Sri aurobindo ashram inception and growth

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  • 1. SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM INCEPTION AND GROWTH P.CHARLES CHRISTOPHER RAJ M.A., M.Phil. M.I.M., M.L.I.S.C., M.C.A.,B.Ed.,P.G.D.T.A., ASSISTANT PROFESSOR of HISTORY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORICAL STUDIES KASTHURBA COLLEGE FOR WOMEN VILLIANUR, PUDUCHERRY 605 110 MOBILE: 9443723327 Email Id:ccraj18@gmail.com Abstract Sri. Aurobindo dream of life came true when he initiated himself to bring and create an organised central objective, that is the development of consciousness. He thought in depth study and exploration of consciousness at all level of life and this could be reached by serious practice of the discipline or yoga of integral consciousness, within and without by each individual. Every activity of the mind, heart, life – force and the very body cannot come in union without tranquillity. To gain tranquil and to know oneself, an ashram – spiritual community was established in Puducherry on the 24th November 1926 which smacked great amount of equanimity and a natural imperturbality in all walks of his life. This innovative measure was taken by Mirra Alfassa, a French Lady who happened to settle on 24 th April 1920. Her involvement to development of Ashram can be viewed in her voluminous ‘The Agenda’ which runs to 13 in numbers. Admission to the ashram for the disciples were made not at all on the bases of education, social status, fame, talent or virtue, but according to the person’s aspiration or his or her spiritual destiny judged on the mystic scales of their seer-vision. In 1942, the number of the ashramites was 350 and it rose upto 1800 in 1974 but now it has raised up to many thousands. Ashramites take up spiritual and manual works as a part of their sadhana and they are known as Sadhaks who are spiritual aspirants. Sri Aurobindo Ashram came to be recognised as a scientific research body by the Indian Council of Medical Research for its work in the field of Yoga and Consciousness development in 1973. Research been undertaken on wide range of areas such as organic farming, afforestation, renewable energy, archival conservation, literary editing, history, philosophy, building technology, computer science , theoretical physics, sports, medicine etc. Thousands of tourist from all over world visit the ashram. This article tends to bring in abridged view of many interesting details of 87 years gradual growth of the ashram and the impact which was experienced by the natives. Key words : Consciousness, equanimity, imperturbality,yoga, sadhaks, sadhana.
  • 2. SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM INCEPTION AND GROWTH P.CHARLES CHRISTOPHER RAJ M.A., M.Phil. M.I.M., M.L.I.S.C., M.C.A.,B.Ed.,P.G.D.T.A., ASSISTANT PROFESSOR of HISTORY DEPARTMENT OF HISTORICAL STUDIES KASTHURBA COLLEGE FOR WOMEN VILLIANUR, PUDUCHERRY 605 110 MOBILE: 9443723327 Email Id:ccraj18@gmail.com Introduction: Sri. Aurobindo said that his aim was not to find a new religion, neither a school of philosophy nor a school of yoga, but to create a ground of spiritual growth and experience and a way which will bring down a greater Truth of what beyond the mind but not inaccessible to the human soul and consciousness. It was about sixteen years of rigorous and strenuous tapasya on the part of Sri. Aurobindo, the Ashram was organised on a practical analyses 1 and since then for 87 years it has been steadfastly developing under the guidance and blessing of him and the Mother. After thorough look at the way of life followed by the ashramites one can come to conclusion that this cannot be called an Ashram for the members, not a sannyasis, it is not also moksha, but the sole aim is Yoga. Preparation towards any work needs concentration and that is on the basis of Yogic Consciousness and Yoga – Shakthi2. Sri. Aurobindo Ashram is based on the Truth that the earth acts as a great field of evolution on which step by step man has grown. It was made as God’s abode Let us experience from this article the growth and impact made by Ashram through self realization of consciousness. Consciousness of every part of human body will lead to the work of fullness in heart and soul.
