Guiding Light of The Month

THE result of all my reflections of yesterday is the finding that the only disturbance I experience comes from my fear of not having been or of not being perfectly identified with Thy law. - The Mother

A peep into the animal world

In Dec 2008, we went on a family holiday to Kenya, Africa, and saw the wildlife in their wilderness that proved to be a very moving experience. We went on 9 safari outings in three national parks- Amboseli, Aberdeen and Masai Mara .

It was a bright afternoon, and we set out in our 4 WD deep into the prairie like jungle – with a few scanty trees strewn in between the vast plains. Long, shiny grass with patches of green spread around watering holes. The great migration of millions of animals takes place every year, through this stretch of green interlocked between two imposing mountains as if it served as a vast gateway, to the Beyond!

Driving through the designated tracks our safari driver Nicolas caught a slight movement in the grass about a km away and drove slowly, closer, and switched the engines off. Beyond his native skills of sight and scent, he was intuitive at spotting the animals. And lo and behold, right across a small bush appeared the Majestic African Lion, with its consort, stretching itself and seemed relaxed in absolute peace. All we could see was a vast stillness, absolute and immaculate. Their golden color in the bright afternoon glare and spotless shiny skin stood out, as if Purusha and Prakriti were lying beside each other! There was a complete and settled peace on its face, and all we could observe was the slow heave of their torsos in sync, with their breath, as if they were practicing “pranayama” as a pair. We were stuck by the sheer beauty, tranquility, and deep silence on its face and it was so much a part of all that was around it, and one with it. A fierce, ferocious and devouring Lion seemed so harmless, unless it was on a hunt or was provoked. It simply dawned on us, no wild animal ever killed another driven by hatred or greed like we men do. It also seemed so helpless, as it could not rid itself of the jungle fly striking at its mane but shake its head in vain!

Amboseli, set in the rain shadow of mighty Mount Kilimanjaro is home to one of the largest populations of Elephants in the wild. We moved along to see swaying groups of slow rhythmic movements of brown, from a distance – families of the great African Elephants marching in. A large group of over 20 closed up to a watering hole, the grand Matriarch the tallest, wisest, and perhaps the oldest was leading the pack.
The elephant family is a picture postcard of what any happy and contented human family could ever aim to be. The little ones were darker and black, and they were barely a few weeks old. They ran around its mothers protective legs and suckled at their whim, and were getting pampered by the rest, rolling into the soft mud. The youth were no different from our ilk, locking onto their tusks and learning to fight and testing their strength. Their easy pace, and coordinated movements were a symbol of such harmony that one sees rarely in a human family.

With all its strength and size, the elephants ate on the staple of a vegetarian diet. The grownups were so conscious of their looks that their long white ivory tusks were pedicured after every meal by rubbing and polishing them against the grass! And they loved washing themselves, over and over. Our final encounter with a full grown large wild elephant was on the day we set off to leave the resort hotel in the jungle. We took a chance to leave earlier than allowed before day break and once we covered some 15 minutes on the dust tracks, there stood a majestic elephant fanning its large ears and looking at us intently with the head lights lighting its eyes like bright stars. We missed a couple of heart beats, if he chose to react with one nudge our 4W could take couple of rolls. Well we stopped and switched off the lights, and he came closer, looked at us, sort of gave a half smile and gently marched away.

Close encounter, and we thanked Ganesha! We were also lucky to have a darshan of Mt Kilimanjaro in its full glory.

Yet at another resort we set off early to catch a glimpse of the black Rhino – we drove amidst hordes of zebras, jackals, deer – all doing their early morning chores. Finally we went around a thicket that was full of thorns. There was a slight movement and there came out a full grown Rhino, which did half a circle of the thicket and went back into the bush. Strength and lightening speed of reaction, for a lazy looking Rhino, seem so unlikely, but true.

That evening we craved and craned our necks on the lookout for the dainty Giraffes and we were rewarded with the sight of watching young and fully grown ones crossing the road; they had such an elegant and sensuous walk. If only they could wear latest fashion, they can put to shame the best of trained cat walkers in the fashion ramps of the world. The frail and fragile fashion models of the world, I guess were inspired by the giraffes.

We stayed overnight at a resort that had a watering hole right within its precincts and was famously known to attract a whole herd of hippopotamuses – old and young, male and females. We found countless of them huddled in a small pond, with simply their backs and bums bumping up and down on the water table. We had a long wait till sun down, and they started climbing out, pulling their rather heavy bodies soaked all day in the cold water out for the night.

Each one like a customary kriya, yawned wide to show their large wide open mouth and their teeth, bother grudgingly walking away, into the receding sun set for a night out to return in the morning to recede into the water! Their discipline and rank and file, was almost army like, when they marched back into the night.

We checked into an interesting jungle resort in Aberdeen National Park, called The Arc. It was inspired by the Noah’s Arc and was a log house hotel, in the midst of a valley in between mountains and thick jungle. Interestingly, they lock the guests in after check-in in the early evening and then open up some of the jungle pathway gates for animals to naturally come over at night for watering. There were different alarms to announce the arrival of different animals, during the night.

Once we were locked in and we went to the viewing gallery. We were blessed with a herd of wild jungle buffaloes that looked pretty familiar, just as their less aggressive cousins we were used to seeing in India. These are part of the big 5 animals that Africa is proud of. With every gesture we made all they did was to shake their heads like a pendulum or they were in a symbolic gesture saying we listen to nothing; we are blissful in our own ignorance!

