Guiding Light of The Month

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

Physical Culture


Purified of all desire and all repulsion, with perfect equality and surrender, the physical body is ready to enjoy the Divine Ananda.

Botanical Name: Canna Xgeneralis
Common Name: Canna lily
Spiritual Significance: Ananda in the Physical Body


A divine harmony shall be earth’s law,
Beauty and Joy remould her way to live:
Even the body shall remember God,
Nature shall draw back from mortality
And Spirit’s fires shall guide the earth’s blind force;


- Sri Aurobindo, Savitri

From the Editor’s Desk (July 2016)

With the last edition, we completed the exploration of The Mother’s symbol and the means of its manifestation upon earth, in its myriad forms and forces. We begin the next half of this year with a view towards exploring the well being of the human personality at once at the receiving end of the play of varied forces and at the same time endowed with possibilities of transcending the limited being, growing into a greater Light, Love and Life; the personality is ideally transformed into one that facilitates the perfect manifestation of this higher principle or the Divine will. If the transformed and perfected integral personality is the end, then our journey on earth is hopefully a progression of a less than perfect personality towards this more complete state, and every day and every experience presents opportunities towards this progression. Needed is a state of consciousness that would want this, or better still, aspires towards this as the needed and necessary, as the only natural state to be in. Demanded, a conscious consent to the perfectioning of the being in all its planes and elements, including the physical, the vital, and the mental. The being, as it appears, is neither a physical being or a vital being or a mental being. Rather, all of these parts and planes operate in the being and result in the making of the personality. The integral psychology prescribes that these planes of the being consist of the outer as well as the inner – such as the outer physical and the inner physical, the outer mental and the inner mental – subjected to an interplay of forces in the being, and as a result,  determining the make up of the being’s personality and governing its state of being and therefore, its state of health. The Mother has given us clear directions on this, as in these words, “Good health is the exterior expression of an inner harmony. We must be proud if we are in good health and not despise it.”

The overarching theme we have chosen for the next many months is, “Integral Health”. Health may refer to a positive state of physical, mental and social well-being. The Ayurvedic term for health is “Swastha” – a state of being rooted in one’s self.  This “self” refers to “the consciousness of the soul-principle operating on the various outer planes: physical, vital and mental and also in communion with the cosmic consciousness.” (Basu, 2000). The Mother points out that our state of health depends exclusively on the state of our consciousness, “…our body is an instrument of our consciousness and this consciousness can act directly on it and obtain what it wants from it.” There is more to health then we simply know or even, choose to fathom, it seems.

In our first issue on this overarching theme of Integral Health, we cast our glance on the physical aspect of health, “Physical Culture”. Physical culture includes all those aspects that contribute to the development of a sound and balanced physical being. This issue takes a peek at exercises and their use to the body.  Are exercises to be carried out as mere outlets of our outpouring energy? Are they for entertainment, or for passing time, or for the building of muscle strength and muscle power? Or is there something more to it? Let us find out.

Savitri

A carefree youthfulness of mind and heart
Found in the body a heavenly instrument;
It lit an aureate halo round desire
And freed the deified animal in the limbs
To divine gambols of love and beauty and bliss.

Life was an eternity of rapture’s moods:
Age never came, care never lined the face.
(Book 2, Canto 3)

These senses of heavenly sense grow capable,
The flesh and nerves of a strange ethereal joy
And mortal bodies of immortality.

(Book 11, Canto 1)

Message from Sri Aurobindo for Physical Education bulletin

I TAKE the opportunity of the publication of this issue of the "Bulletin d'Education Physique" of the Ashram to give my blessings to the Journal and the Association—J.S.A.S.A. (Jeunesse Sportive de l'Ashram de Sri Aurobindo). In doing so I would like to dwell for a while on the deeper raison d'etre of such Associations and especially the need and utility for the nation of a widespread organisation of them and such sports or physical exercises as are practised here. In their more superficial aspect they appear merely as games and amusements which people take up for entertainment or as a field for the outlet of the body's energy and natural instinct of activity or for a means of the development and maintenance of the health and strength of the body; but they are or can be much more than that: they are also fields for the development of habits, capacities and qualities which are greatly needed and of the utmost service to a people in war or in peace, and in its political and social activities, in most indeed of the provinces of a combined human endeavour. It is to this which we may call the national aspect of the subject that I would wish to give especial prominence.

