Guiding Light of The Month

IN Peace and Silence the Eternal manifests; allow nothing to disturb you and the Eternal will manifest; have perfect equality in face of all and the Eternal will be there. . . . - The Mother

Physical Thoroughness

The body takes a lively interest in life an action.

- The Mother



Common Name: Petunia

Botanical Name: Petunia X hybrida

Spiritual Name: Physical Thoroughness

From the Editor's desk

The Olympic Games are always a welcome feature, an occurrence vibrant, stimulating, informative, awe-inspiring. This event dots our calendar roughly twice in a decade or precisely, once every 4 years. Its origin dates back to 776 B.C., according to written records but it is believed generally to have been held Greece several centuries before the recorded 776 B.C., featuring mainly foot races and later on including others, starting with wrestling and pentathlon. The recently concluded Olympic 2012 featured competitions in 28 Olympic Sports which branched into 300 events with 205 nations taking part, throwing light on human artistry, mastery and excellence; It once again brought under the scrutiny of the huge floodlights of the stadium the limits to which the supposedly frail human frame could be pushed to and of course, what it had taken for that prowess displayed in many an athlete in the arena. From the East End of London reached the living rooms of many homes and public places all around the world, the song of praise of the physical body and its beauty and all the feats within its range. The scrutiny on physical culture always gets a boost, during the Olympic Games.



To become an athlete is the first steps towards becoming a true man. These words by The Mother keep ringing in the ears. And who is an athlete? Is he or she not an athlete who has mastered his or her body to an extent that reads “near perfection” in a bodily skill and ability? The Mother herself gives the method and the measure:

consciousness and control

discipline and mastery



Some mere words but what they hold in them! Even a moment of contemplation on these words indicate the mammoth task of working with one’s nature, a working with one’s habits, established thought patterns, one’s level of consciousness as to how one’s physical being functions, at each moment and so too one’s vital with all its desires and pulls and the movements of the mental nature, not devoid of its tricks and suggestions to follow the whims and fancies of the vital pulls. But then, once we see and become aware of these and also see and become aware that there must be awaiting for these elements of nature another fate more luminous, then we manage to turn around a clock within. To subject the physical being, together with the vital and mental, to the transforming rays of the Psychic Being is a way The Mother suggests, in a question and answer session. The habits are scrutinised, teased and found their knotted beginnings and new habits are worked in towards another more conscious gain, the vital puts her backing behind some high motive we keep for the being and provide support with her energy and force, and discipline sets in, with determination and a focussed mind. Then with continued movement in this direction, something called mastery comes in. What is this mastery? Mastery indicates some amount of flair, fluency, efficiency, a fine execution of a move, an action, a string of actions. These could be in any field accessible to the human, namely, sports, literacy, speech, culinary, art and craft and the thousand and thousand more areas of human scope.



This perfecting of the physical being is needed in order to express the divine principal more and more fully and wholly, in a body of beauty and suppleness and strength, a conscious body that is open to the Light. What does this spell for us, in our normal day to day existence? What does our body mean to us? What is its state now? How more could it be tuned and turned into an entity of Light through which a life of sadhana in whatever measure could be lived, and expressed the Divine Law?

Let us contemplate on this age old maxim:

Sarīram khalu dharmasādhanam

Savitri

A divine force shall flow through tissue and cell


And take charge of breath and speech and act

And all the thoughts shall be a glow of suns

And every feeling a celestial thrill.



(Savitri, Book 11 Canto 1)



And when that greater Self comes sea-like down

To fill this image of our transience,

All shall be captured by delight, transformed:

In waves of undreamed ecstasy shall roll

Our mind and life and sense and laugh in a light

Other than this hard limited human day,

The body's tissues thrill apotheosised,

Its cells sustain bright metamorphosis.

This little being of Time, this shadow-soul,

This living dwarf figure-head of darkened spirit

Out of its traffic of petty dreams shall rise.



(Savitri, Book 2 Canto 5)

Question of the month

“Lastly, we must, by means of a rational and clear-seeing physical education, make our body strong and supple so that it may become in the material world a fit instrument for the truth-force which wills to manifest through us.”

