Saturday, April 21, 2012

Meeting with Sri Aurobindo





       It was unbearable for me to stay in the demanding environment of Nasik, and I thought of visiting Pondicherry and meeting the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. The students of this ashram were very devoted and firm in the conviction that the way of life they led was supreme. The day I arrived at Pondicherry there was a concert given by a famous musician who was a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. The Mother was kind enough to arrange for me to stay in one of the quarters and to hear the devotional songs sung by that great devotee. My stay in Pondicherry for twenty-one days gave me enough time to strengthen the aspirations which I had received at the ashram of Maharshi Raman in Arunachala. During those days of my inner turmoil I was very restless; on one side I was being pulled by renunciation, and on the other side by the call of duty which had been assigned to me. While at Pondicherry I met Sri Aurobindo several times and he was kind enough to talk to me. His personality was very overpowering and inspiring. I started respecting his modern and intellectual approach of Integral Yoga. I want to give you the gist of what I understood this philosophy to be.
      Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is described as integral non-dualism. This is an approach which seeks to understand reality in its fundamental oneness. The differences which we observe are looked upon as developments taking place within the framework of the all-inclusive unity of the Absolute. Integral non-dualism erases the distinctions of ethics, religion, logic, and metaphysics. Sri Aurobindo’s conviction is that absolute reality in its essence is non-dual, non-conceptual, and logically indefinable. It is only accessible to direct experience through the penetrative insight of pure spiritual intuition. According to non-dualism  (advaita), reality is beyond materialism, causation, structure, and number. This same conviction is expressed in the philosophy of  Nirguna Brahman in Vedanta, in the concept of  Shunyata in Buddhist philosophy, in the concept of Tao in Chinese philosophy, and in the philosophy of Tattvatita in tantra.
     The philosophy of tantra consistently maintains that one can advance spiritually by awakening the latent primal force called the kundalini. When this spiritual potential is systematically channeled along higher primal force called the kundalini. When this spiritual potential is systematically channeled along higher levels, living becomes effortless, spontaneous, and attuned to the ultimate goal of existence. Vaishnavism recommends the method of love and devotion through  wholehearted self-surrender to God. Christian mysticism and Sufism have a close resemblance to Vaishnavism in this respect: “Let Thy will, not mine, be done” is their secret of spiritual growth. Vedanta, by contrast, lays stress upon the method of contemplation and self-emotional attachments to the not-self. As soon as false identifications with the not-self are removed, the indwelling light of truth is revealed.
       According to Aurobindo’s integral philosophy, both the lower nature and the higher nature of man and the universe spring from the same ultimate reality. The lower nature is the physical force in the world and the source of instinctual drives in the unconscious mind. Man’s higher nature is composed of pure consciousness and spiritual aspirations. It evolves out of the matrix of the lower nature through the awareness of the ultimate creative force, called Shakti. Aurobindo calls this force Divine Mother. Man has to faithfully be aware of this force in order to attain the realization of the Absolute. This awareness implies a tranquil integration of the material and the spiritual. According to Aurobindo, “The supra-physical can only be really mastered in its fullness when we keep our feet firmly on the physical.”
     This awareness is developed through two methods. The first is the integration of meditation with action. Through meditation one tears the veil of ignorance; he thus realizes his true self, which is the very self of all. Through selfless and loving actions one relates creatively with others. The second method of awareness of the Divine lies in the knowledge of the ascending and descending forces of consciousness. These powerful movements gradually expand the spiritual outlook and help one to rise to higher levels of consciousness. The descending movement brings down the light and power of higher consciousness into all strata of our material existence. This consists of transforming the physical into effective channels of expression for universal love and all-unifying truth.
      Integral non-dualism sees evolution as the progressive self-manifestation of the universal spirit in material conditions. The whole universe is an expression, or play, of the Divine. Man’s highest destiny is to be fully aware of the universal spirit and thus advance the cause of evolution. Therefore the essence  of Integral Yoga lies in the active and effective awareness of the individual with the superconscious Divine.
      Sri Aurobindo synthesizes the ancient philosophy of advaita in the belief that it is not necessary for modern man to realize the goal of non-dualistic asceticism through renunciation. Meditation in action with non-attachment also prepares the sadhaka for awakening the primal force: kundalini. By the realization of the union of Shakti and Shiva humanity can be elevated to a higher awareness.
     I was fully convinced that Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy would have wide recognition by the modern minds of India and especially of the West. But I was accustomed to quiet and solitude and could not adjust to the numerous activities of the ashram like dramas, concerts, and tennis. I returned to Nasik and determined to leave for the Himalayas.
- Sri Rama
(“Living With the Himalayan Masters”, pp. 83-84)

