Guiding Light of The Month

Like a flame that burns in silence, like a perfume that rises straight upward without wavering, my love goes to Thee; and like the child who does not reason and has no care, I trust myself to Thee that Thy Will may be done, that Thy Light may manifest, Thy Peace radiate, Thy Love cover the world. - The Mother

Audio visual presentation for Mother's birthday celebrations

As the celebrations for Mother's birthday approach, we are happy to share with everyone the Audio visual power point that will accompany the program.
We look forward to more updates in this space as the celebrations proceed.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Mother's birthday 21st February 2011 at 7pm at Sri Aurobindo Society Singapore. Here are the full details of the program and schedule

Photos from IEP retreat on 30th January

About 17 children took part in the IEP retreat on 30th January. The workshop was themed "harmony" and the children explored the concept through the use of stories, games and activities. Various aspects of harmony - such as harmony of the body, through yoga; teamwork - through dramatization; working in silence and harmony - through group paintings, were explored.

Prayer

Self-giving is true prayer. - The Mother
Common Name: Fairy Lily
Botanical Name: Zephyranthes
Spiritual Name: Prayer

Editorial

February sees the return of joy and hope and the calm assurance of another opportunity to invoke her blessings on a very special occasion. It is now also, more than during any other months that we eagerly anticipate The Mother’s presence in our midst on this glorious day of her advent upon human soil on the 21st of February 1878. World over, in all the centres of the world, let alone in Pondicherry and Auroville, The Mother will be remembered by all her children in very special ways. The significance of this day will be realised by each in his and her own terms and if, if by chance or a happy meeting of conditions, something within us is awake and in the forefront, then we become happy recipients of a special grace.

And what does The Mother actually mean to one, in one’s raw self, in one’s life lived upon this earth, in this consciousness that is oneself? Ultimately and inevitably, this question will lead us back to our selves, about who we are or what one is and is meant for. This existential challenge drives us further into the recesses of our being.

Many texts and anecdotes of sadhaks who lived closely with the Mother in Pondicherry throw some light on what she was like in the human world, working with humans for humanity and its evolution out of the animal into man and from man to a higher being. Sri Aurobindo gives us a wholesome shape to The Mother from many angles.‘ The Mother’ and ‘Savitri’ are two significant examples of works that illustrate what The Mother stands for, who she was and continues to be. There is another text that throws light on who The Mother was in intimate ways. It is The Mother’s compilation of ‘Prayers and Meditations' addressed to the Divine. This month’s issue portrays The Mother in her inner regions during particular phases in her life.

The Mother’s Prayers and Meditation formed an important part of her sadhana during those phases. Sri K R Srinivasa Iyengar reveals in his work, “On The Mother” the importance The Mother placed on her entries, all of which addressed the Divine in some form or other. The fact that The Mother kept her entries under lock and key indicates her resolve in keeping her entries a secret between her and the Divine. She probably maintained this till Sri Aurobindo himself indicated that she should have portions of these published, which is what is now in our hands as Prayers and Meditations. The Mother measures profound heights in her entries as well as the most human problems that confronted her. In all these entries, what is striking is her absolute sincerity in progressing on the path before her, in aligning her will to the Divine’s will, to become the Divine himself. She herself indicates that when such a time came, she would stop addressing the Divine or revealing her inner movements to Him since she would become one with the Divine.

The Prayers and Meditations is a concrete record of intense aspiration, intense seeking, a one pointed resolve towards the goal, a total absorption in attaining that one realisation alone of the Divine, at all costs, a record of vistas of realisations, of jubilation of perhaps the highest order possible here on earth. Indeed, it a gift for us that offers silent lessons on what it means to seek, to be sincere, what it means to aspire and how a prayer of utmost sincerity and simplicity could be offered to The Divine; of how to speak to the Divine as one’s Father, Mother, Guide, Friend and Lover in silence.