There was such a variety of color, shape and behaviour in animals. We saw myriad varieties of deer – each one agile, attentive and graceful, with a slight difference in size the black and white Zebras were another ubiquitous sight – we saw them everywhere. Interestingly, there were types of stripes in the same black and white that differentiated themselves into the various breeds and spotting. They were such wonderful creatures that you longed to bring home one – no wonder that Sita fell for one. We also had Neelgais, sporting proud headgears.

When we came to the last leg of our safaris we missed and longed to see the Leopards in the wild. On the return leg, we were driving out of the national reserve and on the way back we had two majestic leopards parading themselves right in front of the vehicle we drove. We followed them on the dirty track and on the wilder side and took a close look at the wonderful pair. They looked at us, gave their darshan and walked away as if they were not concerned with us in any way. We hit back the road and we had some serious adventure. We had a tyre flat and stopped and got out of the 4 WD to replace the tyre. We were hardly 50 meters away from where we saw the Leopards. The Leopards we met had their breakfast for sure as they could have had an easy prey with on us right there.

It was a delightful experience being so close to Mother Nature and experiencing the wonderful world of animal life. Most of these were labelled as close to extinction, and were protected wild life. As part of evolution, these wonderful creatures are creations of the divine and the sheer variety of shape, form, behaviour and habitat, indeed God had a very evolved CAD/CAM design house to make these creations.
The vastness around, and its silence lifted a curtain within to open up the vastness that resides within us, for a few transitory minutes – till we headed back to the Airport where the din and dust of the evolved human race hit us like a rock.
- K.V. Rao

He stood erect, a God like form and force


Her animal experiment began,
Crowding with conscious creatures her world-scheme;
But to the outward only they were alive,
Only they replied to touches and surfaces
And to the prick of need that drove their lives.

Animals are driven by that quality of Nature - Rajas, by which there is “the first light of conscious mind but buddhi or intelligent Will is absent,” says Sri Aurobindo in The Essays on Gita. This is why there is intelligence in them but they are not conscious of it and hence they reply to ‘touches and surfaces and the prick of need” which drives their lives and hence in the luminous words of Sri Aurobindo,

Absorbed they lived in the passion of the scene,
But knew not who they were or why they lived:
Life had for them no aim save Nature’s joy
And the stimulus and delight of outer things;
They worked for the body’s wants, they craved no more,
Content to breathe, to feel, to sense, to act,
Identified with the spirit’s outward shell.

The Mother says that there is an intelligence which acts and organizes animals but they are not conscious of it. Hence they are absorbed in the events happening at the present moment but there is aimlessness to animal existence. That is why sometimes we hear people yell in frustration “Don’t be like an animal!” There is in them the delight in outer things, and they are satisfied if their bodily needs are met and they are contented to just “breathe, feel, sense, act” as they are always identified with their “outward shell”.

The veiled spectator watching from their depths
Fixed not his inward eye upon himself
Nor turned to find the author of the plot,
He saw the drama only and the stage.

The lines above describe so evocatively the animal or man dominated by his lower nature. The “veiled spectator” refers to that capacity in us to detach from the act and watch the drama unfold as the witness, without participating or getting involved in the drama. However, in the animal, the spectator is veiled and hence it does not turn inwards to “find the author of the plot” and just sees the “drama and the stage”. The animal does not ponder on the deep secrets of the laws of Nature, nor is in them a thirst for Truth, but they are content to hunt, “sniff the winds, or sloth inert in sunshine and soft air”

A formless yearning passions in man’s heart,
A cry is in his blood for happier things:
Else could he roam on a free sunlit soil
With the childlike pain-forgetting mind of beasts
Or live happy, unmoved, like flowers and trees

(“Savitri”, Book 2, Canto 4)



However, in man there is a yearning and aspiration to rise above his lower Nature and he seeks to release himself from the chains and bonds which restrain him, if this was not in him he would be like a beast roaming around aimlessly not reflecting or feeling the “touch of the soul within” and be like the beasts in their “childlike pain-forgetting mind” or happy and immobile like the flowers and trees. He also has the capacity to rise to greatness and explore his hidden realms and become a “mind, a spirit and self “

The animal’s thoughtless joy is left behind,
Care and reflection burden his daily walk:
He has risen to greatness and to discontent,
He is awake to the Invisible.
Insatiate seeker, he has all to learn:
He has exhausted now life’s surface acts,
His being’s hidden realms remain to explore.
He becomes a mind, he becomes a spirit and self;
In his fragile tenement he grows Nature’s lord.

(“Savitri” Book 2 , Canto 4)

A spiritual evolution, an evolution of consciousness in Matter is a constant developing self-formation till the form can reveal the indwelling Spirit, is then the key-note, the central significant motive of the terrestrial existence.
(“The Life Divine”, Sri Aurobindo)

The very form of man is thus capable of manifesting the Spirit says The Mother as the upright position is itself symbolic of this capacity to manifest the Spirit. There is a Tamil song in which the poet says “Oh Lord this form itself is created to worship and manifest thee”. Hands held together in prayer seem to at once connect us with deeper feelings of love and togetherness. This human physical form is most appropriate to express the Spirit. If we compare man to the higher living being we will fall short as we have a lot of imperfections but in the words of The Mother,

“…if we put ourselves in the place of the animals which immediately precede him in the evolution, we see that he is endowed with possibilities and powers which the others are quite incapable of expressing. The mere fact of having the ambition, the desire, the will to know the laws of Nature and to master them sufficiently to be able to adapt them to his needs and change them to a certain extent, is something impossible, unthinkable for any animal.”

