Guiding Light of The Month

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

Painting

Excerpts from Recounts and Reflections by Diyas

At the end of their stint in Singapore, Diyas from mirambika quietly recounted and reflected at length about their Singapore Trip. We present here excerpts of their recounts and reflections.

Singapore’s readiness…..


Why did I say “yes” to visit “Singapore”? The question is still in my mind. Though the days at Singapore are almost over, I have not yet received a clear answer to this question. Here, I have experienced a little of what in Sri Aurobindo’s words, “the readiness in the matter, life energy and of mind in the western world”. The spirits touch is awaiting, the time will arrive soon.

And the nature’s play on earth is same everywhere on earth….

Sulochana

The people who received us…….

….. about all the sight seeing and interaction sessions which were organized for us. Everything was an eye-opener for me…The selection of places to visit was so much relevant to the whole group and each one of us found something that we enjoyed. One thing I would like to mention here is the way the sessions went. The people were so much respectful, sincere in receiving us, really spent time with us.

Baren

Some notes on what caught my attention…..

No honking on the roads – vehicles are moving at high speed at ease as roads do not have many arteries to them. There was less noise pollution. Road users score high on sensitivity, few pedestrians more vehicles; streets are not so crowded except in Little India where we saw many people in the market place. Singapore scores high on aesthetic sense – everything is neat and clean, designed, maintained and preserved well. No agricultural land, cultivation is rare as land is small so things are mostly imported. Corporal punishment is practiced. Houses are kept well as seen in the few we visited. I wonder how people staying in the multi-storied buildings manage without being close to the earth for many days. Singapore looks like a young nation trying hard to achieve its goal collectively. People do have a say as noted from the newspaper’s readers’ column where they are voicing their concerns on reports published. Existence of multi-cultural and multi-racial harmony. This is something many countries can learn from Singapore.
I have heard about this centre since Dr Nadkarniji’s time and wondered how it would be like. After almost 25 years since I first heard about this centre, I got a chance to see it. I enjoyed the question and answer sessions, discussions with the members and the ambience of the centre. It holds the spirit of peace, harmony, beauty and a strong vibration.
Srila


Impressions.…..

As a place: Singapore is a beautiful country, a combination of natural and artificial beauty. One could find a balance between the two. One would be surprised to see the rain forest as well as a lot of greenery in the middle of the city. Everything is well organized and properly maintained and it is a very clean city. Technologically, the country is very advanced. People are very hard-working and disciplined. A lot of energy and thought must have been spent in proper planning and executing, though resources are minimal. Spiritually speaking, “Each atom of matter contains something of Thy energy” – this has been expressed there. Orchid –‘attachment to the Divine’ being the national flower, certainly in the physical level the place has reached its goal and so, beauty is expressed everywhere.

Education: Singapore’s schools impressed me very much. In all the schools as well as at National Institute of Education, I felt that the ambience was well maintained. Teachers were very receptive and hard working. They showed their eagerness to know about mirambika. The most attractive place was their library. Everything was controlled and maintained so smoothly. They manage their time very efficiently. I felt a lot of dynamism in their work process. People appear to excel in the mental level. A bridge now needs to be done, perhaps, to cover the gap between matter and spirit.

Culture: In Singapore, one can find a mixed culture – culture of China, Malaysia and India. Each race celebrates its own festivals and in the schools children were exposed to all the culture, which was a nice thing. The vibration of Indian culture is very much felt here. The great thing is people are able to find their time for it. When we visited the Mariamman temple in the morning, the music was excellent. It was so piercing that one forgot to listen to all other noises of the outside world. It was like a symbol that ‘prepares your self to receive the God’. It was nice to see the faces of all the Gods and Goddesses early in the morning.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s work: In the centre I saw many aspiring souls ready to do the work of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. When I thought about this, I felt ‘who am I to think about this?’ It is the Lord himself who does everything and He will choose the instruments and do his work in time.

Me and my being: This was a trip where I was very joyful throughout and I was able to maintain that balance somehow. I was able to walk harmoniously with all others and I was able to remember the words of Sri Aurobindo throughout.

Rasmita

Activities and adventures…..

