September 28, 2006
September 27, 2006
Our intelligentsia proudly quotes Darwin, Freud and Karl Marx because these have been the three thinkers who have influenced our age the most. Sri Aurobindo dealt mainly with the same issues as these three thinkers and in the light of his writings we are able to appreciate them better because he presents the complete truth these thinkers distorted in their own ways. The fact that Sri Aurobindo did not receive a favourable reception in India intellectual circles during the last half a century has been very unfortunate but not very surprising, because he was in his views and in his vision so radical and so much ahead of his times, that he effectively alienated four of the strongest intellectual establishments in the country, namely,
- the traditional Hindu religious establishment,
- the Gandhian establishment,
- the politically non-committed but eurocentric university intellectuals who are the products of Macaulay’s educational system, and also
- the leftist, communist/socialist establishment.
The Hindu religious establishment did not take kindly to Sri Aurobindo because he emphatically denied world-negation as the central thrust of Indian culture. Many of our countrymen still take great pride in the Shankarite and Buddhist legacy of regarding the world as a delusion, and therefore as of no value. His insistence on worldly progress being a quintessential part of the Indian spiritual tradition alienated Sri Aurobindo from the Hindu establishment, strangely enough. The Gandhian establishment was not entirely happy with Sri Aurobindo because of his insistence that India must cultivate the kshatriya spirit, not merely Bhakti and Jnana.
The reason why the academic establishment in India was opposed to Sri Aurobindo is that he rejected the colonial-missionary model of history, which regarded the Aryan invasion theory as its crown-jewel. Sri Aurobindo was probably the first to issue a warning against the invasion theory in his book On the Vedas, written nearly 80 years ago. Nor was Sri Aurobindo an uncritical admirer of the Western liberal-humanistic tradition. The reasons for the neglect Sri Aurobindo suffered among leftist intelligentsia in India was that he was cold to the promises of communists and the dreams of socialists, and because of his strong spiritual orientation. But it must be pointed out that Sri Aurobindo was not opposed to communist ideology per se as can be seen from the following statements of his:
‘‘If communism ever re-establishes itself successfully upon earth, it must be on a foundation of soul’s brotherhood and the death of egoism. A forced association and a mechanical comradeship would end in a world-wide fiasco.’’ #
A GREATER PSYCHOLOGY An Introduction to the Psychological Thought of Sri Aurobindo, edited by A. S. Dalal. Foreword by Ken Wilber
September 26, 2006
The geometrical potentials (k) obey the recognised laws of electromagnetic potentials, and each entity in the physical theory -charge, electric force, magnetic element, light, etc.- has its exact analogue in the geometrical theory; but is this found correspondence a sufficent ground for identification? The doubt which arises in our minds is due to a failure to recognise the formalism of all physical knowledge. The suggestion "This is not the thing I am speaking of, though it behaves exactly like it in all respects" carries no physical meaning. Anything which behaves exactly like electricity must manifest itself as electricity. Distinction of form is the only distinction that physics can recognise; and distinction of individuality, if it has any meaning at all, has no bearing on physical manifestations. [Emphasis added]
I can only think of one interpretation of a fractional number which can have absolute significance, though doubtless there are others. The number may represent the probability of something, or some fuinction of a probability. The precise function is easily found. We combine probabilities by multiplying, but we combine the actions of two regions by adding; hence the logarithm of a probabiliy is indicated. Further, since the logarithm of a probability is necessarily negative, we may identify action provisionally with minus the logarithm of the statistical probability of the state of the world which exists.The suggestion is particulary attractive because the Principle of Least Action becomes the Principle of Greatest Probability. The law of nature is that the actual state of the world is that which is statistically most probable.
