spirituality is not to renounce life, but
| Introduction | History | Legal Status | Branches & Centres | Members & Participation |
A dynamic application of spirituality to life and all it's activities is what we are trying to achieve at Sri Aurobindo Society.
Sri Aurobindo Society is a registered society with its chief administrative office at Pondicherry. It has about 332 centres, 64 branches and about 17,000 members in India and outside. The Mother is the founder and the permanent President of the Society.
Sri Aurobindo Society was started by the Mother in 1960. She is its guiding force and its permanent President. She has nurtured the small instrument that was created over 35 years ago and has made it an international organisation working in diverse fields of life. The community of consciousness has kept growing worldwide.
It is necessary for us, from time to time, to remind ourselves of the source and intent that brought the Society into existence, so that we may remain open to that guidance and rededicate ourselves to the work of transformation, taken up by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Through the many ups and downs, the many challenges and the apparently insurmountable obstacles, the Society's history has been a living testimony to the working of the Grace. At each step one has remembered Sri Aurobindo's words:
"The Grace of the Divine Mother is the sanction of the Supreme... Its touch can turn difficulties into opportunities, failure into success and weakness into unfaltering strength."
It is the Mother's love and action which have sustained the Society from the beginning.. The material published in the section on the history and origin shows the Mother's involvement at every level of the Society's work, as also several rare documents containing the Mother's directions and signature as our Executive President. Some of these have been brought together here which we offer to our browsers worldwide.
On 1st January 1972, the Centenary year of Sri Aurobindo, All India Radio had broadcast a message of the Mother :
"Today is the first day of Sri Aurobindo's Centenary year. Though he has left his body he is still with us, alive and active.
Sri Aurobindo belongs to the future; he is the messenger of the future. He still shows us the way to follow in order to hasten the realisation of a glorious future fashioned by the Divine Will.
All those who want to collaborate for the progress of humanity and for India's luminous destiny must unite in a clairvoyant aspiration and in an illumined work.."
The message puts beautifully in a nutshell the purpose and work of the Society.
We invite you to join us in our efforts to work towards an integral perfection of man, both as an individual and a collectivity. It is the Society's aim to bring together all those who want to contribute to the advent of a new world where human unity will blossom in the midst of a harmonious and organised diversity.
It was the need of the hour. The intense sadhana of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had raised the spiritual destiny of man to uncharted peaks. Their message, full of hope and joy, is an affirmation of the divine possibilities of life on earth. Their Integral Yoga is a striving for the perfection of life itself, not its rejection. A synthesis of the spiritual and the material. A quest to be undertaken individually and collectively.
Sri Aurobindo had delivered the divine message. It was the task of the Mother to give it a concrete shape and to carry this vision of a new awakening to all corners of the world, to people who await the call. In 1960 she founded the Sri Aurobindo Society.
The Mother herself laid the foundation for the Society, a strong base on which it could grow and spread like a banyan tree. It was she who supervised the formulation of the constitution, and the main objective of the Society, as laid down in its memorandum, is :
"To make known to the members and people in general the aims and ideals of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, their system of Integral Yoga and to work for its fulfilment in all possible ways and for the attainment of a spiritualised society as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo."
The Memorandum of Association of the Society is not a mere legal document. It bears the mother's signature, dated 19th September 1960, and is a living embodiment of her ideas, aims and objectives for revealing to the world Sri Aurobindo's message and his agenda for human progress.
Many of the official documents record Madame M. Alfassa, the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, to be the President of the Society. They carry her signature as M. Alfassa, where she combines her surname with the symbol of the soaring bird, so familiar to us.
To our way of thinking today, it may appear that the Mother graced the Society as President in a symbolic sense only. But the Mother was far more. Few amongst us now remember and realise the great personal attention she gave to every aspect of the Society's work, how her divine touch, at once many-sided and all-embracing, reached down to the most material. It was she who executed in the smallest detail, every task in this early foundational period.
It was the Mother
who named the new organisation Sri Aurobindo Society. She created a symbol
for it taking the existing symbol of Sri Aurobindo and enclosing it in
a diamond. She gave a motto which contains a complete programme,
both for the individual and the collectivity :
The Society was registered in Calcutta. It could not be registered in Pondicherry because the process of law-making was not yet complete in the former French colony, which had gained independence only six years earlier. Since there was no provision for such legislation in Pondicherry and Calcutta had a large number of devotees, it was convenient to register the Society there.