We started early for the centre. A few children were already there. After a brief introduction from Jayanthy didi we started the game with both parents and the children. I took the initiative to make them play. We had not planned this before hand; on the spot the way the ideas came, we went on playing, with a purpose to play together and to play for fun, trying as far as possible to keep the sensitivity alive. We played for more than an hour, then the parents went for the Q&A session with our senior didis and we sat with the children to make science toys. There were about 15 children, they were all eager to learn everything. So here also our earlier planning, to work in sub groups did not work and the learning took place exactly in a mirambika way. I started cutting the paper strips, Rasmita helped some of the older children to make the fan and they were asked to help the younger ones. Then they also learned how to make the catapult and the pen-knife. In between I found a very young girl who was not able to get involved in the activities with the rest and so I started spending some time with her. At one time while collecting the flowers with her in the courtyard, when I looked at the group, I found all of them were much involved in their learning process. It became a difficult job for us to stop the process as it was time to go back home. So only with a few children we were able to do some reflective activity. Again I found the children very much receptive and they were able to relate with the questions. A few of them gave some in-depth replies; even the little girl expressed herself with a confident look on her face.

On Monday, 25th May, with our packed picnic lunch, we started our journey to ‘Pulau Ubin’ in a boat. It was a pleasant ride, so many surprises were waiting for us there - the mangrove plants, the big monitor lizard, the mud-lobster’s mud-house, the jungle trekking, finding a Britisher’s house in the midst of the jungle and the sound of the crickets. It was a new and interesting experience for me. Here we came across the natural wealth of Singapore which was also well preserved by the people. While on our ramble, we saw fruit trees like ‘rambutan’ and ‘durian’. The next day on 26th, we went for trekking inside the rain forest (seemingly untouched!). It was beyond my expectation. There was a big reservoir. Enjoying the beauty of both the sides I was moving ahead at my own pace. I was not interested in knowing the names, but I liked listening to the little stories about some trees. I saw a few tall and old ‘Shorea’ trees, standing like ‘Witnesses’ and seeing to all the progress happening around them. We went forward to feel one. On our return path, I was collecting some flowers and leaves, mostly as a habit. Suddenly we saw a big lizard appear very close by us, along the foot path. As it was a sudden appearance, the flowers and leaf they were on fell down from my hand, but were picked up again and rearranged on the leaf. It was a baby lizard, with relaxed and graceful movement it was searching for its prey. We stood still for many minutes watching it. It was quite a treat for us, and made our day. Jayanthy didi and I offered the flowers to this lovely creature and its lovely Creator.

Minati

Mirambika in our midst


The seed of this visit that materialized recently was planted some 2 years back, at approximately the same time of the year. There was already thought in Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi branch, about sending one or two diyas to Singapore to learn about the education system here and when this thought was voiced, I was more than confident that that could be arranged. This beginning blossomed into a group of five diyas (not two), all with varied backgrounds and experiences to set foot on Singapore soil for the first time and bring back with them, what they professed to be a life-time’s experience.

I have been in mirambika for 2 years and those two years were enough to let me know where I stood as a so called ‘educationist’. I was trained to teach. Teaching stopped making any sense in mirambika. That was where and when I lost my bearings and set off on what seems like a new journey (and the journey is still in its infancy, I know) to discover the true aim of education and the means of actualizing that education. mirambika offered some solid experience for me as to how that education could be facilitated. Nothing here was cast in stone. Everything was fluid, everything changed. The classroom was a dynamo, all the time waiting to explode (and strangely, it never did). Nevertheless, it was teeming with a certain kind of energy, a creative energy that was seeking out something for itself, an energy that was charting out a path for itself, that was constantly searching, feeling its way around, but an energy that was certain of reaching its goal, and also knew, with the end of one search, another fresh one started, right after. Everything was in a state of flux. All plans fell through, like dust in the stir of the children’s energy (I am referring to the energy in a class of 9 to 11 year olds). Only one thing seemed to be constant and seemed to hold all of us together. It was the aspiration of the diyas and all who supported mirambika on her external (and also, inevitably, internal as well) fa├žade, from the principle to the senior diyas, to the trainee diyas, to the volunteer diyas, to the didis and bays who cleaned the place and maintained it physically, to the parents who were ever so present in mirambika’s midst … a single thread of aspiration and goodwill bound us and a trust in Divinity that the guidance will be there. And the children, they were little godsends from heaven, as all children are and they thrived beautifully in the atmosphere. At dismissal time, one could see many young children going home reluctantly, with tears steaming down their cheeks. This is no picture of a fairytale haven I am painting. mirambika lives through her fair share of trials and travail, her moments of anxieties and frustrations but very quickly I have seen all these evaporate as suddenly as they would have descended. Something special was in mirambika. A walk on the Sunlit Path that leads to mirambika from the main ashram grounds would speak sweet secrets of silence and quiet and calm and twinkling joy, just to be there. The entire building, the physical body of mirambika reverberated with a special love (at least for me) that did not seek anything for itself, just knew how to give.