  • 3. Sri. Aurobindo -- Founder of the Ashram : He was born on 15th August 1872 was the son fro Calcutta (Kolkata) grew up in an European atmosphere. His father Dr. K.D. Ghose took him to England for education where he completed his education at St.Paul’s London and College Education in Kings College, Cambridge. He had great association with Indian Majlis, a students association and a secret group of revolutionary Indians known as the “Lotus and Dagger” which gave him ample opportunity to foster the his feelings of patriotism. In the year 1893, he came back to his native soil and worked for 13 years in the Princely State of Baroda and as a Professor of Baroda College. Partition of Bengal in 1905 made his heart feel for the service of India’s resurrection from the British rule, so he joined in a revolutionary society by quitting his post in Baroda and proceeded to Calcutta in 1906, which brought him in great association with the Nationalist Movement3. His ideas was vehemently, put forward in his newspaper called Bande Mataram 4, where complete independence was the goal to be reached. Prosecuted by the British twice for sedition and for conspiracy, was released to fulfil the future perspective of God due to lack of evidences. Man’s manhood consists in the fulfilment of God in life. Sri.Aurobindo fulfilled God’s will by incorporating the technique of integral Yoga with the elements of Karma, Bhakti, Gnana and Rajayogas in the process to understand evolution. He advocated the eight principles that constitute the process of involution and evolution are existence, consciousness – Force, Bliss and Supermind on the one hand and Matter, Life, Psyche and mind on the other respectively 5. He wanted to share his findings of spiritual life to the people of world, which he said in the following lines : A wide God-knowledge poured down from above A new world-knowledge broadened from within The human in him paced with the divine6.
  • 4. With mind full of conscious Reality he stepped down at the Pondicherry in the afternoon of April 4th 19107. Pondicherry grew to become his profound seat of his sadhana, the unshakeable base for his spiritual life where he remained for forty uninterrupted years. During these years Sri.Aurobindo started practising his Yogic life and many came to him with a genuine reason of accepting him as their Guru and they as disciples. Champaklal 8 and Phillippe Barbie Saint –Hilaire9 became outstanding disciples. By 1926 the number of disciples increased to 24 in number. The foundation of the Ashram had begun to be laid. day of Siddhi10, November 24, 1956, Ashram was established. On the great In order to concentrate more on Yoga, Sri. Aurobindo announced to his disciples about his complete seclusion and ‘the Mother’ would take up the direct charge of the Ashram - the community of ‘sadhaks’ - the inner sadhana as well as the outer organisation. Thus Sri. Aurobindo Ashram was founded. The Mother and the Ashram : Nolini Kanta wrote in his remembrance that Sri.Aurobindo used to refer the Mother as Mirra, but over a period of time his lips were on the verge of saying ‘Mother’ but nobody knows exactly the particular date or the auspicious moment of him calling ‘Mother’ but that was a divine moment in unrecorded time 11. This Mother of the people was Mirra Alfassa born on February 21, 1878, in Paris, the second child to a Turkish Banker from Adrianople called Maurice Alfasssa and his wife a Egyptian of Cairo called Mathilde Ismaloun. Mirra grew up in Paris, where at the age of five she was found deep having unusual spiritual experience and knew that she had a great mission to fulfill, keeping this in view, she trained her inner consciousness instead playing like other children in her tender age. But she liked to play tennis and continued it even very late in life, she played with great players not won but learnt much12. At the age of sixteen she joined a studio to learn drawing and painting and in October 1897 she was married to Henri Morisset, a disciple of the painter Gustave Moreau and had a son by name ‘Andre’. Around 1906, she came in contact with Max Theon, a Polish exile who was a great adept in occultism. His wife Alma was also highly gifted spirituality and Mirra for the next two years spent much of her time in experiencing occultism as a means of service to the Divine, never a mere play with invisible forces or a performance of so-called miracles 13. Dissolved her first marriage she came in contact with Paul Richards in 1910 and she married him a brilliant intellectual who was deeply interested in both Western and Eastern spirituality. In
  • 5. 1912 she came closely associated with a group of seeker named Cosmique. This group aim was to achieve progressive universal harmony14. God’s call for the mission came in the year 1914 where Paul Richard decided to stand for a seat in the French Parliament from Pondicherry. On March 6th 1914 couple started towards Pondicherry through the Japanese ‘Kaga Maru’, the ship which was blessed by the Divine to help the manifestation of conscious towards Pondicherry. At 3.30 in the afternoon on 29th March for the first time Mirra met Sri.Aurobindo 15. The Spiritual importance of this meeting between Sri.Aurobindo (The Master) and Mirra (The Mother) was immeasurable and will reveal itself progressively through the developments and manifestations in time and the profound words of the Mother ‘Without him I exist not, without me he is un manifest’ seem to be true. Call of God was once more got changed and the couple had to go France due to the spread of war in Europe and Paul Richard was in the Reserve list of the Army and Mirra had her own calls to duty leaving behind the work of ‘Arya’ and ‘I’ldee Nouvelle’16. Back to Pondicherry on April 24, 1920, Mirra for the second time making up her mind never to depart again rejoined with Sri. Aurobindo. From January 1 st 1922, she took full charge of the management of the household. The number of residents, increased, the nucleus of a small spiritual community formed itself without any preconceived planning it developed as an organic growth