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

Mental Opening


The first step of the mind towards transformation. - The Mother

Common Name: Yellow Salverform Flower

Botanical Name: Barleria prionitis

Spiritual Name:  Mental Opening - The supermind shall claim the world for Light

And thrill with love of God the enamoured heart
And place Light's crown on Nature's lifted head
And found Light's reign on her unshaking base.
A greater truth than earth's shall roof - in earth
And shed its sunlight on the roads of mind;
A power infallible shall lead the thought,
A seeing Puissance govern life and act,
In earthly hearts kindle the Immortal's fire.

-  Sri Aurobindo, in ‘Savitri’

From the Editor’s Desk (May 2014)

In this issue of our newsletter, we look at mental education, having explored a little on physical and vital education in the past several issues. Like the physical and the vital, the mental is one plane of the being. Sri Aurobindo describes the mental plane as that “…part of the nature which has to do with cognition and intelligence, with ideas, with mental or thought perceptions, the reactions of thought to things, with the truly mental movements and formations, mental vision, and will… that are part of his intelligence.” How would one educate this instrument which is all these? 

It will be good to contemplate on what happens in schools these days. Schools do concentrate to a large part on mental education. To what degree, and towards what aim, however, will be the point of deviation from the perspective of integral education. Normal schooling is generally opportunistic, seeking to secure the future desired economic status of the country by educating the young for the economy primarily. However, according to the yardstick of Integral Education, normal school experience for the child falls short in major ways in catering to an integral mental education programme.

The Mother proposes five areas which a proper mental education programme must fulfil, namely :

(1) Development of the power of concentration, the capacity of attention.

(2) Development of the capacities of expansion, widening, complexity and richness.

(3) Organisation of one’s ideas around a central idea, a higher ideal or a supremely luminous idea that will serve as a guide in life.

4) Thought-control, rejection of undesirable thoughts, to become able to think only what one wants and when one wants.

(5) Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.

It seems likely that most mainstream schools these days probably focus their attention, to some degree on points 1 and 2, giving little or no attention to points 3 to 5. This, however, needs more scrutiny and study to be ascertained. With point (3), the   “supremely luminous idea” is also subject to debate.

Mainstream schools run on their own agenda, just as alternative schools run on particular principles and philosophies and therefore cannot be compared. However, one should question the merits of any educational system and assess with reason, which of these offers a holistic education and serves to develop a more wholesome human being, happily and effectively able to function in the society while contributing positively to the human evolution. 

Like the heart, the vital and the body, the mind is an instrument of the manifestation of the Spirit, according to Integral Education. The mind needs to be facilitated to develop such that it will realize its best use according to the highest principle guiding its use. The role of the teacher comes to the fore once again. How will he or she engage in this facilitation. The high point for the teacher lies in finding the means towards facilitating the perfection of this instrument in the student.

Savitri

Although like sunbeams to our glow-worm mind
Her knowledge feigns to fall from a clear heaven,
Its rays are a lantern's lustres in the Night:
She throws a glittering robe on Ignorance.
But now is lost her ancient sovereign claim
To rule mind's high realm in her absolute right
Bind thought with logic's forged infallible chain
Or see truth nude in a bright abstract haze. 

A brilliant hedge drawn round her narrowed her power;
Faithful to her limited sphere she toiled, but knew
Its highest, widest seeing was a half search,
Its mightiest acts a passage or a stage.
For not by Reason was creation made
And not by Reason can the Truth be seen
Which through the veils of thought, the screens of sense
Hardly the spirit's vision can descry
Dimmed by the imperfection of its means:
The little Mind is tied to little things.

- Sri Aurobindo (Savitri, Book 2 Canto 10)

Question of the month (May 2014)

Q: What is the utility of reason in our life?

A:  The Mother: Without reason, human life would be incoherent and unregulated; we would be like impulsive animals or unbalanced madmen.


Q: What are knowledge and intelligence? Have they important roles to play in our life?

