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

Physical Consciousness entirely turned towards the Divine


It thirsts for the Divine and wants nothing but Him.
- The Mother

Common Name: Chinese hibiscus, Hawaiian hibiscus, Rose- of-China
Botanical Name: Hibiscus Rosa-Sinensis
Spiritual Name:  Physical Consciousness entirely turned towards the Divine

Even the body shall remember God.
- Sri Aurobindo in ‘Savitri’

From the Editor’s Desk

In the last issue of the Newsletter we took a look at another kind of education, one that carried the promise of a new way of being which would eventually take care of the current ills of the world. More so, this education seeks to correct the ills inherent within us, the individuals who make the collective. It is a reasonable call, to approach the problem from the seed or root then to prune the plant on the surface for corrections. What then is this education all about? The integral education is based on the philosophy and psychology of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga. Because this Yoga addresses and takes care of all planes of the being, the physical, vital, mental, psychic and spiritual, and embraces all of life within its ambit, it is referred to as integral. In this yoga, nothing is small and nothing big, nothing important and nothing less important. Every element, as it were, is subjected to the transforming Force and is new born into a life of Light. Integral education offers a promise for the future, to build solid bases on the earth methodically, which will eventually facilitate the descent of the Supramental into vessels thus prepared and divinised. 

The Mother formally instituted the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1952. The Free Progress system of education, based on integral education, was followed. The Free progress system of education is “a progress guided by the soul and not subject to habits, conventions and preconceived ideas.” A sustained contemplation over these words reveals to us much of what it is in spirit. Also, that the last few words, “habits, conventions and preconceived ideas” characterise education in our conventional schools cannot be refuted. But would it then mean that the Free Progress system is devoid of “habits, conventions and pre-conceived ideas”? Nothing can probably be farther from the truth. These shortcomings reflected in the system are nothing but those that we ourselves carry within us, in our own material, which then characterises circumstances. However, the striking difference must lie in the practice of free progress education, which must embrace these shortcomings in us individuals and transform them in the course of time, creating progressively enlightened conglomerates. “Education” takes a totally different meaning here. 

The Mother spells out succinctly with certitude the aim of the Centre of Education, “…it is to give all opportunities to those who are here to cast off from them the slavery to the human way of thinking and doing; it is to teach all those who want to listen that there is another and truer way of living, that Sri Aurobindo has taught us how to live and become a true being – and that the aim of education here is to prepare the children and make them fit for that life.”

Beginning with this issue, we will navigate the course of integral education. Two issues will be dedicated to the education of each of the planes of the being. We begin this edition with ‘Physical Education’ and continue with the same for the month of January 2014. As one gets more and more acquainted with  integral education, one realises how much The Mother invested in facilitators to know everyone of their charge in every plane of the being, as deeply as possible. This required the highest demand one can make of a teacher, the demand of a true yogi. The Mother demanded nothing short of this from every teacher. Schooling itself was the ground of sadhana, for all concerned.

Savitri

The Spirit shall look out through Matter’s gaze
And Matter shall reveal the Spirit’s face.

(Savitri, Book 11 Canto 1)

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.

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,
Nature shall draw back from mortality
And Spirit’s fires shall guide the earth’s blind force;
Knowledge shall bring into the aspirant Thought
A high proximity to Truth and God.

(Savitri, Book 11 Canto 1)

Question of the month

Q: It is really a problem to know how to create interest in the students, whether in games, athletics or gymnastics. Even our enthusiasm dwindles when we see their lack of interest in everything.

A: The Mother: The interest of students is proportionate to the true capacity of the teacher.

Q: Sweet Mother, you have often told us that our activities must be an offering to the Divine. What does it mean exactly, and how to do it? For instance, when one plays tennis or basketball , how does one do that as an offering? Mental formations are not enough, naturally!.

A: The Mother: It means that what you do should not be done with a personal, egoistic aim, for success, for glory, for gain, for material profit or out of vanity, but as a service and an offering, in order to become more conscious of the divine will and to give oneself more entirely to it, until one has made enough progress to know and feel that it is the Divine who acts in you, His force that animates you and His will that supports you -- not only a mental knowledge, but the sincerity of a state of consciousness and the power of a living experience.

For that to be possible, all egoistic motives and all egoistic reactions must disappear.

20th November, 1961.

