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).
Ethical quandaries abound for those hardy souls who, shunning the sheltered existence of a remote hermitage, aspire to practice spiritual ideals in the chiaroscuro of everyday life. How does one make a living while surrounded by insecure people who are themselves struggling to secure their own financial and other physical comforts ? Whom to trust and how much truth to disclose ? When should one take a principled stand and when should one just let go? One can be forced into some pretty disappointing and unsavoury choices in this ambiguous battle of life. In this article, we read the advice given by Sri Aurobindo to a disciple who was dismayed by the corrosive effect the legal profession was having on his soul.
The Mother Mirra Alfassa was a much misunderstood Guru outside the confines of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Some derided her as authoritarian presumably because she supervised parades in the Ashram(these were intended to instill the discipline required for yogic transformation). Others, after reading of her intimate involvement in the day-to-day decisions of the disciples, concluded that she had turned the Ashram into a cult. Men especially had difficulty accepting an European (not to mention French) woman as a Guru. Many hasty, as well as nasty, misconceptions arise because we superficially evaluate her external behaviour based on our own preconceptions and prejudices. A proper appraisal of her functioning as a Guru requires some patience along with a nascent psychic sensitivity to perceive the luminous consciousness behind her frontal personality.
Karma Yoga(Yoga of Works), as outlined in the Bhagavad Gita, involves doing work not for one’s ego but as an offering to the Divine. The principles of Karma Yoga can be easily applied in the tranquil atmosphere of some spiritual retreat where one is surrounded by like-minded people but it is much more difficult to practice in a professional or business environment of today’s capitalistic society. This post discusses some finer points of Karma Yoga based on the commentaries of Sri Aurobindo.