A:  The Mother: Knowledge and intelligence are precisely the qualities of the higher mind in man which differentiate him from the animal.

Without knowledge and intelligence, one is not a man but an animal in human form.


Q: In your Conversations you have said that the intellect is like a mediator between the true knowledge and its realisation down here. Does it not follow that intellectual culture is indispensable for rising above the mind to find there the true knowledge ?


A:  The Mother: In rising above the mind, it is more often a hindrance than a help, for, in general, a refined and educated mind finds its satisfaction in itself and rarely seeks to silence itself so as to be surpassed.

The Mother on Mental Education

Of all lines of education, mental education is the most widely known and practised, yet except in a few rare cases there are gaps which make it something very incomplete and in the end quite insufficient.

Generally speaking, schooling is considered to be all the mental education that is necessary. And when a child has been made to undergo, for a number of years, a methodical training which is more like cramming than true schooling, it is considered that whatever is necessary for his mental development has been done. Nothing of the kind. Even conceding that the training is given with due measure and discrimination and does not permanently damage the brain, it cannot impart to the human mind the faculties it needs to become a good and useful instrument. The schooling that is usually given can, at the most, serve as a system of gymnastics to increase the suppleness of the brain. From this standpoint, each branch of human learning represents a special kind of mental gymnastics, and the verbal formulations given to these various branches each constitute a special and well-defined language.

A true mental education, which will prepare man for a higher life, has five principal phases. Normally these phases follow one after another, but in exceptional individuals they may alternate or even proceed simultaneously. These five phases, in brief, are:

(1) Development of the power of concentration, the capacity of attention.

(2) Development of the capacities of expansion, widening, complexity and richness.

(3) Organisation of one’s ideas around a central idea, a higher ideal or a supremely luminous idea that will serve as a guide in life.

(4) Thought-control, rejection of undesirable thoughts, to become able to think only what one wants and when one wants.

(5) Development of mental silence, perfect calm and a more and more total receptivity to inspirations coming from the higher regions of the being.

It is not possible to give here all the details concerning the methods to be employed in the application of these five phases of education to different individuals. Still, a few explanations on points of detail can be given.

Undeniably, what most impedes mental progress in children is the constant dispersion of their thoughts. Their thoughts flutter hither and thither like butterflies and they have to make a great effort to fix them. Yet this capacity is latent in them, for when you succeed in arousing their interest, they are capable of a good deal of attention. By his ingenuity, therefore, the educator will gradually help the child to become capable of a sustained effort of attention and a faculty of more and more complete absorption in the work in hand. All methods that can develop this faculty of attention from games to rewards are good and can all be utilised according to the need and the circumstances. But it is the psychological action that is most important and the sovereign method is to arouse in the child an interest in what you want to teach him, a liking for work, a will to progress. To love to learn is the most precious gift that one can give to a child: to love to learn always and everywhere, so that all circumstances, all happenings in life may be constantly renewed opportunities for learning more and always more.

For that, to attention and concentration should be added observation, precise recording and faithfulness of memory. This faculty of observation can be developed by varied and spontaneous exercises, making use of every opportunity that presents itself to keep the child’s thought wakeful, alert and prompt. The growth of the understanding should be stressed much more than that of memory. One knows well only what one has understood. Things learnt by heart, mechanically, fade away little by little and finally disappear; what is understood is never forgotten. Moreover, you must never refuse to explain to a child the how and the why of things. If you cannot do it yourself, you must direct the child to those who are qualified to answer or point out to him some books that deal with the question. In this way you will progressively awaken in the child the taste for true study and the habit of making a persistent effort to know.

This will bring us quite naturally to the second phase of development in which the mind should be widened and enriched.

