Guiding Light of The Month

O Lord, how ardently do I call and implore Thy love! Grant that my aspiration may be intense enough to awaken the same aspiration everywhere: oh, may good- ness, justice and peace reign as supreme masters, may ignorant egoism be overcome, darkness be suddenly illu- minated by Thy pure Light; may the blind see, the deaf hear, may Thy law be proclaimed in every place and, in a constantly progressive union, in an ever more perfect harmony, may all, like one single being, stretch out their arms towards Thee to identify themselves with Thee and manifest Thee upon earth. - The Mother

Aspiration in the Physical

Manifold, simple and joyful.
- The Mother

Common Name: Jungle geranium, Flame of the woods, Jungle flame, Burning love
Botanical Name: Ixoracoccinea
Spiritual Name: Aspiration in the Physical

Physical Education is meant to bring into the body, Consciousness and control, discipline and mastery, all things necessary for a higher and better life. Keep all that in mind, practice sincerely and you will become a good athlete: this is the first step on the way to be a true man.
- The Mother

From the Editor’s Desk

The first issue for this year, 2014, continues with the theme of Physical Education. An important focus is a particular trip that Soviet Gymnasts made to the Ashram in the month of April, in 1956. The poise, dexterity, precision with which the gymnasts demonstrated the gymnastic movements is something well known in Ashram quarters. The gymnasts themselves served as inspiring exemplars to Ashramites and Ashram school children. What brought the gymnasts to the Ashram? To India even? How did they come into the consciousness of Ashram and, for that matter, into the consciousness of all of us connected with the Ashram? This side issue will be discussed a little in this editorial to give a general background to the article, ‘Soviet Gymnasts’ from the book, ‘On The Mother’, Chapter 46 – “A glorified, not a crucified body” by K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, on page 4 and Nolini Kanta Gupta and K. Amrita’s reminiscences on the occasion on pages 4 and 5.

The idea to have the Soviet gymnasts was one of Independent India’s earliest aspirations to raise the level of sports and physical culture in India by exposing Indians to top athletes from around the world. This was effected by teams of outstanding athletes visiting major Indian cities and demonstrating their skills. The first Health Minister of India, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur following independence in 1947, mooted this idea. Though it started with a noble aim of exposing Indians to various sports forms, to raise their awareness and to motivate them to pick up these for a healthy lifestyle, what was in store for the gymnasts, the Ashram community and our total consciousness about physical culture was probably beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. One of the cities that the Soviet team was scheduled to visit was Madras. Anil Kumar Jauhar of Delhi corresponded with The Mother and following her approval, arranged for the team to visit the Ashram after their programme in Madras, through the Gymnastic Federation of India. Thus the gymnasts found themselves in the Ashram in Pondicherry on the 2nd of April 1956. Read on to know of the impact of their visit there, how The Mother welcomed them through an address which she wrote and which Pranab Bhattacharya read and what The Mother had to say about physical culture and its importance for the Supramental manifestation and how this has been ingrained in the consciousness of all who were and are open to it.

Source of information

The Mother makes a clear distinction between Sports and Physical Culture.

This is a good premise to start on some self-reflection. How do we perceive physical culture? Do we engage in it even to some extent? What are all the reasons we give ourselves for engaging in it? Or not engage in it, for that matter? Why? How about our children? Do we allow them free play time? Children by nature have a great affinity to sports and games or any kind of play, whether on their own or better still in teams? Are we with them in their enthusiasm? Do we expose them to higher ideals of engaging in physical culture? What about schools? With what idea do they approach physical culture? Do children look forward to games time in school? The search begins…


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.
Thus shall the earth open to divinity
And common natures feel the wide uplift,
Illumine common acts with the Spirit’s ray
And meet the deity in common things.
Nature shall live to manifest secret God,
The Spirit shall take up the human play,
This earthly life become the life divine.
(Savitri, Book 11 Canto 1)

Question of the month

Q: Mother, what is the difference between sports and physical education?

A: The Mother: Sports are all the games, competitions, tournaments, etc., all the things based on contests and ending in placing and prizes. Physical education means chiefly the combination of all exercises for the sake of the growth and upkeep of the body.

Naturally, here we have the two together. But it is particularly so because human beings, especially in their young age, still require some excitement in order to make an effort.