- The Mother in ‘On Education’



The Mother: It is much easier to organise the body than the vital, for instance. But the mind and the vital, with the character and temperament they have, what do they not do with this poor slave of a body! After having ill-treated it, perhaps ruined it (it protests a little, falls ill a little), this is what the two accomplices say: “What a beast is this body, it cannot follow us in our movement!” Unhappily, the body obeys its masters, the mind and the vital, blindly, without any discrimination. The mind comes along with its theories: “You must not eat that, it will harm you; you must not do that, it is bad”, and if the mind is not wise and clear-sighted, the poor body suffers the consequences of the orders it receives. I do not speak of the orders it receives from the vital. The mind with its rigid principles and the vital with its excesses and outbursts and passions are quick to destroy the body’s equilibrium and to create a condition of fatigue, exhaustion and illness.



“It must be freed from this tyranny; that can be done only through a constant union with the psychic centre of the being.” (‘On Education’)



(The Mother, ‘Questions and Answers 1950-51’ Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)

The Divine Body

A divine life in a divine body is the formula of the ideal that we envisage. But what will be the divine body? What will be the nature of this body, its structure, the principle of its activity, the perfection that distinguishes it from the limited and imperfect physicality within which we are now bound? What will be the conditions and operations of its life, still physical in its base upon the earth, by which it can be known as divine?



If it is to be the product of an evolution, and it is so that we must envisage it, an evolution out of our human imperfection and ignorance into a greater truth of spirit and nature, by what process or stages can it grow into manifestation or rapidly arrive? The process of the evolution upon earth has been slow and tardy — what principle must intervene if there is to be a transformation, a progressive or sudden change?



It is indeed as a result of our evolution that we arrive at the possibility of this transformation. As Nature has evolved beyond Matter and manifested Life, beyond Life and manifested Mind, so she must evolve beyond Mind and manifest a consciousness and power of our existence free from the imperfection and limitation of our mental existence, a supramental or truth consciousness, and able to develop the power and perfection of the spirit. Here a slow and tardy change need no longer be the law or manner of our evolution; it will be only so to a greater or less extent so long as a mental ignorance clings and hampers our ascent; but once we have grown into the truth consciousness its power of spiritual truth of being will determine all. Into that truth we shall be freed and it will transform mind and life and body. Light and bliss and beauty and a perfection of the spontaneous right action of all the being are there as native powers of the supramental truth-consciousness and these will in their very nature transform mind and life and body even here upon earth into a manifestation of the truth-conscious spirit. The obscurations of earth will not prevail against the supramental truth-consciousness, for even into the earth it can bring enough of the omniscient light and omnipotent force of the spirit to conquer. All may not open to the fullness of its light and power, but whatever does open must to that extent undergo the change. That will be the principle of transformation.



It might be that a psychological change, a mastery of the nature by the soul, a transformation of the mind into a principle of light, of the life-force into power and purity would be the first approach, the first attempt to solve the problem, to escape beyond the merely human formula and establish something that could be called a divine life upon earth, a first sketch of supermanhood, of a supramental living in the circumstances of the earth-nature. But this could not be the complete and radical change needed; it would not be the total transformation, the fullness of a divine life in a divine body. There would be a body still human and indeed animal in its origin and fundamental character and this would impose its own inevitable limitations on the higher parts of the embodied being. As limitation by ignorance and error is the fundamental defect of an untransformed mind, as limitation by the imperfect impulses and strainings and wants of desire are the defects of an untransformed life-force, so also imperfection of the potentialities of the physical action, an imperfection, a limitation in the response of its half consciousness to the demands made upon it and the grossness and stains of its original animality would be the defects of an untransformed or an imperfectly transformed body. These could not but hamper and even pull down towards themselves the action of the higher parts of the nature. A transformation of the body must be the condition for a total transformation of the nature.