In our own time these sports, 'games and athletics have assumed a place and command a general interest such as was seen only in earlier times in countries like Greece, Greece where all sides of human activity were equally developed and the gymnasium, chariot-racing and other sports and athletics had the same importance on the physical side as on the mental side the Arts and poetry and the drama, and were especially stimulated and attended to by the civic authorities of the City State. It was Greece that made an institution of the Olympiad and the recent re-establishment of the Olympiad as an international institution is a significant sign of the revival of the ancient spirit. This kind of interest has spread to a certain extent to our own country and India has begun to take a place in international contests such as the Olympiad. The newly founded State in liberated India is also beginning to be interested in developing all sides of the life of the nation and is likely to take an active part and a habit of direction in fields which were formerly left to private initiative. It is taking up, for instance, the question of the foundation and preservation of health and physical fitness in the nation and in the spreading of a general recognition of its importance. It is in this connection that the encouragement of sports and associations for athletics and all activities of this kind would be an incalculable assistance. A generalisation of the habit of taking part in such exercises in childhood and youth and early manhood would, help greatly towards the creation of physically fit and energetic people.

But of a higher import than the foundation, however necessary, of health, strength and fitness of the body is the development of discipline and morale and sound and strong character towards which these activities can help. There are many sports which are of the utmost value towards this end, because they help to form and even -necessitate the qualities of courage, hardihood, energetic action and initiative or call for skill, steadiness of will or  rapid decision and action, the perception of what is to be done in an emergency and dexterity in doing it. One development of the utmost value is the awakening of the essential and instinctive body consciousness which can see and do what is necessary without any indication from mental thought and which is equivalent in the body to swift insight in the mind and spontaneous and rapid decision in the will. One may add the formation of a capacity for harmonious and right movements of the body, especially in a combined action, economic of physical effort and discouraging waste of energy, which result from such exercises as marches or drill and which displace the loose and straggling, the inharmonious or disorderly or wasteful movements common to the untrained individual body. Another invaluable result of these activities is the growth of what has been called the sporting spirit.

That includes good humour and tolerance and consideration for all, a right attitude and friendliness to competitors and rivals, self-control and scrupulous observance of the laws of the game, fair play and avoidance of the use of foul means, an equal acceptance of victory or defeat without bad humour, resentment or ill-will towards successful competitors, loyal acceptance of the decisions of the appointed judge, umpire or referee. These qualities have their value for life in general and not only for sport, but the help that sport can give to their development is direct and invaluable. If they could be made more common not only in the life of the individual but in the national life and in the international where at the present day the opposite tendencies have become too rampant, existence in this troubled world of ours would be smoother and might open to a greater chance of concord and amity of which it stands very much in need. More important still is the custom of discipline, obedience, order, habit of team-work, which certain games necessitate. For, without them success is uncertain or impossible. Innumerable are the activities in life, especially in national life, in which leadership and obedience to leadership in combined action are necessary for success, victory in combat or fulfilment of a purpose. The role of the leader, the captain, the power and skill of his leadership, his ability to command, the confidence and ready obedience of his followers is of the utmost importance in all kinds of combined action or enterprise; but few can develop these things without having learnt themselves to obey and to act as one mind or as one body with others.' This strictness of training, this habit of discipline and obedience is not inconsistent with individual freedom; it is often the necessary condition for its right use, just as order is not inconsistent with liberty but rather the condition for the right use of liberty and even for its preservation and survival. In all kinds of concerted action this rule is indispensable: orchestration becomes necessary and there could be no success for an orchestra in which individual musicians played according to their own fancy and refused to follow the indications of the conductor. In spiritual things also the same rule holds; a sadhak who disregarded the guidance of the Guru and preferred the untrained inspirations of the novice could hardly escape the stumbles or even the disasters which so often lie thick around the path to spiritual realisation. I need not enumerate the other benefits which can be drawn from the training that sport can give or dwell on their use in the national life; what I have said is sufficient. At any rate, in schools like ours and in universities sports have now a recognised and indispensable place; for even a highest and completest education of the mind is not enough without the education of the body. Where the qualities I have enumerated are absent or insufficiently present, a strong individual will or a national will may build them up, but the aid given by sports to their development is direct and in no way negligible. This would be a sufficient reason for the attention given to them in our Ashram, though there are others which I need not mention here. I am concerned here with their importance and the necessity of the qualities they create or stimulate for our national life. The nation which possesses them in the highest degree is likely to be the strongest for victory, success and greatness, but also for the contribution it can make towards the bringing about of unity and a more harmonious world order towards which we look as our hope for humanity's future.