"Finally, the gentically programmed constraints are on learning revealed by developmental pyschology musy prove to be consistent with the major trends and practice. If they are not, the hypothesis is doubtful and it can be legitimately supposed that in this case cultural evolution has mimicked the theoretically predicted pattern of genetic evolution. (ON Human Nature 178)"Disproval of Monkey Theory - "The sacred rituals are most distinctly human" (Ibid 179)."Religion is thus posed in contrast to nature and cannot be treated as a general phenomenon deriving from human nature" (Creation of the Sacred, Burkert, 2).p. 179-180 On Human Nature by EO Wilson supports the Shamanistic Theory. Too long to type out entirely.Creation of the Sacred by Burkert - "The most complicated issue is still how to verify the connection between cultural phenomena and bilogical preconditions" (Creation of Sacred 11)."But even if accepted [sociobiology theory], these functions do not in fact prove any correlation betweeen religion and gene selection"(Creation of Sacred 16).Self Awareness - "religions are established by learning, they are propagated both through imitation and through explicit verbal teaching" (ibid 16)."Traditions developed in this way can evidence a kind of cultural fitness for survival without any gentic basis" (ibid 16) (for example Roman Catholic Church see page 16-17)"The frist principle characteristic of religion is negative: that is, religion deals with the nonobvious, the unseen, that 'which cannot be verified empirically'" (Creation of Sacred 5).On page 89 of The Mind in the Cave Williams starts the explanation about Neanderthals and their lack of self awarenss.Disproval of genetic theory (Creation of Sacred pages 12-13)"It is the genes, not the individuals, that get passed on; hence it is th cheater within a group who enjoys the greatest advantage and by this very fitness will multiply his genes. 'The selfish gene' has become a catchword of the new approach.It remains true, however, that certain strategies of behavior within a group will prove to be more successful than others and thus make a difference even in gene selection' (10)NiChOlAs and ErInOlAs posted by Nick Coates at 7:43 AM
In the past few years, mirror neurons have come into their own as the next big thing in neuroscience, and while the jury is still out on Rama's prediction, it's obvious that something important is unfolding:
Interesting new research is being conducted in neuroscience labs in the US and Europe and discussed at conferences and in the press:
A team at UCLA led by Marco Iacoboni, Director of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation laboratory of the Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center at UCLA recently published important results ("Grasping the Intentions of Others with One's Own Mirror Neuron System", Iacoboni et al, 2005 );
Christian Keysers, Associate Professor, Neuro-Imaging-Center of the University Medical Center Groningen (Netherlands) published a paper neural basis of social intelligence with mirror neuron pioneers Rizzolatti and Gallese ("A unifying view of the basis of social cognition" Gallese, Keysers, Rizzolatti, 2004);
The New York Times "Science Times" published a page one review article on mirror neurons by ("Cells That Read Minds" by Sandra Blakeslee, January 10, 2006);
A virtual workshop — "What do Mirror Neurons Mean" — moderated by Gloria Origgi and Dan Sperber, and sponsored by the European Science Foundation, has an ongoing discussion on the theoretical implications of the discovery of mirror neurons.
At a recent conference near Paris —"Contribution of Mirroring Processes to Human Mindreading" — on the implications of mirror neurons for science and philosophy, top neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, and anthropologists from Europe and the United States engaged in heated debates on the interpretation and the consequences of the discovery, but at least one thing was clear: mirror neurons matter, and we are only beginning to understand how much and how.
Two weeks ago Edge received Rama's essay in response to the 2006 Edge Question, "What is your dangerous idea", which we are publishing as a separate feature. Rama's "dangerous if true" idea is "what Francis Crick referred to as "the astonishing hypothesis"; the notion that "our conscious experience and sense of self is based entirely on the activity of a hundred billion bits of jelly — the neurons that constitute the brain. We take this for granted in these enlightened times but even so it never ceases to amaze me". He then goes on to characterize Crick's "astonishing hypothesis" as a key indicator of "the fifth revolution" — the "neuroscience revolution" — the first four being Copernican, Darwinian, Freudian, and the discovery of DNA and the genetic code.". "that even our loftiest thoughts and aspirations are mere byproducts of neural activity. We are nothing but a pack of neurons." Central to this revolution are mirror neurons. V.S. Ramachandran 's Edge Bio Page
Thompson, William. "Coming into Being: Aritfacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness." St. Martin's Griffin. New York. 1996"... this new planetary culture is not simply a reaction to our new technologies-be they aerospace, atomic, genetic, or electronic-but an expression of a spiritual evolution that is actually pulling out these new technologies. From this perspective, I see the Zeitggeist as serving as midwife to the birth of a new humanity. The Indian philosopher and yogi Sri Aurobindo, in his evolutionary philosophy, calls this historical emergence "the Supermental Manifestation." Well, when the Supermental manifests, the old mental realm is transformed or reconstructed into a work of art." - foreword page 1 Monday, September 25, 2006 posted by Tom L at 5:49 AM AperiodSacred
September 25, 2006
Author / Editor :RATRI RAY Publisher :ATLANTIC ISBN :8126906561 Original Price : Rs. 450 Year : 2006 Pages : 224
On the occasion of the Birth Centenary of Sri Aurobindo in the year 1972, a National Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister. As part of the programme, the Government of West Bengal established the Sri Aurobindo Samiti and the Sri Aurobindo Bhavan by Special Act (West Bengal Act XXIV of 1972).Sri Aurobindo Bhavan in Shakespeare Sarani, the place where Sri Aurobindo was born, was renovated and the sacred relics of Sri Aurobindo were installed on 16 February, 1973. The memorial Shrine has since become a place of pilgrimage.Sri Aurobindo Samiti has been contained for propagating the teachings of Sri Aurobindo among the people so as to help them raise their mental and moral outlook and to solve their social, economic, cultural and spiritual problems in the light of such teachings. The Governor of West Bengal is the ex-officio Chairman of the Samiti and the Chief Minister an ex-officio member.
