The beauty that will express Divine Power.
- The Mother
Common Name: Chinese hibiscus
Botanical Name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Spiritual Name: Beauty of Tomorrow
This newsletter throws some light on beauty in light of integral philosophy, and some possibilities of beauteous experiences in our own lives and around us and the greater good that beauty could serve. But before attending to any issues or questions on beauty, one needs to be intimately familiar with what beauty means in the psyche of each one of us. What do we hold as beautiful – this must then be the primary question that one ought to pose oneself. It takes some time to get to the root of this but it is worth trying. For in the attempt at coming to an understanding of what beauty means to oneself, one is made to delve into something about oneself, of the stuff that one is made out of. The determining factor could be a mental framework we carry with us, or something that pleases the heart or it could be one that makes one feel, “just good”. What makes one decide that something is or is not beautiful? Then there is another question worth pondering over…. Are there common objects or subjects of beauty that every human being would accept as beautiful? If yes, what would these be? And if no, can there be an ultimate beauty that one can aspire for or take as a standard against which to measure all other expressions of beauty?
Sri Aurobindo, in his vast wisdom, has presented beauty as an expression of Divine Ananda and explains that one is negated in the absence of the other or if not negated, than less able to be manifest with ease. He expresses also that there does exist the highest form of beauty that is able to be manifest on earth and that is Supramental Beauty. He categorically points out that beauty is an expression of the spirit and that in order to fathom beauty in anything at all, one would first have to penetrate into the spirit of that subject, since the seat of beauty is in the spirit.
How much of this high interpretation of the Indian Psyche fits into our common mould? What are the terms of references in our lives? What are the theoretical standpoints of beauty we subscribe to, or the philosophical standpoint that helps us to determine beauty where it exists?
Perhaps beauty is beyond all these mental complexities? Perhaps, as The Mother would have said, beauty is in simplicity? However, this beauty will have to be known integrally, for its fullest experience. The mind needs to know beauty and how it limits beauty within its mental frameworks. The heart will have to intimately feel beauty which it probably can when it lifts ingrained preferences, its likes and dislikes born out of a limited and limiting ego and the body will have to live beauty in its flesh and veins, in its very cells. Then can we know that we have integrally experienced beauty and move on and on, expanding the boundaries of what is beauty. Perhaps this can happen in a flash, when one knows one’s “secret self” which is again said to be All-Beauty, All-Goodness and All-Truth.
But again, these are mere words. Let’s turn the pages and direct some blunt questions to ourselves. Do we know beauty? Have we truly touched the body of beauty? Lived it? Only we can tell, each one of us, explicitly, in our own terms …..
Plastic and passive to the all-shaping Fire,
Answers the flaming Godhead’s casual touch:
Immune from our inertia of response
It hears the word to which our hearts are deaf,
Adopts the seeing of immortal eyes
And, traveller on the roads of line and hue,
Pursues the spirit of beauty to its home.
Thus we draw near to the All-Wonderful
Following his rapture in things as sign and guide;
Beauty is his footprint showing us where he has passed,
Love is his heartbeat’s rhythm in mortal breasts,
Happiness the smile on his adorable face.
(Savitri, Book 2, Canto 2)
This greater life is enamoured of the Unseen:
It calls to some highest Light beyond its reach,
It can feel the Silence that absolves the soul;
It feels a saviour touch, a ray divine:
Beauty and good and truth its godheads are.
(Savitri, Book 2, Canto 6)
Then in the process of evolving Time
All shall be drawn into a single plan,
A divine harmony shall be earth’s law,
Beauty and Joy remould her way to live:
Even the body shall remember God.
(Savitri, Book 11, Canto 1)
Q: Is it only our mental conception that sees grotesque and odious things, or are they really as we see them? And the same applies to beauty, doesn’t it?
A: The Mother: It is certain that in the present state of the physical world, appearances are still very deceptive; physical beauty is not always the sign of a beautiful soul, and an ugly or grotesque body may conceal a genius or a resplendent soul.
But for one who has more inner sensitivity, appearances are no longer deceptive and he can perceive the ugliness hidden beneath a pretty face and the beauty concealed beneath a mask or ugliness.
There are also cases, and these are becoming more and more numerous, where the appearance reveals the inner reality which then becomes discernible to all.
(The Mother, ‘On Thoughts and Aphorisms’ Volume 10, ‘Collected Works of The Mother’, Centenary Edition, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1977)
But true Beauty is as difficult to discover, to understand and above all to live as any other expression of the Divine; this discovery and expression exacts as much impersonality and renunciation of egoism as that of Truth or Bliss. Pure Beauty is universal and one must be universal to see and recognise it.
O Lord of Beauty, how many faults I have committed against Thee, how many do I still commit. Give me the perfect understanding of Thy Law so that I may not again fail to keep it. Love would be incomplete without Thee, Thou art one of its most perfect ornaments, Thou art one of its most harmonious smiles. At times I have misunderstood Thy role, but in the depths of my heart I have always loved Thee; and the most arbitrary and radical doctrines could not extinguish the fire of worship which, from my childhood, I had vowed to Thee.
Thou art not at all what a vain people think Thee to be, Thou art not at all attached exclusively to this or that form of life: it is possible to awaken Thee and make Thee shine in every form; but for that one must have discovered Thy secret. . . .
O Lord of Beauty, give me the perfect understanding of Thy Law, so that I may no longer fail to keep it, so that Thou mayst become in me the harmonious consummation of the Lord of Love.
- The Mother (29th June, 1917)
And saw the wood-nymphs peering through the leaves;
Animated cartoons depict these celestial beings, fairies, apsaras, wood-nymphs, or whatever we might call them, in a setting of great harmony and beauty either playing with flowers, butterflies or birds. The creative world of artists, poets, painters, and to a great extent, small children, are familiar with this world where “apsaras roam” and play. (it might be difficult to encounter them in shopping malls or construction sites!) We are not able to tune in to this beautiful world or glimpse the Apsaras bathing in the pools as Satyavan did, as we live too much in our mental being and our vibrational frequency does not tune in with this wonderful world. However there was a time when there was an earthly paradise which was ‘simple, luminous, uncomplicated”. The Mother has described this earthly paradise which existed in earth’s history where there was perfect harmony without any perversion or distortion.
In her own words “I remember there was certainly a moment in earth’s history when there existed a kind of earthly paradise, in a sense that it was a perfectly harmonious and natural life; that is to say, the manifestation of the mind was in accord, was still in complete accord with the ascending march of Nature and totally harmonious, without perversion and distortion. This is the first stage of mind’s manifestation in material forms.”
A godlike packed intensity of sense
Made it a passionate pleasure even to breathe;
All sights and voices wove a single charm.
The life of the enchanted globe became
A storm of sweetness and of light and song,
A revel of colour and of ecstasy,
A hymn of rays, a litany of cries: (‘Savitri’, Book Four, Canto One)
As Sri Aurobindo concludes in this beautiful passage “All Nature was at beauty’s festival”. Why is it that the world we live in now has changed so dramatically with all the perversions and distortions? The Mother was asked these questions: How long did it last? How was this world, and if it existed, where did it exist? She pointed to the Indian Ocean, first to the west of Ceylon and India and then to the east, between Ceylon and Java, but she added that such a place does not exist now as it was swallowed by the sea.
The Mother recollects “I have a memory of a life in which the body was perfectly adapted to its natural environment and the climate adapted to the needs of the body, the body to the needs of the climate. Life was wholly spontaneous and natural, just as a more luminous and more conscious animal life would be; but there were none of the complications and distortions that the mind brought in later in the course of its development. I have the memory of that life- I had it, I relived it when I became conscious of the life of the earth as a whole”
This world of “imperishable beatitudes, the moments of early awakenings and divinity” are described in these thrilling lines of ‘Savitri’:
Here upon earth are early awakenings,
Moments that tremble in an air divine,
And grown upon the yearning of her soil
Time’s sun-flowers gaze at gold Eternity:
There are the imperishable beautitudes.