(Message from Sri Aurobindo to the Bulletin of Department of Physical Education, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Puducherry. Source: http://motherandsriaurobindo.in)


Physical Education – Life at the Ashram


The combination of physical culture with spiritual life in sharp contrast to the prevailing Indian ideas of Ashram life sprang a surprise upon all. When youthful girls of aristocratic families took to sports in shorts and shirts, throwing shyness and reserve aside, it was for all a happy wonder.

It also marked a sudden change in their outlook on life. A new strength and overwhelming joy seemed to seize on them. Many of them had various sorts of physical trouble. Whoever sought medical treatment was advised to take physical exercises. Even ladies with grey hair were seen running, doing march past, like men in a separate group.

The use of medicine was reduced to the minimum. An elderly lady had been suffering for long from a pain in the legs; the Mother wished her to take some sort of exercise. Generally speaking, whoever wanted to join Playground activities got encouragement from the Mother.

Asked what the ideal of Physical Education is for a girl, the Mother said: "I do not see why there should be a special ideal of physical education for girls and another for boys.

'The aim of physical education is to develop all the possibilities of a human body, possibilities of harmony, strength, plasticity, skill, agility, endurance, and to increase the control over the functioning of the limbs and the organs, and to make of the body a perfect instrument at the disposal of a conscious will. This programme is excellent for all human beings, equally, and there is no point in wanting to adopt another for girls."

To the query, what should be the ideal of a woman's physical beauty, her answer was:

"A perfect harmony in the proportion, suppleness and strength, grace and force, plasticity and endurance and above all, excellent health, unvarying and unchanging which is the result of a pure soul, a happy trust in life and an unshakable faith in the Divine grace."

(“The Ashram Atmosphere”, Life at Sri Aurobindo Ashram by Narayan Prasad, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)

The Body

This body which was once my universe,
Is now a pittance carried by the soul,—
Its Titan’s motion bears this scanty purse,
Pacing through vastness to a vaster goal.
Too small was it to meet the giant need
That only infinitude can satisfy:
He keeps it still, for in the folds is hid
His secret passport to eternity.
In his front an endless Time and Space deploy
The landscape of their golden happenings;
His heart is filled with sweet and violent joy,
His mind is upon great and distant things.
How grown with all the world conterminous
Is the little dweller in this narrow house!
-          Sri Aurobindo

(CWSA, Volume 2, Collected Poems, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Puducherry)

My Panchakarma Experience

I have been working in the Information Technology (“IT”) field for the last eighteen years, it mostly requires one to be seated for long hours in front of the computer and also leads to a lot of stress due to extremely tight project timelines and ever changing environments. This took a toll on my health for the past few years resulting in insomnia and stiff neck and upper-back. I tried meditation, taking walks and doing some basic exercises, which gave some temporary relief, but the ailments would return back and it almost became a chronic condition. I had then consulted the doctor and took some pain killers went and for physiotherapy, which were again temporary measures only.


A few years ago, some of our society members had suggested taking Ayurveda* treatment named Panchakarma, which usually is for a minimum period of fourteen days, but could not consider it until recently. Panchakarma, as the name suggests is a fivefold detoxification treatment involving massage, herbal therapy, and other procedures, not only to detox the body but also to strengthen the immune system and restore balance and well-being. Last month (May 2016) I decided to try it out as the stress level was at its peak and the stiff neck became more severe. I was advised that I be prepared not to expect any magical cure in a short time as the Ayurveda treatment uses natural herbs and prepares that body for healing; it actually leads to a change in life-style. This helped me to set my expectations right before the treatment started.