Library & Reading Room :Sri Aurobindo Bhavan houses a free Reading Room and a lending Library, with more than 26,000 books and 70 periodicals on various subjects. There is also a Childrens’ Library, which is one of the largest of its kind in Calcutta, having one 26,000 books in English, Bengali and Hindi.
Lectures and Study courses :Weekly lectures on Sri Aurobindo’s works, teaching and related topics are held. The Bhavan also organizes study courses under expert guidance on different aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s teaching.
It organizes cultural events, indoor/outdoor games and youth campus. An indoor gymnasium has been opened for physical culture. This section also brings out a quarterly journal, Vigil.
AHANA CENTRE OF ART & CULTURE
This cultural wing of the Bhavan imparts training in the performing arts and also encourages other cultural & artistic activities. Formed in 1980, the centre continues to give regular training in drawing and painting, Rabindra sangeet, Bharatnattyam, Kathak as well as spoken English. Catchcal.com
Sri Aurobindo’s distinction between ‘knowledge’ and ‘ignorance’, mentioned in the chapter ‘The Knowledge and the Ignorance’ of The Life Divine deserves to be quoted at length: “The distinction between the Knowledge and the Ignorance begins with the hymns of the Rig Veda. Here knowledge appears to signify a consciousness of the Truth, the Right, satyam rtam, and of all that is of the order of the Truth and Right; ignorance is an unconsciousness, acitti, of the Truth and Right, an opposition to its workings and a creation of false or adverse workings. Ignorance is the absence of the divine eye of perception which gives us the sight of the supramental Truth; it is the non-perceiving principle in our consiousness as opposed to the truth-perceiving conscious vision and knowledge.”1
In the Indian context, the nature of knowledge evolved progressively from the intuitive approach to knowledge in the Vedas and Upanishads, to rationalistic knowledge of later philosophy, from the status of perception to that of dialectics that used merely the intellect within the narrow parameters of our temporal existence – a region from where knowledge slips into what may be termed ‘information’.
* * *
If the nature of knowledge can be broadly divided into two categories, the Higher and Lower, or para- and apara-vidya respectively, it would be generally considered that the Higher knowledge would be the one that is sought after in the process of man’s evolution towards the Divine. Higher knowledge or para-vidya enables man to perceive three critical aspects pertaining to his existence. Firstly, an awareness of states of living beyond the material existence and that the concept of ‘life’ exceeds the immediately perceivable time span between birth and death. Secondly, awareness of the partial nature of the waking conscious state and the existence of planes of reality starting from the Inconscient to the superconscient. The third is the realization that the triune of Mind, Life and Body is only a partial manifestation of an eternal immutable self and spirit.
A brilliant illustration can come from Sri Aurobindo’s poem Rishi. Sri Aurobindo introduces the poem thus: “King Manu in the former ages of the world, when the Arctic continent still subsisted, seeks knowledge from the Rishi of the Pole, who after long baffling him with conflicting side-lights of the knowledge, reveals to him what it chiefly concerns man to know.”
The text of the poem is a conversation in verse between the Rishi and King Manu. The poem begins with a general statement of overriding ignorance in human lives, as Manu tells the sage –
But ours are blindly active and thy light
We have forgone.
The Rishi attests Manu’s assessment of human ignorance:
O King, I know
Thy purpose; for the vacant ages roll
Since man below
Conversed with God in friendship. Thou reborn
For men perplexed,
Seekest in this dim aeon and forlorn
With evils vexed
The vanished light.
After a series of exchanges, the Rishi who
perceived the Law,
The Truth, the Vast,
has this to tell Manu:
Perfect thy human might,
Perfect the race.
For thou art He, O King. Only the night
Is on thy soul
By thy own will. Remove it and recover
The serene whole
Thou art indeed, then raise up man the lover
To God the goal.
The Rishi’s suggestion is remarkably simple and without any complex nuances concerning the nature and status of knowledge. Perhaps it is Sri Aurobindo’s advice to us as well. Indeed, a God-centric view in man would help attain the integration of the human self with the Divine self and raise man’s consciousness to levels of superconscience.
