Dr. Murali Sivaramakrishnan’s “Sri Aurobindo’s Aesthetics and Poetics: New Directions”

Sri Aurobindo's Aesthetics and Poetics New Directions

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Overman Foundation has taken up the distribution of Dr. Murali Sivaramakrishnan’s notable book Sri Aurobindo’s Aesthetics and Poetics: New Directions.

Dr. Murali Sivaramakrishnan is a poet, painter, critic and Professor and Head of the Department of English, Pondicherry University. He is the author of The Mantra of Vision: An Overview of Sri Aurobindo’s Aesthetics (1997) and a number of critical essays and four volumes of poetry — Night Heron (1998); Conversations with Children (2005); Earth Signs (2006) and The East-Facing Shop and other Poems (2010). He is the Founder-President of ASLE India (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment). He has travelled widely and participated in several conferences and workshops within the country and abroad. He has held more than 14 solo exhibitions of his works in India and abroad and authored over 100 research papers. His academic publications include: Figuring the Female: Women’s Discourse, Art and Literature (2005) co-edited; Tradition and Terrain: Aesthetic Continuities (2005) co-edited; Nature and Human Nature: Literature, Ecology, Meaning (2008); Learning to Think like Myself (2010); Ecological Criticism for the Present: Literature, Nature and the Critical Inquiry (co-edited) (2011), Image and Culture: The Dynamics of Literary, Aesthetic and Cultural Representation (2011), etc.

“Sri Aurobindo, obviously, was the product of a different period of Indian history. He lived with his inward quests as we live with our everyday objects in our real world, and for him the spiritual was the real. The three distinct phases of his life—that of the Cambridge scholar, the political activist, and the silent Yogi—clearly demarcate his progressive struggle with action and silence, as this book argues. Nevertheless, he was a practical idealist— constantly endeavouring to make complete experiential sense of his spiritual exploration through the systematization of what he termed Integral Yoga. The entire corpus of his work—poetry, politics, philosophy and yoga—need to be explored in their totality.

“The author of this significant book is a scholar and an academic of distinction who has contributed considerably to Sri Aurobindo studies for the past three decades. The chapters in this book attempt to re-read Sri Aurobindo’s significance and continued relevance to a present that appears to have misplaced all deeper quests. The author argues that his works are unique, occurring at a significant point in Indian literary and aesthetic history, and have to be intimately read and critiqued instead of either being venerated or disregarded. He was a radical mystic who could not simply accept tradition and heritage for their own sakes—his prodigious works are ample proofs of his own inquisitive re-readings. This book proffers us qualitative insights and an indigenous critical temper, and is bound to be of interest to the casual reader and the serious scholar alike.

“Quite a large body of work is currently available on the work of Sri Aurobindo interpreting, explaining, examining and even blaspheming his writings. However, this endeavour is unique and different on account of many aspects: its highlight is the author’s approach which is holistic and integral, its methodology not derivative but comparative and poetically sensitive, and its objective is to reread the contributions of a mystic in the light of contemporary scholarship. The book examines Sri Aurobindo, the man, mystic and Yogi in the light of his writings both creative and critical. The author has given due consideration to Sri Aurobindo’s political, philosophical, social and historical, exegetical and aesthetic-theoretical works and studied his poetics and spirituality from such a comprehensive perspective. The author also attempt to interrogate Sri Aurobindo from the contemporary times, drawing from current theoretical perspectives and inquiring into the continued relevance of his works and thinking.”

Sri Aurobindo’s Aesthetics and Poetics: New Directions runs into 220 pages with a select Bibliography and a Foreword by Dr. Prema Nandakumar. There are eleven chapters divided into four separate sections: (1) Texts and Directions (2) Aesthetics (3) Savitri and (4) New Directions.

The book is available at a price of Rs. 800 (Eight Hundred) only.

To place an order for the aforesaid book, please write to the following email address:

overmanfoundation@gmail.com

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

The Mother’s Photographs taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson

henri

Dear Friends,

Considered to be the father of photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson (22 August 1908—3 August 2004) was a world-famous French photographer who co-founded ‘Magnum Photos’ along with Robert Capa, David Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert. He spent more than thirty years on assignments for the Life magazine and other journals. He documented some of the great upheavals of the twentieth century which included the Spanish Civil War, the liberation of Paris in 1944, Mahatma Gandhi’s funeral in 1948, the fall of the Kuomintang administration in China, the student rebellion at Paris in 1968 to name a few. His published works include reputed titles like The Photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson (1947), The Decisive Moment (1952), The Europeans (1955), People of Moscow (1955), China in Transition (1956), Photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1963), About Russia (1973), etc.

In April 1950 Henri Cartier-Bresson had visited Pondicherry and taken several photographs of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Some of his photographs of the Mother have been uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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1The Mother with Dilip Kumar Roy

1AThe Mother with Indira Devi

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The History of the Ashram School by Prof. Kittu Reddy

The history of the Ashram school – now known as the International Centre of Education – can be probably divided into four periods. The first period is from 1943 to 1950, the second one is from 1951 to 1958, the third is from 1959 to 1967 and the fourth one is the period after that.

This article will deal mainly with the third period – that is to say from 1959 to 1967. However, the first two periods will be briefly touched upon.

Before the 1940s children were, as a rule, not permitted to live in the Ashram. But when, during the war, a number of families were admitted, it was found necessary to initiate a course of instruction for the children. Consequently, on 2 December 1943 the Mother opened a school for about thirty children. She herself was one of the teachers. The number of children increased gradually over the years to around 150 by the year 1950.

The first striking feature of the school in those early days was that almost all the students were children of devotees or disciples, most of whom resided in the Ashram as sadhaks.

Another feature was that the Mother was in constant touch with the teachers and students, guiding the teachers and following the students’ progress. All students and teachers would meet Her at least once a day and the teachers would submit reports about their classes regularly. Sri Aurobindo too was kept informed of all the developments in the school, although he did not interact directly with the school.

On 2 December 1946, the Mother came for the first time to the playground to see the demonstration of Physical Education. From then onwards, the Mother started coming regularly to the Playground in the evenings.

In 1950, Sri Aurobindo left his body and from 1951 the Mother started taking classes in the playground for the children (known as the Wednesday and Friday classes).

On 24 April 1951 the Mother presided over a convention where it was resolved to establish an “international university centre”, and on 6 January 1952 she inaugurated the Sri Aurobindo International University Centre. In 1959 this was changed to the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

In December 1958 the Mother stopped coming to the playground on a regular basis and the classes too were stopped.

The first two periods from 1943 to 1958 may be called the luminous seed-time and a period of enthusiastic effort guided by the direct presence of the Mother. That was the time when most of the basic ideas and concepts on education were expounded by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. This was done through the classes, their interaction with the students and teachers and Their writings in the Bulletin. As a matter of fact, the Mother was constantly in touch with both students and teachers and intervened whenever She felt the need to do so.

However, the outward organisation was not too different from other schools. No doubt, the teachers and the administration were distinctly aware of what the Mother wanted but this was not translated in the organisational structure. The Mother’s direct presence and involvement obviated the need of any such organisational structure. She was there to look after everything in its smallest detail.

Even though, the Mother stopped coming to the playground on a regular basis from December 1958, contact with Her continued through letters or through interviews. Indeed, the Mother kept a constant watch over the school and playground activities from Her room.

During this period, 1959-1967, certain experiments were made which were to have a great bearing on the future development of the Centre of Education.

Firstly, some tentative experiments were made in organising the Free System of education with a small section of students and certain organisational structures were put in place; all these attempts were gradually evolving and were to prove very useful in arriving at the more developed and organised system that was built later on.

But more importantly, from 1959, the overall structure and organisation of the Centre of Education was laid down. Here are some of the main developments that took place during this period:

1. The Higher Course was restructured. It was divided into the Art and Science sections. Earlier, there was no clear demarcation between art and science courses.

From this point on, like in other institutions, art students and science students were divided into two distinct categories with different compulsory subjects.

