Thursday, January 31, 2013

Growth in Consciousness and Knowledge

As knowledge grows Light flames up from within:
It is a shining warrior in the mind,
An eagle of dreams in the divining heart,
An armour in the fight, a bow of God. – ‘Savitri’

As one grows in consciousness and the Knowledge of the inner being grows more and more, the Light of the soul flames up illumining all within and without. It presents itself in the mind as a luminous power spotting and driving away false and wrong formations of ignorance; in the intuiting heart it casts itself as a flashing ray of omniscience, in the incessant battle with the nether elements and adverse forces, it acts as an unfailing armour, a far flinging weapon of God.

(M.P. Pandit ‘Yoga in Sri Aurobindo’s Epic 'Savitri’, published by Dipti Publications, Pondicherry)

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

“The Kabbalah, the Philosophie Cosmique, and the Integral Yoga: A Study in Cross-Cultural Influence” by Peter Heehs

Peter Heehs is an independent scholar based in India. He has written or edited nine books and published more than fifty articles.  2011. “The Kabbalah, the Philosophie Cosmique, and the Integral Yoga: A Study in Cross-Cultural Influence”. Aries 11:2 (September): 219-247 (Pdf file available here :
Some of these scholars have made strong claims about influence of Max Theon and his wife on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In their history of the H.B. of L., Godwin, Chanel and Deveney write that Aurobindo and the Mother ‘were very largely inspired by Theon and his wife’. In his dissertation, Chanel goes farther: Sri Aurobindo and the Mother ‘may from many points of view be looked on as disciples of the Theons or in any case as continuers of their work’. In another passage Chanel suggests that the Theons have been denied due recognition by Aurobindo’s followers: The Philosophie Cosmique, he asserts, ‘constitutes one of the essential sources of the teachings of [Aurobindo’s] ashram in Pondicherry, even though this fact is, or was, generally little known or eclipsed’.
What I have written in the preceding sections should be enough to show that these claims are exaggerated. Theon had a good deal of influence on the Mother for three or four years, but he had no direct influence on Aurobindo. Whatever indirect influence he had on him was minor, being confined for the most part to terminology. The Mother may have considered herself a ‘disciple’ of the Theons at some point, but the relationship between her and them was just one of several relationships she had with spiritual-occult figures before she met Aurobindo. She carried over many ideas from the Theons into her collaboration with Aurobindo, but their work together could hardly be called a continuation of the work of the Theons, about whom Aurobindo had no direct knowledge. All in all, the parallels between the Philosophie Cosmique and Aurobindo’s philosophy are interesting but relatively unimportant compared to the enormous influence of the Vedantic tradition of India, which Aurobindo fully acknowledged.
Chanel also notes that it is through the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo ‘that the work of the Theons, that is, the Philosophie Cosmique, is present, though unbeknownst to many, in the world today’. This is true, and it draws attention to what might be called the “multinational” side of the transmission of esoteric knowledge. The Philosophie Cosmique, based in large measure on a form of the kabbalah that took shape in what is now Israel, was developed in France and Algeria during the early twentieth century, but now is scarcely remembered in any of these places. Elements of this teaching are present in the Integral Yoga, a system of thought based largely on the Upanishads that was elaborated in India by an English-educated Bengali and a Frenchwoman of Sephardic extraction. This system of yoga is followed by tens of thousands of people in India, and many hundreds in Europe and North America. Thus elements of an esoteric teaching made a journey from mediaeval Spain to Palestine and then back to Europe, where they were repackaged for dissemination in France. From France they were taken to India, and from India they have begun to make their way back to the West.
                                                                             - Tusar N. Mohapatra

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Swami Vivekananda’s connection to Puducherry - by KAVITA KISHORE

An artist giving final touches to the commissioned carving of Swami Vivekananda, which the Ramakrishna Seva Sangam plans to install, to celebrate his 150th birth anniversary.

An artist giving final touches to the commissioned carving of Swami Vivekananda, which the Ramakrishna Seva Sangam plans to install, to celebrate his 150th birth anniversary.

With the 150th birth anniversary of the philosopher providing a fitting backdrop, Kavita Kishore explores the threads that link him to Puducherry
In a small stall off the beach, a potter is giving finishing touches to a sculpture he is making for the 150 birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda even as several schools and colleges conducted functions to celebrate the occasion.
Although many people across Puducherry celebrated the event, few of them are aware of Swami Vivekananda’s connections to the town.
When Swami Vivekananda travelled from Kanyakumari to Chennai, it is said that he stopped in Puducherry for a few days. According to popular belief, he is said to have stayed in the house on Vysial Street that Sri Aurobindo and Subramania Bharathiyar occupied when they first came to the town.
According to Joint Secretary of the Ramakrishna Seva Sangam in Puducherry, Mr. Swaminathan, despite several people claiming that Swami Vivekananda stayed in that particular house, there is no documentary evidence. The Sangam is doing its best to find evidence. They have explored the Aurobindo Ashram Library and other archives to no avail. They were now planning to look in the National Archives.
There was also a Ramakrishna Vasaga Salai in Puducherry, which was possibly in existence before 1940. Although there were some photographs that depicted the place, it was hard to locate any other evidence, he said.
Swami Vivekananda, however, had a deep connection with the town through Shri Aurobindo.


According to Aurobindonian Scholar, Prema Nandakumar, since Swami Vivekananda and Shri Aurobindo were born only nine years apart, they were almost contemporaries. Swami Vivekananda was the inspiration for the Vande Mataram movement that a young Shri Aurobindo and several of his contemporaries participated in. When Shri Aurobindo was imprisoned in Alipore Jail from 1908 to 1909 in the Alipur Bomb Case, he read the Bhagavat Gita and other spiritual books to gain higher consciousness. It was then that Swami Vivekananda played a role in his achievement of spirituality, she said.
Later on, Shri Aurobindo went on record in the book On Himself, which can be obtained from the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library: “It is a fact that I was hearing constantly the voice of Vivekananda speaking to me for a fortnight in the jail in my solitary meditation and felt his presence…The voice spoke only on a special and limited, but very important, field of spiritual experience and it ceased as soon as it had finished saying all that it had to say on that subject”.
K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar, in his book Sri Aurobindo:  A Biography and a History (1985 edition), quotes Sri Aurobindo as saying, “He (Vivekananda) visited me for 15 days in Alipore Jail and, until I could grasp the whole thing, he went on teaching me and impressed upon my mind the working of the Higher Consciousness - the Truth-consciousness in general - which leads towards the Supermind.” 
Vivekananda’s influence was felt all over India at the time, especially in Bengal. So, it is not surprising that he played a role in Sri Aurobindo’s rise to spirituality as well. In a letter to Motilal Roy, also from the Birth Centenary Library, Sri Aurobindo says, “Remember also that we derive from Ramakrishna. For myself, it was Ramakrishna who personally came and first turned me to this yoga. Vivekananda in the Alipore Jail gave me the foundations of that knowledge which is the basis of our sadhana”.
Although the route that Swami Vivekananda’s spirituality took was different from that of Sri Aurobindo, there are some similarities between their philosophies, including the importance given to Indian culture, the dedication to social service and education and tolerance of all religions, said Ms. Nandakumar.


In order to preserve the connection between Swami Vivekananda and Puducherry, the Ramakrishna Seva Sangam was planning to install a carving of him to celebrate his 150 birth anniversary, Mr. Swaminathan said.

Courtesy: "The Hindu" Newspaper