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Who is Sri Aurobindo?

 
 

Sri Aurobindo, freedom fighter, writer, poet and yogi, envisioned and strove
for a divine life upon earth and spent the greater part of his life in Puducherry absorbed in this work.

Born on 15 August 1872 in Kolkata, India, Aravinda Ghose (as Sri Aurobindo was known until late 1926) was sent to England for his education when he was seven. In the course of a brilliant career at St. Paul’s School in London, and then at King’s College, Cambridge, he mastered not only English but also Greek, Latin and French, and became familiar with German, Italian and Spanish. He had already begun writing poetry at an early age. During his fourteen years in England, he gained a deep insight into the culture of ancient, mediaeval and modern Europe.

In 1893, at the age of twenty-one, Sri Aurobindo returned to India with a completely occidental education, but the moment he set foot on Indian soil, Mother India welcomed him with a unique spiritual experience. A vast calm descended upon him and remained with him for months afterwards. Sri Aurobindo now turned his attention towards the wisdom and truth of the Orient, learning Sanskrit and several modern Indian languages, and assimilated the spirit of Indian civilization. The fourteen years he spent in what is now Vadodara in the administrative and educational service of the erstwhile Baroda State were years of self-culture and literary activity. A great part of the last years of this period was also spent, while on leave, in silent political activity.

The one-year detention, in 1908-1909, imposed on him by the British Government proved to be of immense significance. It was during this period that he underwent a series of decisive spiritual experiences which established the course of his future work.      In 1910, assured of the ultimate success of the freedom movement and in answer to a command from Above, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from political activities, for it was now his rule to move only as he was moved by the Divine guidance. He eventually sailed for what was then Pondicherry to devote himself entirely to his spiritual mission.
                                   
The main works of Sri Aurobindo are :  The Life Divine which reveals man’s divine destiny, The Synthesis of Yoga reveals the practice of Integral Yoga. The Human Cycle takes up the progress of human society towards a divine future, The Ideal of Human Unity explains the realization of the oneness of humankind, The Foundation of Indian Culture reveals the inner meaning of Indian culture and civilisation.  His supreme work in poetry, ‘Savitri – a Legend and a Symbol’ is an epic of nearly 24000 lines in blank verse in which he takes a small episode from the Mahabharat and turns it into a symbol of the human soul’s spiritual quest and destiny.

In the midst of all this work, he kept a close watch on all that was happening in India and the world, actively intervening with a silent spiritual force.  His poem ‘Dwarf Napoleon’ should be read which is almost predictive of the outcome of the second world war.

 

Who is the Mother?

 
 

Sri Aurobindo once said, “My life is not on the surface for men to see”. Although this applies to the Mother as well, we may yet mention a few significant dates and features of her life. Mirra Alfassa was born in Paris on 21 February 1878. Even as a child, she had unusual dreams, visions and spiritual experiences, a constant feeling that she had a certain work, a mission to fulfil upon earth. She was a brilliant student and acquired a great mastery in painting and music. In the early years of the 20th century, she went to Algeria and gained a profound knowledge of occultism. But the call of the Supreme was always uppermost in her life, and in Paris she became the centre of a group of ardent seekers and idealists. While pursuing a deep inner spiritual life, the Mother had frequent visions in which she was guided by spiritual personages, many of whom she met physically later in life. One in particular she called Krishna, the Lord of the Gita. When she came to Puducherry on 29 March 1914 and met Sri Aurobindo, she immediately recognized in him the Krishna of her vision and knew that her place and her work were with him in India. The next day she recorded in her Prayers and Meditations: “It matters little that there are thousands of beings plunged in the densest ignorance. He whom we saw yesterday is on earth: His presence is enough to prove that a day will come when darkness shall be transformed into light, and Thy reign shall be indeed established upon earth.”

She collaborated with Sri Aurobindo in starting the monthly Arya.  But, after a few months, due to the exigencies of the First World War, she had to go back to France. In 1916, she sailed for Japan and finally returned to Puducherry in 1920, never to leave again.

In 1926, Sri Aurobindo decided to withdraw into seclusion for more concentrated yogic work, entrusting the Mother with the responsibility of the inner and outer life of the small group of sadhaks who had gathered around them. Thus was born the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. From the very beginning, the task of giving a concrete shape to Sri Aurobindo’s vision was entrusted to the Mother. The creation of a new world, a new humanity and a new society, expressing and embodying the new consciousness, was the work undertaken by her. By the very nature of things, it is a collective ideal that calls for a collective effort so that it may be realised in the terms of an integral human perfection.