You will gradually show the child that everything can become an interesting subject for study if it is approached in the right way. The life of every day, of every moment, is the best school of all, varied, complex, full of unexpected experiences, problems to be solved, clear and striking examples and obvious consequences. It is so easy to arouse healthy curiosity in children, if you answer with intelligence and clarity the numerous questions they ask. An interesting reply to one readily brings others in its train and so the attentive child learns without effort much more than he usually does in the classroom. By a choice made with care and insight, you should also teach him to enjoy good reading-matter which is both instructive and attractive. Do not be afraid of anything that awakens and pleases his imagination; imagination develops the creative mental faculty and through it study becomes living and the mind develops in joy.

-          ‘Bulletin‘, August 1951

(to be continued)

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

Sri Aurobindo: "Evolution is not finished; reason is not the last word nor the reasoning animal the supreme figure of Nature. As man emerged out of the animal, so out of man the superman emerges."

Devotee: I would like to see the English to know which tense Sri Aurobindo used for the word emerge - whether it is present or future?

The Mother: "If it is in the future, it is a promise we all know and for whose realisation we are working. If it is in the present... I have nothing to add."

Bamboo Sings.....

It is the time just before dawn and it is very dark. The shine from the moon gives a warm glow and the stars are twinkling. I am walking through a dense growth and I can hear crickets chirping. I walk very slowly, careful not to disturb any creatures from their sleep. A chill breeze blows and I hear a soft rustle. A hush rippled through the place. I walk in the direction from where I hear the rustle. As I walk towards it, the sound becomes stronger.  And with a little turn, I find tall, slender trees. Very tall that they appear as though they are touching the sky. The wind passes through and they all sway together giving a calm musical sound. I walk a little further and I find myself amid dense shoots of Bamboo. So mystic is the rustle that it seems they are telling me something, silently without words. I reply back to them with a smile. The night turned to day with light seeping in through all the gaps and rays touching the earth. All the trees now looked like giant pillars holding the sun.



(Bamboo Trees at Cottage Restaurant, Pondicherry)

A slow soft yearning walks out of a small piece of Bamboo. It has a sound that touches our heart. There are holes on that piece and a magical hand opens and closes them in a rhythm. A peacock feather is dangling at the end and it sways slightly to the breeze. A little boy in the colour of deep sky is playing a music sweetly engrossing us. A beautiful girl has softly wrapped her arms around him and is lost in the music being played. Angels dance around them - a graceful dance that captivates us. Who is this little boy I wonder - playing a beautiful rhythm deep in our hearts…

Bamboo shoots are sturdy trees holding much significance given to them through ages. Simple and unadorned, bamboo is symbolic of purity and innocence. In India, it is a symbol of friendship while in China it is of longevity. The warm and humid climate of Japan makes it an amicable environment for the growth of Bamboo. The people of Japan revere the trees and they have framed lessons for life from them. It is said "The warrior like Bamboo is always ready for action". The King of Birds - Phoenix grows by eating only bamboo seeds and sweet spring water. The hollow inner structure of the bamboo trees makes them the best material to make the flute - the instrument that turns soft wind into music.

Cottage Restaurant at Pondicherry, which belongs to Ashram department, has brought in the atmosphere of Japan with a group of Bamboo trees grown tall and strong. The trees invite us inside along with little stones depicting the Zen gardens. That place has a nice coolness something that we don't see much in the scorching weather of Pondicherry. The trees sway with a slight breeze and the leaves like blades of grass dance together to create a faint rustle. It is a beautiful place to spend some time and indulge in relishing the sweets they sell.

- Sandhya

April Sunday Activities at the Centre – A glimpse

Fifth Sunday Programme, 30th March, 2014 : Readings on Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Bases of Yoga’

We read passages from the chapter titled, ‘In Difficulty’. One passage spoke of the imprisoned consciousness. A movement that would aid liberation was for the mental consciousness to rise above itself and take its station in “something higher than the ordinary mind…” The first liberation is possible when “the mental consciousness can take its stand permanently or at will above..” Another passage pointed out that “…the method of the Divine Manifestation is through calm and harmony, not through a catastrophic upheaval. The latter is the sign of a struggle, generally of conflicting vital forces…” One other passage showed the necessity of difficulties :

“ …. But this opposition has been permitted from of old not merely as a test or ordeal, but as a compulsion on us to seek a greater strength, a more perfect self-knowledge, an intense purity and force of aspiration, a faith that nothing can crush, a more powerful descent of the Divine Grace.”