At the same time, two other courses were introduced, the Common Course which was compulsory for all students and the Optional course open to both Art and Science students; in the Common course, both Arts and Science students had compulsorily to study selected books of Sri Aurobindo. There were five books in this course, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle, The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga. These were studied for one year. Thus all students of the Higher course had to study these 5 books spread over the three years . In the first year, The Ideal of Human Unity was studied, in the second year, it was The Human Cycle and The Foundations of Indian Culture, and in the third year, The Life Divine and The Synthesis of Yoga.

But in the Optional Course, the same books were studied over a period of two or three years. This more intensive study of the books was optional and was open to both Science and Art students. Each one of these books was studied after a preparatory course; thus for the book The Ideal of Human Unity there was a course on World History; for The Human Cycle, there was a course on Sociology, for The Life Divine there was course on Philosophy, both Western and Indian, for The Synthesis of Yoga, the course was History of Religions and for The Foundations of Indian Culture, a study of Indian History was added.

2. It was also during this period that the Boards for all subjects were constituted. Thus there was an English board, a French board, a Mathematics board and so on. A group of teachers was selected to form the Boards and these teachers overlooked all the details concerning their respective subjects. Their work was mainly to define the syllabus, the course, the text books and to monitor the overall performance of the students and teachers in their subjects.

3. A whole new system of evaluation was determined. This system was based on the following: Regularity, punctuality, behaviour, homeworks, class tests and quarterly tests. This last item – quarterly tests was introduced in 1959. All students of the secondary and the Higher course were to sit for tests four times a year, reduced from 1960 to three times a year. These tests conducted over a period of two weeks, were held at the end of March, June and October. The test for more important subjects like English, French, Mathematics etc were of three hours each, while for the other subjects they were of one and a half hour each. The results of the quarterly tests had a great bearing on the evaluation of the students.

Quite naturally, these tests were a period of great tension for the students, for the results were given great weight in the final evaluation of the student.

As I was working in the administrative office at that time, I was entrusted with the organisation of the Quarterly Tests. My duties consisted of the following tasks.

1. Fixing the dates, the timings, the rooms and the invigilators for the tests.

2. Collecting the question papers at least ten days in advance from all the teachers and getting them typed in strict confidentiality and finally distributing them to the concerned invigilators just before the commencement of the test.

3. Handing over the answer papers of the students to the respective teachers after completion of the test .

4. Getting the results of the tests from the teachers in the form of marks allotted and computing the final quarterly report for each student. The report for each student was based on the following principle: 40% marks were allotted to the Quarterly Tests, 30% marks were allotted to Class Tests, 20% marks were allotted to Home Works, and the remaining 10% marks were given to Regularity, Punctuality and Behaviour.

Evidently, it was quite a complicated exercise and entailed a fair amount of work and coordination among teachers and the administration.

This was a period of great tension for most students and slowly and in a sense, quite inevitably, certain tendencies started manifesting themselves right from the beginning in 1960 and began to take serious proportions in the later years.

These included copying from notebooks which the students smuggled into the test room, trying to find out the questions before the tests, and sometimes even tearing whole pages from the text books which they managed to smuggle into the test room.

In 1967, while invigilating a class, a student was found copying. I just tapped the boy on his shoulder but did not chide him or speak to anybody else; instead, I wrote a letter to the Mother. Here is an extract from the letter:

(Concerning cheating in tests)
What should I do? Must we do what is done outside— put three teachers in a room to invigilate? The teachers do not like doing things in this way here in the Ashram.
Or should we abolish tests? I find this proposal doubtful, since the same thing happens with homework and essays.
In any case the problem exists, and in order to find the real solution we should understand why the children behave like this. Please tell me the cause of this misbehaviour and the solution to this problem.

Mother sent me a reply immediately reproduced here in full.

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It is very simple. It is because most of the children study because they are compelled to do so by their families, by custom and prevalent ideas, and not because they want to learn and know. As long as their motive for studying is not rectified, as long as they do not work because they want to know, they will find all kinds of tricks to make their work easier and to obtain results with a minimum of effort.

June 1967

She also added that a prayer should be repeated each day by all the students. Here is the prayer. To be repeated each day by all the students:

It is not for our family, it is not to secure a good position, it is not to earn money, it is not to obtain a diploma, that we study.
We study to learn, to know, to understand the world, and for the sake of the joy that it gives us.

June 1967

Later, She wrote to me another letter regarding the Quarterly tests. We reproduce it in full.

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The whole question is to know whether the students go to school to increase their knowledge and to learn what is necessary how to live well or whether they go to school to pretend and to have good marks of which they can boast.

In front of the Eternal Consciousness, a drop of sincerity has more value than an ocean of pretension and hypocrisy.

We reproduce below more letters on Tests written by the Mother in answer to teachers. Most of these letters were written during the period June-October 1967 with the exception of the first one.

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Sometime I would like to know, Mother, Your intentions with regard to regrouping these classes in the new year, whether with an examination or without.

I consider an examination as quite necessary. In any case there will be one in French.

My love and blessings.
29 October 1946

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It is not by conventional examinations that students can be selected for a class. It is only by developing in oneself the true psychological sense.
Select children who want to learn, not those who want to push themselves forward.

29 October 1965

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The only solution is to annul this test and all that are to come. Keep all the papers with you in a closed bundle—as something that has not been—and continue quietly your classes. At the end of the year you will give notes to the students, not based on written test-papers, but on their behaviour, their concentration, their regularity, their promptness to understand and their openness of intelligence. For yourself you will take it as a discipline to rely more on inner contact, keen observation, and impartial outlook.

For the students it will be the necessity of understanding truly what they learn and not to repeat as a parrot what they have not fully understood. And thus a true progress will have been made in the teaching.

With blessings.
21 July 1967

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I find tests an obsolete and ineffective way of knowing if the students are intelligent, willing and attentive. A silly, mechanical mind can very well answer a test if the memory is good and these are certainly not the qualities required for a man of the future.
It is by tolerance for the old habits that I consented that those who want tests can have them.

But I hope that in future this concession will not be necessary. To know if a student is good needs, if the tests are abolished, a little more inner contact and psychological knowledge for the teacher. But our teachers are expected to do Yoga, so this ought not to be difficult for them.

22 July 1967

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Naturally the teacher has to test the student to know if he or she has learnt something and has made a progress. But this test must be individual and adapted to each student, not the same mechanical test for all of them. It must be a spontaneous and unexpected test leaving no room for pretence and insincerity. Naturally also, this is much more difficult for the teacher but so much more living and interesting also. I enjoyed your remarks about your students. They prove that you have an individual relation with them—and that is essential for good teaching. Those who are insincere do not truly want to learn but to get good marks or compliments from the teacher—they are not interesting.

25 July 1967

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The immediate impact of these events and remarks made by the Mother was a radical change in the attitude and organisation of the school.

Briefly, consequences were:

All quarterly tests were abolished once and for all.

The secondary classes were restructured as the consequence of some interaction with the Mother by some teachers

The Higher Course organisation was radically restructured.

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We shall now go back in time to see how the Free Progress System was introduced in the school.

From the year 1959, many tentative experiments were being made in the Free Progress System. These attempts were first made on a small scale with a small number of students and teachers who were willing to try out the experiment. The source of inspiration for these experiments were in the writings and talks of Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

We are quoting one of the passages from The Human Cycle that served as an important source of inspiration:

The discovery that education must be a bringing out of the child’s own intellectual and moral capacities to their highest possible value and must be based on the psychology of the child-nature was a step forward towards a more healthy because a more subjective system; but it still fell short because it still regarded him as an object to be handled and moulded by the teacher, to be educated. But at least there was a glimmering of the realisation that each human being is a self-developing soul and that the business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material. It is not yet realised what this soul is or that the true secret, whether with child or man, is to help him to find his deeper self, the real psychic entity within. That, if we ever give it a chance to come forward, and still more if we call it into the foreground as “the leader of the march set in our front”, will itself take up most of the business of education out of our hands and develop the capacity of the psychological being towards a realisation of its potentialities of which our present mechanical view of life and man and external routine methods of dealing with them prevent us from having any experience or forming any conception. These new educational methods are on the straight way to this truer dealing. The closer touch attempted with the psychical entity behind the vital and physical mentality and an increasing reliance on its possibilities must lead to the ultimate discovery that man is inwardly a soul and a conscious power of the Divine and that the evocation of this real man within is the right object of education and indeed of all human life if it would find and live according to the hidden Truth and deepest law of its own being.

