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Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

Chintan: India and Me – Part 7: Essence

Have you read the previous parts: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6?

Chintan-India-and-Me

 

The group meets once again in their usual garden-classroom after an extended break.

After the initial catching up and a small concentration led by Mridula Di, the group settles down for the day’s session. For the first few minutes Mridula Di briefly revisits some of the key ideas from their last ten-week-period: their attempts to understand the outer sheaths and the inner core of an individual and nation and the connection between the inner and outer.


 

M: So that’s where we left last time – on this point regarding a need to develop an inner sensitivity to connect with the inner truth of a nation. We were discussing that in order to connect with the essence of what India is really about, we have to grow or progress in some way within ourselves so that we are able to perceive that national essence. Remember that?

Dia: Yes. We did a little exercise also last time, about outer details and inner beauty. 

Colin: Yeah, I enjoyed that one! 

M: Do others also recall that one? Yeah?

(Some nods in agreement). 

M: So now the question comes – what is it that we need to develop within ourselves? What will this inner perception look like?

Binoy: Now it gets tricky, doesn’t it?

M (smiling): What do you mean?

Binoy: What I mean to say is that the onus is now on us, on our own individual effort to connect with the essence of the nation. 

Eesh: But isn’t that always the case? With everything?

M: That’s interesting, Eesh. Let’s hear some more on that point, go on!

Eesh: I was just thinking that if we want to know something it is we who have to make an effort. The thing will not reveal itself to us if we just sit there! So why not with the nation? If we want to know more about our nation, or about our connection with the nation, it is we who have to make the effort.

Hari: I thought that’s what we are doing here in these classes, making effort!

(Laughter).

Binoy: That’s correct! 

Eesh: No, I mean something more. If we want to know something deeply, we have to go beneath the surface knowledge, don’t we? Same way, if we want to know India in a deeper sense, we have to go beyond that the outer…what was the word we used earlier, Di?

M: Koshas?

Eesh: Yes, that! I think we also used the word sheaths, no?

Dia: Yeah…I remember that session, the various sheaths – physical, vital, mental etc.

M: Maybe it will be a good thing for you to go back and take a look at some of the notes from those sessions. 

Hari: I definitely need to go back and look at those. 

Avi: Me too. 

M: Well, anyway, Eesh, do you want to add something more?

Eesh: It is just that the kind of knowing that we are now speaking of is not really an outer sort of knowing. I think what you are hinting at is something more inward. Something deeper. Isn’t that so?

M: Yes, that’s correct. 

(Looks around, pausing for a few moments). 

M: Does anyone else want to say something about what this inward knowing could mean?

(A few moments pass in silence, with some learners slightly shifting in their places, some looking around at one another, some just looking at Mridula Di in anticipation, some seem to be looking down  or looking at some far object in the garden, perhaps thinking).

M: Anyone wants to add to what Eesh has been saying?

Dia: I was just thinking that our objective here is to know or at least somehow feel or connect with the essence of India. But then if we go back to all that we have been discussing so far, India is an aggregate of all of us in a way, isn’t that so? We even said something like that in one of our sessions, if I remember correctly. 

M: Yes, we did. We talked about that when we discussed the annamaya and pranamaya koshas of the nation. We said that it is the life of the people who occupy the physical body of the nation with their presence which constitutes the nation’s pranamaya kosha, its life-body. 

Dia: Yes, exactly! So doesn’t it mean that we are in a way the nation? So if we want to know the nation we have to know ourselves. Makes sense, no?

Hari: It does, it really does!

Eesh: Yes, that’s what I was also trying to say. I mean, what is really needed is to know the core of us, then we can know the core of our nation. 

Binoy: Di, I remember that you also said in one of the sessions that what is true of the individual is also true of the collective or group. Right?

M: Yes, I also read a passage from Sri Aurobindo about that. You all should look it up in your notes.  

Binoy: So in a way, it all comes down to connecting with the essence of ourselves. I think we also spoke about the soul of a nation, sort of like the soul within us. 

Gul: Yes, I remember that session too. We talked about each nation-soul being a unique manifestation of the Super Soul.

M: Yes, we did. You guys remember well!

(Smiles and a few nods of affirmation).

Avi: So now, we have to know ourselves, I mean connect with our souls, right?

Colin: That’s a huge thing!

Avi: Yeah, tell me about it!

Hari: How do we go about doing that?

Dia: That’s what all the spiritual sadhana is all about, isn’t it?

Eesh: But how to really do that? It is not something that can be done instantly or in a short period of time. It could take a long, long time. 

Falguni: I think what we are saying here is that we should be able to somehow perceive that there is some core essence within us, beyond or hidden behind our outer selves, these physical, emotional and mental parts. 

Gul: But how do we develop this perception?

Binoy: Di, what do you think?

M: I think you all are going in the right direction here. That’s what is needed, to work toward developing this perception of something deeper within us. To somehow deepen that perception over time, to try and connect with that deeper presence within and then gradually try to identify or somehow perceive and get in touch with the deeper core in the larger nation, or any larger collective that we are a part of. 

Gul: I am not sure I get it fully. But I think what you are saying here is that it is some sort of a constant process. Something that we can gradually develop. 

M: Yes, it is. It can’t be done instantly. And also it’s not something that is there all the time. 

Gul: What does that mean? 

M: I mean that such a perception comes and goes, it is not that easy to maintain such a connection with that deeper core of ourselves, given that we are dispersed in our consciousness most of the time. 

Hari: So what do we do then? 

Binoy: Yeah, we can’t become yogis just like that!

(Laughter).

M: Well, but we can try and work towards developing an attitude which is more inward-looking, can we not?

Avi: Hmm…interesting!But how do we do that?

Binoy: Yes, I have that same question. 

Falguni: I think we all do. 

M: And we should definitely take that up, maybe next time. 

Dia: Oh! Just when it was getting interesting!

M (smiling): But wait! Let me give you an assignment till then, maybe that will keep you busy, Dia.

(Dia smiles back).

Hari: Oh Dia, now you have made us all do an assignment!

(Laughter).

M: It is not an assignment as such, it is more of an exercise. And I will also participate in it. Sounds fair?

Eesh: That sounds fair!

M: I want each one of you to recall an experience from your life – it could even be just a few moments – where you felt some sort of a quiet happiness or peace, some lightness or a sense of calmness, a spontaneous joy or peace which is not really dependent on some outer object or external situation. Try to recall such a moment and write about it. What do you say?

Falguni: That sounds interesting!

Binoy: Yes, it does. 

M: Everyone? Would you be willing to do this?

(Some yeahs, some nods in affirmation). 

M: That’s great! I will also do this as I said. And we will go from there next time. Is that okay?

(Some yeahs).

M: Great!  Let us now sit in silence for a few minutes as we close. Good night, everyone!

(The group sits in concentration for a few minutes, then slowly begins to disperse).

TO BE CONTINUED…

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About Beloo Mehra

Beloo is the author of two books, one on Indian Education, titled "ABC’s of Indian National Education" and an ebook featuring a selection of her essays, titled "The Thinking Indian." She holds several degrees in Education and Economics, has extensive teaching experience at school and university level in India and the US, and has a keen interest in the educational, social and cultural thought of Sri Aurobindo. She currently lives in Pondicherry, spends her time doing some reading, some writing, some teaching, some gardening and a whole lot of reflecting on life, living, society, politics, religion, art, literature, India, the World, and everything else under the Sun and the Moon.

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This entry was posted on January 31, 2017 by in Education, India and tagged , .

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