Guiding Light of The Month

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

Artistic Thoroughness

Neglects nothing in its search for perfection.

- The Mother



Common Name: Common Garden Verbena

Botanical Name: Verbena X Hybrida

Spiritual Name: Artistic Thoroughness



From the editor's desk

Painting continues to be the theme for the month of July. In this 3rd issue, we take a peek into Leonardo Da Vinci, the famed creator of “Mona Lisa”. There is more to him as many already know. Here was a magnificent son of earth who excelled at almost any human endeavour. He was a multi-disciplinarian and a master artist, painter, sculptor, architect, philosopher, scientist and technologist, a perfectionist a protagonist. That so many interests and pursuits resided in one man, and that too in actual manifestation is really a wonder that would leave many of us of this age and time gasping. Nothing must have left his notice without being sublimated into an exact interpretation and rendering into forms and words palpable, a true scientist to his core and a true artist in attempting to represent the spirit residing within the subject of his enquiry and appreciation. Perhaps in him was a wideness and a depth cultivated integrally, a Yogi perhaps and one in whom, Sri Aurobindo observes, the “seeds of modern Europe” was summarized. As for Da Vinci, nothing was greater than being a master of himself.



The Mother equates true art to Yoga, as in the attempt made, with growing precision and perfection, to bring out that which is hidden within, the essence of the thing in question. The practice of Yoga nurtures an artist, as through Yoga, the faculties of perception and expression grow in magnitude and perfection, with practice. The Mother was a Purna Yogi herself, in the life she led, involving herself meticulously in the work she pursued everyday of her life. She was multi-faceted and executed her multiple works with the same exactitude and precision that the Yoga she was pursuing demanded, reflected in the way the ashram she led was established and run with its many wings for the development of the human consciousness, which continue to exist till this day. The Mother was an accomplished artist and musician and she used these pursuits as means of connecting with and bringing down the highest and the sublime into earth’s atmosphere.



In this Newsletter, we also take a glimpse at another one of The Mother’s dearest, sweetest child, Champaklal, whose love for The Mother and Sri Aurobindo nurtured him as that special child of the Divine, entrusted with the work of being of close service to them. His unflinching faith and devotion towards them serves as a shining example of how a bhakta conducts himself with the masters of his adoration which even to this day inspires, as we hear of him being spoken of, or when we read his collection of writings, now published.



Ashramites who have known him would vouch for his striking adherence to truth. He was exacting in his service to The Mother and Master and took great care in delivering his service with an eye to the minutest detail. Here was a man given to this Yoga, who offered all about him in self-consecration with simplicity and sincerity, that even to read about him brings him into the sphere of one’s immediate life, kindling the fires of aspiration. Besides the paintings he did during whatever free time he got between his serving hours, Champaklal will be most fondly remembered by older ashramites for the birthday cards he used to prepare with great care and precision so that The Mother could present them to the birthday children. In this addition, we present some of the pictures done by him with a brief description of each of them.

Savitri

A divine force shall flow through tissue and cell


And take the charge of breath and speech and act

And all the thoughts shall be a glow of suns

And every feeling a celestial thrill.

Often a lustrous inner dawn shall come

Lighting the chambers of the slumbering mind;

A sudden bliss shall run through every limb

And Nature with a mightier Presence fill.



(Savitri, Book 11 Canto 1)

Question of the month

Q: Does the work of an artist improve if he does Yoga?



A: The Mother: The discipline of Art has at its centre the same principle as the discipline of Yoga. In both the aim is to become more and more conscious; in both you have to learn to see and feel something that is beyond the ordinary vision and feeling, to go within and bring out from there deeper things. Painters have to follow a discipline for the growth of consciousness of their eyes, which in itself is almost a Yoga. If they are true artists and try to see beyond and use their art for the expression of the inner world, they grow in consciousness by this concentration, which is not other than the consciousness given by Yoga. Why then should not Yogic consciousness be a help to artistic creation? I have known some who had very little training and skill and yet through Yoga acquired a fine capacity in writing and painting. Two examples I can cite to you. One was a girl who had no education whatever; she was a dancer and danced tolerably well. After she took up Yoga, she danced only for friends; but her dancing attained a depth of expression and beauty which was not there before. And although she was not educated, she began to write wonderful things; for she had visions and expressed them in the most beautiful language. But there were ups and downs in her Yoga, and when she was in a good condition, she wrote beautifully, but otherwise was quite dull and stupid and uncreative. The second case is that of a boy who had studied art, but only just a little. The son of a diplomat, he had been trained for the diplomatic career; but he lived in luxury and his studies did not go far. Yet as soon as he took up Yoga, he began to produce inspired drawings which carried the expression of an inner knowledge and were symbolic in character; in the end he became a great artist.