Here is another passage from the Mother’s conversations which was often quoted and which became the basis for the Free Progress System.

Essentially, the only thing you should do assiduously is to teach them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, the path they will follow; to teach them to look at themselves, understand themselves and to will what they want to be. That is infinitely more important than teaching them what happened on earth in former times, or even how the earth is built, or even… indeed, all sorts of things which are quite a necessary grounding if you want to live the ordinary life in the world, for if you don’t know them, anyone will immediately put you down intellectually: “Oh, he is an idiot, he knows nothing. But still, at any age, if you are studious and have the will to do it, you can also take up books and work; you don’t need to go to school for that. There are enough books in the world to teach you things. There are even many more books than necessary.

But what is very important is to know what you want. And for this a minimum of freedom is necessary. You must not be under a compulsion or an obligation. You must be able to do things whole-heartedly. If you are lazy, well, you will know what it means to be lazy…. You know, in life idlers are obliged to work ten times more than others, for what they do they do badly, so they are obliged to do it again. But these are things one must learn by experience. They can’t be instilled into you.

The problem was: how to create a system of education which would help them to know themselves and choose their own destiny, with the ultimate result of bringing the psychic being of the child forward as “the leader of the march.”

Gradually, these attempts began to increase in number and by the year 1962, there was one whole section of the school that was following this system. It was named Vers la Perfection. In this process some interesting experiments were tried out, some seemingly a bit impractical. However, the Mother allowed things to develop and encouraged the teachers to find out by themselves how to implement the free progress system. As all these attempts were going, quite naturally, a lot of discussion was generated among the teachers. The Director and the Registrar – Pavitrada and Kireet Joshi – were deeply involved in all these discussions and often the matter was referred to the Mother. As a result of all these discussions and efforts some basic principles were laid down.

The basic principles on which the Free Progress system was founded were as follows:

• The first assumption was that every child was essentially a soul and the business of the educator was to help the child to bring it forward as the leader of his march.

• Since each child was a soul and therefore unique, he had to be treated according to his nature and temperament. The natural consequence was that individual attention was given great importance and consequently group classes were not encouraged too much.

• Another consequence was that each child was encouraged to work at his own pace, depending on his capacity. It followed also that a child could be at different levels for different subjects.

• There was also an effort to replace text books by worksheets which were prepared in such a way as to make it more relevant to the child’s needs and interests.

• Finally, the whole purpose was to encourage the child to take up the full responsibility of his own education and choose his own destiny.

Evidently, this was not easy for it meant a total reversal of the existing system of education; in a sense, it was a big risk that was being taken.

As already mentioned, the attempt was first made on a small scale with a limited number of students and teachers fully supported by The Mother. By the middle of the year 1962, it was felt that this system could be tried out on a bigger scale for all the secondary classes from December 1962.

Here another problem cropped up. It was understood that this system would be succesful only with those students whose psychic being was somewhat prominent for only then would they be able to use their freedom properly without being distracted by the vital and other pulls of the lower nature. The question was: who is to choose the students? Since most of the teachers did not feel confident in their own judgment the matter was referred to the Mother and She graciously agreed to make the selection herself.

Accordingly, the students numbering about 150 were divided into 5 batches. Mother came down to the first floor and the students, over a period of five days passed in front of her. She indicated which students could be selected and even in some cases made some remarks on certain students. All these were noted down by a teacher standing beside the Mother. I remember that in some cases, the Mother made some remarks about a child; in one case, she remarked about a young girl: “Oh, she in an old friend.”

It will be interesting to note that almost all the students were selected by the Mother for the New Classes.

The Functioning of the System

Let us now see how the system functioned on the ground level

Firstly, there was no fixed time table; when the students came to the school, they went and sat in the class rooms allotted to them. Three or four teachers would be sitting in the same room. After the bell rang the students would start working on their own on any subject of their choice. Whenever they needed any help from the teacher, they would consult him. During the course of the work, if either the teacher or student felt the need to fix an appointment with the teacher for further consulation, it would be done by mutual consultation. Similarly whenever the teachers or students felt the need of a group class, that too was fixed by mutual consultation.

There was great freedom for the students and the teachers were there only to help and guide the students.

In sum, the whole responsibility of education was on the students themselves. They had to decide for themselves the subjects they would study, determine the pace at which they would work and even the quantity of work done.

Many teachers felt that the attempt was premature, but all agreed to give it a try. However within a few months, it appeared that the system was not working very well. The majority of students were misusing their time and were unable to use their freedom properly. Finally a group of teachers wrote a letter to the Mother. We reproduce in full the letter with the answer of the Mother.

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August 1st, 1963

Pavitra-.da,

For quite a long time, and particularly during the last few months, many of us — teachers of the New Classes — have noticed a growing disorder and confusion in the School. We therefore decided to make a report with the hope that a timely intervention by the authorities might change the situation and improve matters. In making this report we have given our considered opinion and judgment, always keeping in mind the welfare both of the students and the Institution.

The disorder that we see can be placed under three headings:
1) Indiscipline,
2) Irregularity and consequently
3) Poor work done by students.

Indiscipline: This problem which probably has always existed to a certain degree has now assumed rather serious proportions and has become quite acute. It is now quite a common feature to see students enter the class ten or fifteen minutes late and stroll out again a few minutes before the bell. Many of them go to the News—Paper Room, the Post—Office and the Projector Room during class hours. Very often children are seen loitering about, sometimes in the streets and sometimes in the School compound during class hours. The other problem, which we shall only just mention —, for it is too well known — is that of the stealing of notebooks and books, both of teachers and students.

Irregularity: This is a problem of a somewhat different nature. Very few students have attended regularly all the classes. Many of them started with great enthusiasm, but after a certain time — particularly when they had to give a test — dropped out and rarely came back. Finally, when they restarted, they had forgotten much of what they had learnt and much valuable time was lost in catching up. This also makes it impossible for the teacher to do any kind of Project work; for he never knows when a student will turn up again the next time.

In the afternoons, also, many students are found in the Library; many others do not come to School at all. As a result, the number of hours that a student devotes to his studies is between 4 and 5 hours, as there is no homework to be done; much of the time in these 4 or 5 hours is spent in chatting and gossip and work without concentration.

The consequence of all this has been poor work by the students. Not only is the amount of work done insufficient but also the quality is poor.

Taking into account the overall performance of the students, 59 may be said to have done quite poor work, 45 very poor, while only 23 have done average work, 4 good and 3 very good.

Taking into consideration, subject—wise performance of work, we find, that 77 out of 116 are below normal in English; 63 out of 71 are below normal in French; 130 out of 142 are below normal in Maths; 66 out of 69 are below normal in Physics.; 33 out of 38 in Chemistry; 99 out of 139 in Natural Science; 95 out of 127 in History; and 115 out of 127 in Geography.

We have all felt therefore that something should be done before it is too late. Th. first and moat essential step, we feel, is to have a minimum of fixed periods for each subject; this minimum number can only be decided later on. Some of us, however, that all classes should have fixed periods. The timetable will be fixed by the office and once a student decides to attend a class, he should be regular and punctual.

Another point which we should mention is that of teaching only through work-sheets. Many teachers feel that all subjects need some oral, treatment, the proportion varying with the subject. A combination of the work—sheet method with oral exposition and discussions seems to be a possible solution.

First for the teachers:
I am satisfied with the figures indicated in the report. In spite of what one might think the proportion of very good students is satisfactory. If out of 150 students, there are 7 individuals of genuine value, it is very good.