mirambika means all these to me and more. What more can the arrival of five diyas from mirambika mean? I was elated as the dream of having all five visit Singapore and have them staying at one’s own home, seeing to each of their needs, keeping them comfortable, ferrying them to places where mirambika education method was to be shared, to our centre for that special interaction amongst members of one family, to special, precious spots in Singapore, like the tropical rainforest enclaves in McRitchie Reservoir, Pulau Ubin and to the well acclaimed tourists spots such as Sentosa and the Zoo, flowered before me, in a beautiful manner, as if everything just fell into place. If there was one thing that there was there when we were all living together, it was harmony, a soft, beautiful presence that constantly smiled to each beat of our hearts, each step we took and each tick of time for those 12 odd days of the trip.

A couple of Singapore schools were visited, one primary and one secondary. These schools shared with the diyas about the system here and how the schools ran. School tours added much colour to the sharing as diyas saw the manifestation of the plans that were described verbally during the sharing sessions. The question and answer sessions at the end of the tours were another welcomed opportunity for the diyas. There was brief mention of the mirambika way in these schools at the end of the presentation and I observed how intense the interest was in the free progress method during those brief moments of exchange and as the mirambika souvenirs were glimpsed before the diyas bade the school teams farewell.

The next school in line was Global India School. Here, teachers were treated to half an hour’s film show on mirambika. It was evident that that show stole the hearts of the teachers. Many questions streamed in during the question and answer session, pointed and direct. One question echoed the question that many ask. In a system where exams were inevitable, how can integral education be practiced? The answer to this question would take one into the philosophy of Integral Education and the various debates around it. For now, it would suffice to mention that the teachers were assured that each teacher had the potential of shaping the integral development of the child. The teachers themselves will need to have a taste of what integral development was all about.


The sharings at our centre, be it with the normal Sunday crowd or with parents and facilitators of IEP children, was special too. The discussion again was intense as young parents brought up their trials and tribulations. The diyas took each question consciously and answered them in a markedly centred way. They facilitated the children’s Sunday programme amicably. They were candid with the children and in no time, children took to all of them naturally and watching them all at play settled a sense of wonder and satisfaction within.

The diyas expressed sheer delight in discovering aspects of Singapore. Their keen eyes never missed a detail along the streets of Singapore. The green spaces blocked out in some areas on the island filled the diyas with awe. A bustling township is passed in one instance and the next finds us in a remote and secluded green belt of peace and rejuvenating spirit. Every now and then comparisons were made with India and we would delve into the greatness of both countries and how each could benefit from the other in significant ways. We also discussed the different outlooks of the countries, politically, sociologically and spiritually.

It was a 12-day period fraught with activity, but we kept one another reminded in keeping centred, without having to use any words. It naturally flowed from the being, from person to person into everything that was done. Their mission here was seen as significant. No one actually knows to this day, why Providence had them all here at the same time, but each held their experiences as sacred and offered.

Here is a toast to our friends from mirambika, builders of the golden bridge - from Bharatam.

- Jayanthy

Some thoughts on integral education


When we began the Integral Education Program (IEP) at our centre, five years ago, my motivations for joining the program were purely scholarly. I was very interested in the works of Mother and Sri Aurobindo, especially their works on Education. I was aware of the lack in the current education system and wished to see how we could apply the works of Mother and Sri Aurobindo to bridge this gap. More recently, the evolution of the IEP program as well as being a mother has somewhat changed my goals of Integral Education. I have begun to regard it, not as a system of education, but as a transformation, not something that takes place in children, but something that should take place in everyone, six or sixty years old.

The Mother has said that Education must begin at birth and continue throughout life. And now, as a mother, as a facilitator to my children, I am going through what one may call, a second phase of education, and in a sense, it is a more important education than what I went through in the first phase.

There is a constant feeling of being watched. Children are very sensitive and perceptual, so much so that it is necessary to watch one’s every step and ensure that it is the most beautiful of all that can be imparted at that instant. Just yesterday, there was an argument in the house - one of those ordinary, everyday arguments. My daughter, however, perceived the feelings that ran under the argument. Immediately she voiced out” I am very angry.” “I am very angry too”, I countered. Later, after she had returned to her play, and me to mine, I reflected. In an ideal world, I would not have my child exposed to arguments. However, when the day’s tiredness strikes up, irritability comes forward. If this is the case, a child is sure to perceive the under currents of tension in a conversation. Should I just go on and pretend that the argument never happened? Obviously, that is not a choice. The Mother has said somewhere that children are very keen observers. When they sense a weakness, they will pounce on it.
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I remembered a jingle that came with one of my child’s toys. “Happy is a feeling and feelings come and go. Let your feelings show”. It was necessary for me to show her that vital feelings are a part of life, that they come and go, and they are not to control us. Then, of course, would begin the step of how we can change our lifestyles together in such a way that these feelings do not crop up. This meant a reflection, on my part on why the irritability was there, and try to pull it out of its roots.

