June 29, 2008

Whole of creation may be said to be a movement between two involutions

It is the cryptic verses of the Veda that help us here; for they contain, though concealed, the gospel of the divine and immortal Supermind and through the veil some illumining flashes come to us. We can see through these utterances the conception of this Supermind as a vastness beyond the ordinary firmaments of our consciousness in which truth of being is luminously one with all that expresses it and assures inevitably truth of vision, formulation, arrangement, word, act and movement and therefore truth also of result of movement, result of action and expression, infallible ordinance or law. Vast all-comprehensiveness; luminous truth and harmony of being in that vastness and not a vague chaos or self-lost obscurity; truth of law and act and knowledge expressive of that harmonious truth of being: these seem to be the essential terms of the Vedic description. The Gods, who in their highest secret entity are powers of this Supermind, born of it, seated in it as in their proper home, are in their knowledge “truth-conscious” and in their action possessed of the “seer-will”. Their conscious-force turned towards works and creation is possessed and guided by a perfect and direct knowledge of the thing to be done and its essence and its law,—a knowledge which determines a wholly effective will-power that does not deviate or falter in its process or in its result, but expresses and fulfils spontaneously and inevitably in the act that which has been seen in the vision. Light is here one with Force, the vibrations of knowledge with the rhythm of the will and both are one, perfectly and without seeking, groping or effort, with the assured result. The divine Nature has a double power, a spontaneous self-formulation and self-arrangement which wells naturally out of the essence of the thing manifested and expresses its original truth, and a self-force of light inherent in the thing itself and the source of its spontaneous and inevitable self-arrangement.

There are subordinate, but important details. The Vedic seers seem to speak of two primary faculties of the “truth-conscious” soul; they are Sight and Hearing, by which is intended direct operations of an inherent Knowledge describable as truth-vision and truth-audition and reflected from far-off in our human mentality by the faculties of revelation and inspiration. Besides, a distinction seems to be made in the operations of the Supermind between knowledge by a comprehending and pervading consciousness which is very near to subjective knowledge by identity and knowledge by a projecting, confronting, apprehending consciousness which is the beginning of objective cognition. These are the Vedic clues. And we may accept from this ancient experience the subsidiary term “truth-consciousness” to delimit the connotation of the more elastic phrase, Supermind.

We see at once that such a consciousness, described by such characteristics, must be an intermediate formulation which refers back to a term above it and forward to another below it; we see at the same time that it is evidently the link and means by which the inferior develops out of the superior and should equally be the link and means by which it may develop back again towards its source. The term above is the unitarian or indivisible consciousness of pure Sachchidananda in which there are no separating distinctions; the term below is the analytic or dividing consciousness of Mind which can only know by separation and distinction and has at the most a vague and secondary apprehension of unity and infinity,—for, though it can synthetise its divisions, it cannot arrive at a true totality. Between them is this comprehensive and creative consciousness, by its power of pervading and comprehending knowledge the child of that self-awareness by identity which is the poise of the Brahman and by its power of projecting, confronting, apprehending knowledge parent of that awareness by distinction which is the process of the Mind.

Above, the formula of the One eternally stable and immutable; below, the formula of the Many which, eternally mutable, seeks but hardly finds in the flux of things a firm and immutable standing-point; between, the seat of all trinities, of all that is biune, of all that becomes Many-in-One and yet remains One-in-Many because it was originally One that is always potentially Many. This intermediary term is therefore the beginning and end of all creation and arrangement, the Alpha and the Omega, the starting-point of all differentiation, the instrument of all unification, originative, executive and consummative of all realised or realisable harmonies. It has the knowledge of the One, but is able to draw out of the One its hidden multitudes; it manifests the Many, but does not lose itself in their differentiations. And shall we not say that its very existence points back to Something beyond our supreme perception of the ineffable Unity,—Something ineffable and mentally inconceivable not because of its unity and indivisibility, but because of its freedom from even these formulations of our mind,—Something beyond both unity and multiplicity? That would be the utter Absolute and Real which yet justifies to us both our knowledge of God and our knowledge of the world... Page-125 Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of Sri Aurobindo > English > The Life Divine Volume-18 > The Supermind As Creator

I am definitely not "eclectic." I do not believe in "cafeteria style" spirituality

I do not believe in "cafeteria style" spirituality
The Absurdity of Absolute Relativity posted by Gagdad Bob
at 12/29/2006 06:44:00 AM 63 comments Friday, December 29, 2006

Once you immerse yourself in, say, the genius of Meister Eckhart, you immediately see the parallels with, say, the greatest Jewish theologian, Moses Maimonides. Then you cannot help seeing certain unavoidable parallels with perhaps the greatest pagan mystic, Plotinus, then it's hard to distinguish him from the immortal Vedantin, Shankara. You needn't "blend" any of these truly celestial beings to appreciate how they are reflected in one another, each a particular color that carries and transmits real light. Most of us cannot know the white light, but each color is in the end nothing other than light, just as rain or snow are nothing other than water.

I am as comfortable in a Catholic or Orthodox service as I am in a Vedanta or Jewish temple, so long as they radiate the sacred. However, I am definitely not "eclectic." I do not believe in "cafeteria style" spirituality. It is more like being able to appreciate, say, Arvo Part, Dexter Gordon, Merle Haggard, and James Brown. Each is a musical "avatar" who conveys real musical light, but I wouldn't want to blend them.

Apparently, it is difficult for most rank and file human beings to conceive of the Absolute on its own absolute terms, so they create a human substitute to stand for the Absolute. In short, they intuit the Absolute and believe in the Absolute, but the only way they can "think" about it is to elevate something on the relative plane to the status of Absolute. This is fine as far as it goes, and it does help those who are not metaphysically gifted to think about ultimate things. One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin [10:25 AM]

June 28, 2008

DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals, 2008, Lund University Libraries

Humanity at the Crossroads: Does Sri Aurobindo offer an alternative? Author: Shakuntala A. Singh; Ajai R. Singh Journal: Mens Sana Monographs Year: 2009 Vol: 7 Issue: 1 Pages/record No.

The Bhagavadgita, Pistol, and the Lone Bhadralok Author: Rini B. Mehta Journal: Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality Year: 2007 Vol: 1 Issue: 1 Pages/record No.: 77-98

Integral Time and the Varieties of Post-Mortem Survival Author: Sean M. Kelly Journal: Integral Review Year: 2008 Vol: 4 Issue: 1 Pages/record No.: 5-30

Of Syntheses and Surprises:Toward a Critical Integral Theory Author: Daniel Gustav Anderson Journal: Integral Review Year: 2006 Vol: Issue: 3 Pages/record No.: 62-81

June 27, 2008

A fully fleshed out metaphysical edifice such as Sri Aurobindo’s

What do I mean by "involution"? from Joe Perez's Until by Joe Perez
Originally posted on August 19, 2007. Note: Most of this post was originally composed via a method of stream-of-consciousness writing called a Whole Write. Be on the alert that there are a few moments of letting my shadow out to dance. Read at your own risk.
John wants me to define involution. So I wrote this.

