Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Address Sri Aurobindo Marg, Begumpur Road,
When the Mother was in Japan, she once addressed the women there, and said something that should be of tremendous interest not only to women anywhere in the world, but to mankind as a whole. She spoke on the mundane subject of maternity, but gave it a twist that makes women potentially the agents of a radical change in human nature. The process of creating a new life through maternity can be a conscious process. The mother’s thoughts and feelings during pregnancy can shape the consciousness of the baby taking shape in her womb. The Mother had once seen two beautiful little girls, twins, whose beauty had the perfection of a child in a painting by Reynolds. The girls resembled neither parent, but it so transpired that the girls’ mother had looked at consciously, throughout pregnancy, especially just before going to bed, and on getting up in the morning, a painting by Reynolds, and had prayed that she give birth to a child as beautiful as the child in the painting. The physical features offer much more resistance to any modifying influence than do thoughts and feelings. Therefore, if even the body of her child can be affected by a pregnant mother, it should be easier to influence the child’s mind during pregnancy. Hence, the Mother urged women to use the power of their minds to “conceive and create a character capable of manifesting an ideal”. This, the Mother said, is more important now than ever before in history because we are on the verge of a new step in evolution. The first among the supermen will naturally be born to women, and therefore women can contribute to the process by treating maternity as a process of conscious creation. The superman the Mother had in mind was not the same as visualized by Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s superman is “a man aggrandized, magnified, in whom Force has become super-dominant, crushing under its weight all the other attributes of man”. Instead, the superman that the Mother visualized is the man who lives by a principle higher than reason. The superman’s guiding Light would be the Spirit within, the highest Truth of which man is capable. This faculty would change human nature itself in such a way that evil and injustice, and the consequent misery associated with human life would be wiped out. The Mother also said something extremely interesting about the superman: his mental ability might be less than that of man. But this foresight should not be so surprising, because evolution has not been accompanied by a linear and progressive increase in all abilities. Man’s predecessors like the lion have far more physical ability; man cannot even jump from tree to tree like a monkey. Similarly, the superman might lose some of man’s mental abilities. What the Mother said further is even more significant. By losing some of man’s mental abilities, the superman will lose the “ability to deceive himself and others”. It is such a superman, who will change the very character of terrestrial life, that women should concentrate on creating consciously through maternity. For this, they, and their partners, need to be on the spiritual path all along, not just during the woman’s pregnancy. We must change if we want to see the change in the next generation.
Not all great men are famous; this is the story of one such great man. He was born in 1903 in a village called Vahalee in the Punjab, and named Sikandar Lal. When he was 16, Mahatma Gandhi gave a call to the youth of India to interrupt for a few years whatever they were doing to join the struggle for the freedom of the nation. Seems simple, but it is not easy. Therefore, not many responded to the call, but Sikandar Lal was one of those who did. How is it that a few make choices that the majority consider rash, if not foolish. We have three basic tools for making choices: feelings, reason, and an intangible inner voice. In this case, the part of us that is guided by feelings would see in responding positively to Gandhiji’s call a life in prisons, certainly not a very pleasant prospect. Reason may see the significance of freedom, and hence the nobility of responding to the call positively, but would also argue against the wisdom of a rash decision that crushes the career and neglects the family for the sake of an uncertain outcome in an unpredictably distant future. Even if the reckless idealism of youth motivates a young man to take the plunge, his parents and other well-wishers may foist on him their discouraging ‘mature advice’. However, there is an inner voice, emanating from our deepest Self, which is illumined by our divine essence, the soul. This voice whispers to us what the right choice is. But this voice, although very clear, is a voice that does not insist; it is quite content to be ignored. Therefore, when pitted against the clamour of feelings and reason, this voice does often get ignored. It is only a few rare souls, who are in conscious contact with their deepest Self, who can ignore, oppose and conquer or ignore all opposition in order to act on the dictates of the soul. Sikandar Lal Jauhar was one such person. He responded to Gandhiji’s call positively, in spite of opposition from his own family. He joined the freedom struggle, stayed with it till the goal of independence was realized, and during the intervening almost 30 years faced the lathis and