Q: One is often afraid of doing what is new; the body refuses to act in a new way, like trying a new gymnastic figure or another way of diving. From where does this fear come? How can one free oneself of it? And again, how can one encourage others to do the same ?

A: The Mother: The body is afraid of anything new because its very base is inertia, tamas; it is the vital which brings the dominance of rajas (activity). That is why, generally, the intrusion of the vital in the form of ambition, emulation and egotism, obliges the body to shake off tamas and make the necessary effort to progress. Naturally, those in whom the mind predominates can lecture their body and provide it with all the necessary reasons to enable it to overcome its fear.

The best way for everybody is self-giving to the Divine and confidence in His infinite Grace.

13th May, 1964.

(The Mother, ‘CWM’, Vol. 12, “On Education”, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)

The Mother’s prayer on Physical Endurance

When physical conditions are a little difficult and some discomfort follows, if one knows how to surrender completely before Thy will, caring little for life or death, health or illness, the integral being enters immediately into harmony with Thy law of love and life, and all physical indisposition ceases giving place to a calm well-being, deep and peaceful.

I have noticed that when one enters into an activity that necessitates great physical endurance, what tires one most is anticipating beforehand all the difficulties to which one will be exposed. It is much wiser to see at every moment only the difficulty of the present instant; in this way the effort becomes much easier for it is always proportionate to the amount of strength, the resistance at one’s disposal. The body is a marvellous tool, it is our mind that does not know how to use it and, instead of fostering its suppleness, its plasticity, it brings a certain fixity into it which comes from preconceived ideas and unfavourable suggestions.

But the supreme science, O Lord, is to unite with Thee, to trust in Thee, to live in Thee, to be Thyself; and then nothing is any longer impossible to a man who manifests Thy omnipotence. Lord, my aspiration rises to Thee like a silent canticle, a mute adoration, and Thy divine Love illumines my heart.

O divine Master, I bow to Thee!

17th March, 1914.

(The Mother, ‘CWM’, Vol. 1, “Prayers and Meditations”, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)

”By means of a rational and discerning physical education, we must make our body strong and supple enough to become a fit instrument in the material world for the truth-force which wants to manifest through us.”

The Mother on Physical Culture

Physical culture is the process of infusing consciousness into the cells of the body. One may or may not know it, but it is a fact. When we concentrate to make our muscles move according to our will, when we endeavour to make our limbs more supple, to give them an agility, or a force, or a resistance, or a plasticity which they do not naturally possess, we infuse into the cells of the body a consciousness which was not there before, thus turning it into an increasingly homogeneous and receptive instrument, which progresses in and by its activities. This is the primary importance of physical culture. Of course, that is not the only thing that brings consciousness into the body, but it is something which acts in an overall way, and this is rare. I have already told you several times that the artist infuses a very great consciousness into his hands, as the intellectual does into his brain. But these are, as it were, local phenomena, whereas the action of physical culture is more general. And when one sees the absolutely marvellous results of this culture, when one observes the extent to which the body is capable of perfecting itself, one understands how useful this can be to the action of the psychic being which has entered into this material substance. For naturally, when it is in possession of an organised and harmonised instrument which is full of strength and suppleness and possibilities, its task is greatly facilitated.


I do not say that people who practise physical culture necessarily do it for this purpose, because very few are aware of this result. But whether they are aware of it or not, this is the result. Moreover, if you are at all sensitive, when you observe the moving body of a person who has practised physical culture in a methodical and rational way, you see a light, a consciousness, a life, which is not there in others.

There are always people with a wholly external view of things who say, “Workers, for example, who have to do hard physical labour and who are compelled by their work to learn to carry heavy weights — they too build up their muscles, and instead of spending their time like aristocrats doing exercises with no useful outward results, they at least produce something. This is ignorance. Because there is an essential difference between the muscles developed through specialised, local and limited use and muscles which have been cultivated deliberately and harmoniously according to an integral programme which leaves no part of the body without work or exercise.

 

People like workers and peasants, who have a specialised occupation and develop only certain muscles, always end up with occupational deformities. And this in no way helps their psychic progress because, although the whole of life necessarily contributes to the psychic development, it does so in such an unconscious way and so slowly that the poor psychic being must come back again and again and again, indefinitely, to achieve its purpose. Therefore we can say without fear of being mistaken that physical culture is the sadhana of the body and that all sadhana necessarily helps to hasten the achievement of the goal. The more consciously you do it, the quicker and more general the result, but even if you do it blindly, if you can see no further than the tips of your fingers or your feet or your nose, you help the overall development.

