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

Vital Education

Her divine parts the soul’s allegiance called:
It saw, it felt; it knew the deity.
Her will was puissant on their nature’s acts,
Her heart’s inexhaustible sweetness lured their hearts,
A being they loved whose bound exceeded theirs;
Her measure they could not reach but bore her touch,
Answering with the flower’s answer to the sun
They gave themselves to her and asked no more.

- Sri Aurobindo in ‘Savitri’

From the Editor’s Desk

The theme of this issue is ‘Vital Education’. In the integral psychology, the vital is distinctly different from the mental plane. It is often called the life force. More specifically, it entails all the emotions –the passions, desires, feelings, preferences, attractions, and the repulsions that arise in us. Enthusiasm is a great force arising from the vital and so too dejection and depression.

All too often, we probably find ourselves at the mercy of this vital. We may take the instance of a day. When we run through it, we probably can pick out ‘n’ number of times when we would have been carried away with a vital impulse. But that is what it is all about! It is Life!, something in us may say. But then the many moments of regret of having lost a grip over ourselves, our passions, preferences and desires would also be there, alongside. For some, this is life, this may be all that life is, this is living life as it is, a pendulum swinging from pole to pole. However, there is too, it appears, something within us that wants a life of mastery, a life of freedom over the anarchy of desires, passions, even depressions and repulsions. The answer, the way and means, comes to us through education, vital education. So what is this vital education?

The Mother says that with the collaboration of the vital, nothing is impossible. The challenge, she says, lie in securing this collaboration. This is because the vital seeks it’s own satisfaction. So there! It appears that the vital sets everything in motion to attain something it desires, for its own satisfaction. But then The Mother explains, that the vital has a special capacity. It is often captivated by something spectacular, something noble, extraordinary, “exceedingly but splendidly beautiful -  and it can be carried away by it..”. Mother says that the nature of the vital is such that it would want the same spectacular, the same splendid, for itself. And here comes the hallmark of the vital, in the Mother’s words: “It begins by an ambition, it ends with a consecration.”. The converse, however, is true of the vital too. When placed in an ugly environment, filled with violence and things less beautiful, it also gets influenced and emulates the ugliness, the violence.

The beauty of the vital, in comparison to the other planes is that it does not calculate. This quality accounts for its giving itself wholeheartedly without calculation to that which appeals to it. On one end, it offers itself to dire forces and on the other pole, it can equally offer itself to the Highest, without questions, with total consecration.

For this reason, Mother calls it a ‘very precious instrument’, an instrument needing to be perfected. This perfecting is what is envisioned in vital education. An important beginning here is sense education. The sense organs are given emphasis and each is sought out for its own special development in sensitivity, precision and consciousness. It is this consciousness, Mother says, that “transmutes everything” perceived by the senses. For more from The Mother on Vital Education, see pages 5 and 6 of this edition and the continuation in next months’ edition.

This is a special month. We look forward to The Mother’s 136th Birth Anniversary with quiet joy. There is a joyful anticipation in the air. Here in Singapore, quiet undercurrents are felt as members make preparations for Mahaprasad for the 21st. Silently too, in each of us, this special birthday will herald a new dawn.


Descend to life with him thy heart desires.
O Satyavan, O luminous Savitri,
I sent you forth of old beneath the stars,
A dual power of God in an ignorant world,
In a hedged creation shut from limitless self,
Bringing down God to the insentient globe,
Lifting earth-beings to immortality.
In the world of my knowledge and my ignorance
Where God is unseen and only is heard a Name
And knowledge is trapped in the boundaries of mind
And life is hauled in the drag-net of desire
And Matter hides the soul from its own sight,
You are my Force to work to uplift earth’s fate,
My self that moves up the immense incline
Between the extremes of the spirit’s night and day.

(Savitri, Book 11 Canto 1)

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

(Savitri, Book 4 Canto 1)

Question of the month

Q: Mother, would you please define in a few words what you mean essentially by “free progress”?