A million lotuses swaying on one stem,
World after coloured and ecstatic world
Climbs towards some far unseen ephiphany. (‘Savitri’, Book Two, Canto Twelve)
However this earthly paradise did not last long. With the progress of evolution the “mind began to develop in itself, for itself, that all the complications of distortions began.” The Mother points out that the old traditions of the story of Genesis symbolically talked of such a moment in earth’s history. This paradise, as The Mother recollected, must have been exceedingly beautiful, spontaneous and close to Nature. During our trip to Java some years ago, I was wondering if this paradise the Mother talked of could be submerged beneath the sea there somewhere?
The Mother has said that if one has a poetic or artistic consciousness and if you love harmony and beauty you can build a world like this in your imagination , she called this “telling stories to oneself and… It is not at all a telling with words, in one’s head: it is a going away to this place which is fresh and pure, building up a wonderful story there. And if you know how to tell yourself a story in this way… this story will be realized in your life…The dreams of childhood are the realities of mature age. (K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, ‘On The Mother- The Chronicle of a Manifestation and Ministry’).
Let us join Satyavan in exploring this wonderful world and hear the “strange voices cross the ether’s waves”, “the happy faces which looked from ray and flame” and “glimpse the Apsaras bathing in the pools and wood –nymphs peering through the leaves;”
The day and dusk revealed to me hidden shapes;
Figures have come to me from secret shores
And happy faces looked from ray and flame.
I have heard strange voices cross the ether’s waves,
The centaur’s wizard song has thrilled my ear;
I glimpsed the Apsaras bathing in the pools
And saw the wood-nymphs peering through the leaves; (‘Savitri’, Book Five, Canto Three)
The next time you are in a beautiful garden or a harmonious setting in Nature, if you are emanating vibrations which tune in to these beings - harmony, beauty and silence - you might just catch them peering through the leaves or playing with the butterflies and inviting you to their world …
We have an innate draw in us towards that which is beautiful, just as we have a draw towards that which is delightful or lovely. Very often, we find that all is well till the mind, in its customary fashion intervenes, starts its interrogations and then the vital does its share of seizing the object of beauty for its sole enjoyment and possession. The movement that surges forth with eager, grabbing hands is quite apart from the movement of self-giving that beauty essentially is.
True artists, including poets, are those who are able to perceive beauty as it is and to express their comprehension of beauty on their chosen medium for the sake of art and the expression of beauty, perhaps in the best way and the highest form known to them. We perceive the making of this selfless appreciation in exquisite forms of sculpture and painting, prose, poetry or musical composition from all around the world.
It is said that the Psychic being responds to true, simple beauty as the lotus to the sun. Whenever beauty is recognized, the being seems to be in some state of elevation, feeling a subtle and deep inner experience. It has been categorically stated by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo in their writings that a constant contact with beauty has the power of kindling the psychic flame within and nurturing its growth. Lines from ‘Savitri’ speak of beauty thus (Aurobindo, 1970, p. 485):
Our soul from its mysterious chamber acts;
Its influence pressing on our heart and mind
Pushes them to exceed their mortal selves.
It seeks for Good and Beauty and for God; (‘Savitri’, Book Seven; Canto Two)
This can be the greatest Power of Beauty in our everyday lives then. For when the psychic flames forth, there is nothing that can stop the outpouring of love and devotion towards the Divine, in consecrating one’s entire existence at the Divine’s feet. When in contact with beauty, we inevitably sense a power previously latent, a power that transforms our state of being for that moment, if not integrally, at least in parts, but eventually towards that fulfillment. It is this transforming power of beauty that is intriguing.
Historian and philosopher Havell makes a comparison between the perception of beauty between the Western and Eastern mind. The Western mind, more steered towards a materialistic viewpoint, views beauty as inherent in certain forms of matter and not in others. There is suggestion of a definition of beauty that denotes something as beautiful according to some principles and some not as beautiful based on some other sets of principles.
Kai Hammermeister offers further insights into the Western idea of beauty from other thinkers, from the recent to the ancient ones. He illustrates Western approach to beauty as one that was “treated together with the ideas of the good and the true as one of the aspects of being ….. There was never much doubt in any philosopher’s mind that beauty is something praiseworthy and valuable”. Beauty was an “expression of the harmony of the cosmos” according to Plato, and Plotinus proclaimed that “the visible beauty of worldly things mirrored the divine beauty”. Kai traces out that the same approach was predominant in the Middle Ages. Beauty in objects, according to the 13th century thinker, Thomas Aquinas, was “luminous symbolizations of God’s glory” (Garcia-Rivera, Graves, & Neumann, 2009).
The Eastern idea of beauty, on the other hand, is steeped in subjectivity. Beauty is not inherent in form or matter; it belongs only to the spirit and is only expressed in the outer form and can therefore, only be apprehended by spiritual vision. Sri Aurobindo’s point on the spirit in this respect in ‘Foundations of Indian Culture’ further illustrates this notion of the spirit being the seat and source of beauty (Aurobindo, 1988):
“For the Indian mind form does not exist except as a creation of the spirit and draws all its meaning and value from the spirit. This characteristic attitude of the Indian reflective and creative mind necessitates in our view of its creations an effort to get beyond at once to the inner spirit of reality it expresses and see from it and not from outside.”
In Indian philosophy, there is a definite movement away from the employment of only the sensory organs and the subsequent experience of pleasure that defines beauty. Beauty, when seen does not stop short at pleasure, a lower form of enjoyment; it can evoke Ananda or bliss, a higher form of spiritual enjoyment of the essence of beauty. Sri Aurobindo pronounces that “Where there is Ananda, Beauty finds itself expressing with ease.” (Aurobindo, 1999).
In fact, in ‘Letters on Poetry, Literature and Art’ he writes “beauty is Ananda in manifestation; beyond manifestation beauty loses itself in Ananda or, you may say, beauty and Ananda become indistinguishably one.” (Aurobindo, 1999; 14 March 1933).
According to Sri Aurobindo’s vision, Beauty is an expression of the Divine in the physical. Though the expression is in the physical, the “principle and law of Beauty” is spiritual, something having its root and emerging from within…it is this that expresses itself outwardly on the form. On a similar vein, it is also then true that it is through an object or a subject of beauty that one can touch the inner truth of things, that some intimation of the inner spirit is known and works of beauty, such as Art and Literature thrive only towards this high aim (Aurobindo, 1999; 23 August 1933). What could then be the highest form of beauty? “Beauty is the special divine Manifestation in the physical, as Truth is in the mind, Love in the heart, Power in the vital. Supramental beauty is the highest divine beauty manifesting in Matter.” (Aurobindo, 1999; 19 February 1934).
What is sensed as beautiful makes us stop a moment, arrested. All movements that were on the run, come to a standstill and we are drawn towards the object/subject of beauty. There is a concentration of attention on the object or subject of beauty, an inner engagement, and the mind is on standstill at least for seconds. This stilling of the mind itself, in an environment of well-being that beauty brings, can do wonders to our system. There is a meditative power in objects of beauty, as the being engages with them. This meditative quality is only possible when the being looks upon the object of beauty with a disinterest, appreciating it only for the sake of itself, and its quality of beauty, with a sort of detachment. Beauty transmits a sustaining energy. When one finds oneself surrounded by beauty there is felt an energy that can sustain one. Fatigue leaves and one is rejuvenated and charged with new energy to carry on with one’s daily tasks.