First Sunday Programme, 6th April, 2014 : Readings of The Mother’s words from “Steps to Freedom and Mastery” and OM Choir

On this day, we opened the book at page 49, ‘Observing Oneself’.  This passage showed us that if we wanted to know ourselves, then we would have to look within ourselves, observe ourselves. It is in observation that we can hope to distinguish the different parts in us, the physical, the vital and the mental and how what we are at one moment may arise from any of these planes or a combination of these. Self-observation paves the way for self-knowing. Self-knowing places before us parts in us that posed obstacles to progress and that therefore need to be changed. It makes us aware of these elements that must be put before the light of a higher aspiration. Here is a description from the passage of a semblance of what one may find in oneself during deeper self-observation :

“Now it begins to be interesting, because one must enter much more deeply within oneself. And then it can be all sorts of things: it may be precisely the expression of an attack that is preparing; it may be a little inner anxiety seeking the progress that has to be made; it may be a premonition that there is somewhere in contact with oneself something not altogether harmonious which one has to change: something one must see, discover, change, on which light is to be put, something that is still there, deep down, and which should no longer be there.”

Then OM choir took place for the rest of the time filling us with a deeper quiet.


Third Sunday Programme, 20th April, 2014 : Readings on Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Bases of Yoga’

We read the concluding passages of the chapter, ‘In Difficulty’. There were two passages that discouraged suicide as a means of escaping from difficulties. It was written that difficulties would continue into another life, perhaps worse off difficulties and that one could suffer more in other worlds. The only remedy was to “shake off these morbid ideas and face life with a clear will for some definite work to be done as the life’s aim and with a quiet and active courage.”

Against all difficulties faced in life, one sure answer was there : “ Let nothing and nobody come between you and the Mother’s force. It is on your admitting and keeping that force and responding to the true inspiration and not on any ideas the mind may form that success will depend. Even ideas or plan which might otherwise be useful, will fail if there is not behind them the true spirit and the true force and influence.”

We came to the conclusion of the chapter on ‘In Diffculty’ thus, looking very much to the continuation of the study circle into the next chapter.


The Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry 24th April, 2014 : Special Programme

This occasion was observed in the centre on the evening of the 24th of April 2014 between 7pm and 8pm, with mahaprasad thereafter.  After meditation music, as usual two entries from ‘Prayers and Meditations’ were read, one by Urmil-ji and one by Swati. Venkatesh next read the Darshan Message from the Ashram, before which he painted the background to the Darshan Day of April 24th as the Mother’s final arrival in Pondicherry. Then about twelve members came together to offer a line-up of invocation on the Guru, Shanti mantras from a few Upanishads as well as three songs – one a carnatic invocation on Sri Ganapathy, Vara Vallabha, a Hindi bhajan, ‘Prema Muditha Manase Kaho’ and ‘Maitrim Bhajata’, a number composed by The Jagadguru of Kanchi, Sri Chandrashekara Sarawaty for the occasion of the United Nation’s (UN)  50th Anniversary and sung by Dr M. S. Subbulakshmi in 1966 at the UN, as a contribution from India, calling on all peoples of the world to rise above  war, competition and force, towards harmony, unity and brotherhood, invoking compassion for all living beings.

Between these chants and songs were readings, two of which were from the Mother’s ‘Prayers and Meditations’. One of these prayers was the last entry made in the diary before The Mother came to India in 1920 and the other was the first entry made after The Mother came to Pondicherry.

The offerings readily invited everyone into silent contemplation.

The following words of The Mother were read before the offering began. These words are words of guidance on how to prepare oneself for the Darshan Day of April 24th :

“Look attentively into yourself to find out what for you is the most important thing, the thing you feel that you couldn't do without. It is an interesting discovery.”