Savitri

A shoreless sweep was lent to the mortal’s acts,
And art and beauty sprang from the human depths;
Nature and soul vied in nobility…

Leaving earth’s safety daring wings of Mind
Bore her above the trodden fields of thought
Crossing the mystic seas of the Beyond
To live on eagle heights near to the Sun…
Adept of truth, initiate of bliss,
A mystic acolyte trained in Nature’s school,
Aware of the marvel of created things
She laid the secrecies of her heart’s deep muse
Upon the altar of the Wonderful;
Her hours were ritual in a timeless fane;
Her acts became gestures of sacrifice.
Invested with a rhythm of higher spheres
The word was used as a hieratic means
For the release of the imprisoned spirit
Into communion with its comrade gods.

(Savitri, Book 4, Canto 2)

An extract from The Mother’s ‘Prayers and Meditations’

Although my whole being is in theory consecrated to Thee, O Sublime Master, who art the life, the light and the love in all things, I still find it hard to carry out this consecration in detail. It has taken me several weeks to learn that the reason for this written meditation, its justification, lies in the very fact of addressing it daily to Thee. In this way I shall put into material shape each day a little of the conversation I have so often with Thee; I shall make my confession to Thee as well as it may be; not because I think I can tell Thee anything—for Thou art Thyself everything, but our artificial and exterior way of seeing and understanding is, if it may be so said, foreign to Thee, opposed to Thy nature. Still by turning towards Thee, by immersing myself in Thy light at the moment when I consider these things, little by little I shall see them more like what they really are,—until the day when, having made myself one in identity with Thee, I shall no more have anything to say to Thee, for then I shall be Thou. This is the goal that I would reach; towards this victory all my efforts will tend more and more. I aspire for the day when I can no longer say “I”, for I shall be Thou.

How many times a day, still, I act without my action being consecrated to Thee; I at once become aware of it by an indefinable uneasiness which is translated in the sensibility of my body by a pang in my heart. I then make my action objective to myself and it seems to me ridiculous, childish or blameworthy; I deplore it, for a moment I am sad, until I dive into Thee and, there losing myself with a child’s confidence, await from Thee the inspiration and strength needed to set right the error in me and around me,—two things that are one; for I have now a constant and precise perception of the universal unity determining an absolute interdependence of all actions.

- The Mother, ‘Prayers and Meditations’, November 2nd, 1912.

Approaches To The Divine - A selection from ‘On The Mother’


On the threshold of a vast inner change and development, - a revolution and transformation in terms of the Spirit, - Mirra now sought other means than group discussions, more highly sensitised and delicate means than essays in persuasion, to prepare for the imminent inner change, to accelerate the spiritual growth and development. These new engines of Mirra’s sadhana- new only in the sense that they were now more frequently and fully brought into play- were prayer and meditation. With the spiritual seeker, prayer is no vulgar mendicancy for a material gift or advantage, say, success in an election or examination, business prosperity, or even mere release from physical distress or pain. Prayer has more fundamental aims, other resplendent potencies, and the true spiritual aspirant, conscious of these far aims, mobilizes by the power of prayer these supernal forces.

Mirra had already reached an advanced stage of occult knowledge and inner development when she commenced the new spiritual adventure of regular meditation and prayer, and their faithful transcription day after day. This was an individual opening out to the Unknown, an intimate dialogue with the Divine. Every day she sat at dawn near the window of her room in No. 9, Rue du Val de Grace, with a Kashmiri shawl wrapped closely about her. After a brief session of intense mediation, she set down on paper her ruminations feelings, hopes, aspirations, anxieties, visions and experiences. Being private and a spontaneous recordation, she kept this spiritual diary scrupulously under lock and key; it was, after all, a secret between the Divine and herself.

These diary-jottings, these articulate approaches to the Infinite, these pointer-readings of Mirra’s mystical life began “several weeks” before the keynote entry on 2 November 1912, and were to continue for a few years with a more or less sustained regularity; then the entries were to become fewer and far between, and at last stop altogether in 1931. In all they were to fill five stout notebooks, but it was only afterwards that their contents were to be revealed even to Sri Aurobindo who advised the publication of a selection. This was how they appeared in 1932 in the original French as ‘Prieres et Meditations de la Mere’. By a supreme act of self-abnegation, the Mother was later to consign to the flames in a boiler in the Ashram the rest of the work, perhaps the greater part.

