talks, notes, and travelogues: the divine presence By Cyprian Consiglio
I have had two almost full days to myself here at Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The silence of the place and the solitude it has afforded me have been luscious. There is a new meditation hall here now, with large images of Aurobindo and the Mother, who are of course revered as deities, a large wooden floor and even a mezzanine space. The latter is where I have been spending my time there, sitting near a window to do my readings. There are only a few other people who trickle in and out, spending some time before the images, especially in the early morning before 7 AM breakfast when I believe it is staff and workers who stop in and pay their respects. Though last night I wound up in the midst of a gathering.
Besides the day school and health clinic that operate in association with the ashram, there is a boarding vocational school for young people from all over
who appear to be in the late teens and twenties. They are called "aspirants." They are on a very strict schedule which I'm told must absolutely be followed, and last night just before 7 slowly slowly they started coming into the large hall 'til there was nearly 100 of them seated on the floor in front of the images. Off to the left a stage had been set up with microphones, and an elderly woman, accompanied by a younger woman and a tabla player mounted the stage. She spoke and then read in Hindi. Later she explained in English that she was reading one of the Mother's prayers, and noted that they had been written in French, translated into English, and only then translated into Hindi. She then read the same prayer in English and spoke about it. And then slowly she worked up a beautiful kirtan, accompanying herself on the harmonium, then joined by the young woman and the tablist, and some voices from the crowd. It was a captivating melody. There seems to be a certain quality to North Indian kirtan singing that is different than the South. I like it very much. India
The Mother is always referring to "the Divine" and "the Lord" in her writings and prayers, though every now and then she mentions Mahakali, the Great Mother. Last night I was reading a book that is in my room called "Growing Up With the Mother," which is a collection of the hundreds of notes and short letters that a young woman received from the Mother on a variety of issues. This woman would submit regular questions and/or her own notebook as part of a very long correspondence on topics ranging from sadhana and questions about Aurobindo's writing, to education and even personal hygiene. This young woman was also a teacher in the ashram school, and the answers that she received were also passed on to other teachers, with the Mother's blessing.
I have heard more than one person comment that they find Aurobindo himself very difficult to read with his florid English style and flights of poetry. I have read a number of his short works, and have been picking away at Synthesis of Yoga for a few years, and have not paid much attention to the Mother. It was very clear to me reading last night, as I have found once or twice before when I've stumbled on something of her writing, that she does bring the great man's philosophy down to earth, make it accesible and very practical. It is she who was the mastermind behind the schools, the physical fitness programs, the vocational training, and Auroville in general.
I liked that fact that she uses the word "contact" so often in relation to the divine, and one time she even used the phrase "conscious contact with the Divine," a phrase I use often too to explain the goal of meditation, though I borrowed it from the 12 Steps of AA. Posted by Cyprian Consiglio at 2:02 AM