Most of all, beauty must emit a transformative power upon us as well. As one contemplates on objects of beauty, one’s psychic being is said to respond and come closer to the surface. This is marked by a certain happiness (if not Ananda itself), a certain glee that arises from deep within, a quiet joy. In this engagement sustained for a longer period of time in contemplation, in close association, something of the spirit behind the object of beauty communes with the spirit within the experiencer of beauty who is enjoying the object of beauty for its own sake. Our own senses yearn for the lovely and beautiful always because of the heightened sense of experience made possible by the contact and we seek beauty in our own self and existence, in Body, Mind and Vital. Therein is transformative Power.
Herein lies the supreme Power of Beauty in everyday life, its ability to transform our outlook, the way in which we think, feel and our aspiration for more and more of beauty. There is possible a contact with one’s Psychic or at least the vicinity of it or a chance to invoke it and bring it to the fore-front, in a shorter or longer period of time, today tomorrow or hereafter.
Let us take a snapshot view of our everyday life. It begins with the opening of our eyes as consciousness rises to the surface being. The moment is even more precious if the hour of awakening happens to be the very hour of dawn. There is a beauty in the silence around us, as the phenomenal world around us is largely still awake or gradually awaking. There is a deep silence as of Gods asleep. In the depth of that silence, it becomes possible to listen to one’s own silence harboured within. The first splash of cold water on one’s face adds glory to the awakening day as we step out of drowse and with wide-eyed freshness, face life, only to embrace it. Then stepping outdoors, when luck is on one’s side, the eastern sky undergoes changes, and one almost perceives an artist at work, splashing colours of varied shades and hues and shaping a dawn that is at once a breathtaking joy to behold and the herald of the future to unfold in silence promises hidden within its folds. There is an intriguing beauty in the way the unknown is strewn across our path, with dawn casting its opening signature on the seal about to break.
Then there is Nature we are surrounded with, wild or tamed. When one looks closely at plants, behind their appearances there is a spirit of giving, just for its sake. They are made that way, just to give, and the flowers, their crowning glory, bear testimony to this giving, this self-offering. There is beauty in being aware of this. There is gratitude in the heart for being made aware of this. There is a joy that dances within to be gifted the nearness of all things green and there is an aspiration to always value Nature as she is offered to us. The play of little animals scurrying about, receiving prasad from the giving hands of plants and trees is an added occasion for joy. There is beauty in watching the harmony between the animals and the plants. There is no vengeful bickering there, there is a sweet and harmonious giving and taking, all for the joy of living, for existing. There is an immense beauty in this perception of the harmony in Nature. There is beauty in the way leaves fall from the trees, spent, used, their purpose fulfilled. There is a beauty in the way they fall with grace and self-giving, only to be embraced by the soft hands of the earth for the other lives to share and be sustained, for new life to begin. There is a beauty in this perception. There is beauty in the way the winds sweep across the earth, touching us gently, giving us sensations of hot and cold, brushing past trees, making the leaves move, rustle, producing soothing sounds that reach far in whispers. There is beauty too in the fiercest of hurricanes that blow across countries, at the way the strong winds scoop up waves after huge waves tossing them carelessly across the coast, thrashing rocks and sand and anything across it’s path. There is an immense beauty in coconut trees leaning under the weight of the force, giving in, without breaking, not confronting them; in huge trees being uprooted within seconds and thrown upon land, large, majestic, fallen. There is an awesome beauty in the encounter with the other side of Nature, the furious and the so called destructive. But here too, the dance of Mahakali prevails. There is destruction from which life regenerates, where renewal is assured. The eye that sees the wrath of Mahakali dancing on the chest of a blissful Shiva, withdrawn in Samadhi also sees Her immense love for her creations. This relationship perceived also seethes with the beauty of the Divine forces at work, in accordance to a higher Intelligence.
There are countless such encounters with beauty in everyday life that we may possibly come across. The fragrance of fresh flowers abloom in the garden throw us into a subtle world of ecstasy; A sincere and simple smile on an unknown face is beautiful and we return that gesture with gratitude. There is beauty in this. There in Power in this, the power that enables us to recognize our kinship with one and all and in that recognition to feel freedom, a freedom that uplifts one and enables one moment of growth? There is beauty in the dark clouds gathering at the edge of the horizon, brimming to the full, ready for a cloud burst and the subsequent showering of rejuvenating waters upon the earth. There is beauty in watching the falling rain drops and a greater beauty in watching the water eagerly seeping into parched earth, which equally eagerly absorbs the droplets into itself, both becoming one. There is a power in this beauty. A harmony is at work and the sky and the earth merge in strange ways. There is power in this and we realize the harmony in nature and we grow likewise, seeking that same harmony around ourselves and within. This beauty which kindles that flame of aspiration is powerful.
We meet a dear friend, or someone more than a friend, more than kin, with whom some soul connection looms though we cannot put our finger to it. Eyes meet and a depth is dug into our souls, and a smile speaks pages. There is beauty in this encounter and a power to inch our way inwards a little more.
Let’s now turn our attention to how we carry ourselves physically in our everyday lives. Is there beauty in a good posture? Is there beauty in the way we stand, walk, sit and rest? If there is, what are the aspects of this that gives beauty to the form? If there isn’t, then why not? And if there is beauty, how does it impact us? And if it doesn’t, why not? Anyone on the path of this yoga will have to become aware of himself, right to the details. These are some aspects of that detail. And if there is perfection in the way we carry ourselves, is this a sustainable perfection or is this perfection a fleeting appearance dictated by egoistic claims of vanity? Like this, we can encounter beauty or a lack of it in our being as well, in the way we speak, listen, eat and clothe.
The Soul in us tends towards the Beautiful, together with Love, Truth, Goodness, as Sri Aurobindo spells out in ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’. He also places the true place of Beauty and that is to interpret the Eternal (Aurobindo, 1997, p. 155):
“It (the soul) insists on Truth, on will and strength and mastery, on Joy and Love and Beauty, but on a Truth of abiding Knowledge that surpasses the mere practical momentary truth of the Ignorance, on an inward joy and not on mere vital pleasure,—for it prefers rather a purifying suffering and sorrow to degrading satisfactions,—on love winged upward and not tied to the stake of egoistic craving or with its feet sunk in the mire, on beauty restored to its priesthood of interpretation of the Eternal, on strength and will and mastery as instruments not of the ego but of the Spirit.”
It is soul-growth or the gradual definition of the psychic quality in us that beauty empowers. “It is the soul in us which turns always towards Truth, Good and Beauty, because it is by these things that it itself grows in stature; the rest, their opposites, are a necessary part of experience, but have to be outgrown in the spiritual increase of the being.” (Aurobindo, 1997, p. 632)
What can be more fitting than to conclude this exploration of beauty in everyday life with The Mother’s quotation:
Let beauty be your constant ideal.
The beauty of the soul
The beauty of sentiments
The beauty of thoughts
The beauty of the action
The beauty in the work
So that nothing comes out of your
Hands which is not an expression
Of pure and harmonious beauty.
And the Divine Help shall always
Be with you.
- The Mother.
Aurobindo, S. (1970). Savitri. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
Aurobindo, S. (1988). Foundations of Indian Culture (3rd, Revised ed.). Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.
Aurobindo, S. (1997). Synthesis of Yoga (Vol. Volumes 33 and 34). Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.
Aurobindo, S. (1999). Letters on Poetry, Literature and Art. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.
Garcia-Rivera, A., Graves, M., & Neumann, C. (2009). BEAUTY IN THE LIVING WORLD
Journal of Religion and Science, 44(2), 20.
Reading of excerpts from ‘Lights on Yoga—With The Mother’s Comments’
After the Opening Meditation, everyone present at The Centre formed a small circle to read excerpts from the book ‘Lights on Yoga—With The Mother’s comments’. We were to read the questions and answers from Page 67. It is always nice to read the questions, pause for a while, reflect on the questions, exchange our thoughts and ideas with each other only to see the varied ways in which the human mind perceives the same question. Interestingly, the questions we had in front of us that day were innocent questions asked with a child-like candor.