Art is subtle and delicate

”Art is subtle and delicate, and it makes the mind also in its movements subtle and delicate. It is suggestive, and the intellect habituated to the appreciation of art is quick to catch suggestions, mastering not only, as the scientific mind does, that which is positive and on the surface, but that which leads to ever fresh widening and subtilising of knowledge and opens a door into the deeper secrets of inner nature where the positive instruments of science cannot take the depth or measure.”

The Mother as a purna yogi

The Mother was a Yogi in excelsis, and by native right and in response to human needs headed the Ashram; she was a born educator (education being a form of Yoga), and she was the head of the Centre of Education, and hers was the unfailing inspiration behind its many activities; and she could also summon from the source of All enough exact knowledge to meet any day-to-day eventuality whatsoever. Once when Surendra Nath Jauhar asked the Mother whether he might buy a particular colliery that was on sale, she said after a minute's concentration, "No!" How did she reach that decision? She explained:



"You know my technique? I have established contacts with the Supreme Power who guides the destinies of all. When you ask any question, it is directly referred to that Power.... Do you know how easy it becomes? Then you don't have to discuss the matter, call meetings of experts to advise. Otherwise I would have asked what was the name of the colliery, where it was situated, how far was the railroad...."



Such extra-rational, almost superhuman, sources of information, inspiration and effective action were equally behind her extraordinary managerial capacity which involved expertise in a hundred different fields of specialisation, as also her easy mastery of the written and spoken word, and of music and painting.



Her 'Prayers and Meditations', her letters and the conversations, all sprang up, not from the levels of activity familiar to us but from overhead levels of instantaneous apprehension and articulation. Her music, as Sunil Kumar Bhattacharya saw, came from a long way down and welled up to the highest heights of illumination and Ananda. In her paintings and sketches too, the Mother was neither of the old or the new school, neither of the West nor of the East, but was only driven to render the lines and forms and colours of the Spirit in its numberless variations of manifestation on the earth.



On the other hand, although people vaguely knew that the Mother sketched and painted, it was only when an exhibition was opened on 15 August 1965 at the new Art Gallery that the opulence and variety and distinctive spiritual dimensions of her work came to the knowledge of one and all in the Ashram and of the many visitors as well. The Mother had drawn and painted since her childhood, and in the early years of the Ashram she used to do sketches in the mornings, and once she exhibited some of them in Pavitra's room for the benefit of such of the sadhaks as were artistically inclined. On one occasion she did a portrait of Champaklal with her eyes closed; the pencil made 'free progress' as it were of its own accord, and in a few minutes the sketch was finished - and an excellent portrait it was. Likewise she did the portrait of another close to her, Kamala. On yet another occasion, she drew a portrait of Pranab when he was resting. There were two striking self-portraits too, and one of them, drawn in 1935, matched with her portrait of Sri Aurobindo of the same period. According to Champaklal, she was persuaded by him to attempt a painting of Sri Aurobindo in oil colours, but somehow the painting was never done. But we have fortunately her portrait-sketch of Sri Aurobindo alongside of her self-portrait of 1935. These two bring out the whole soul-quality of the Mother and of Sri Aurobindo - "Without him, I exist not; without me, he is unmanifest" - in a way that no photograph can do. The Mother's self-portrait has an elfin grace; infinite understanding in her eyes; the whole face is "like a parable of dawn".....

A deep of compassion, a hushed sanctuary,

Her inward help unbarred a gate in heaven;

Love in her was wider than the universe,

The whole world could take refuge in her single heart.



As for the portrait of Sri Aurobindo, it is that of the immaculate Purusha - high-arching forehead, lion-maned, and a visage that is a signature of puissance and peace.....



His soul lived as eternity's delegate,

His mind was like a fire assailing heaven,

His will a hunter in the trails of light.

It is not the language of forms, lines or colours; the Soul itself seems to whisper communicating the epiphanic realities behind the human countenances.


(K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar in ‘On The Mother’, Chapter 54, ‘Free Progress’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)

The Phenomenon that was Leonardo Da Vinci


“Genius discovers a system;

average talent stereotypes it till it is shattered by fresh genius.”

– Sri Aurobindo



We recently spent a weekend in Milan where we got to see some of Da Vinci’s work. It wasn’t very clear when we bought our tickets, but we found out that visitors get precisely 15 minutes to see The Last Supper, and tickets have to be booked sometimes months in advance! There was another exhibit where we got to spend a few hours – the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. This fifteenth-century library now houses thousands of original artworks, including a subset of sketches by Da Vinci. Our hours here were far more inspiring and fascinating than we had expected.