This was just one experience but a learning point, even a small milestone in the evolution of integral education. This is where integral education is a journey, it is even more of an arduous journey for me than writing a PhD thesis. Every moment is a decision, every action requires a reflection, every activity demands perfection in the best possible sense. A half baked piece of work is simply not enough, it leaves all of us unsatisfied. There is, not just an aspiration, but an aspiration driven by need, for perfection, and that makes the integral education of a child, and that of a parent, a form of yoga in its own right.
Kiruthika

Significance of the symbol of the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education


“One of the most recent forms under which Sri Aurobindo conceived of the development of his work was to establish at Pondicherry an International University Centre open to students from all over the world.

It is considered that the most fitting memorial to his name would be to found this University now so as to give concrete expression to the fact that his work continues with unabated vigour.”
- The Mother, 1951


"Sri Aurobindo is present in our midst, and with all the power of his creative genius he presides over the formation of the University Centre which for years he considered as one of the best means of preparing the future humanity to receive the Supramental Light that will transform the elite of today into a new race manifesting upon earth the new light and force and life."

- Inaugural Message of the Mother 24th April, 1951

Personality traits of a successful teacher


1. Complete self-control not only to the extent of not showing any anger, but remaining absolutely quiet and undisturbed under all circumstances.

2. In the matter of self-confidence, must also have a sense of the relativity of his importance. Above all, must have the knowledge that the teacher himself must always progress if he wants his students to progress, must not remain satisfied either with what he is or with what he knows.

3. Must not have any sense of essential superiority over his students nor preference or attachment whatsoever for one or another.

4. Must know that all are equal spiritually and instead of mere tolerance must have a global comprehension or understanding.

5. “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, The Human Cycle)

June 1954

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Never forget that to be a good teacher one has to abolish in oneself all egoism.

10 December 1959

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And to be worthy of teaching according to the supramental truth given us by Sri Aurobindo there should no longer be any ego.

December 1960

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Question of The Month

Q: Sweet Mother, there are some things which are good for my progress but seem to me very uninteresting. For example, mathematics is a good subject but it does not appeal to me. Please tell me, how can I take interest in the things to which I am not drawn?

A: There are a lot of things that we need to know, not because we find them especially interesting but because they are useful and even indispensable; mathematics is one of them. It is only when we have a strong background of knowledge that we can face life successfully.

Q: How can mathematics, history or science help me to find you?

A: They can help in several ways:

1. To become capable of receiving and bearing the light of the Truth, the mind must be made strong, wide and supple. These studies are a very good way to achieve this.
2. If you study science deeply enough, it will teach you the unreality of appearances and thus lead you to the spiritual reality.
3. The study of all the aspects and movements of physical Nature will bring you into contact with the universal Mother, and so you will be closer to me.

- The Mother, 17th December 1966

(CWM Volume 12, On Education, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1978, published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

Savitri


A heavenlier passion shall upheave men’s lives,
Their minds shall share in the ineffable gleam,
Their heart shall feel the ecstasy and the fire,
Earth’s bodies shall be conscious of a soul;
Mortality’s bond–slaves shall unloose their bonds,
Mere men into spiritual beings grow
And see awake the dumb divinity.
Intuitive beams shall touch the nature’s peaks,
A revelation stir the nature’s depths:
The Truth shall be the leader of their lives,
Truth shall dictate their thought and speech and act,
They shall feel themselves lifted nearer to the sky,
As if a little lower than the gods.
For knowledge shall pour down its radiant streams
And even darkened mind quiver with new life
And kindle and burn with the Ideal’s fire
And turn to escape from mortal ignorance.


(Savitri, Book 11, Canto 1)

Editorial

Education has been popularly defined as the process of acquiring knowledge on a certain body, phenomena or object or the acquiring of skills to do a particular work in a prescribed way. It has been in existence since the dawn of human life as man strove for his survival in a world co-habited by other life-forms, learning to do what he was doing better and better for the purpose of survival. With the evolution of modern man, education too has evolved in its meaning and execution. Generally, it has been a means to pass down from generation to generation the learnings of the previous generation. Or it was a means to educate groups of people on skills needed for an occupation that earned that group of people a living. Education, formal and informal, has through the centuries, played a vital role in the intellectual, administrative, economical, social and cultural structures of societies.

