Guiding Light of The Month

Tell me, wilt Thou grant me the marvellous power to give birth to this dawn in expectant hearts, to awaken the consciousness of men to Thy sublime presence, and in this bare and sorrowful world awaken a little of Thy true Paradise? What happiness, what riches, what terrestrial powers can equal this wonderful gift! - The Mother

Walking in Light – A Peek at Physical Culture

If perfection is to be the crown of physical culture, then this culture would do to be nurtured right from a very young age. Sri Aurobindo iterates that physical education begins right from birth1. The Mother goes a step further and points out that it should be even pre-natal, from the time of conception. “The work really commences when, by the power of thought and will, we conceive and create a character capable of manifesting an ideal.”2. When focusing on the growth of children, the spotlight inevitably falls on the mother, importantly, the father and guardians and caregivers of children, teachers and facilitators, anyone at all who comes in contact with children.

As guardians of young souls, adults in touch with children invest upon themselves the indomitable task of facilitating the flowering of each soul left in one’s charge, whatever the period of time.

What are some areas that fall within the premises of nurturing a child from birth with a thrust on integral development, an all-rounded happy development of the child that brings to the fore-front all that is true and good and beautiful in the child and subsequently, in that adult who springs out of that child? In this issue, we deal with food.

A basic knowledge of how the body works, its dietary requirements, the proper functioning of the digestive tract and its direct relationship to the rest of the body parts, the necessary knowledge of maintenance of the body, its repair where old and worn out tissues are concerned, the building of new tissue and the type of food that prevents physical setbacks and illnesses.

To this end, Sri Aurobindo has spelt out the need of the adult to be in tune with the needs of the child, the specific dietary requirements according to the age and activity and phase of growth. Sri Aurobindo has also pointed out a unique trait of the body, when it is not assailed by mental notions and vital impulses, in recognizing and knowing what it needs and needs not. Here, there is the need to educate the child in the recognition of what is a bodily need apart from a desire of the vital or an inappropriate suggestion from the mentalising mind. There is also a suggestion to tend towards food that is simple and nutritious, “substantial and appetizing” without any needless “complications”. Children should also learn to consume food in the right amount in response to hunger and not to satisfy any “greed or gluttony”. Food is also to be prepared with a consideration for care and hygiene, in other words, food that is consciously prepared with love and goodwill will have a positive effect on the consumer than is the case otherwise. And lastly, Sri Aurobindo cautions against using food to blackmail a child into submission. It begs the question, “what is my business with the child?” Here, a clarity of one’s relationship with the child, a clarification of one’s role with the child coupled with one’s own aspiration for the highest possible for oneself and the seeking of perfection in what one engages in sets into rhythm a certain tempo in which working with children brings out the best in oneself and our little companions as well.

- Jayanthy


1. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust (2000). Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on Education. Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
2. Sri Aurobindo Society ( 2007). Pre-Natal Education – Towards a Glorious Future. Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry

Spotlight on Integral Enrichment programme (IEP)

The last event for this year, looked forward to by most of the children was a trek along the linkways that connect one park with another on the western part of Singapore. As I left the metro behind me and passed through the exit gates of Harbourfront MRT station, I caught sight of the many excited faces eagerly waiting for the walk to start. We set off together at about 4pm, a happy lot, aged between 3 and the 50s, towards our starting point at the base of Mount Faber. Besides the regular attendees of the Integral Enrichment Programme, parents were with us, with older IEP children who had since then passed out, together with the facilitators. We anticipated a very steep climb at the out start, towards Mount Faber and spent a considerable time on warm up exercises.

The boarded walkway, well constructed for a comfortable climb helped, but the climb was a steep one. Most children carried their own bags. I could not help noticing all the food that parents had loving packed for the picnic dinner that would follow later on in the night.

The weather was a pleasant one. As the evening progressed, the setting sun eased its intensity. We were truly blessed that day. For all the rains that the island had received in the last many days, this day was truly fine weathered one. At the summit of Mount Faber, we made a first stop to admire the sun setting over the western horizon, over our southern waters.

For me, the beginning of this walk, so called our yearly night walk, was the most significant, mostly because of the intense warm-up exercises we performed on a ground left soggy with the heavy rains of previous days, the steep climb at the out start and the reward offered by a setting sun at the top of Mount Faber. The rest of the evening was as intensely experienced, according to reports from some children and adults who were part of this.

- Jayanthy

Flowers of the month

New World


The situation we are in is very special, extremely special without precedent. We are witnessing the birth of a new world; it is very young, very weak- not in its essence but in its outer manifestation – not yet recognized, not even sensed, denied by the majority. But it is here. It is here, making an effort to grow, absolutely sure of the result. But the road to it is a completely new road that has never been mapped out before-nobody has gone there nobody has done that! It is a beginning, a Universal beginning. So it is an absolutely unexpected and unpredictable adventure.
– The Mother
Common Name: Lipstick tree
Botanical Name: Bixa orellana
Spiritual Name: New World



Promise

What Sri Aurobindo has promised and what naturally interests us, we who are here now, is that the time has come when some beings among the elite of humanity, who fulfill the conditions necessary for spiritualization, will be able to transform their bodies with the help of the Supramental Force, Consciousness and Light, so as no longer to be animal-men but become Supermen.
- The Mother

Common Name: Flowering maple
Botanical Name: Abutilon Xhybridum
Spiritual Name: Promise

The colloquy at Kurukshetra will yet liberate humanity (contd. from the Dec 2009 Newsletter)

The Gita is an eternally blossoming lotus that unfolds a new petal each time we approach it for fragrance. As we progress inward, each petal reveals different colors when viewed from a different angle in life and motivates us on the path towards self realization. Such a scripture can liberate the whole of humanity from the clutches of ignorance. Sri Krishna patiently makes Arjuna realize through its 18 chapters on how to synchronize the individual human will with the Divine Will and finally leaves the choice to Arjuna’s wisdom (Yadhechasi Tatha Kuru- XVIII, 63- Do according to your will). The relationship of Man and Divine as the most intimate of friends, where nothing is hidden, is best exemplified in the colloquy between Arjuna and Sri Krishna in the Gita.

This reminds me of one such experience as a student in the Ashram during my teen years in Hriday Prasad’s (he was son of Narayana Prasad author of the book ‘Life in Sri Aurobindo Ashram’ and also a student from the first batch whom the Divine Mother used to teach) history class. Every Sunday morning in the Hall of Harmony in the Sri Aurobindo International school talks were conducted by Nirod Da, Amal Kiran Ji, Sri Sisir Kumar Mitra Ji and other scholars of Sri Aurobindo’s works. On the previous day, it was Sri Amal Kiran who spoke on the chapter (Part II ch XX) Swabhava and Swadharma from Essays on Gita. Next day while discussing the same in our class, our teacher gave us one hour to think and write about ourselves, what is one’s own swabhava and which part of our being mostly controls our daily actions and speech. He said there was no need to show it to anybody but that we express ourselves with sincerity. He said that we must make it a habit to do self-analysis periodically to view our inner progress. The task given was difficult like climbing the peak of Everest. Had he asked us to write an essay on any informative or creative topic, we would have shown all our language and writing skills but we realized that we rarely devote our time for introspection. Most of us either scribbled a few confused lines or left the page blank.

Later he suggested that we should start devoting a few minutes each day before going to bed reading Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s works even though we are not capable of understanding them with our logical mind. Then we should sit quietly and meditate for a while and note down in a personal diary the gist of that day’s activities and our reactions to them in a sincere attitude of self analysis and find out where we actually can position ourselves and this would help us in our inner progress and sadhana. He used the word ‘Sakshibuta’ from the Gita which means to look at our own actions as a witness and referred to the well known story of the two birds from the Upanishads ‘Like two birds of golden plumage, inseparable companions, the individual Self and the immortal Self are perched on the branches of the same tree. The former tastes the sweet and bitter fruits of the tree; the latter, tasting of neither, calmly observes.” (Mundaka Upanishad 3:1:1). This simple and yet most lofty philosophical explanation sowed in us the seeds of spiritual quest and we tried to grasp, to some extent, the difference between the inner Self that should observe and the outer Self that is engaged in action.

In the following few weeks we, all the teenagers, of our history class, took Sri Bhagavad Gita with Sri Aurobindo’s translations and Essays on Gita in our hands and opened its sacred pages. Our first attempt at reading was an endless beginning that will be continued incessantly until our last breath. Each spark of this spiritual Light will dispel the darkness of ignorance seated in us as we progress on our spiritual path holding the hands of the Divine Mother and Sri Aurobindo. The teachers in Sri Aurobindo International centre were more like Rishis in the Gurukulas and teaching was a part of their Sadhana. Their words of wisdom reverberated throughout our latter lives when we had to pass through the practical ordeals of both positive and negative experiences. Each of their explanation that appeared very simple when we heard them as students latter revealed to us the most profound and hidden principles of life. What greater Divine grace can we pray for when such enlightened souls were our teachers!