Finally, one can say that any discipline that is followed rigorously, sincerely, deliberately, is a considerable help, for it enables life on earth to attain its goal more rapidly and prepares it to receive the new life. To discipline oneself is to hasten the arrival of this new life and the contact with the supramental reality.

 

As it is, the physical body is truly nothing but a very disfigured shadow of the eternal life of the Self. But this physical body is capable of progressive development; through each individual formation, the physical substance progresses, and one day it will be capable of building a bridge between physical life as we know it and the supramental life which is to manifest.

28th November, 1956.
(The Mother, ‘CWM’, Vol. 10, “On Thoughts and Aphorisms”, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry)


”Of all the domains of human consciousness, the physical is the one most completely governed by method, order, discipline, process. The lack of plasticity and receptivity in matter has to be replaced by a detailed organisation that is both precise and comprehensive. In this organisation, one must not forget the interdependence and interpenetration of all the domains of the being. However, even a mental or vital impulse, to express itself physically, must submit to an exact process. That is why all education of the body, if it is to be effective, must be rigorous and detailed, far-sighted and methodical. This will be translated into habits; the body is a being of habits. But these habits should be controlled and disciplined, while remaining flexible enough to adapt themselves to circumstances and to the needs of the growth and development of the being.

All education of the body should begin at birth and continue throughout life. It is never too soon to begin nor too late to continue.”

Salutations to a New Dawn


As the year 2013 draws to a close, we offer our tribute to the passing year and await, with renewed vigour and certitude of victory over all obscurities, the approaching New Year, 2014. To observe this occasion, the editorial team has put together on this page, a small compilation of ‘Savitri’ lines with pictures of dawn captured one fine morning in Pondicherry as dawn broke out over the Bay of Bengal.

(Photos taken by Jayanthy, Verses from Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Savitri’ compiled by Sudha and artistic layout by Sumant)


It was the hour before the Gods awake.
Across the path of the divine Event
The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone
In her unlit temple of eternity.



Earth wheeled abandoned in the hollow gulfs
Forgetful of her spirit and her fate.
The impassive skies were neutral, empty, still.
Then something in the inscrutable darkness stirred;




Like a vague smile tempting a desert heart
Troubled the far rim of life's obscure sleep.
Arrived from the other side of boundlessness
An eye of deity pierced through the dumb deeps;


One lucent corner windowing hidden things
Forced the world's blind immensity to sight.
The darkness failed and slipped like a falling cloak
From the reclining body of a god.


A message from the unknown immortal Light
Ablaze upon creation's quivering edge,
Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues
And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours.




Grace-lifted at Kedarnath


Death and destruction were stalking us - we hardly knew about it! The danger of death by the falling rocks was what we were worried about as we drove madly towards devabhoomi Rishikesh!

I had held a workshop at Nainital, at Bara Pathar, for a whole week on the topic, ‘Death and Rebirth’. A successful workshop, a lovely stay at this abode perched on a mountain-top prepared us to take up our package tour of the three Dhams with Shubh Yatra.

The six of us - Deepshikha, Ela, Aloka, Bokul, Gauranga and myself - reached Haridwar on the 9th of June. We bathed in the beauty of Sri Aurobindo Yoga Mandir, prayed at the Relics Centre and then with all the confidence of the Mother’s grace and protection, drove to Rishikesh on 10th June. A whole day drive took us to Uttarkashi…

Our hotel, Devansh at Uttarkashi, was bordering the Ganges, known as Bhagirathi at this juncture. All of us felt elated and fortunate to be in the lap of Ganges - vast and beautiful, full of strength and peace, like the image of Mahakali herself. Less we knew that six days later, the same Ganges, so full of peace and beauty, would show us its Rudraroop!

We were looking forward to the dawn of 11th, for that was the day when we would be going to Gangotri, our very first dhaam! The long drive - which had become an endless drive because of the never-ending traffic jams, did not drench our enthusiasm when we reached Gangotri. We lost no time in stepping into the cold waters of the Ganges. Image of Ma Ganga descending on Shiva’s locks came up in my mind as I or reverentially took the water and put it on my head! People around us were literally dipping in the waters - young and old, and even babies! It was a sight quite unforgettable - did these devotees not feel the cold of the icy waters? What protected them? Was it not their faith which shielded them? Like all other pilgrims, we too joined the queue and had the darshan of Ma Ganga in the imposing temple that stood against the magnificent grandeur of the Himalayas!