A:  The Mother: A progress guided by the soul and not subjected to habits, conventions or preconceived ideas.

Q: What are the rules of conduct You consider indispensable in our community?

A:  The Mother: Patience, perseverance, generosity, broad-mindedness, insight, calm and understanding firmness, and control over the ego until it is completely mastered or even abolished.

The Mother Says:
”If the education of the vital is carried far enough, with perseverance and sincerity, there comes a time when, convinced of the greatness and beauty of the goal, the vital gives up petty and illusory sensorial satisfactions in order to win the divine delight.”

The Wizard of Oz

(The Mother spoke the following over the loudspeaker when the film, “The Wizard of Oz”, was screened at the Ashram playground.)

A short explanation will surely increase the interest of the picture to be shown to you tonight.

This picture is in three sections, two black and one, the most extensive, in colour. The two black sections (first and last) show how things appear in the physical world; the coloured one expresses a similar sequence of events and similar characters in the vital world, the world where one can go when the body is in deep sleep, when one gets out of the body. So long as you have a physical body, no true harm can happen to you in the vital world, for the physical body acts as a protection, and you can always return into it at will. This is shown in the picture in a classical way. You will see that the little girl wears on her feet some magic ruby-red slippers, and so long as she keeps the slippers on her feet nothing wrong can happen to her. The ruby red slippers are the sign and the symbol of the connection with the physical body, and as long as the slippers are on her feet, she can, at will, return to her body and find shelter therein.

Two other details can be noted with interest. One is the snow shower that saves the party from the influence of the wicked witch who by her black magic has stopped their advance towards the emerald castle of beneficent vitality. In the vital world, snow is the symbol of purity. It is the purity of their feelings and intentions that saves them from the great danger. Note also that to go to the castle of the good wizard they must follow the broad path of golden bricks, the path of luminous confidence and joy.

The second is: when Dorothy throws water on the straw man to save him from burning, some water falls on the face of the wicked witch who lit the fire and at once she gets dissolved and dies. The water is the symbol of the power of purification and no hostile being or force can resist this power handled with goodwill and sincerity.

Finally, when the good fairy teaches the little girl how to go back home by knocking her red slippers one against the other, she says that nothing is better than home; by “home” she means the physical world which is the place of protection and realisation.

As you see, the subject of this picture is interesting and not altogether devoid of knowledge. Unhappily the rendering isnot as beautiful and harmonious as it could have been. In the setup there are some serious faults of taste and many regrettable vulgarities.

-          14 September 1952.

(CWM Volume 12, ‘On Education’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1978, Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)

The Mother on Vital Education

Of all education, vital education is perhaps the most important, the most indispensable. Yet it is rarely taken up and pursued with discernment and method. There are several reasons for this: first, the human mind is in a state of great confusion about this particular subject; secondly, the undertaking is very difficult and to be successful in it one must have endless endurance and persistence and a will that no failure can weaken.

Indeed, the vital in man’s nature is a despotic and exacting tyrant. Moreover, since it is the vital which holds power, energy, enthusiasm, effective dynamism, many have a feeling of timorous respect for it and always try to please it. But it is a master that nothing can satisfy and its demands are without limit. Two ideas which are very wide-spread, especially in the West, contribute towards making its domination more sovereign. One is that the chief aim of life is to be happy; the other that one is born with a certain character and that it is impossible to change it.

The first idea is a childish deformation of a very profound truth: that all existence is based upon delight of being and without delight of being there would be no life. But this delight of being, which is a quality of the Divine and therefore unconditioned, must not be confused with the pursuit of pleasure in life, which depends largely upon circumstances. The conviction that one has the right to be happy leads, as a matter of course, to the will to “live one’s own life” at any cost. This attitude, by its obscure and aggressive egoism, leads to every kind of conflict and misery, disappointment and discouragement, and very often ends in catastrophe.

In the world as it is now the goal of life is not to secure personal happiness, but to awaken the individual progressively to the Truth-consciousness.