Replace the ambition to be first by the will to do the best possible.
Replace the desire for success by the yearning for progress.
Replace the eagerness for fame by the aspiration for perfection.

(The Mother to competitors participating in Sports /Athletics)

Q: Mother, I have seen that I am not able to force my physical body to do a little better than my actual capacity. I would like to know how I can force it. But, Mother, is it good to force one’s body ?

A: The Mother: No. The body is capable of progressing and gradually it can learn to do what it could not do. But its capacity for progress is much slower than the vital desire for progress and the mental will for progress. And if the vital and mental were left as masters of action, they would simply harass the body, destroy its poise and upset its health.

Therefore, one must be patient and follow the rhythm of one’s body; it is more reasonable and knows what it can do and what it cannot. Naturally, there are tamasic bodies and they need some encouragement for progressing. But in everything and in all cases, one must keep one’s balance.

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

Soviet Gymnasts

(On the 2nd and 3rdof April, 1956, a group of ranking Soviet gymnasts, many of whom were gold medalists and world champions, visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and observed its many departments at work. The visitors gave an exhibition of their gymnastic skill, watched the Ashram children in their sports and games, and also arranged a coaching class for some chosen Ashram gymnasts. In a message to the visitors, the Mother said:

“We salute you, brothers, already so far on the way to the physical perfection for which we all aspire here.Be welcome in the Ashram, amongst us. We feel sure that today one step more is taken towards unity of the great human family.”

The team responded in appropriate terms, and expressed their genuine appreciation of the Ashram’s physical education and sports, and the hospitality they had received. In the course of a conversation with Nolini Kanta Gupta, the gymnasts remarked that they found the love, affection and solicitude which the Ashram children received from the elders so touching. The self-restraint - especially the practice of brahmacharya - by the Ashramites also produced great interest in the visiting gymnasts.

In the course of a subsequent reference to the Soviet gymnasts, the Mother said:

“...we saw with what ease they did exercises which for an ordinary man are impossible.... Well, that mastery is already a great step towards the transformation of the body. And these people who, I could say, are materialists by profession, used no spiritual method in their education.... If they had added to this a spiritual knowledge and power, they could have achieved an almost miraculous result.”

(‘On The Mother’, Chapter 46 – “A glorified, not a crucified body”, K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry) )

(The following is an excerpt of the reminiscences of Nolini Kanta Gupta and K. Amrita from that visit.)

As you know, sometime back- quite a few years now- we had a group of Soviet Gymnasts in our midst. And what a pleasant, perfect performance they gave! Their hammer and sickle floating against the wind, the first time they stepped in unison on our sports ground, marching to the tune of the Russian national anthem, surely you must be still remembering the beautiful spectacle. Some of their tricks and techniques we have bodily taken over. A good many of you received training at the hands of these experts. They have been heavily filmed and photographed in action and these pictures you must have seen more than once.

Among the characteristics of the Soviet Gymnasts, also the major lesson that one can learn from them, are: first, difficult and complicated body movements. Such control of the body is indeed hard to acquire. It calls for physical strength and stamina, also a considerable capacity and plasticity of the limbs, the nerves and muscles.

Secondly, difficult exercises are done in an extremely easy and simple manner. In fact, these are performed so effortlessly that it might seem there is nothing much in these and that anyone could do the same- till one tries. Then one knows what stiff and rigorous discipline lies behind this apparent effortlessness.

Thirdly, these difficult exercises are done not only effortlessly but gracefully- the movements are rhythmic and harmonious, pleasing to the eye.

Team work, group-efficiency, is yet another of their characteristics. Not only solo performance, but combined movements of many persons in perfect balance, a unified cadence and orchestral pattern.

Fifthly, and the point deserves particular mention, in the sphere of physical culture (as in other spheres too) the Russians make no difference between men and women. They believe that men and women can and ought to do the same exercises together, that it is pure superstition, nothing but outmoded convention to think otherwise- that women are unfit for and unworthy of such activity. Well, we have seen how expert and capable these Soviet girls can be. Today the whole world has heard with wonder and admiration about not only astronaut Gagarin but about Valentina too.