I chose to stay and receive the Panchakarma treatment for a period of fifteen days at an Ayurveda Hospital in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India where some of our society members have previously taken the treatment and provided good feedback about the hospital. The duration of the treatment was based on the suggestion given by the doctor of the hospital after he had seen my medical reports which I shared though email. The hospital was in the outskirts of the city surrounded by beautiful forest area with beautiful sounds of nature such as trees waving in the wind and chirping of birds and very minimum traffic noise. The hospital surroundings was full of beautiful flowers and medicinal plants and trees used in traditional Indian medicine and had a very lovely walking path as well. The environment helped to calm the mind and experience the treatment more enjoyably. Diet that suits the treatment was also provided based on individual needs in the hospital itself.


As mentioned earlier, I went with an open mind not expecting any fast improvements to my health condition; however, I started to feel better within a couple of days since treatment started. The ambience, food and treatment procedures helped to relax both the body and mind. I was able to sleep better and the neck and upper-back stiffness has reduced to a great extent by the time the treatment was completed. I was also taught breathing exercises (Pranayama) and other exercises specific for the neck and upper-back. It has been around two weeks since I came back to Singapore now, and by continuing a proper diet, appropriate lifestyle, habits and exercise, I am confident that I would be able to fully recover and lead a healthy life.
- Dhanalakshmi

*Ayurveda is one of the world's oldest holistic (whole-body) healing systems. It was developed thousands of years ago in India. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. 

An evening’s music


In the beauty of her pink hues,
Merging softly with the wide blue,
In spaces filling with musical tunes,
Evening celebrates her august glow.

Like a jewel of crimson flame,
Glowing brightly at the horizon,
Like victory at the end of a well-played game,
The evening sun, awaits the next morn.

Little feathered flights sing joyously
Yearning for the light to stay on,
Tall rooted lives aspire earnestly
Carrying in them the hope of a brighter dawn.

And in our hearts is felt a deep richness
Formed successfully from the long day’s experience
Here is evening in her glorious fullness
Vibrating wisdom as her very essence.


-         Sandhya

May - June Sunday Activities at the Centre- A glimpse

May 22nd - Savitri, An Unending Journey:

For this week – we continued our study of Sri Aurobindo’s mystical experiences as encapsulated in the mantras of Book I Canto III of Savitri. We sailed through mysteried seas of knowledge and flame – breathing the air that moves the ‘argosies of the Gods’ and the ‘strange riches’ sailing from the unseen. We witnessed the “flame wrapped outbursts of the immortal Word / and flashes of an occult revealing Light” – heard the lightning feet of Inspiration and felt her flame stab that bares the closed beyond. Through mantric word and sound, we touched the possibility of Knowledge beyond mind.

 June 5th - Selected readings from All India Magazine, “The Hidden Sun,” May 2016 edition:
                                                                                                                     
The “Hidden Sun” was an intriguing theme selected for reading on this day. Since the title itself was pregnant with suggestions and a world of possible meanings and explanations, we decided to start by reading the editorial, seeking to place the theme in perspective. There was indeed a rich background to the “Hidden Sun”. Who or what is this hidden sun?

The hidden sun, according to the Vedic seers, is the eighth son of Aditi, named Martanda, whom Aditi “cast down into the darkness to fight and emerge victoriously” (All India Magazine, May 2016, pg. 3). Aditi is the “Mother of the Universe, the Primal Being … Aditi is all that has been and all that will take birth.” (Rig Veda 1.89.10 in http://www.hinduhumanrights.info/goddess-aditi-the-primal-creatix/). This sun, which the Vedas sing of, is none other than the Supramental sun of the Integral Yoga, hidden for now, and nursing a glorious dawn, or awakening in secrecy.  For this glorious awakening is needed a sufficient purification and preparation of this earth nature, behind which the Sun is hidden, so that it can express itself in its truest, most resplendent Light and transform all of earth nature into its truest and most resplendent. The editorial further makes reference to the first descent of the Supramental Light upon earth on the 29th of February 1956 through the tapasya of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo.  Following the reading of the editorial, the two passages titled, “The unborn Glory” on page 6 and “Mind and the Divine Consciousness” on pg. 7 were read. These two passages spoke about the place of the mind in this Yoga which aims at the Supramental realization, especially touching upon its limitations in knowing by identity, the Supermind.