“You may tell me that I don’t usually speak very kindly about man (laughter), but that’s because he usually thinks too kindly of himself !”

“If we compare him with other products of Nature, unquestionably he is at the top of the ladder.”

In the prone obscure beginnings of the race
The human grew in the bowed apelike man.
He stood erect, a Godlike form and force,
And a soul’s thoughts looked out from earthborn eyes;
Man stood erect, a Godlike form and force,
And a soul’s thoughts looked out from earthborn eyes;
Man stood erect, he wore the thinker’s brow:
He looked at the heaven and saw his comrade stars;
A vision came of beauty and greater birth
Slowly emerging from the heart’s chapel of light
And moved in a white lucent air of dreams.
He saw his being’s unrealized vastnesses,
He aspired and housed the nascent demi-god

(“Savitri”, Book 7, Canto 2 )

Recently, we saw a remake of the old classic, “The Planet of the Apes” on television, in which an astronaut is sucked into a bizarre planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species and the humans are treated brutally and oppressed. Apparently, the advertisement for this movie said “Somewhere in the universe there must be something better than man “. The humans and apes in this movie have similar capability in intellect and speech but it is the ape’s physical strength, which makes them dominate the planet and treat the humans as slaves. It was a fascinating movie. One highlight was the advice given by a philosophical wise ape to the commander-in-chief. Which went something like this …. “You have no idea what these humans are capable of, we have physical strength but his technology and ingenuity are no comparison to our physical strength. Be careful of the power of the human and what he is capable of.”

It reminds me of what Sri Aurobindo once told a sadhak…..if only we knew of what lies beyond this mental state we would leave everything this very instant and chase after it.

In conclusion, let us reflect on these words of The Mother…..

Can we hope that this body which is our present means of earthly manifestation, will have the possibility of transforming itself progressively into something which will be able to express a higher life, or will it be necessary to give up this form entirely to enter into another which does not yet exist on Earth?

That is the problem. It is a very interesting problem. If you will reflect on it, it will lead you to a little more light.

We can reflect on it just now.

Fear of and for animals


Nature-walks are part of our IEP meet. As part of one of our nature walks, we took the children to McRitchie reservoir. Asking the children afterwards what they felt about the walk, I was surprised to hear a handful of children mention "I felt scared about the monkeys".

On yet another trip to Pulau Ubin, I noticed that many of the children and facilitators alike were afraid of the many dogs lingering in the area, though the dogs were not remotely interested in us.

Why the fear? Is there a reason for the fear? Or is it simply conditioned in us?

My daughter is very fond of cats. She loves to go after the many cats that rest under our apartment block and nothing makes her day so much as petting a cat does. With this attitude, one day, she was playing in the playground, when two cats streaked past her, chasing and spitting at each other. With her fondness of cats, the child, no doubt even more excited by this lively display that her favorite animals were putting up, ran after them and tried to pet the cat that was hissing and spitting. Before I, who was sitting 20 meters away, could react, the tabby swiped once, then twice. The child did not understand the language of the swiping cat as an adult would. Too late, she received a scratch on her finger. She understood the language of cats then.


But as a parent, what was I to do? After putting the obligatory antiseptic, and ensuring (including a call to the emergency) that the scratch was not something very serious, I was faced with a dilemma. Would I have to advice her to not touch all cats until she grew old enough to understand them, or would I still encourage her to play with them as usual, but to exercise caution and to ensure that I shadow her more closely when she is around cats?

We sensibly chose the second option, and I am glad to say that Anjali is once again on friendly terms with cats.

The Mother has written

"... if you leave an animal in its normal state, far from man, it obeys the spirit of the species, it has a very sure instinct and it will never commit any stupidities. But if you take it and keep it with you, it loses its instinct, and it is then you who must look after it, for it no longer knows what should or should not be done. "

We are afraid of animals because we have invaded their space, making them aggressive. The monkeys in McRitchie reservoir had become aggressive because we had made them so, first pampering them with food and them shooing them away when they wished the food to be given to them. Perhaps, if we explain to our children that animals are not toys to amuse ourselves with, but beings to be treated with love and respect, there can be a genuine coexistence and love between people and animals in the forthcoming generation?

But a day may yet come when the tiger crouches and leaps no more in the dangerous heart of the forest,
As the mammoth shakes no more the plains of Asia;
Still then shall the beautiful wild deer drink from the coolness of great pools in the leaves’ shadow.
The mighty perish in their might;
The slain survive the slayer.


-- Kiruthika

The vain lion


www.thelionking.org

Just imagine, there are plants which are vain! I am speaking of plants one grows for oneself. If one pays them compliments, by words or by feelings, if one admired them, well, they hold up their head- with vanity! It is the same with animals. I am going to tell you a short amusing story.

In Paris there is a garden called” The Garden of Plants”: there are animals there also, as well as plants. They had just received a magnificent lion. It was of course in a cage. And it was furious. There was a door in the cage behind which it could hide. And it would hide itself just when the visitors came to see it! I saw that and one day I went up to the cage and began speaking to it (animals are very sensitive to spoken language, they really listen). I began speaking softly to my lion, I said to it “Oh! How handsome you are, how much we would like to see you…” Well, it listened. Then, little by little, it looked at me askance, slowly stretched its neck to see me better; later it brought out its paw and finally, put the tip of its nose against the bars as if saying,” At last, here ‘s someone who understands me!”


