Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
This evening Mridula Di decided to take up the topic the group had just started grappling with in their last discussion. About the outer sheaths and the inner core of an individual and nation. About the connection between the inner and outer. She has also brought with her some learning aids in order to illustrate some points.
After the initial meeting in the garden and a small concentration, she directs the group to move to a room where the computer and projector are set up for some of the material she wants to share with the group. The group soon settles down and the session begins.
M: Good evening, once again. So are we ready to pick up from where we left off last time?
Dia: Yes, Di.
(A few others also chime in with their yes-es.)
M: Okay. Let’s see here. You remember, in our last session we had just started talking about the possibility of some connection between the outer sheaths of who we are as an individual – the physical, emotional-vital, and the inner core of our being.
(A few nods, a few yeahs.)
M: Let’s proceed from there and use some examples to explore that point a bit more.
(She waits for a few moments, acknowledges the few nods from the group and continues.)
M: Let us begin with this. Take a look at this slide, see it closely for a few moments and let it speak to you of whatever it wants to convey to you.
(The group silently looks at the screen and tries to take in what the slide is trying to express. After a few minutes, Mridula Di resumes the discussion.)
M: So, what do you think? What is this collage trying to tell you?
(An expectant silence).
M: Come on, do share whatever it is you felt or heard or thought as you gazed at this.
Avi: Ok, I will start!
M: Good, tell us.
Avi: First, that line in the middle – Beauty is his footprint….I think that is a line from Sri Aurobindo, right?
Falguni: Yes, I also thought so.
M: Yes, it is.
Avi: Is it from one of his poems?
M: It is actually from Savitri, his mantric epic poem, mahakavya.
Falguni: Oh, wow!
Avi: I felt mesmerised by that line, actually. It is really beautiful. Beauty as Divine’s footprint, I just kept thinking about that idea. I am not sure that’s what you wanted us to get from this collage.
M (smiling): Well, I am not going to say what was my agenda or intention behind making this collage, may be I didn’t have a specific one. And I wanted the interpretation to come from the different insights shared here. But I will say this. If I didn’t want you to reflect or contemplate on that line, I wouldn’t have included it there! So it is perfectly fine that you kept reflecting on what that idea was trying to communicate to you.
Avi (smiling): Great! So I wasn’t too off, then.
M: Not at all! But do say a little more, if you want to, about what you found most insightful about this line.
Avi: Well, I was thinking that footprint is something external, something visible from the outside. Kind of like the outer sheaths we have been discussing. But beauty is something more inward, I mean, it can be seen on the outside (at least the physical beauty) but it is felt inwardly. Isn’t that so? Am I making any sense?
M: You are. Most definitely! Go on, please!
Avi: Well, that’s all I had! I don’t know if I can add anything more.
(After a brief pause, he continues).
Avi: It’s just that I felt that all those images you have put up there, they kind of express a certain type of beauty for which you need to have more of an inner sensitivity to feel that they are beautiful. So that’s where I got this insight about inner and outer thing.
M: I think you have touched upon something very important there. Would you like to add something more to this?
Avi: Hmmm…I am not sure I can explain it very well. Maybe someone else can try.
Eesh: May I say something?
M: Sure, go ahead.
Eesh: I think what Avi is trying to say here…and I sort of agree with him on this, is that if one just casually looks at those images of caves you have put up there – is it Ajanta or Ellora?….
M: Ellora, that’s the famous Kailasa cave temple there.
Eesh: Oh, okay! So if you just look at that structure and only casually see some old rocks and carvings of gods and goddesses and all that, you may just say that it is all very nice, even beautiful in a certain way. But you will not be able to feel, I mean, really feel the beauty of what that place is all about if you don’t have that inner perception somewhere. Or it may be an inner sensitivity to a certain kind of aesthetic or a certain feeling for what that temple is supposed to – aesthetically, spiritually, etc. Only when you have that, you really experience the inner beauty of that place.
M: Wow! That’s very nicely explained, Eesh. Well done!
Avi: Yeah, man! Way to go!
(A little applause and happy cheering for Eesh.)
Eesh (smilingly looking at everyone): Thank you, thank you!
Dia: I think same can be said about those other images as well, especially that picture of little boy peeking inside the door. There is a special inner beauty to that image. No?
Falguni: Yes, I agree. I mean, from a photographic point of view it may also be good and beautiful as far as the colour, composition and other such things are concerned. But the reason why some would find it even more beautiful is because of what it represents. What it suggests.
M: And what does it suggest?
Falguni: You mean, suggest to me?
M: Yes. To you.
Falguni: Well, I kind of see it as a ‘looking within’ kind of thing. The very real, innocent but genuinely curious expression of seeking what is inside. Inside the door.
Binoy: Are you speaking of looking inside the door that is within each one of us? Right?
Falguni: Yes. And you need a child-like sincerity and simplicity if you want to really look within, don’t you?
Binoy: That’s good! Very good.
Colin: That, that’s a Ganesha on the pedestal there, isn’t it?
Avi: It certainly looks like one, though it is not carved out as such.
Dia: Yeah, but that’s what makes it so real, in a way, don’t you think so?
Colin: It does, it does! And it also makes it more beautiful.
M: Well, this is very interesting. It seems like we are now a class in arts appreciation!
(Some gentle laughter).
M: But this is excellent. You folks are really getting into what I was hoping to bring out through this little exercise.
Hari: Di, could you please say more on that?
M: Well, I mean this whole thing about this connection between inner and outer. The outer becoming more real and truer because of the inner. As if the inner beauty is about the soul of the object or the image or a place or an action. And the outer layer becomes more beautiful, and again truer, because it is able to express what it is supposed to be on the inside, the inner being, sort of like its soul. Whether it is a cave temple, or a statue of Ganesha or a photographic composition.
(Takes a pause and looks around to see if everyone is with her, comprehending. After a brief pause, she continues.)
M: It is the same thing with us, individuals too, I suppose.
Hari: Yes, that’s what it is supposed to be about, isn’t it?
M (looks at Hari, smilingly): Yes, you really want me to get to the point there, don’t you?
Hari (sheepishly smiling): I was just recalling that the original discussion was about the inner and the outer sheaths of who we are – as individuals and collective.
M: Yes. And I think sometimes we have to experience learning in a roundabout way. Instead of discussing in an abstract way, I was hoping this little experience about inner and outer beauty will help illustrate that the two aren’t separate. And also that it is also not possible for us to always be open to the inner truth, if we are only stuck at the outside, the outer sheaths.
Avi: Yeah, if we are only stuck at the old-ness of that cave temple, the details about the architectural style, the destruction of some statues, or in that other picture we only consider the fact that it is just a piece of stone and not really a Ganesha…I mean, if we are only looking at those things, we will never see the real beauty of these things. Will we?
M: No, and that means that we have to develop a kind of a perception, a kind of a sensitivity, an open-ness to experience or feel or connect with what is inside. The inner beauty.
Colin: I get it! So what you are saying is that we have to develop this perception to feel or connect with the inner truth of our nation too?
M: Yes, that’s very good, Colin! I like that. Anyone else wants to say something more on this point?