A commonplace argument often put up against women doing physical exercise is that as a result they are likely to lose their grace and their femininity. Is that really so? To me it has always seemed that, thanks to these exercises, our body – women’s body included-acquires a new poise and proportion. Or do tenderness and charm disappear, as some fear? Of course, those who admire the beauty of a willowy, weeping kind, the fairy frailty of the sickly maid, well, they are a class apart. You have seen Valentina’s photograph. To me she did not seem to lack charm and grace. Far from it. The fact is, we very often try, in vain, to hide our bodily defects and debilities under an elaborate toilet and stylish wear. But it is only as strict physical regiment or regular exercise that can cure these defects and bring out the true grace and light of the body beautiful. In reality, charm, grace or delightfulness, name how you will, these do not depend so much on physical factors and formation. The source is elsewhere, it is really a reflection or shadow that is derived from the ease and clarity of the vital Force in us and if, somehow, we can add to that the soul’s ease and clarity, then only do we have genuine beauty, beauty from within.

It is as if the Russians have discovered a new dimension of the body. Psychologists today speak of ‘depth’ psychology. According to them, at the back of our mind, there lies another hidden and profounder mental world- the unconscious or subconscious. Spiritualists and yogis speak of still another unknown and invisible world, above and beyond the mind. Somewhat in the same way the Soviet gymnasts are telling us and, more than that, showing us, that there is no limit, or almost none, to the capacities of the body. At any rate, we can go a good deal further than the limits usually set for it. We think that just as plant life is conditioned by the earth, by its surface and atmosphere, it is the same with the life of men and animals too. We live and move within the temperature and the pressure of the air around us; when we go beyond these (either above or below), our ability to bear the altered conditions are extremely limited- or so we think.

But in one sense, even in the ordinary way of living, men can and do put up with a lot of inconvenience and suffering. Of course, it might be said that this is entirely due to compulsion, that there is nothing else one could do, except endure. Even in the midst of intense pain and torture people have been known to live. On battlefields men have survived the worst calamities, even the loss of limbs. According to popular wisdom, life is uncertain and quickly over, nalini dalagata jala vattaralam, jibana matisayacapalam, but this is not a literal truth. Just as life can end all of a sudden so also it can stay on and withstand apparently impossible conditions. But this, it may be said again, is due to compulsion; it is not a healthy or a natural condition of our being. It is indeed painful, and what men really wish for is to come out of it – into a world of natural freedom. The new physical culture that the Russians are now following is meant to open up the hidden resources of the body. This they are doing with the help of knowledge, practice and endless, eager experiment. Rooted in the earth, one with the physical universe, the capacities of our body are daily and fast increasing. Even leaving the earth surface for the wide open spaces one day men may (in a light, weightless condition) find a new normalcy. Where shall we draw the limit of achievement?

(Nolini Kanta Gupta, K. Amrita, "Reminiscences", 'Mother India', Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1969, Pondicherry)

Grace-lifted at Kedarnath (contd. from the December 2013 issue)

Devotees in those earlier centuries had walked for months, daring the dangerous forests and the landslides and the inclement weather to have the darshan of Bholenath in Kedarnath! Is this my India, my spiritual and eternal India of which I had read so much in Sri Aurobindo? I had the darshan, mentally, of my true motherland and somewhere I felt a soul-satisfaction. I felt blessed that I had seen the “inner” aspect of my country and that I am born in this ancient country of countless Rishis and yogis!

The rains resumed just when we returned to our hotel. The road right in front of the temple, strewn with gift-shops, puja-offering shops and eateries was vibrant with devotion, swirling with colour and joy, content with the peace of “having come to the Lord’s feet”! The rains which began to be threatening, never gave us the least hint of the oncoming pralaya…

We spent the evening going around the small town - places of worship and tourism. Our second dham was over, and we were ready to drive towards Gupatakshi on the morning of the 15th June. Torrential rains hammered us throughout the night and in the morning it halted for a brief while - maybe to give us a glimpse of the majesty and beauty of the snow-covered mountain range just behind the Kedarnath temple. We thanked Lord Bholenath for giving us this drishya, their vision that was almost like a parting gift to all of us around the temple! Perhaps, that was the last touch of Shiva’s grace… before he would begin his tandav…

All six of us came down the 14 km of the trek on horse-back - a four and half hour descent from Kedarnath to Gaurikund. The horses were sure-footed as if they knew every stone and step and were guided by their instinct while we were tense and afraid.