Now for the organisation:
The classes as a whole may be reorganised so as to fulfil the needs of the majority, that is to say, of those who, in the absence of any outside pressure or imposed discipline, work badly and make no progress. But it is essential that the present system of education in the new classes should be maintained, in order to allow outstanding individuals to show themselves and develop freely. That is our true aim. It should be known—we should not hesitate to proclaim it—that the whole purpose of our school is to discover and encourage those in whom the need for progress has become conscious enough to direct their lives. It ought to be a privilege to be admitted to these Free Progress classes. At regular intervals (every month, for example) a selection should be made and those who cannot take advantage of this special education should be sent back into the normal stream. The criticisms made in the report apply to the teachers as much as to the students. For students of high capacity, one teacher well versed in his subject is enough—even a good textbook, together with encyclopaedias and dictionaries would be enough. But as one goes down the scale and the capacity of the student becomes lower, the teacher must have higher and higher capacities: discipline, self-control, consecration, psychological understanding, infectious enthusiasm, to awaken in the student the part which is asleep the will to know, the need for progress, self-control, etc. Just as we organise the school in such a way as to be able to discover and help outstanding students, in the same way, the responsibility for classes should be given to outstanding teachers. So I ask each teacher to consider his work in the school as the best and quickest way of doing his Yoga. Moreover, every difficulty and every difficult student should be an opportunity for him to find a divine solution to the problem.

5 August 1963

What is important to note is that the Mother despite the apparent failure at the beginning was insistent that the Free Progress System should continue with whatever modifications in the organisation of the school. The direction for the future was clearly laid down by the Mother.

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We shall first review the developments in the school from the year 1959.

As already stated earlier, the Free Progress System was introduced on an experimental basis in 1959 at the Secondary level; from there it evolved to a surer and larger base in 1961; a small group of students were trying out this method and the Mother named it Vers la Perfection. However the whole of the secondary section was not following the Free System. One section – in fact the larger section was still continuing with the old method. The school at the secondary level was thus divided into two sections.

In 1963, as already mentioned in the previous issues, the whole secondary section was united and was brought under the purview of the Free Progress System.

In August 1963, some teachers wrote a letter to the Mother regarding the Free System. This letter has been published in one of the previous issues. As a consequence of this letter the secondary section was again divided into two. One of them was following the Free progress method and was named Vers la Perfection and the other was following a modified form of the Free Progress System. This pattern continued from 1964 to 1967. It may be noted that the students of the Free Progress System did not have to sit for the quarterly Tests; for the other students it was compulsory.

As already mentioned, in July 1967, many letters were written to the Mother regarding quarterly tests and as a consequence, these tests were abolished.

In November 1967, two teachers Amita and myself wrote a letter to Mother making some suggestions regarding the reorganisation of the secondary. This letter is reproduced below.

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The letter suggested reorganising the curriculum of the students of a certain age-group. It advised reducing the number of scheduled classes; teachers would give individual assistance to their students in the mornings and meet them as a class only in the afternoons. The letter ended: Many teachers feel that the division between X’s classes and what is called the “Old System” is not desirable. With the reorganisation we suggest, the differences between the two will be greatly diminished. Do you think that this division should continue? Must we go on waiting for it to disappear?

The Mother’s answer:

It would be infinitely preferable that the division should disappear immediately. The effectiveness of what you suggest will become apparent only in practice. Therefore it seems to me that the best thing is to try, either for a full year if the results are slow to show themselves, or for three months if the results are clearly apparent by then. With sincerity and flexibility you should be able to solve the problem.

6 November 1967

On the 11th November, Mother gave an interview to three teachers, namely Tanmaya, Arati and Kittu. In this interview the details of the new proposals were discussed. The Mother also gave the name En Avant to the new section.

However in 1968, the two sections did not unite. It happened only in 1969. Thus there were two sections at the Secondary level, one named Vers la Perfection and the other named En Avant. Both these sections were following the Free Progress system with minor differences.

In 1969, the two sections got united, and it was given the name of En Avant Vers la Perfection or E.A.V.P.

During the interview of 11th November, the Mother made some important remarks on the importance of Sanskrit. We are reproducing some extracts from the interview. This is what the Mother said:

The ideal would be, in a few years, to have a rejuvenated Sanskrit as the representative language of India, that is, a Sanskrit spoken in such a way that—Sanskrit is behind all the languages of India and it should be that. This was Sri Aurobindo’s idea, when we spoke about it. Because now English is the language of the whole country, but that is abnormal. It is very helpful for relations with the rest of the world, but just as each country has its own language, there should… And so here, as soon as one begins to want a national language, everyone starts quarrelling. Each one wants it to be his own, and that is foolish. But no one could object to Sanskrit. It is a more ancient language than the others and it contains the sounds, the root-sounds of many words. This is something I studied with Sri Aurobindo and it is obviously very interesting. Some of these roots can even be found in all the languages of the world—sounds, root-sounds which are found in all those languages. Well, this, this thing, this is what ought to be learnt and this is what the national language should be. Every child born in India should know it, just as every child born in France has to know French. He does not speak properly, he does not know it thoroughly, but he has to know French a little; and in all the countries of the world it is the same thing. He has to know the national language. And then, when he learns, he learns as many languages as he likes. At the moment, we are still embroiled in quarrels, and this is a very bad atmosphere in which to build anything. But I hope that a day will come when it will be possible. So I would like to have a simple Sanskrit taught here, as simple as possible, but not “simplified”—simple by going back to its origin… all these sounds, the sounds that are the roots of the words which were formed afterwards.

Kittu Reddy

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About the Author: Kittu Reddy was born on 2 July 1936 in the district of Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh. His father Narayan Reddy was one of the members of the Swaraj Party founded by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and his uncle Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was the sixth President of India. At the age of five he was brought to Sri Aurobindo Ashram by his parents. After graduating from Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in 1957, he joined the very Centre as a teacher in 1958. After teaching the students at the school level for a decade he began to take classes at the Higher Course (college level) of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from 1968. His areas of specialization are History, Political Science, Social Science and The Foundations of Indian Culture. He was also involved in the administration of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education from 1958 to 1976. In 1987 he came in contact with the Indian Army and has been giving talks and conducting workshops on Motivation, Leadership and the Mission of India for the armed forces at various training centres in India. At the request of General B.C. Joshi (the then Chief of Indian Army), he shifted to New Delhi in 1994 for two years to help the former in his work. He was appointed Advisor to the organization named Army Welfare Education Society which looks after the Army Schools. He was also entrusted with the task of penning capsules for the training institutions of the Indian Army right from the stage of induction to the rank of senior officers with the purpose of introducing spirituality as a factor of motivation. At present he is a Founder-Member of the Academic Advisory Council of the Army Welfare Education Society. He has also worked with General Shankar Roy Chowdhury after the demise of General B.C. Joshi. In 1995 he visited the United States of America and England. In England he addressed the Royal College of Defence Studies. In November 2006 he was invited by the Indian Army to its Headquarters at New Delhi for a discussion on stress management and tackling problems of suicide and fratricide. In 2006 he visited Sweden and gave a few talks at the Indo-Swedish Association and the National Defence College in Stockholm. He has also delivered several lectures at Jadavpur University and Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture on Social Science and World Unity, Education in India and various allied topics. He has also organized workshops for NIIT on stress management. Presently he is working with the Indian Army on Morals and Ethics. He has contributed a number of articles to prestigious French journals on the problems of World Unity and psychological development on spiritual lines. He has authored the following books: Bravest of the Brave, Kargil: The Manifestation of a Deeper Problem, Secularism, Religion and Spirituality, History of India—A New Approach and A Vision of United India—Problems and Solutions.