To carry out her work the Mother chose Navajata, whom she called 'My faithful'. His name appears in various documents both as Keshav Dev Poddar, his earlier name, and as Navajata, a name given to him by the Mother, meaning the 'New Born'. He was the Society's first General Secretary and Treasurer and later, after the Mother left her body in 1973, became its first Chairman.
Along with the Mother, the two other persons who sat on the first Executive Committee of the Society were Navajata and Arunendranath Tagore of Calcutta, an advocate and Notary Public. Significantly, the first few meetings of the Executive committee were held in the Mother's room in the Ashram.
Following the usual procedure, the Minutes noted the names of the persons who were present, including that of the Mother, and she signed the Minutes as the Chairperson of the meetings. Even the Balance Sheets and the Annual Reports of the Society were signed by her - a rare privilege.
A tiny seed holds the blueprint of a mighty tree. It was the divine Mother who planted the seed of the Society's destiny and nurtured it. She provided the force and the inspiration and encouraged each individual and each group to grow in complete freedom, to progress and work in a spirit of service and sadhana. But simultaneously she was always ready to come forward to help and guide, whenever the need or the call was there.
Whether it was a question of purchase of land and building, of starting schools and guest houses, of organising conferences, of opening centres and branches in India and abroad, of enrolling new members, of publishing books and journals, the issues were referred to the Mother for guidance and decision. She gave the names to the journals, chose the editors and sometimes gave directions about the layout.
One of the projects the Mother started through the society was the constructions of her dream city of Auroville. It was a dream the Mother had since the 1930s, of a model city which would reflect the outward reality of the descent of the Supramental and go on to become the centre of a perfect world. She named it after Sri Aurobindo, calling it Auroville, The City of Dawn.
The work expanded in many fields and directions. Nothing escaped the Mother's attention: from business and economics to even films, a wide spectrum of life's endeavours were included in her agenda of social transformation. Auroservice was founded to give a spiritual basis to business and Aurofilms was set up for the production of films.
has revealed the true spirit of sadhana through work, the way of
Karmayoga in the Gita :
"Self-dedication does not depend on the particular work you do, but on the spirit in which all work, of whatever kind it may be, is done. Any work done well and carefully as a sacrifice to the divine, without desire or egoism, with equality of mind and calm tranquility in good or bad fortune, for the sake of the divine and not for the sake of any personal gain, reward or result, with the consciousness that it is the Divine Power to which all work belongs, is a means of self-dedication through Karma".And this was also the recurring theme in all the directions given by the Mother, running like a continuous thread through every action. What was important was the sincerity. The inner attitude and the consciousness with which a work was done. The results and the outer form of the activity were always secondary.
For the Mother, no work was small, no donation insignificant, no centre or branch too remote. In the midst of her heavy schedule, she approved plans for the work in Pondicherry and outside, went through pages of reports, signed receipts, endorsed cheques, sanctioned expenditure of even sundry repairs. It was a veritable labour of divine love, Mahasaraswati's way of perfection in works. Sri Aurobindo has said of Mahasaraswati, in his book "The Mother" :
"Nothing is too small or apparently trivial for her attention, nothing however impalpable or disguised or latent can escape her. Moulding and remoulding she labours each part till it has attained its true from, is put in its exact place in the whole and fulfils its precise purpose."Care, precision and meticulous attention to detail were hallmarks of the Mother's way of working. It was December 1961. The Society's first All India Conference was being organised at Pondicherry. The agenda was put up to the Mother for her approval. Point No.4 of the agenda stated :
"To decide how we can serve in building up Sri Aurobindo ashram as the nucleus of the new world."The Mother amended it to read :
"To study in what way we can serve or help the Sri Aurobindo ashram in its work of giving to the world an example of spiritualised life."When Pondicherry merged once again with India, the Mother made a declaration on 15th August 1954 :
"From the first time I came to India in 1914 I felt that India is my true country, the country of my soul and spirit… I am French by birth and early education, I am Indian by choice and predilection…"Sri Aurobindo and the Mother loved India deeply and wanted her 'to be great, noble, pure and worthy of her big mission in the world". This is also one of the major objectives of the Society. In August 1967, a meeting was organised at Delhi to plan and work for a new India, and the Mother sent this inspiring message for the occasion :
"O India, land of light and spiritual knowledge! Wake up to your true mission in the world. Show the way to union and harmony."As the work expanded, branches of the Society were opening all over India. Human nature being what it is, the process threw up its own problems. In Orissa, for example, differences of opinion cropped up between two eminent persons who were invited to help organise an all-Orissa State Conference. Again, the Mother intervened. Navajata had drafted a letter to one of the recalcitrant parties :
"The Mother will appreciate it if both of you can forget the past and work together for the good of your State."The Mother, true to her word that nothing would be done without her consent, corrected it and replaced the phrase "for the good of your State", by "for the sake of the divine". A few well-chosen words which completely changed the context and made an altogether different impact.