The selected work as published in French has been described by the French poet and mystic, Maurice Magre, as “the highest perfection in style of which French is capable of,” an opinion shared by many who are entitled to speak with authority on French writing. In 1941, English translations of 61 of the prayers were published under the title ‘Prayers and Meditations’. These are manuscripts in Sri Aurobindo’s hand of several of them. For the rest, there are manuscripts written by a disciple and extensively revised by Sri Aurobindo. A fuller edition was published in 1948. Like the French, the English version is a classic in its own right. As Rishabhchand puts it:

“These Prayers are no glistening gossamer of imaginative idealism nor an imposing fabric of theological speculation, but undeniable facts of spiritual realization, - truths seen, words heard, forms touched, at least as concretely as the objects of our senses, but all in a world or worlds of light, sealed to the sense-bound consciousness of man.”

The English renderings perhaps miss here and there the simple beauty, the radiant native force, the inevitable glow of phrasing, the compelling insinuating rhythms of the French original. But the work of translation has been very sensitively carried out, and it is the general feeling that much of the fervour, the mystic élan and the poetic flavour of the original has been retained in the English version as well. There is no doubt that the work, whether in French or in English, is a superb embodiment of the lyra mystica, and a spiritual testament for all time.

(K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, ‘On The Mother - The chronicle of A Manifestation and Ministry’, Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry.)

Prayers of The Mother – A Might, A Flame, A Beauty


Om Anandamayi Chaitanyamayi Satyamayi Parame

O Savitri, thou art my spirit’s power,
The revealing voice of my immortal Word,
The face of Truth upon the roads of Time
Pointing to the souls of men the routes to God.
- Book 11, ‘Savitri’

The ‘Prayers and Meditations’ of the Mother is a “treasure of honey in the combs of God”. Just as ‘Savitri’ is a record of the sadhana of Sri Aurobindo, his experiences and realizations set in mantric, mystical lines of sublime poetry, the ‘Prayers and Meditations’ of the Mother is “a record of Mother’s experiences” set in the form of soul-stirring, mystical Prayers. A beautiful note in the beginning of the book says how this book can be used as a spiritual guide for different categories of seekers.

“This book comprises extracts from a diary written during years of intensive yogic discipline. It may serve as a spiritual guide to three principal categories of seekers: those who have undertaken self-mastery, those who want to find the road leading to the Divine, those who aspire to consecrate themselves more and more to the Divine Work.”

The Mother by her own example, by this “kind of prayer from the Divine to the Divine”, by her intensive yogic discipline and rich inner life has set the example for aspiring souls and given us this precious ‘spiritual guide’ to follow the sunlit path and to give everything, “soul, life, work, wealth” to the Divine. There can be no greater guide and inspiration for sadhaks than this wonderful book.

Sri Aurobindo notes, “I have said that the Divine does the sadhana just for the world and then gives what is brought down to others. There can be no sadhana without realizations and experiences. The Prayers are a record of the Mother’s experiences.”

The Prayers are Mothers’ outpourings from deep within, her intense feelings, thoughts, her moments of spiritual ecstasy and poverty, her hopes, aspirations, realizations, anguish and disappointments and her communion and dialogue with the Divine in various forms - as the Vedic Gods of Agni, Mitra, Indra, Buddha, the Divine Mother and the Supreme Lord…..many of them written after her intense communion and identification with Nature, and many others autobiographical and events of great importance in the terrestrial history of the earth.