(“Collected Works of the Mother”, Volume 4, Centenary Edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry)

Marvellous creatures


In animals there is sometimes a very intense psychic truth. Naturally, I believe the psychic being is a little more formed, a little more conscious in a child than in an animal. But I have experimented with animals, just to know; well, I assure you that in human beings I have rarely come across some of the virtues which I have seen in animals, very simple unpretentious virtues. As in cats, for example: I have studied cats a lot; if one knows them well they are marvelous creatures. I have known mother-cats which have sacrificed themselves entirely for their babies- people speak of maternal love with such admiration, as though it were purely a human privilege, but I have seen this love manifested by mother-cats to a degree far surpassing ordinary humanity…

It was altogether spontaneous instinct. But what is instinct? – it is the presence of the Divine in the genus of the species, and that, that is the psychic of animals; a collective, not an individual psychic. I have seen in animals all the reaction, emotional, affective, sentimental, all the feelings of which men are so proud. The only difference is that animals cannot speak of them and write about them, so we consider them inferior beings because they cannot flood us with books on what they have felt.

I had a puss, the first time it had its kittens it did not want to move from there. It did not eat, did not satisfy any call of nature. It remained there, stuck to her kittens, shielding them, feeding them; it was so afraid that something would happen to them. And that was quite unthought out, spontaneous. It refused to move, so frightened it was that some harm might come to them – just through instinct. And then, when they were bigger, the trouble it took to educate them- it was marvelous. And what patience! And how it taught them to jump from wall to wall, to catch their food, how, with what care, it repeated once, ten times, a hundred times if necessary. It was never tired until the little one had done what it wanted. An extraordinary education! It taught them how to skirt houses following the edge of walls, how to walk so as not to fall, what had to be done when there was much space between one wall and another, in order to cross over. The little ones were quite afraid when they saw the gap and refused to jump because they were frightened and then the mother jumped, it went over to the other side, it called them: come, come along. They did not move, they were trembling. It jumped back and then gave them a speech; it gave them little blows with its paw and licked them, yet they did not move. It jumped. I saw it do this for over half an hour. But after half an hour it found that they had learnt enough, so it went behind the one it evidently considered the most ready, the most capable, and gave it a hard knock with its head. Then the little one, instinctively, jumped. Once it had jumped, it jumped again and again and again…

There are few mothers who have this patience.

(“Collected works of the Mother”, Volume 4, Centenary Edition , Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry)

Question of the month


Q: What is the ground of the repulsion that one instinctively feels towards certain animals, such as snakes and scorpions?

A: It is not an inevitable necessity that one should feel this or any other repulsion. To have no repulsion at all is one of the fundamental achievements of Yoga.

The repulsion you speak of comes from fear; if there were no fear, it would not exist. This fear is not based on reason, it is instinctive; it is not individual, but racial; it is a general suggestion and belongs to the consciousness of humanity as a whole. When one takes up the human body, one accepts along with it a mass of these general suggestions, race ideas, race feelings of mankind, associations, attractions, repulsions, fears.

But from another viewpoint there is something very personal in the nature of an attraction or repulsion; for these movements are not the same for everybody and depend mostly on the quality of vibration of the vital being in different people. There are men who not only do not feel any repulsion for creatures like snakes, but have even a liking for them, a vital attraction and preference.


(“Complete Works of The Mother”- Volume 22, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1972, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sri Aurobindo Ashram press, Pondicherry)

Savitri


A seeking Power found out its road to form,
Patterns were built for love and joy and pain
And symbol figures for the moods of Life.
An insect hedonism fluttered and crawled
And basked in a sunlit Nature’s surface thrills,
And dragon raptures, python agonies
Crawled in the marsh and mire and licked the sun.
Huge armoured strengths shook the frail quaking ground,
Great puissant creatures with a dwarfish brain,
And pigmy tribes imposed their small life-drift.
In a dwarf model of humanity
Nature now launched the extreme experience
And master-point of her design’s caprice,
Luminous result of her half-conscious climb
On rungs twixt her sublimities and grotesques
To massive from infinitesimal shapes,
To a subtle balancing of body and soul,
To an order of intelligent littleness.
* * *


There was no brooding stress of deeper sense,
The burden of reflection was not borne.
Mind looked on Nature with unknowing eyes,
Adored her boons and feared her monstrous strokes.
It pondered not on the magic of her laws,
It thirsted not for the secret wells of Truth,
But made a register of crowding facts
And strung sensations on a vivid thread.
It hunted and it fled and sniffed the winds,
Or slothed in sunshine and soft air.
It sought the engrossing contacts of the world,
But only to feed the surface sense with bliss.
These felt life’s quiver in the outward touch,
They could not feel behind the touch the soul.

(“Savitri”, Book 4, Canto 4)

Editorial

In the Animal Kingdom, the genealogy of animals is a fascination that few would refute. It maps for us the slow crawl of evolution over time, over billions of years, from the murky waters of the elemental soup into clearer salty waters and out onto the sandy shores of terrestrial borders and up into ethereal air spaces, each pause and change of direction a landmark akin to a paradigmatic shift; from a blob of protean matter to a single cell, to multi-cellular complexes and to Man, at the height of the heap. Interestingly man himself has most graciously slotted himself into the category of animals. His genius, and hence superiority, according to our human perception, shows in the way he maps out his own evolution from that single clump of protoplasm into a living mass of tissues organized into an intelligent whole and he still would have it that he is part of the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, amongst them all, he stands tall, a king.