It might be also that the transformation might take place by stages; there are powers of the nature still belonging to the mental region which are yet potentialities of a growing gnosis lifted beyond our human mentality and partaking of the light. The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth and power of the Divine and an ascent through these planes, a descent of them into the mental being might seem to be the natural evolutionary course. But in practice it might be found that these intermediate levels would not be sufficient for the total transformation since, being themselves illumined potentialities of mental being not yet supramental in the full sense of the word, they could bring down to the mind only a partial divinity or raise the mind towards that but not effectuate its elevation into the complete supramentality of the truth-consciousness. Still these levels might become stages of the ascent which some would reach and pause there while others went higher and could reach and live on superior strata of a semi-divine existence. It is not to be supposed that all humanity would rise in a block into the supermind; at first those only might attain to the highest or some intermediate height of the ascent whose inner evolution has fitted them for so great a change or who are raised by the direct touch of the Divine into its perfect light and power and bliss. The large mass of human beings might still remain for long content with a normal or only a partially illumined and uplifted human nature. But this would be itself a sufficiently radical change and initial transformation of earth-life; for the way would be open to all who have the will to rise, the supramental influence of the truth consciousness would touch the earth-life and influence even its untransformed mass and a hope would be there and a promise eventually available to all which now only the few can share in or realise.



(SABCL Vol. 16 ‘The Supramental Manifestation and Other Writings’, Chapter 14, ‘The Divine Body’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)

Archaia Olympia, the Greeks and Physical culture

We are now in the thick of the Olympian spirit; the games have started, and our modern age is celebrating the athletic ideal just as the Greeks did 3,000 years ago. But there are a few notable differences: Back then, women were not allowed to even watch the games; now, not just are women watching and participating, but this is the first Olympiad where every participating country has at least one female participant. Not just do the hard-line Arab nations have women representing their teams, the US team actually has more female than male athletes. Now, this progress may not be fast enough for our tiny life-spans, but it does seem to herald a gradual and inevitable gender shift that is altering millennia of male dominance. Worldwide, height differences between men and women have continued to decrease, and the performance differences stemming from this gap are also eroding.







But more significant is the slow revival of the ideal of perfectibility of the body, especially in India. It is significant not because it is new, but because the ideal is re-appearing on our horizons after a gap of more than two thousand years.



“The Perfection of the body, as great a perfection as we can bring about by the means at our disposal, must be the ultimate aim of physical culture. Perfection is the true aim of all culture, the spiritual and psychic, the mental, the vital and it must be the aim of our physical culture also. If our seeking is for a total perfection of the being, the physical part of it cannot be left aside; for the body is the material basis, the body is the instrument which we have to use.”



Ancient India placed a great emphasis on physical perfectibility, athletics and sports, declaring very simply, yet profoundly:

Sarīram khalu dharmasādhanam



- that the body is the means of fulfilment of dharma, and therefore its utmost perfectibility has to be attempted. The yoga of the body - āsanas, the martial arts of judo, karate and kung-fu have all come from India. Many of the present-day Olympic disciplines are variants of the games involving speed and strength, and were common to ancient India and Greece. There are records from these times of competitive archery, wrestling, running, chariot-racing and swimming.



Since the time of Buddha (6th BC) and Shankara (8th AD), the idea of illusionism and world-negation have had a huge impact on Indian life, and even more so on the outlook toward material things. One of the consequences of this world-view has been a near complete rejection of the body. In a sharp turn from pre-Buddhistic Hinduism, the development and training of the human body was seen as largely inconsequential. What was once a flooding river became a seasonal tributary. The decline of physical culture had set in, and was cemented further under Mughal and British rule, during which India largely went into a mode of self-preservation.



However, I am glad to see that the last decade in India has seen a remarkable turnaround. Everywhere I look – in movies, in pop culture – there is now an idealized human body, perfected with training & perseverance. Gyms and sports facilities are on a rise, even in the so-called ‘Tier-III’ cities; Yoga and its modern derivatives too are gaining popularity. If we ignore the last two generations and look only at the present – we can see clearly an increasing trend of an aspiration for a beautiful, supple and strong body.