Concentration on Sunil-da’s New Year music concluded the day’s offering.

- Jayanthy

Along the Way… Reflections on the April 2014 Morning Walk

It was a pleasantly cool Sunday morning, and it was that day of the month when we, from the  Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore, were to have our monthly Walk. The pleasant nature of the weather was a result of the heavy rainfall the previous day. This time, the venue for the Walk was the Punggol Promenade Riverside Walk.  This venue was not one of our regular venues, and we had been there just once earlier, in July 2013. Other than a handful of us who were present back then, most others were first-timers at the place. All of us were trying to soak in the ambience of the Riverside. The Promenade was alongside the river Sungei Serangoon. Set on the background of the river is a huge patch of greenery with a lot of nice big green trees. The entry point is picture perfect. We chose a nice green spot for the warm-up exercises, and then decided to make use of the scenic backdrop and took a couple of group pictures, after which we started the Walk.

The riverside promenade has two tracks running parallel to the river: one dedicated to cyclists and the other one dedicated to joggers. It is indeed a pleasure to walk or cycle on these paths as you have the river flowing by serenely on one side, and you have a lot of beautiful flowering plants, with flowers of different colours, sizes and shapes, dotting the place, on the other side. As we walked, at our own paces, we caught up with different people. There were many Lookout Points along the track which enable us to have a closer look at the river.

Slowly, the Sun began to peep out-- shyly at first, and then quite boldly. Along our way we spotted some brightly coloured kingfishers, which were a treat to the eye. A few monitor lizards were spotted too. The rich flora and fauna at the venue reflected a healthy eco-system. As we continued to walk, we crossed the point where the river opens out into the sea. Many ships were being anchored and unloaded there. Somewhere around the same spot, a group of kayakers were practicing enthusiastically and creating some wonderful formations and patters with their kayaks. All this showed us that there are several wonderful things happening around us at any given point of time. It is up to us to look around, take a deep breath, listen to all the wonderful sounds, catch all the beautiful sights and enjoy every moment of our lives.

As always, the place had something new and fresh about it, which made us all feel good and rejuvenated. Once done with the walk, we proceeded to our hosts’ (Jayanthy Aunty and Rama Uncle) place in Kovan. We were warmly welcomed into their beautiful house. I have always felt a wave of calm envelope me every single time I sit at the lovely altar at their house, and this time was no different. And I heard a few other members echo the same sentiment. Once everyone gathered there settled down, we started off with the Opening Meditation. After reading a few prayers and the names of people who were to celebrate their birthdays/anniversaries in the month of April, we had our delicious brunch served lovingly by Jayanthy Aunty and Rama Uncle.

Looking forward to the next month’s Walk!

-          Preethi Saroja


Harmony in the Vital


To harmonise the vital is a psychological masterpiece; happy is the one who accomplishes it. - The Mother

Common Name: Coral vine, Confederate vine,  Mexican creeper,  Chain of Love
Botanical Name: Antigogon
Spiritual Name:  Harmony in the Vital

With the collaboration of the vital no realisation seems impossible, no transformation impracticable. - The Mother

From the Editor’s Desk (April 2014)

We continue with the second part on Vital Education in this month’s edition of the Newsletter.  Sri Aurobindo and The Mother have elaborated the great help of the transformed vital in the overall Divine scheme in their many writings and interactions with Sadhaks. What is the most fundamental beginning towards the perfecting of the vital? Who perfects it? How? If one were to perfect the vital, one’s conscious involvement in the process will go a long way in aiding the process. This conscious involvement can begin with one being conscious of one’s vital in as much detail as possible. A useful tool to boost this process would be self-observation, a tool needed for the perfecting of not only the vital but also the mental and physical.

The successful establishment of self-observation in itself is a part of integral sadhana. It is a vigilant and relentless watching of the movements that arise from within and their expression in thoughts and feelings, speech and action. Self-observation calls for two things. First is the establishment within oneself of a movement that wants to know what and who one is and the more absolute the movement, the closer one gets to watching larger portions of oneself and knowing and understanding the nature of these movements and eventually, recognising the vital entity within and the way it could be nurtured to accommodate a higher working.