What qualifies us to be part of the animal kingdom? Some ancient history of genetic identities seem to keep us closely allied with the animal world. Genotypes leave their marks on our physical form, which are somewhat similar to our closest or distant cousins in the animal world. For instance, man is red-blooded and warm-blooded as the rest of the mammals; like the rest of the animals, we are made up of non-photosynthetic protoplasm; like the rest of the chordates, we are equipped with a vertebral column which houses the spinal chord. There are essential differences between man and animals too. The nervous and muscular systems have evolved to facilitate the development of a complex form of language that is expressed to enable a complex system of communication with the rest of the species of Homo sapiens, or “wise man”, in Latin.

There is provision in the “wise man” to have his mental, vital and physical aspects to play up into an utterly complex and complicated state of being and behaviour. Sometimes we find in some beings a harmonious play of these forces – mental, vital and physical, that express in their mixed interaction, something simple and beautiful, not leaving one gasping for breath or seeking escape from a needlessly constricting environment.

Let us flip this around a little. Is it that parts of our nature is organized, put together or pulled apart at random? Or is there something else within that has the capacity to organize or reorganize this nature as it were, to make possible a better way of existing – both economical and mutually progressive? If there is, and it is more and more becoming apparent that something more than this mind, or vital or body has the power of taking charge and reorganizing the being, then is there a way of leaving behind our animality and stepping into a domain of total humanity? And is there a possibility of leaving behind this humanity and stepping into another dimension, perhaps the dimension of divinity? Could this be one way forward in the lineage of life-forms now in existence?

These questions are simple and yet mind-blowing. They have the power to carry us deep into our origins; they also threaten or promise to carry us high into faraway vistas of future possibilities, perhaps potentially locked in our humanity itself.

The world of animals or plants for that matter, is not to be condemned, refused or looked upon with disdain, surely? These creatures of earth occupy their own niche and contribute in their own ways and by being themselves, to the total picture. In fact, they seem to prop up the life of man, king amongst animals, the wise one, to look towards further horizons of light and might. Since the one thread, as it is said, running through the entire, teeming gamut of life is That which is nameless and formless, That which is all Light and Love, then it would be plausible to infer that some of that ray of Light and Love must also perpetrate and express through these forms of life other than man, like the animals and plants.

To catch a glimpse of some of these rays of Light and Love and the constant yearning of Nature to reach her Consort, be one with Him in one mighty embrace, flip the pages of this months edition of our Newsletter on Animals….animality, humanity, divinity…its time for a review…

Flowers of The Month

Rising Star

We must hope that it is the right one!

Common Name: Water Salverform
Botanical Name: Aganosma roxburghii
Spiritual Name: Rising Star

Spiritual Ascension



Fearless, regular, uninterrupted.

Common Name: Zitherwood
Botanical Name: Citharexylum
Spiritual Name: Spiritual Ascension

Rising Star


Far, far away, in the far reaches of our vast roofless space, twinkled a zillion stars. Some were big, some small, some aeons old and some, only moments. Some were dim and hazy and some were sharp and bright. Nonetheless, they were all happy stars, living together, free, with no care in the entire universe. They lived only in the NOW and their star-minds never did house any memory of the past nor did they admit any query about the future. They simply lived their moments, twinkling in the sky, happy being just stars.

One day, a group of little stars expressed a desire to unhook themselves from space and explore worlds below. They imagined these worlds beneath them to be happy spaces, just as theirs. Little stars looked at the oldest star, Big Wise, for his approval. Big Wise thought for a moment and flickered a shiny beam, giving his consent to the great adventure. One by one, all the stars flung themselves into space, taking the plunge bravely, without a trace of fear. Their adventure, thus, began.

In the beginning of the plunge, the stars felt great excitement. The feeling of a free fall from the space they were used to filled them with glee. The little stars squealed with joy and the big ones let out peals of laughter and the rest grinned gleefully. It was the flight of their life-time. Without the slightest thought of their future, of what lay before them, the stars lived only in the NOW, absolutely free of care, absolutely gleeful, living every moment of their plunge.

And like that they fell from their heights, first gliding and gliding, and then falling, falling, falling through thin air, through freezing temperatures and through high and low pressure points in the space around them. Then, sometime later, at one point, the stars realised that all of them were headed towards one small planet orbiting in space known as Earth. There was some strange magnetic force that was pulling them towards Earth. Without the least resistance, the stars went with the flow, giving all of themselves to the plunge. Closer to earth, they found themselves accelerating in their speed. The temperature became warmer and humidity increased. A palpable change came over all the stars. They felt themselves shrinking. Their luster and shine were getting weaker and weaker. Their shapes and sizes were very much altered. However, none of them, felt fear. There was lots of goodwill in them. After all, they were stars. They only trusted in the Best, the Blessed, the Biggest and the Brightest.

In this state, they fell upon Earth, at a point 28° 37', North; 77° 13', East. At the point of their fall, they were looking very much unlike the stars they started off from the sky. However, although different, they retained a soft beauty about them, nevertheless. All the stars fell on a huge paradise garden. Helpless they lay, vulnerable and powerless, wondering about the NOW they were caught in. Around them, there was greenery. This space was filled with the happy chatter of birds and squirrels. Trees small and large stood here and there, sculptured beauties extending their green arms in graceful hospitality. Many shrubs there were, stout and steady, like staunch friends, adding tones to the green. There were flowers all around the fringe of the paradise garden, Nature’s crowning glory and gracious beauty. Some flowers were mauve, turning to bright pink, or purple, some were plain white, some flaming red and others white with streaks of yellow running deep into their hearts. Then there were those which were off-white and some that were pure white with a tube of princely orange. A sweet fragrance wafted across the paradise garden every now and then. This was the language of these flowers that glorified the paradise garden.