The principle of Nishkama Karma as per the most commonly quoted and discussed sloka from Gita ‘Karmanya vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadaachana’ (II, 47) repeatedly puzzled us. In the Ashram school, we could freely approach our teachers to clarify our doubts. There was respect, love, freedom and above all a deep sincerity in the relationship between a teacher and a student. One such question asked by one of us was about how can there exist a work without a result. The explanation that we got for our doubts about Nishkama (desireless) Karma still rings in my ears as if it were told only yesterday. This ingrained truth certainly has helped us swim across the turbulent waters of unforeseen events and apparent failures latter in life.

“adhiShTAnam tathA kartA karaNam cha prthak vidam
vividhAh cha prithak chEShTah daivam cha iva atra panchamam " (XVIII, 14)

“The Gita then speaks of five causes or indispensable requisites for the accomplishment of works as laid down by the Sankhya. These five are, first, the frame of the body, life and mind which are the basis or standing-ground of the soul in Nature Adhisthana, next, the doer, karta, third, the various instrumentation of nature, karana, fourth, the many kind of effort make up the force of action, cestah, and last, Fate ,daivam , that is to say, the influence of the Power or powers other than the human factors, other than the visible mechanism of Nature that stand behind these and modify the work and dispose its fruits in the steps of act and consequence. These five elements make up among them all the efficient causes, karana, that determine the shaping and outcome of whatever work man undertakes with mind speech and body”— Sri Aurobindo , Essays on the Gita, page 497.

The five factors that contribute to the result of an action and Sri Aurobindo’s words were explained to us with practical day-to-day examples. Whether we want it or not, we are forced by Nature to get the results only as per the unseen Divine Will. Firstly, the body and mind should be perfectly disciplined as they are the seat where an action takes place. Secondly, the self involved in an action should take it in an attitude of egoless surrender. The third are the external circumstances and factors of Nature which are not in our control. Explaining with an example the ‘third, the various instruments of nature’ influencing our action he uttered: ‘suppose in cyclonic weather in Pondicherry when the electricity suddenly trips while you were seriously engaged in study?’ Man is constantly endeavoring to overcome the hurdles in his work caused by external factors. The fourth is our conscious effort and sincerity - that are next most important. He further continued: ‘the fourth is an ardent effort... A sincere dedicated student would light a lantern, close the windows and still continue with his studies’. Finally the fifth factor and the most controlling factor is the Divine Grace or Will. When we do our part with utmost sincerity and perfection by surrendering to the Divine Will our daily activities will be transformed into a conscious unconditional prayer. The stress of life will not touch us at all. We were advised that we should study for the love of studies and knowledge and our education must become a means to progress towards our aim in life of becoming a conscious instrument of Divine Mother.

“Success, failure are in His hands and He will regulate them according to His omniscient will and inscrutable purpose. Action, all action has indeed to be given up in the end, not physically by abstention, immobility, by inertia, but spiritually to the Master of our being by whose power alone can any action be accomplished. There has to be a renunciation of the false idea of ourselves as the doer; for it is indeed the universal Shakthi that works through our personality and our ego.” - Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, page 495.

Note : All the concepts expressed here are from recollections of the words and explanations given by our teachers in the Sri Aurobindo International Centre in the class of ‘ Essays on Gita’ and my peripheral grasping from the weekly enlightening talks held in the school premises by Nirod Da and Amal Kiran Ji.

- Sundari

Spiritual Dawn

In the entry dated 24-Aug-1914 in Prayers and Meditations, Mother speaks of “the Dawn that never ends”.

“What spiritual state does this marvelous dawn represent?” I asked her.

She answered: “Perpetual renewal”.

Sri Aurobindo begins his book The Life Divine with the following lines from the Rig Veda:

“She follows to the goal of those that are passing on beyond, she is the first in the eternal succession of the dawns that are coming- Usha widens bringing out that which lives, awakening someone who was dead… What is her scope when she harmonizes with the dawns that shone out before and those that now must shine? She desires the ancient mornings and fulfils their light; projecting forwards her illumination she enters into communion with the rest that are to come.”

Usha is the illumining dawn; she is Gomati, luminous, radiant.

“Dawn comes divine repelling by the Light all darknesses and evils.”

Usha is also, Asvavati she has conquering energy and force of vitality.

“True with the gods who are true,
Great with the gods who are great.
She breaks open the strong places
And gives of the shining herds. “


The herds which Usha gives are, as Sri Aurobindo explains, “the shining troops of the Light.”
Usha, “Mother of the gods, form (or, power) of Aditi”, is always the dawn of the Truth, “following effectively the path of the Truth.” Dawn born in heavens opens out things by the Truth, she comes manifesting the greatness.

Dawn is not only Rtavari, full of the Truth, she is also Sunrtavari, she comes uttering true and happy words.

In Savitri also, in the very beginning, Sri Aurobindo writes:

Ablaze upon the creation’s quivering edge,
Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues
And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours.
An instant’s visitor the godhead shone:
On life’s thin border awhile the Vision stood
And bent over earth’s pondering forehead curve.
Interpreting a recondite beauty and bliss
In colour’s hieroglyphs of mystic sense,
It wrote the lines of a significant myth
Telling of a greatness of spiritual dawns.

Later Sri Aurobindo says that, for one who lives in the calm vastness of the One, who climbs on the steps to God’s far secret heights, life becomes a tranquil pilgrimage.

Each year a mile upon the heavenly Way,
Each dawn opens into a larger Light.

Then each dawn becomes the precursor of a greater dawn!
And each dawn becomes more beautiful!
Is this not the secret of the eternal charm of the dawn for the poets and mystics?


(From the Editor’s Desk- Some Socio- Spiritual Perspectives- Shyam Sunder Jhunjhunwala, Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Action’, Pondicherry).

Mahakali

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

She brooks no delay, has no mercy for weakness-
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.

- Oct 6, 1932, Nolini Kanta Gupta

(A poem from ‘To The Heights’, translated from ‘Vers Les Hauteurs’, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry).

“Intolerant of imperfection, she deals roughly with all in man that is unwilling and she is severe to all that is obstinately ignorant and obscure: her wrath is immediate and dire against treachery and falsehood and malignity, ill-will is smitten at once by her scourge. Indifference, negligence and sloth in the divine work she cannot bear and she smites awake at once, with sharp pain, if need be, the untimely slumberer and the loiterer. 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. If her anger is dreadful to the hostile and the vehemence of her pressure painful to the weak and timid, she is loved and worshipped by the great, the strong and the noble; for they feel that her blows beat what is rebellious in their material into strength and perfect truth, hammer straight what is wry and perverse and expel what is impure or defective. But for her what is done in a day might have taken centuries.”

(Sri Aurobindo on Mahakali in ‘The Mother”, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

Question of the Month

Q: How should we help the big change in the world, about which your New Year’s Message speaks?

A: The Mother: The best way of helping is to let the Consciousness that has come down upon the earth work in you for transformation.

Q: Sweet Mother, this morning in my meditation I saw so many things which were logically unrelated but which definitely produced the impression that something extraordinary is about to happen. This is the first time, perhaps, that I have had such a presentiment, lasting almost an hour.

I want to know if there is any truth in it and how we should prepare for it.

A: The Mother: Last night, we (you and I and a few others) were together for quite a long time in Sri Aurobindo’s permanent dwelling-place in the subtle physical (what Sri Aurobindo called as the true physical). Everything that took place there (far too long and complicated to relate) was organized, so to say, to express concretely the rapidity of the present movement of transformation. And with a smile, Sri Aurobindo told you something like this: “Do you believe now?” It was as if he were evoking the three lines from Savitri:

“God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep,
For man shall not know the coming till the hour
And belief shall not be till the work is done.”

I think that this is a sufficient explanation of the meditation you refer to.

My blessings.

- The Mother, 1st February, 1963.

(CWM, Volume 15, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1980. Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry).


“ To break away from the old traditions and not to obey the old rules is good - but on condition that one discovers in oneself a higher and truer consciousness which manifests Harmony, Peace, Beauty and a superior Order, vast and progressive.”
- The Mother, 26th August, 1967.

(CWM, Volume 12, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1980. Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry).

Savitri

Thus will the masked Transcendent mount his throne.
When darkness deepens strangling the earth’s breast
And man’s corporeal mind is the only lamp,
As a thief’s in the night shall be the covert tread
Of one who steps unseen into his house.
A Voice ill-heard shall speak, the soul obey,
A power into mind’s inner chamber steal,
A charm and sweetness open life’s closed doors
And beauty conquer the resisting world,
The truth-light capture Nature by surprise,
A stealth of God compel the heart to bliss
And earth grow unexpectedly divine.
In Matter shall be lit the spirit’s glow,
In body and body kindled the sacred birth;
Night shall awake to the anthem of the stars,
The days become a happy pilgrim march,
Our will a force of the Eternal’s power,
And thought the rays of a spiritual sun.
A few shall see what none yet understands;
God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep;
For man shall not know the coming till the hour
And belief shall not be till the work is done.