Feelings that only eternity could share
Thoughts natural and native to gods
- ‘Savitri’

The Divine reveals and yields His secrets to the chosen ones, as the Mother observed

“O Consciousness, immobile and serene Thou watchest at the confines of the world like the sphinx of eternity, And yet to some Thou yieldest Thy secret.” (November 10, 1914)

However not every experience and realization could be expressed in words as the significance of it might be too mystical or veiled, sometimes so private that “even her own physical ears should not hear”. Here are some illustrations:

“I hail Thee, O Lord, and bow before Thee. But I shall not write, for Thou hast just told me, in reply to a question about the present meditation. We have had a private conversation which even thy own physical ears should not hear.” (December 14, 1916)

“But the sounds gather in the head as behind a veil and not a word flows from the pen today…”(December 6, 1916)

Prayers were written on different occasions. Some were written at dawn, as follows:

“In this calm concentration which comes before daybreak, more than at any other moment, my thought rises to Thee, O Lord of our being in an ardent prayer…”

Some were written in moments of great aspiration ,invoking the Divine, as in the following prayer:

“Like a flame that burns in silence, like a perfume that rises straight upward without wavering, my love goes to Thee; and like a child who does not reason and has no care, I trust myself to Thee that Thy Will be done, that Thy Light may manifest, Thy Peace radiate, Thy love cover the world.” (December 7, 1912)

“O Splendid Agni, Thou who art so living within me, I call Thee, I invoke Thee that Thou mayst be more living still, that Thy brazier may become more immense, Thy flames higher and more powerful, that the entire being may now be only an ardent burning, a purifying pyre.” (September 30, 1914)

Many of them are unmistakably autobiographical and symbolic like the one written on the eve of her momentous journey to the east to meet Sri Aurobindo:

“As the day of departure draws near, I enter into a kind of self-communion; I turn with a fond solemnity towards all those thousand little nothings around us which have silently, for so many years, played their role of faithful friends.“ (March 3, 1914)
“In an indrawn state I contemplate this turning page, vanishing into the dream of the past and look at the new page all full potentially of the dream of the future.” (March 4, 1914);

And the one after she first met Sri Aurobindo written the day after her first arrival in Pondicherry, on March 30, 1914:

“It matters little that there are thousands of beings plunged in the densest ignorance, He whom we saw yesterday is on earth.” (March 30, 1914)

Some entries in ‘Prayers and Meditations’ speak of communion and identity with nature, the most beautiful one being the one written on April 7, 1917, after her deep concentration and identity with one single cherry blossom and “through it with all cherry-blossoms”. It is indeed a mystical experience as she enters the consciousness of the tree “deeper following a stream of bluish force” and becomes one with it.

Some entries were made in sombre and dark, turbulent times, as in this one set in the back ground of the first Great War.

“Then the worlds darkened in a multiplicity, more and more chaotic, the Energy became violent and the material world obscure and sorrowful. And when in our infinite love we perceived in its entirety the hideous suffering of the world of misery and ignorance, where we saw our children locked in a somber struggle.”(September 1, 1914)

The Prayers as we see from this small cross-section is a record of the Mothers’ inner experiences, Her intimate conversations, and aspiration for the Divine. Every moment, every event became an occasion for identity and communion with the Divine and it flowed out in the form of beautiful words expressing the inexpressible. It is a precious spiritual guide to seekers. By her own immaculate example, She has shown us how “every day, every moment should be an occasion for a new and completer consecration”, and how to aspire, invoke and surrender to the Divine. We also have a wonderful glimpse of the richness and complexity of her inner life, her boundless compassion and tenderness towards humanity, humility and surrender to the Divine and her constant Prayer and love for “earth and men”:

Then all the woman yearningly replied:
Thy embrace which rends the living knot of pain,
Thy joy, O Lord, in which all creatures breathe,
Thy magic flowing waters of deep love,
Thy sweetness give to me for earth and men.
- Book 11, ‘Savitri’

“Grant that I may be nothing but Thy Divine Love and that in every being this Love may awake, powerful and victorious.

Let me be a vast mantle of love enveloping all the earth, entering all hearts, murmuring in every ear Thy divine message of hope and peace.”

- May 9, 1914, ‘Prayers and Meditations’, The Mother.