Swāmī Rāma (1925–1996) was born Brij Kiśore Dhasmana or Brij Kiśore Kumar, to a northern Indian Brahmin family in a small village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas. From an early age he was raised in the Himalayas by his master Bengali Baba and, under the guidance of his master, traveled from temple to temple and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster, who was living in a remote region of Tibet. From 1949 to 1952 he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham (also Karveer Peeth or Karweer Peeth) in South India. After returning to his master in 1952 and practising further for many years in the Himalayan caves, Swami Rama was encouraged by his teacher to go to the West, where he spent a considerable portion of his life teaching, specifically in the United States and Europe.
He is especially notable as one of the first yogis to allow himself to be studied by Western scientists. In the 1960s he allowed himself to be examined by scientists at the Menninger Clinic who studied his ability to voluntarily control bodily processes (such as heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, etc.) that are normally considered to be non-voluntary (autonomic).


      

     

       

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Supramental substance and New Birth



I may say that by the very fact that you live upon earth at this moment… you absorb with the air that you breathe this new supramental substance which is spreading in earth’s atmosphere and it is preparing in you things you will manifest all of a sudden, as soon as you have taken the decisive step.
 Whether that will help you or not to take this decisive step is another question which has to be studied, because the experiences that are happening and will now happen more and more being of a quite new character, one cannot know beforehand what will come to pass; one must study and after a close study one would be able to say with certainty whether this supramental substance will make the work of the new birth easy or not. I shall tell you about it a little later on. For the moment it is better not to count on these things, but simply to take to the way for the birth into the spiritual life.
                                                                                                             - The Mother

An experience of Syed Mehdi Imam on 29th Feb 1956 - Golden Day


Syed Mehdi Imam has recalled his ineffable experience at the time and how he had also compared notes with the Mother herself. According to his testimony, he had been invaded and possessed in his room in Golconde on the golden day some hours after he had returned to it from the Balcony darshan in the morning:
“I was alone in the room… I was in unconscious trance…. But nearing 1 p.m., I heard a rustle in the room. I became conscious of six dark forms looking at me with intensity to disturb the experience…. Thereupon in trance I turned towards the upper air which was radiant. It was brighter than the blaze of the Sun. In the radiancy were twelve illuminated forms. They were angels of the light guarding the supramental experience…. Twelve luminous ministers of the light swooped upon the asuric forces which suddenly disappeared. I awoke with a shock”.
In the afternoon he met the Mother and told her about his experience, and she assured him of its authenticity.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

'Concept of Man in Sri Aurobindo's Poetry' : An Interview with Dr. Jitendra Sharma by Khurshid Alam


                                                             