Any moron can see that involution is the metaphysical process by which the Absolute or God or Brahman involves itself in creation through a series of manifestations, generally regarded as a sequence of stages of enfolding. Evolution is the opposite of involution, so generally what we know about involution is by inference: it is what evolution is NOT. In terms of concepts within time, evolution may be fruitfully viewed as a process of emergence out of the Spirit, so you can say involution took place before evolution. On the other hand, you can also say that involution does not take place within time and therefore it makes no difference whether involution precedes or follows evolution or occurs simultaneously.

Got that? If you don’t, I’m not surprised. It’s rather abstract to me, too. And apart from placing involution within the context of a fully fleshed out metaphysical edifice such as Sri Aurobindo’s, it’s tough to really speak about involution and come away feeling satisfied. It’s easier for me to feel like a moron. And yet I feel called to speak about involution because it’s part of my own process of self-discovery and self-realization. Metaphysics is a layer of abstraction, an overlay, that attempts to interpret personal religious or spiritual experience. (As I use metaphysics, it’s always provisional–my best effort at explanation within a plethora of socially and culturally created contexts.) For example, I may have a sense of connection to nature, for instance, and this may show up as the belief that Nature with a capital N or Gaia with a capital G is a mystical Oneness which is not separate from the self with the little s. You probably do something like that, even if you don’t call what you do metaphysics.

If you’re trying to wrap a layer of theory around evolution — and that’s what the 20 tenets of all holons is — that’s what Integral theory is all about — that’s the perennial philosophy and most of theology in general whether it knows it or not — then in large part you’re trying to make sense of your own holistic development: the various processes that led you from where you were as an infant to where you were as a toddler, then a child, then a school age kid, then a teenager, then a young adult, and then an adult, and then a middle-aged adult and then… Evolutionary theory is, in large measure, an attempt to grasp the process of development. So involutionary theory is, at least for me, an attempt to grasp the process of regression.

Have you ever regressed? Really regressed? Have you ever let the torrents of madness and the tsunamis of irrationality overcome you, destroy you, and leave you for dead? Have you ever been such a danger to yourself or others that you could not be trusted to take care of yourself minimally? Have you ever lost it, really really lost it? Have you ever watched Psycho or One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest or A Beautiful Mind and said, you know Anthony Perkins or Jack Nicholson or Russell Crowe’s performance is really good, but it’s not quite like that in real life? It’s like this. Madness is…

As for me, I’m still working on understanding involution from the inside out. That’s because I believe that I have touched my true nature — and it was a crazy, mad, psychotic fool, a paranoid, delusional, weirdo — and that it was not separate from the Godhead, the Absolute, the Spirit of All. (How could it be? If you subscribe to any notion of nonduality whatsoever. Doesn’t God go crazy? How could He not?) And then, having touched that space, I fell out of space and time and suddenly ordinary perceptions of “reality” had no bearing on me. Miracles happened. The world lost form. Time moved backwards. Time stood still. Time skipped around. The world and my mind and time were all wrapped up in a fantastic maze of my own design, and I was a lost seeker journeying in the dark on the adventure of a lifetime. An adventure that I would be lucky to survive.

  • There is a point that is forgetting of who-you-are in the service of who-or-what-you-might-and-must-become.
  • There is a point when you have recovered a memory and are, for an instant, holding both the reclaimed memory and that which is forgotten, together. You are both forgotten and reclaimed.
  • There is a point where synthesis looks back at antithesis and almost, but not quite, becomes antithesis.
  • There is a point where an actor loses herself in her role utterly and becomes invisible, forgotten, unconscious.
  • There is a point that is the letting go of Godhead for the relative world of illusion, willfully and knowingly giving up Absolute for a mad, crazy dash at freedom.

Sri Aurobindo spontaneously wrote about ten books at the same time

Darwinians and Other Creationists from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

Perhaps we should first define creation. Let's see... for me, creation involves bringing something entirely novel into existence, something that certainly couldn't have occurred randomly, but only through the creative act. Therefore, all true creativity is analogous to the original creatio ex nihilo. If the Beatles hadn't created I Am the Walrus in 1967, then no one would have. Ever.

Similarly, if I don't write my posts when I do, they'll never be written, for you can never pass through the same stream of consciousness twice. Admittedly, I practice a form of extreme seeking and off-road spiritual adventure in which I suspend memory, desire, and understanding, in order to spontaneously cook up a fully half-baked post from scratch each morning, but even so, that's just pushing the creative process to the inner limits. Plus I'm too lazy to prepare.

My models in this regard are Bion and a particular teacher I had in graduate school, Dr. Panajian (through whom I first encountered Bion; I suppose I should also mention Aurobindo, who spontaneously wrote about ten books at the same time in this manner -- he called it "overmental writing"). I bring this up because I literally cannot imagine who I might have become if I hadn't met Dr. Panajian, and through him, discovered the works of Bion.
One Cosmos Under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind & Spirit

June 26, 2008

How does one ensure liberty and variation in a free and intelligent unity

Humanity at the Crossroads: Does Sri Aurobindo offer an alternative? Author: Shakuntala A. Singh; Ajai R. Singh Journal: Mens Sana Monographs Year: 2009 Vol: 7 Issue: 1 Pages/record No.: http://www.msmonographs.org/preprintarticle.asp?id=38517
In the light of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, this paper looks into some of the problems of contemporary man as an individual, a member of society, a citizen... Keywords: Ancient Indian Concepts, And Culture, And What, Antipsychiatry, Anxiety, Bioethics, Biological The Psychosocial, Blunting Creativity, Citta-purusa, Critics Of Psychiatry, Depression, Diagnosis Medical Model In Psychiatry
Why MSM Acknowledgement Call for papers... Forthcoming MSM... ARTICLE Ahead of print schedule
Humanity at the Crossroads: Does Sri Aurobindo offer an alternative?
Singh Shakuntala A, Singh Ajai R The Editor, Mens Sana Monographs, Mumbai, India
Correspondence Address: Singh Ajai R 14, Shiva Kripa, Trimurty Road, Mulund, Mumbai India

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

In the light of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, this paper looks into some of the problems of contemporary man as an individual, a member of society, a citizen of his country, a component of this world, and of nature itself. Concepts like Science, Nature, Matter, Mental Being, Nation-ego and Nation-soul, True and False Subjectivism, World-state and World-union, and the Religion of Humanism are the focus of this paper.

Nature: Beneath the diversity and uniqueness of the different elements in Nature there is an essential unity that not only allows for this diversity but even supports it. Nature is both a benefactor and a force: a benefactor, because it acts to carry out the evolution of mankind; a force, because it also supplies the necessary energy and momentum to achieve it.

