as they withdraw that the past ground has remained intact - it is felt even in the attack. Also the difficulties that were strong before it touched by this fiat lose their power, their verisimilitude destroyed or are weak shadows that come only to flicker and fade away. I say “allowed”, because this supreme action of Mahakali is comparatively rare, the action of the other Powers or a partial action of Mahakali is more common.

(All India Magazine – October 2006, “Mahakali Aspect of the Mother”)

Savitri


Here on a boulder carved like a huge throne
A Woman sat in gold and purple sheen,
Armed with the trident and the thunderbolt,
Her feet upon a couchant lion’s back.
A formidable smile curved round her lips,
Heaven-fire laughed in the corners of her eyes;
Her body a mass of courage and heavenly strength,
She menaced the triumph of the nether gods.
A halo of lightnings flamed around her head
And sovereignty a great cestus zoned her robe
And majesty and victory sat with her
Guarding in the wide cosmic battle-field
Against the flat equality of Death
And the all –levelling insurgent Night
The hierarchy of the ordered Powers,
The high changeless values, the peaked eminences,
The privileged aristocracy of Truth,
And in the governing Ideal’s sun
The triumvirate of wisdom love and bliss
And the sole autocracy of the absolute Light.

(“Savitri”, Book 7, Canto 4)

From the Editor's desk

In the ebb and flow of life, in its ups and downs and all the thrills and pains of a roller coaster ride, if one stands back and observes, two entities are always there; one deeply involved and entrenched in the movement and the other, silently watching, unperturbed, untouched. Then this watcher element, that which is cognizant of these two entities, sometimes wears a smile, amused that two seemingly disparate entities can be in one and the same vessel, if vessel it is that holds these entities, since, to complicate matters in this little, inadequate mind, another proposition has it that this vessel does not hold that but is held in that.

Let’s turn our gaze then to just one entity, the one that is in constant movement, full of energy, entrenched and apparently effectuating the roller coaster ride. Life is never smooth, at least if we place ourselves on the surface of things. Every minute, things are drawn, made, mended, withdrawn, unmade, broken, closed, opened. Appears like the principle of duality works too close to home, does it not? All that is drawn, made, mended, closed affords some comfort, since seemingly, there is little upheaval. All that is withdrawn, unmade, uncovered, broken offers little in terms of solace. The settled being seems to dislike being unsettled, ruffled, tossed about here and there, without a home-base. But of the two states, which offers better prospects of inner growth, one wonders. An honest assessment actually points to the fact that challenging moments that throw us off the throne of complacency we would have occupied for time unknown, actually offer us opportunities for growth, in whichever element of our being and nature. These would truly have been moments of growth spurts that helped to prop us up a little higher on the scale of inner progress.

And this cycle continues indefinitely. A force seems to be behind, cajoling us onwards, despite ourselves, despite our resisting self of nature thatwants to curl up like a well fed cat and go to sleep in a warm corner, oblivious to the world around. In fact, this tendency to sleep and this disturbance, disquiet and dissatisfaction because one had been sleeping for too long, co-exist, closely locked. A tension builds and it takes the immaculate dance of Mahakali to break the lock or deadlock. Very often, a force is sensed, even in our little microcosm. The world at large reverberates with the same pattern. It does not take long to consider lull periods interspersed with earth shattering events along the time line of even a hundred years of our history. Consider the world wars, localized wars, natural calamities and the credit crunches. Tensions erupt into uncontrollable catastrophes. A whirlwind of forces, of energies circle furiously, clash and cast aside, trample upon and destroy all along the path of these formidable energies.

But perhaps, what we need to pay attention to is not so much the hue and cry raised by the calamitous moments, to the clash and the thunder and the roar, but actually to the moment of peace and silence that follows these hair-raising hell rides. When one lives with these unique “after” moments, one may just about sense a huge foreboding presence about, throwing vague hues of calm, silence and assurance in the aftermath scenario. Perhaps divinity was all along there doing its bit, that creation, that stubborn nature could proceed one more step forward towards where it is due and destined. An immanent, immaculate and precise choreography of seemingly calamitous occasions dawns on us when we study tumultuous situations some time after they pass. Perhaps it is because of this that we ascribe calamities to the Dance of Mahakali – naked and terrible.

In this edition of our Newsletter, we take a plunge into the thick of this immaculate and stupendous dance of Mahakali and therein attempt to taste the blissful wine of what could be Divine intent.