Sudha

My experience at Auroville

This month Auroville celebrates its 43rd birthday. Founded on February 28th, 1968 by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, this “city of dawn” is emerging as what I believe is one of the most remarkable, inspiring, and important projects put forth by mankind.

Since childhood I have always felt myself drawn to the place and grew to treasure the few hours my family and I took to visit the Matrimandir during most of our yearly trips to Pondicherry. As I grew up and began my undergraduate studies in International Development and World Religions, it took on a new dimension of interest for me as I grew curious about the practical as well as the spiritual levels of the Auroville experience, and decided to devote the month of July 2010 to revisiting the place with more mature eyes and see what new insights staying there rather than taking a brief day-trip could bring me.

I arrived in Auroville on July 2nd, 2010 to begin my one month long volunteering in the Deepanam School, staying in the Mitra Youth Hostel. Auroville’s main goal, embedded in its charter, is to achieve a true spirit of human unity, devoid of artificial boundaries of race, class, politics, and religion.


Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.

Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.

Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.

Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.

- 28 February 1968, The Mother

(‘The Auroville Charter’, ‘Collected Works of The Mother, Vol. 13 - Centenary Edition’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1980, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherry).

The Deepanam School is central to the project and was central to my own experience. Deepanam is a relatively new school and responds to the needs for good educational institutions that are present now that more and more Aurovillians are having or arriving with children. It was here I witnessed children of various ages from a multitude of different ethnicities and backgrounds transcending these man-made distinctions to form a united, beautiful whole dedicated to Sri Aurobindo’s educational philosophy that aims to foster creativity and encourage an active engagement with learning rather than simply imbibing information. Children at this school were only restrained by a few guidelines put forth by the inspiring, cheerful set of teachers, and it was an environment for true learning that I have yet to see anywhere else. I began to appreciate more the relationship between Deepanam and Auroville: Deepanam is somewhat of a microcosm of Auroville, embodying the emphasis on unity and the constant strive to keep learning more about ourselves and about our own potential. During my stay I was able to attend a talk by India’s Union Minister for Education Kapil Sibal who was appreciative of Auroville’s unique education system, and stated that in a perfect world every school in India would be able to function as Auroville’s schools do, but the rest of India simply is not yet ready.

My time in Auroville was spent helping out with Deepanam during the weekdays and exploring Auroville in the evenings and weekends. I met people from everywhere, with different motivations for coming to Auroville, and developed many close friendships that I know I will always treasure. One of my favourite activities was my weekly visit to Sadhana Forest every Friday for their “eco-film” night where they would offer a tour of the forest for those not staying there, provide a delicious free vegan meal, and screen a usually environmentally-focused documentary. Sadhana Forest is a project started in 2003 that has produced a rich tropical forest out of what was previously dry, dead earth. It is constantly growing and maintained by many volunteers who come flooding in from all over the world to live in this 100% vegan environment and devote their mornings to planting seeds and maintaining the forest and the community. Having only lived in big cities (previously Singapore, now Montreal), I found it incredibly inspiring to see people living in thatched roof huts, washing their dishes with ash, using only biodegradable toiletries and a small bucket of water each day to shower, using only solar and human-powered energy (exercise bicycles are to be used when it is a cloudy day to power the communal area), not eating anything that has caused harm to animals in any way (including honey and any and all milk products) and even using human compost to generate soil. In today’s world when we are witnessing the slow destruction of our planet, it is incredibly inspiring to see a project such as this one thriving .