But to really get a sense, you may have to imagine – Imagine standing face-to-face with a parchment that has seen 500 years of aging, with beautiful hand-writing, recording the observations and details about a device that was itself hundreds of years ahead of its time. Now imagine walking through an entire room of such sketches, each one outdoing the other in ingenuity and subject. From human anatomy, birds, aerodynamics, bridges, military vehicles, fossils, hydraulics – it felt like there wasn’t an area of enquiry which had not intrigued him. Nothing can truly describe the sense of awe and wonder we felt on seeing some of his work. We were quite speechless, and humbled by this towering intellect, this giant among men, this most gifted of painters. He is most well known as a painter, being the celebrated author of the timeless work Mona Lisa. As a painter, Mother wrote about him as being “the greatest, if not one of the greatest”.





The Seeds of Modern Europe

I came across this revealing quote that threw light on what Leonardo represented in the context of the renaissance and modern-day Europe. In fact, in the book ‘Sri Aurobindo and Greece’, Amal Kiran gives us the context of the question that He answered:



Amal Kiran: I was discussing with Sri Aurobindo on the subject of rebirth and lines of manifesting consciousness and put him the query: "Is it true that the same consciousness that took the form of Leonardo da Vinci had previously manifested as Augustus Caesar? If so, will you please tell me what exactly Augustus stood for in the history of Europe and how Leonardo's work was connected with his?



“Augustus Caesar organised the life of the Roman Empire and it was this that made the framework of the first transmission of the Graeco-Roman civilisation to Europe—he came for that work and the writings of Virgil and Horace and others helped greatly towards the success of his mission. After the interlude of the Middle Ages, this civilisation was reborn in a new mould in what is called the Renaissance, not in its life-aspects but in its intellectual aspects. It was therefore a supreme intellectual, Leonardo da Vinci, who took up again the work and summarised in himself the seeds of modern Europe.”



“Da Vinci held in himself all the new age of Europe on its many sides”



- Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Poetry and Art, 29 July 1937

As a Scientist

It is quite impossible to appreciate the phenomenon of Da Vinci without understanding the temperament of the age in which he took birth. How do we grasp the import of his phenomenal discoveries in anatomy, for instance? – Hundreds of years before modern Europe rediscovered them. Da Vinci worked tirelessly against the norms of his age, pursuing single-mindedly the truths of the human body when it was considered heretical to touch, leave alone dissect corpses of “good Christians”. These lines below give us some idea of the context.



“The individualistic age of Europe was in its beginning a revolt of reason, in its culmination a triumphal progress of physical Science……….The dawn of individualism is always a questioning, a denial.”



“The individual finds a religion imposed upon him which does not base its dogma and practice upon a living sense of ever verifiable spiritual Truth, but on the letter of an ancient book, the infallible dictum of a Pope, the tradition of a Church, the learned casuistry of schoolmen and Pundits, conclaves of ecclesiastics, heads of monastic orders, doctors of all sorts, all of them unquestionable tribunals whose sole function is to judge and pronounce, but none of whom seems to think it necessary or even allowable to search, test, prove, inquire, discover. He finds that, as is inevitable under such a regime, true science and knowledge are either banned, punished and persecuted or else rendered obsolete by the habit of blind reliance on fixed authorities………….He has to rise in revolt; on every claim of authority he has to turn the eye of a resolute inquisition.. “

- Sri Aurobindo in ‘The Age of Individualism and Reason’

Knowledge by Experience

An illegitimate child to ‘ordinary’ parents, Leonardo was denied a formal education and therefore had no access to Latin or Greek. All of European science’s highest thought were expressed in these two languages at the time. And this “supreme intellectual” found a way – to build all his understanding and knowledge by Experience.



“All sciences are vain and full of errors that are not born of Experience, the mother of all Knowledge.” he said. He was the perfect scientist, in a broad sense of the term. He took nothing for granted, and established by direct and patient observation the basis of his theories for everything.



Significant Quotes

I found these quotes of Da Vinci significant because they echo the wisdom of ages of western & eastern thought. Moreover, it shows the depth of his understanding of the aim & purpose of human evolution.



“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”



“You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.”