Natural calamities: If mankind can quieten the tsunamis and cyclones and droughts and earthquakes that rage within, and behave with care and compassion towards Nature, not exploiting, denuding, or denigrating it, there is a strong possibility that Nature too will behave with equal care and compassion towards man and spare him the natural calamities than rend him asunder.

Science: The limitation of science become obvious, according to Sri Aurobindo, when we realize that it has mastered knowledge of processes and helped in the creation of machinery but is ignorant of the foundations of being and, therefore, cannot perfect our nature or our life.

Science and philosophy: The insights of philosophy could become heuristic and algorithmic models for scientific experimentation.

Matter: An interesting aspect of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is his acceptance of the reality of matter even while highlighting its inadequacies; the ultimate goal, according to him, is the divination of matter itself.

Purusa: If the mana-purusa (mental being) were to log on to the genuine citta-purusa (psychic formation), without necessarily logging off from the prana-purusa (frontal formation), it may help quieten the turbulences within, which may be a prelude to the quietening of the disturbances without, whether it be physical maladies, cravings (for food, fame, fortune, etc.), destructive competitiveness; or wars, terrorism, ethnic conflicts, communal riots, and the other such social maladies that afflict mankind today.

Nation-ego (false subjectivism) and Nation-soul (true subjectivism): Sri Aurobindo considers Nation-ego an example of false subjectivism, in which national identity and pride are stressed to prove one's superiority and suppress or exploit the rest. The Nation-soul, as an example of true subjectivism, attempts to capture one's traditional heritage and values in its pristine form, not as a reaction to hurts and angers or as compensation for real or imagined injuries or indignities of the past.

World-state (false subjectivism) and World-union (true subjectivism): Similarly, a World-state founded upon the principle of centralization and uniformity, a mechanical and formal unity, is an example of false subjectivism, while a World-union founded upon the principle of liberty and variation in a free and intelligent unity is an example of true subjectivism

Human actualization: Even if two human beings are similar, in so far as they are human beings, there is so much diversity between them. Part of the movement towards human self-actualization lies in the fact that this diversity should not be forcibly curbed, as also the realization that beneath all that appears disparate there is an essential unity. Also, man is not the end product of evolution but an intermediate stage between the animal and the divine. Moreover, he is endowed with consciousness that enables him to cooperate with the forces of evolution and speed up and telescope the next stage of evolution.

I.1. To say that Sri Aurobindo is not easy to comprehend would be a huge understatement, if nothing else. While that can dissuade a number of people from going any further, it can motivate a number of others to study him that much more closely. Let us hope that some of us fall in the latter category.

I.2. Moreover, Sri Aurobindo has written prolifically and has expressed himself on a vast array of topics. This makes it all the more important to study his teachings, while also making him more liable to the barbs of critics itching to point out loopholes; and there are quite a few of these around: we mean critics with this attitude, not loopholes. Let us also hope that at least some of us do not belong to that category.

I.3. Humanity today is indeed passing through numerous crises, and yet it is surviving. While we all, no doubt, wish to continue to evolve through all this survival (hopefully even reaching the supramental state promised by the great seer of Pondicherry), our concerns here are a little more pedestrian. We propose to look into some of the problems of contemporary man as an individual, a member of society, a citizen of his country, and as a component of this world and of nature itself. Come to think of it, these concerns are not all that pedestrian after all.

I.4. Some concepts like Science, Nature, Matter, Mental Being, Mana-purusa, Prana-purusa and Citta-purusa , Nation-ego and Nation-soul, True and False Subjectivism, World-state and World-union, and the Religion of Humanism will be the focus of this paper. Why not the rest, you may ask. Well, not that the others are not important, but we believe that these particular concepts deserve our focus here; especially so today, as humanity finds itself at a crossroads and searches, rather gingerly, for some tentative answers, which may hopefully translate into permanent solutions...

Concluding Remarks
Beneath the diversity and uniqueness of the different elements in Nature, there is an essential unity, that not only for allows this diversity but even supports it.
Science has mastered knowledge of processes and helped in the creation of machinery but is ignorant of the foundations of being, and therefore cannot perfect our nature or our life.
If the mana-purusa (mental being) were to log on to the genuine citta-purusa (psychic formation), without necessarily logging off from the prana-purusa (frontal formation), it may help quieten the turbulences within, which may be a prelude to the quietening of the disturbances without, whether it be wars, terrorism, ethnic conflicts, communal riots, and other such social maladies that afflict mankind today. To log on to the genuine citta-purusa means to log on to the unity that underlies the diversity within human beings. And, somewhere down the line, it also means to log on to the integrality that underlies all existence.
Nation-ego an example of false subjectivism, in which national identity and pride are stressed to prove one's superiority and suppress or exploit others. The Nation-soul as an example of true subjectivism attempts to capture one's traditional heritage and values in its pristine form. Hindutva , if it has to be legitimate, must attempt to be an expression of Nation-soul and not Nation-ego.
A World-state founded upon the principle of centralization and uniformity, a mechanical and formal unity, is an example of false subjectivism, while a World-union founded upon the principle of liberty and variation in a free and intelligent unity is an example of true subjectivism
The movement towards human self-actualization lies in the fact that human diversity should not be forcibly curbed, as also the realization that beneath all that appears disparate, there is an essential unity.
Man must be sacred to man regardless of all distinctions of race, creed, color, nationality, status, and political or social advancement.
Man is not the end product of evolution but an intermediate stage between the animal and the divine. He is endowed with consciousness that enables him to cooperate with the forces of evolution.
The ultimate goal is the divination of matter itself.[31]
Take Home Message
The diversity of Nature, as also of man, is based on an essential unity, which needs to be grasped.
Science has mastered processes and machinery but is ignorant of the foundations of being.
Nation-ego, in the form of national pride and identity to prove one's superiority and for exploiting others, is false subjectivism, which must be distinguished from Nation-soul that attempts to capture one's traditional heritage and values in its pristine form, which is true subjectivism.
A World-state based on centralization and uniformity is false subjectivism, while a World-union founded upon liberty and variation in a free and intelligent unity is true subjectivism.
Man can evolve towards divinity, as can matter.Conflict of InterestNone declared.

About the authors Shakuntala A. Singh Ph.D. [Figure - 1] is Principal, Reader and Head, Dept of Philosophy, K.G. Joshi College of Arts and N.G. Bedekar College of Commerce. She is also Deputy Editor of MSM. Her areas of interest are Indian philosophy, bio-ethics, logic, and the philosophy of science.