(Savitri, Book 1, Canto 4)


***********

Often a lustrous inner dawn shall come
Lighting the chambers of the slumbering mind;
A sudden bliss shall run through every limb
And Nature with a mightier Presence fill.
Thus shall the earth open to divinity
And common natures feel the wide uplift,
Illumine common acts with the Spirit’s ray
And meet the deity in common things.
Nature shall live to manifest secret God,
The Spirit shall take up the human play,
This earthly life become the life divine.

(Savitri, Book 11, Canto 1)

Editorial

The 21st millennium appeared across the horizon with much pomp and glamour. It meant much for many around the world to welcome this millennium. Many untold, unexpressed hopes together with those expressed were pinned on this millennium by the yearning hearts of billions hoping for a better future for the whole of humanity. One whole decade has passed since that birth. Today we sit on the threshold of another unfolding, the beginning of the second decade of this significant millennium that has already seen many significant events that serve as definite precursors of change at the world stage as well as at the individual level. Notable events such as the change in leadership of influential nations at the world arena, the rising of new superpowers against the old order, incidents of uprising against the suppression of the free spirit in man, to name a few.

For us in the sweet embrace of the Master and The Mother, 2010 holds the promise of opportunities of growth in consciousness as we live each moment with the view towards an offering of all, if only to have all the belligerent parts of our nature opened to Light and transformed so that this earthly instrument may be more and more perfected to hold something of Him and Her upon this earth. This juncture in time is yet another window opened before us to take a peek of life that can be, a life more and more harmonious and sweet because offered to the Highest and Sweetest and thence to will a different kind of life for ourselves, one more illumined and answering deeper calls and sweeter notes from the cave within.

And for us too, in this circle, two significant events await in 2010. We are approaching the centenary of Sri Aurobindo’s arrival in Pondicherry following an “aadesh”, on 4th April 1910. This period marks Sri Aurobindo’s retirement from active politics where he planted the seeds of India’s independence from foreign rule and the beginning of a period of intense yoga or sadhana where he plunged into the unknown carrying with him the light from the heights, with The Mother’s collaboration. The remnants of the old jetty upon which he landed on the 4th April 1910 is still visible to this day and will be a point of interest and one centre of invocation on 4th April 2010.

Another event marked on the calendar for 2010 is the Golden Jubilee of Sri Aurobindo Society on 19th September 2010. Although the society was officially registered on the 24th of September 1960, the 19th is observed since The Mother signed the document on this day in 1960.

The Sri Aurobindo Society has initiated some thoughts on how these two events can be best observed by followers and devotees for the best of benefits for inner growth, of how one could open, individually and collectively to the “special spiritual Force” of the events. The preparation is of two folds, one at a personal level and the other, collective. Individually, the preparation rests on an inner tendency to make an offering of oneself to the Divine, more and more an integral offering of all one is, has and does, to always remember and offer, to spend some time everyday reviewing ourselves, our lives as it is lived and offer the self thus seen and understood. At the organizational level, the important aim that can be worked out to greater perfection is the spreading out of Sri Aurobindo’s and The Mother’s teaching as widely as possible, as extensively as well as intensively. This would set the stage for the awakening of consciousness individually and collectively.

It leaves for us now to extend a warm, heartfelt message of goodwill to oneself and to all in one’s consciousness for this special New Year of 2010.

Walking in Light: A peek at Physical culture

Aspiration. For every move, every stride forward, in anything and everything, it appears then, that it is aspiration that is the seed, the initiate behind a driving force. What is aspiration then? Is it an asking? It is a yearning? Is it a desire, a want? It appears to be some of all these, in small bits, and yet, stands out amongst these little things, high, lofty and mighty. Aspiration. It is a sweet, soft word that holds in it all the forces of change. To aspire for something appears to be an asking for something more than for oneself, more than oneself. It has the distinct shades of a more self-less seeking, a searching more from within and an intense need put across to the highest one can perceive in one’s consciousness or even in one’s imagination. It appears that when one aspires, one, without exception, can only aspire for the highest ideal one can perceive. That alone puts aspiration above all other wants and needs.

This aspiration that flowers from within has to come out of a deeply felt need, understood by the mind, perceived by the heart as the inevitable, indispensable. Then perhaps, there is hope for the physical, made of grosser material, to be held up to the light to be transformed into perfection’s form?

Who is the one who will ask for physical perfection or fitness, and when? Would one ask for physical well being after decades of ill-use and misuse and abuse of a docile instrument that can potentially move mountains, and an inevitable carrier, a cradle for and a sheath around the evolving soul that is carried from birth to greater birth? And who asks for this perfection and well-being?

Yes, everyone wants a happy and healthy body that would serve him or her well in life. But the body follows a material law. It needs understanding of how it works, and how best to put it to its best use. But again, what is best use? To what use do we want to put our body to? This calls for introspection. This question drives us back to what we think to be our purpose of existence upon this earth. To whom or what do we want to dispose ourselves to?

And it probably matters little where and in what station we are in life. Karma takes place, inevitably, work carries on. But what we do and how we do something takes on a greater meaning with the understanding of why we do something. And to top it up, with what attitude we do something. These introspections, if not anything more, will at least remove unnecessary activities we indulge in, for once one is focused on one’s goals in life, one’s path is more or less laid down. Our goal then, might as well be a high one, worth our birth here. Physical activities take a beautiful turn once our aim and purpose in life are ascertained through conscious choices based on faith and trust in the highest.

Sri Aurobindo states: “…it is only on the basis of peace and calm that the true progress and realization can come. There must be no vital excitement in your seeking or your aspiration towards the Mother”

Reflections from our teen participant: trip to marina barrage

The wind was pleasant and unfluctuating. All of us were gathered together at the Marina Barrage. Seated in a ring, we listened to a story from my mother, a facilitator. Since we were at the barrage that beautiful evening to do some kite flying, the story was on the Wind God. Afterwards we all split up into groups and worked on making some kites for us to fly. Each group used a different method of making the kites. One group made theirs using straws. As for my group, we used satay sticks as the spine of our kite. Ours was large, diamond shaped and red. All members of their respective groups contributed in the making of their group’s masterpiece. Soon we were all armed with string and our kites were all set for take off. We headed to the roof. The sight that awaited us was amazing! I was awestruck. The Green Roof as it was called was covered fully with grass. But that was not all. There were so many kites in the sky. We all set about trying to make our kites fly. Though my group failed considerably, seeing our kite go up a few meters into the air give us a sense of satisfaction and achievement. Later it was time for a debrief and some snacks. During our snack time, kite flying continued except that this time the kites were empty potato chip packets.
- Pradeeptha

Reflections from a facilitator: A quiet afternoon

Quiet Afternoon of 25 October 2009

The quietness of the afternoon had nothing to do with the lack of activities at the centre, it was more to do with the final exams going on for many IEP children, so the full strength was not there. It did not deter the little ones and the facilitators from a squishy – squashy session with white clay, moulding away different things, which were then left to dry. Look out for pictures of painted articles in this very column, in the coming months.

Vishnu, Pranav and Kiruthika took the children out for physical activities after the clay modeling sessions. It was a fun-filled session with a ball and two teams. The children’s game enthusiasm was spelt out during circle time, not to mention the nice story at the beginning of the IEP session.
- Jaishree

Spotlight on Integral enrichment program

Sri Aurobindo stated that “Each human being is a self developing soul and that the business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material.”

Sri Aurobindo saw the flowering of the divine in the child. Integral child education aims at self knowledge and thereby to realise the Divine Reality which is within him and manifest it in his thoughts, feelings and actions.

The Intergral Enrichment Program (IEP) conducted by Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore, began as a small experiment at putting into practice what The Mother and Sri Aurobindo have said about true education, that is, the education centred around the soul of a being. From our humble beginnings in 2004, IEP runs into its 6th year currently. A group of committed, sincere facilitators put their time and effort every fortnight running activities for children from toddlers to 12 year olds, each time trying to realize the integral goals of education during the period spent with the children and during time spent preparing for activities and perhaps, during moments of quiet introspection as well. A 100-odd happy young children have passed through the portals of IEP. We are constantly discovering and rediscovering our own selves in this process and therein lies the intrinsic worth of this programme for all facilitators as well as children.

We aim, through this column on IEP, to capture some of the magical moments of interaction with children in words and pictures and to keep our readers abreast with some of the activities conducted in the fortnightly IEP sessions that take place every 2nd and 4th Sunday afternoon at the centre. The special outdoor programmes at different venues are meticulously planned and executed by the facilitators, the highlight of it being the yearly overnight camps held at scenic campsites around our green and clean Singapore.

Here are some of the views and visions for IEP from our facilitators.