Happiness, satisfaction, devotion filled our heart as we drove back to spend the second night in the lap of Ganges at Uttarkashi, in the same hotel Devansh! Our third day was comparatively a long one - driving on the mountain road which took us through secret curves of valleys and forests, peaks of bare rock dotted with snow, while continuously we were following the meandering flow of the Ganges. Peace and patience were what we experienced on this day which ended in Hotel Bhagirathi at Guptakshi.

Our car driver, Pandeyji informed us that in the morning hours of that day, a large landslide had blocked and destroyed a long portion of the road to Gangotri and many pilgrims were stranded on either ends of the landslide. We thanked our stars that we had just escaped what could have been a disaster… We had not yet imagined of the catastrophy that awaited us at Kedarnath…

We reached Gaurikund, on the 13th, by early morning. From there we had to trek or horse ride fourteen kilometres to the Kedarnath temple - that was the challenge in front of us. Mentally we were prepared for this arduous steep climb. Ela chose wisely to go on the horse right from the beginning. Bokul, Gauranga and Aloka trusted their physical capability and decided to trek the steep climb. Deepshikha too started trekking but after a heroic effort for 2.5 km she had to give up and get on a horse-back. I too accompanied her on a second horse and our climb to Kedarnath took at least four hours. The trekkers took nine and half hours by the time they reached our hotel Punjab Sindh Awas.

Trekking from Gaurikund to the Kedarnath temple is in itself a miracle, I felt. On a narrow road of twelve feet or so, there were horses mounting up or going down; palkiwalas were heaving young and old passengers while another row of palkiwalas were almost running down the steep and slippery cobbled and at places cemented road; the basket carriers silently trudged up and down for their day’s earnings. There was absolute chaos on the road, which had a rocky mountain on one side and a perilous steep drop on the other. And yet, what was unbelievable was the joy, the devotion, the satisfaction, the quiet enjoyment on the faces of the devotees. It was as if it was their life’s mission and neither the pouring rain, nor the dangers of the path, neither “the wind and the weather beating round” them could deter them. It is as if they were in the heart of their hearts responding to Sri Aurobindo’s invitation: “Who will come with me? Who will climb with me?... Stark must he be and kinsman to danger…” They were mostly hooked to the consciousness of what lay behind their chanting of the mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya” and no danger and doubt caught their mind.

The night, the dark night without any electricity supply, was very cold indeed. But we tucked ourselves in the very warm blankets after a sumptuous meal of bread and chapatti which we carried in good quantities. The continuous pre-monsoon could not dampen us because we were in high-spirits, looking forward to the darshan the next morning. It rained the whole night. But the morning of the 14th dawned with no signs of any danger or destruction that was being prepared in the clouds and the mountain peaks. The night rain had ceased giving us a pleasant two hours wait in the one and half kilometre queue to go inside the temple.

When we stepped in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, noise and jostle and chaos broke out! Yet, I was feeling quiet, peaceful and shantimaya inspite of all the pandemonium around. I was searching with my eyes, Lord Shiva’s statue or a Lingam. But lo! and behold! There was only a huge ghee-smeared rock, in the shape of the hump of Nandi! It was believed to be swayambhu! I could not believe my eyes at what I was seeing! Is this the ‘murthy’, the ‘idol’, the ‘rock’, the ‘image of Shiva’ that lakhs of devotees have been worshipping for thousands of years—I asked myself ?
- Prof. Ananda Reddy

(to be continued)

October-November Sunday Activities at the Centre – A glimpse

27th October 2013 - “Meditations on Savitri” and ‘Savitri’ Reading Circle

There were 10 of us in the circle. We meditated on the lines of Book 5, Canto three, with The Mother's readings and Huta's paintings. We dwelt on the Canto titled, "Satyavan and Savitri". In this canto, Satyavan and Savitri utter their first words to each other. Both Savitri's and Satyavan's utterances are crystal clear and romantic while at the same time bearing very deep cryptic messages to each other and importantly, for us, listening to Mother's recitation. There is this subtle play with deeper levels of consciousness as one soul addresses the other, "across the golden spaces of my life", in Savitri's words. We read through the lines for Pictures 1 to 6 about three times and expressed our fascination with the lines during a short sharing session. Some of the lines that intrigued us were, 

The winds have shown to me their trampling lords,
I have beheld the princes of the Sun
Burning in thousand-pillared homes of light.

and…

Heaven’s brilliant gods recalled their careless gifts,
Took from blank eyes their glad and helping ray
And led the uncertain goddess from his side.


