February 21, 2006

Integrating Mind, Body, Spirit in Higher Education

I am a devotee of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and am practicing Integral Yoga under their aegis. The beauty of Integral Yoga is that it is not limiting—Sri Aurobindo and the Mother acknowledge that all spiritual paths, religions, and forms of knowledge emanate from one single source. This to me is extremely liberating, in the sense that it does not limit me to one spiritual path or one religion. On the contrary, I am able to relate to all spiritual traditions and their teachers with equal reverence. At one level it is so paradoxical—by following one, I am able to follow all.
Also as a teenager and a young man, I was very concerned about the social issues and about the wretched condition of humanity. Social issues like social inequity, poverty, suffering, domination, human rights abuse, exploitation, corruption, violence against women, and prejudice bothered me intensely and immensely. I wondered if this life was worth living at all. When I discovered Integral Yoga, I felt as if I found a fresh lease on life since it is about transformation—it is about the inner and outer transformation. In Integral Yoga, the world does not need to be shunned in order to focus on one's spiritual growth. Integral Yoga envisions a spiritual life that incorporates and honors material life. It is a synthesis of our physical life on earth with full and active participation with the Divine.
I completed a master's degree in Applied Psychology from Delhi University in 1997 after earning a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from the same university. Then I worked for Sharan, a nongovernmental organization (the American equivalent of a nonprofit organization) committed to uplifting the urban poor. One of Sharan's primary areas of intervention is drug addiction. I counseled substance users and participated in community outreach programs in the marginalized populations of Delhi.
To me, CIIS is a very radical school where a lot of people are doing many different things with respect to manifesting a "new consciousness" on this earth. Unlike much of mainstream education, CIIS accepts spirituality as a founding principle of education. I was also attracted by the fact that the school was founded by the disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother: Haridas and Bina Chaudhuri.
Due to my upbringing and the kind of education that I received, I feel there is a definitely some kind of synthesis of the East and the West in me—that is, if we can categorically differentiate the "East" and the "West." Even before coming to the United States, I had read quite a bit of Western psychology and literature, in addition to the thoughts of many different schools of Indian spirituality, philosophy, and literature. In a nutshell, I wanted to creatively synthesize, compare, and contrast—as well as critically examine— the psychologies and philosophies of the East and the West.
I had the chance to organize and coordinate the third International Conference on Integral Psychology in the summer of 2003. At this conference I had the opportunity to meet and interact with erudite scholars who are developing the field of integral psychology. This conference also occasioned the presence of a few committed and devoted scholars from Auroville and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which has in a small way led to the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between CIIS and the Integral Yoga community from India. My role in helping to create this partnership and my contribution to the conference gave me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.
I feel that it is very difficult to find a lot of good-hearted and well-meaning people under one roof, which I find at CIIS. I have come across some very intelligent, thoughtful, and genuine individuals striving to bring a greater meaning to their lives, which is very satisfying to me as an individual. I am very attracted to teaching and research in order to make a difference in the world. At the same time, however, I am open to where the Divine Mother takes me or to the kind of job She assigns me. I feel that if I am sufficiently open to Her, She will definitely find me a place where I will be able to express my potential to its optimum. Therefore, the plan is to remain open to the Divine Mother and to see what happens. Kundan CIIS East-West Psychology Program

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