The inferences that can be drawn from the poem are all significant pointers to the concept of ‘knowledge’ in the present day world. The more intimately we correlate ‘knowledge’ with a body of facts that can be attained through conscious labour, the more we err and move away from the true nature of knowledge, for its attainment has an intuitive role that goes beyond the perimeters of conscious intellect. Secondly, contrary to the contemporary approach to ‘knowledge’ that inherently presupposes a schism between ‘knowledge’ and the man who knows or does not, true knowledge lies within man and not without. Thirdly, ignorance is merely the failure to understand and unravel the worth of knowledge within. These three corollaries are central to our understanding of knowledge as ‘tapasya’, as ‘askesis’, and as a redirection of our consciousness towards our inner self for unraveling the nature and purpose of existence in the Divine scheme of things. - Rudrashis Datta
2 Ibid, The Rishi, Collected Poems, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1st edition, 1972
To begin with, it is based on Sri Aurobindo’s and The Mother’s philosophy of education, and of life in general. But before I expand on that I should give you an overview of what the system appears to be like on the exterior, so you can understand the philosophy better; as these are the things in which the concept of Mirambika manifests.
Hmmm…now, we never gave exams as students of Mirambika before the tenth grade. Mirambika does not believe in examinatory-evaluation systems. Neither does Mirambika believe in competition. Something I picked up from Mirambika is to not be competitive, because I do not believe in performing well and reaching new heights only to out-perform others. I strive for new heights to address my own progress and responsibilities. Promotion of students therefore, is not based on exams. Mirambikans do not wear uniforms, as that too is against the belief system of Mirambika. Why should there be uniforms? We spent half our day in school, we got three meals in school, we cleaned our own classrooms and corridors. In fact, there are no classrooms; we just had rooms – open! Walls did not go up to ceiling. The whole building is very open, with a lot of lobbies and courtyards.
There were about ten children per class and two teachers per ten children. And so, everyone knew everyone else. On birthdays, the whole school would be wishing the birthday child! If some kid made the grave mistake of bringing chaat-masala to school the whole school would end up running after her/him! We sat on the floor, in a circle, not in rows and columns. But, we spent half our day in the library. There were no black-boards as there were no ‘classes’ per se.
We studied by doing projects, which we did solely on our own, using teachers as resource persons. These projects could be on absolutely anything! That was entirely the student’s discretion. I have done projects on bizarre things like Monsters! Rocks! Food! Movies! Houses! And it was the teacher’s job to chalk out a curriculum in the purview of this topic that would help the student learn something. So, in ‘monsters project’ I ended up reading a lot of legendary stories of different cultures. I learnt the art technique of papier-mâché; and by the end of it I had a very well-formed opinion of my own on monsters! I was all of ten! Similarly, in ‘rocks’ we ended up building a rock garden, with a slide made of cement (which we hand-crafted ourselves). In ‘food’, we had different people coming each day, teaching us to cook foods of different ethnicities!
Once Damini (a friend) and I did a project on Mirambika itself – we made a whole booklet out of it, with a lot of metaphorical drawings, interviews of students, teachers and the principal. All of this was compiled together with our own, very coherent opinions. So, each project included many different facets – a wide variety of ways to learn, apart from just the academic bit. There was a lot of art, interaction, field work (like a trip to the marble factory, collecting heavy rocks, learning how to change the tyre of a car or visiting a stud farm).
I hope you get the basic idea of what I am saying – the system lay a lot of emphasis on freedom; freedom from structures, from prescribed modes of thought, from inhibitions, from fear. This explains the caption under ‘Mirambika’ – ‘a free progress school’.
But this freedom never came without responsibility. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand, and together culminate into self-discipline. Self-discipline, to me is true discipline, which comes from within a human being and is not imposed and forced on her/him. This constitutes an ‘individual’ in the true sense of the word – someone who does not do things by being compelled to, by others, but simply because her/his convictions urge her/him to do it. Motivations and discipline that are self-realised see much better results than those that are obligatory.
Mirambikans have the freedom to make their own choices – what they want to study, how they want to study it, or whether at all they want to study! If we wanted to spend all eight hours of school playing basket-ball, we could do that. As long as we give in a good project in the time frame provided to us, we can organise our day however we wish to. If there was anything where we did not have freedom, then it was sports, and yes, food! Every child had to play sports in the morning, in the first one hour of school – vigorous exercises followed by a different sport each day. And food – we had to eat a proper meal each day. And of course, one more thing, cleaning our surroundings was mandatory.