For an excellent docu-drama on Da Vinci, http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/leonardo-da-vinci/



- Uday Arya



(Uday has been a lover of Sri Aurobindo's poetry ever since he can remember. He currently lives and works in Paris, and writes periodically at aryaputr.wordpress.com)

The place of art in evolution

”We now come to the kernel of the subject, the place of art in the evolution of the race and its value in the education of and actual life of the nation. The first question is whether the sense of the beautiful has any effect on the life of the nation. It is obvious, from what we have already written, that the manners, the social culture and the restraint in action and expression which are so large a part of national prestige and dignity and make a nation admired like the French, loved like the Irish or respected like the higher-class English, are based essentially on the sense of form and beauty, of what is correct, symmetrical, well-adjusted and fair to the eye and pleasing to the imagination. The absence of these qualities is a source of national weakness...The mind is profoundly influenced by what it sees and, if the eye is trained from the days of childhood to the contemplation and understanding of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in line and colour, the tastes, habits and character will be insensibly trained to follow a similar law of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in the life of adult man. This was the great importance of the universal proficiency in the arts and crafts or the appreciation of them which was prevalent in ancient Greece, in certain European ages, in Japan and in the better days of our own history. Art galleries cannot be brought into every home, but, if all the appointments of our life and furniture of our homes are things of taste and beauty, it is inevitable that the habits, thoughts and feelings of the people should be raised, ennobled, harmonised, made more sweet and dignified.”

Champaklal – The Mother’s Lion


Champaklal (February 2, 1903 - May 9, 1992) was not only a respected member of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, but almost an institution in himself. His devoted and meticulous personal service to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother for over fifty years was an inspiring example of selfless service. His helpfulness to devotees who sought the Mother's blessings and advice on personal questions made him a friend and well-wisher of all. It is surprising that in spite of the rigours of his constant attendance upon Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and his innumerable small but essential tasks, he could still find time to develop his artistic interests. This was only possible because of his deep urge to express himself through form and colour.



Champaklalji was extremely fond of this photograph of his with the Mother (photo on the right) which she captioned it "My Lion". While choosing it as the cover for the Gujarati edition of ‘Champaklal Speaks’, he noted this incident: Once, on seeing this photo, Pranab's uncle Charubabu exclaimed, "Mother, here Champaklal looks like Durga's lion!" And Mother forcefully replied, "He is my lion!"



There was one special artistic duty which Champaklal had to perform, often on an urgent basis. On birthdays and other occasions, the Mother used to send to sadhaks and devotees, pictorial cards with her blessings and sometimes a personal message. It was Champaklal's duty to prepare these cards. It was his originality and artistic skill which made them very often unique in design. It became indeed a craft of skill in his hands and the Mother complimented him on a number of occasions. She even wrote, "Champaklal is an artist." This work was not as simple as it may appear. It took hours of labour and ingenuity. At times, he had to make eight or ten such cards in one day. Can one imagine that he did this work, besides other things, for thirty years or more? On Champaklal's birthday in 1964, the Mother wrote:

To Champaklal

The great doer of cards

This card is to tell him my appreciation of all what he has done and

my expectation for still better things to come.....



We present below some paintings of Champaklal – done either by him or inspired by his visions.


Fire of Aspiration

Champaklal: About 20 days back I saw a fire flame coming out of a lotus. At that time I thought it was only my imagination. Today I see something like that on the cover of the book The Mother. I have tried to draw it. Has it any meaning?

Sri Aurobindo: It must be the fire of aspiration rising from the opened consciousness to the Sun of Truth with all its colours (forces) around it.

- 18.11.1933



The Sun and The Flower/ A Vision

Champaklal: Early morning a vision came to me. I have tried to represent in the picture what I saw. Is there any meaning in it? Or is it my own mental construction?

Sri Aurobindo: The sun is of course the Truth and the building is the material consciousness that has become capable of receiving the light. The flowers indicate our presence in the material consciousness.

- 25.8.1934



The Avatar

Then above the red lotus Mother wrote: The Avatar Sri Aurobindo And under the white lotus she wrote:

To Champaklal With blessings to my dear child

- 02.02.40



With a beautiful affectionate smile Sri Aurobindo said: "Umm." Then he wrote above the white lotus:


Aditi

The Divine Mother

And under the red lotus he wrote:

To Champaklal

With blessings

- 02.02.40


May-June Sunday Activities at Centre – A glimpse

27/05/2012



Reading of select lines from ‘Savitri’



We had all gathered at the Centre and started our Sunday session with an Opening Meditation with Sunilda’s Organ music playing in the background. After reading a couple of prayers from ‘Prayers and Meditation’, we formed a small circle to sit and read select lines from ‘Savitri’. We were to read lines from Book Two, Canto Four —‘The Kingdoms of the Little Life’. This was one of those Cantos where the lines seemed so powerful and yet so simple to visualize in our mind’s eye. It ended with these beautiful lines:



A little light in a great darkness born,

Life knew not where it went nor whence it came.