The second idea arises from the fact that a fundamental change of character demands an almost complete mastery over the subconscient and a very rigorous disciplining of whatever comes up from the inconscient, which, in ordinary natures, expresses itself as the effects of atavism and of the environment in which one was born. Only an almost abnormal growth of consciousness and the constant help of Grace can achieve this Herculean task. That is why this task has rarely been attempted and many famous teachers have declared it to be unrealisable and chimerical. Yet it is not unrealisable. The transformation of character has in fact been realised by means of a clear-sighted discipline and a perseverance so obstinate that nothing, not even the most persistent failures, can discourage it.

The indispensable starting-point is a detailed and discerning observation of the character to be transformed. In most cases, that itself is a difficult and often a very baffling task. But there is one fact which the old traditions knew and which can serve as the clue in the labyrinth of inner discovery. It is that everyone possesses in a large measure, and the exceptional individual in an increasing degree of precision, two opposite tendencies of character, in almost equal proportions, which are like the light and the shadow of the same thing. Thus someone who has the capacity of being exceptionally generous will suddenly find an obstinate avarice rising up in his nature, the courageous man will be a coward in some part of his being and the good man will suddenly have wicked impulses. In this way life seems to endow everyone not only with the possibility of expressing an ideal, but also with contrary elements representing in a concrete manner the battle he has to wage and the victory he has to win for the realisation to become possible. Consequently, all life is an education pursued more or less consciously, more or less willingly. In certain cases this education will encourage the movements that express the light, in others, on the contrary, those that express the shadow. If the circumstances and the environment are favourable, the light will grow at the expense of the shadow; otherwise the opposite will happen. And in this way the individual’s character will crystallise according to the whims of Nature and the determinisms of material and vital life, unless a higher element comes in time, a conscious will which, refusing to allow Nature to follow her whimsical ways, will replace them by a logical and clear-sighted discipline. This conscious will is what we mean by a rational method of education.

That is why it is of prime importance that the vital education of the child should begin as early as possible, indeed, as soon as he is able to use his senses. In this way many bad habits will be avoided and many harmful influences eliminated.

(to be continued)
(CWM Volume 12, ‘On Education’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust 1978, Published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry)

Harmony in Music

Words come from heaven and music, beautiful music, makes those words flow like a smooth river on earth. The lyricist, music composer and the musicians form the group to evolve the music here. They reach levels to catch the words and notes for the music. The singer adopts the expression and makes an effort to render the music in the right way. The background music creates the right atmosphere for the entire performance.

Good Music, or ‘soulful’ music as the musicians call it, has the power to connect us with ourselves and with people around us. It lightens the place and creates an ambiance of harmony when played. In a song, we see the interaction between the various instruments played or the notes that each instrumentalist is playing. And the light the words bring to such an interaction. It is all there together and strung in the right way. And there is a beauty.

It is a wonder to see how music connects deeply with nature. There is music in the breeze that blows and the trees that dance to it. In the rainfall that showers on the ground and in the waves washing the shore. Birds chirp and play a sweet music every morning to wake us up. I have read in a book that each note in Carnatic music originates from the sound of animals and birds. Like the note ‘pa’ is the note in which the koyil sings.

There is music in silence. There is music in our very living. I feel, each thought in us is a note and lovely thoughts link together to create harmony within us as a musical piece made of right notes would. Wonder what is the background music here…. And in this harmony that music creates, many have experienced the connection with Gods and Goddesses.

I attended a musical show called ‘Strings Attached’ at Jagrithi Theatre, Bangalore. It was a show with a confluence of music from the Veena, the Violin, the Mrindagam and the electronic pad. And what I saw was a beautiful, harmonious interaction between the various instruments, notes being played and the musicians.