Now, back to the philosophy of freedom; self-discipline was vital. The teachers were not supposed to stand on our heads all the time and instruct us, inject us with information all day long. They were not responsible for us, nor were they meant to discipline us. It was us, ourselves who were responsible for our own growth, learning and education. This explains the excellent rapport we shared with our teachers (diyas – didis + bhaiyas, as we called them). They were our friends, we joked with them, ate with them, played foot-ball with them, went to their houses and had them over at ours. They were one of us!
The education imparted in Mirambika was not meant to create encyclopaedias, money-making machines or ‘good citizens’ out of its students. It was meant for creating, no, not creating, for bringing out the beauty that lies within each child, to build truly beautiful human beings. To my belief and intellectual capacity, Mirambika did this because children are not born as blank sheets of paper that adults have to write on and fill up. They are born with a lot of stuff inside of them. All education should do is bring that out. What formal schools actually end up doing is inserting things into the child; imposing ideas, beliefs, values, information and ‘knowledge’ onto the child, instead of unearthing what already lies within her/him.
The dominance of text-books in classrooms and the hierarchy of teacher-child relationship undermine the role of both the teacher and the learner, and deny them creative engagement with the learning endeavour. A great part of our educational culture is entrenched in the fabric of ‘received knowledge’, where the learner is perceived as a receiver and the school or the teacher as the provider of knowledge. To me, it is a truism that every child is born with a spark. The kind of formal education and conventional socialisation that exists in most societies dampens that spark instead of enhancing and using it as a tool to enable us to reach our best selves.
Formal schools seem to restrict a child’s own growth and expect everyone to conform to one formula. This ‘one size fits all’ approach does not actually work. It means that everyone should fit in these prescribed structures, those who do not, are labelled “dumb”, “not meant for academia”, “differently abled”, or simply “unintelligent and stupid”. The point these people miss is the fact that every child has her/his own way of growing, her/his own pace and own method. Mirambika taps into each child’s ‘own way’.
This is why education in Mirambika is a spiritual process, which fostered that spark in us, through which we embarked on a journey of self-exploration and expression, of wholistic development and growth, done at one’s own pace, not at the pace of the prescribed syllabus meant to be covered within a particular time frame. Education here was geared towards the nurturing of a child to empower her/him realise her/his completeness as an individual and as a part of a larger whole; not toward passing exams for becoming ‘professionals’. It is aimed at developing (in the students and teachers) confidence to think for themselves and enhancing their creative and critical faculties, thereby fostering self-reliance and a spirit of questioning.
Since this growth was slow, cynics often got worried over a fifth grader who does not know her/his tables, or whose grammar is weak. Little did they know that while the child may have temporarily suspended her/his academic learning, she/he was busy learning other things, exploring the world, expanding her/his horizons and basking in the warm light of these beautiful experiences she/he has had. For instance, when we had ‘drawing time’ (as we called it) in the art room of our school, we were never ever told what to draw, we could paint absolutely anything we wished to. And this used to excite us beyond limits! It completely triggered off our imaginations to drive into new worlds yet to be explored by us. And once they were explored to our satisfaction, we expressed our comprehension of them through various media – art, essays, poems, stories, plays, games and academic projects.
So I could make a flying elephant or a pink tree. I remember, I had once for a few weeks, developed this strange fetish for galaxies (and I barely even knew what they were). So every work of art that I did would have galaxies in it – these beautifully coloured spiral patterns in a rich blue sky! I still remember those drawings so well, because I really lived them, they were a part of me, an expression of me!
Today I call myself an artist, and really, I discovered the artist in me right there in Mirambika. Mirambika was big on art, and every child did art there, so we were all artists in our own right! This speaks volumes of how different it was from formal education systems as it was characterised by openness. Formal schools tend to pin children down in a prescriptive straitjacket to ensure their development as ‘responsible’ citizens. No more discoveries for them. The child’s world is then discarded for an adult universe, teeming with segmentation, prejudice and hierarchy. Mirambika refrains, strongly refrains from doing this, allowing each child to lay a foundation of an aesthetic mindset for her/himself.
You will never find a Mirambikan with inertia. This word is happily absent from their lives. You will always find them up and about, ready to do something, bubbling with energy – both, physical and mental. A display of their physical energy would be in their utter craziness – ever ready to play a game, a sport, or just simply wrestle with each other! During meditation time, the five minutes of Mother’s music (before starting the day, and after sports, breakfast and cleaning) – just five minutes, and we could not control our energy! Since we could not talk, we would just play those ‘pass it on with no returns’ games, with such discretion that the diyas would never know, because they would be in deep mediation! Of course now things are different, I do realise the importance of meditation.