After some misadventures on the road, we reached Gaurikund, walked through the “mad” crowd which knew not that anyone staying back that night would never see the light of day again in their lives!

Long and uncomfortable drives had become part of our mental calculations by now. The never-ending vehicular jams on the single road, the indisciplined and selfish drivers - came to be accepted by now as “part” of the journey. We returned to the same hotel, Bhagirati at Guptakashi. Had a warm bath, a good dinner and slept off peacefully. We could not imagine that the Shiva tandav that would begin the next night at Kedarnath and the sleeping pilgrims would “sleep” forever in tombs of mud and slush!

On the morning of 16th we drove towards Badrinath, quite unaware that death and destruction were just behind us by a few hours! Unexpectedly, we were stopped on the road by army personnel at Gauchar and asked either to wait indefinitely, until the landslides and the rain-battered roads/bridges to Badrinath were repaired, or to return to Rishikesh! We had the very first taste of the danger camouflaged on our journey! Our driver got the information of the cloud-burst at Kedarnath and also the flood that had washed away umpteen number of cars and buses near Sitapur where we too had parked on the previous day! We thought it was wiser to return to Rishikesh and not take chances. As all the cars heading for Badrinath were returning to Rishikesh, there were miles of cars and buses on the road - driving with the simple focus of returning home safely. But the whole region was already under the terror of the tandava,—there began relentless landslides, blocking long lengths of road; the hammering rains had given vent to the fury of the water falls which cut up the road mercilessly, endangering road traffic.

We had all lost hunger, forgot thirst and were silently thinking of the Mother, praying to Her ardently for our protection. Mobile calls from our family members gave us some glimpses of the massive tragedy that had engulfed huge areas of Nature and cities, swallowing up men and women, animals, trees, and towns. In spite of it, all this trickling information, we were worried about the road in front of us, the road to our own safety. We began to see on the powerful waves of the furious Ganges, remnants of house tops, furniture, gas-cylinders, wooden logs, trees etc. We could get some vague idea of the calamity behind us!

We were planning to drive to Srinagar (in Uttarakhand) and halt for the night of 16th June. As we drove with prayers in our hearts and fear in our minds, we reached Srinagar late at night! Alas! We were again turned away by the police who said that Srinagar was under ten feet of water, the roads were damaged, the bridges broken… We were asked to divert to Kirtinagar—a few kilometres away. But with the pounding rains… the road that was less a road but only a stretch of potholes… the hydro-electric dam sites… we were not sure where we were heading to… if we will reach safely. Low visibility of the road around midnight added to our tension.

At last, the guiding grace took us to a safe road in the small town of Kirtinagar. We halted a while in somebody’s shop, planning to sleep in the shop. People were buying from the small shops all they could lay their hands on - biscuits, bread, rusk, drinks, water… for no one knew where they would get their next meal!

After a while we drove to a bigger hotel and parked our vehicle in the parking space and slept in the car. No hotel rooms were available anywhere… Seven of us slept in the closed car - we could not keep our car windows open because of the torrential rain! We sweated and puffed but there was no other go! Sitting inside the van we were at least protected from rain and the dangerous landslides on the roads!

Next morning on the 17th, we headed towards Rishikesh hoping the drive would be uneventful and safe! But our hopes belied us - we faced constant landslides and had to halt for hours together. In one of our halts, we came to know that a car some hundred meters away from us had been smashed by a huge boulder that came down a landslide, and the driver was crushed to death. Another van had been pushed into the river Ganges by the rocks of the landslides! Every step was strewn with danger, unexpected landslides and the driver was struck with uncertainty and fear of the road. He requested us to keep a constant watch on the falling boulders, tress, mud and warn him in advance, if possible.

But the greatest surprise came when we had just had our lunch at Kaudilya. We were informed that the Ganges had flooded a huge stretch of the road at Biyasi, a few kilometres away from Kaudilya. We were stranded for three days at least! It was not panic that had gripped us, but it was dire disappointment and gloom that overtook. We appealed to Her - the only thing we could do…

We preferred to wait at the closest spot near the flooded road, so that when the Ganges recedes after three days, we would have a better chance to cross the road! But, by the time we reached Biyasi, there were already hundreds of cars…all waiting for the Ganges waters to give us back our road!