Within the existent framework of mainstream education, modifications and changes have become prevalent, thanks to revolutionary thoughts on Education by the likes of John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Vygotsky. However, fundamentally, the function of education has not shifted from serving a utilitarian purpose to one that is practiced for the happy development of a whole person.

Alternative methods of education begin from a changed perspective of viewing the learner as someone deserving more than realize the functions and expectations imposed on him or her by a larger society. In these methods, the learner and his or her inner development is given prominence for his or her own fulfillment. Education is a way of facilitating the flowering of something inherent within the individual, which was the seed source of all else in him or that arises from him. Education is merely a tool, not a template that moulds a being into prescribed, predetermined shapes and sizes to carry out certain functions in society.

In the philosophy of integral education, for example, education is a means to the flowering of the soul, from its obscure depths in a being to the full light of a higher existence. The soul that flowers forth takes over the workings of the mind, life and body and leads the being towards the fulfillment of the purpose of its birth upon earth. In the process, perfection of all the instruments of this nature are called for, initially undertaken as a kind of tapasya and later, when the psychic being from within rises to the fore, blossoms into a harmonious movement of the being towards its own fulfillment.

A brighter heavenlier sun must soon illumine
This dusk room with its dark internal stair,
The infant soul in its small nursery school
Mid objects meant for a lesson hardly learned
Outgrow its early grammar of intellect
And its imitation of Earth-Nature’s art,
Its earthly dialect to God-language change,
In living symbols study Reality
And learn the logic of the Infinite. -Savitri

According to Sri Aurobindo, “Nothing can be taught to the mind which is not already concealed as a potential knowledge in the unfolding soul of the creature” and the true purpose of education is to show the child, “where this knowledge lies and how it can be habituated to rise to the surface.” According to The Mother, the mind is merely an instrument of “formation, of organization and action” not “an instrument of Knowledge, since “knowledge belongs to a much higher domain than that of the human mind, far above the regions of pure ideas”. In fact, the “mind has to be silent and attentive to receive knowledge from above and manifest it.”

Partho, a practitioner of Integral Education sums up a vision for education thus: “The education that shall labour to awaken the highest and the deepest in man will have to be an education touched and moulded by the deeper truths of the soul…..It is by possessing the soul that man will possess this truth that will fulfill his being and his race.”

It is in the interest progress that one explores education in depth, first of one’s own education and then of the collective. Some questions are in order: What are one’s views on education? Who or what has shaped them? Who decides what a “good” education is? How do we shape the way education is practiced in our country and in the world at large?

Memories of Birthdays with The Divine Mother

Children waited eagerly for their birthday. In the ‘50’s, when the number of inmates in the Ashram was small compared to now, there was a strong sense of belonging. All of us felt that that we were a part of a big extended family; Birthdays were an occasion for sharing. Young and old, we felt made you feel very special on that day. Nirmal da, who looked after some of the gardens of the Ashram would come home beaming with a big smile and a huge bouquet of freshly plucked flowers which we would offer to the Mother when we went to see Her. The fragrance and the colours filled the heart with beauty. Then, tenderly he would point at the flowers and tell their significance; “This one is Receptivity and this Divine Love and this Sincerity, Endurance, Simplicity, Humility…” and in this way he would continue till he had pointed out all the flowers. For us it was a bouquet of prayer so that through these flowers we aspired for all that they signified.

In Forty Years Ago, a beautiful account of personal memories of Sahana Devi, she recalls the unique role flowers have played in the life lived in the Ashram,

“The part flowers have played in the Ashram has been quite unique, perhaps astonishing to an observer from outside. Flowers have always had a deep rapport with life lived here. Each flower was recognized by its inner vibration by the Mother and named by her according to its significance, and it so happened that we were prone to forget the usual names of most flowers. For example, the Tulsi plant meant ‘Devotion’. We have become used to calling this plant ‘Devotion’, receive it from the Mother as such and offering it to her in the same sprit. Similarly, the flower Shefali is called ’Aspiration’. In this way, flowers are not looked upon as just flowers but seen from a different point of view. Flowers everywhere are associated with offerings as well as for decorating the house of God. Here it is something more- a silent language in our inner dealings with the Mother. Nearly always we express to the Mother through flowers our inner needs and aspirations, our obeisance surging from our heart and she, too, gives us her blessings and directives through flowers. “

(“Breath of Grace”, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust)