There is such a wide variety of ways in which Mirambikans channellised their mental energy – their projects, and the life they put into them was a clear exhibition of their exuberance. On Christmas the whole school, every child is busy painting windows, cleaning, making and wrapping gifts, learning carols! The atmosphere is so magical! Every now and then, throughout the year, all the groups (classes/grades) would receive an invitation by another group (a very tastefully done one at that) for a play, an art exhibition, a quiz, a performance of some kind. And the whole school would gather to share their experiences and knowledge.
We once did a play on the Mughals and the Delhi Sultanate, because for weeks we had been doing a project on Medieval Delhi. Till today I remember that so well, it was just so much fun! My medieval history is so good, thanks to the fun way of learning that made me remember each detail. We did many more plays on such projects; Mughals is just one of my favourites. Another exciting venture of ours was when we took on the role of teachers. We used to have bi-weekly clubs (non-academic, co-curricular activities), which were facilitated by teachers. Ours being the eldest group, we decided to facilitate the clubs for our juniors, and it was a great success!
This probably gives you a peek into just how much experimentation went on over there. We were constantly throwing up ideas of how to do new things and experience as much as we can in the seemingly little time we thought we had! And of course, the teachers rarely ever said “no”, they were very supportive. But I must confess, sometimes we went a little overboard with this; we did sometimes take our freedom for granted and shed the responsibility that came with it. For instance when we went on a ‘hartal’ against English grammar classes! And when we ‘ran away’ from Hindi class, hiding the whole day, in different corners of the school from our diyas!!!!! We were really too crazy for words! A bunch of brats I would say! But really innocent ones at that; Mirambikans never grew up before their age, their innocence was always preserved.
Another thing really remarkable about this place is the cultural diversity of people that exists here. In a group of ten kids you will find Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Muslims; and Italians, Americans, Germans, Iraqis! You name it! Not that religion or ethnicity was ever a major matter of discourse here, but, the cultural diversity did in subtle ways add to the richness of this place.
Mirambika kids have a great sense of adaptability. They can adjust to any situation (not always willingly and happily, but they do usually fare quite well once thrust into it). I remember one of my most testing times – when I gave my tenth class boards privately. I prepared for them in six months flat, and had absolutely no experience of writing exams whatsoever! The uncertainty that was thrust upon us, before we made this bold decision of giving our boards that very year did not leave me so easily. Its residual effects haunted me and clouded my happiness while I was preparing for my first exams ever; the result of which would shape my entire future, the preparation of which demanded immense determination and sacrifice from me, and which is done in conditions very different from those that formal school kids have the privilege of. Patrachar Vidyalaya was not exactly fun! It was one of my most unpleasant experiences actually. But we pulled through, and quite well indeed!
And then the two years I spent at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya – the people there seemed to have had a tough time accepting me as I was ‘different’. This is when I realised the vast difference between formal schools and Mirambika. In Mirambika differences in thinking, behaviour, dress or anything else are normal. In other schools, they are pathological, thereby causing concern, contempt and rejection. Not that this does not happen in Mirambika at all, but on a much lesser and friendlier plane, it does not turn hostile. What I faced at SPV was rejection and patronisation. The only reason I was able to put up with it for two years was the strength I derived from my Mirambika background, enabling me to survive crisis situations, and in fact, even make something of them by learning from them.
My class teacher in SPV (a strict disciplinarian), once said to the whole class, when I topped – “it’s amazing that Sarandha is doing so exceptionally well in a conventional set up, in spite of being from Mirambika”. I corrected her immediately and said, “Ma’am, it’s not in spite of being from Mirambika, it is actually because of being from Mirambika”. She fell silent. She did not know how to answer me. I do not blame her, there aren’t many who would understand the meaning of what I said, there aren’t many who know exactly what ingredients Mirambika uses to build us in a way that our loyalty and love for it surpasses all bounds….
Our tutors in class ten were thoroughly impressed by Ankit, Damini and me! They used to rave about our courage, confidence and focus in life. They saw our ability to adapt, and they recognised the amazing grasping power we possessed. Of course we were no special angels or god-gifted prodigies, it was all Mirambika!! They saw the difference between us and other students they taught, and told our parents how absorbent we are. So much so that they wanted to get their own kids admitted in Mirambika!!
But, all this was not done by Mirambika alone. It is an imperative here to identify the parents’ role, who were just as involved in the whole system, which they were very much a part of. They grew with their children, learnt, and became better people and better parents. The parent-teacher meetings weren’t just about their own child, with the teachers. They were group meetings where all the parents of all ten kids came, sat together (again, on the floor!), drank tea and discussed group dynamics. And, one thing is for sure, it requires immense guts to put your child through such a radical system, which is still an experiment. They do not know which way it will go. One really needs to have hell of a lot of faith in the philosophy and system to put her/his child there. One needs to be strong about her/his convictions without a morsel of doubt, which may surface by being repeatedly questioned by society about their seemingly absurd decision.