“A venue for collaborating the thoughts, actions and aspirations of young minds towards achieving the greater good of bringing out beauty in them” – Shree Valli

“To tickle the creative minds and help them think out-of-the-box through hands-on activities and stories, giving expression to their inner beauty” - Jaishree

“To nurture a confident, cheerful, wholesome individual and being in harmony with their peers” - Kala

“An environment where positive feedback and creative exploration provide nurture” - Kiruthika

“An opportunity at perfection, an opportunity to get into ourselves and know our intent, an opportunity to avail ourselves to a higher force at work, an opportunity to aspire together for all our transformations in all ways possible and loads of sweet moments with beautiful children. That is what IEP means for me. There is great scope for this programme to evolve from an enrichment activity conducted on odd/even Sundays to a full-fledged educational activity, in its truest sense.” – Jayanthy

“There is much in IEP….there is much that can unfold for all children through this programme….” - Jayanthi

Flowers of the month

Divine Sacrifice


For the Divine it is not a supreme sacrifice to renounce the beatitude of His unity in order to create the painful multiplicity of the world.

Common Name: Pomegranate
Botanical Name: Punica granatum
Spiritual Name: Divine Sacrifice


Divine Smile



We can contemplate the smiles of the Divine when we have conquered our ego.

Common Name: Fragrant champaca
Botanical Name: Michelia alba
Spiritual Name: Pure Spiritual Surrender

The Colloquy at Kurukshetra will yet liberate humanity (part 3)


“Only those scriptures, religions, philosophies which can be thus constantly renewed, relived, their stuff of permanent truth, constantly reshaped and developed in the inner thought and spiritual experience of a developing humanity, continue to be of living importance to mankind.” Page 5 – ‘Essays on The Gita’ by Sri Aurobindo.

“The Bhagavad-Gita is a true scripture of the human race, a living creation rather than a book, with a new message for every age and a new meaning for every civilization.”
- Sri Aurobindo.


The Gita’s teachings should not be confined to narrow boundaries of ritualistic practices and religious beliefs belonging to a particular geographical location or age in the history of mankind. This perennial scripture is a comprehensive analysis on human psychology and a profound treatise on the different elements constituting our being. It systematically explains the meaning of Dharma and its relationship with Karma (action) in the evolutionary perspective of man. It shows us how to remain fully involved in our worldly actions and yet be detached from them by a change in our attitude. It begins with Arjuna’s sinking outburst of depression, confusion and escape from the battlefield of life and ends with the enlightenment of Arjuna who finally understood the multiple aspects of Dharma with respect to his own Swabhava and Swadharma.

We may try to grasp the meaning behind Sri Aurobindo’s profound words ‘will yet liberate humanity’ expressed in 1921-22 and observe how Gita’s universal message is gradually spreading across the globe promoting positive attitude towards righteous action (Dharma) in all spheres of life despite the religious attribute attached to it, of initially being a Hindu scripture. It provides equally appealing answers to questions posed by those with scientific and practical thinking as well as those possessing a deep philosophical outlook of life. Its guiding principles inspire everybody in all walks of life ranging from those engaged in the most menial physical work up to those involved in the most enlightened intellectual activities, for it addresses the root cause behind the binding of oneself to Karma or action and practically guides us how to be and act in the material world and yet remain continuously connected with the spirit inside. Karma becomes an ecstatic prayer when done in an attitude of offering to the Divine for indeed we would always want an offering to be perfect. Every perfect action will get the most perfect expected results as per the laws of nature controlled by the unseen Divine Will. These basic principles, not limited by any religious or geographical boundaries are unchanged for the past, present and future generations and science too cannot ignore their validity.

When we compare the statistics of those with clarity of mind and purpose and happy in all circumstances with those depressed, stressed and confused in life in modern times, we shall surely find today the highest number of Arjunas with a state of mind as that he was in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, even though we have made magnanimous progress in acquiring the best material comforts. We often notice that our inner and the outer beings are in conflict with one another. It is only when our actions are in harmony with our feelings and thoughts aspiring for a higher purpose in life that the most mundane daily activities of life would become a means of Sadhana. As per Sri Aurobindo and Divine Mother - we are a composite being and an inseparable entity made up of our physical, vital, mental and spiritual or psychic parts. For different people and for the same person the controlling part of the self takes its turns and consequently our reaction to external stimuli varies at different times and situations without our being conscious about it. When we do an introspection of our own actions seeking Divine help we would certainly know which part of our being has controlled a particular action or speech of ours.

It is only for a few seconds in our routine life that we attempt to come in touch with our luminous psychic being and all our actions and outer life appear to be guided by that luminosity. To remain longer in that state of consciousness of being connected with our psychic self is all about Yoga and Sadhana, possible only as said by Sri Aurobindo in the book The Mother in its opening page “There are two powers that alone can effect in their conjunction the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavor, a fixed and unfailing aspiration that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers”. The three types of Yoga- Karma, Bhakti and Jnana are not different paths for self realization but are self complementary with one another as they all aim at the transformation of different parts of our being ( Sri Aurobindo’s Poorna Yoga - Integral Yoga – book Bases of Yoga). Bhakti Yoga gives a direction to the erratic vital being with its unpredictable and devastating emotions. Karma Yoga releases the binding of the physical being to the actions and consequently induces total surrender of this being to the Divine. It is the Jnana Yoga that addresses the reasoning mind with its thinking capabilities and opens its closed windows towards higher inspiration and intuition

Only after all parts of our being are transformed and surrendered to the Divine is our Self freed to come under the control of our psychic being. Then only we shall be able to experience ‘Ekameva Advitiyam Brahma’ as per Chandogya Upanishad - Divine Oneness in all and all in the Divine Oneness.’ We can memorize these words and utter them as many times but it would take many lives of Sadhana to put them into practice. We the children of Divine Mother are sitting on the coastal sands of the endless ocean of Her Grace and trying to collect a grain or two of Her Knowledge and taste a drop or two of her nectarous benevolence. The above principles offer the best antidotes today for these ever increasing levels of stress and aimlessness. Knowing the world around is given higher priority than knowing oneself. Knowledge of the Self is being forgotten while we are busy overloading ourselves with the knowledge of the world around us. We can narrate pages about people or events around us but when asked to describe about our own self, words fail us. This reminds us of Katha Upanishad where the student Nachiketa asks his teacher Yama for that knowledge knowing which everything else is known “This doubt that arises, consequent on the death of a man - some saying 'It (The SELF) exis’, and others saying 'It (The SELF) does not exist'. I would like to know this, under your instruction, O Death, what is the Truth." Kathopanishad, Part I, Ch 1, Sloka 20. The above references were mentioned to us on the first day in our class of ‘Study of Sri Aurobindo’s works’ in Ashram school...........…to be cont.

Note : All the concepts expressed here are from recollections of the words and explanations given by our teachers in Sri Aurobindo International Centre in the class on ‘ Essays on The Gita’ and the weekly enlightening talks held in the school premises by Nirod Da and Amal Kiran Ji.
- Sundari

Sri Aurobindo's last darshan


Sri Aurobindo’s last darshan
(The following selection is taken from pp. 198-202 of The Radical Thinkers, a book published in 1969 by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press and now out of print. The account describes the ashram atmosphere during November and December 1950, immediately preceding and subsequent to Sri Aurobindo's leaving the body).

At last it was the morning of November 24. At Golconda, rumors flew. Although thousands had now arrived for this darshan, it was said that Sri Aurobindo was ill and might find it impossible to appear. Then at the last minute, we were told he was well enough.

A long line led from the main building around the block: people of every color, every style of dress, government officials and high-ranking professors, young and old, from dozens of countries, wanted to see the philosopher-sage. Each of us finally climbed the stairs to the floor where, at the end of a long narrow room, Sri Aurobindo in white and the Mother in a gold sari sat side by side upon a slightly raised platform.

As a westerner, the idea of merely passing by these two with nothing being said had struck me as a bit ridiculous. I was still unfamiliar with the Hindu idea that such a silent meeting could afford an intensely spiritual impetus. I watched as I came up in line, and I noted that the procedure was to stand quietly before the two of them for a few silent moments, then to move on at a gesture from Sri Aurobindo. What happened next was completely unexpected.

As I stepped into a radius of about four feet, there was the sensation of moving into some kind of a force field. Intuitively, I knew it was the force of Love, but not what ordinary humans usually mean by the term. These two were 'geared straight up'; they were not paying attention to me as ordinary parents might have done; yet, this detachment seemed just the thing that healed. Suddenly, I loved them both, as spiritual 'parents.'

Then all thought ceased. I was perfectly aware of where I was; it was not 'hypnotism,' as one Stanford friend later suggested. It was simply that during those few minutes, my mind became utterly still. It seemed that I stood there a very long, an uncounted time, for there was no time. Only many years later did I describe this experience as my having experienced the Timeless in Time. When there at the darshan, there was not the least doubt in my mind that I had met two people who had experienced what they claimed. They were gnostic beings. They had realized this new consciousness, which Sri Aurobindo called the Supramental. Later, this same experience made me understand what Heidegger meant by 'standing presence.'

