Sunday, July 29, 2012

Religion: The Mother Departs

She was born in France 95 years ago, the daughter of a Parisian banker of Egyptian lineage. Dark-haired and beautiful, she might have grown up in that age of fin de siecle elegance to become one of those delicate butterflies that flutter through the paintings of Renoir. But even as a child Mira Alfassa had had mystical experiences, and the Paris salon she commanded was a circle of devotees of the occult. In 1914 she visited India with her second husband, French Diplomat and Writer Paul Richard. In the French colonial city of Pondichéry, Richard introduced her to the Indian visionary Sri Aurobindo, a former revolutionary turned mystic. She immediately became Aurobindo's disciple. "His presence," she wrote in her diary, "is enough to prove that... darkness shall be transformed into light."
In 1920, the Richards returned to Pondichéry. Paul later went back to France, but Mira stayed. Aurobindo pronounced her "the Divine Mother," his spiritual partner in leading mankind toward a new consciousness. When Aurobindo retired into near-hermitic seclusion in 1926, Mira took over the direction of his ashram—the community of devotees that had grown up around him in Pondichéry. Six years his junior, she continued propagating his doctrine that man was on the threshold of a new phase of evolution toward perfection.
To help men become "conscious collaborators" in their evolution, Aurobindo taught his own humanistic version of yoga. While traditional yoga disciples strive to free the spirit from the body's domination, Aurobindo sought to transform earthly existence by bringing the divine down into it. Aurobindo's vision of a "supramental" human consciousness has often been compared to Teilhard de Chardin's hopes for an ever-increasing spiritualization of man and his world. "I saw them cross the twilight of an age," Aurobindo wrote in his 24,000-line epic poem Savitri, "the sun-eyed children of a marvelous dawn."
Aurobindo died at the age of 78 in 1950, but the Mother remained vigorous into her 90s. In recent years, she supervised the still-unfinished construction of a dream of her own: Auroville, a Utopian international community near Pondichéry that is planned for 50,000 residents. The Sri Aurobindo Society, which she founded in 1960 to coordinate the activities of the ashram and Auroville, now has centers in 23 countries, including eleven in the U.S.
Some members seemed to hope that the Mother had so infused herself with the divine that she had achieved the gift that Aurobindo predicted for the spiritualized beings of the future: bodily immortality. Even as Mira grew feeble during the past year, fervent followers argued that she was regenerating her aging cells. But Aurobindo had been prepared for her death. When his tomb was being built, he ordered an extra vault for Mira, next to his own. Last week the Mother finally joined him.

Courtesy: Time Magazine, Monday, Dec. 03, 1973

Saturday, July 7, 2012

American President's Daughter had lived in Sri Aurobindo Ashram

(Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921.)

                                                            Margaret Woodrow Wilson in 1912

Religion: Dishta of Pondicherry

Monday, Feb. 08, 1943

On southern India's Coromandel Coast New York Times Correspondent Herbert L. Matthews last week stumbled on one of Woodrow Wilson's daughters.* The spirit and image of her father, she lives in the French town of Pondicherry (now occupied by De Gaullists). She told Mr. Matthews that she was very happy after three years as a sadhak (follower) of an Indian religious teacher, Sri Aurobindo. Said she: "In fact, I never felt more at home anywhere."
Margaret Woodrow Wilson, now 56, and a spinster, broke with her family's Scotch-Irish Presbyterian traditions years ago when she stalked from church during Communion service. Flicking through catalogue cards in the New York Public Library four years ago, she came upon Sri Aurobindo's Essays on the Gita. For no special reason she took out this 300-page commentary on India's famous religious and philosophic poem, whose origin is lost in history. She read how "the lower in us must learn to exist for the higher in order that the higher also may in us consciously exist for the lower, to draw it nearer to its own altitudes." Fascinated, she read on until the guards closed the library. Next day she was back again.
Aurobindo's ashram (a retreat for disciples of a religious leader) is only one of many in mystic-minded India. Best known is Mohandas Gandhi's. Much more worldly, and very pro-British is Aurobindo's, which he set up 33 years ago. There Margaret Wilson responds to the name Dishta, meaning in Sanskrit the discovery of the divine self.
Cambridge-educated, 70-year-old Aurobindo keeps to his own room, appears only four times a year to his followers. If they wish advice they write him a letter. He may reply, may not. Active management of the ashram falls on a 66-year-old French woman, Madame Alfassa, known to disciples as Mother of the Universe.
Since the ashram can hold only a handful of followers, many of them, including Margaret Wilson, live in up-to-date houses in the town. Her religion, not concerned with mortifying the flesh, permits her to wear American clothes, read magazines and newspapers, puff an after-dinner cigaret. When she first arrived in India she tried to be a vegetarian, but she lost so much weight that the Mother of the Universe put her back on meat. She spends most of her time trying to acquire "a state of serenity." Each evening she goes to the ashram to spend half an hour in meditation to achieve this purpose. She finds it "extremely hard."
* Woodrow Wilson's other daughters: Jessie, who died in January 1933, was the wife of Francis Bowes Sayre (U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines, 1939-42); Eleanor ("Nellie"), divorced wife of the late Senator William Gibbs McAdoo, now living in Los Angeles, is regional adviser of women's activities for the Defense Savings Staff of the Treasury Department on the West Coast.

Courtesy: “Time” Magazine, Feb. 08, 1943