Each one was made to feel special on their birthday. At school, teachers told us a story. In a group we chose the game we wanted to play. We were made the captain of the team; a special privilege. But the most eagerly awaited moment was when we went to the Mother for Pranam. As soon as we were in front of Her, She would say “Bonne fete! “ with Her tender look. Her radiant smile, Her outpouring love, bathed us in an indescribable joy, and then she would ask "Quel age as tu (how old are you)? On our birthday we prepared some offering that we made ourselves, things like cards, stuffed toys, some small embroidery etc. We took this to Her arranged in a big box so that She could see at a glance. Everything that we had made for Her, She would touch, almost caress the things with so much of love and attention that it made us feel so proud and worthy of being Her child. She too had surprises for us: sweets in a little bag, the number corresponding to our age, sometimes. She gave a book or a toy and of course there was the birthday bouquet of flowers. We spontaneously put our head on her lap and then on Her feet, this was the moment of bliss, a feeling that I recognized much later, at that moment, it was a boundless joy!

We went to the Mother several times in the day. Each time it was quite different. . The last darshan of the day was late in the night just after she returned from the playground. I still remember the feeling; sleep trying to catch up and somewhere a feeling, not to let this day end. The excitement was over and then came Her kiss on my forehead, a seal of her Love, Bliss and Ananda, to assure me that SHE IS ALWAYS WITH ME!
-- Anjana Sarkar

May 1st 1950 - Birthday reminiscences


But now the destined spot and hour were close;
Unknowing she had neared her nameless goal.
For though a dress of blind and devious chance
Is laid upon the work of all-wise Fate,
Our acts interpret an omniscient Force
That dwells in the compelling stuff of things,
And nothing happens in the cosmic play
But at its time and its foreseen place.

-- Sri Aurobindo in “Savitri” Book 5, Canto 1



The year of my destiny arrived in 1950 and the “destined spot and hour were close”, the date was May 1st 1950, the place- Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondichery. I knew very little about the Ashram, since I was from Gujarat. Someone gave me a letter of introduction to a well-known Gujarati ashramite. Very significantly, I reached Pondicherry on my birthday on May 1st 1950, having no idea of the special significance of birthdays in the ashram. I found myself joining the Prosperity queue in the ashram. Thus without knowing anything about the Mother, my first darshan of Her was on my Birthday! I consider this day to be the day of rebirth and my true day of birth.

On another occasion too, after some years, on my Birthday I eagerly awaited and prepared joyously to go for Mother’s darshan. A velvety bedspread and specially imported perfume Je Reviens by Worth was my gift on this occasion. At the last moment, my little daughter also insisted on taking some offering to the Mother. In my business, I used to receive many tiny sample phials of perfume. My little girl filled her hands with those small bottles and happily we went to the Mother.

The Mother received us graciously, showered her love and blessings on me and asked which books I would like to have. I replied, “Mother, I have not yet read the books you gave me last time.” After receiving my birthday card and bouquet I felt inwardly that the Mother had given me what I needed. She turned to my daughter and gave her full attention.
She asked, “What have you brought?” The child opened her hands. “Oooh… with a voice full of joyous wonder the Mother said, “You have brought Worth perfume! Do you know the history of their manufacturer?” She caressed my daughter and son. I was overcome with the sweetness of it all. My mind observed that the velvety bedspread and big bottle of perfume did not get such appreciation from the Mother as the handful of sample phials. Mysterious are the ways of The Divine! The Mother went on to tell the children the whole story of the firm that manufactured the perfume. She opened all these small capsules of perfume that very day. Later she must have mentioned how much she liked the perfume, because the same day Dyuman went to the market and bought all the available bottles of this particular perfume.

Whenever I went to the Mother I would lovingly look in The Mother’s eyes and drink in her smile. For me they represent Bliss, Ananda, and Transcendental Joy. It is more precious than the whole Brahmananda. After coming to Singapore, I did not have physical darshan of The Mother again, but my children lived in the Ashram and my daughter made it her permanent home. There is a constant inner and outer contact with the Ashram. All the people connected with the ashram who visit Singapore, invariably became my guests. My body lives in Singapore, but my soul has always remained in Pondicherry. It is an inestimable honour to be counted as one of The Mother’s children and to serve The Mother in whatever way it is possible from a distance.

But who can show to thee Truth’s glorious face
Our human words can only shadow her.
To thought she is an unthinkable rapture of light,
To speech, a marvel inexpressible.
O Death, if thou couldst touch the Truth supreme
Thou wouldst grow suddenly wise and cease to be.
If our souls could see and love and clasp God’s Truth,
Its infinite radiance would seize our hearts,
Our being in God’s image be remade
And earthly life become the life divine.