Several days later, an English doctor staying at Golconda warned me that the condition of Sri Aurobindo's health was becoming worse. At 1:30 in the morning on December 5, 1950, he passed away of a kidney infection. About 3:30 that same morning, this was announced to everyone in the ashram. With great sorrow, I realized I had been at the last darshan at which both of them would appear together!

During the day of December 5, I hovered about the ashram grounds, feeling desolate. Already it has been decided, despite the objections of the French colonial governor, that Sri Aurobindo would be buried in the courtyard of the main building beneath a huge spreading tree. The male ashramites, including the visiting doctor, began to build the tomb. I watched the doctor, who had confided to me that he expected Sri Aurobindo to 'reveal himself as an avatar,' and he beat with his sledgehammer on the concrete slab as if he would destroy death itself.

There was weeping but no hysteria. By afternoon, men and women passed baskets of earth from hand to hand, as the digging continued beneath the tree. Then there was a new announcement. For all of us there, there would now be a second darshan. In lesser numbers, we filed through to view the body of the poet-philosopher lying upon his couch in the upper chamber.
Again, the following morning on December 6, we all filed past. The 'force field' which I mentioned earlier seemed to remain about the body and throughout the room. Dressed in white, upon a white couch before the windows, Sri Aurobindo now lay in state. Bowls of flowers stood around the couch; and at the bed's head and foot, disciples of long standing sat quietly, heads bowed.

Unexpectedly, in the afternoon, there was another darshan. Sri Aurobindo's face still did not look deathlike. The skin was golden in color, the white hair blowing on the pillow in a breeze from a fan. The aquiline profile continued to have a prophetic look. There was no odor of death and little incense was burning. To my astonishment, the repeated viewings of his body had a comforting effect.

By December 7, everyone momentarily expected the funeral. This was, after all, a tropical climate. Bodies were usually burnt as quickly as possible in India. Even the planned burial in earth was a major departure from the usual Hindu custom. The grave had now been completed with large cement blocks lining the tomb. But instead of the burial, an announcement came from the Mother:

'The funeral of Sri Aurobindo did not take place today. His body is charged with such a concentration of Supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition and the body will be kept lying on his bed so long as it remains intact.'

From the French colony, already exploding with disapproval and its officials much disturbed by the burial plans, came the rumor that the body must have been 'shot with formaldehyde' secretly, to preserve it. Moreover, said the officials, the ashram was not only breaking the law in burying anyone in the garden, it was worse to keep it so long unburied. (The legal regulation was that no body should be kept unburied longer than 48 hours.)

On the morning of December 7, therefore, a French doctor representing the government, a Dr. Barbet, arrived to inspect the body of Sri Aurobindo. At the end he reported it was a 'miracle'; there was no deterioration, no rigor mortis. It was an unheard of occurrence; the weather had continued to be hot during the entire time. After this official and scientific approval, nothing further could be done to prevent another darshan.

Visitors were flocking from all over India; and the Indian newspapers now proposed that Sri Aurobindo be suggested, posthumously, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This time, I suspected it might be the last time. Everyone and anyone was allowed into the ashram to pass by Sri Aurobindo's body: beggars in rags, curiosity seekers, villagers, ashramites, and visitors.

By December 8, silence was observed throughout the ashram grounds. Only latecomers who had just arrived in Pondicherry were allowed to view the body.

Tension grew among the ashramites, and incredible speculations became the order of the day. An Indian representative of Life magazine came around, wanting to talk to those of us from America. He told us that this phenomenon of bodily preservation after death had never taken place anywhere in India. Why, even yogis who specialized in 'live' burial had never performed such a feat. No Indian 'living saint' in history had preserved his body after death in this fashion. The Indian magazine representative wondered if Sri Aurobindo was not, after all, still alive and only in some kind of trance state or coma.

On December 9, at noon, a notice was posted that there would be a final darshan for those in the ashram at one o'clock. Later the time was changed to 2:30 p.m. and visitors from outside were allowed in first. The night before, a plane chartered by 19 people from Darjeeling had flown in. By now, in Golconda, everyone was sharing his or her room; bedrolls crowded the floors and halls of the guest house.

I had, of course, postponed my planned departure date. All of this, I realized, was a situation which would remain entirely unduplicated in my own life. I intended to remain until the end.

On the afternoon of December 9, at 5:00 p.m., the burial service finally took place after another final darshan. A feeling of force and energy remained in the atmosphere around Sri Aurobindo's vicinity, but that force had now weakened. Afterwards, in absolute silence, everyone in the ashram sat in the courtyard. The gates were locked against further curiosity seekers.

There was no orthodox religious service at the burial. The coffin, of rosewood with metal gold rings, much like an old and beautiful sea chest, was borne from the ashram and lowered into the earth. French officials, all dressed in white, made a line to the left, their faces stern, a bit superior in expression and definitely disapproving of the entire affair. Over the coffin, concrete slabs were laid. Then everyone lined up and, one by one, we scattered earth from wicker baskets. It was dark under the spreading tree when each of us had made this last farewell.

On the morning of December 10, when I visited the grave, it was already covered with flowers, incense sticks burning. It was announced that the Mother would carry on at the ashram and that a new International University would be opened.

Although the Mother had announced there would be two weeks of meditation during which she would see no one, she graciously granted me a farewell interview on December 15, at 6:00 p.m.

At 5:30 I went into the meditation hall, still very much mentally and emotionally upset by everything that had occurred. She appeared at the top of the stairs, dressed in white. When I smiled, she nodded and said: 'Come on up.'

All the questions I had meant to ask seemed to vanish. I was intensely aware that the interview itself was an imposition, when she had so recently lost the companion of 30 years. 'They say you wish to see me,' she said quietly. Before I could think I blurted out that I seemed to be full of fears, fears of new wars, fears of this or that in my personal life.

'One must not fear,' she said. 'By fear you bring about what you fear.' I nodded, then she added; and I had a feeling she spoke to the world, not just to me: 'It's ego! Ego!'

Several personal matters were discussed, and then of spiritual development she said: 'One must have a spirit of adventure in all this, you know.'

When our brief talk was over, she took a double French marigold from a bronze bowl on the edge of a small dark table, against which she had leaned an elbow while we talked. With a long look, she handed the flower to me.
Only much later, many years later, did I realize how fortunate I had been. Within the space of a year, far from my own shores, I had met three of the world's greatest human beings: Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, who had said that man had outgrown his concept of God; and these two: Sri Aurobindo and Mira Alfassa, or the Mother, who together, had attempted to give the world that new needed concept of God, as those of spiritual genius always do.

Because of them, life continues to have hope and meaning.
- Rhoda LeCocq
(Rhoda LeCocq received a degree in philosophy from the California Institute of Integral Studies).

To the heights

Lord, Thou hast heard our prayer,
And come down into our mortal ways-
Assumed the form, the flesh that build our weakness,
Thou hast designed to be close to us and wear our make,
To be with us and to be of us.

But we have taken thy humanity in a too literal and familiar way,
We have forgotten the Aspiration and the Descent, the answering Grace
That took shape in thy advent;
And now we blame thee and slight thee, because thou art become like us
- earthly and human.
Divine, thou art too far- human, too near!
For, the aberration of our petty minds knows no limits!

But thou sufferest all
And keepest thy unruffled and unabated benignity-
On thy lips is the smile of eternal and infinite Grace,
The smile that is thine alone.

- June 1st, 1933.


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

The Mother on Sri Aurobindo

The truth of Sri Aurobindo is a truth of love and light and mercy. He is good, great, compassionate and divine. And it is he who will have the final victory.

I always saw him with a perfectly peaceful and smiling face, and above all, the dominant expression was one of compassion. That was what stood out in his appearance. An expression of compassion so…. so peaceful, so tranquil, oh, magnificent.

The manifestation of the love of the Divine in the world was the great holocaust, the supreme self-giving. The Perfect Consciousness accepted to be merged and absorbed into the unconsciousness of matter, so that consciousness might be awakened in the depths of its obscurity and little by little a Divine Power might rise in it and make the whole of this manifested universe a highest expression of the Divine Consciousness and the Divine Love.

Sri Aurobindo came to tell us “One need not leave the earth to find the Truth, one need not leave life to find one’s soul, one need not abandon the world or have limited beliefs to enter into relation with the Divine. The Divine is everywhere, in everything and if He is hidden, it is because we do not take the trouble to discover Him.”

Luminous Preservation of Sri Aurobindo’s Body


(Though Sri Aurobindo withdrew from his physical body on December 5, 1950, the body did not show any signs of decomposition till four days later. The body was aglow with a special light which the Mother confirmed as being the light of the Supramental.)