We parked for the night and spent the second night in the car - hot, stuffy, hardly space to stretch our legs although it was Innova van, the best one could have for such long yatras! Mentally, we were preparing ourselves to sleep, to stay, to eat, to drink on the road, surrounded by landslides, drenched in rain, waiting for the grace of Gangamayya…

But, we had unexpectedly, the grace of Anandamayi! The Mother’s grace seems to have acted powerfully, and the Ganges receded - ten feet of water receded overnight leaving the road free—though eaten up in long stretches! Hopes revived, smiles lit up everyone’s faces - life was beating in rhythms of joy! The intervention was timely, for, on the next day there was hardly any food left in the dhabas on the road, hardly any drinking water - we had to collect rain water for our use. We thanked the Mother in our hearts, waited for the road to be repaired and by about 11 am, we could cross the dangerous but the newly made road, one by one.

We resumed our drive to Rishikesh - we were not sure if and when we would reach. Nothing could be planned anymore. We were all in the grip of uncertainty and danger. We came to know that even Rishikesh and Haridwar were partly submerged by the angry waters of the Ganges. We were informed that many bridges were closed in those two towns and hence… could we at all make it?

We drove stealthily, avoided the huge boulders on the way, praying that nothing more should stop us on our road. And nothing further barred our way. We reached Rishikesh by mid-day. Mr. Naveen, the owner of Shubhyatra was happy to see us - alive! Some of the pilgrims for whom he had arranged the Kedarnath/Badrinath trip had not returned nor were their whereabouts known! “Bhagavan ka shukr hai ki aap vapas aye ho!”(“By God’s grace, you have returned !”)blurted Naveen!

Another stroke of grace came upon us when the trains from Haridwar to New Delhi, hitherto cancelled, were resumed that night! On the early hours of 19th we boarded the train that took us to Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch - our haven of safety and grace!

We had realised what the Mother had once written to a disciple: “The compassion seeks to relieve the suffering of all, whether they deserve it or not.”

“The Grace does not recognise the right of suffering to exist and abolishes it.” (CWM, Vol. 16, p. 346)

This truth of Grace went deep within us, especially when we saw the TV, on the 19th evening, the extent of pralaya that had taken place at Kedarnath and Badrinath, and all around in Uttarakhand. One day more at Kedarnath, we would have been embedded in the 10 feet mud-slush; one day earlier, we would have been drowned at Badrinath; a few hours earlier, we would have…I don’t know how much to analyse or rationalize. I am convinced that She has given all of us a “Rebirth” in order to live and work for Her…. Merci beaucoup, Douce Mere, pour ta Grace infini! ( Thank you very much, Sweet Mother, for your infinite Grace.)


- Prof. Ananda Reddy.

November-December Sunday Activities at the Centre – A glimpse

Fourth Sunday Programme, 24th November 2013: Siddhi Day

We gathered to observe Siddhi Day at 6pm. The altar looked immaculate with sweet, pastel coloured orange roses arranged lovingly against sentinels of green palm leaves. After meditation with Sunil-da's New Year music, two passages from ‘Prayers and Meditations’ were read followed by the reading of the Darshan message from Ashram. We then observed a minute of silence in prayer for the departed soul of Mr. Lok, the Co-Vice-Chairperson of the Society who passed away last Tuesday, 19th November 2013. Then Jared read selections from Sri Aurobindo's ‘Future Poetry’, explaining rhythm and meter. We then settled down to listen to the recorded recitation of Book 2, Canto 15 of ‘Savitri’: “The Kingdoms of the Greater Knowledge”, by Shradhavan, Savitri Bhavan.

It was a quite an experience listening to the recitation, as it was presented. Silence was invoked with each line and something of the grandeur in the lines danced around the syllables. There was a soothing overtone of calm. Harmony impregnated the recitation, which in itself was a sweet offering, it felt.