- Sri Aurobindo in Savitri, Book 10, Canto 4

Birthdays and The Mother – Some Reminiscences


It is your birthday tomorrow?
Yes, Mother.

How old will you be?
Twenty-six, Mother.

I shall see you tomorrow and give you something special. You will see, I am not speaking of anything material- that, I shall give you a card and all that- but of something…You will see, tomorrow, now go home and prepare yourself quietly so that you may be ready to receive it.
Yes, Mother.



You know, my child, what “Bonne Fete” signifies, that is, the birthday we wish here?
Like that, I know what it means, Mother, but not the special significance you want to tell me.

Yes, it is truly a special day in one’s life. It is one of those days in the year when the Supreme descends into us- or when we are face to face with the Eternal- one of those days when our soul comes in contact with the Eternal and, if we remain a little conscious, we can feel His Presence within us. If we make a little effort on this day, we accomplish the work of many lives as in a lightning flash. That is why I give so much importance to the birthday- because what one gains in one day is truly something incomparable. And it is for this that I also work to open the consciousness a little towards what is above so that one may come before the Eternal. My child, it is a very, very special day, for it is the day of decision, the day one can unite with the Supreme Consciousness. For the Lord lifts us on this day to the highest region possible so that our soul which is a portion of that Eternal Flame, may be united and identified with its Origin.

This day is truly an opportunity in life. One is so open and so receptive that one can assimilate all that is given. I can do many things, that is why it is important.

It is one of those days when the Lord Himself opens the doors wide for us. It is as though He were inviting us to rekindle more powerfully the flame of aspiration. It is one of those days which He gives us. We too, by our personal effort, could attain to this, but it would be long, hard and not so easy. And this- this is a real chance in life- the day of Grace.

It is an occult phenomenon that occurs invariably, without our knowledge, on this particular day of the year. The soul leaves behind the body and journeys up and up till it merges into the Source in order to replenish itself and absorb from the Supreme Its Power, Light and Ananda and comes down charged for a whole year to pass. Then again and again… it continues like this year after year.



(“Sweet Mother – Harmonies of Light”, words recollected by Mona Sarkar, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)
**************

She greeted me with a BONNE FETE.

‘I want flowers’, she said to Gautam, who was waiting outside.

M: I am grateful for the gifts Mother has sent me (earlier in the day she had sent a special card with her Love and Blessings inscribed and a Rose Flower).
I made pranam and on looking up found her looking into me in a concentrated way. Suddenly, I broke into speech, unpremeditated:
M: I have read much, I have studied and have known many things, I know that you are the greatest manifestation of the Divine in history, without exception (she nodded), I know it. I know what I say. (There was a visible emotion in my being by now.) (She nodded.)
M: I am weak…..

Mother: Hm.
M: Help me.
She had been holding my hands. Now she took my head in her hands and blessed me long.
I felt a new year had opened for me.

14.6.1959

***************
A glorious day!
“What do you want for your birthday?” Mother asked after greeting me.

M: Thy love.
Mother: It is there already, for ever.
M: I want to express it.
Mother began to concentrate, holding my hands. It went on and on. Then she kissed me long on my forehead. She gave me the White Lotus.
M: there is an aspiration all the twenty-four hours to embody something of Thy Consciousness, manifest something of Thy Love, to serve Thee to my last breath.
On the Birthday Card was written:

My love and Blessings for fulfilment of his aspiration!

Once again she gathered me in and poured herself. It was wonderful.
When I came down, B and others were waiting, later B said that as I came, an Ocean was advancing.
14.6.1972

(“Mother and I”, M.P. Pandit, Dipti publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

(Shri M.P. Pandit’s birth anniversary is observed every year at his residence on 14th of June by a group of admirers and devotees He is remembered with reverence and gratitude and the day is celebrated with prayer and release of new books, followed by a visit to Sri Aurobindo’s room and meditation in the evening)


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

On my birthday in 1953, the Mother greeted me with her usual “Bonne Fete” and then started in French, with a sweet smile, “Quel age avez-vous?” (How old are you?)

Myself: 51 ans passes, Douce Mere. (51 years over, Sweet Mother.)
Mother: Vous etes encore enfant (You are still a child.) Then holding both my hands, she resumed in English: “You feel better now?”
Myself: Yes, Mother. I feel much better and stronger, but I can’t get rid of the suggestion that I am getting on in age…
Mother: No, you must not listen to it. It is a collective suggestion thrown upon everybody. One can go on being active in spite of age. I have seen people of 90 who were younger than boys of 10. No, you must get rid of that suggestion altogether.
Myself: I don’t feel at all that I am so old, but the suggestion is there. There are so many things left to be done.
Mother: Exactly. You must not allow that suggestion to disturb you.