The following quote gives a succinct summary of the content of the readings: “Only the supermind can be a true mediator and interpreter. But if you want the supramental Light, you must not tie yourself to mental ideas, but draw back from them and observe them with an impartial equality in the silence of the spirit. When the supramental Light touches them, it will put them in their place and finally replace them by the true truth of things.” (All India Magazine, May 2016, pg.7).

June 12th – Readings from The Synthesis of Yoga:
We discussed the question addressed to the Mother on what a ‘self-creator’ is.  The context of the discussion was a passage from The Synthesis of Yoga on the personal and impersonal Godhead. The Mother explained that creation should be taken in the sense of ‘manifesting, of making apparent’ – and the Divine, being the All and beyond the All, manifests his own self in the act of creation. It is as if the Divine has given an ‘external form of Himself to Himself.’


-  Jared and Jayanthy

Along the Way… Jun 2016 Morning Walk - A Review

It was a very pleasant morning and the perfect weather for the morning walk. The location, Bedok reservoir, as many of the readers would know, is a lovely place with a nice ~ 4.3km walking trail around the reservoir. We were a small group but the park was beaming with a large number of joggers and walkers. We even saw a few people indulge in water sports and even though the aerial tree obstacle courses were not operational at the time, I am sure it would be fun clearing these obstacles. It is always nice to spend the Sunday morning walking in the nature and this park almost in the center of Singapore, provides a nice opportunity for people to come and refresh. As Ramanathan uncle observed during the course of the walk, there are not many places in Singapore where you can hear the musical voice of the birds the way we heard it in the Bedok reservoir that day.

After the nice walk, we went to the host’s place which was a very short drive away. Patel uncle, aunty, Anand and Vrunda were wonderful hosts and had planned everything meticulously. After the meditation and prayers, Kashyap uncle informed everyone that the digital conversion of the photos from 1985 till date was complete and available for all members who wanted it, at a very nominal cost. I am sure this is a great opportunity for all members to go through the history of our Aurobindo society Singapore. This was followed by a sumptuous home cooked meal and I cannot find of any word of complement; the tasting itself was proof.

Patel uncle even distributed a copy of Sri. Abdul Kalam’s book to everyone who was interested.
Overall it was a great experience similar to all the wonderful walks we have had. A perfect way to start the month, contemplate, meditate and seek the Divine’s blessings!

                                                                                                   - Ritesh Thacker
***

When we reached Bedok Reservoir, the sun was hiding behind the clouds; but it was still hot. There were not many people. Only 7 people from Sri Aurobindo Society were there. I was not sure how much we were going to walk. I asked my father and he said, “About 4.3 kilometres!!!” I was shocked as I started to walk.

After walking for some time, I saw a sign that tells people to not litter. It had paper drawn on it that looked like flat marshmallows! We walked half-way until I saw 12 white rocks that also looked like marshmallows to me. I kept thinking about marshmallows as I had not eaten breakfast. I was so exhausted that I wanted to just sleep!! As I continued to walk with feet that were almost broken, I noticed some people water skiing!! I like to call it SUPER SURFING!!

As we approached a shaded path, my father told me that the trees planted at the sides of the path and covering it appeared like a tunnel that we were entering! I looked around the reservoir and saw that we had completed more than half of the walk. I was relieved and exhausted at the same time. As we continued, we decided to walk on the grass. We saw about 5 to 6 types of grass on the patch.

I also saw some mimosa plants (touch me not plant). My father recorded a video of me showing the mimosa plants. We played with the mimosa plants for about 5 minutes. My father played with the plants more than me!! (And he looked very childish).

There was an area prepared for kids to do tree climbing, rope walking and the flying fox! It is called Forest Adventure.

We finally reached where we started. I sat down on a bench to rest. I saw Jayanthy aunty on the swing; so I decided to play on the swing too. While I was playing on the swing, I felt my stomach churning but I continued as I was having fun. After 5 minutes, we had to leave. I rode on a motorcycle with Uncle Ritesh back home. I had my moment. Bedok Reservoir is definitely a fun place.

-          Shiv Anand Patel