with Sri. Aurobindo as its centre and thereby an Ashram was founded. Sri. Aurobindo entrusted all the material and spiritual charge to her, for he considered her not a disciple but his spiritual equal and collaborator17. Ashram a house of silence and spirituality, disciples came thronging to get the blessings of the divinity which was experienced by them. Mirra was adorned as Mother by Sri. Aurobindo and whenever a disciple bowed for blessings to the Mother, Sri. Aurobindo’s right hand came forward behind the Mother’s as if blessing the disciple through the power of Mother18. The Ashram : By the words of the Master himself: “The Ashram is the Mother’s creation and would not have existed but for her”19. Sri Aurobindo Ashram which is situated at the eastern end of Puducherry, a furlong from the sea, around the Ashram, group of buildings can be found. They can be easily recognised by their sky-blue colour and tidiness which serve to enhance the beauty of the town, the archaeologists findings Prof. Dubreuil20 describes the place of Ashram is where the very site of a
  • 6. Vedic college which stood thousands of years ago. The legendary Patron of the city was the great sage of Agastya. The Ashram building comprises of the main gate and extending up to the garage in the north was called the Library House, the north-east was known as the Secretariat House, to the upper storey of this house Master’s room and the top floor from November 1926 added the Mother’s room. There is a Rosary room which was built for the sadhak. The south side has the Sri. Aurobindo International Centre of Education. The Ashram store named by the Mother ‘Prosperity’ has two places for its use - one, above the Reception Room where the Mother used to come on the 1st of every month to give her Prosperity blessings, followed by the distribution of monthly requirements to the sadhaks; the other place is downstairs in the north – west corner of the block where the stores are kept. The longer east-west wing leads to the Samadhi. There is a large tree with thick foliage giving cool shade to the Samadhi and the Sadhaks 21. The Mother called it as the ‘Service tree’22. To support the low- hanging branches of the tree ten pillars were built designed by Sammer, the Czechoslovakian architect. There are two marble slabs with letters in red on the sides of the Samadhi, bearing the Mother’s words in French and English. On April 4th 1967 the walls of the Samadhi were furnished with marble slabs. Admission to the Ashram The First indispensable condition to be admitted in the Ashram is that the candidate must have taken the resolution to dedicate his life unconditionally to the service of the Divine, it should not be from disgust for life and people that one must come to yoga, it is not to run away from difficulties that one must come to join ashram it is only giving oneself and of serving, without asking anything in exchange. Aspirant who were in need of Sri Aurobindo’s guidance came from all walks of life to be part of the Ashram among them such as Datta (Miss Hodgson, an English lady), Pavitra (P.B.St. Hillaire) and ex-captain in the French army during the war and Arjava (J.A Chadwick), a brilliant scholar from Cambridge and a poet. Distinguished poets like Dilip Kumar Roy, Miss Margaret Woodrow Wilson, daughter of the American President Woodrow Wilson, a savant like Kapali Shashtri, a revolutionary and orator. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother accepted disciples not at all on the bases of education, social status, fame, talent or virtue, but according to the person’s aspiration or his or her spiritual destiny judged on the mystic scales of their seer-vision 23. Women too are admitted in the Ashram for they are looked upon not as wife, daughter or sister or any other relation of a
  • 7. sadhak but as a soul with an independent status and a direct approach to the Mother. The Ashram women are seen engaged in various departments and they are known as sadhika24. Growth of the Ashram By the end of 1927, there were about thirty six inmates in the Ashram, this grew to eighty in 1928. By 1952 it increased to 800. In 1962 it rose to over 1200 and in 1964 it ranged between 1300 to 1400 and by 1967 it stood at 1425 but the number increased as years pass on and on, now the number of inmates seems to be more than 3000 in 2012. To keep the ashram and the members engaged naturally requires a considerable amount of work. Most of the works are done by the members. The primary purpose of the work; however is not to satisfy any practical or economic needs, or to be a means for the self – expression of the members, but to provide a field for their spiritual growth. Work done in the ashram is done not as a service to humanity or even as a service to the sadhaks of the Ashram but as a service to the Divine and as a field for the inner opening to the Divine, surrender to the Divine alone, rejection of ego and all the ordinary vital movements and the training in a psychic elevation, selflessness, obedience, renunciation of all mental, vital or other self-assertion of the limited personality. Work done at Ashram done by all without remuneration in order to make their labour a more fitting offering to the Divine. During the Mother’s lifetime all work was done under her supervision, either directly or through the intermediately of departmental heads but it is different today where the heads remain but their work is co-ordinated by Central administration. Everyone is sees as part of diverse but interrelated whole. None is independent, neither the heads of departments nor the workers. The need for co-operation is recognised by all. According to the needs departments were made and the Mother created five main departments such as Food, Accommodation, Education, Health and Physical education. Food : This department consists of many units such as Dairy, Agriculture, Bakery, Fruits and Vegetable, Poultry, Oil and Flour, Modern Kitchen and large Dining hall. Accommodation: This consists of units like construction of houses, repairing, furniture, electricity and water supply.