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Talks of the Mother Recorded by A.B. Purani

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Dear Friends,

29 March 2014 marks the Centenary of the Mother’s first arrival at Pondicherry. On this occasion we are publishing the notes of Ambalal Balkrishna Purani written down after attending the talks of the Mother in 1947 apropos of Her “Prayers and Meditations”. Every day a Prayer or two were read out and the Mother commented on them or answered questions put to Her. Most of the comments deal with perennial problems of the spiritual life. Some refer to particular occasions; but, just because the occasions are now past, the comments do not lose their point: they always have a wider bearing and join up with the general ones.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

*

18.8.1947

Prayers read: October 9 and 10, 1914

Q. There is a mention of the joy of work and the joy of retiring from work.

There are persons who experience joy while working—for them the joy of action is there. Others sit in meditation and unite their consciousness with the Divine. They experience the joy of meditation. The Prayer says that to experience the two kinds of joy together is the ideal. There are people who have the two kinds of joy alternately—that is to say, when they work they have the joy of action and when they are in contemplation they have another kind of joy. But, in the ideal condition, at the depth of the consciousness there is contemplation and absolute silence while outwardly the nature is busy with all sorts of activities and enjoys work. Generally, you begin with one—either the action or the meditation. But if you are plastic you can get the two together. One part of your being which is outward-turned is occupied in various important or unimportant things—play, labour, struggle. But at bottom there is adoration, silence, freedom from everything. The two seem to us opposites and extremes, but when they meet, the real joy of creation is realised.

Of course, the realisation does not come by itself or by accident. It comes by a working for it, by a training of attention.

It is when men haven’t got this experience that they debate and discuss whether action and yoga are compatible or incompatible.

Q. But is it not true that one can become conscious of one’s psychic being more easily in meditation than in action?

Yes, at the beginning—when you are altogether a novice. Once you become conscious, then you are conscious of your true being all the time, day and night, in the midst of all actions, even in the midst of a battle just as well as during meditation. To start or establish the contact with the psychic being, one may require to meditate.

You think of action as important or unimportant. But merely action means nothing. As I said, you have to resort to meditation and go deep into the being in order to become conscious of the psychic being; but, once the contact is made, it matters little whether you meditate or not.

Generally, when one strongly affirms the need of meditation, silence, retirement, it is a proof that one has not yet contacted the psychic being. If the psychic being is awakened, you have within you something which is all the time aware and it is this that makes you do everything: all your actions springs from it. It organises your whole life. There are cases in which the psychic being does not allow a man to organise his life as his mind or vital being would like to do. For instance, it makes you miss the train you should miss, or the ship you should not travel by. In other words, it organises the life in spite of the man almost!

In order to mark the contact or opening of the psychic being, it is necessary to see what a man does in an acute situation. He generally concentrates, puts all his energies together and intensely wills for a way out or a solution. Then suddenly there is light and he sees. Now, if he is conscious of the opening or of the being that brings the light, there is a kind of permanent consciousness of everything in him, a consciousness which moves every part of him.

This is quite sufficient for a basis of the spiritual life.

But if you have other aspirations, then of course you have to work further. It is not necessarily when one sits in meditation that one feels the presence of the psychic being. It is at the moment when all the movements of consciousness are concentrated that one perceives it. While meditating, there may be no such concentration. This often happens. On the other hand, if one is attentive, one may feel something within one which supports and comforts from inside.

12.9.1947

Prayers read: September 4 and 5, 1914

Now that the victory of the Divine is approaching the material plane, the danger too is nearer and greater. Sri Aurobindo has said, and I too see, that now we must all become soldiers in a battle and follow strict discipline. The Prayers that we have read are applicable to the recent events that happened on August 15. For the moment the danger has been thrown back; but the struggle between the Divine and the adverse forces has become, and is bound to become, more and more acute. They will try their best to destroy as much as possible and they will approach the main centre of the Divine’s working. What is begun by them may be nothing. But they will concentrate here as the victory approaches. It is not now a question of sitting in meditation. The adverse forces are growing more and more hardy and violent and, as you know, humanity is quite stupid. It will allow all kinds of lies and falsehoods and let itself be governed by them.

You can see the situation in India. Instead of the festival of freedom won, there is fighting and slaughter. So let each one of you look into himself and bring about a perfect purification of himself and not allowing anything that will open the doors to the hostile forces. It is because of the gravity and urgency of the situation that you must have no contradictory movement—nothing that goes against the spiritual aspiration or the will of the Divine in you. You must become free and pure. We know that each one has his difficulty and we have tolerated it so long. But now the danger is very close and may be great.

Q: How is one to know what comes in the way and what contradicts the Divine?

It is very easy to know it if you are sincere. I can tell each of you or you can come and tell me your difficulty and I shall tell you what is to be done. It can be anything—from big things like impulse, desire, ambition, to small, mean or insignificant ones. You can always know it because immediately you submit to it you are thrown away from the Divine: there is a revolt.

13.9.1947

Prayers read: September 6 and 9, 1914

What is “amour intégrale”? “Integral” means total in the sense of something that is totally “conscious”. All the parts must become conscious; then they can have “integral love”.

How to be conscious? By looking around, as you do when you try to find a thief in the dark with your touch. Try to feel and find the contrary and contradictory movements in yourself.

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There are two processes in Nature: (1) inertia which refuses to change or become conscious and (2) destruction in order to bring about a change in matter or life or anything.

That is to say, Nature’s own ways are obscure: either she has immobility, unconsciousness, hardness, even absurdity, or else she breaks up and wastes immense quantities of matter and energy and she destroys like a blind force and wants to try something else.

We want to introduce some other process now.

Q: Can we change Nature’s ways?

Yes, we can. Otherwise there would be no use in doing Yoga. It is an old idea, very firmly fixed in man’s mind, that the processes of Nature cannot be changed. Either you have to leave Nature behind and retire for liberation or you have to submit to her processes. But these alternatives are not inevitable. Our Yoga means that if the blindness and inertia go from Nature, then the process of evolution brings about a change in us and the world also changes. We take to something better than Nature’s processes because Nature, left to herself, will always be imperfect.

Q: You spoke yesterday about the near approach of the Divine’s victory in the material world. How far does that victory depend on us, the disciples?

From one point of view one can say that the time is fixed. But from another point of view it can be said that much depends upon the attitude of the sadhakas. For the human mind this question of time is very difficult because mind wants to believe trenchantly that either everything is fixed or nothing is fixed—it is all predetermination or all a world of chance. But it is not like that; it is simple and yet subtle. What is time? Time and space are processes—not ultimate truths—they are the true illusions. They can be taken up and also discarded by the Divine. There is division—division of movement, energy, etc. That is to say, certain conditions are necessary to bring about the change or the result that translates itself in man’s consciousness as time and space. There is a certain determination of forces at work and, if the determination changes, the time and the space for the result change also.

From the point of view of the Divine Consciousness it is not the things that count, their quantity or quality, but the process. Really speaking, the process counts.

What is this process for the Divine? It is a certain relation between vibrations of elements, of forces, which is required to bring about the change or transformation of result, whatever you call it.

You can translate this roughly by saying that there is energy and there is resistance, both taken together as a whole. Now the process will change if for some reason or other the resistance changes. If the resistance is reduced to the minimum the result is instantaneously attained.

You have to imagine the whole process of evolution from the start. It first proceeds like a chaos. Then something intervenes and arranges it. Then the same chaos becomes a world, a cosmos. This is what is translated to us as time and space.

Q: Can we accelerate the Divine action?

Yes. You can see that it was like that from the very beginning. That is to say, a perfectly free movement or play of infinite forces starts—like a chaos, as I said. Then the forces slowly become conscious. But as there are infinitely multiple, infinitely numerous forces, the order does not come all at once, and the condition of things leaves the door open to all kinds of accidents and mishaps. Now, when man becomes conscious he can reduce this chance to the minimum. The final result can be said to be attained when there is perfect order everywhere—the whole world in perfect order: each tiny drop mirroring that perfect order.

Q: Can one say that it would be like the whole sun in each drop of water?

Yes. It is the complexity of the work that is the problem. Something has gone out in complete freedom and then you have to get the whole thing put in perfect order. Whenever I work on or in someone, I don’t make him do great things or purify him but I only put him in order. It is like a mechanical chemistry of consciousness. The scientist has to know two things—the others don’t matter to him. First, the constitution of matter and, secondly, the different dimensions. In the inner work the material dimensions don’t exist: space, as we know it, is negated. The inner work—the work of changing the consciousness—can be said to be the work of God with the world. It can be done in a stone or in a man. Only, in the case of the stone there is no collaboration; therefore the working will be slow. In man’s consciousness, collaboration is possible and the work can be done quickly. It depends upon opening and receptivity. That is to say, there is a certain condition of things in which time does not exist. If, for instance, what Sri Aurobindo calls the Supermind is brought into contact with matter—with material conditions—then the cure of a disease, conversion of consciousness, or change in the circumstances of the world is possible at once. It is not more difficult to change the outer circumstances than to change the consciousness of man.