Ajai R. Singh M.D.[Figure - 2] is a Psychiatrist and Editor, Mens Sana Monographs, (http://www.msmonographs.org ). He has written extensively on issues related to psychiatry, philosophy, bioethical issues, medicine, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Questions That This Paper Raises

  1. Do the teachings of Sri Aurobindo have any relevance for today's times?
  2. How can science, while supplying processes and machinery, also help in understanding the essence of being?
  3. Is Nation-ego and Nation-soul a viable distinction? Or for that matter, World-state and World-union? What are their practical ramifications?
  4. How does one capture one's traditional heritage and values in their pristine form (Nation-soul) without trying to prove one's superiority, or for exploiting others (Nation-ego)?
  5. How does one ensure liberty and variation in a free and intelligent unity (World-union) while avoiding centralisation and uniformity (World-state)?
  6. Is divination of man and matter possible? How?DeclarationThis is our original unpublished work, not submitted for publication elsewhere.

1. Chattopadhyaya D. P., (1998), Sri Aurobindo, India and the World. In: Seminar: Sri Aurobindo and the World and Education for Tomorrow in the Light of Sri Aurobindo , 21 and 22 Nov 1998, New Delhi.
2. Sri Aurobindo, (1993), The Divine Life. In: The Life Divine , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, First Edn. 1939 - 40, Tenth impression 1993, p 1034.
3. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, (1972), Drawbacks and Limitations. In: On Science , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p 12.
4. Cohen J.M., Cohen M.J., (1986), The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Quotations, II Ed. Middlesex: Penguin.
5. Singh A. R., Singh S. A., (2004 ), Replicative Nature of Indian Research, Essence of Scientific Temper, and Future of Scientific Progress . In: Psychiatry, Science, Religion and Health , Mens Sana Monographs Annual 2004 , II, 1-3, p 57-69. This is our recent attempt to correct the situation, act the arbiters, and douse the fires. Well, hopefully. New conflagrations, however, are guaranteed.
6. Chattopadhyaya, op. cit .
7. Ibid .
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Sri Aurobindo, (1971), Yoga of Self-Perfection. Chapter XIX: The Nature of Supermind (Arya- July 1920). In: The Synthesis of Yoga - Part 4: The Yoga of Self Perfection, SABCL, Vol. XXI, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p 754-768.
11. Chattopadhyaya, op. cit.
12. Joshi Kireet, (1998), Sri Aurobindo, In Seminar: Sri Aurobindo and the World and Education for Tomorrow in the Light of Sri Aurobindo, 21 and 22 Nov. 1998.
13. Chattopadhyaya, op. cit.
14. This is Prof. Chattopadhyaya's formulation, an interesting one, but not presented in this manner in Sri Aurobindo's writings. The latter talks of Manomaya purusa (mental person, the mental being), and pranamaya purusa (the true, vital being; soul in life), and citta (not citta purusa; citta meaning basic consciousness; mind stuff, the general stuff of mental consciousness. He also talks of cittakasa, cittapramatha, cittasakti, cittashuddhi, cittavrtti, cittavrttinirodha, citti, citti acitti, cittim acittim cinavan vi vidvan etc . However, that need not detract us from the burden of the argument Prof. Chattopadhyaya forwards.
15. Chattopadhyaya, op. cit.
16. Sri Aurobindo, (1971), True and False Subjectivism. In: The Human Cycle, Ch V; In: Social and Political Thought: The Human Cycle- The Ideal of Human Unity War and Self-determination, Vol 15, SABCL , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p37-47.
17. Chattopadhyaya, op. cit.
18. Sri Aurobindo, (1971), The Discovery of the Nation-Soul. In: The Human Cycle, Ch IV; In: Social and Political Thought: The Human Cycle- The Ideal of Human Unity War and Self-determination, Vol 15, SABCL , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p36. Parenthesis added.
19. Sri Aurobindo, cfr.16 above, p40.
20. Singh Karan, (2007), The Message of Sri Aurobindo, Mandala of Indic Tradition. Available at: (Accessed 27 Dec 2007).
21. Sri Aurobindo, (1971), World-Union or World-State. In: The Ideal of Human Unity, Ch XXII, In Social and Political Thought: The Human Cycle- The Ideal of Human Unity War and Self-determination, Vol 15, SABCL , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p441-442.
22. Sri Aurobindo, (1971), The Conditions of a Free World-Union. In: The Ideal of Human Unity, Ch XXXI, In Social and Political Thought: The Human Cycle- The Ideal of Human Unity War and Self-determination, Vol 15, SABCL , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p517.
23. Chattopadhyaya, op. cit. Parenthesis added.
24. Sri Aurobindo, (1971), The Religion of Humanity. In: The Ideal of Human Unity, Ch XXXIV, In Social and Political Thought: The Human Cycle- The Ideal of Human Unity War and Self-determination, Vol 15, SABCL , Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, p543.
25. Ibid, p542. Parenthesis added.
26. Ibid, p542.
27. Singh S.A., (2000), Relevance Of Renaissance Humanism for Man in the Third Millennium, Dr. K.M.A. Hay Lecture on Humanism. The Proceedings of the 74 th Session of Indian Philosophical Congress , Dec 28-30, 1999. Bodh-Gaya. Published 2000 (ed. Shukla Sinha), p215-226.
28. Young India, 07.05.25. See also Singh A. R., and Singh S. A. (2004 ), Gandhi on Religion, Faith and Conversion: Secular Blueprint Relevant Today . In: Psychiatry, Science, Religion and Health , Mens Sana Monographs Annual 2004 , II, 1-3, p79-87. This is a recent attempt to find practical correlates in Gandhi's thought on religion and secularism of relevance to the man and times of today.
29. Singh Karan, op. cit.
30. Ibid.
31. Joshi, Kireet, op. cit.

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Hans Jonas, Robert Rosen, and Sri Aurobindo

The Absolute Science of the Center and the Darwinist Religion of the Periphery
from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

In this regard, I was very much influenced by the philosopher of biology, Hans Jonas, whose The Phenomenon of Life was very helpful to me back when I was lost and coonfused in the bewilderness of my "higher" education. His essay at the start of the book was like an insoluble but fruitful koan that kept me occupied for years, and wasn't really resolved until I encountered the works of Robert Rosen (both authors are difficult, so I can't say I would recommend them to a general audience). Let me go back to that essay and see if it even still resonates....

"The organic even in its lowest forms prefigures mind, and the mind even on its highest reaches remains part of the organic. The latter half of [this] contention, but not the former, is in tune with modern belief; the former, but not the latter, was in tune with ancient belief; that both are valid and inseparable is the hypothesis of a philosophy which tries for a stand beyond the quarrels of the ancients and the moderns" [or one could say to stand beyond the quarrels of science and religion, which is the Raccoon position]."Both scales culminate in the thinking of man and there come under the question: which is for the sake of which? Contemplation for action, or action for contemplation? With this challenge to choice, biology turns into ethics."