CLRI Que 1: Hi Jitendra, can you share the reason why you selected Sri Aurobindo Ghose’s works as your research topic while there are so many Indian writers in English? Particularly now there are a good number of Man Booker Prize winners also.
Ans: Sri Aurobindo, a great politician, philosopher, freedom-fighter, mystic, literary critic and Yogi, considered himself primarily a poet. He had an integral vision of life and spirituality. Sri Aurobindo’s poetry has already carved a niche for itself. His vast poetry, encompassing many forms and moods, expresses an enormous variety of emotions. All this provided me with a wide creative space for research.
Of course, there are some Indian Man Booker Prize winners like Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga whose excellent novels provide ample possibilities for serious research. But being an alumnus of “Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry”, I had a natural preference for Sri Aurobindo. As there had been no research on the concept of Man in Sri Aurobindo’s poetry, I decided to present his concept of Man to the masses.
CLRI Que 2: Sri Aurobindo was a philosopher at heart. What is his contribution to Indian philosophy?
Ans: Most of the philosophers have always created a gulf between this world and beyond, but Sri Aurobindo creates the perfect synthesis of spirituality and the world. His theoriesof evolution, consciousness and matter place him at the forefront of Indian philosophers. He formulated a scientific and spiritual vision of evolution. He foresees a complete transformation of Man and the world. He believes that a new spiritualised race of humanity is about to come. His unusual life experiences convinced him of such future possibilities. He traced Man’s evolution through anthropology, sociology, politics, psychology, culture and religion in over 37 newly-published, huge volumes of writings.
CLRI Que 3: What is the outcome of the synthesis of Aurobindo’s Western and Eastern philosophies?
Ans: Sri Aurobindo’s teachings reflect that man is a portion, a spark of the Divine. Hence, man is very much capable of living in harmony with the entire Creation and society. By a radical change and upliftment of his consciousness, man can live harmoniously despite any political, religious and economic structures. Human evolution integrates all levels, from the spirit to the very physical.
In the psyche of humanity, Superman has always been an archetype. Around 1900, the notion of the superman became common in European philosophy. Many philosophers along with Friedrich Nietzsche tried to put forth theories and suggestions to alleviate human misery and improve the human condition. But it is extremely difficult to transform matter, the earth and Man.
Sri Aurobindo, based on a great and perfect philosophy, advocated an ideal world of social equality, fraternity and freedom. He showed how to perceive politics from the standpoint of spirituality. After clearing the incompleteness of Marx’s philosophy, he presented his integral philosophy in which the elements of the east and the west, past and future, science and religion, heart and mind, which seem contradictory to us, are presented in a beautifully synthesised image. Sri Aurobindo has a vision of the possibility of a divine life for man upon the earth.
Sri Aurobindo emphasises the complementarities rather than the oppositions of Eastern and Western philosophies. He believes that all humans are of the same divine origin.
CLRI Que 4: In his earlier life, Sri Aurobindo was a revolutionary political leader. Why he spent his later life in seclusion?
Ans. In 1908, Sri Aurobindo was implicated in the Alipore bomb case. During his one year’s confinement in a solitary cell, he unexpectedly had many unique and great spiritual experiences. On being acquitted, he continued his revolutionary work for India’s liberation until 1910. Then, in response to an inner command from his soul, he went to the French colony of Pondicherry to devote his life to a single concentration on spiritual practice. The political fighter turned into a revolutionary Yogi. Despite personal appeals from Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and many others, Sri Aurobindo did not swerve from his firm resolution to follow the spiritual path until the very end of his life.
CLRI Que 5: Sri Aurobindo is regarded to be the first Indian who created a major literary corpus in English when India was still under the English rule and there was no concept of Indian English Literature. Your comment.
Ans. Sri Aurobindo was a prolific writer who wrote extensively on various subjects and topics hardly leaving any . Some critics equated him to the level of John Milton and Dante on the basis of his magnum opus Savitri. Sri Aurobindo had made insightful comments and literary criticisms on great figures like Shakespeare, Homer, Goethe, Dante, Wordsworth, Aeschylus, Virgil, Milton, Sophocles, Valmiki, Kalidasa and Vyasa.
“Review of Collected Poems and Plays in the Times Literary Supplement [London] (8 July 1944)” appreciated Sri Aurobindo in these words:
Of all modern Indian writers Aurobindo — successively poet, critic, scholar, thinker, nationalist, humanist — is the most significant and perhaps the most interesting ... In fact, he is a new type of thinker, one who combines in his vision the alacrity of the West with the illumination of the East. To study his writings is to enlarge the boundaries of one's knowledge ... He is blessed with a keen intuition. He knows that a man may be right and not wise. He treats each word of his as though it were a drop of elixir. In all this he is unique — at least in modern India. ... a yogi who writes as though he were standing among the stars, with the constellations for his companions.
CLRI Que 6: In his early days, Sri Aurobindo’s poems were influenced by the beauty of nature, Irish patriotic movement and Greek heritage. Can you please cite some of the poems or lines which second this?
Ans. Sri Aurobindo believed in fighting for the liberty of one’s own country. In 1891, he paid tribute to the memory of Charles Stewart Powell, the Irish patriot in the form of a beautiful poem.
Sri Aurobindo had mastery over Greek and Latin languages. In his poetry and plays, he frequently refers and alludes to ancient Greek myths and legends.
I dreamed my sun had risen.
He had a face like the Olympian Zeus
And wings upon his feet.
Sri Aurobindo portrays the beauty of nature in myriad ways.