The important thing is the contact of the Supermind with matter. When great physical changes are produced in Nature—for example, the eruptions of volcanoes take place or continents are submerged—then there is a similar process.

19.9.1947

Prayers read: October 11 and 12, 1914

In the Prayer of 12th October there is mention of each element having its own truth. It means that each element in this world has its own proper principle—each movement or vibration has its truth to which it must correspond. Everything in its depths is connected with the Supreme: otherwise it cannot exist. All that is here is an exteriorisation or objectivisation, whatever you may call it, of some Truth of the Supreme.

The Divine is like someone who has some truth within himself and then puts it outside for manifestation. Thus this universe is a manifestation of the Divine, eternally unrolling itself. When each element of the universe becomes, so to say, absolute, identifies itself with the Supreme and manifests Him, then it will know its cause, its raison d’être, its utility, its place in the total Truth.

Q. Does one become conscious of his true being at the time of death?

One does not necessarily become more conscious than when he is alive. There is no reason why the mere fact of physical death should make men conscious of their true being. The only thing that happens in death is that the connecting link between the physical and the vital is cut. But why, because of this fact, should one who is ignorant become suddenly full of knowledge or one unconscious become conscious? There is not a sufficient explanation here of changing so much after death.

On the contrary, many people find the body a very good refuge, a fort, into which they run when they feel or scent danger in the vital. But a vital without a body does not necessarily bring about benefits. A man who is stupid in life remains stupid after death. To think otherwise is like saying that if a man has a coat of a certain colour his inner being undergoes a change.

Q. Does one not become conscious of one’s true being after death?

There are cases in which one does, but these are cases of those who think about the inner being. Most people never think about it at the time of death. For instance, very few have an aspiration at that time, like Goethe who said, “Light, more light.” The last aspiration may be important for a man.

In the case of those in whom the psychic being has separated itself, there is a full possession of one’s being at the time of death. These people know, even before death, that they are separate from their bodies. When they die, they see the curve of their progress in the past and remember their last experience also and in the light of their knowledge they decide in which new body or in what circumstances they should take birth.

In people who are not evolved sufficiently it retires after death to its own plane. But, even if immature, it is the psychic that decides what curve it must take, what will be the future conditions, and it knows the past conditions and why one has taken a decision for the present life.

Q. Is there any rule governing the period of assimilation or rest for the psychic being?

There is a law, but it is a complex law. The time depends upon several factors: the degree of development and experience in one’s life on earth, and the need of intervention. For instance, sometimes it is not merely the law of individual development but also the stage of earth’s evolution which determines this time element.

Here also two movements are seen after death. On the one side, the psychic beings who are not individualised pass from one body to another without any awakening—soul-awakening—or without retirement and rest. On the other side, some take a long period of rest or retirement or assimilation before taking up the next birth or incarnation. That is according to the plan of the nature of life which you have to fulfil—the rest after life may be quick or slow, brief or prolonged. All this depends upon the family of psychic beings to which the individual belongs. They want, or need, to come together on earth—then they make an understanding with one another and promise to be ready at the right time and when the call is given they come up. Thus those who promised to be together come to birth.

But this is not a rigid mental law or rule. There is something like an organisation. It is not each one doing what he likes. There is a rhythm, a harmony.

Q. Has a man’s mental condition, say, a state of intense aspiration, any effect upon his future after death?

Generally what is organised round the psychic being remains, the rest dissolves. It is the psychic influence that unifies the being and if the mental or vital are thus organised they can resist the forces of dissolution and disintegration.

Q. When a child is born, can you predict what its future will be?

In all its details? No—because it is full of all kinds of possibilities. So too in the case of the psychic being all kinds of possibilities are there.

30.9.1947

Prayers read: December 22, 1914, and January 2, 1915

It was in 1914 that I had an inner experience and saw India free. I had the experience of the Master of Nations, who was an Asura, and I knew that he and his group would perpetuate horrors unknown to man. I saw all the horrors that were subsequently enacted—even those of the Second World War.

But I knew also another fact: “Horror is gone from the world.” Between the knowledge and its translation into material fact there is a long interval. India has got her freedom just now, in 1947, but in the subtle world she was already free in 1914. It took 23 years to translate that truth into the plane of Matter.

3.10.1947

Prayers read: January 18, 24, and February 15, 1915

Q. Why should you feel like common humanity?

One must participate in the limitations of the plane on which one wants to bring about a change: that is to say, one must participate in the conditions of the earth-plane.

If the being who wants to change the law of the earth has no understanding of the defects and the working here, he cannot bring about a transformation: he will not know what the difficulty, the obstacle, is.

If I did not feel like others, I may bring down the Truth but I cannot bring it to you. In fact, nothing that I may say or do would touch you.

6.10.1947

Prayer read: April 19, 1915

I was at Lunel in France. The prayer refers to an experience I had when I was not physically well and was in fact narrowly saved from death. I had an inflammation of the nerves.

I was lying in an easy-chair, in front of a garden. I saw that the spiritual power was still active in me: I could go on with occult experiments in spite of the illness. I used to concentrate on things and persons and circumstances and wanted to see if the power worked. It worked very well on the mental and vital planes. Then I broadened the field of activity. I could go on doing my work in various parts of France and America and other places. I could clearly see the faces of the persons worked upon. They could be made to do what they by themselves could not. These were controlled experiments.

I could see that nothing could stop the work: even without my body the work could go on.

Wherever the call was, I could attend. People often appeal to a higher force. The appeals sometimes come to me. During the Second World War many appeals came and there was always a helping answer.

Q. Suppose there are many calls at one and the same time.

They are all attended to, at once. But not all remain afterwards in memory. Only the most important and the clearest ones continue in the consciousness.

I saw some horrible and atrocious things in the course of my work and I did not know at that time what they meant but subsequently all the cruelties were penetrated in the War.

Q. If people do not know you physically, how can they receive help?

The reception depends on their religious beliefs, the sort of mind they have, the form they give to their beliefs, the urgency and sincerity of the call.

During the Second World War Poland called out most for help. The most interesting were the appeals from children. They are very sincere, they feel the horror but have no exaggerated idea of things. I remember two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was about twelve years old, the girl about ten. They came home and found everything destroyed. They called out to their parents and there was no answer. The agony in their hearts was intense when they went from room to room. Then the sister asked the brother not to be disheartened. She sat down and I entered into her and gave her inner support. Her heart got courage and the brother was comforted. Then some help arrived and they were rescued.

7.10.1947

Prayer read: November 2, 1915

The True Consciousness had already been reached. It was only the physical consciousness that now reached the complete identification with the Divine. It happened in Paris.

Now all the sense-experiences were offered up to the Divine—all the movements of life—in a single gesture and not like the ordinary consciousness giving up one thing after another. It was a total holocaust—the offering not of this or that movement of life but Life itself! Then I found that everything had undergone a change.

When there is no separate individuality, the world appears quite different. It is the little ego that does not allow one to know things truly.

8.10.1947

Prayer read: November 26, 1915

In this experience the mind did not participate. In many spiritual experiences the mind need not participate at all.

I was in a house in Paris, which had three rooms below and one above. It was an atelier, a pavillion with a big garden. The time was evening.

The mind, of course, should always be quiet for one to have any deep experience. In my mind there was no preconception.

I became completely identified with the earth consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo explained this experience as a very high one because the consciousness came back to the body directly—that is, to the individual being.

There is a symbolism in the experience but I had no idea at all of the symbols before the experience. That is how it should always be—without any preconception in the mind of the sadhak.