The Ashram and its International Centre of Education, founded and built by the Mother, were the first step towards the fulfillment of this goal. Sri Aurobindo Society and Auroville are further steps in broadening the base of this Endeavour to establish harmony between soul and body, spirit and nature, and heaven and earth, in the collective life of humanity.

The Mother left her body in November 1973, but her consciousness and presence are there as concretely as ever, and her creations continue to grow under her constant guidance and inspiration.

 

What is Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga?

 
 

Like his personality, the teaching of Sri Aurobindo is multifaceted and all-embracing but unified by his central vision of a spiritual and divine destiny which must evolve. His teaching states that behind the appearances of the universe there is a Divine Truth-Consciousness, a Self of all things, one and eternal. This Consciousness is involved here in Matter. Evolution is the method by which it liberates itself. Life is the first step of this release of consciousness; Mind is the second; however, the evolution does not finish with mind, but awaits a release into something greater, a consciousness which is spiritual and supramental.

What Nature achieves through a slow and laborious evolution, Yoga effects for the individual by a rapid inner transformation. The object of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga is not only to rise out of the ordinary ignorant world-consciousness into the higher Truth-Consciousness, but also to bring down this Truth-Consciousness on earth, to fix it here, so as to create a new individual and collective life in all its richness and manifold dimensions.

The one aim of his Yoga is an inner self-development by which each one who follows it can, in time, discover the One Self in all, and evolve to a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and supramental consciousness which will transform and divinize human nature.

 

How is Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga different from other yogas and spiritual traditions?

 
 

It is said that Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga begins where the Gita ends.  In other words after the realization and instrumentality, Sri Aurobindo moves on to Supramentalisation of matter.  Realisation of the Divine within has been achieved by many in the past.  Sri Aurobindo’s yoga goes to the next level which is bringing down the supramental into the earth consciousness as a physical principle.  This, Sri Aurobindo says, will lead to divinizing matter. 

 

What is Supramental?

 
 

Read All India Magazine February 2004 issue.

 

How can one become an instrument of the Mother?

 
 

The first condition is surrender.   Unless one surrenders to the Mother effective instrumentality is not possible.  One has to be prepared to receive the guidance from Her and implement it as an instrument.   Read All India Magazine July 2009 issue “Blossoming of Devotion”.

 

Regarding work

 
 

It is good to report to Her all the work that one has done during the day visualizing Her presence.  This improves the instrumentality, the quality of the work and capacity to receive the Mother’s guidance. Sri Aurobindo says about work “The Mother does not think that it is good to give up all work and only read and meditate.  Work is part of the yoga and it gives the best opportunity for calling down the presence, the light and the power into the vital and its activity; it increases also the field and the opportunity of surrender.”  Work must be a consecration (offering) to the Mother. 

 

Difference between religion and spirituality.

 
 

Read All India Magazine November 2001 issue “Difference between Religion and Yoga”.

 

Why did Sri Aurobindo take interest in politics?

 

According to Sri Aurobindo India is the spiritual Guru of the world.  Hence, freedom to India was the first step.  For this his involvement, guidance, and action were imperative.

To Sri Aurobindo India was not a piece of earth but the Divine Mother.  Who would like to see his mother in chains?  He worked ceaselessly for the freedom of India by participating in political activities.  This continued until he got an Adesh – command from above – that freedom for India was a thing decreed and that He should go to Pondicherry to work for liberating mankind from ignorance.

 

Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s concept of the world?

 

According to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the world is created for Divine manifestation of Perfection in all aspects and forms – that is, Divine Knowledge, Divine Power, Divine Love, Divine Light, and Divine Beauty.  The world is meant to be a Divine manifestation, but at present, it seems a perverted and obscure expression but actually it is evolving towards a perfect future.  The present is an interim phase just as man is an interim species.  Their concept of the world is distinct from that of the Buddha and Shankaracharya who believe that the world cannot change and will always remain a place of suffering.

 

What is Integral Education?

 
 
India has or rather had the knowledge of the spirit, but she neglected matter and suffered for it. The west has the knowledge of matter but rejected the spirit and suffers badly for it. An integral education which could, with some variations, be adopted to all the nations of the world, must bring back the legitimate authority of the spirit over matter fully developed and utilised.