CLRI Que 7: According to you, “Man is everywhere in his poetry with minute projections, innumerable possibilities and natural tendencies towards self-exceeding.” Can you give some examples with a few of Sri Aurobindo’s popular works?
Ans: Sri Aurobindo does not reject man’s day-to-day worldly life. On the contrary, man’s mundane life should be transformed and divinised.
Only when thou hast climbed above thy mind
And liv'st in the calm vastness of the One
Can Love be eternal in the eternal bliss
And love divine replace the human tie.
(Savitri, Book VI, Canto I)
Sri Aurobindo’s vision of man’s destiny is lofty even in social and political spheres. InThoughts and Glimpses, he states:
What is there new that we have yet to accomplish? Love, for as yet we have only accomplished hatred and self-pleasing; Knowledge, for as yet we have only accomplished error and perception and conceiving; Bliss, for as yet we have only accomplished pleasure and pain and indifference; Power, for as yet we have only accomplished weakness and effort and a defeated victory; Life, for as yet we have only accomplished birth and growth and dying; Unity, for as yet we have only accomplished war and association.
In a word, godhead; to remake ourselves in the divine image.
Man has an indisputable urge to exceed himself and realise a higher life. In his great prose work The Life Divine, he elucidates thus:
“The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation,—for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment,—is also the highest which his thought can envisage…The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last,—God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.”
CLRI Que 8: Sri Aurobindo prophesized The Future Poetry. Can you tell me something about its concept?
Ans. Sri Aurobindo defines poetry as “rhythmic speech which rises at once from the heart of the seer and from the distant home of the Truth”. He asserts that “Vision is the characteristic power of the poet.”
Like man, poetry also keeps on evolving continuously. Sri Aurobindo believes that English poetry is progressing towards the poetry which is capable of expressing itself in the Supreme rhythmic language which “seizes hold upon all that is finite and brings into each the light and voice of its own Infinite.” Sri Aurobindo’s aesthetics, rooted in the Vedas and the Upanishads, assimilated and accommodated many modern trends. He has very clearly identified and shown several layers or planes from where the Muse descended into the poetry of Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Shelly, and Byron etc. He opines that Poetry is the Mantra of the Real. Mantra is the “inevitable word”, emerging from the depths of a poet’s soul, enabling readers to experience delight, joy and beauty. In long poems like  SavitriIlionLove and Death, and Urvasie, Sri Aurobindo sustained high poetic inspiration over long stretches. His profound vision of life finds expression in unfaltering rhythm, vibrant with revelatory power.
In The Future Poetry, Sri Aurobindo says:
The world is making itself anew under a great spiritual pressure… It is in effect a larger cosmic vision, a realizing of the godhead in the world and in man, of his divine possibilities as well of the greatness of the power that manifests in what he is, a spiritualised uplifting of his thought and feeling and sense and action, a more developed psychic mind and hear, a truer and a deeper insight into his nature and the meaning of the world, a calling of diviner potentialities and more spiritual values into the intention and structure of his life that is the call upon humanity, the prospect offered to it by the slowly unfolding and now more clearly disclosed Self of the universe,. The nations that most include and make real these things in their life and culture are the nations of the coming dawn and the poets of whatever tongue and race who most completely see with this vision and speak with the inspiration of its utterance are those who shall be the creators of the poetry of the future.
CLRI Que 9Savitri – a Legend and a Symbol is Sri Aurobindo’s magnum opus but is it exactly the same story of Savitri from Indian mythology or is it different. If different, how?
Ans: Savitri, the longest poem in English language with its 23, 815 lines of blank verses, provides perennial inspiration to seekers of Truth. In Mahabharata, we have the legend of Savitri who proves love’s potential superiority over death. Sri Aurobindo transforms this legend into a symbol of elaborate significance. Satyavan is the soul besieged by darkness and ignorance. Savitri, the creative power, saves Satyavan from the doom. This legend is a source of inspiration for Sri Aurobindo to traverse the path to immortality. Man is too weak, puny, meagre and distorted to challenge the oppression of death. But Savitri’s sadhana, on behalf of the humanity, will one day usher in the Divine Love which will conquer Death.
 Savitri has the large canvas of human history. It is a story of man’s evolution. Man’s future, the occult cosmology and the geography of the entire universe are revealed wonderfully. Savitri travels to find her soul , encounters her soul-forces and feels the bliss of unity of Consciousness. She grapples with Death and wins. Savitri embodies images of infinity.
CLRI Que 10: What is the message you wanted to convey through your book?
Ans: Man is not a finished product of Nature. In the next stage of evolution, Man will be eventually transformed into Superman. The entire book hinges on this prophetic vision of Sri Aurobindo. Man can consciously participate in the process of evolution from mind to Supermind. It will hasten the birth of a divinised humanity upon the earth.
Author’s Bio: Dr. Jitendra Sharma obtained his Master's Degree in French from Karnatak University, Dharwar and had M.Phil. in French from the Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad. He has also studied in the Stendhal University of Grenoble in France. His literary articles have appeared in various journals and he has participated in more than 80 national/international seminars, workshops and conferences. He heads the Department of French at St. Joseph's College, Devagiri, Calicut (Kerala) where he tries to implement Sri Aurobindo's education methodology in his teaching profession.

Link : http://www.contemporaryliteraryreviewindia.com/2012/04/interview-with-jitendra-sharma-by.html