“Sweet Mother, here it is written: “This liberation, perfection, fullness too must not be pursued for our own sake, but for the sake of the Divine.” But isn’t the sadhana we do done for ourselves?”
This triggered an intriguing discussion of the connection between the Self and the Divine. It is fascinating to see how each of us has our own way of interpreting and assimilating ideas. After sharing these ideas with one another, we set out to see what answer The Mother had given for the same question. It is to be noted that The Mother always says we need to put the Self (the egoistic self) out of the frame when we do any work for The Divine. In order to understand the answer to the fullest, we read it aloud and re-read it in an attempt to absorb the essence of it completely. We went on to read the next 3 questions and answers too, trying to absorb as much as possible from the answers given by the Mother.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.”
---An African proverb
There could not be anything more apt to describe the 4th of December, 2011—the day when a lot of people in Singapore were all set to run the Standard Chartered Marathon 2011, and a few of us from the Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore had gathered for our monthly walk at Fort Canning Park. Fort Canning is a small hill and history has it that Sir Stamford Raffles had his first residence built atop the hill. What a lovely choice of location for a house! The unique blend of lush greenery, historical relics and expansive lawns makes Fort Canning stand out from the rest of the parks in Singapore. The Gate of Fort Canning is a magnificent structure with inconspicuous stairways that lead to bunkers on the sides. There were plenty of boards on the side of the pathways with crisp bits of information to enlighten us about the significance of the various features of the park. We found a couple of 9-pound cannons on the way. Fortunate to be part of a generation where these are mere relics and of no more importance, there was a silent sense of gratitude amidst us. Along the way, we did catch up with each other, making the walk every bit more special with the sharing of thoughts, experiences and ideas. Moments like these make us realize that there is so much to learn from each person around us after all. And this is what makes life and enchanting and enriching experience.
After traversing the entire path, we all gathered for a small round of Mantras and OM chanting--The perfect end to the perfect walk at Fort Canning. We then embarked on our journey to the Ganeshs where we were heartily greeted by family members for a soulful Collective Meditation and a good Sunday brunch.
We have been blessed with twelve lovely walks in the year 2011. With the Divine Grace, we shall have all this and more in the coming year. A very Happy New Year to one and all!
Before his advent into ashram life, Amal Kiran was already an erudite scholar of letters, winning many prestigious prizes, awards and a scholarship. In the ashram, he devoted himself to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother with unreserved fervour and remained one of their truest children till the end. Known as a multi-faceted genius, he has produced about 50 scholarly writings and was the editor of Mother India. Through some of his writings one can sense the immense devotion he had for Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and the crystal clear knowledge of the purpose of his life upon earth. His sole preoccupation in life seemed to have been his seeking for a transformation of his being through opening himself to the light of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Here is an excerpt from his writings that gives us a taste of the kind of self-consecration his life was: “…There is one single wish running through all the years—and that is to be open more and more to the transforming grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. On each birthday it gets an extra spurt.”
He entwined everyone with this love we may call impersonal love, the highest form of love that is bound not but reached far into the secret spaces within. Strangely, all who speak of him posthumously speak of him with light in their eyes and joy. This must be the result of the mark he had left on people who came to know him. The late Jugal Kishore Mukherjee had remarked, “K.D.S.’s shining complexion, his delicate sensitive face, two eyes radiating a keen and kind glint of intelligence and a sweet smile as innocent as that of a child, cannot but captivate the hearts of the visitors.” (http://overmanfoundation.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/the-passing-of-amal-kiran-alias-k-d-sethna/)
Perhaps, above all qualities, his sense of humour puts a stamp on his personality as one who finds amusement in the play of God, with his life the playing-field. In a recent conversation, Sudha-di, an ashramite and a close friend of Amal-da, shared with delight some of her personal encounters with his humour:
• Amal Kiran had received a phone call. At the other end the voice queried, “Is this Auro-Food” (a wrong call). Pat came the reply from Amal Kiran, “No this is Amal-Drink.”
• Amal Kiran had injured his hip and was in traction and he had to keep himself quite still. Sudha-di queried,” You must be feeling like the immobile Brahman.” And with a chuckle he replied, “Fortunately not the motionless one!”
• His close friend Raja had brought his 3-year old daughter to see him. The child stood before Amal Kiran in awe and blurted out in Tamil, “He looks like God!” Amal Kiran wanted to know what she had said and her father translated. Upon hearing this, Amal Kiran patted her chubby cheeks and said something to the effect, “I haven’t lived in vain then!”
Let us turn a few leaves and take a peek into the life of this inspiring gem, a colossus amongst sadhaks.
The wonder-worlds of life were dreams no more;
His vision made all they unveiled its own:
(Savitri, Book 2, Canto 3)
These are high forerunners, the heads of Time,
The great deliverers of earth-bound mind,
The high transfigurers of human clay,
The first-born of a new supernal race.
The incarnate dual Power shall open God’s door,
Eternal supermind touch earthly Time.
The superman shall wake in mortal man
And manifest the hidden demigod
Or grow into the God-Light and God-Force
Revealing the secret deity in the cave.
(Savitri, Book 11, Canto 1)
A wide God-knowledge poured down from above,
A new world-knowledge broadened from within:
His daily thoughts looked up to the True and One,
His commonest doings welled from an inner Light.
(Savitri, Book 1, Canto 3)
A: Amal Kiran: My aim and object is always to be near Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I have to manifest whatever qualities I have absorbed from them.
Q: Now you are entering your centenary. Your friend, Nirodbaran-da, has completed his centenary. What does this centenary mark for the development and progress of the humanity?
A: Amal Kiran: Oh! … How one can be a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It meant to show that.
Q: Yes, it seems very important. Does it mean to realise Their ideal and all that They have said?
A: Amal Kiran: Yes, as far as that is possible.
(From a pamphlet – ‘Wonder No More, Amal-Kiran at 100’, issued by Aditi-Utsang, Sri Ma-Sri Aurobindo Purna-yoga Kendra, Jalada, Dist. Balasore ( Orissa) on the occasion of Amal-Kiran ‘s 100th Birthday on 25.11.2003.)
Amal Kiran: Won’t you tell me something to which I can always turn for help and contact during my stay in Bombay?
Sri Aurobindo: Remember the Mother and, though physically far from her, try to feel her with you and act according to what your inner being tells you and act according to what your inner being tells you would be her Will. Then you will be best able to feel her presence and mine and carry our atmosphere around you as a protection and a zone of quietude and light accompanying you everywhere.
(‘Amal-Kiran, Poet and Critic’, Edited by Nirodbaran and R.Y. Deshpande, Sri Aurobindo Ashram , Pondicherry)
[We present here some extracts of an article written by the late C V Devan Nair, former chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore and also former President of Singapore]
I love and admire Amal Kiran, not only for himself, but for the entire context of space , time and atmosphere which engendered so variegated a flower. And for the fact that I personally came to know this phenomenon and to partake of some at least of its hues and scents. I deliberately use the plural in this regard, simply because this particular bloom is so multi-hued that one does not know where to begin.
In any case, I am not qualified to speak about the multifarious achievements of a man who can only be described as a polymath. I forget the details, but I recall that even the Mother once had occasion to speak to Sri Aurobindo about her discovery that Amal was so amazingly knowledgeable. Pose a riddle, and he will produce exactly the right rabbit from an inexhaustible hat. He had even remembered, it seems, the title of some western opera, which Mother had forgotten.
Sri Aurobindo knew perfectly well what he was doing when he named K.D.Sethna Amal Kiran- The Clear Ray. For among those who responded to the rhythmic footfalls of Divinity, Amal is surely the greatest, if one goes by the collection of his poetry so aptly titled: The Secret Splendour.