The school would do the ground work; the rest was, to a great extent, in the hands of the parents. They need to work upon their child, while the school does the ground work. They need to give the correct nurturing or their child is ruined. A very precarious balance exists between freedom and responsibility, if it is not maintained with care and attention, self-discipline will never be the answer. The answer will spell out ruin for the child, which has happened with many of my own friends. Thus, the parents share a great part of the responsibility in this learning process. They cannot afford to be like conventional school parents. I am more than grateful to my parents for educating me in Mirambika, and for being the right kind of catalyst required.
I once read in a newspaper article – “an education system that builds upon a child’s first triumphant channelling of positive energies as a doer will create a society of individuals who have achieved a sense of unity within. Individuals who seek inter-relatedness, not isolation; plurality, not conformism. Individuals who seek to resolve conflict within humane parameters and build a nation of common wealth that grows out of the life breath of communities in the most natural manner, like a bud becoming a flower”. If we were to scrutinise Mirambika from the sociological perspective and analyse its contribution to society, then no words would be more apt than these.
All I can really say to sum up this discussion, or rather this conversation I had with my own self, is that if you understand the Anna of ‘Mister God, this is Anna’, by Fynn, then you know for sure what a Mirambika child really is….! - Sarandha
- First, she was French, and embodied the best qualities of France: Forthrightness, courage and this same fearless frankness which kindled the French Revolution and heralded an era of democracy in Europe: "Liberti Igaliti, Fraterniti."
- Second, the Mother was not only the spiritual companion of India's great prophet, Sri Aurobindo, but also her most faithful disciple. Sri Aurobindo once said that nobody could match the surrender of the Mother. Thus, naturally, she espoused Sri Aurobindo's ideals on India, particularly the political vision which he formulated, when he was the most ardent nationalist and revolutionary, an episode of his life which even some of his disciples have buried, forgetting that Sri Aurobindo had reenacted the Bhagavad Gita's extraordinary message: That force and violence can also sometimes be dharma, duty. Indeed, many of Sri Aurobindo's disciples have forgotten that he let his own brother fabricate bombs in his house.
- Third, the Mother is also Durga. And it is under this form that her children still pray to her: "Mother Durga! Giver of force and love and knowledge, terrible art thou in thy own self of might, Mother beautiful and fierce. In the battle of life, in India's battle, we are warriors commissioned by thee; Mother give to our heart and mind a Titan's energy, to our soul." Thus the Mother is extremely forthright and clear in her sayings and writings on the problems India is facing today at the hands of Pakistan, China, Bangladesh or the US. This is particularly true in her Agenda, her intimate conversations with her French disciple, Satprem, where she expressed herself freely.
On Bangladesh, the Mother said on the eve of the 1971 war with Pakistan: "Can you imagine that along with the refugees, Pakistanis have entered India, and they have poisoned wells and rivers. Some of them were caught in the act. It's dreadful." Then, Satprem asks: "But Mother, shouldn't the problem of India and Pakistan be settled once for all?" And this is the Mother's unequivocal answer: "That's what I was hoping for. But they've made...such a mess with this whole Bangladesh affair, it's dreadful - dreadful. Now, they have found a solution: The Americans are trying to come to an agreement with the Chinese - to help Pakistan massacre people. That's the last straw!" (July 17 1971). She had also faith in the Indian Army, and much less faith in the Government. What she said 30 years ago could be applied even today: "The Army is ready to fight up there on the borders of India and Bangladesh, but it is forever waiting for the Government to give the order" (September 15 1971).
Has anything changed today? Bangladesh has not only forgotten that it owes its freedom to Indian soldiers, but has also turned inimical to India, giving shelter to Islamic separatists groups. And who can forget the horrible way India's BSF soldiers were mutilated by the Bangladesh Rifles? It would be enough for India to close the Farakka dam for three days to bring Bangladesh to its knees, or for a few Mirages to fly over Dhaka. But as usual Indian leaders are trapped in the goody image of the big brother and the "Army is forever awaiting the Government's orders".