Secondly, success in self-observation calls for the will to carry it out diligently, against all backsliding, set backs and odds, all victories and triumphs against the vital. Then one grows in consciousness, becomes aware of one’s vital nature, its hold on the being and its parts that can be offered for change. The will from within, in the child, needs to be awake and strong in order to know “reactions and impulses and their causes, to become a discerning witness of his  desires, his movements of violence and passion, his instincts of possession and appropriation and domination and the background of vanity which supports them, together with their counterparts of weakness, discouragement, depression and despair.” Knowing, one will be able to exercise discretion in willfully offering up the parts that need a change. How does this will come into play? The Mother suggests different methods such as rational arguments, or bringing into play feelings and goodwill or sense of dignity and self-respect.  As a powerful method, The Mother points to example, “constantly and sincerely shown.”.

Perhaps, a lot of challenges we confront in educating the young of today, both in the mainstream schools or special schools that are run on more noble ideals other than for the sake of examinations and the securing of paper qualifications, will be solved considerably if teachers understood their role as exemplars to children. It is then required that all that one wants the children to be, the teachers need to cultivate in themselves relentlessly, to as much perfection, including being ones with an acute sense of observation, an indomitable courage and a strong power of will that would want to transform all in oneself that is counter-productive to an integral progress.
There are certain means that aid vital education like none other. The arts, sensitively and consciously used in education, can channel vital energies into expressions of perfection and beauty, while teaching one patience, precision and developing an eye for the subtleties of life and a sensitivity for truth, beauty and goodness. This issue of the Newsletter also brings you, questions posed to The Mother and her answers, and Mother’s writing on Vital Education, and an article on The Art of Paper Folding.

Savitri

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)

Questions And Answers Volume 04 - January 25th 1951

"Progress may be slow, falls may be frequent, but if a courageous will is maintained one is sure to triumph some day and see all difficulties melt and vanish before the radiant consciousness of truth.” - “The Science of Living”, On Education

If I lay stress here upon defects and difficulties, it is not to discourage you from making an effort but to tell you that you must do things with the necessary courage and precisely not be disheartened because you are not successful at once; but if the aspiration is there in you, if the will is there in you, it is absolutely certain that sooner or later you will succeed. And I am saying this for people who live in very ordinary circumstances, less favourable perhaps than yours, but who can, even so, learn to know themselves and conquer themselves, master themselves, control themselves. Therefore, if the conditions are favourable you have a much greater chance of succeeding. One thing is always necessary, not to give up the game—for it is a great game and the result is worth the trouble of playing it through.

"The vital being in us is the seat of impulses and desires, of enthusiasm and violence, of dynamic energy and desperate depression, of passions and revolt. It can set in motion everything, build up and realise, it can also destroy and mar everything. It seems to be, in the human being, the most difficult part to train. It is a long labour requiring great patience, and it demands a perfect sincerity, for without sincerity one will deceive oneself from the very first step, and all endeavour for progress will go in vain." - “The Science of Living”, On Education

- The Mother. Pondicherry  January 25th 1951, Questions And Answers Volume 04 (Collected Works of The Mother)

The Mother on Vital Education

(continued from the February 2014 issue)

This vital education has two principal aspects, very different in their aims and methods, but both equally important. The first concerns the development and use of the sense organs. The second, the progressing awareness and control of the character, culminating in its transformation.

The education of the senses, again, has several aspects, which are added to one another as the being grows; indeed it should never cease. The sense organs, if properly cultivated, can attain a precision and power of functioning far exceeding what is normally expected of them.

In some ancient initiations it was stated that the number of senses that man can develop is not five but seven and in certain special cases even twelve. Certain races at certain times have, out of necessity, developed more or less perfectly one or the other of these supplementary senses. With a proper discipline persistently followed, they are within the reach of all who are sincerely interested in this development and its results. Among the faculties that are often mentioned, there is, for example, the ability to widen the physical consciousness, project it out of oneself so as to concentrate it on a given point and thus obtain sight, hearing, smell, taste and even touch at a distance.