First Sunday Programme 1st December 2013: Readings from ‘Steps to Freedom and Mastery’ and OM choir,

We read the passage, ‘Being constantly awake’. It made us recall our many moments when we do not really, exactly know why we did something or why we thought of something. It was about being aware of our every movement and the motivations behind these movements. The message was this:

“To be in this state of attentive observation, you must have, so to say, antennae everywhere which are in constant contact with your true centre of consciousness. You register everything, you organise everything and, in this way, you cannot be taken unawares, you cannot be deceived, mistaken, and you cannot say anything other than what you wanted to say. But how many people normally live in this state? It is this I mean, precisely, when I speak of “becoming conscious”. If you want to benefit most from the conditions and circumstances in which you find yourself, you just not do things without knowing why, you must not say things without knowing why. You must be constantly awake.” - The Mother

We had a session of OM choir before concluding this session with concentration on New Year’s music.

Second Sunday Programme, 8 December 2013: Bases of Yoga Reading Circle

A group of 11 were in the circle at one time. After a while of concentration with New Year's music and the reading of a prayer from The Mother's ‘Prayers and Meditations’, we formed our circle. We began with the second chapter, Faith-Aspiration-Surrender. The passages dealt with human tendencies and how they pose as bars to an alignment of one's life with higher aims and goals and their realization. The demands of the yoga were laid out clearly. At the final analysis, faith and surrender were offered as signposts and a source of strength and propulsion. It was also laid out clearly that the evolution happened from within oneself. Here is a passage we read, to contemplate on:

"You must go inside yourself and enter into a complete dedication to the spiritual life. All clinging to mental preferences must fall away from you, all insistence on vital aims and interests and attachments must be put away, all egoistic clinging to family, friends, country must disappear if you want to succeed in Yoga. Whatever has to come as outgoing energy or action, must proceed from the Truth once discovered and not from the lower mental or vital motives, from the Divine Will and not from personal choice or the preference of the ego."

Third Sunday Programme, 15 December 2013: Readings on Bases of Yoga

A total of thirteen members formed the circle this evening. We continued with Chapter Two: Faith-Aspiration-Surrender, from pages 25-30. We read nine passages. The highlight of today's readings was that man is unable to surmount his difficulties himself, through his own force and strength and means but rather, it is the Divine who helps and saves. This called for the loosening of the hold of the ego and to direct an ardent aspiration upwards to the Divine, to allow the Divine to do His work on the human nature. This brought us to the next question which was personal effort. We are cautioned not to leave everything to the Divine and absolve ourselves from all action. The advice is, “At present to give up personal effort is not what is wanted, but to call in more and more the Divine Power and govern and guide by it the personal endeavour".

Here is another passage for contemplation: "It does not matter what defects you may have in your nature. The one thing that matters is your keeping yourself open to the Force. Nobody can transform himself by his own unaided efforts; it is only the Divine Force that can transform him. If you keep yourself open, all the rest will be done for you."

Prayer meeting in remembrance of the late Mr. Lok Kek Seng, 22 December 2013

It was a gathering well attended by many Society members and the family and friends of late Mr. Lok. Elaine, Mr. Lok's youngest daughter read a beautiful prayer from The Mother's ‘Prayers and Meditations’ and began the session. The eulogies delivered painted the picture of a quiet, selfless and sincere child of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Mr. Lok's special feeling for the Ashram and Auroville was oft-mentioned and so too his reverence for ‘Savitri’ and the ‘Bhagavad Gita’.

Two members concluded the session by reading passages from ‘Savitri’, namely, from Book 7, Canto 1, “The Ordeal of the Foreknowledge of Death” and from Book 1, Canto 3, “The Yoga of The King”.

Here are some lines from Book 1, Canto 3 to contemplate upon for the week :

This bodily appearance is not all;
The form deceives, the person is a mask;
Hid deep in man celestial powers can dwell.
His fragile ship conveys through the sea of years
An incognito of the Imperishable.
A spirit that is a flame of God abides,
A fiery portion of the Wonderful,
Artist of his own beauty and delight,
Immortal in our mortal poverty.
The day’s gathering at the Centre was poignant and dignified and spoke much of the departed soul for whom the prayer meeting took place

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

Beautifully decorated altar under the banyan tree, serene with a sense of the living presence of Mother and Sri Aurobindo is what greeted us as we walked down Labrador Hill. The sea was right next to the path with the sound of the waves rhythmically lapping upon the bank.

Pondicherry was recreated in more ways than one. As we left for the park in the morning, my thoughts were filled with memories of the same dates the previous year. Many of us from the Singapore Centre had gathered at Pondicherry to celebrate 40 years of the Centre’s presence in Singapore. As if to give solace, this December walk was recreated in this atmosphere.