When there was a proposal to start a school in Punjab, the Mother was informed through a letter :
"Mother, the idea is to start a primary school in Ludhiana on behalf of the Sri Aurobindo Society. The local people want to start it as a high school. They can finance it. The main difficulty would be about teachers - whether they can take such a big step and keep the school under your influence."The Mother's reply was direct and revealing :
"The teachers must be found first and the school opened afterwards."The journal Purodha was being edited by Ravindra, who received some money in the form of advertisements. Ravindra was in a quandary. He wrote to the Mother :
"I have two ideas about using this money :
"I am not for getting interest on money. So use it in another way as you think best. Blessings."However this created a further problem for Ravindra who told the Mother that a great amount of the work of Purodha was being carried on through interest received on money kept as deposit in the bank. He did not know how to reconcile the Mother's directions with the existing way of working.
The Mother, always the idealist but also the supreme realist, replied so gently :
"What I see is the world of tomorrow, but the world of yesterday is still alive and will still live for some time. Let the old arrangements go on so long as they are alive. Upon earth, the changes are slow to come. Do not worry - and keep hope for the future. With love and blessings."In the formative years, all applications to work in the Society at Pondicherry were seen personally by the Mother. In one instance, a photograph was presented to her, along with the application form, and her pragmatic response was, "The man is good, but is it necessary just now?"
It is thus that the Society has grown, permeated at every step by the Mother's energy and grace. The Mother's presidency was indeed far from symbolic. "I will definitely guide you", she once promised Navajata, while discussing the work of the Society. She continues to do so, even though she has shed her physical body. After all, where has she gone? We have only to call, and remember and offer ourselves and she is there.
The centres and branches of the Society are, in a way, both the roots and limbs of the Society. In a message, the Mother has explained the true significance of a centre :
"To open a centre is not sufficient in itself. It must be the pure heart of a perfect sincerity in a total consecration to the divine."
A Centre of Sri Aurobindo Society therefore is a centre of sadhana , of dedication in service of the divine. Normally, twelve interested persons in an area get together to form a centre. A centre can start in a small way, in a room set aside for this purpose where the photographs of Sri Aurobindo and the mother can be installed, and where weekly or fortnightly meditation meetings are held. The activities of the centre can be expanded to include library and reading room facilities. There is, however, no rigid programme laid out for the centres and branches. They can add new activities as they grow and develop according to their inner needs.
The Society has at present about 50 branches and 300 centres in India and abroad. They are engaged in a variety of activities which include seminars, conferences, running of educational institutions, programmes of physical education, classes for dance, drama, music, teachers' camps, youth camps, free medical care, research programmes, handicrafts, publications of books in English and in many Indian languages.
What is important is not the activity in itself, but the spirit in which it is undertaken - that is, as an offering to the divine.
When a centre has sufficiently grown and expanded, or if it acquires some immovable assets, it is converted into a branch of the Society.
The Society has also a few centres outside India. Several of these are formally registered under the laws of their country.
The membership of the Society is open to everyone, all over the world who believe in the ideals of the Society and would like to work for their realisation. All members receive the monthly AIM published by the Society.
What a Member Can Do
Those who join the Society are welcome to be active members because to join is only the beginning, the resolution to participate in the change that is coming in the world. The following could be the beginning of a member's integral participation :
ashram | centre
of education | auroville
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audio "Om namoh bhagvate..."