Around all floated still the nescient haze.



Each and every one of us present at the Centre at that point could feel little bits of ourselves float in that haze.



03/06/2012



Guided Meditation



As it was the first Sunday of the Month, we had our Monthly Walk in the morning and were to have a session of Guided Meditation at the Centre in the evening. Meditation is a singular experience. What one feels during Meditation varies from time to time and person to person. Guided Meditation aids in harmonizing our thoughts and reach that stage of quietude required for Meditation easily. The Mother always said that Collective Meditation is a good way of sadhana and the best way to bring about unity in spirit and thoughts. A Guided Collective Meditation is the best way to get all set for the next week ahead.



10/06/2012



‘Elements of Yoga’ by Sri Aurobindo (Meditation)



‘Elements of Yoga’ by Sri Aurobindo was the book we were to read at the Reading Circle this Sunday. ‘Meditation’ was the chosen chapter for the day. After reading the chapter aloud, we used the ‘Commentaries on Elements of Yoga’ by the Mother as a guide to help us understand it better.



There were numerous questions posed to The Mother on the subject of “Meditation” and the various aspects associated with it. The Mother helps in distinguishing between meditation and concentration, the subtle differences between experience, vision and realization and many such complex things have been explained so simply and easily such that each of her children can comprehend it all of it at ease.









17/06/2012



Reading of ‘Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on Themselves’, ‘Vignettes’ followed by OM Choir



We had all gathered at the Centre and started our Sunday session with an Opening Meditation. Absorbing the strong vibrations in the atmosphere around us, we formed a circle. We were to read a very special book that day—‘Sri Aurobindo and The Mother about Themselves’. A book which would give us a peek into the lives of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, that too in their own words! It is one thing to study their work, follow their principles but it is a totally different thing to know them as the people they used to be and the human side to them. After a quick read up, a few of us picked up a page each in ‘Vignettes’ and read the stories aloud. It seemed like it was in logical sequence with the first activity, as these were tales about Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, in other people’s words. After a short discussion, we formed a small circle for the OM Choir around a candle lit gloriously. We had a quick voice exercise session and then began offering our best OMs harmoniously. The music floated beautifully in the room.

- Preethi

ALONG THE WAY……Reflections on the June 2012 Morning Walk

It was a nice pleasant Sunday morning—the coolest in a long time. The overcast sky with the Sun trying to make an appearance, but in vain, gave the perfect ambience for our Monthly Walk. The venue chosen was a new one—near the Singapore Stadium, along the river, all the way to The Marina Barrage. A few enthusiastic people had already gathered there eagerly awaiting the others so that the Walk could begin. We quickly formed a small circle, did a couple of stretches and other exercises and embarked on our walk. The NUS row-run race was happening that day. There were a lot of students who were rowing with a lot of zeal and excitement. Rowing is an activity that requires great team spirit, effort and enthusiasm and all these qualities could be seen in all the participating teams.



With the Rowing event happening in the background and our conversations happening along the way, the Morning Walk brimmed with energy and enthusiasm. The entire path leading to the Marina Barrage was beautifully laced with beautiful flowering plants on either side. Some of us were trying to identify the flowers and the Spiritual Significance (given by The Mother) associated with each of them. There were beautiful meadows to our left and the river to our right. These meadows were typically used for weddings and other such grand events. We walked briskly with the Marina Barrage as our target. The magnificent Marina Bay Sands was standing majestically and was visible behind the Barrage from the path we were taking. After quite some time, we reached the Marina Barrage. A few of us went up all the way to catch some nice aerial view of the City. After catching some breathtaking glimpses of the City and many of its landmarks, we embarked on our return to the Starting Point. Mother Nature was still at her glorious best, there was a nice pleasant breeze and the Sun was still shying away as we walked back to the point where we started. The Row-Run race was still happening and the cheering, announcements and jubilations continued. A few other groups were playing cricket on this cheerful Sunday morning. Soaking in the varied sportive spirits around us, we embarked on the last leg of our journey. We were all heading to Anand and Vrunda Patel’s house. We were warmly welcomed by everyone at their place. We sat down in silence for Meditation followed by a few announcements. It was our little hero, Shiv’s birthday that day. So there was a nice little celebration for him where he cut a cake and we all wished him collectively. After this round of celebration, there was a delightful brunch awaiting us. The food was as delicious as the conversations that were taking place. Once done, we set out all charged up for the week ahead.



- Preethi