Regarding the preservation of Sri Aurobindo’s body for several days after his withdrawal: You are right; the mere fact of preservation does not give special significance to the event. What was unique and important about the phenomenon was the presence for so many days of the Supramental Light in the body. It was the first time that the said Light was seen by many physical eyes, illumining a physical form. It was an irrefutable testimony to the fact of the great Light having concretely descended on the earth plane and found a material habitation, for however short a period.

Preservation of the body by yogic means is not very uncommon. There are scores of instances of Hathayogins withdrawing their life-breath, leaving their bodies intact for days together. There are certain currents of life-force- called sub-pranas in the Indian system- which keep the body without disintegration even when the main life-breath has ceased. One need not be a yogi or a spiritual man or a saint for that. Persons who are used to pranayama in one form or another can have this effected in their systems.

The greatness of saints is always their own. It is not conferred on them by the beliefs or superstitions of the devotees.


(From “All Life is Yoga”- M.P. Pandit, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

Question of the month

Q: What is the part of the samadhi of Sri Aurobindo here?

A: Sri M.P. Pandit : The Samadhi is the physical concentration of the consciousness that Sri Aurobindo embodied in his material body. Those who have faith can draw as much spiritual sustenance from the Samadhi as they did when he was physically present.

The Samadhi is not a tomb where the physical remains of the Master are preserved. It is a living reservoir of Spiritual consciousness and force, emanating its vibrations incessantly. I hope I am not revealing any great secrets in recording here that there is in these vibrations a powerful sanction to every deep prayer that is offered at the Samadhi. I have known of countless instances where confirmed skeptics have returned men of faith after a visit to the Samadhi.

(From “All Life is Yoga”- M.P. Pandit, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

Savitri

To the still heights and to the troubled depths
His equal spirit gave its vast assent:
A poised serenity of tranquil strength,
A wide unshaken look on Time’s unrest
Faced all experience with unaltered peace.
Indifferent to the sorrow and delight,
Untempted by the marvel and the call,
Immobile it beheld the flux of things,
Calm and apart supported all that is:
His spirit’s stillness helped the toiling world.


(Savitri, Book 1, Canto 3)


***********

The poison of the world has stained his throat.
In the market-place of Matter’s capital
Amidst the chafferings of the affair called life
He is tied to the stake of a perennial Fire;
He burns on an unseen original verge
That Matter maybe turned to spirit stuff:
He is the victim of his own sacrifice.
The Immortal bound to earth’s mortality
Appearing and perishing on the roads of Time
Creates God’s moment by eternity’s beats.
He dies that the world may be new-born and live.

(Savitri, Book 6, Canto 2)

************

It is finished, the dread mysterious sacrifice,
Offered by God’s martyred body for the world.
He who has found his identity with God
Pays with the body’s death his soul’s vast light.
His knowledge immortal triumphs by his death.


(Savitri, Book 6, Canto 2)

Editorial

Fifty-nine years ago, on the 5th day of December, Sri Aurobindo willfully left his earthly sheath, terminating his physical tenure here upon earth. The occasion is before us again to contemplate upon the divine departure. But can the Divine depart? There is much to this, one instinctively knows. This so called departure was too different and poignant, by all accounts, to brush it aside as a natural occurrence. Truly, it was a divine departure. But again, can the divine depart?

Sri Aurobindo left behind a sacred body, the body of the “Golden Purusha” encased by a “golden crimson hue” which The Mother referred to as the Supramental Light, the same Light Mother had seen him pulling down during his last days. In “Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo”, Nirodbaran records that the Supramental Light had been “descending into the most outward physical since 1938”. With his departure was possible the direct descent of the Light into his body and through it “into all Matter”. This sequence of events culminated in the spectacular Supramental manifestation of 1956. However, the details are still to be “consciously worked out and a concentrated yoga…required to hasten the evolution.” Sri Aurobindo’s departure is termed a divine sacrifice, the Purusha’s plunge into death, for the sake of all of Earth.
Yet all his children have been taught that to grieve would be an insult to Him who is with us “conscious and alive.” The physical loss has been more than compensated by something else that his true child would sense - His presence felt in the midst of one’s day to day life, in one’s heart space, to converse with Him, receiving his help and guidance.

In 1972, on His birth centenary, The Mother called on all to strive to be worthy of Sri Aurobindo’s birth centenary. The message on the Samadhi testifies to all that one ought to be thankful to Him, for all that he was and has done. One senses a feeling of smallness, as one gradually realizes what it may mean to be worthy of Sri Aurobindo, and his presence in our midst, in our hearts. Where does one start? This is a helpless question. But the helplessness of this is immediately quelled as one cries out to The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. All the help and guidance is always with us, we are assured, as well as the certainty of the divine’s victory. Only one thing is asked of us - an utter consecration, a self-giving total, of our entire being at the feet of the Divine. It is for each one of us to work out within ourselves what is asked of us.

There is a promise of victory, a divine victory, an eventual evolution of the animal-man into man-divine. Meanwhile, the word departed must lose its flavour, its meaning too, when we discover and realize other realms in which the essence of the divine can exist, in concrete terms. That remains a personal experience for each one of us to live and savour. The Divine, then, has not departed. He simply cannot. Here are The Mother’s words of Dec 7 1950, clear as crystal: “Lord, this morning Thou hast given me the assurance that Thou wouldst stay with us until Thy work is achieved, not only as a consciousness which guides and illumines but also as a dynamic Presence in action. In unmistakable terms Thou hast promised that all of Thyself would remain here and not leave the earth atmosphere until earth is transformed.”
Another opportunity for introspection and contemplation avails itself at our doorsteps…

Flowers of the month

Pure spiritual surrender

Candid, simple, spontaneous and complete in its multiplicity.

Common Name: Rose
Botanical Name: Rosa ‘Prosperity’
Spiritual Name: Pure Spiritual Surrender



Loving Surrender

A state that can be obtained by surrendering to the Divine.

Common Name: Rose
Botanical Name: Rose
Spiritual Name: Loving Surrender

Walking in Light

Continuing from last month’s discussion, Sri Aurobindo, in Letters on Yoga, points out Falsehood as anti-divine, as a creation of the “Asuric power” and a power which is in revolt against the Truth, a divine force. Falsehood itself is stated to be an extreme result of Ignorance. The nature of this falsehood is directly antithetical to divinity, its consciousness is perverse but puts itself forward as true knowledge and deceives.1

A vast difference there is therefore, between the force of divinity and the force of darkness. Sri Aurobindo states that Falsehood begins with the “beginnings of mind still involved in Life or appearing out of it.” Sri Aurobindo has pointed out, “Falsehood is a great barrier in the path of this Yoga. Falsehood of any kind must not be given a place in thought, speech or action.” The following have been pointed out as not belonging to the true nature of the Divine and as obstacles to sadhana – desires, jeolousy or envy, hatred or violence, greed, depression and despondency, ambition and vanity and attachment. Then, it follows that, in the case of the physical, material self of the being, traits to watch out for are laziness, an obstinacy to open to the discipline of physical culture, overly seeking bodily comfort and pleasure, indulgence in desires, and related to this, lust, greed and succumbing to addictions such as smoking and alcohol consumption and a refusal to give up on these or any other indulgences for that matter or in the least, practice stringent moderation, even against one’s own good judgment.

The Mother writes, “The body is a being of habits. But these habits should be controlled and disciplined, while remaining flexible enough to adapt themselves to circumstances and the needs of the growth and development of the being.”2

Physical culture then demands two things. One is to change the old and non-progressive physical habits of the past and traits and to develop those habits and traits that would contribute to the firm and robust building of the physical that would serve as a solid and reliable base with which an integral approach to Yoga can be.

How does one change an old habit or create a new habit? The Mother has an answer ready: “To change one’s body one must be ready to do millions of times the same thing, because the body is a creature of habits and functions by routine, and because to destroy a routine one must persevere for years.”3

When we take a serious stand to take up Integral Yoga, then it would serve well to map out all in us that we would consider habits, and in this case, physical, and take a good look at each habit and ask ourselves how these habits have contributed to our well-being and how they may not have. Then begins the arduous task of undoing the less progressive habits built over the years. Naturally, undoing an age-old habit implies that one takes upon oneself a new habit. Be absolutely sure that this new habit is a progressive habit. How does one ensure success in this endeavour of changing old habits and acquiring new, progressive ones? Aspiration.


Excerpts from:
1. Sri Aurobindo Ashram (1970). Letter on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
2. Sri Aurobindo Ashram (1955). A Practical Guide to Integral Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
3. Sri Aurobindo Ashram (2006). Towards Perfect Health, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry

Four great events in history, part 2


The exile of Krishna in Brindavan created devotional religion (for before there was only meditation and worship) – Sri Aurobindo

Love is one of the four aspects of the Supreme Purusha's manifestation in the material Prakriti. Devotional religion promotes transformation of the human love by directing it towards the Divine and helps us to realize and love all in the Divine and the Divine in all.

"…bhakti of ecstatic love is at its roots psychic in nature; it is vital-emotional only in its inferior forms or in some of its more outward manifestations" Essays on Gita page 284.