Thoughts of Mr. Lok not being in our midst, was in my mind as I started the walk. For the last December walk at Pondicherry, he was with us walking along the shores and today, less than a year later, he is on the lap of Mother Nature. Back to eternity is all I could think of.

The gentle waves soothed the thoughts along the path, slowly it curved to a board walk over the striking emerald green waters. A variety of scenes greeted us as we moved on in good pace. A calm boat jetty with numerous yachts anchored was a treat to see amongst the green backdrop. Gentle and unobtrusive, a massive Star Virgo liner glided past, like a swan, graceful and majestic, a tribute to the perfect blend of nature’s materials and man’s intelligence, both a gift of the divine.

Walking kilometres on, we reached the view of cable cars moving against the backdrop of the sky. Some members decided to walk further, all the way to Sentosa Island and back. The sky having poured its heart out the previous night, it was a cool morning with gentle breeze. Walking back through the Labrador Park examining the cannons of the 1800’s, the tall trees and lush green thickets filled with sounds of crickets was not a strain at all. Mother Nature was in Her full glory !

The little ones of our group had gathered a snail on a leaf and were examining it closely on their hands. Deepika, youngest of all exclaiming loudly, “I love this morning’s walk”, and undisputedly we all agreed silently. Gathering back at the well laid out place for prayers and meditation, by our smiling hosts Upali and Ritesh, a sense of calm descended and just then I saw a huge liner pass by named Peace Boat. The lovely prayers and music and sound of the waves filled our lungs. A sumptuous brunch awaited us at the park itself, a treat for the hungry stomachs after a long walk. Everything was so thoughtfully done with lots of love and care. A big thanks to Mother Nature for a morning like this, filling us with serenity. A note of gratitude welling inside for Singapore’s National Parks Board for having, so thoughtfully, made these board walks at vantage points.

As the All India Magazine message echoed “The first thing one learns on the way is that the joy of giving is far greater than the joy of taking. Then gradually one learns that to forget oneself is the source of immutable peace. Later on, in this self-forgetfulness, one finds the divine, and that is the source of an ever-increasing bliss.” - The Mother.

- Jaishree Venkat

In Memory of the late Mr Lok Kek Seng, Co-Vice-Chairperson, Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore

Mr. Lok Kek Seng, who departed on 19 November 2013, was a caring husband and a doting father of two daughters, who remember him for his simple ways and a general state of cheer and positive energy. He was from a humble background, having lost his father at a very young age, He embraced frugal living, discipline and hard work at a very young age. He dedicated over 40 years of his life to the teaching service in Singapore. As a trained teacher, he started his career in Assumption English School where he taught English Language and Mathematics. He was also a band instructor for schools such as Cedar Girls’ Secondary School and Anderson Junior College. Subsequently, he returned to Assumption English School and went on to teach English Language, Mathematics, Science and Physical Education at Pei Chun Public School. He subsequently retired as a Senior Teacher and Mentor to new trainee teachers.


Daya Remembers...

Lok, as we dearly call him, joined the Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore, in 1973. Mr. Purushotaman Naidu both of whom were schoolteachers like Jagir Singh and V.Nadesu introduced him to the Society. All of them were nominated as Committee Members while Lok was appointed as Treasurer of the Society and I was nominated as Hon. Secretary. Mr. Devan Nair invited Sri Navajata, who was then Chairperson of the Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry, to Singapore to give a series of Talks. The first talk was held at the National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) meeting hall along Shenton Way.  Devan invited some of his close friends like Tay Joo Teck, Mr. N.C. Patel, Mr. P Selvadurai, Dr. Lee Suan Yew and a few Members of Parliament to attend the talk. Shri Navajata gave a brief introduction on Sri Aurobindo and spoke on the topic "The Supermind". He also gave talks at the Ramakrishna Mission, University of Singapore and at our Centre.

We started our first Centre at The Singapore Khalsa Association along Tesssensohn Road, off Balestier Road. We decided first of all to start a library and bought about $2,000 worth of books for borrowing and for sale. Mrs. Puspa Govindasamy also a school teacher and Committee member sponsored this. Mr. Devan Nair gave weekly talks every Sunday at 6.00 pm, in spite of his busy schedule as Secretary-General of NTUC. Lok, Jagir Singh and myself kept the Library open every day from 6pm to 8pm. We promoted the sales of books and invited some people we knew to join the Society. We took part in the Book Fairs held annually and promoted the sales of books. Lok was an active member and he also promoted the sales of books through some retail outlets.