With his innate poetic genius, his phenomenal memory of everything he reads, and an extraordinary sensitiveness to ever-so-subtle nuances of shade and significance, Amal proved to be an uncommonly clear conduit for the Truth-burdened word and phrase. Indeed, Sri Aurobindo’s comments on several of his poems, as on those of Nirodbaran, Dilip and others constitute, in themselves, a practical education with regard to the shape and thrust of the Future Poetry.
The prolific polymath who Amal Kiran is, discoursing learnedly on the principles of modern physics; probing into India’s historical past; is at once also a searching literary critic, a formidable debater on a variety of subjects, a devastating critic of literary or metaphysical poseurs and know-alls; and a Bhakta who yearns for the Divine Beloved. Who else but a Bhakta could have written This Errant Life?
This errant life is dear although it dies;
And human lips are sweet though they but sing
Of stars estranged from us; and youth’s emprise
Is wondrous yet, although an unsure thing.
Sky-lucent Bliss untouched by earthiness!
I fear to soar lest tender bonds decrease.
If Thou desirest my weak self to outgrow
Its mortal longings, lean down from above,
Temper the unborn light no thought can trace,
Suffuse my mood with a familiar glow.
For’tis with mouth of clay I supplicate:
Speak to me heart to heart words intimate,
And all Thy formless glory turn to love
And mould Thy love into a human face.
If Radha saw divine Love moulded in Krishna’s face, why not Amal Kiran who saw it moulded in Sri Aurobindo’s? Anyway, here is Sri Aurobindo’s own comment on the poem:
“A very beautiful poem, one of the very best you have written. The last six lines, one may say even the last eight, are absolutely perfect. IF you could always write like that, you would take your place among English poets and no low place either. I consider they can rank-these eight lines- with the very best in English poetry”.
No mean, praise, coming from so high a source! One more of Amal’s poems, this time on Sri Aurobindo, titled The Master:
Bard rhyming earth to paradise
Time-conqueror with prophet eyes,
Body of upright flawless fire,
Star-strewing hands that never tire-
In Him at last earth-gropings reach
Omniscient calm, omnipotent speech,
Love omnipresent without ache!
Does still a stone that cannot wake
Keep hurling through your mortal mind
Its challenge at the epiphany?
If you would see this blindness break,
Follow the heart’s humility-
Question not with your shallow gaze
The Infinite focused in that face,
But, when the unshadowed limbs go by,
Touch with your brow the white footfall:
A rhythm profound shall silence all!
When I first read this poem, a profound gratitude, welled up in my deepest heart. I, who had greatly regretted not having had Sri Aurobindo’s personal darshan, felt that regret almost disappear. It was as if Amal’s lines gave me the much-coveted darshan of the Lord, and I was reduced to a trembling bundle of ecstasy. Thank you, dear Amal, thank you!
No piece on Amal would be complete without reference to his wit and humour. For if he was formidably cerebral in his prose writings, deeply intuitive in his poetry, in his humour he went unabashedly for the belly, as I came to know personally.
How gently, how wittily, how vividly he had once suggested a correction to an atrocious verbal slip on my part in an article I had sent him for Mother India. I had referred to “persons turning their noses down” on things they deemed beneath them. Amal’s corrective response caused me to laugh till my belly ached. He wrote: “As far as I know, elephants are the only animals which can turn their noses up and down and sideways.” And with what joy I made the necessary correction!
Finally, I will acknowledge that Amal himself might not know. It was largely thanks to his sympathy, and his enlightening words of encouragement that I was able to recover from what at the time had seemed to me a personal calamity. It turned out to be a vast liberation instead.
One more thing I need very much to say to Amal in this commemorative volume: “Carry on, dear Amal, in our midst. You have given so much, as only you can. You can give more. I would like to be around to contribute to the festschrift volume to observe your hundredth birthday as well. I will only be a mere stripling of eighty-one then.”
(This extract of C.V. Devan Nair’s article is taken from ‘Amal Kiran, Poet and Critic’, edited by Nirodbaran and R.Y. Deshpande. Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Due to a lack of space we regret not carrying the article in its entirety. Due apologies.)
“Oh, at 23 you have seen all of life? Don't be in such a hurry, you must take your time. Stay here, look about, see how things are, see if they suit you and then take a decision.”
Although a bit disappointed, he agreed - but the Mother's eyes! What eyes! What radiance!
“When I was talking with her I felt as if from her face and eyes some silver radiance were coming out... I could not make out how this was happening ¬ nor could I doubt that this was happening. Apart from this impression of light, there was another - something out of the ancient Egypt.”
He stayed on for the Darshan of 21 February 1928, - and forgot about his M.A. dissertation. The Darshan strengthened his desire to do the Integral Yoga, and the Mother accepted him. There was of course no question of an interview with Sri Aurobindo, and like others in the same predicament, he too had to communicate through letters. "I went on writing to Sri Aurobindo," he acknowledges, "and all types of questions I used to put to him ... bombarding him with queries. Most of my questions were either philosophical or literary - because, though I had my own share of common difficulties, the real difficulty at the beginning was my Westernised intellect." Sri Aurobindo replied promptly and sometimes at length, and these letters were an amalgam of information, instruction, elucidation and initiation, and they were to grow into gorgeous epistolary treasures and significantly enrich the Aurobindonian canon. From an early part of his stay, Sethna sported the spiritual name of "Amal Kiran" (Amal for short), which Sri Aurobindo had given him. The word meant "The Clear Ray", and fitted his ardent and flame-bright nature.
It was Amal's particular destiny to correspond at length with Sri Aurobindo on the great 'work in progress', the epic ‘Savitri’, and as good as coax the poem to come out into the open. After a good deal of astute strategy and clever tactics on Amal's part, his efforts were rewarded on 25 October 1936 - "one of the most important days, if not the most important, of my life here" -- for, in a letter written on that day, Sri Aurobindo gave 16 lines from the exordium (Book One, canto I) beginning with the memorable
It was the hour before the Gods awake.
as an example of possible "overhead" poetry. But ‘Savitri’ was to be a carefully guarded secret for another ten years, and even in the Ashram itself very few knew anything authentic about it. There was some random speculation, of course, but that was about all till from the middle forties onwards the poem started appearing, first in fascicles, then in two volumes; and finally in 1954 the entire work came out in a single volume with Sri Aurobindo's letters to Amal on the poem printed at the end.
(Chapter 17, ‘On The Mother - The Chronicle of a Manifestation and Ministry' by K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar. Reprinted (third edition) 2004, Sri Aurobindo International Centre Of Education, Pondicherry.)
“From the very beginning of my stay in the Ashram I have sought to quicken to the presence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother from the core of my heart… An inner urge…has yearned for an Unknown surpassing every object of my senses and my thought and making nothing worth while unless that Unknown were first found… There is one single wish running through all the years—and that is to be open more and more to the transforming grace of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. On each birthday it gets an extra spurt."
- Amal Kiran
A tribute to Vedic Riṣhis:
“The Vedic Riṣhis may not have yoked the lightning to their chariots, nor weighed sun and star, nor materialised all the destructive forces in Nature to aid them in massacre and domination, but they had measured and fathomed all the heavens and earths within us, they had cast their plummet into the inconscient and the subconscient and the superconscient; they had read the riddle of death and found the secret of immortality; they had sought for and discovered the One and known and worshipped Him in the glories of His light and purity and wisdom and power.” – Thus spoke Sri Aurobindo, recounting the discoveries of these sages of ancient India who, at the dawn of ages, in sublime verses sang the hidden splendours of man and the odyssey of the soul.