"If mind is prefigured in the organic from the beginning, then freedom is. And indeed our contention is that even metabolism, the basic level of all organic existence, exhibits it: that it is itself the first form of freedom.... it is in the dark stirrings of primeval organic substance that a principle of freedom shines forth for the first time within the vast necessity of the physical universe -- a principle foreign to suns, planets, and atoms.... the first appearance of this principle in its bare, elementary object-form signifies the break-through of being to the indefinite range of possibilities which hence stretches to the farthest reaches of subjective life, and as a whole stands under the sign of 'freedom'.... even the transition from inanimate to animate substance, the first feat of matter's organizing itself for life, was actuated by a tendency in the depth of being toward the very modes of freedom to which this transition opened the gate" [this is very similar to Sri Aurobindo's conception of involution followed by evolution].

Interesting. If metabolism is the "process" of freedom, then the metabolism of Truth would be the way to God. And to practice a religion is again the effort to metabolize truth in order to deepen one's relationship to the Absolute. It is along this vector that the real cosmic evolution is taking place, which is to say, in and up. The cosmos is whole and intelligible, and man is deeply free, because God is One.

The Cause, Self and Inspirer, poetically styled, Prajna the Wise One

The first great step to the realisation of the Brahman is by the knowledge of Him as manifested in the phenomenal Uni­verse; for if there is no reality but Brahman, the phenomenal Universe which is obviously a manifestation of something permanent and eternal, must be a manifestation of Brahman and of nothing else, and if we know it completely, we do to a certain extent and in a certain way know Him, not as an Absolute Existence, but under the conditions of phenomenal manifestation.
While, however, European Science seeks only to know the phenomena of gross matter, the Yogin goes farther. He asserts that he has discovered an universe of subtle matter penetrating and surrounding the gross; this universe to which the spirit withdraws partially and for a brief time in sleep but more entirely and for a longer time through the gates of death, is the source whence all psychic processes draw their origin; and the link which connects this universe with the gross material world is to be found in the phenomena of life and mind. His assertion is perfectly positive and the Upanishad proceeds on it as on an ascertained and indisputable fact quite beyond the limits of mere guess-work, inference or speculation.
But he goes yet farther and declares that there is yet a third universe of causal matter penetrating and surrounding both the subtle and the gross, and that this universe to which the spirit withdraws in the deepest and most abysmal states of sleep and trance and also in a remote condition beyond the state of man after death, is the source whence all phenomena take their rise. If we are to understand the Upanishads we must accept these to us astounding statements, temporarily at least; for on them the whole scheme of Vedanta is built. Now Brahman manifests Himself in each of these Universes, in the Universe of causal matter as the Cause, Self and Inspirer, poetically styled, Prajna the Wise One; in the universe of subtle matter as the Creator, Self and Container, styled Hiranyagarbha the Golden Embryo of life and form, and in the universe of gross matter as the Ruler, Guide, Self and Helper, styled Virat the Shining and mighty One. And in each of these manifestations He can be known and realised by the spirit of man.
Granted the truth of these remarkable assertions, what then is the relation between the Supreme Self and man ? The position has already been quite definitely taken that the transcendent Self in man is identically the same as the transcendent Self in the Universe and that this identity is the one great key to the knowledge of the Absolute Brahman. Does not this position rule out of court any such differences between the Absolute and the human Self as is implied in the character of the triple manifestation of Brahman? On the one hand completest identity of the Supreme Self and the human is asserted as an ascertained and experienced fact, on the other hand widest difference is asserted as an equally well-ascertained and experienced fact; there can be no reconciliation between these incompatible statements.
Yet are they both facts, answers Vedanta; identity is a fact in the reality of things; difference is a fact in the appearance of things, the world of phenomena; for phenomena are in their essence nothing but seemings and the difference between the individual Self and the Universal Self is the fundamental seeming which makes all the rest possible. This difference grows as the manifestation of Brahman proceeds. In the world of gross matter, it is complete; the difference is so acute, that it is impossible for the material sensual being to conceive of the Supreme Soul as having any point of contact with his own soul and it is only by a long process of evolution that he arrives at the illumination in which some kind of identity becomes to him conceivable.
The basal conception for Mind as conditioned by gross matter is Dualistic; the knower here must be different from the known and his whole intellectual development consists in the discovery, development and perfected use of ever new media and methods of knowledge. Undoubtedly the ultimate knowledge he arrives at brings him to the fundamental truth of identity between himself and the Supreme Self, but in the sphere of gross phenomena this identity can never be more than an intellectual conception, it can never be verified by personal realisation.
On the other hand it can be felt, by the supreme sympathy of love and faith, either through love of humanity and of all other fellow-beings or directly through love of God. This feeling of identity is very strong in religions based largely on the sentiment of Love and Faith. I and my Father are One, cried the Founder of Christianity; I and my brother man and my brother beast are One, says Buddhism; St. Francis spoke of Air as his brother and Water as his sister; and the Hindu devotee when he sees a bullock lashed falls down in pain with the mark of the whip on his own body. But the feeling of Oneness remaining only a feeling does not extend into knowledge and therefore these religions while emotionally pervaded with the sense of identity, tend in the sphere of intellect to a militant Dualism or to any other but always unmonistic standpoint. Dualism is therefore no mere delusion; it is a truth, but a phenomenal truth and not the ultimate reality of things.
As it proceeds in the work of discovering and perfecting methods of knowledge, the individual self finds an entry into the universe of subtle phenomena. Here the difference that divides it from the Supreme Self is less acute; for the bonds of matter are lightened and the great agents of division and disparity, Time and Space, diminish in the insistency of their pressure. The individual here comes to realise a certain unity with the great Whole; he is enlarged and aggrandised into a part of the Universal Self, but the sense of identity is not complete and cannot be complete. The basal conception for mind in this subtle Universe is Dualo-Monistic; the knower is not quite different from the known; he is like and of the same substance but inferior, smaller and dependent; his sense of oneness may amount to similarity and co-substantiality but not to coincidence and perfect identity.
From the subtle Universe the individual self rises in its evolution until it is able to enter the universe of causal matter, where it stands near to the fountain-head. In this universe media and methods of knowledge begin to disappear. Mind comes into almost direct relations with its source and the difference between the individual and the Supreme Self is greatly attenuated. Nevertheless there is here too a wall of difference, even though it wears eventually thin as the thinnest paper. The knower is aware that he is coeval and coexistent with the Supreme Self, he is aware of a sense of omnipresence, for wherever the Supreme Self is, there also he is; he is, moreover, on the other side of phenomena and can see the Universe at will without him or within him; but he has still not necessarily realised the supreme as utterly himself, although this perfect realisation is now for the first time in his grasp. The basal perception for Mind in this Universe is Monism with a difference, but the crowning perception of Monism becomes here possible. Page – 12 Location: Home > E-Library > Works Of Sri Aurobindo > English > The Upanishad Volume-12 > Nature Of The Absolute Brahman

The number of possible grammars is not infinite and their number is biologically limited