The Mother was equally forthright on Pakistan. When Satprem tells her: "Mother, it is obvious that India is the symbol of the New World in formation, so India must be 'one' symbolically, in order for the New World to see the light of day;" the Mother answers succinctly: "Yes." Satprem continues: "Consequently, Pakistan has to disappear". "But, of course," is the Mother's reply! And she adds: "India already missed one chance. But now... it shouldn't miss this one" (April 7, 1971). And when she learns that the USSR is putting pressure on India to negotiate with Pakistan, she exclaims raising her arms: "Everything has to be started all over again." We know the situation today: Every time the Indian Army has painfully made gains, the Indian Government, whether of the Congress or the BJP, has surrendered it. The latest was the mobilising of the entire Indian Army along the border with Pakistan at great cost, to finally call them back under pressure from the US. That day, Islamabad knew that it could get away with anything.
But it is probably for China that the Mother reserves her strongest words. Satprem: "The latest argument is that Pakistan wants India to declare war so she can call China to her aid." Replies the Mother: "In any case the Chinese are on Pakistan's side as they are already there in Pakistan." Satprem: "Mother, don't forget that India betrayed Tibet! When Tibet was invaded by the Chinese, India kept its mouth, ears and eyes shut and did nothing to help the Tibetans." Mother: "Quite some time ago I had a vision of China invading India, even South India. And that would be the worst of catastrophes. It will probably take centuries before things can return to normalcy (silence). And the Chinese are very intelligent (Mother goes within for a long time)."
Today this might seem a little far-fetched, except that the Chinese are still claiming huge chunks of India such as Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim, and have given the nuclear capability to Pakistan and are blocking India's entry as a permanent member of the UN, whereas they got theirs because of India's support. Yet, we still see Indian leaders talking about "the everlasting Indo-Chinese friendship".
Finally, the Mother, although she had great hope from America, did not mince her words. Satprem: "Mother, do you know that the President of the United States (Nixon) is going to China?" Mother: "Yes, can you beat that!" Satprem: "They also have quietly started giving economic aid to Pakistan again; they are doing it discreetly, but they are doing it. Their intention is to put Pakistan back on its feet." Mother: "They're mad! India missed the first chance; it missed the second chance; now we don't know when it will come again" (Mother strikes her forehead, then shakes her head several times). Today, we see that the United States, instead of choosing India - a democratic, pro-west, secular country - as a frontline state for its war on terrorism, has favoured Pakistan, a non-democratic, non-secular and often anti-west nation. How can Mr George Bush be so short-sighted? It is not Iraq he should target, but Pakistan!
Let us all then remember the Mother's strong words (which might displease some of her disciples, who would rather, as Satprem aptly says, "lock Mother and Sri Aurobindo in their Samadhi, so that they can go on with their little spiritualised routine, instead of putting their vision into practice") on the year of Her 125th birth anniversary. Let the strong spirit of Durga and Sri Aurobindo pervade India and make us the Kshatriyas of the 21st century.
September 24, 2006
My first choice and all choice is for Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. My Websites and Blogs do contain links to your Blogs and Alan's Blogs and one website of Donna, who is a Karmayogi and is involved with Amnesty International. Other commercial interests I may not generally endorse, for that may distract and disturb my purpose and my contact with Them.
I personally try to remain above planetary influences, for The Mother and even Sri Aurobindo actually help me! Always! Astro-vision is different form other astrological sites who believe in propaganda and unrefined commerce. However, Tusar, I am thankful to you for introducing me. With the best wishes! Barin Barindranath Chaki
well this looks like a worthy aim, but I can't do it on my own. Are you thinking of something like a wiki? Although we don't have enough people interested to make that work unfortunately. Or would this be something on my website? There are already some excellent websites devoted to The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, but if you want to send me the links and material with annotated comments I can certainly add it to my site!
i was searching for dharmafarmer pages, and i found a post on your weblog from my weblog. I am not writing to you to let you know upset i am or anything like that, in fact i am writing to ask about your interest into these things. I see you live in india and are familiar (if not more) with sri aurobindo's work and teachings. cool, i resonate with his basic principles of Integral Yoga. anyway, just seeking to connect.
Dear Tusar Mohapatra,
I was shocked to hear to say, if I read you right, that you have received very little comment on your Savitri Era blog. It has certainly enriched my life! I have found there probably more stimulating information on Sri Aurobindo and Mother and other spiritual and progressive subjects---and more crucial links to intellectually and psychically stimulating areas of the web (like Barin, Gagdad Bob, Ulrich Mohrhoff (I think), Alan Kazlev’s recent brilliant essays, and so many others---than anywhere else on the web. Also criticisms, which are sometimes more illuminating than encomia when taken in the right spirit. Now, there must be more of us around than we know, but many of us are fairly quiet. I believe great changes are taking place, not only in our inner beings but in the nations and the planet as a whole, ready to surface at the right time and in the right way. Your Savitri era blog, and I am sure your other blogs, is a grand, central light station for the planet. Please know this.