Sunday, October 16, 2005

Has Sri Aurobindo Ashram A Future?

Sri Aurobindo Ashram: Its Role, Responsibility and Future Destiny
(By Jugal Kishore Mukherjee; Published by Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry)
Spiritual life is ever a divine battle. Those who opt for it have to battle against enemies of the spiritual way of life from outside as well as the enemies of promise within the spiritual fold. It is at this juncture that the 125th birthday of Sri Aurobindo gave a chance to analyse the problems that beleaguer the Ashram. Jugal Kishore Mukherjee’s Visada Yoga (Yoga of sorrow) literally gave birth to an intense heart-searching, and the result is a testament of faith in the future destiny of mankind as one of abiding Ananda consciousness. Jugalda is not willing to wound but he is not afraid to strike at the penury that often devastates the human heart. There is a poverty of the heart when it is rendered weak in sincerity, love, faith. Jugalda is quite conversant with the reasons that often create convulsions within a spiritual community which seeks to master material nature. Necessarily, as with the Tantric disciplines in the past, this way gets clouded due to the powers of Rajas and Tamas that hold sway over the material world. The danger of slipping into mere religiosity is very real and hence Jugalda’s self-questionings:

“Do many Ashramites still aspire after and make an effort for the acquisition of spiritual consciousness?
And if yes, who guide and illumine the sadhaks in their spiritual endeavour?
Can one contact the Presence of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo as a really living reality here?
Why are there at times serious conflicts in the Ashram?
Has the Ashram outlived its value as a spiritual institution?
Is there any fear of its transforming itself with the passage of time into a thriving cultural community, forgetting the pristine character given it by the Mother and Sri Aurobindo?”

Today the Ashram has 1200 regular inmates and also a good number of people from outside who participate in the Ashram life. However, in all this variety of external life (teaching, painting, plumbing, cooking, doll-making, to name but a few) there lies the danger of forgetting the primary goal. Genuflexion to the portraits or the Samadhi alone is not enough. Interweaving his argument with telling illustrations from The Life Divine, Jugalda seeks to educate the reader on the ideal group life where “the individuals constituting any collectivity should move away from their surface existence which is at present the field of unbridled play of ego and try to dwell more and more in their inner consciousnees.” Such an antahkarana-approach is not too easy to come by in this Age of Visual Culture. But then one has to exercise eternal vigilance not to succumb to the Tamas but hold on to “an ardent and one-pointed practice to reach the Goal”, though Jugalda finds this ideal conspicuous by its absence.

Jugalda understands the problems of those who deviate from the goal. There are reasons. The close concentration of a large number of people within a small space, the absence of a code of conduct spelt out in militarist terminology, a lack of stress on personal relationships are but some of them. Relationships have to work on the wavelength of the Divine and this is hard to achieve for human beings. And yet, Jugalda will neither compromise (no, our aim is not merely another cultural centre or religious retreat) nor give up the Aurobindonian ideal as an utopian dream. He finds many positive points for optimism. Freedom, yes. Permissiveness, no. Jugalda warns that permissiveness is an evil that should be rooted out on the spot. In the Ashram there are no subordinates. Everyone is a helper. The heads of sections are there only for administrative convenience.
Jugalda does not gloss over the negative details like the desire on the part of some Ashramites to move out of the Ashram often or the urge to acquire personal wealth. Though Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had no use for the Ascetic’s refusal, they did not favour superfluities in one’s life. There is then the question of man-woman relationships. Fortunately, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have dealt with all such wrong movements and have given firm directions. An Ashram life is meant for a growth in consciousness. Sri Aurobindo’s vision of a Deva Sangha saw a collectivity of aspirants pursuing the Integral Yoga for a rise in consciousness. The aim was never lost sight of even when the Ashram extended its parameters of action. The original afflatus that began the Ashram is still a guardian power, for Jugalda marvels that in spite of all the problems the Ashram life flows on smoothly and quietly.
Dr. Prema Nandakumar
Sabda Newsletter, August 2000

No comments:

Post a Comment