Monday, 22 April 2013

Simplicity, Sincerity and Spontaneity

“One must be spontaneous in order to be divine.
One must be perfectly simple in order to be spontaneous.
One must be absolutely sincere in order to be perfectly simple.
To be absolutely sincere is not to have any division, any contradiction in one’s being.”

Spontaneous Aspiration of Nature towards the Divine:
Wide open, spontaneous, irrevocable in its spontaneous power.
(Botanical name: Chrysanthemum leucanthemum; Common name: Ox-eye daisy, Moon daisy) 

How simple this all sounds, and yet how difficult the path is.

To be constantly on the watch for any little contradiction emerging in my being, to be constantly conscious of every little movement in any part of my being, to constantly keep purifying myself of my little and big imperfections and defects of nature…this is the path I must tread on, with every tiny step, without regard to any number of failures I may encounter, never losing faith, never losing the remembrance that The Divine is beside me, with me, holding me, in me, and all around me, that The Divine in me is the one aspiring to be one with The Divine.

What is needed to be simple and spontaneous in order to be divine is to aspire upwards, to aspire for god-hood, and not look beneath the man-hood to animal world where a different kind of simplicity or spontaneity may exist. But that simplicity is an empty simplicity. What is needed is a full simplicity in which I have developed the inner ability to transcend the complexity and disharmony resulting from that complexity.

Simple Sincerity: The beginning of all progress.
(Botanical name: Aster amellus; common name: Italian aster)
Photo credit

When I am not sincere in my motivations and intentions, I am not spontaneous, I am trying to use the situation to my “advantage” or for my “pleasure.” In other words, I am being self-ish in my approach and attitude towards others, towards work, towards life and world in general. I am trying to play the “win-lose” game where I am trying to win the game regardless of who else is losing. This most certainly results in a feeling of unease somewhere deep down. I can choose to not acknowledge this feeling, or even worse, I can not even be conscious of such an un-ease. But sooner or later, this feeling which is a natural consequence of what I have sown does do its work and may manifest in the form of inner confusion, conflicting interests, irritation at the system or others, ill-health etc. All of this is a sure recipe for unhappiness. So lack of sincerity leads to lack of simplicity, lack of simplicity leads to unhappiness. And when I am so unhappy, it becomes even difficult to quiet all the noises in the head. And the result is chaos, marketplace of meaningless, repetitive thoughts.

This lack of inner quietude prevents me from accurately observing myself and my reactions and movements, and also from accurately grasping the reality surrounding my field of experience. This cacophony of noises leads to misjudgment, misunderstanding and mistaken actions, eventually resulting in disappointment, hopelessness and unhappiness. And that sometimes acts as an incentive to go back to the “simpler” times, to the empty simplicity when I don't have to deal with the complexity of real-world situations, when I don't have to creatively engage with the ego-clashes in which I spend most of my days. But as the Mother guides, this is not the simplicity I should be aspiring for. It is the simplicity of the divine that should be my goal and ideal.

Integral Simplicity: The simplicity that comes from perfect sincerity.
(Botanical name: Vittadinia triloba; Common name: Creeping daisy)

Sri Aurobindo’s answer is always the same: Be simple, be simple, very simple. And I know what he means: to deny entry to regulating, organising, prescriptive, judgmental thought — he wants none of all that. What he calls being simple is a joyful spontaneity; in action, in expression, in movement, in life, be simple, be simple, be simple. A joyful spontaneity.
(The Mother)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Prayer, Aspiration and Faith

Bamboo branches and palm leaves swaying gently in the tropical breeze outside... the sounds of the dancing branches naturally mingling with the chirping sounds of some birds, an occasional hiss from some insect in the garden, and the soothing sound from a very special wind-chime near the window…

Can this spot near my bedroom window be my temple today?

On the occasion of Ram-Navami, the birth of Sri Rama, I re-read today some of the words of the Mother on prayer and aspiration.

Am I praying today? Am I aspiring? What is the difference?