- Sandhya

December to January Sunday Activities at the Centre – A glimpse

5th Sunday Programme : Sunday Walks Over the Years, Presentation by Mr Shashi Lal Kashyap, 29 December 2013

Our Chairperson, Mr Shashi Lal Kashyap presented the slides he had compiled of our walks and some Society activities over the years for the occasion of our 40th Anniversary last year. They were first screened in Sri Aurobindo Society, Puducherry, last December when some 25 of us made a landmark trip to Ashram and Auroville to mark the 40th Anniversary. The photos were shot from 1984, when Mr. Kashyap joined the Society and started developing an enthusiasm for taking photographs. 

The photographs brought back fond memories for many of us who have been with the Society for some time, ranging from 40 to two years ago. For the newcomers, whichever year we entered into the scene, the photographs spoke much about the past events and most importantly, caught the camaraderie amongst members. 

The slide presentation exceeded our usual hours for Sunday programme. Nevertheless, most remained till the end, lured by these photos of yesteryears. 

At the end of the programme, Mr. Prabhudeva expressed his gratitude spontaneously for the peek into the past and looked forward to newer faces joining us.

The conclusion was a sweet one, with meditation on New Year music.

First Sunday Programme at Centre: Readings from 'Steps to Freedom and Mastery - Selections from the works of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother', 5 January 2014

We started with a circle of eight initially, which became eleven towards the end of the programme. We read one passage today, titled, "Self-Reviewing". The Mother, in her compassion, shows us the most profoundest of secrets, the most essential guide, the most complex psychological approach towards self-growth in the most simple, direct and succinct manner that touches everyone who receives these in a conducive state. Today's reading was one such example. It was about looking at oneself, knowing oneself. It was as if she handed us an instrument or a tool we ourselves could use for self-growth, within our disposal irrespective of time and place. One only needed a little will that agreed to look within. The driving force would probably be a need that seeks the truth of oneself deep within. A steady faith and sincerity would probably regulate this exercise that Mother hands over to us, as our help and aid in this path. Here is what Mother tells us about how to know about ourselves and the different motivations that move us and to place ourselves on the path of progress:

"If this reviewing is to make you progress, you must find something within you in whose light you yourself can be your own judge, something which represents for you the best part of yourself, which has some light, some goodwill and which precisely is in love with progress. Place that before you and, first of all pass across it as at a cinema all that you have done, all that you have felt, your impulses, your thoughts, etc.; then try to co-ordinate them, that is, find out why this has followed that. And look at the luminous screen that is before you: certain things pass across it well, without throwing a shadow; others, on the contrary, throw a little shadow; others yet cast a shadow altogether black and disagreeable. You must do this very sincerely......Then you take a good look at these things in the light of your ideal: "Is cherishing this movement in conformity with my seeking and the realisation of my ideal or not? I put this little dark corner in front of the light until the light enters into it and it disappears."

(For the full text, please refer to CWM4:38-39 or Pg. 45-47 of the book referred to at the beginning of this entry.)

The first Sunday of the year concluded on the rising notes of OM, as the following quotation was read loudly and clearly: "In concentration and silence we must gather strength for the right action."

Second Sunday Programme at Centre: Reading Circle, Bases of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo, 12 January 2014

It was a beautiful evening to gather at the Centre. We meditated on New Years' music awhile and then, after readings from ‘Prayers and Meditation’, formed a circle of thirteen.

We read pages 29 to 31 this evening, on Faith-Aspiration-Surrender. Understanding to differentiate between personal effort, the opening and the Divine grace and help, was put to us. As usual, the answers elude, though sharing thoughts and concerns invite responses that may throw a few rays of stray light of assurance or hope. However, contemplating in silence on these words help a lot. The evening came to a quiet and subtle end as the discussion slid into how people met The Mother or experienced her presence, resulting in some spontaneous change that took place in them. Even recalling the events that touched one deeply, when one knew that She was there, larger than life, was enough to bring tears to the eyes, even in the eyes of those who heard these experiences being recounted. Today's session found beauty in this. We came together in silence as the meditation music signalled the conclusion of the day's gathering.