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Rare Photographs of Nishikanto Roychowdhury

Dear Friends,

Nishikanto Roychowdhury (24.3.1909—20.5.1973) was the greatest Bengali poet of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Having received his early education at Santiniketan where he enjoyed the love and affection of Rabindranath Tagore he arrived at Pondicherry in 1934. He befriended Dilip Kumar Roy and wrote lyrics for many of his memorable songs. Sri Aurobindo was quite fond of his poetry and had called him a “Brahmaputra of Inspiration”. His anthologies of poetry include titles like Diganta, Alakananda, Vaijayanti, Nabadipan, Pachish Pradip, Bhorer Pakhi, Bande Mataram, Shikha-satadal and Lilayan.

24 March 2014 marks the 105th Birth Anniversary of Nishikanto Roychowdhury. As our humble homage to him, a set of eleven rare photographs of Nishikanto Roychowdury has been uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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1With Dilip Kumar Roy

2With Dilip Kumar Roy

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4.5

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9With Nolini Kanto Sarkar

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The Passing of Robi Ganguli

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Dear Friends,

On Thursday, 20 March 2014, Robi Ganguli—one of the most distinguished creative photographers of India and a senior member of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry—left his physical sheath at 3 a.m. in the Ashram Nursing Home. He was suffering from leukemia.

Born to Nolin Bihari Ganguli and Sarala Devi on 28 June 1931 Robi was the youngest of seven brothers (Manoranjan, Niharanjan, Chittaranjan, Sudhiranjan, Amiyoranjan and Kanak) and two sisters (Gauri and Chhobi). Nolin Bihari Ganguli, was the proprietor of ‘N.B. Ganguli Constructions’, a well-known construction firm in Kolkata, and had constructed many buildings of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, including the Calcutta Race Course. After the demise of Nolin Bihari in February 1941, Robi’s elder brother Chittaranjan—who had already visited Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1940—suggested that the family should visit the Ashram for a month or two. After obtaining the necessary permission, the Ganguli family arrived at Pondicherry on 20 April 1941 and stayed in the Ashram till the end of June. It was on 24 April 1941 that young Robi had his first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo.

During his stay in the Ashram, Robi worked in the Atelier—also known as the Workshop—from 7:30 to 11:30 in the morning and from 1 to 5 in the afternoon under Pavitra—the in-charge of Atelier. From 6 p.m. till about 7 p.m. he worked in the Dining Room. There were two small rooms which were known as ‘Late Comer’s Room’. Robi’s job in the Dining Room was to remove the stools and clean up the rooms with the help of a broom and a wet cloth. These were his daily work for the two months he stayed in Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

After the demise of Chittaranjan, the Ganguli family returned to the Ashram in August 1942 and joined it as permanent inmates. Robi’s mother Sarala worked in several departments like the Bakery, the Dining Room and the Mother’s Kitchen. His eldest brother Manoranjan—who settled in the Ashram in 1943-44—initially worked in the Cazanove garden; later he worked in the Construction Department and developed many projects of the Ashram including the Tennis Ground. He also developed the La Faucheur Garden and looked after it for several years. Amiyoranjan worked initially in the Granary and Laundry but later became the Manager of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press. Kanak worked in the Dining Hall Washing Department and later in the Ashram Press. Gauri—who was married to the great music composer Sunil Bhattacharya—worked in the Laundry in the early years and later looked after the Mother’s rooms in the Playground and the Sports Ground. She also taught in the Ashram School. Chhobi was initially given work in the Dining Room but afterwards she worked in the office of Pavitra and the Music Recording Section of Sunil Bhattacharya. Robi worked in various departments of the Ashram which included the Atelier, the Dining Room, the Laundry and the Photographic Department (then known as ‘Photo Service’). From 1961 to 1985 he looked after the production at the Ashram Press.

Under the guidance of the Mother, Robi had developed a profound love for photography which blossomed with the passage of time. He was one of the four photographers (the others being Chiman Patel, Venkatesh and Vidyavrata) who had the privilege to take photographs of Sri Aurobindo’s mahasamadhi and His journey to the Samadhi vault. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was well known as a creative photographer not only in India but in the broader world too. His works were included in several important photographic publications of that era like Photography Yearbook, Photograms of the Year and Federation of International Art Photography Annual. His articles on photography have been published in reputed international journals like American Photography, Photograma, Art and Photography and Viewfinder to name a few. He also organized the annual Pondicherry International Salon of Photography for over twenty-five years and had been a judge at many national and international Salons.

In his later years, Robi had experimented with digital photography which led him to discover ‘a new world of luminous creativity’. The website http://www.gallerynow.com writes about his digital photographs: “Robi Ganguli’s work, with its unpretentious knack for experimentation, embodies a delightful immersion into the residue of contemporary visual culture. He transforms nature into contemplative artworks that are masterfully manipulated into visually arresting artistic statements. Engaging in its execution, his work is creative in the best sense.”

Another website http://www.pondyart.org writes about him: “To define Mr. Ganguli’s work itself, is almost impossible. He has bridged decades of development in the tools available to the artist… He works with color and without, with light and shadow, with form and movement. He even plays with the images with different software. Some images are architectural, others natural and still others purely human. It is obvious the fascination the camera and its many possibilities hold for him still. When one sees what he has chosen to focus on with his lens, it is often something that most of us would not have considered worth a second glance, but in fact he has studied from all angles and found more than worthy. The results most certainly deserve our attention.”

Robi-da was a soft-spoken, helpful and a perfect gentleman. He had a wonderful sense of aesthetics. There was immaculate beauty in the works he created and developed.

I had met Robi-da for the last time on 20 February this year at his residence in Pondicherry. He had slight fever on that day which, he told me, was due to an infection he was suffering from in his urinary tract. The talks we had were mostly based on digital printing of books and the future of e-books. Both of us planned to work together on an e-album of the Mother’s photographs. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would be my last meeting with him. Exactly a month later on 20 March Robi-da left his body.

Robi-da’s was an active life full of achievements. Now it was time for him to take rest. So the Mother’s child has gone to take rest in the Mother’s lap.

We will all miss you very much, dear Robi-da!

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

 

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2The Mother at the Ashram Press on 23 August 1961 with Nolini Kanta Gupta, Robi Ganguli, K. Amrita and Udar Pinto.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobi Ganguli with Anurag Banerjee

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Pramod Kumar Chatterjee’s portrait of Sri Aurobindo

Dear Friends,

Pramod Kumar Chatterjee (1885—1979) was an author, painter and traveller who travelled extensively to meet enlightened yogis and ascetics. He was the Principal of the Baroda School of Arts and established the National Art Gallery at Masilipattanam in Andhra Pradesh and served the organization as its President. He is best known for his renowned book Tantrabhilasir Sadhusanga written in three volumes. He became an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1958 and was one of the very few who saw a vision of Supramental Consciousness in the form of a winged bird. His portraits of Sri Aurobindo were highly praised by the Mother.

A portrait of Sri Aurobindo made by Pramod Kumar Chatterjee has been uploaded in the online forum of Overman Foundation.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

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PKC portrait

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Audio and Video CD/DVDs of “Amal Kiran Reads”, “Power of Thought”, “I have seen the Mother” and “Remembering Our Sweet Mother”.

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that an audio-visual wing has been started at Overman Foundation. Here is a list of the audio and videos CDs/DVDs which are available with us:

Amal Kiran Reads

Amal Kiran Reads is an audio CD which comprises Amal Kiran’s recitations of Sri Aurobindo’s short poems, selected passages from “Savitri”, his own compositions as well as his reading from “The Synthesis of Yoga”. This CD is available at a price of Rs. 175 (One Hundred and Seventy Five) only.

Power of Thoughts

Power of Thought is a set of two video DVDs (duration 114 minutes) which contain a talk of Dr. Ananda Reddy on the subject “Power of Thought”. This video DVD is available at a price of Rs. 300 (Three Hundred) only.

I have seen the Mother

I have seen the Mother is a set of two videos DVDs (duration eight hours) in which sixteen devotees of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo have recounted their intimate moments with the Mother when She guided them in their day-to-day life. This video DVD is available at a price of Rs. 500 (Five Hundred) only.