Here are a few more lines from Savitri herself for us to savour, lines revealing something of the deep secret she nurses within her:

Speak more to me, speak more, O Satyavan,
Speak of thyself and all thou art within...
Speak till a light shall come into my heart
And my moved mortal mind shall understand
What all the deathless being in me feels.
It knows that thou art he my spirit has sought
Amidst earth’s thronging visages and forms
Across the golden spaces of my life.

What a beautiful way to start a week!

3rd Nov 2013 - Readings on writings of The Mother in "Steps to Freedom and Mastery" and OM Choir

There were five of us in the circle on this day. We read two passages, one entitled, "What in Us Becomes Conscious?" and the other, "Vigilance". We read that the fact that we aspired pointed to the presence of the Divine within us, aspiring. 

Here is a question posed to The Mother with her answer :

Does the inconscient aspire to become conscious?

"No. It is the Divine in the inconscient who aspires for the Divine in the consciousness. That is to say, without the Divine there would be no aspiration; without the consciousness hidden in the inconscient, there would be no possibility of changing the inconscient to consciousness. But because at the very heart of the inconscient there is the divine Consciousness, you aspire..."

- The  Mother

We went on to read the passages under "Vigilance".

OM choir followed with a small candle lit and placed in the middle of the circle in a darkened room. We enjoyed moments of deep calm and quiet within and left the Centre, recharged for the week to come.

10th November 2013 – ‘Bases of Yoga’ Reading Circle

20 people gathered for this reading circle yesterday. We read pages 18 to 21, completing Chapter 1 of this book. As usual, the real experiences we all went through in reading the passages cannot be stated in words that express accurately what each passage meant to us. It is a wonder that certain passages resonate more within then the others at a given time. It is another wonder how we gather together in such a circle, read the same passages and take away unique learning and experiences at the end of the day. 

The Mother stresses on the need for a "strong mind and body and life-force" in this sadhana and that "wideness and calmness are the foundations of the Yogic consciousness and the best condition for inner growth and experience".

During our sharing session, a question was raised as to what "wideness" could mean. It was suggested, based on understandings of Sri Aurobindo's writings, to probably mean a characteristic of higher or purer states of consciousness which was vast, and all-encompassing, free (perhaps even all-embracing, all-accepting, impartial, equal) as opposed to the constricted narrowness of consciousness in a lower state. However, as always with this Yoga, nothing beats a living experience. So we aspire to know and live, and move on.

Here are two lines from The Mother to contemplate on for the week :

"The way of Yoga must be a living thing, not a mental principle or a set method to be stuck to against all necessary variations."

17th November 2013 – Special Observation – The Mother’s Mahasamadhi Day

This day was basically dedicated to silence at the Centre. We started with our usual meditation with Sunil-Da’s New Year music, which we played a while longer this time. Then a prayer was read from ‘Prayers and Meditations’ by Venkatesh Rao and the message from the Ashram was read out. Silent meditation followed for the next 35 minutes or so. We concluded the session with another reading of the message from the Ashram for the benefit of those who came in later and settled down for about five minutes of meditation with The Mother’s Organ music. The altar was decked with lovely flowers, quietly offering themselves. It was a wonderful feeling sitting quietly by the altar or on chairs facing the altar, as we attempted to silence our minds and reach out to The Mother in our own ways. The candles that glowed at the altar, in the dimmed room were calming and re-assuring.

- Jayanthy

Along the Way……Reflections on the November 2013 Morning Walk

On a pleasant Sunday morning, a group of us gathered around the lake at NTU. While the children exercised their jogging and climbing skills, the adults completed the warm ups and we set off for a park-hopping session where we crossed a number of roads to stumble on the many little pockets of greenery that NTU offered.


The highlight of this green pocket was, without question, the green rooftop of a building that all of us, including the youngest, climbed with enthusiasm, overcoming fears of steep slopes and heights.



We ended this quiet post-Deepavali walk with a sitar concert, followed by brunch at the home of our hosts, Dr. Sheel and Mrs. Anju Aditya.


Kiruthika