Many paths lay upon this paradise garden, cutting across one another at various points. The stars fell upon these paths randomly. Some fell on the Path of Progress, and some on the Path of Wisdom. Then ran the Path of Patience and then the Path of Perfection. Close to this path was the Path of Aspiration which received another batch of stars. The Path of Progress intersected at this point again, followed by the Path of Grace. On the Path of Grace, many stars fell, and strangely felt a kinship to that particular environment. The Path of Silence bordered the periphery of the paradise garden on which some other stars fell. The Path of Love united all of these paths. Those stars that fell on this path were blessed in a special way, as they would find out later. In one single and firm sweep of sweetness, this path alone united the various paths and led them to some magnificent point of concentration in the centre of the garden, a point where everything gathered on the paths were offered in simplicity. An unspeakable Silence was the one resounding response from this point, to anyone and anything that addressed it or sought its solace, companionship and shelter. This point alone worked like a magnet drawing one and all towards that centre.

Now, many beings walked on these paths. Their main aim was to walk their own paths and reach the centre. They were beings of light and were given names according to the colour of light they bore. Some beings were beings of green light, some bore red light, some blue and some others yellow, some bore purple light and some, mauve, and some were of pure white light and golden light. There were hundreds of beings who walked on these paths who bore the full range of shades of the colours mentioned and more. Once in a while, beings walked alone and their colours shone clear and bright. Very often beings walked in pairs and sometimes in threes. When in pairs and threes, the colours took on interesting combinations of shades. Most of the time, the combinations were beautiful combinations and exuded a graceful harmony on the rest of the beings and on the paths they were traveling upon.

The stars observed all these beings passing by. Many beings saw the stars lying on the floor and passed them off as grace flowers showered on the various paths by the grace tree. They left them unattended, ignored. Like this, many days passed. The stars were feeling a slight exhaustion coming over them. Even at this point, they had not one streak of despair in their hearts. They knew not fear, they only knew trust, and quietly, with no other care they lived, for they were only capable of living in the NOW. Many days passed with the stars lying unnoticed.

The wise old star that had fallen with the rest, Big Wise, had been quietly studying the situation. One day, he felt a strange light touch him from the centre of the paradise garden. He realized that there was one way the stars could be saved. The fallen stars had to find their way to the central point of the garden, to that point of intense concentration. How was this to be done? There were so many paths. Which path led to the centre? Who would carry them there? There were so many beings, but none would understand their fallen state and give them a lift! Big Wise conveyed a message to all the stars to gather all their strength and energy and aspire for their transfer to the central point of concentration, from whichever path they found themselves on. The intense aspiration began. Day by day, the aspiration intensified and eventually solidified into a mass of invisible, immortal flame, of orange hue.

It was almost magical, what happened next. Two beings, one of a soft, pink hue and the other, sky blue, were set upon the Path of Love in search of the most beautiful to bring over to the central point of concentration. They picked all the fallen beauties lying on the path, gathering them on a delicate leaf-boat and proceeded on the path. They came across the point where the stars lay. The two beings saw them as grace flowers and recognized also, some semblance to the stars that they see on the sky everyday, during their customary skyward gaze, and intuitively associated them with the stars. The beings decided that all the star-grace flowers, as they named them, had to be picked and offered at the central point, simply because they carried a beauty in them. And so the task began, of picking as many of the delicate star-grace flowers and piling them carefully on leaf-boats. They were carefully brought to the central point of concentration and offered at the altar therein.

Then, in the night of night, when all the beings had retired into their hideouts, the magic happened. One by one, the offered stars gathered strength and were lifted off from the central point of concentration and directed skywards. Their journey upwards towards their place of origin had begun. The glee the stars felt in the ascent was many times more than that of the glee that they had felt in the fall. Only this time, it was full of a quiet joy, complemented with an intense sense of gratitude. For the grace that had befallen on the stars was unspeakable. The aspiration of the rising stars for all their fallen star friends on the other paths to be lifted like them continued ardently and with greater intensity. Every night the two beings on the Path of Love would spend some time picking the star-grace flowers, form a pattern on the leaf-boats and carry them over to the central point. This ritual continued for days.

By now, everyone else passing on the Path of Love came to admire the beauty of the star-grace flowers on the leaf-boats that the two beings of pink and blue had gathered. The word on the beauty of star-grace flowers on leaf-boats spread like wild fire and in seven days time, all the beings of light, walking on the various paths, piled star-grace flowers on leaf-boats and brought them to the central point of concentration. They did this only because it was one beautiful activity that enthralled them. At the altar, the same magic happened in the night of night, when no one was watching.

In twenty-one days time, the entire paradise garden was cleared of star-grace flowers. On the night of the 21st day, the two beings on the Path of Love looked up into the sky. A golden moon was there, a crescent into its eighth day of ascent. Millions of stars swam around this moon, near and far. The night sky was shimmering with a new found brilliance. The stars appeared unusual also, as they reflected different coloured light, all those that were common on the paradise garden! The two beings on the Path of Love looked up at the night sky with wonder and smiled. Just then, a single ray from all the stars above touched their hearts. A bridge had been built. There was no stopping the stars from descending again, this time, well assured of an ascent back to their sky-home. The two beings glowed with joy. The rest of the beings on the paradise garden joined them and looked at the beauty of the night sky in arrested silence and wonderment.
As if a trail of disappearing stars
There showered upon the floating atmosphere
Colours and lights and evanescent gleams
That called to follow in magic heaven,
And in each cry that fainted on the ear
There was the voice of unrealised bliss


(Sri Aurobindo,” Savitri”, Book X, Canto 1)

A bliss is felt that never can wholly cease,
A sudden mystery of secret Grace
Flowers goldening our earth of red desire.