The Boundaries of Babel The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages Andrea Moro
In The Boundaries of Babel, Andrea Moro tells the story of an encounter between two cultures: contemporary theoretical linguistics and the cognitive neurosciences. The study of language within a biological context has been ongoing for more than fifty years. The development of neuroimaging technology offers new opportunities to enrich the "biolinguistic perspective" and extend it beyond an abstract framework for inquiry. As a leading theoretical linguist in the generative tradition and also a cognitive scientist schooled in the new imaging technology, Moro is uniquely equipped to explore this.
Moro examines what he calls the "hidden" revolution in contemporary science: the discovery that the number of possible grammars is not infinite and that their number is biologically limited. This radical but little-discussed change in the way we look at language, he claims, will require us to rethink not just the fundamentals of linguistics and neurosciences but also our view of the human mind. Moro searches for neurobiological correlates of "the boundaries of Babel"--the constraints on the apparent chaotic variation in human languages--by using an original experimental design based on artificial languages. He offers a critical overview of some of the fundamental results from linguistics over the last fifty years, in particular regarding syntax, then uses these essential aspects of language to examine two neuroimaging experiments in which he took part.
He describes the two neuroimaging techniques used (positron emission topography, or PET, and functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI), but makes it clear that techniques and machines do not provide interesting data without a sound theoretical framework. Finally, he discusses some speculative aspects of modern research in biolinguistics regarding the impact of the linear structure of linguistics expression on grammar, and more generally, some core aspects of language acquisition, genetics, and evolution. About the Author Andrea Moro is Professor of General Linguistics at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog

There is an actual resemblance between the sound vibration of the word and the phenomena itself

Roots: The origin of words in the works Sri Aurobindo and Michel Foucault
by Rich on Wed 25 Jun 2008 02:56 PM PDT Permanent Link

The chapter on the philological method of the Vedas in The Secret of the Veda is a fascinating one in which Sri Aurobindo traces the genealogy of Sanskrit back to its origins in onomatopoeia. If correct words at the dawn of language acquisition were not simply arbitrary signifiers chosen conventionally to represent things but directly corresponded to the signified as a natural (human) sound articulation of the phenomena itself. That is there is an actual resemblance between the sound vibration of the word and the phenomena itself. From these ur-utterances are derived a small number of roots in which the subsequent nominative conventions and evolution of vocabularies can be located.

In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault arrives as a similar conclusion which he derives from the work of some of the French philosophers of the Enlightenment. Foucault's ascribes the power of attribution and the propositional function of language to verbs which trace their origins back to the most basic verb “to be”At the root of all attributions is the verb “to be” way without at the same time saying that it is. The verb to he is found in all propositions, because we cannot say that a thing is in such and such a way without at the same time saying that it is “.

For its part the nominative function of language is implicit in the designating power of adjectives and nouns. As such Foucault locates the primitive origins of language through its role as pure designation. In tracing back its earliest designative function Foucault ascribes to the originating process of naming things a very similar role between the non-arbitrary articulation of sound and the actual phenomena itself as does Sri Aurobindo. Additionally, in tracing language back to its function of pure designation Foucault also concludes that our vocabularies can be traced back to a small number of originating roots.

The following post is a comparative exploration of the origins of language as described by Sri Aurobindo and Michel Foucault. Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

June 25, 2008

We have to open to newer perspectives and perhaps even into, as Gebser calls it, the aperspectival

Integral Ideology from Open Integral by Edward Berge

I’m with Bruce Kunkel (of Santa Rosa Integral Salon) on becoming aware of how we define and confine ourselves by our perspectives, and how we have to open to newer perspectives beyond them. And perhaps even to open into, as Gebser calls it, the aperspectival. I’d say to do so we even have to examine what we’re calling our integral belief system.

In that light I offer this link to an essay by Rich called “Integral Ideology” at the Science, Culture & Integral Yoga blog. Rich has participated in a couple of the dialogues over at Integral Review and one of his perspectives might be labled Aurobindian, but he is much more than just that.

Do we recognize ourselves in any of his analasynthesis?

Sri Aurobindo and his colleague Mira Alfassa present a profound and compelling vision of yoga psychology

Dr. Don Salmon, a clinical psychologist and composer, received a grant from the Infinity Foundation to write a comprehensive study of yoga psychology based on the synthesis of the yoga tradition presented by 20th century Indian philosopher-sage Aurobindo Ghose. Jan Maslow, an educator and organizational consultant, has, with Dr. Salmon, given presentations, classes and workshops in the United States and India on this topic. Both have been studying yoga psychology for more than 25 years. Read more... .
INTEGRAL PSYCHOLOGYBEYOND WILBER-V Inviting Open-Minded Skepticismof the Materialist View
Don Salmon Some implications of taking integral psychology beyond "Wilber-V": Trying on the 'view from infinity'

"Consciousness is" the fundamental thing in existence — it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it — not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself. For instance, when consciousness in its movement or rather a certain stress of movement forgets itself in the action it becomes an apparently "unconscious" energy; when it forgets itself in the form it becomes the electron, the atom, the material object. In reality it is still consciousness that works in the energy and determines the form and the evolution of form. "When it wants to liberate itself, slowly, evolutionarily, out of Matter, but still in the form, it emerges as life, as animal, as [human] and it can go on evolving itself still further out of its involution and become something more than mere man..." Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, p. 237.

Without having to "believe" anything, let's see for a moment what it might be like to "try on" the yogic view.
Even among physicists and philosophers of science who believe that consciousness may not be merely an epiphenomenon of matter, most would agree with physicist Arthur Zajonc that quantum physics in itself does not tell us anything fundamental about the nature of consciousness. According to Zajonc:

Physics, chemistry, and neuroscience provide accounts for the mechanism of consciousness but say nothing about the experience of consciousness itself... Every science, if it would move beyond purely formal mathematical relationships, must incorporate qualities [i.e., subjective experience] into itself. All meaning inheres in qualities. The qualitative connects the formal treatment with experience... If our interest ultimately is consciousness, then we will require a means of investigation that is able to include the full range of conscious experience, and not merely a reduced set of variables easily amenable to quantification.

However, physicist Freeman Dyson, in speculating on the implications of some of the more startling discoveries in quantum physics, says (though there is nothing in contemporary physics that "proves" this) "[a]toms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom."
Similarly, with regard to psi, even if there were easily replicable experiments with strong effects, it wouldn't necessarily "prove" anything about the nature of consciousness. However, it might make it easier to give serious consideration to the possibility that, as Sri Aurobindo writes, "Consciousness is the fundamental thing in the universe".
If it is true that mind operates beyond the confines of the physical in ways we have previously thought to be impossible (as with telepathy and remote viewing); that mind is not the result of matter, but may act as a causal influence on the material world (as with psychokinesis); and that mind is present even in the atom (as Freeman Dyson suggests) then it is conceivable mind exists throughout the universe, and that mind or consciousness of some kind — existed "prior to" the emergence of the physical universe (logically, if not temporally).