The aim of education is not to prepare a man to succeed in life and society but to increase his perfectibility to its utmost. "Education to be complete must have five principal aspects corresponding to the five principal ACTIVITIES of the human being. The physical, the vital, the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. Usually, these phases of education follow chronologically the growth of the individual; this, however, does not mean that one of them should replace another, but that all must continue, completing one another until the end of his life".

I. Physical Education : All education of the body should begin at birth and should continue throughout life. It is never too soon to begin not too late to continue. Physical Education has three principal aspects. 1. Control and functioning of the body. 2. An integral, methodical and harmonious development of all the parts and movements of the body and 3. Correction of any defects and deformities.

II. Vital Education : Of all Education, vital education is perhaps the most important the most indispensable. 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 and the character, culminating in its transformation.

III. Mental Education : A true mental education which will prepare man for a higher life, has five principal phases :- 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.

IV. Psychic Education : The three lines of Education physical vital and mental deal with that and could be defined as the means of building up the personality, raising the individual out of the amorphous subconscious mass and making him a well defined self-conscious entity.

With psychic education, we come to the problem of the true motive of existence, the purpose of life on earth, the discovery to which life must lead and the result of that discovery: the consecration of the individual to his eternal principle. The integral education can begin only after one has become conscious of one's psychic being.

V. Spiritual Education : A perfect self - expression of the spirit is the object of our terrestrial existence. This cannot be achieved if we have not grown conscious of the supreme reality; For it is only by the touch of the absolute that we can arrive at our own absolute.

VI. Supramental Education : In contrast with the types of education we have mentioned previously, which progress from below upwards by an ascending movement of the various parts of the being, the supramental education will progress from above downwards, its influence spreading from one state of being to another until at last the physical is reached. This education will culminate in the transformation of the human body into a divine body, leading in the end to the appearance of a divine race upon earth which will not be subject to death, disease and ignorance.(The Mother, Education Part I, II Page Nos. 9, 12, 5, 130).
 

What is Integral Yoga?

 
A Yoga of integral perfection regards man as a divine spiritual being involved in mind, life and body; it aims therefore at a liberation and a perfection of his divine nature. It seeks to make an inner living in the perfectly developed spiritual being his constant intrinsic living and the spiritualised action of mind, life and body only its outward human expression. In order that this spiritual being may not be something vague and indefinable or else but imperfectly realized and dependent on the mental support and the mental limitations, it seeks to go beyond mind to the supramental knowledge, will, sense, feeling, intuition, dynamic initiation of vital and physical action, all that makes the native working of the spiritual being. It accepts human life, but takes account of the large supraterrestrial action behind the earthly material living, and it joins itself to the divine Being from whom the supreme origination of all these partial and lower states proceeds so that the whole of life may become aware of its divine source and feel in each action of knowledge, of will, of feeling, sense and body the divine originating impulse. It rejects nothing that is essential in the mundane aim, truer meaning now hidden from it, transfigures it from a limited, earthly and mortal thing to a figure of intimate,divine and immortal values.

The integral Yoga meets the religious ideal at several points, but goes beyond it in the sense of a greater wideness. The religious ideal looks, not only beyond this earth, but away from it to a heaven or even beyond all heavens to some kind of Nirvana. Its ideal of perfection is limited to whatever kind of inner or outer mutation will eventually serve the turning away of the soul from the human life to the beyond. Its ordinary idea of perfection is a religion-ethical change, a drastic purification of the active and the emotional being, often with an ascetic abrogation and rejection of the vital impulses as its completest reaching of excellence, and in any case a supraterrestrial motive and reward or result of a life of piety and right conduct. In so far as it admits a change of knowledge, will, aesthesis, it is in the sense of the turning of them to another object than the aims of human life and eventually brings a rejection of all earthly objects of aesthesis, will and knowledge. The method, whether it lays stress on personal effort or upon divine influence, on works and knowledge or upon grace, is not like the mundane a development, but rather a conversion; but in the end the aim is not a conversion of our mental and physical nature, but the putting on of a pure spiritual nature and being, and since that is not possible here on earth, it looks for its consummation by a transference to another world or a shuffling off of all cosmic existence.