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Remembering Our Sweet Mother is a video DVD (duration two hours) in which four senior members of Sri Aurobindo Ashram have recounted their intimate moments with the Mother when She guided them in their day-to-day life. This video DVD is available at a price of Rs. 300 (Three Hundred) only.

To place an order, please write to the following email address:

overmanfoundation@gmail.com

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Review of Anirvan’s “Kena Upanisad” by Brahmachari Bhudevachaitanya

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

Born in the town of Mymensingh in Bangladesh, Shri Anirvan (1896—1978) knew the Astadhyayi of Panini by heart and daily recited a chapter from the Gita by the time he was eleven years of age. After completing his studies, he took sannyasa and became Nirvanananda Saraswati. Later he dropped the ochre robes and changed his name to Anirvan. His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine though the centre of his studies was the Vedas on which he had acquired a rare mastery. He is best known for his Veda Mimamsa which was published in three volumes.

Kena Upanisad consists of the four sections of the fourth chapter of the Jaiminīya Brāhmana Upanisad of the Sāmaveda. It begins directly with Brahman as its subject matter and tells us in first two parts how it is impossible to know or attain Brahman by our ordinary senses including mind. To realize Brahman we have to open ourselves to higher intuitive levels of mind. In the third and fourth parts, the Upanisad beautifully speaks about the unknowable Brahman and about the subjective and objective ways of its realization through an allegorical story about Gods led by Indra on one side and Yaksha and Umā Haimvatī on the other. Brahman has to be meditated upon and realized as “Tad Vanam”—“That most Delightful Dear One”.

A review of Anirvan’s Kena Upanisad (distributed by Overman Foundation) penned by Brahmachari Bhudevachaitanya of Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University (Belur Math) has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation. The said review was originally published in the January 2014 issue of Prabuddha Bharata.

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee
Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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Kena Upanishad

Kena Upanisad: Author: Anirvan; translated into English from Bengali by Gautam Dhrmapal. Number of pages: 246. Price: Rs. 225. ISBN 978–81–88643-40-0. Distributor: Overman Foundation, Kolkata.

The Upanishads are a fountainhead of strength and bliss. Equipped with Acharya Shankara’s commentary they are all the more enjoyable and elevating. Down the ages many saints and savants have tried to render this literature easy for ordinary minds. Traditional commentators apart, there have also been mystics and scholars who have attempted original interpretations. Kena Upanisad by Anirvan, aka Swami Nirvanananda Saraswati, is one such exposition.

The elaborate introduction by Gautam Dharmapal, who translated the book from Bengali, throws light on various topics and tunes the mind to follow the style of explanation in the following pages. Thoughtful inclusion of the life of the author has enriched the volume. Right from explaining the words to the philosophical implication of the verses, the author has maintained originality of thought, a unique aspect of the work. The preface attempts to bring out the deeper dimensions of the peace chant of this Upanisad.

Extensive study of and sound grasp over scriptures are palpable in the pages and the author’s in-depth knowledge of the Panini’s system of grammar does not go unnoticed. Certain enigmatic verses have also received original treatment. It is difficult, however, to say how well such interpretations will be received by the traditional students of Vedanta. While several subjects are touched upon in the course of explaining the text, one feels that no definite system of thought is built up while commenting on the mantras. Nevertheless, the book is no doubt a good spur for innovative study of scriptures. Swami Vivekananda wanted Indians to think originally, and the present edition is a fine example. Though the author has, at times, gone off the beaten track in dealing with the Upanisad, yet unlike some Indian scholars who were swept off their feet by pernicious colonial Indology, his loyalty to Indian culture is charming and wins him plaudits.

Finally, the translation deserves a word of praise. Gautam Dharmapal has not hesitated to transcend the limitations of the English language in coining his own terms and honing the syntax to efficiently convey the most powerful of languages, Sanskrit. For instance, abhinivesha is translated as ‘contracted attachment’ (142), ‘one has to take the path of unwardisation’ (135), and vi-chiti has been translated as ‘the light of their searching vision’ (154).

On the whole, the book is definitely good and deserves to be read.

Brahmachari Bhudevachaitanya

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Anirvan’s “Aitareya Upanisad”, “Sahitya Prasanga”, “Atmakatha” and “Smriti Tirtha”.

Dear Friends and Well-wishers of Overman Foundation,

It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Overman Foundation has taken up the distribution of five notable books in English and Bengali.

Shri Anirvan (8 July 1896—31 May 1978) was a great scholar and philosopher who had mastered the Astādhyayi of Pānini at a very early age. After completing his formal education he renounced the world and became Nirvanananda Saraswati. But after a few years he dropped the ochre robes and changed his name to Anirvan by which name he became known to the world at large. He spent a number of years in Lohaghat (Almora) where Madame Lizelle Reymond, a Swiss spiritual seeker, joined him and literally took him to the West through her books. Shri Anirvan later shifted to Shillong in Assam and finally to Kolkata where he spent his last years. His first book was a Bengali translation of Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine which was described as a “living translation” by Sri Aurobindo himself.

cover of aitareya upanisad

Translated from Bengali to English by Shri Gautam Dharmapal, Shri Anirvan’s Aitareya Upanisad is the translation of the second volume of the Upanisad Prasanga Series written by him and published by the Burdwan University in 1969. Aitareya Upanisad belongs to Rigveda. Aitareya Brāhmana is one of the Brāhmana of Rigveda and Aitareya Aranyaka is at the end of the Brāhmana. It has five Aranyakas. The last four chapters of the second Aranyaka is Aitareya Upanisad. Shri Anirvan had discussed and interpreted Aitareya Upanisad in the light of Aitareya Aranyaka. In his insightful introduction, he has also discussed all the relevant subjects contained in the Aranyaka in detail.

Comprising 270 pages Aitareya Upanisad is available at a price of Rs. 250 (Two Hundred and Fifty) only.

cover of sahitya prasange

Sahitya Prasanga is a collection of essays compiled from the letters of Shri Anirvan written in Bengali to two of his followers. These essays—which deal with the various aspects of Bengali Literature—include interesting themes like “Poetics and Poetry”, Tragedy”, “Men and Women in Literature”, “Spiritual Literature”, “Vulgarity in Vaishnava Padabali”, “Comparative Evaluation of Vaishnava Philosophy and Western Philosophy” to name a few. The major attractions of this collection are thought-provoking articles on Rabindranath Tagore and Vaishnava poets like Jaidev, Vidyapati, Chandidas and Jnandas.

Comprising 112 pages Sahitya Prasanga is available at a price of Rs. 120 (One Hundred and Twenty) only.

cover of atmakatha

Atmakatha is the anthology of Anirvan’s autobiographical writings and memoirs and other themes of spiritual interest compiled aptly from his published works and unpublished correspondence in Bengali. In these writings, he has commented on his early life, his formative spiritual experiences and the development of his inner self. The book also features his dynamic outlooks about traditional Guruism prevalent in Hindu monasteries, asceticism and human life in general.

Comprising 224 pages Atmakatha is available at a price of Rs. 300 (Three Hundred) only.

cover of smriti tirtha

Through chapters based on the locales in Bengal where the dramatic events in Sri Aurobindo’s life played out, Anshu Banerjee’s Smriti Tirtha draws the reader back to the years 1906 to 1910, when Sri Aurobindo was at the centre of the freedom movement. Using multiple sources and first-hand accounts, the story is rich with details of the life and activities at such locations as 12 Wellington Square, Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary headquarters, the National College at Boubazar Street where Sri Aurobindo acted as principal, the office of Bande Mataram in Creek Row, the house on Grey Street from where he was arrested in April 1908, Alipore Jail, the Sessions Court where he was acquitted, and Chandernagore, his place of seclusion before he departed for Pondicherry.

Comprising 168 pages Smriti Tirtha is available at a price of Rs. 125 (One Hundred and Twenty Five) only.

To place an order for these aforesaid books, please write to the following email address:

overmanfoundation@gmail.com

With warm regards,
Anurag Banerjee

Founder,
Overman Foundation.

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