To list just a few of the elements of the yogic vision such a view would allow for:

  1. The so-called "laws" or regularities of nature — rather than having arisen purely by chance, could be seen as a purposeful means for creating stability in the material universe in order to allow for the orderly manifestation of a previously unmanifest consciousness into a world of form. What we've called "chance" may come to be seen as a suprarational action of an intelligence greater than mind; which manifests in matter as an interaction between apparent regularities or "laws" of nature and apparently "chance" circumstances; which manifests in animals as instinct; in contemporary humans as intuition; and which may one day manifest in its fullness as a "supramental" consciousness.
    As a corollary to this, from the yogic view, it seems our understanding of the laws of nature would have to change. But this doesn't necessarily mean the "overthrow" of several centuries of science, potentially plunging" us into a new dark age — as many skeptics/debunkers fear. The "laws of nature" that have been developed in regard to the physical or material universe may come to be seen as a special case: that is, under certain conditions — i.e., when consciousness is essentially "asleep" (or "hidden", or almost entirely "involved"), matter acts in one way. As consciousness "evolves" or starts to wake up, and as the physical matter associated with that consciousness (or more accurately, manifesting — or itself a reflection of — that consciousness) becomes more complex, the laws change, becoming more plastic, more variable, less subject to the confines of material space and time. It seems that a more sophisticated and less physical-bound science would not necessarily have any great difficulty providing an integration of the behavior of matter when the consciousness associated with it is asleep (which corresponds to our current "laws of nature") and the behavior of matter when the consciousness associated with it is more awakened (which might correlate with a future, broader understanding of the laws/habits/patterns of nature"). (The book, Irreducible Mind, by Edward Kelly, has an excellent description of Frederick Myer's evolutionary theory of consciousness which relates quite directly to this issue of "laws" of nature).
  2. Evolution might be seen to have the "purpose" perhaps the playful purpose — of expressing that initially unmanifest or hidden consciousness in increasingly complex forms (this would make sense of "emergent" phenomena such as life and mind)
  3. Our individual lives might be seen to have a "purpose" — perhaps the awakening to an awareness that who we truly are is a particular focus of the hidden Consciousness, and then a conscious opening to the force (shakti) behind the evolutionary process, choosing to allow it to transform us — physically, emotionally and mentally — that a still fuller expression of the unmanifest consciousness may manifest in and through us.
  4. Our aspirations and ideals might be seen — not simply as complex forms of adaptation for the sake of survival — but as reflections of a subliminal awareness of a capacity to express a greater consciousness beyond the mind (supramental).
  5. Conversely, our greed, hatred, and ignorance might be understood — not as an expression of our fundamental nature — but as the expression of a stage of evolution in which large portions of our consciousness are still largely hidden or asleep, leading us to misperceive others as separate, competing "selves" rather than as infinitely varied expressions of One causal consciousness.
  6. Society itself might be understood to be a vehicle for the collective expression of a greater consciousness. As with the individual, even the greatest apparent evil in society might be understood as the inevitable expression of the individuals within that society who are as yet unawakened to their true nature, ignorantly taking themselves to be separate and competing entities rather than evolving, collective expression of the greater consciousness.

In our book on yoga psychology, Jan and I attempted to carry out the experiment of "trying on" the full yogic version of the above possibilities — what we call "the view from infinity" — that is, simply seeing what it would be like to see things. everything through a yogic lens. We attempt to draw out the implications this view may have for the understanding of cosmology, biological evolution, psychology, as well as personal and social transformation. Our experiment is based largely on the work of Sri Aurobindo and his colleague Mira Alfassa, who we believe present a profound and compelling vision of yoga psychology, one that is truly "post-metaphysical" in the sense of being beyond intellectual speculation, yet subject to contemplative, intersubjective, empirical validation. We believe that their work may one day serve to help us come to terms with the implications of parapsychology, and ultimately, with the implications of a view which "sees" the entire world, every aspect of our experience, emerging out of, existing within, and constituted of an infinite Consciousness.
And now, in full, the Honorton quote with which I began this essay:
I believe in science, and I am confident that a science that can boldly contemplate the origin of the universe, the nature of physical reality 10-33 seconds after the Big Bang, anthropic principles, quantum nonlocality, and parallel universes, can come to terms with the implications of parapsychological findings--whatever they may turn out to be. There is no danger for science in honestly confronting these issues; it can only be enriched by doing so. But there is a danger for science in encouraging self-appointed protectors who engage in polemical campaigns that distort and misrepresent serious research efforts. Such campaigns are not only counterproductive, they threaten to corrupt the spirit and function of science and raise doubts about its credibility. The distorted history, logical contradictions, and factual omissions exhibited in the arguments of the three critics [Ray Hyman, James Alcock and James Randi] represent neither scholarly criticism nor skepticism, but rather counteradvocacy masquerading as skepticism. True skepticism involves the suspension of belief, not disbelief. In this context, we would do well to recall the words of the great nineteenth century naturalist and skeptic, Thomas Huxley: "Sit down before fact like a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly to wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads or you shall learn nothing."Charles Honorton, from his essay, "Rhetoric Over Substance: The Impoverished State of Skepticism"
[1] Physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff has a wonderful online journal dealing with non-physical phenomena in relation to scientific thought, at www.anti-matters.org.

In Savitri, Sri Aurobindo the Yogi has complete freedom of expression

Narad’s Five Songs and the Theme of Evolution in Savitri by RY Deshpande on Sun 18 Nov 2007 09:01 PM PST Permanent Link 2:18 PM

This is a remarkable description which we can find only in Savitri and not in other prose works of Sri Aurobindo, for instance in The Life Divine or The Synthesis of Yoga where the presentation is essentially for the enlightened intuitive reason. There is a certain degree of informality available in the letters Sri Aurobindo wrote to his disciples and one can see in them that he is quite free from professional constraints which otherwise he has to observe in formal writings. But everywhere there is the tightness in the line of argument, if these are to be considered as arguments.

In that sense in Savitri alone the occult comes out with its full luminous contents and force, with its unplumbable profundity, gold reaching yet deeper layers of gold, in Savitri where Sri Aurobindo the Yogi has complete freedom of expression, has no boundary conditions to be observed, where no horizons cut his view, where he can be, so to say, himself, absolutely himself. The Story of Creation narrated by him in Savitri belongs unmistakably to that category. In The Life Divine he had taken a position, in The Synthesis of Yoga he had taken a position; but in Savitri it is all unimpeded revelation, in it he had poured himself out in God’s great glory itself. So, I get puzzled when very knowledgeable people say that Savitri is The Life Divine in a verse form!