T.V. Kapāli Sāstry - (1886-1953 CE):
Born in a family which, for generations, excelled in Sanskrit scholarship, in the upāsana of Sri Vidya and in the observance of rituals and ceremonials, he was taught, not only to chant the Vedās in the traditional way but also the use of mantrās in rituals. Being a multifaceted personality, he excelled in whatever field he worked. Following the trail of his masters, first of Vāsiṣhṭha Gaṇapati Muni and then of Sri Aurobindo, he unearthed many a truth concealed within the cryptic utterances of the Veda. He has played a significant part in reinterpreting the Vedās to us, along the lines of Sri Aurobindo. There are many readers who respect the spiritual view developed by Sri Aurobindo, but doubt that the spiritual interpretation can be given for all the 10,000 verses. Kapāli Sāstry took up this challenge and has given the deep meaning of the first 1400 verses.
After a life-long study, verification in personal inner life and confirmation in other branches of Indian Wisdom, he began writing his commentary on the Rig Veda in his 60th year (1945). In his Bhūmika, he presents his approach, deriving from ancient riṣhis like Yāska, medieval teachers like Madhvāchārya and modern seers like Sri Aurobindo. His great work ‘Siddhānjana’, commentary on the first Ashtaka of Rig Veda, explores the hitherto neglected psychological and spiritual sides of the ancient hymns. He works out the psychological interpretation guided by the principles of mystic symbolism of the Vedic riṣhis in his verse-by-verse explanation. Being regarded himself as a Tāntrik, he finds astonishing echoes of the Veda in the Tantra, in thought and practice. One of his great contributions, is to dispel the myth that the various Hindu Scriptures like the Veda Samhitās, Upanishads, Yōgās, Tantrās etc., are disparate and do demonstrate that they compliment each other.
Though it has become a practice to see the contents of the Upanishads purely from an intellectual viewpoint, according to the seers of the Upanishads, the truths in these books should be realized by every individual. The process of realization is sādhana, and the hints on sādhana are Vidyās. His work ‘Lights on the Upanishads’ contains detailed discussion of the six Vidyās. He has hinted at several modes of consolidation of sādhana, which will facilitate the sādhaka to evolve himself from mere materiality to super human / super divine levels of super consciousness.
His writings are in four languages namely English, Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. Sanskrit was natural to him. All his writings are collected, published and made available in eleven volumes.
A reflection on all earlier Bhāshyās - Sri Aurobindo (Concluding paragraphs of Chapter 3 (Modern theories) of ‘The Secret of the Veda’)
“The hypothesis on which I shall conduct my own enquiry is that the Veda has a double aspect and that the two, though closely related, must be kept apart. The Riṣhīs arranged the substance of their thought in a system of parallelism by which the same deities were at once internal and external Powers of universal Nature, and they managed its expression through a system of double values by which the same language served for their worship in both aspects. But the psychological sense predominates and is more pervading, close-knit and coherent than the physical. The Veda is primarily intended to serve for spiritual enlightenment and self-culture. It is, therefore, this sense which has first to be restored.
To this task each of the ancient and modern systems of interpretation brings an indispensable assistance. Sāyaṇa and Yāska supply the ritualistic framework of outward symbols and their large store of traditional significances and explanations. The Upanishads give their clue to the psychological and philosophical ideas of the earlier Riṣhīs and hand down to us their method of spiritual experience and intuition. European scholarship supplies a critical method of comparative research, yet to be perfected, but capable of immensely increasing the materials available and sure eventually to give a scientific certainty and firm intellectual basis which has hitherto been lacking. Dayānanda has given the clue to the linguistic secret of the Riṣhīs and re-emphasized one central idea of the Vedic religion, the idea of the One Being with the Devās expressing in numerous names and forms the many-sidedness of His unity.
With so much help from the intermediate past we may yet succeed in reconstituting this remoter antiquity and enter by the gate of the Veda into the thoughts and realities of a prehistoric wisdom”.
1. ‘ The Light of Veda – A Practical Approach ’ – by Sri T.V.Kapāli Sastry
2. ‘ A New Light on the Veda ’ – by Sri T.V.Kapāli Sastry
(Originally written in Sanskrit under the name ‘Siddhānjana – Bhūmika’, translated into English by Sri M.P.Pandit and thoroughly revised by the author himself, in 1952. Published by Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture, Bangalore. (SAKSI)).
3. ‘ Agni in the Rig Veda ’ - by Dr R.L.Kashyap
4. ‘ Why read the Rig Veda ’ – by Dr R.L.Kashyap
- Krishnamurthy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It was a pleasant morning. The sight of lush greenery and the beautiful fig trees gleefully greeted me. The weather was just perfect: breezy and mild. As I walked down to Bukit Batok Nature Park, I noticed that members had already gathered and were half-way through their warm-up exercises. There were people from all walks of life dotting the park, all engrossed in their own activities. The park was brimming with life and energy.
The morning walk was exceedingly refreshing. As we started doing the warm-up exercises, a sudden energy gushed forth, and we became fully conscious of our being. It was quite overwhelming. Soon, we started exploring the park. We felt one with nature – with the trees, the morning birds, and the quiet atmosphere. It was perfectly harmonious and silent; yet, the place stirred with activity as we tried to reach the top of the park, running, and sweating, and panting. Nothing is more joyous and fulfilling than sharing a wonderful morning with people who you know are ready to share with you in return. The experience was so enthralling that we had a stranger joining us, who also started participating very actively, making the experience all the more special.
Later, we gathered at Mr. Ramanathan’s house for collective meditation. We sat in concentric circles and chanted the OM mantra. It was initiated by the inner circle first, and then was followed by the outer circle. When we started chanting Sri Aurobindo’s mantra, we were overpowered by a spiritual ecstasy. The music was soul-rendering; it elevated us to a higher consciousness, making us feel the divine’s presence. As the music slowly faded away, we felt integrated as a person. It felt like a perfect culmination of a transcendental experience. It was as if we couldn’t get enough of it. We will have fond recollections of this experience for days to come. Meanwhile, we are looking forward to the next session!
An ear of mind withdrawn from the outward's rhymes
Discovered the seed-sounds of the eternal Word
The rhythm and music heard that built the worlds
- Sri Aurobindo in ‘Savitri’
The Yajur Veda mentions that OM is ‘pranava’ – the humming sound or ‘udgita’ – the elevating chant (http://www.omved.com/vedicpedia/om-in-vedic-literature). OM gets its direct mention and description in several Upanishads, especially the Mandukya, which refers to OM as all that is manifest, which has its origin in the unmanifest. OM is posited as a link, bridging the manifest (which is perceived to be all of this universe and forces potential or set in motion) and the unmanifest. It is the symbol of Brahman, in his triple states, writes Sri Aurobindo, the states being the outward looking Brahman, the inner Brahman and the superconscient causal Purusha.
The pointers are ready and waiting, eager to show the mind, here leader of the pack, the way forward. The Dhyana Bindu Upanishad (http://www.omved.com/vedicpedia/om-in-vedic-literature) takes up some detailed descriptions of OM. The mind is to “reflect on the sound and meaning of OM”. There is an idea of receiving what is given, to keep as one’s object and subject of reflection the sound. One is not asked to make any connotations, arrive at conclusions or to make conjectures and inferences in the scientific order. There is an indication that the truth of the sound OM will be revealed and that one has to approach OM with an open and silenced mind and heart. In this instance, the mind is asked to be an instrument, not the master, and the consciousness to rise above the senses:
"Let Om be the bow, mind the arrow, and Higher Consciousness the target. Those who want enlightenment should reflect on the sound and the meaning of Om. When the arrow is released from the bow it goes straight to the target."
And here are some indications of conditions that led to Aswapati’s inner hearing (Sri Aurobindo, ‘Savitri’):
Away from the terrestrial murmur turned
Where transient calls and answers mix their flood,
King Aswapati listened through the ray
To other sounds than meet the sense-formed ear.