  • 8. Education: This department has the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, School Library, Central Library etc., and college for undergraduate students. Health: This department consists of Dispensary, Dental treatment unit, Nursing Home, Ayurvedic department, Homeopathic department, Naturopathy, Physiotherapy, Massage, Acupuncture and Sanitation department. Physical Education department: The units under this department are Play – ground, Sports ground, Stadium, Swimming Pool, Tennis ground, Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Yoga exercises, Mechanical and Free – hand exercises and Bulletin of Physical Education and Library etc., Many other departments were added such as Cottage industries, Laundry, Training for Stitching, Cottage training department, Perfume Section, Hand-made paper, Soapmaking, Harpagon Workshop, Fine Art, Automobile service, Film and Photography, Tailoring, Ashram Reception, Enquiry, Prosperity, Recording and Sri Aurobindo Books Distribution Agency (SABDA) and Ashram Press. Of the above departments few details about the Sri Aurobindo Press, where printing, binding works are taking place. On the seaside in a most beautiful atmosphere these works are done. Sewing and Cutting are done. Printing work is done here in 16 languages including English, German, French, and Chinese etc., there are also Flexo and Block printing are done25. The Ashram symbols The symbols of the Ashram were derived by the Mother and the Master themselves. The former symbol is said to be the Mother’s symbol where the central circle represents the Divine Consciousness, the four petals represents the four power of the Mother, the twelve petals represent the twelve powers of the Mother manifested for Her Work. The latter symbol is said
  • 9. to the Master’s symbol where the descending triangle represents Sat – Chit – Ananda, the ascending triangle represents the aspiring answer from matter under the form of life, light and love. The junction of both – the central square – is the perfect manifestation having at its centre the Avatar of the Supreme – the lotus. The water – inside the square – represents the multiplicity, the creation. The above details about the symbols where given by the Mother and the Master in their own handwriting26. The Ashram Publication The first issue of the Arya came out on August 15th 1914, which was Sri Aurobindo forty second birthday and this becomes the first publication made on behalf of the Ashram with the effort of Paul Richard. ‘The works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’, various publication units of the Ashram have brought out hundreds of titles by scholars and sadhaks . There is also regular periodicals published ‘The Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education’. Another by name ‘the Advent’ devoted to the exposition of the vision and the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. ‘The Mother India’ a monthly review of culture in English which presents highly intellectual essays to creative literature – stories and poetry. Other Publications like ‘the All India Magazine’, ‘the world union’, ‘Sri. Aurobindo’s Action’, ‘Gazette Aurovillienne’, ‘the Arul’(Tamil'), ‘Bartika’ (Bengali), ‘Dipti’ (Kannada), ‘Dakshina’ (Gujarati), ‘Arka’ (Telugu) ‘Sanjeevan’ (Marathi), ‘Navajyoti’ (Oriya), ‘Purodha’ (published separately in Hindi and Bengali for the young), ‘Agnishikha’ (Hindi) and ‘Naba Prakash’ (Oriya) 27. Important days and Celebrations of the Ashram: Celebrations in the Ashram differ from that of the worldly ones. The auspicious days on which the Darshan of the Master and the Mother are given called the Darshan days. Three Darshan Days were fixed in the Ashram such as the birthday of the Mother on February 21 st, the birthday of the Master Sri Aurobindo on August 15th and the third day the Siddhi day. But after 1950 the Mother alone gave Darshan. Later on 24th April was made important for the Mother came to Pondicherry, 24th November 1926 was the day marking a milestone in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, for he achieved victory over Supermind with the goal of Yoga. February 29 th was made important for the day marks the descent of earth consciousness and known as the Golden day. 5 th December and 17th November the Mahasamadhi day for the Master and the Mother left their body on the day. The first of every month is known as the ‘Prosperity Day’ for the ashramites get their requirements for the whole month. The Ashram also observes Christmas and New Year days28.