Prayer: Self-giving is true prayer.
(Botanical name: Zephyranthes; Common names: Zephyr flower, Fairy lily, Rain lily)

Growing up with devout and religious-minded parents, I used to often wonder whether I should be praying to the God asking for something specific, or whether I should call for guidance, help, light, direction, or whether that moment should simply be a state of wordless, quiet feeling. As far back as I can recall my childhood and growing up years, every time I was standing in front of a deity in a temple or even at the small altar in our home, my prayer (if that can be called a prayer) took the form of something like – “Oh god, do what you feel is best. Give me what is best for me. Give me peace.” I can’t remember asking for something specific – like fulfilling whatever wish I may be holding on to in my heart at that time. I have found it particularly difficult to ask for a specific thing when I have always felt that the Divine knows everything I am thinking or wishing, knows what is needful for me, and will give me what is most necessary for me. [I can’t say with absolute certainty that I have never prayed for anything specific, as I write this I can indeed remember a few specific occasions when I did that. But generally speaking, that was not the case.] Sometimes my prayers would become less egoistic and more about asking for the best for all, asking for a wider peace. Did I ever reflect upon who all are included in my definition of ‘all’? Can’t remember.

But I do remember some conversations with my parents during childhood about this topic – should one ask God for something specific or should one pray more generally? One view would be that if God is same as your parent, and we ask for specific things from our parents all the time, then why not ask God for specific requests. Another view would be that if God knows all and everything (and can not only see the innermost beings of all but is in fact is That Innermost Being), then surely God also knows what we want, so there is no need to ask for anything specific. Of course, we may want one thing, but God also knows what it is that we need. So it may be better to not ask for whatever it is that we think we want, but let God decide for us what it is that we should be given. Aah…the philosophizing minds of children, and the parents’ indulgence with these innocent queries!!

Aspiration: Innumerable, obstinate, repeating itself tirelessly. 
(Botanical name: Nyctanthes arbor-tristis; Common names: Night jasmine, Parijat, Harsingar, Coral Jasmine, Tree of sadness) Photo: From my garden

The Mother’s words about the difference between prayer and aspiration make one thing very clear. Prayer requires a faith in the Divine Being, while an aspiration does not necessarily require that. One can aspire for a state of being, for progress, for a state of consciousness even without having a belief or faith in a personal deity or a Personal God. At the same time though, I feel aspiration also requires a faith in the ideal that a different state of being, a different level of consciousness is possible, reachable. It is towards that that one aspires. Faith is in both cases fundamental. One can’t aspire towards something if one does not feel inwardly that That is indeed something which exists.

So back to the question – Am I praying today? Am I aspiring? Do I have the Faith that is the need of the hour?

Perhaps a bit more of quiet time near the window will help…

Faith: You flame up and triumph.
(Botanical name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis; Common names: Chinese hibiscus, Hawaiian hibiscus, Rose-of-China) 

We can, simply by a sincere aspiration, open a sealed door in us and find...that Something which will change the whole significance of life, reply to all our questions, solve all our problems and lead us to the perfection we aspire for without knowing it, to that reality which alone can satisfy us and give us lasting joy, equilibrium, strength, life. (The Mother)
Faith is certainly a gift given to us by the Divine Grace. It is like a door that suddenly opens upon an eternal truth, a door through which we can see it, almost touch it....In the ignorance and darkness of the beginning, faith is the most direct expression of the Divine Power which comes to fight and conquer. (The Mother)
Flowers are the prayers of the vegetal kingdom. (The Mother)
Prayer is only a particular form given to ... will, aspiration and faith. ... Its power and sense is to put the will, aspiration and faith of man into touch with the divine Will as that of a conscious Being with whom we can enter into conscious and living relations. ... In spiritual matters and in the seeking of spiritual gains, this conscious relation is a great power; it is a much greater power than our own entirely self-reliant struggle and effort and it brings a fuller spiritual growth and experience. (Sri Aurobindo)

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A Thing of Beauty...