bullets of the British police while participating in several demonstrations, and went to jail several times where he was tortured with fetters and beatings, the scars of which he carried on his ankles and the back all his life. He changed his name to Surendra Nath, which he said was a minor phonetic variation on his true nature, which was to ‘surrender not’. During the 30 years that he was with the freedom struggle, starting almost penniless, he also initiated a business. God helps those who help themselves. The business flourished, and that is how he acquired in the 1930s a plot of land near Mehrauli. The land was also used for serving the cause of the freedom struggle, but to cut a long story short, when the country became free, Surendra Nath ji faced another dilemma, whether or not to continue with politics. He responded to the faint whisper of his deepest Self once again, and decided not to. This time the choice was easier, because in 1939 he had discovered his true calling. In 1939, an ‘unplanned’ visit to Pondicherry led to his discovery of The Mother, a discovery that he calls in his memoirs, “the Supreme Discovery of my life, the miracle of Pondicherry where I lost my heart and won the soul and the real life”. His dedication to The Mother after 1939 was total, as it had been to the freedom struggle since 1919. The commitment that he made in 1939 finally culminated, with the permission and blessings of The Mother, in the establishment of an Ashram on the land that he had bought in the 1930s on 12 February 1956, the date chosen by The Mother, with its name ‘Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch’ also given by The Mother. In keeping with the spiritual philosophy of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, which is a life-affirming philosophy, the Ashram started a school in the same year, the school that is now known as The Mother’s International School and has on its rolls more than 2000 students. Besides education, health care is another major activity of the Ashram today. This is the story of a man who started with the resolve that he would ‘surrender not’, but ended with total surrender to The Mother. This is the story of a man who started with the ambition of seeing his country free, and ended with the aspiration of liberating the world from the ignorance of a dividing ego-dominated consciousness towards a consciousness dominated by love and oneness.
The Mother had once called the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry a veritable laboratory to work out the future society. Its counterpart in the capital of India, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Delhi Branch, can best be understood as an extension of the centre of sadhana at Pondicherry. What is being done in this spiritual endeavour is the overcoming of the ascetic phase of the Indian tradition, which in a lopsided way equated spirituality with outer renunciation. In the Vedic times, integral life, prosperity, equality of sexes and a life-affirming attitude were cultivated by spiritual seekers. This integral approach was lost in later epochs when Mayavada (Illusionism) prevailed.
According to Sri Aurobindo “all life is Yoga.” In the Integral Yoga, the integral life down to the smallest detail has to be divinised : an inner illumination that does not change the outer life leaves the world as it is. The object of our Yoga is self-perfection and world-perfection.
From an early age The Mother had dreamed of a place where seekers of the Divine could completely dedicate themselves to spiritual life. “Earth needs a place where men can live away from…social conventions, self-contradictory moralities and contending religions, a place where human beings, freed from all slavery to the past, can devote themselves wholly to the discovery and practice of the divine consciousness that is seeking to manifest itself.” By providing a congenial environment and field of activities the Ashram seeks to be such a place. With the needs of the body provided, each one takes his work in the spirit of service and unselfishness, in the spirit of Karma Yoga — as an offering to the Divine.
The Delhi Branch was officially inaugurated on 12 February, 1956, with the Blessings of the Mother. To the great joy and gratitude of spiritual seekers in Northern India, the Mother graciously granted the very first Sacred Relics of Sri Aurobindo to be enshrined here on 5 December, 1957. Since then the Ashram has been growing at a steady pace. The shrine and the Meditation Hall continue to be the centre of life and the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the guiding light. The Love and Blessings of the Master and the Mother and their Grace are always available to their disciples living here.
All live and work here as equals. No distinctions of sex, creed, religion, race, caste or national origin are observed: all are looked upon as souls and children of the Mother. There is no hierarchy of officials and subordinates. All work in association and as a unit under the general supervision of one or more sadhaks.
The doors of the Ashram are open for those who aspire for a higher life, with the trust that their aspiration will not stop merely at having a pious wish for a higher and nobler aim, but will manifest increasingly in the thoughts, the life movements and the physical expressions—which will all be progressively and integrally consecrated to the Divine.