To this general education of the senses and their functioning there will be added, as early as possible, the cultivation of discrimination and of the aesthetic sense, the capacity to choose and adopt what is beautiful and harmonious, simple, healthy and pure. For there is a psychological health just as there is a physical health, a beauty and harmony of the sensations as of the body and its movements. As the capacity of understanding grows in the child, he should be taught, in the course of his education, to add artistic taste and refinement to power and precision. He should be shown, led to appreciate, taught to love beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things, whether in Nature or in human creation. This should be a true aesthetic culture, which will protect him from degrading influences. For, in the wake of the last wars and the terrible nervous tension which they provoked, as a sign, perhaps, of the decline of civilisation and social decay, a growing vulgarity seems to have taken possession of human life, individual as well as collective, particularly in what concerns aesthetic life and the life of the senses. A methodical and enlightened cultivation of the senses can, little by little, eliminate from the child whatever is by contagion vulgar, commonplace and crude. This education will have very happy effects even on his character. For one who has developed a truly refined taste will, because of this very refinement, feel incapable of acting in a crude, brutal or vulgar manner. This refinement, if it is sincere, brings to the being a nobility and generosity which will spontaneously find expression in his behaviour and will protect him from many base and perverse movements.

And this brings us quite naturally to the second aspect of vital education which concerns the character and its transformation.

Generally, all disciplines dealing with the vital being, its purification and its control, proceed by coercion, suppression, abstinence and asceticism. This procedure is certainly easier and quicker, although less deeply enduring and effective, than a rigorous and detailed education. Besides, it eliminates all possibility of the intervention, help and collaboration of the vital. And yet this help is of the utmost importance if one wants the individual’s growth and action to be complete.

To become conscious of the various movements in oneself and be aware of what one does and why one does it, is the indispensable starting-point. The child must be taught to observe, to note his reactions and impulses and their causes, to become a discerning witness of his desires, his movements of violence and passion, his instincts of possession and appropriation and domination and the background of vanity which supports them, together with their counterparts of weakness, discouragement, depression and despair.

Evidently, for this process to be useful, along with the growth of the power of observation the will for progress and perfection must also grow. This will should be instilled into the child as soon as he is capable of having a will, that is to say, at a much earlier age than is usually believed.

In order to awaken this will to surmount and conquer, different methods are appropriate in different cases; with certain individuals rational arguments are effective, for others their feelings and goodwill should be brought into play, with yet others the sense of dignity and self-respect. For all, the most powerful method is example constantly and sincerely shown.

Once the resolution has been firmly established, one has only to proceed rigorously and persistently and never to accept any defeat as final. To avoid all weakening and backsliding, there is one important point you must know and never forget: the will can be cultivated and developed just as the muscles can by methodical and progressive exercise. You must not shrink from demanding the maximum effort of your will even for a thing that seems of no importance, for it is through effort that its capacity grows, gradually acquiring the power to apply itself even to the most difficult things. What you have decided to do, you must do, whatever the cost, even if you have to renew your effort over and over again any number of times in order to do it. Your will will be strengthened by the effort and you will have only to choose with discernment the goal to which you will apply it.

To sum up: one must gain a full knowledge of one’s character and then acquire control over one’s movements in order to achieve perfect mastery and the transformation of all the elements that have to be transformed.

Now all will depend upon the ideal which the effort for mastery and transformation seeks to achieve. The value of the effort and its result will depend upon the value of the ideal.

-          ‘Bulletin‘, August 1951
(concluded)


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

Art of paper-folding


(An Origami Workshop in progress at the Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry.)

There are many means for us to be creative. Creative writing, painting, art and craft work are few of those. When we have a movement in us, a kind of a pull that draws us, we can take a plain canvas and paint on it without any restrictions and see what comes out of that. A heart-warming experience will form ideas in us, wonderful words gather together and they just walk out as we pen them down. Or it is just a silent feeling that gets expressed on a canvas.