Rabindranath Tagore once wrote: “Things in which we do not take joy are either a burden upon our minds to be got rid of at any cost; or they are useful, and therefore in temporary and partial relation to us, becoming burdensome when their utility is lost; or they are like wandering vagabonds, loitering for a moment on the outskirts of our recognition, and then passing on. A thing is only completely our own when it is a thing of joy to us.”

Beautiful words from Gurudev. And how profoundly meaning and immensely helpful this thought can be to us every time we feel the urge to simply grab one more object from the shopping mall! We really own something when it is a thing of joy to us, and only then that thing becomes beautifully and completely our own. But perhaps when something is indeed a source of joy to us, the urge to own it also disappears and all that remains is the feeling of joy that arises because of the mere existence of that thing. Truly, we may possess something only when we have mastered the urge to possess...because then all is anyway ours to enjoy, simply because it exists.

Easier said than remembered every time we go shopping! Easier remembered than actually practiced!

These words could also have some significant implications for designing our living spaces, be it our homes, gardens, a room or even a small corner. More on that in a later post...for now let me close this with a picture of a small corner of our humble garden that is always a thing of joy for me and my husband. a Joy for Ever.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Sunday Morning Lesson in Beautiful and Precise Action

Had the joy of having the freshest possible idlis and steamed dosa for breakfast yesterday at the Visitor Center at Auroville. The joy was doubled when I saw a sweet lady come out of the restaurant kitchen with a basket full of assorted flowers and a polished-to-shine urli filled up to brim with water. She was about to start arranging the flowers in the urli - something that one can see on the restaurant main counter every time one visits this delightful eating joint. Leaving my husband alone at our table, and taking my coffee cup with me I went near this petite lady and after greeting her with a smile and hello, asked her if I could simply stand there and watch her do her ‘thing’ with flowers. She smiled a sweet smile and said yes.

And then it began...the delight of watching one of the sweetest and most beautiful work in progress.

All the flowers from the top of the basket were first laid out on the counter and separated by colours. First came a layer of delicate flowers (Rose periwinkle/Madagascar periwinkle/Catharanthus roseus; Spiritual significance given by The Mother – Integral Progress). 

Each flower was floated in the water with careful precision and delicacy. After all the flowers were arranged in a circular pattern, the lady very gently pulled at one of the petals of each flower in order to leave just a hint of a space between the rim of the urli and the flower. This made the water sparkle in the combined light of the shiny brass of the urli and the white brightness of the flowers.  And I thought to myself – what a nice idea! How beautiful it looks.  But within a second I understood her actual reason for doing that.

She had discovered a whole bunch of tiny purple/lavender flowers at the bottom of the basket (Wishbone flower/Bluewings /Torenia fournieri; Spiritual significance given by The Mother – Krishna’s Play in Matter) and this tiny little space between the rim and each of the white flowers was just enough to float those purple gems. 

And then it began awe at how she was so carefully handling each of these purple flowers and arranging them in an exact precise manner so that their petals were floating in the same direction. No randomness, all in perfect order and harmony, and yet all done with such flawless spontaneous movements of her fingers. The flowers were so tiny but her soft eyes and gentle fingers were so observant and exact that not a teeny-weeny extra bit of an over-grown petal or accompanying leafy material made it to the arrangement.

Perfect precision in creating a work of art from the heart. I wish I had the camera with me to capture that gentle perfection in progress....but perhaps it is for the best that such beautiful moments of creating beauty are simply experienced in the flow of the moment, and not frozen.

Beauty of the action...

Perfection of the form...

Seeking the divine harmony behind everything...

The Sunday breakfast turned out to be a perfect lesson!  

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Photo by Suhas Mehra

This blog is a humble attempt to contemplate upon, live out, and express the following words from The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry.

"Let beauty be your constant ideal.
The beauty of the soul
The beauty of sentiments
The beauty of thoughts
The beauty of the action
The beauty in the work
so that nothing comes out of your hands which is not an expression of pure and harmonious beauty.
And the Divine Help shall always be with you."

May Her Guidance be always with me as I begin...