It is in this context that Greece holds a special place in the world’s history. No civilisation had given the physical ideal and culture a more rounded place in life than the Greeks did. Their emphasis on beauty, on strength can be felt everywhere, and we could see it amply even in their ancient ruins. Archaia Olympia in Greece is one such place. This grand venue of the Greek Olympiads was buried under the mud for 1400 years.



The Temple of Hera, where the Olympic torch is lit.

We visited the site on a hot summer day this June and we could not help but wonder (while quenching our non-stop thirst!) what it may have been like in 776 B.C, when the games officially started.



The site of the ancient Gymnasium in Olympia



For centuries, it was almost as if the Greeks counted time in 4-year increments, and revered their best athletes as Gods. Amidst the remains and the vast open fields around, we imagined what it must have meant to 40,000+ visitors who slept under the stars for days together just to be a part of the festivities.



The entrance to the Olympic Stadium. Hear the echoes of athletes bursting through here three millennia ago.



Further reading and references:

Greece’s official site for Olympia has this very beautiful video giving us the story of the Ancient Olympics..(5m 38s) (http://www.olympia-greece.org/video.html). Separately, I came across this wonderful account of the games which would be of interest to curious readers – an essay titled ‘Ancient Olympics’ by Kireet Joshi. [ex Advisor and Special Secretary to the Government of India on Education ('76), and Vice-Chair to UNESCO on Education (’83-87), and more importantly – a great scholar]. He acknowledges his essay as being inspired by the classic accounts ‘The Greeks’ by H.D.F Kitto and from ‘The Greek Way’, by Edith Hamilton.



- 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)

July-August Sunday Activities at Centre – A glimpse

29 July and 4 Aug: Talk on ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’



This was the fifth Sunday of the month. It was a bonus and in order to maximize on it, we were to have an enlightening talk by Jared on ‘The Synthesis of Yoga’. Jared had meticulously formulated a very nice handout which presented to us the precious gems from the book in such a succinct fashion. He was to speak on “Karma Yoga”. He started off with a very interesting fact about how Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world. So amidst all this activity, how were we to find time for Yoga, in our day-to-day life? The answer: Karma Yoga—Yoga through Works. Briefing us on the elements of Karma Yoga and the means to achieve it, he threw light on the various dimensions to it. This sparked off a very interesting discussion and various thoughts and ideas, so much so, that we had to carry forward some part of the Talk to the following Saturday.



12 Aug: “Elements of Yoga” by Sri Aurobindo (Work)



The last two weeks at the Centre were different from the usual. We had a very enriching talk by Jared on “Karma Yoga”. The second Sunday is when we read the book “Elements of Yoga” by Sri Aurobindo. With the spirit infused in us by the talk, we went one extra step to keep it up by choosing the chapter “Work”. 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. Sri Aurobindo and The Mother have given us such wonderful pearls of wisdom on Work, sadhana and how we must offer our Work to the Divine, without any attachment to the fruits of our Work. And the best part is that these pearls are so relevant to us in these times and days of our lives. Soaking in a bit of all the words read aloud and the discussions that followed, we sat for the Closing Meditation for the day.



19 Aug: Reading of “Sri Aurobindo and The Mother about Themselves”, “Vignettes” followed by OM Choir



We had all gathered at the Centre and started our Sunday session with an Opening Meditation. With the same calm, we formed a circle. We were to read a very special book that day—“Sri Aurobindo and The Mother about themselves”. It always feels good to hear about The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, that too in their own words. After a quick round of sharing our thoughts on the same, we picked up “Vignettes”. Each of us present there opened a page of our choice and read out the experiences shared by people like us, those who belong to The Mother’s family. They narrate short and sweet stories which show us how close each one feels to The Mother. Once done, 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 in a group. The synchrony and harmony of the OMs exude a very sweet musical effect which we all carried with ourselves as we left the Centre that Sunday.