And how would OM be expressed in sound?
"Like the continuous flow of an oil stream and like the vibration of a bell ... this is the way to chant Om and the way to really know the meaning of the Vedas."
OM chanting (and now, OM choir) stand poised to bring into our world treasures untold of. It remains for each to relate with this Maha Mantra and experience for oneself the unique connection one has with this Primordial Sound and the Creator.
The October 2011 Walk of Sri Aurobindo Society was at the East Coast Park Beach. It was a very pleasant morning, all thanks to the incessant rainfall the night before. As we gathered at the “spot” for our warming-up exercise, we saw a lot of enthusiastic runners of all age groups running on the tracks. What a lovely way to start a Sunday morning! There were the others who had camped by the ocean the previous night and were just waking up to the thumping of the active runners and slowly peeping out of their tents. Our world consists of all kinds of people indeed. Each person adds his/her own colour to the vast canvas that the world is. And each colour has its own beauty which ONLY it can add.
One look at the mild waves and there was a smile on everyone’s face. The ocean heals the heart, mind and the soul. The allure and charm exuded by the ocean is unmatched. After a nice healthy round of breathing and physical exercises, we started off with some brisk walking along the walking tracks. With the waves for company on one side and our very own friends on the other, it was the perfect setting for a good walk. There were times when we decided to walk quietly and absorb everything that Mother Nature had bestowed us with that morning, and there were other times when good conversation and cheerful laughter were adding to the beauty of the walk. There was a nice pleasant breeze blowing accompanied by a very refreshing mild drizzle.
After traversing the entire path in each one’s convenient pace, we gathered again at the “spot” to embark on the next lap of our Sunday morning. We were all at Mr. Shashi Lal Kashyap’s house for Collective Meditation preceded by some wonderful OM chanting which opened each one of us to a higher realm of Concentration. Each one of us present there surely felt fortunate for being a part of the activity that morning and took whatever best we could take out of it. Such is the journey of life where there is so much to learn and live each day, each moment, to the very fullest.
This was OM choir in Delhi Ashram. Narad gave us some instructions on breathing and posture and carried us through exercises on voice training and tone recognition. Then we were ready. A lone voice started singing OM. We were invited to join in at different times as dictated by something deeper within, or something from above, other than the mind. We had to offer our sound and ourselves. I remember Narad asking us to produce the most beautiful sounds on OM within ourselves and then to concentrate on producing the most beautiful OM as a collective body. Just after a few OMs, I felt the magic. The hall was taken over by something spectacular that I had never encountered anytime in my life. Pure human voices, quite raw and “untrained” – as it were, were coming together in waves as if by magic and creating a unified music or harmonic resonance. This kind of music was not a common theme then, but during those seconds when it was there, all of us unified, instrumental in producing it, one instinctively knew that there, in that hall, at that moment, something pure and divine was there; a special resonance that could shake the very foundation of the past! This music was not about us. It was beyond ourselves, our little selves rather, beyond our egoistic personality that thinks that it alone achieves and is responsible. I felt what could be humility in the whole endeavour, collective. It was an experience of a life-time, those two or three days during which I attended these OM Choir sessions. The quality of music seemed to be directly proportional to our openness and aspiration and silence deep within.
Now, given the chance of reading all about the OM Choir, its origin and the way forward, everything seems to be falling into place. There is a divine music hovering above our heads which can be reached only through bridges that we can build collectively, bridges of harmony, love and joy. Even if these could be achieved for those brief periods we sit in a circle and let an OM choir emerge, something significant could be achieved. These can only be seeds to something divinely pure and beautiful that is to fill our lives as we open ourselves up more and more to the light and love pouring from above. OM has a large part to play in all these. This is an intriguing prospect.
Where transient calls and answers mix their flood,
King Aswapati listened through the ray
To other sounds than meet the sense-formed ear.
On a subtle interspace which rings our life,
Unlocked were the inner spirit's trance-closed doors:
The inaudible strain in Nature could be caught;
Across this cyclic tramp of eager lives,
Across the deep urgency of present cares,
Earth's wordless hymn to the Ineffable
Arose from the silent heart of the cosmic Void;
(Savitri, Book 4, Canto 3)
As when the mantra sinks in Yoga's ear,
Its message enters stirring the blind brain
And keeps in the dim ignorant cells its sound;
The hearer understands a form of words
And, musing on the index thought it holds,
He strives to read it with the labouring mind,
But finds bright hints, not the embodied truth:
Then, falling silent in himself to know
He meets the deeper listening of his soul:
The Word repeats itself in rhythmic strains:
Thought, vision, feeling, sense, the body's self
Are seized unutterably and he endures
An ecstasy and an immortal change;
(Savitri, Book 2, Canto 14)
(‘Essays on The Gita’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)
Q: Yes, it represents the Divine. It represents the Divine. OM, but OM is the sound?
A: The Mother: They say that all the aspirations of the world when going towards the Divine make O---M, like that. (The Mother chants the word)
The Mother: And then, that is why they say "OM".
Mother please, say it once again. Please say it again.
The Mother: Eh ?
OM, it is fine, Mother, it was very beautiful.
Mother, once more, please
The Mother: O----M.
The Mother: It is like this everywhere. O----M. O----M.
The Mother: Look here, I was in France some I think, 60 years ago. There was a Frenchman who came back from the Himalayas, who had stayed there some time and he gave a lecture, and I listened to the lecture and in the lecture he said that when he was deep in the Himalayas, there was a sannyasin whom he didn't know, came to see him and told him only this O----M and that he was completely changed. And then, when he said O----M, I felt the same change in me, ...as if the Divine was coming in. O----M. There you are. Good, good. Keep the secret.
The Mother: You will recall this: O----M. O----M. That's all. O----M. It must be manifested. If anything goes wrong, repeat OM, all will go well.
The Mother: OM: the signature of the Lord.
(‘Sweet Mother: Harmonies of Light, Words recollected by Mona Sarkar’ (Translated from the original in French), Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.)
Narad (Richard Eggenberger) is a longtime member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville as well as a musician, poet, landscaper, horticulturist, and gardener.
As a youth he took voice lessons and prepared for an operatic career at the Metropolitan Opera on a scholarship from one of the leading mezzosopranos of the day, Regina Resnick.
When he was 23, he came to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and had his first darshan of the Mother, who made him an ashramite and gave him permission to teach music in the ashram school. He formed an ashram choir that soon built a program of choral music covering many centuries. Mother also gave him the task of bringing down "the new music."
Narad went back to U.S. in 1962, working with a landscape design and installation firm and attending college to learn plant combination theory and other aspects of subtropical horticulture.
In 1969, he returned to Pondicherry, where Mother gave him the task of creating a beautiful garden for the Matrimandir. In the early 1970s he set up the Matrimandir Nursery for collecting, studying, and propagating rare and beautiful plants from all over the world. He worked personally with the Mother on the spiritual significances of flowers and edited the book, ‘Flowers and Their Messages’, the first book published by the ashram on the spiritual significance of flowers. Mother also gave Narad the work of reading ‘Savitri’ every week under the banyan, which he did for 10 years.
In the 1980s, Narad returned to the U.S., where he continued to extend his deep knowledge of plants and trees and to collect specimens for the Ashram and Auroville. He is past president of the Plumaria Society of America and is the author of numerous books and articles on tropical plants.
Meanwhile, after more than four decades of listening to thousands of works of music, seeking the new music everywhere, and singing (though not often, having given up all thought of a concert career), Narad had the insight that the new music was to descend in a collective body — one body with many tones, opening in surrender and aspiration. About seven years ago he began the OM choirs, which have brought a new kind of conscious music to the Ashram, Auroville, and many places around the world.
(Information courtesy Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)
OM is the signature of the Lord.