(Sri Aurobindo, “Savitri”, Book II, Canto XII)

- Jayanthy

He is in you, He is you


Lift your eyes towards the Sun; He is there in that wonderful heart of life and light and splendour. Watch at night the innumerable constellations glittering like so many solemn watchfires of the Eternal in the limitless silence which is no void but throbs with the presence of a single, calm and tremendous existence; see there Orion with his sword and belt shining as he shone to the Aryan fathers ten thousand years ago at the beginning of the Aryan era; Sirius in his splendour, Lyra sailing billions of miles away in the ocean of space. Remember that these innumerable worlds, most of them mightier than our own, are whirling with indescribable speed at the beck of that Ancient of Days whither none but He knoweth, and yet that they are a million times more ancient than your Himalaya, more steady than the roots of your hills and shall so remain until He at his will shakes them off like withered leaves from the eternal tree of the Universe. Imagine the endlessness of Time, realize the boundlessness of Space; and then remember that when these worlds were not, He was, the Same as now, and when these are not, He shall be, still the Same; perceive that beyond Lyra He is and far away in Space where the stars of the Southern Cross cannot be seen, still He is there. And then come back to the Earth and realise who this He is. He is quite near you. See yonder old man who passes near you crouching and bent, with his stick. Do you realise that it is God who is passing? There a child runs laughing in sunlight. Can you hear Him in that laughter? Nay, He is nearer still to you. HE is in you. HE is you. It is yourself that burns yonder millions of miles away in the infinite reaches of Space, that walks with confident steps on the tumbling billows of the ethereal sea; it is you who have set the stars in their places and woven the necklace of the suns not with hands but by that Yoga, that silent actionless impersonal Will which has set you here today listening to yourself in me. Look up, O Child of the ancient Yoga, and be no longer a trembler and a doubter; fear not, doubt not, grieve not; for in your apparent body is One who can create and destroy worlds with a breath.

- Sri Aurobindo

(An extract from “Whispers of Nature”, edited by Vijay, Published by Sri Aurobindo Society 1988, printed at Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry)

Electron


The electron on which forms and worlds are built,
Leaped into being, a particle of God.
A spark from the eternal Energy spilt,
It is the Infinite’s blind minute abode.

In that small flaming chariot Shiva rides.
The One devised innumerably to be;
His oneness in invisible forms he hides,
Time’s tiny temples of eternity.

Atom and molecule in their unseen plan
Buttress an edifice of strange onenesses,
Crystal and plant, insect and beast and man, -
Man on whom the World-Unity shall seize,

Widening his soul-spark to an epiphany
Of the timeless vastness of Infinity.

(Sri Aurobindo, Volume 5, Collected Works, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1972. Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)



It is He in the sun who is ageless and deathless,
And into the midnight His shadow is thrown;
When darkness was blind and engulfed within darkness,
He was seated within it immense and alone.


- Sri Aurobindo in the poem, “Who”

Question of The Month

Q: Sweet Mother, how can we make our consciousness vast?
A: Vast? Ah, there are many ways of doing this. The easiest way is to identify yourself with something vast. For instance, when you feel that you are shut up in a completely narrow and limited thought, will, consciousness, when you feel as though you were in a shell, then if you begin thinking about something very vast, as for example, the immensity of the waters of an ocean, and if really you can think of this ocean and how it stretches out far, far, far, far, in all directions, like this (Mother stretches out her arms), how, compared with you, it is so far, so far that you cannot see the other shore, you cannot reach its end anywhere, neither behind nor in front nor to the right or left... it is wide, wide, wide, wide... you think of this and then you feel that you are floating on this sea, like that, and that there are no limits.... This is very easy. Then you can widen your consciousness a little.

Other people, for example, begin looking at the sky; and then they imagine all those spaces between all those stars, and all... that kind of infinity of spaces in which the earth is a tiny point, and you too are just a very tiny point, smaller than an ant, on the earth. And so you look at the sky and feel that you are floating in these infinite spaces between the planets, and that you are growing vaster and vaster to go farther and farther. Some people succeed with this.

There is a way also by trying to identify yourself with all things upon earth.

For example, when you have a small narrow vision of something and are hurt by others’ vision and point of view, you must begin by shifting your consciousness, try to put it in others, and try gradually to identify yourself with all the different ways of thinking of all others. This is a little more ... how shall I put it?... dangerous. Because to identify oneself with the thought and will of others means to identify oneself with a heap of stupidities (Mother laughs) and bad wills, and this may bring consequences which are not very good. But still, some people do this more easily. For instance, when they are in disagreement with someone, in order to widen their consciousness they try to put themselves in the place of the other and see the thing not from their own point of view but from the point of view of the other. This widens the consciousness, though not as much as by the first ways I spoke about, which are quite innocent. They don’t do you any harm, they do you much good. They make you very peaceful.