Craft activities wherein we work with papers, glue, scissors and many varied things that we can collect are interesting works that enhance our creativity - activities that immerse us completely in the present moment. In this category, there is an ancient craft work that transforms a piece of paper into an interesting object.

Origami is the Japanese art of paper folding that originated in 17th century when the monks in Japan used it as a means of meditation. The word ‘Origami’ originates from two Japanese words - Ori means folding and Kami means paper. This art became popular when papers were produced in large volumes and were easily available. The beginning of modern origami was developed by Akira Yoshizawa in the 1930’s.

We breathe life into a piece of paper and turn it into a vivid shape. Started as a religious activity among the monks, this art has evolved into a professional work among the artists today. There are defined techniques of working with the paper and many stages involved in the process. The key importance in the process is given to folding the paper. There are different types of folding - valley fold, mountain fold, squash, sink and reverse folds. With each fold, we move our fingers in specific directions with a firm hold on the paper and apply the appropriate pressure to create the crease. The crease defines the pattern that forms the final shape of the object. There is also wet folding where a piece of paper that is a little sturdy then the ordinary one - because it should not tear when it is wet - is taken and damped with a wet cloth before folding. When the created pattern dries, it forms the shape. This method is called Sizing and is usually used when creating objects that have gentle curves – like statues and animals. Origami patterns can also fly like that of a bird or a flight. Can also float like that of a boat. We can also create embossed, 3D or inflated patterns with Origami.

In Pondicherry, in the same lane as the Ashram dining hall, there is very nice little shop called ‘Nava Vihan’. It sells beautiful gift items that are prepared by the Ashram departments. With them, there is an origami kit that helps us make butterflies with a piece of square paper. It has got interesting patterns drawn on them that come to the surface as the butterfly is made. We can paint on these patterns later to make very vivid butterflies.

- Sandhya

Along the Way… Reflections on the March 2014 Morning Walk

Venue: Bukit Batok Nature Park

This Park is really an amazing place to take a walk. The terrain is undulating and footpaths meander through the lush secondary forest leading to look-out points from high elevation to provide breathtaking views. Bukit means "hill" and batok, "coughing". The blasting noises from granite quarrying sounded very much as if the hill were coughing from far off in the olden days. The park was originally an abandoned quarry and was developed in 1988. The quarry is now converted into a beautiful attraction, a quarry pool with a high cliff wall and a reflecting pool.

The number of cars and the people at the park speak for itself - the love for Nature and physical fitness the people of Singapore have! We could see a group of people waiting patiently to capture the lovely birds which inhabit this heavenly Nature with their binoculars and cameras.

The Walk really thrilled every cell of our body with more oxygen and the joy of peace and  serenity in the midst of our Mother Nature !

A dry spell is taking its toll on the evergreen grass in Singapore and trees shedding their leaves in huge numbers every day. I pray to God Varuna to RAIN on us His kindness to sustain the greenery which is very much the heart of our Singapore!

Do the deep-rooted trees able to sustain longer have any spiritual message for us? Yes, the following Words of Mother say it all,

“The true aim of life is to find the Divine’s Presence deep inside oneself and to surrender to it so that it takes the lead of the life, all the feelings and all the actions of the body.

This gives the true and luminous aim to existence”.

We are really blessed to have such dedicated Walk Planners in Sri Ramanathan & Team to make our first Sunday Walk of every month a special one with such lovely company of friends and Nature.

Our loving appreciation to Ramananthan, Jayanthi, Kiruthika ,Adrian, Anjali, Sophia and their team of friends who gave us the  Marvelous Morning of March first Sunday !

Update  (21-Mar-2014) : On World Water Day, Singapore experienced lovely showers after a long dry spell. Since then, God Varuna has rained his kindness everyday, breathing new life to dry grass and trees !

-          Jayalakshmi