26 Aug: Meditation with ‘Savitri’ Video



The last Sunday of every month is when we have the Savitri Reading Circle at the Centre. We were to read selected lines of Book 2 Canto 7 and Canto 9 –‘The Descent Into Night’ and ‘The Paradise Of The Life-Gods’. These are said to be very dense and intense cantos carrying with them the stark picture of the dark worlds of falsehood that King Ashwapathy traverses, as a necessary step in the Yoga of The King. Huta’s pictures capture the exquisite mystique in Sri Aurobindo’s literature. The lines give us insight into how the world has several superficially attractive looking things which lure us and lead us on a convoluted path of falsehood and they also tell us how all this fits into a scheme directed by the ultimate Master, God. Reflecting on these lines, we had a quick discussion and ended the activity at the Centre with a fitting Closing Meditation. - Preethi

Along The Way……Reflections on the August 2012 Morning Walk at the Botanical Gardens

At the main gate in Lalbagh in Bangalore, we are welcomed by this beautiful saying on the arch, “THIS IS THE KASHI OF THE PLANT KINGDOM, ENTER OFFERING YOUR PRANAMS”.



I feel the same while entering our beautiful Botanic Gardens in Singapore. As we assembled at the Visitors’ Center, my eyes and ears went on to absorb the sights and sounds of the heavenly surroundings there. The waterfall nearby, though a small one, was cheering the whole crowd there with its own melodious song. The trees around us seemed to be in silent contemplation!

Without any prompting, my heart started singing ‘Madhurashtakam’ which I am in love with.



Mahaprabhu Srimad Vallabhacharya (1479-1531), one of the greatest sage-philosophers of India, belonged to a Telugu family. He was one of the foremost followers of Bhakthi Marga and established his philosophy of Pushti Marga in North India during the 16th century. His Bhakthi was much more than devotion. It was becoming mad in the thought of God. According to him the devotee does not see anything except his Lord everywhere. ‘Madhurashtakam’ written by him sees sweetness in his lord inch by inch.



Adharam Madhuram, Vadanam Madhram,

Nayanam Madhuram, Hasitham Maduram,

Hrudhayam Madhuram, Gamanam Maduram,

Madhuradhipathe Akhilam Madhuram.,



Sweet are thine lips, Krishna,

So are thine sweet cherubic face,

Sweet are thine jet black eyes, Krishna

So is thine soulful laugh,

Sweet is thine loving heart, Krishna

So is thine beautiful gait,

O’ King of all sweetness in this world,

Everything about Thee is sweet.



Thus goes eight stanzas in the stotram. If only I had the devotion of Mahaprabhu Srimad Vallabacharya I could have composed my own song describing how sweet the innumerable varieties of trees, plants and their uniqueness with their colourful flowers, the symmetrical leaves and the invisible force which transports water from the ground to the topmost leaves of such huge trees are. Oh what a wonder happening all around us and in us!



Sri Aurobindo has given us these beautiful lines in Savitri - Canto 4, ‘The Secret Knowledge’,



He is the maker and the world he made.

He is the vision and he is the seer;

He is himself the actor and the act,

He is himself the knower and the known,

He is himself the dreamer and the dream.



The sweetness spilled into the harmony among all our friends who had gathered there. After the pre-walk exercise guided by Jayanthy (who asked us to try and be aware of every movement in our body during the stretches and also from time to time, the moods of Mother Nature), we proceeded for an hour-and-a-half’s walk among the woods and the lake with graceful birds and fishes.



August being the month which has the honour of celebrating the birthday of our Bhagavan Sri Aurobindo and Independence Day of India and Singapore - made a special significance. Our host for this month, Smt. and Sri. KV Rao/Shailaja welcomed us to their new home with so much joy. Their love for cooking special dishes for us and equal keenness to serve us at the table made us feel very much at home.



My gratitude to all our loving senior leaders, Mr Sashilal Kashyap, Uncle Patel, Mr Raja, Dr. Nadkarni, Mr. Dhana who laid a very strong foundation for this successful pilgrimage every first Sunday of the month to the various Kashis of the Plant Kingdom in our small, sunny, island of Singapore, which is looked forward to not only by me/my husband, but also my children and grand children.

- Jayalakshmi