And yet there can be an essay in poetry, with its convincing logopoeia supported by image and music. The following description of the cosmic past and the future that awaits this creation is a wonderful example of the expository art carried out with utmost care and attention. Savitri is told by a deathless and mighty Voice to remember why she had taken the mortal birth and that she should get ready to house the divine Force in her soul in order to conquer Death. She has been initiated into Yoga and the review of the entire cosmic past is the first occult-spiritual experience she gets. The mystic-numinous origins of the shadowy beginnings are first disclosed to her: (pp. 477-86)

June 23, 2008

Do away with standardized tests and make the syllabus flexible to suit the needs of different students

Children were always walking around with books memorising their lesson for the pending exam. We considered this contrary to all that Sri Aurobindo and The Mother stand for.
The first thing we did was to stop all the exams.

This brought a furious response from the parents who could not understand why this was being done. After some meetings with the parents and their representatives and by way of compromise it was agreed that a mid-term and a final exam would be held and that report cards would be issued to the parents so that they could see how their children were doing in their studies.
The next change we introduced related to the curriculum. It was a school tradition to follow certain text books in every subject starting from second standard. The teachers would cover the course by simply going through the books with the students; this was their whole work.

Fortunately the situation changed. Many teachers trained in the traditional methods secured government jobs and left. We replaced them with teachers who had been trained differently. A number of teachers from Mirambika joined, a school dedicated to free progress education which has an extensive teacher training component and is part of the Delhi Branch of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. They use the ‘project method' at all levels of schooling except for the ninth and tenth grades, at which time the focus progressively shifts to preparing for the State Board exams. Through the ‘project method' children start taking responsibility for, and finding interest in their learning. In this way we did away with the traditional textbooks.
Once again there were objections from the parents. They could not understand how learning could take place without these books. Many parents offered to pay for the books, thinking that we were trying to save money by not buying them for the students. Some even complained they would go to the School Board authorities to complain, as what we were doing ‘was not permissible'. Fortunately the matriculation system gives a lot of freedom to the school to teach the subjects in the way the school wants until the 10th grade level when there is a prescribed curriculum to follow. We did not compromise and explained to the parents the reasons for what we were doing.

The next difficulty came in relation to crafts. As part of the integrated learning programme, we introduced many crafts like carpentry, clay work, tailoring, and electrical work. Once again, there was a lot of resistance from the parents. They said that they had not sent their children to the school to learn things like that. Also the children felt that they had not come to school to learn manual skills. Other schools do not do it, so why should they have to?
A student responds joyously to the music-inspired painting session
We had also invited the children to take responsibility for the maintenance of the school and participate in the cleaning of the school compound and watering of the plants and here too there was a great resistance. Once again we did not compromise. We discussed the issues with the parents explaining why we did this and the positive benefit of this education for their children. Slowly the resistance lessened.
About three years ago we identified certain students who were academically weak. We felt they would not have the capacity to prepare for the matriculation exam and that we would be forcing them to learn subjects in which they were not really interested.
We invited these students to follow a different scheme of education where they could learn things that they really wanted to learn and also master some manual skills so that they could prepare themselves for their future working life. Six students joined reluctantly. The parents opposed the scheme vehemently but accepted only when faced with the alternative that their children would have to leave the school as they had been regularly failing to secure pass-marks in the examinations. However, these six students found themselves stigmatised in the school and the other students considered them dull. They also started to think of themselves as inferior. This programme had to be dropped under the cumulative pressure of these attitudes.

It became clear to us that we had to deal with the attitudes of students who believed that education is all about passing examinations and ultimately getting a certificate, which will allow them to take the next examination, the next certificate, which will enable you to secure a good job. It has taken us a long time – and we cannot say that we are fully successful in our endeavour to change this belief. We introduced the idea that there is a value in many things apart from doing well in examinations. The idea that different students are good at different things like games, athletics, gymnastics, clay, tailoring, or carpentry or that there are students who have a spirit of adventure or are good in music, dance, painting or theatre has been fostered in our school by giving a good amount of time to these activities and properly honouring the achievements in all these areas. Slowly the children are experiencing another meaning of learning and going to school. They experience learning as joyful and as making some progress in themselves. They learn the art of concentration and the need to make an effort and persevere if they want to progress. They begin to have a relationship of trust and friendship with their teachers.
The students understand now that the school is meant for them and that it is not possible to live and work here without a basic collective discipline. What follows from this is that the students now discipline themselves and there is almost no necessity for teachers' supervision. This has come as a great relief as the school campus is very large and to supervise every corner of it is next to impossible.

One of the handicaps the village children face is their lack of exposure to a lot that is going on in the world. The introduction of DVDs and cable T.V. has made some difference, yet what they see on the screen is not part of their life in a living way. Their attitudes tend to be narrow, their concerns very limited and their aspirations, if any, are determined by the films – wanting to be a doctor and help the poor – which wear off quite soon. We have used the morning assembly to introduce many new types of ideas and people into their lives. Interesting personalities from the Ashram, Auroville and Pondicherry have addressed the students. People from different cultures have presented special features of their culture. Serialized versions of the Mahabharata, Ramayana, the Bible and Krishna 's stories. We have discussed issues as they come up either in the village, the country or the world. And students have presented their work to other students and answered their questions. We have practiced making their minds quiet for a progressively longer time. In this way the morning assembly of about twenty minutes has been used to enhance their sensibilities.
We also observed that the children were not eating properly. The lunch they brought was, in most cases, very meagre and their diet was not balanced. For the last year and a half we have provided lunch to the school children. They also receive a morning snack and an evening snack. We find this a basic necessity in the context of a poor village like Edaiyanchavadi.

The effort to bring the educational principles enunciated by Sri Aurobindo and Mother to the village children has been rewarding and fruitful at one level but frustrating at others. During the first ten years in school the children begin to flower and with proper observation and guidance are nurtured in the direction of their swabhava (their unique path). But this changes as soon as learning starts for the State Board exams. Then the students are pressured to learn only a few subjects by rote, to be literally reproduced at the examination. This precludes the possibility of experiencing and understanding this knowledge. It is unfortunate that we have to subject our students to this. Young Odissi dancers performing on Annual day

But our hands are tied as any effort to de-link ourselves from the State Board examination will make the school and its programme quite useless in the minds of the parents and they will remove their children from the school and put them in some other school offering certificates of the recognized boards. The gains of the first ten years still justify the problem of the ‘exam years' at the school. It has been observed by many who visit the school that the children exhibit openness, have a capacity to think for themselves, are able to express themselves in English quite well, and are capable of taking up responsibilities. All these achievements are quite unusual for village schoolchildren.
We can only hope that the possibilities of a free progress system of education will be available to students in India in the near future, and that a united plea is made to the government to do away with standardized tests and make the syllabus flexible to suit the needs of different students.
Sanjeev Aggarwal
This article first appeared in SAIIER's quarterly magazine ‘Ritam' Photo credit: all photos Giorgio Home > Journals & Media > Journals > Auroville Today > Udavi – An educational experiment in the village Current issue Archive copies The Auroville Experience