There are lots of intellectual ways of widening the consciousness. These I have explained fully in my book. But in any case, when you are bored by something, when something is painful to you or very unpleasant, if you begin to think of the eternity of time and the immensity of space, if you think of all that has gone before and all that will come afterwards, and that this second in eternity is truly just a passing breath, and that it seems so utterly ridiculous to be upset by something which in the eternity of time is... one doesn’t even have the time to become aware of it, it has no place, no importance, because, what indeed is a second in eternity? If one can manage to realise that, to... how to put it?... visualise, picture the little person one is, in the little earth where one is, and the tiny second of consciousness which for the moment is hurting you or is unpleasant for you, just this —which in itself is only a second in your existence, and that you yourself have been many things before and will be many more things afterwards, that what affects you now you will have probably completely forgotten in ten years, or if you remember it you will say, “How did I happen to attach any importance to that?”... if you can realise that first and then realise your little person which is a second in eternity, not even a second, you know, imperceptible, a fragment of a second in eternity, that the whole world has unfolded before this and will unfold yet, indefinitely—before, behind—and that... well, then suddenly
you sense the utter ridiculousness of the importance you attach to what happened to you.... Truly you feel... to what an extent it is absurd to attach any importance to one’s life, to oneself, and to what happens to you. And in the space of three minutes, if you do this properly, all unpleasantness is swept away. Even a very deep pain can be swept away. Simply, a concentration like this, and to place oneself in infinity and eternity. Everything goes away. One comes out of it cleansed. One can get rid of all attachments and even, I say, of the deepest sorrows—of everything, in this way —if one knows how to do it in the right way. It immediately takes you out of your little ego. There we are.


(“Complete Works of The Mother”- Volume 6, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1972, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Sri Aurobindo Ashram press, Pondicherry)

From Savitri


At first was only an etheric Space:
Its huge vibrations circled round and round
Housing some unconceived initiative:
Upheld by a supreme original Breath
Expansion and contraction’s mystic act
Created touch and friction in the void,
Into abstract emptiness brought clash and clasp:
Parent of an expanding universe
In a matrix of disintegrating force,
By spending it conserved an endless sum.
On the hearth of Space it kindled a viewless Fire
That, scattering worlds as one might scatter seeds,
Whirled out the luminous order of the stars.
An ocean of electric Energy
Formlessly formed its strange wave-particles
Constructing by their dance this solid scheme,
Its mightiness in the atom shut to rest;
Masses were forged or feigned and visible shapes;
Light flung the photon’s swift revealing spark
And showed, in the minuteness of its flash
Imaged, this cosmos of apparent things,
Thus has been made this real impossible world,
An obvious miracle or convincing show.


(“Savitri”, Book 2, Canto 5)


A Mystery’s process is the universe,
At first was laid a strange anomalous base,
A void, a cipher of some secret Whole,
Where zero held infinity in its sum
And All and Nothing were a single term,
An eternal negative, a matrix Nought:
Into its forms the Child is ever born
Who lives for ever in the vasts of God.
A slow reversal’s movement then took place:
A gas belched out from some invisible Fire,
Of its dense rings were formed these million stars;
Upon earth’s new-born soil God’s tread was heard

(“Savitri”, Book 2, Canto 1)

Editorial

For many of us, the constellations in the sky, in the night as in the day, are our constant companions, our childhood friends that may have weaved many a fantasy in the secret of our hearts and minds. Stars, they are all the more special because they do not swim alone in the sky, as the mighty and majestic Sun appears to do so in daytime. Stars are special. They glimmer. They are like glittering diamonds in the velvety night sky. It was no wonder then that they became our instant childhood friends with our first nursery rhyme, written by a Jane Taylor, 1806:

‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,
How I wonder what you are?
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky!’


Incidentally, music to this age-old rhyme was set by Mozart. The tune was composed for a French song and later took on the lyrics of ‘The Star’.

With us, stars share the same cycle of birth, growth and death and disintegration. However, unlike our earthly body, they enjoy millions to billions of years in the universe.

Stars are formed in regions of high density of interstellar particles known as nebulae. Gas and dust condense to form stars, which contract under their own gravity. Nuclear fusion takes place in the core of the stars to give rise to energy, heat and light energy. The temperature of a star can reach up to 15 million degrees Centigrade. The Sun is the largest and brightest star. The rest of the stars appear in the night sky when the largest star is not near enough to outshine them. The brightest night star is Sirius. A glance upwards, and Sirius appears, big and brilliant, twinkling nicely.

But why are stars so special? Is it because they appear to float far above us in the sky, beyond our reach and yet like gems, beautiful, shimmering and twinkling with life? Is it because they are always there in the sky? In a recent conversation, someone queried interestedly, why stars are given to children for good work, the many stars, the better and brighter. Actors and actresses are acclaimed as stars. Then, valour is rewarded with badges of stars. Flags that declare nationhood are adorned with stars, each star carrying its distinctive meaning. There are 50 stars on the flag of the United States of America, each star denoting a state. There are five stars on the flag of Singapore, each shining as democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality respectively, proclaiming ideals that the nation lives up to, upholds and safeguards.

Then there is the Star of David. Biblical references point us also to the star of David as the shield of David, the shield being God, who shielded David of the Bible in Battle as well as during his flight from Saul.

Sri Aurobindo’s symbol is basically a 6-pointed star, formed from the merger of two triangles, one ascending and the other descending, at the centre. In the Mother’s words:

“The descending triangle represents Sat-Chit-Ananda. The ascending triangle represents the aspiring answer from matter under the form of life, light and love. The junction of both, the central square: is the perfect manifestation having at its centre the Avatar of the Supreme – the lotus. The water: inside the square – represents the multiplicity, creation.”

Such is the nature of stars. There is an air of sacredness around stars since they are found in ethereal spaces and filled with an undying beauty, emitting light with seems like joy. They embody eternal beauty, hope and the promise of a greater day to be.

Let us flip the pages and discover how more they are made to occupy a place very close to our being and our lives, egging us on to always look up, above the daily trudge of life (if trudge it is) and reach out for the stars, and in doing so, exceeding our selves and natures, heading towards vistas vast.