Here are some lines that were highlights for today:

"The practice of rejection prevails in the end; but with personal effort only, it may take a long time. If you can feel the Divine Power working in you, then it should become easier."

Third Sunday Programme at Centre: Reading Circle, Bases of Yoga, Sri Aurbindo, 19 January 2014

On this day, nine of us formed the study circle. We continued reading from page 31 and stopped at page 35. A common theme for today, represented by the writings of Sri Aurobindo was aspiration:

"The fire is the divine fire of aspiration and inner tapasya."

The following passage summarised the day's readings and answered some queries:

"To practise Yoga implies the will to overcome all attachments and turn to the Divine alone. The principal thing in the Yoga is to trust in the Divine Grace at every step, to direct the thought continually to the Divine and to offer oneself till the being opens and the Mother's force can be felt working in the Adhar."

As we were concluding, surrender was a topic that came into the circle and we remembered the way The Mother surrendered to Sri Aurobindo from the time She met Him, in what is referred to as 'perfect surrender'.

- Jayanthy

Along the Way……Reflections on the January 2014 Morning Walk

The first Walk of the New Year saw us return to a familiar place, East Coast Park (ECP).
We gathered at the Big Splash Car park at 8 AM for the morning exercise. The sun was yet to be fully radiant making the weather cool and pleasant. Morning exercise in such weather is indeed a joy. After seeking Sri Aurobindo’s blessings we began the walk in earnest.

This time, we walked towards the eastern end of the park, something which we hadn’t done in a while. This was towards Changi Airport and every minute or so, we saw a plane making its landing approach. It was also the section where a lot of ships move towards, dotting the horizon with rows of giant ships. The planes above and the ships below indicated how much we had progressed technologically, but the vast sky and unending sea further reminded us that whatever we achieve is because of the benevolence of Nature.

ECP was a buzz of activity during that morning, with a lot of campers getting breakfast ready, a lot of cyclists and skaters using the beautiful paths and those like us, enjoying a nice walk. Some of our youngest members tried their hand at climbing trees and cycling. Others decided to take a few breaks during the walk to soak in the lovely morning views from one of the benches facing the sea.

After about an hour and a half, we all headed back for the brunch.The brunch was hosted by Ms. Nisha Maheswary and her son, Ashish.  After the prayers and the meditation we treated ourselves to some spectacular home cooked food. We thank our hosts for the wonderful brunch and wish Ashish the very best as he embarks on his new assignment.

It was indeed a wonderful walk to begin the New Year with!

- Saurab Nair

Remembering Mr Lok Kek Seng…

I first met Lok in 1965 through another friend Purshotmen Naidu when we were in Teachers' Training College. In 1973, Daya, whom I had known since 1964 informed me about the talk on Sri Aurobindo by late Navajata at the NTUC Conference Hall. This is how I came in touch with Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Subsequently I introduced Sri Aurobindo and The Mother to Purshotmen and he, to Lok. 

We were so fascinated by the ideas and vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Ashram that in 1975, Daya, Kim, Veronica, Lok, my wife, Sartha and I decided to visit the Ashram. All of us physically felt the Force as we entered the gate to the Samadhi. After a week in the Ashram we decided to go on a two-week tour of South India. Inspite of our persuasion, Lok decided to stay back and immerse himself in the spiritual atmosphere of the Ashram. On our return Daya, Lok and I got actively involved in our Society. Although some of us became less active gradually, Lok continued to be active till his passing away. 

Lok was a sincere and committed devotee. But he was not found of rituals. To mark our society's 25th anniversary we published a souvenir magazine titled "All Life is Yoga". Lok was in charge of the publication. He did not even want any photographs of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in the magazine. When I asked he said that we had to go beyond photographs. He was truly a practitioner of yoga of Sri Aurobindo. He believed that practice was more meaningful than praying. Lok will be missed but certainly remembered in our hearts. 

- Jagir Singh Riar