But the integral Yoga founds itself on a conception of the spiritual being as an omnipresent existence, the fullness of which comes not essentially by a transference to other worlds or a cosmic self extinction, but by a growth out of what we now are phenomenally into the consciousness of the omnipresent reality which we always are in the essence of our being. It substitutes for the form of religious piety its completer spiritual seeking of a divine union. It proceeds by a personal effort to a conversion through a divine influence and possession; but this divine grace, if we may so call it, is not simply a mysterious flow or touch coming from above, but the all-pervading act of a divine presence which we come to know within as the power of the highest Self and Master of our being entering into the soul and so possessing it that we not only feel it close to us and pressing upon our mortal nature, but live in its law, know that law, possess it as the whole power of our spiritualised nature. The conversion its action will effect is an integral conversion of our ethical being into the Truth and Right of the divine nature, of our intellectual into the illumination of divine knowledge, our emotional into the divine love and unity, our dynamic and volitional into a working of the divine power, our aesthetic into a plenary reception and a creative enjoyment of divine beauty, not excluding even in the end a divine conversion of the vital and physical being. It regards all the previous life as an involuntary and unconscious or half-conscious preparatory growing towards this change and Yoga as the voluntary and conscious effort and realization of the change, by which all the aim of human existence in all its parts is fulfilled, even while it is transfigured. Admitting the supracosmic truth and life in worlds beyond, it admits too the terrestrial as a continued term of the one existence and change of individual and communal life on earth as a strain of its divine meaning.

To open oneself to the supracosmic Divine is an essential condition of this integral perfection; to unite oneself with the universal Divine is another essential condition. Here the Yoga of self-perfection coincides with the Yogas of knowledge, works and devotion; for it is impossible to change the human nature into the divine or to make it an instrument of the divine knowledge, will and joy of existence, unless there is a union with the supreme Being, Consciousness and Bliss and a unity with its universal Self in all things and beings. A wholly separative possession of the divine nature by the human individual, as distinct from a self - withdrawn absorption in it, is not possible. But this unity will not be an inmost spiritual oneness qualified, so long as the human life lasts, by a separative existence in mind, life and body; the full perfection is a possession, through this spiritual unity, of unity too with the universal Mind, the universal Life, the universal Form which are the other constant terms of cosmic being. Moreover, since human life still accepted as a self-expression of the realized Divine in man, there must be an action of the entire divine nature in our life; and this brings in the need of the supramental conversion which substitutes the native action of spiritual being for the imperfect action of the superficial nature and spiritualises and transfigures its mental, vital and physical parts by the spiritual ideality. These three elements, a union with the supreme Divine, unity with the universal Self, and a supramental life action from this transcendent origin and through this universality, but still with the individual as the soul-channel and natural instrument, constitute the essence of the integral divine perfection of the human being.
                                                                                                                            - Sri Aurobindo
(The Synthesis of Yoga, Cent.Ed.Vol.21, pp. 590-96)
 

What is new in Sri Aurobindo's teachings?

 
ANS : A study of the way of writing of the Vedic mystics, their philosophic system, their system of symbol and the truths they figure; and translations of the selected hymns of the Rig-Veda. "Is there at all or is there still a secret of the Veda?" Sri Aurobindo asked in the opening sentence of this book. He examines the ritualistic and naturalistic theory of nineteenth-century European scholars and then sets forth his own view: The hypothesis I propose is that the Rig-Veda is itself the one considerable document that remains to us from the early period of human thought of which the historic Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries where the failing remnants, when the spiritual and psychological Knowledge of the race was concealed, for reasons now hard to determine, in a veil of concrete and material figures and symbols which protected the sense from the profane and revealed it to the initiated....To disengage this less obvious but more important sense [of the Vedic ritual system] by fixing the import of Vedic terms, the sense of Vedic symbols and the psychological functions of the gods is thus a difficult but necessary task, for which these chapters and the translations that accompany them are only a preparation."
 

What is NEWRACE?

 
ANS : A Prayer for those who wish to serve The Divine Glory to Thee, 0 Lord, who triumiphest over every obstacle. Grant that nothing in us shall be an obstacle in Thy work. , Grant that nothing may retard Thy manifestation. Grant that Thy will may .be done in all things, and. at, every moment. We stand here before Thee that Thy will may be fulfilled in us, in every element, in every activity of our being, from our supreme heights to the smallest cells of the body. Grant that we may be faithful to Thee utterly and for ever. We would be completely under Thy influence to the exclusion of every other, Grant that we may never forget to own towards Thee a deep, an intense gratitude. Grant that we may never squander any of the marvellous things that are Thy gifts, to us at every instant. Grant that everything in us may collaborate in Thy work and all be ready for Thy realisation. Glory to Thee, 0 Lord, Supreme Master of all realisation. Give us a faith active and ardent, absolute and unshakable in Thy Victory.