In religious history, the spiritual essence often gets cloaked by an impenetrable layer of superstition and mythology. Fantastic tales of miracles abound, elaborate rituals are superstitiously observed to propitiate mysterious circling spirits, and considerable regard is accorded to holy days, holy food, holy places and holy clothes. It requires inner discernment to free the mind from the cultural baggage which has been passed down through the ages. This is a compilation of answers given by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on some of the issues which tend to burden our thinking.
Time magazine in Jan, 1950 called it the “Revolt of a doormat” (alternate link). Nandini Mehta, wife of Bombay textile millionaire Bhagvandas Mehta and mother of three children went to court asking for legal separation. She had become a disciple of Jiddu Krishnamurti and aspired to live a celibate life but her husband would not permit her to do so. After an acrimonious court battle, she eventually separated from her husband but was unable to gain custody of her children (1). She devoted the rest of her life to running an orphanage Bal Anand (i.e. “joy of children”; it still exists; see a report).
The spiritual journey begins in enigmatic ways and progresses along sinuous and untrodden paths in its ascending arc towards some dim, distant promise of greater harmony. Some come disillusioned by life and seek to comprehend why the world is so treacherous, while others may be motivated by a mystic verse which promises a larger and fuller vision of life. Even after a promising start, we may vacillate for a long time unable to relinquish our past attractions or get trapped in inferior ideals before recovering our purpose and resuming our pursuit. In this excerpt taken from the Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo reflects on the myriad ways in which people begin the spiritual journey.
Until recently, comatose patients who did not regain awareness in a few weeks would be written off as hopeless, but advances in neuroimaging technologies have revealed that comatose patients continue to display a degree of mental awareness. Scientists have found that disorders of consciousness are not an on-off phenomenon but span a continuum. These results validate remarks made by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother several decades ago. That is the subject of the first section below. The second section discusses the surprising learning abilities exhibited by sleeping newborn babies.
A blog reader asked in a comment what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother thought of atheism and agnosticism. Since I couldn’t find a pithy conspectus by them on the topic, here is a synopsis based on whatever I have absorbed from their writings. It is followed by a passage from Sri Aurobindo’s work on social philosophy, The Human Cycle.
This article brings together some predictions and uncanny observations made by Sri Aurobindo that were fulfilled later in time. To preserve chronological fidelity, I will only draw on remarks which predate the actual occurrence of the event. If the modern tech-savvy yogi had to record predictions about the future, he or she could use Trusted timestamping(digital notary), a cryptographic technology which is now available in commercial software products. Such technology was unfortunately not available in Sri Aurobindo’s time nor did he care to impress others with his yogic abilities. Consequently, the neutral observer wishing to verify these predictions has to rely on a combination of trust as well as the fact that the original manuscripts from which these remarks are drawn are preserved in the Archives Department of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.