The Mother's first experience of OM was in France when she heard a lecture by a Frenchman who had just then returned from the Himalayas. He said that he had met a sannyasin who told him of the power of Om which had completely changed him. As soon as she heard it she felt a great change coming over her. Such is the Power of OM - the signature of the Lord.
What is a mantra?
“The Mantra is an ever-living embodiment of the Truth and Power which have found expression in it through the medium of the Rishi or Yogin who has given them the body. And when a Mantra is uttered, under proper conditions, it is not the feeble voice of the person reciting that goes forth to evoke the response of the gods to whom it is addressed but the flame of tapasya and realisation that is lying coiled up in the body of that utterance.” (‘The Veda and the Tantra’ by Sri Kapali Sastri)
There is a striking description of the action of Mantra in Sri Aurobindo's epic ‘Savitri’, the brilliant verse starts with "As when the mantra sinks in the yoga's ear....” He explains that when the message of the mantra enters within, the hearer "understands a form of words" and if he strives to find the meaning with his "labouring mind" he will just get bright hints but not the "embodied Truth", it is only when he falls silent and meets "the deeper listening of his soul" that
The Word repeats itself in rhythmic strains:
Thought, vision, feeling, sense, the body's self
Are seized unalterably and he endures
An ecstasy and an immortal change:
This must be exactly what the Mother experienced when the Frenchman chanted Om. The Word repeats itself rhythmically and our entire self- “Thought, vision, feeling, sense, the body's self” are entirely seized by its vibrations and an immortal change occurs. The reason why the mantra is so powerful especially OM has been explained below.
“The Rishi, the seer when he perceives the Truth, perceives at the same time the sound embodying the Truth. He receives it in the secret depths of his being and gives expression to it in the human tongue. This is Mantra. When the Mantra is properly uttered, the sound-force from which it has sprung is contacted, which in turn reveals the Truth it embodies. So when the Mantra of a deity is uttered, the vibrations create the sound-body of the deity and with repeated utterances, the sound-body of the deity becomes concretely formed and the powerful Presence of the deity is established. “ (‘Glory of The Divine Mother - Devi Mahatmyam’ by S. Sankaranarayanan )
It is no wonder that whereever OM is chanted there is at once a great descent of Peace and divine vibrations .This is because the OM is the sound form of the Divine and not a mere word. Hence on chanting it in the proper manner it brings down the Divine's Presence and Power. This is why it is said in the Tantra that "To hell he goes who mistakes the Guru for a human, who takes the image for a piece of stone, who looks upon the Mantra as mere letters."
Sri Aurobindo's ‘Savitri’ has some breathtaking lines on Mantra and how the Yogi who has silenced his mind and "the voices that an inner listening hears…" becomes a receptacle to receive the "flame-wrapt outbursts of the immortal Word.......".It is in Silence that the Om reveals itself from within.
Why is it that OM is prefaced before every mantra and why is it the Mother of all Mantras? Here is the luminous answer by Sri M.P. Pandit
“When this creation was not, when there was only the Absolute- What the Upanishads call the Brahman- Absolute , and the Tantras, the Para-Shiva- and nothing else, and when this absolute thought of manifesting the creation, there was a stir, a spanda, a vibration. And this vibration- called Nada - on the highest plane of existence is approximated when rendered into human speech by a sound that is produced by pronouncing OM.
And human speech is only one, the lowest, of several grades of speech in existence. From the heights of creation, the essential speech has to pass through three higher stages before it assumes the fourth, gross form of human speech. And OM is the nearest approximation in human speech to the first creative sound that ordered the Universe. That is why OM is designated a symbol of Brahman, the Creator. Each time you repeat OM consciously, you emanate something of the pure vibration that corresponds to that which presided over the birth of this creation. It calls into the atmosphere the very forces that started a new creation. You create a new universe around yourself. “
A Voice profound in the ecstasy and the hush
They heard, beheld an all-revealing Light (‘Savitri’)
As if a passing breeze had touched the flame
Or some Immortal from another plane
Glimpsing the waiting cradle, yearned towards
The old familiar bonds of form and name.
Or did the Godhead of your fiery stars
Himself take up your Sagittarian bow
Heaven bent with arrows trained upon the sun
To pierce our leaden skies, that Man might know
What glorious dawns are hidden by those bars?
For dreams we could not reach were caught and bound
In poetry’s magic net, and radiant streams of sound.
- Sonia Dyne (12- Oct-2011)
(Amal Kiran (K.D. Sethna) left his body in July this year. He was one of the foremost of the Ashram poets and his correspondence with Sri Aurobindo on the subject of 'Savitri' has been read throughout the world. His birthday is on November 25th). December)
The Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore will run a Newsletter edition in memory of Amal Kiren for the month of December, 2011. This edition will focus on Amal Kiran, his life and works.
Vanita broke down. She was in tears. She decided to make a call to her close friend Ria who was a devotee of The Mother and she always seemed to have a solution to every problem. And surprisingly, just as she was about to pick up her phone Ria was already at the door. Ria came in and was shocked to see the state of the house with clothes and things scattered on the floor. Vanita’s face looked very glum. Ria asked Vanita what had happened? Vanita sat down and explained to her all that had happened since morning, and also said that most of the days were similar to that day.
Ria said that she had a solution provided Vanita was willing to listen to what she had to tell her. Vanita nodded her head, indicating that she was more than willing to listen to what Ria had to say. Ria started off with The Mother’s quote on work:
“Even the apparently most insignificant thing must be done with perfect perfection, with a sense of cleanliness, beauty, harmony and order.”
She asked Vanita to clear up the mess in her home so that she would at least have some peace of mind. Secondly, she asked Vanita to closely analyze the reason why she had a row with her husband very often, and also asked her to introspect and said that The Mother had always quoted,
“When two persons quarrel always both are in the wrong”.
Ria again told Vanita about another of The Mother’s quote, “Look for the inner causes of disharmony much more than the outer ones. It is the inside which governs the outside”, and asked Vanita to organise herself properly to avoid all the confusion. Just before leaving, Ria told Vanita about the Harmony flower and told her that keeping this flower generates radiant rays of peace and harmony in the house. Vanita sat on her couch thinking about all that Ria had said and she slowly realised that she had a major role in all the commotion.
Vanita got up with renewed spirit and decided to clean up the house and then go for a peaceful stroll. While walking she looked around and suddenly found a creeper carrying the Harmony flowers. She plucked a handful of flowers and placed them in a vase in the hall and prayed for a while.
The belief she had in the flower never changed and from that day onwards her mind was always peaceful. As The Mother says,
There is no greater victory than of controlling oneself”
Words of the Mother - Part I (page 110)
Rays of Light (page 123)
Mantras of the Mother (May, 3rd)
This is the 3rd consequtive year that Sri Aurobindo Society is presenting an offering at the Gita Jayanti program.
For each one it is the path that leads fastest to the Divine.
- The Mother
Common Name: Coffee
Botanical Name: Coffea
Spiritual Name: The Perfect Path
“What would be the use of man if he were not created to throw a bridge between That which is eternal but is unmanifested and that which is manifested, between all the transcendences and splendours of the divine life and all the dark and sorrowful ignorance of the material world? Man is the link between what must be and what is; he is the footbridge thrown across the abyss, he is the great cross-shaped X, the quaternary connecting link. His true domicile, the effective seat of his consciousness should be in the intermediary world at the meeting-point of the four arms of the cross, just where all the infinitude of the Unthinkable comes to take a precise form so that it may be projected into the innumerable manifestation. . .
That centre is a place of supreme love, of perfect consciousness, of pure and total knowledge. There establish, O Lord, those who can, who must and truly want to serve Thee, so that Thy work may be accomplished, the bridge definitively established, and Thy forces poured unwearyingly over the world.”