  • 10. Conclusion: In ashrams, moksha that is liberation from worldly existence is the sole object, there is a tendency for members to withdraw from outward life to become sannyasis or ascetics. But this is different in Sri. Aurobindo Ashram where ashramites are not sannyasis, it is not moksha but it is the sole aim of the yoga to achieve ones divinity ---- work which will be founded on yogic consciousness and yoga Shakthi. The value of the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother has to be assessed not only by the immediate profit we make out of it but also by what they have sown far and wide in the earth’s soul and soil, by the universal possibilities they have quickened, the beginnings they have made of a new evolution on a world scale. The international character of Sri. Aurobindo Ashram, with its open door to all, attracting from different parts of the world more and more responsible elements of visitors and residents as Lois Duncan and Mrs. Duncan rightly points out the impression of the Ashram runs: “A new light breaks upon the earth, A new world is born”29. Today people waiting in a queue to get inside the ashram, Pondicherry has become an important destination for spiritual seekers as well as tourist. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come for the Ashram. The visiting hours to the Ashram for the visitors are from 8 am to 12 noon and then again from 2 pm to 6 pm. It is a duty of every individual to visit and experience the yogic atmosphere that prevails near the Samadhi of the Master and the Mother and thereby the reasons for their advent to this life get fulfilled.
  • 11. References: 1. Sri. Aurobindo, A Practical guide to Integral Yoga,Pondicherry,1959,p.56. 2. Sri. Aurobindo, Letters of Sri. Aurobindo, Second Series,Pondicherry,1949,p.470 3. D.R Bali,Modern Indian Thought(Rammohan Roy to Jayaprakash Narayan),Bangalore, 1988. 4. Bande Mataram, Weekly, ed. By Sri. Aurobindo, April 12th,1908. 5. Sri. Aurobindo, The Life Divine, New York,1949,p.243. 6. Nirodbaran, Sri. Aurobindo for all ages,Pondicherry,1990,p.103. 7. Ibid,p.128. 8. A young man of eighteen from Gujarat, first came in 1921, went back and returned in 1923,he served both the Mother and the Master as a personal attendant with rare dedication and devotion. 9. A brilliant graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Polytechnique in Paris,Sri. Aurobindo gave him a new name ‘Pavitra’ . He served Mother as her Secretary for foreign correspondence etc. He played a leading role when the International Centre of Education was established at the Ashram. 10. Day of Victory as the Mother called it,Sri.Krishna descended into the body. His descent means the descent of the Overmind God which will prepare the descent of the Supermind. 11. Nirodbaran, op.cit., p.103. 12. Ibid. 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid. 17.Ibid.
  • 12. 18. Ibid. 19. Narayan Prasad, Life in Sri.Aurobindo Ashram,Pondicherry,2010. 20. Prof. Dubreuil whose full name Gabriel Jouveau Dubreuil, an archaeologists who submitted his thesis on Archaeology of South India to the Sorbonne University in 1912. His excavation of the Arikamedu site brings many valid notes about Puducherry. 21. Narayan Prasad,op.cit.,pp. 6-9. 22. Botanical Name for the Service tree is Peltophorum Ferrugineum. 23. Antony,Francis Cyril,ed.1982, Gazetter of India, Union Territory of Pondicherry,Volumes I & II, Pondicherry:Administration of the Union Territory of Pondicherry, p.1605. 24. Narayan Prasad,op.cit.,p.350. 25. Sri.Aurobindo,Sri.Aurobindo and his Ashram,Pondicherry,2010,pp.51-55. 26. Ibid.pp.43-44. 27. Antony,Francis Cyril,op.cit.p.1611. 28. Narayan Prasad,op.cit.,pp.142-177. 29. Ibid.p.361.