The Vedic and Upanishadic periods in Indian history were enlightened with the lore of great Rishis who had retreated themselves to the sylvan Ashrams, some of them after fulfilling their Dharma as Grihastas (house holders), and totally dedicated to yogic Sadhana by concentrating upon the knowledge aspect of the Supreme Purusha. They opened themselves to psychic consciousness through mental transformation and complete control of their vital being and its sense organs.

Sri Krishna planted the seeds of love for the Divine on the path of Karma and Bhakthi and showed us to transform the vital emotions of human love into love for the Divine. We often hear about the mystic anecdotes of his Divine adventures amid the rural folk of Brindavan. It is another aspect of the Divine statesman who gave the gospel of the Bhagavad Gita in the battle field of Kurukshetra. He also preached to Arjuna to pursue selfless action with unconditional surrender to the Supreme's will and become its conscious instrument.

We may recollect the childhood of Sri Krishna filled with divine charisma permeating in the rustic beauty of Brindavan (situated near Mathura - 200 km from New Delhi), the originator of devotional religion among the naive and innocent folk leading a life of transparent simplicity. Until then the guiding force behind spirituality in India was based on the growth of higher mental faculties and wisdom.

It was this devotional under-current of our Sanatana Dharma that has provided water to the drying fountain of Indian spirituality during its difficult periods of political and economic degradation, foreign invasion (Islamic, British rule) wherein the country was completely demoralized, fragmented and suppressed under the yoke of local feudal governance when even minimum education was inaccessible to the masses and knowledge of scriptures was confined to a few in the higher strata of the society (8th to 20th century).

The foundation stones for the devotional religion are the episodes of Sri Krishna's life in Brindavan passed on to generations by oral narration. There is a strong belief that the Gopis of Brindavan attained spiritual salvation as a result of their unconditional love for Sri Krishna. The mutual attraction of the embodied soul for the Divine from whom it is separated is depicted in the love of Radha (human soul) and Sri Krishna (incarnate Divine) by the rhythmic expressions of the inspired poets across all corners of India.

“The Gita brings in bhakti as the climax of the Yoga, sarvabhutasthitam yomam bhajati ekatvamasthitah (this may almost be said to sum up the whole final result of the Gita's teaching - whoever loves God in all and his soul is founded upon the divine oneness, however he lives and acts, lives and acts in God.” Essays on Gita page 246

From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari (North to South) and Dwarka to Puri (West to East) on the cloudy and stormy sky of India, there repeatedly appeared twinkling seer poets or Vibhutis (direct sparks of God in human form) who sang and composed immortal poetry in their local vernacular languages mostly comprehensible to the illiterate or semi literate common folk and reinterpreted the profound truths of Vedanta in practical and direct terms easily adaptable for all.

For deeper understanding of the immortal statement of our Master Sri Aurobindo, we need to browse the annals of the cultural history of India from 8th to 20th century and pay homage to all those seers of Devotion who have made our literature, art and music eternally self regenerating itself without which there would hardly exist anything that we can call Indian cultural heritage today.

The Acharyas (philosopher teachers) Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Nimbarka, Vallabhacharya, Ramananda walked across Indian soil recommending everyone the path of Bhakthi as the shortest means to attain union with the Divine. Even Adi Shakara the great philosopher of Advaita (Non dualism) gave due importance to Bhakthi for it transforms the most powerful and resistant vital being into a Divine instrument by slowly triggering the dissolution of individual ego by the attraction for the personal God.

Devotional religion began with Vaishnava Alwars from 6th century and culminated to perfection in the devotion of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa at Dakshineswar in 20th century India. A large number of Vaishnava Alwars (2nd to 8th AD) and the Shaiva Nayanars (5th to 10th AD) in southern India kept the lamp of spirituality un-extinguished. Jayadeva chanting the Gita Govindam in Orissa, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu singing and dancing in his trance on the pious soil of Bengal, Mira's melodious voice vibrating with love for Sri Krishna quenching the thirst in the sandy deserts of Rajasthan, Goswami Tulasi Das and the Surdas narrating through their couplets the stories of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna imparting wisdom to the struggling plains of northern India, Namdev and Tukaram rendering a strengthening hand in the battling fields of Maharastra, Tyagaraja, Annamayya, Purandara Dasa along the banks of Krishna and Kaveri repeatedly echoing in the households of Andhra and Karnataka, Narsi Mehta fertilizing the arid fields in Gujarat with his Bhajans (songs in praise of god) were some of the philosopher poets who had nourished the continuous flow of devotional religion for centuries. Like the cows in Brindavan responding to the magnetic attraction of the melody of Sri Krishna’s flute, the people from village to village followed them in huge crowds and in search of true Divine love that would be the only healing balm for their daily toiling wounds of life.

Their immortal lyrics were composed by Divine inspiration and psychic experiences and not by rational thinking or intellectual analysis. They mostly were born into middle or lower economic strata of society with limited exposure to the study of Indian scriptures. However their upbringing gave them a realistic approach to life and empathetic heart to sense the suffering of humanity around them. They were indeed born for a higher purpose on this earth. Their ego free hearts were spontaneously opened to Divine grace uninterrupted by any external constraints or prejudices. We would often wonder at the profoundness of their philosophical statements lyrically expressed in simple words. They travelled widely across the breadth and width of the country and became true instruments in spreading the message of love Divine and strewing the flowers of grace on the thorny path of life.

Sri Aurobindo says that it is a common belief that this event of Sri Krishna's exile in Brindavan never actually took place on the physical plane. We cannot understand with our limited physical mind in what level of consciousness this most inspiring event in the history of mankind’s evolutionary growth actually took place.

The path of bhakti or devotion leads to a transformation of the vital, “….illuminations of the heart by love and devotion and spiritual joy and ecstasy…” Life Divine page 908

- Sundari

Preaching the Gita to the hungry


The last three years have been quite rewarding for me in terms of getting to know better the faith I was born into. It has largely been a matter of serendipity and the time and guidance that some elders have very generously offered me in exploring the ancient tenets of this amorphous “way of life” called Hinduism. It means different things to different people but a very substantial portion of this faith is now associated with forms of worship and the idiosyncracies of the various Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu pantheon. And we have enough of them. Each with a colourful past and interesting events/character-attributes that mark them from the rest. Lord Shiva, rumour has it, is the one most easily appeased. Epithets such as “bhola”, it seems, are well-earned in his case. And one must admit he does have a formidable track-record when it comes to granting problematic boons, even to asuras. And then, we have a bevy of Gods and Goddesses who seem to have a special fondness for getting married…over and over again, year after year, every year. Such is their fondness for marital bliss that they deign us mortals good enough to sponsor their weddings. I remember my parents having performed one such kalyaanam a few years ago. I’m hoping, on Judgment Day, when their numbers are called, their small contribution to divine marital bliss will not be entirely forgotten.

Customs, forms of worship, superstitions continue to be shepherded into the tent of Hinduism to this day. Yet, perhaps, this was not how the bold Vedic rishis and the sages and mighty men and women who followed in their order had envisioned Sanatana Dharma to be. The myriad of rituals and customs that for many equates to the practice of Hinduism hides behind it the fount of spiritual realization that has been the singular contribution of Sanatana Dharma to humanity. The core of this contribution – the Prasthana Traya – the Upanishads, the Gita and the Brahma Sutras – form a body not just of knowledge, but of mystic spiritual experience where the focus is entirely on spiritualizing each human being through the realization of the Divine within each one of us. And within this tradition of mystic realization, the Gita stands out as a handbook that in its sheer vigour and clarity, attempts not just to spiritualize our lives but each act that we perform. Admittedly, this is an onerous task and letting the Gita take over our actions can be a lifelong exercise, but a very fulfilling one at that. As, Sri Aurobindo said, “All life is yoga” and as a student of the Gita (a very junior one), I believe the true tribute to the mighty philosophy of the Gita can only be paid by its practice in our everyday lives. It is, after all, a very vigorous, deep, practical and liberating philosophy – delivered by the purna avatar of Sri Krishna to a mighty warrior and friend, at a deeply distressing moment – the commencement of the most terrible activity engineered by humankind – full-scale war.