(“Memorable Contacts with The Mother”, Nirodbaran, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)

Question of the Month

Q: I would like to know the true meaning of birthdays?

A: From the viewpoint of the inner nature, the individual is more receptive on his birthday from year to year, and thus it is an opportune moment to help him to make some new progress each year.

Q: How should one spend one’s birthday?

A: …in finding out the purpose of life.


Q: What is the meaning of one’s birthday, apart from its commemorative character? How can one take advantage of this occasion?

A: Because of the rhythm of the universal forces, a person is supposed to have a special receptivity on his birthday each year.

He can therefore take advantage of this receptivity by making good resolutions and fresh progress on the path of his integral development.




(AIM magazine – Significance of Birthdays, March 2003)

Savitri


There is a shrouded law, an austere force:
It bids thee strengthen thy undying spirit;
It offers its severe benignances
Of work and thought and measured grave delight
As steps to climb to God’s far secret heights.
Then is our life a tranquil pilgrimage,
Each year a mile upon the heavenly Way,
Each dawn opens into a larger Light.
Thy acts are thy helpers, or events are signs,
Waking and sleep are opportunities
Given to thee by an immortal Power:
So canst thou raise thy pure unvanquished spirit
Till spread to heaven in a wide vesper calm,
Indifferent and gentle as the sky,
It greatens slowly into timeless peace.


(Savitri, Book 6, Canto 1)

Editorial

Birthdays! The mention of this brings to the heart a cluster of subtle vibrations. Would one call it joy? Or would it be happiness? Would some feel heaviness or would it be some semblance of silence that greets one? Or would it simply be a smile as one reminisces on memories of what one had felt for each of the birthdays past? For that matter, would one remember at all, the nuances that flavoured each birthday that has passed? Or would it be best to lift each passing birthday up into the air to be swept away like a feather by passing winds and look forward to the next with fresh fervour?

For each of us, our birthdays and also those of our loved ones have their special significance. Birthdays may bring to mind the best of cakes we would have eaten, freshly ordered from the nearby bakery or a posh one in town, or a divinely simple but special kesari (sweet semolina pudding) made by mum’s own loving hands, or the experimental cup-cakes siblings would have tried in one’s name, and which would have tasted special, even if the result of a failed experiment. Invading our minds, at the mention of this word may be special presents we may have received from special people around us or that distant card from a loved one overseas. They may bring to mind the late night out at a birthday bash in a friend’s home or in a night-club. For some of us, it may bring to mind lonely hours spent in cold and sultry weather, away from home on a mission in a foreign land. For some others, it may be a day spent at the country’s border, fighting a battle of honour in defense of one’s Motherland. Or it may be just another day, lived as any other, and forgotten.

It appears there are as many ways of celebrating birthdays as there are countries. In China, a birthday child is served noodles for lunch to symbolize wishes for a long life. In Canada, a birthday child is ambushed and his or her nose greased, the greasy nose being too slippery for bad luck to catch. In Germany, candles are left burning on the cake for the whole day from sunrise, as many candles as the age and an extra candle for good luck. After dinner, the candles are blown out at one go with a wish and presents are opened. In the western world, it appears that tradition of birthday parties started in Europe. It was believed that one was especially vulnerable to evil spirits on birthdays. As a form of protection, friends and family gathered around the birthday person and brought them good thoughts and wishes. Gifts had a greater power in warding off evil spirits, it was believed and that was the beginning of the tradition of birthday parties.

However, in the practice of Integral Yoga, none of these seem to feature. In one life-time, one is born only once and herein seems to lie the grandeur, the significance of the day, the hour, the moment of birth. It is this incident that rolls before us a path, long or short, of experiences, marked by milestone after milestone. Such a moment needs to be put into perspective. It is a moment to be remembered, revisited, if only to ask the question, “Why have I come?”, “Why am I here?”, “What is the purpose of my birth?” as is a moment to carve out beginnings of new pathways towards some high goal.

The Mother simply puts it thus:
“….. it is an opportune moment to … make some new progress each year.”

Why is it an opportune moment and how is this progress to be made? In the following pages lie the answers to these questions. This edition also paints a beautiful picture of recollections by sadhaks of birthdays spent at the ashram engulfed by The Mother’s grace in tangible ways.

The deeper significance of this special day will be felt in the deepest caves of our hearts, remaining one’s own secret, shared perhaps with the Divine alone.

Here is wishing everyone out there a Beautiful Birthday, every hour that he or she is born. With smiles….