At this point of time Mr. Devan Nair and family, Mr. and Mrs. Tay Joo Teck, Mr. M. Ramachandran and Mr. and Mrs. N.C Patel had already visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in the late sixties and had the Darshan of The Mother. In 1976, Shri M. P. Pandit came to Singapore with his Secretary Ms. Vasanthi. Shri M. P. Pandit gave lectures at our Centre, University of Singapore, The Ramakrishna Mission and the Theosophical Society of Singapore. It was at this time that Mrs. Sonia Dyne and few other members joined the Society and our membership increased gradually. Devan Nair was the first President of the Society and Tay Joo Teck became the 2nd President.

In 1975, Lok, Jagir, Sarada, Veronica Wan, Kim and myself went to Pondicherry and visited the Ashram for a month. We went to the Samadhi, visited the rooms of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and got a better understanding of the Ashram.  We ate at the Dining Hall every day and got to know many Ashramites. We took part in the weekly meditations and visited the Samadhi every morning.  This Ashram visit broadened our knowledge of the Ashram and the concept of Auroville and established personal contact with some Ashramites.  Among the senior sadhaks we met was Shri Hu Hsu probably the only Chinese Ashramite, who was an artist, writer and yogi. Other senior sadhaks we met was Dr. Nirodbaran, Pujalal, Nolini Kanta Gupta, and Amal Kiran. Hu Hsu was pleased to meet us, especially Lok and Veronica Wan who could speak Mandarin with him and gave him some Chinese tea.  He invited us to his house and showed us his paintings and told us why he came to the Ashram in 1949, when the Communist Revolution began.

Lok continued to be an active member of the Society. He and Jagir Singh took turns to be the Treasurer of the Society. Three years ago he was nominated as Vice-Chairperson of the Society and continued to be an active member of the Society.  He did confide to some members like V Nadesu, Jared and a few others that he had a lung problem but did not specify he had lung cancer and had undergone surgery in this respect.

The last time I saw Lok, at the Centre was on 15th August 2013 during the morning meditation. After the session, Lok, Nadesu, and myself went to Ananda Bhavan and had a good vegetarian meal. After the meal, we went to City Square and had some refreshments. Lok looked fit and healthy and did not tell us about his illness. But he did say he would not come to the evening function.

 Since the formation of the Society, Lok, Jagir and myself worked closely together on membership subscriptions, Society activities, sale of books and participation in the National Book fairs. We were then in our thirties and were very active. We continued to visit the Ashram many times later.

For the last few years he continued to play an active role in the Society. He went to the Ashram and Auroville a few times. He took video films of all the talks delivered by Prof. Ananda Reddy, Prof. M. V. Nadkarni, Sonia Dyne and other public talks at the Gita Jayanti.

In the last two years, my communication with Lok was mainly through email. Last year, he took the sole initiative to participate in the Book Fair at the Marina Convention Centre and coordinated with some members to take turns to man the Society Stall. He put in a lot of effort to set up the stall and displayed the books. He came every evening to check on the sales of books.

Lok was very dedicated to the work and activities of the Society since he joined in 1973.  He was a disciplined person and health conscious. He did not drink, smoke, or socialize and but spent his free time mainly with his family and Society.  He never spoke about his health condition except to a few members. He had always hoped that the Society would have a building of its own someday and was willing to donate generously to the Building Fund.

On 22nd November 2013, members were shocked to hear of his death on 19th November 2013 and that his cremation would be held at 11 a.m. at the biggest Buddhist Temple in Singapore. However, inspite of the short notice, members who received the shocking news on time came to pay their last respects to Lok and expressed their condolences to the family. News of his passing away was sent to friends in the Ashram and Auroville who knew him as one of the pillars of the Society and a dedicated child of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

Lok, a school teacher and also music teacher, was a very simple person, humble and helpful. He retired from service at the age of 55 years. We remember him always in his casual wear of T-shirts and shorts, with a cheerful smile on his face. Society members will miss him dearly.

- S Dayanandan

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 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.