My introduction to the Gita came a little later in life than I would have wanted it to. But I believe The Mother sends the right things in our path at the right time, and so it is with the Gita. While I have been trying to learn the message of the Gita, thanks again to efforts of the elders in whose company I happen to be and the works of so many mystics that India has produced, I have often wondered why it seems a very large section of people who call themselves Hindus seem either to be detached or very peripherally involved with the Gita. This question became even more troubling as I heard of the aggressive conversions being undertaken by some Christian evangelicals in India. Apparently, these conversions to the Christian faith (or more pertinently, to the Church that the particular evangelical represents), particularly amongst those who lead an impoverished existence, are being done against a barter of basic goods of subsistence. If this is true, and I have personally witnessed such attempts at conversion, as have several people I know, then I think it behooves us to ponder a while as to what exactly is a poor person in need of the very basic necessities of life giving up in this conversion? If it is indeed Hinduism, then how exactly does the converted describe his/her erstwhile faith? I doubt if the ones converted by these means have ever said “I believe the Gita is wrong” or “I disown the Upanishads”. Their daily, gruelling struggle for survival or a better quality of life to their impoverished existence is such that the message of the Gita or the Upanishads does not even reach them throughout their liftimes. And it could not either. Exceptions like Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi are just that – exceptional souls who could rise above the human body’s struggle to survive and reach pinnacles of spiritual experience that they have passed down to us. For the vast majority of us, however, an attempt at spiritualizing our lives in the light of the Gita can only be undertaken after the basic necessities of life are met. Material security can engender a state of mind that is at peace with itself while it pursues the higher calling of life. The intellectual Hindu who expresses righteous indignation at aggressive evangelical conversions would do well to keep this in mind.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has served as a useful framework in understanding basic human motivations and the hierarchy through which these motivations or needs move. Briefly, Maslow stated that human needs progress in a hierarchy, from lower to higher as – biological and physical needs, safety needs, belonging and love needs, self-esteem needs and finally, self-actualization. This framework can provide a fairly simple insight in trying to understand both the relatively low penetration of the practice of the Gita and the Upanishads amongst Hindus and also the bartered conversion into evangelical Churches. Both the Gita and Upanishads attempt the ultimate transformation of a human being – from a mere existence to spiritualized being. Maslow’s self-actualization is their endeavour, nothing less. They are both intensely personal in their message and catholic in their approach. But for those of us for whom the Gita has had an impact, even a peripheral impact, it probably would be easy to recognize that for the vast majority of us, lower hierarchies need to be fulfilled first, particularly the lower three, before the lofty ideals of the Gita can be undertaken. And recognition of this fact can open up an opportunity for us Hindus to contribute, in whatever small way we can, to alleviate the impoverished and less fortunate to a level of security and existence where they can begin to ponder the deeper existential questions and use that as a prop to take up the understanding and practice of the Gita.

Why is this important? Individual transformation aside (and this would mean the transformation of both the benenficiary and the one who gives), this is important in a wider social context. The philosophy of the Gita, in true Upanishadic spirit, has at its core, a value that is a hallmark of a mature and deep thinking, a value that can only be derived from quiet, knowing strength – liberalism. There is no attempt in the Gita to frighten the sadhak into submission or a simplistic moral, religious or social code. Ancient Hindu philosophy had, in its remarkable prescience, recognized social law to be a temporal product of the times and so relegated them to the status only of a smrti, subservient to the eternal, timeless message of the shruti. The focus, therefore, of the Gita and the Upanishads is to elevate the consciousness of each individual to ultimately, through persistent sadhana, become one with the Divine, cosmic Consciousness. There is no attempt at converting to a faith or institution that claims a monopoly over Truth and derides followers of other faiths. Not for the Gita the “My God is better than your God” argument that, in the light of the true Vedic tradition of “Ekam Sat, viprah bahudha vadanti (Truth is one, wise men call it by different names)”, can be viewed as childishly amusing, at best.

So where does all this leave us Hindus with regard to what we can do to elevate the less fortunate so they can be physically, mentally and emotionally secure enough to take up the Gita? Well, the simplest, most direct and most effective contribution would be monetary contribution towards a cause. And there is no dearth of such causes. From the monstrosity of the caste system that has denied basic primary education to millions because of their birth and thus robbed them of a fulfilling life of achievements, to natural disasters that have wiped away for many even the most basic securities in life, to better facilities for healthcare, to orphans who are at the mercy of an unscrupulous society for their survival, to children who are born with disabilities and deformities, to men and women who, in their twilight years, have been abandoned by the very people they sacrificed so much for, to the plight of the widows in Brindavan. The opportunities at making a difference, in the true spirit of the Gita, are many. As Hindus, we spend quite a substantial amount each year in performing (or rather in getting someone else, usually a temple priest, to perform) various rituals. With due respect to the sentiments of the people involved in such rituals, in purely economic terms, they are almost always a consumption expenditure, whose impact, even on the ones performing or sponsoring the ritual, can fade away rather quickly. On the other hand, an investment at elevating the condition of another human being is a capital expenditure of the highest order. And for those of us earning in developed market currencies, the asymmetry in purchasing power with respect to India, has the potential to magnify the impact of such contributions. It has the potential to create a truly productive and evolved individual and, by extension, an evolved society.

And what does Sri Krishna have to say about worship?

Patram pushpam phalam toyam, yo me bhaktya prayacchti,
Tad aham bhaktyupahrtam, asnami prayatatmanah.

Whosoever offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure heart, I accept.

“The colloquy at Kurukshetra will yet liberate humanity”, said Sri Aurobindo, who, while in prison, had used the Gita as a practical handbook of transformation. It would indeed be a homage to Sri Aurobindo’s and The Mother’s vision of transforming and spiritualizing humanity to an elevated state of consciousness, if each one of us can commit, dedicatedly, a small portion of our resources to making a difference to the material lives of the ones who are less fortunate than us, so they may later be inspired to take up the Gita and start living it. A greater offering of karma yoga to the feet of Sri Krishna can scarcely be found.

- Sumant Balakrishnan

Gita for the common man


What message can a philosophical treatise like the Gita have for the common man? The Gita has a message for everyman for the simple reason that it is not a philosophical or a religious text. It is a spiritual guide and in as much as the Divine Spirit informs everyone in some way or other, the Gita has a word to say, a direction to give to each man, be he a philosopher scaling the heights of Knowledge or a seeker plumbing the depths of his soul or the common man who is caught in the vortex of the currents and cross currents of work-a-day life. No one is too high for its vision, no one too low for its consideration.

Do not leave your station in life, calls the Gita, in order to find your weal elsewhere. There is a purpose, a design, in your being where you are. You are being moulded in the crucible of Nature and those circumstances are chosen for you by the guiding Spirit which best promote your development. Regard the work that comes to your share as God given. Whatever the work, it can be utilized for your progress, outer and inner, if only it is done in the right attitude. All work is equal, the true difference in value arises from the spirit in which each work is done.

Work done ignorantly forges the chain of Karma that binds; work done in the spirit of the Gita is a force for liberation. And what is the spirit of the Gita?

All work that you do, do it as a sacrifice, as a loving offering to God. And the true test of this offering is whether you entertain a claim for its fruits. Give up personal desire for the fruit and accept what comes with equality. But all the while do your work with all the care, all the zeal and perfection that a sacred consecration calls for. Slowly your capacity for disinterested work will grow and you will be less and less involved in the consequences of the work. In place of desire and ego, detachment and selfless devotion will grow.

The first step is to offer the works to God.

The next step is to give up the fruits of work to God.

The third is to realize that what works is not your own force, but the Power of God. You perceive that you are only an instrument and the real worker is the Power of Him who is seated within the chariot of your being. The personal element is gradually replaced by an impersonal spirit and the first gates of inner liberation are opened.

It is not necessary for man to retreat from the world and leave his appointed work in order to attain liberation. The Gita prescribes a bold and practical discipline which can be successfully practiced by everyone in the midst of life, in the center of Kurukshetra.


(A chapter from Sri. M.P. Pandit ‘s - All Life is Yoga, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

We do not belong to the past dawns but to the noons of the future



We of the coming day stand at the head of a new age of development which must lead to such a new and larger synthesis. We are not called upon to be orthodox Vedantins of any of the three schools or Tantrics or to adhere to one of the theistic religions of the past or to entrench ourselves within the four corners of the teaching of the Gita. That would be to limit ourselves and to attempt to create our spiritual life out of the being, knowledge and nature of others, of the men of the past, instead of building it out of our own being and potentialities. We do not belong to the past dawns, but to the noons of the future. A mass of new material is flowing into us; we have not only to assimilate the influences of the great theistic religions of India and of the world and a recovered sense of the meaning of Buddhism, but to take full account of the potent though limited revelations of modern knowledge and seeking; and, beyond that, the remote and dateless past which seemed to be dead is returning upon us with an effulgence of many luminous secrets long lost to the consciousness of mankind but now breaking out again from behind the veil. All this points to a new, a very rich, a very vast synthesis; a fresh and widely embracing harmonisation of our gains is both an intellectual and a spiritual necessity of the future. But just as the past syntheses have taken those which preceded them for their starting­point, so also must that of the future, to be on firm ground, proceed from what the great bodies of realised spiritual thought and experience in the past have given. Among them the Gita takes a most important place.



Our object, then, in studying the Gita will not be a scholastic or academic scrutiny of its thought, nor to place its philosophy in the history of metaphysical speculation, nor shall we deal with it in the manner of the analytical dialectician. We approach it for help and light and our aim must be to distinguish its essential and living message, that in it on which humanity has to seize for its perfection and its highest spiritual welfare.

-- Sri Aurobindo in Essays on The Gita