When I told my friends about all that I had experienced in Auroville, someone vaguely criticized it saying it seemed a bit overly idealistic and unrealistic to expect these seemingly lofty goals to be realized in a real human community constricted by time and space and not simply as a thought experiment. However, and with the slight disclaimer that I am just a twenty year old with minimal life experience, I would disagree. The vision of Auroville for everyone to live free, peacefully and spiritually without boundaries is of course idealistic, but I fail to see this as a bad thing. Idealism is the invisible thread that binds us, without which we are mired in a world ruled by earthly distinctions that will perpetually divide us. Are their goals fully realized yet? Does each individual that inhabits the place truly believe in human unity and spiritual advancement? Is Auroville a light for all humanity? Perhaps not, or rather, not yet. It is not my place to comment on the practical criticisms of Auroville that certainly exist (and I am not under the impression that I know everything there is to be known about Auroville with my relatively short stay, however, I will say this: Auroville is a new project. Being only 42 years old, it is unfair to expect these standards to be fully realized at this moment. It is a work in progress, as is every human institution, and ultimately, every human being, and Auroville’s particular brand of progress is something to be aspired to. Anyone who has ever had the chance to sit in the Matrimandir (as I did whenever I could) and has felt the waves of pure silence and peace envelop them will agree that Auroville is a very special place indeed.
- Maya Ranganath

(The Deepanam School is currently struggling with a lack of funds to complete their projects, and any donation big or small would be much appreciated. Their website can be found at http://www.deepanamschool.org. Please email me at maya.ranganath@mail.mcgill.ca for further details)

IEP: Climbing Mount Faber


On Sunday 26th December, we went to Mt. Faber for IEP (Integral Enrichment Programme). We were very excited. It was raining, so we had to use umbrellas or raincoats. I was very excited to climb a hill in the rain. It was new for me.

When we started, slowly the rain started to stop. After a while, the rain stopped. Finally, I could take off my raincoat. I didn’t want to wear my raincoat because the sleeves were tight.

After about two hours of walking, we finally reached the top of the hill. I was very tired. We all had our dinner at the top of the hill. I had pasta and cheese for dinner. It was scrumptious!!!!!!!!!!

Lastly, we sat down on the mat and drew pictures. That was fun. I drew hills on one side of the page and on the other side, I drew myself wearing my pink raincoat in the rain.

We were very tired. We went down the hill and took a cab home. It was tiring but, also lots and lots of fun. My favorite part was drawing.
- Priyanka (IEP student)


Walking in Light

The January write-up drew response from Mr Dhana, our former walk co-ordinator and a well respected figure in our circle who walks his talk in health management. Mr Dhana highlighted two points related to BMI:

• That the indices for the Caucasian and Asian have been revised accordingly, keeping in mind the different average body frames, mass/weight and height of these groups.

The revised and universally accepted figures endorsed by the World Health Organisation for Asians is as follows:

BMI

Underweight..................Below 18
Normal..........................18 - 22.9
Overweight....................23 - 27.9
Obese............................28 and Above

• That the fat test may be a more reliable aid to ascertaining one’s health condition, as already discussed in the column in the previous issue of the newsletter.

It is becoming more and more compelling that the rate at which fats accumulate in our body ought to be taken with due seriousness. This issue and the next few will examine the nature of fat metabolism in the body, the accumulation of fats in and around our body parts and the consequences of such accumulations that cross the threshold level.

What are fats? Fats are organic compounds that belong to a group called lipids. They are made up of the elements Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. Fats are both in the liquid and solid forms. The basic building blocks of fats are fatty acids, which may be either saturated or unsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as milk and milk products like cheese, butter, ice-cream and in fatty meat. Some vegetables such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oils contain saturated fatty acids. Saturated fats contribute towards the increase in blood cholesterol level.

Unsaturated fatty acids are found in most liquid vegetable oils, except those mentioned earlier. Some examples of these sources are olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, corn and soybean oils. These help to lower blood cholesterol levels if used in place of saturated fats. However, it should be born in mind that unsaturated fats are high in calories as well.

The other types of fats are trans fatty acids and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fatty acids. Trans fats form when vegetable oil hardens. These fats are known to increase the level of LDL (Low Density Lipids) - bad cholesterol and lower the level of HDL (High Density Lipids) - good cholesterol. Fried foods, commercially baked goods, processed foods and margarines contain trans fats. Hydrogenated fats refer to oils that have hardened (butter, margarine). Hydrogenated fats contain a high level of trans fatty acids.
- Jayanthy
Reference

• The New England Journal of Medicine Medicinehttp://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199008163230703
• The US National Library of Medicine http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002468.htm