Friday, December 12, 2008

The core and its connections

About the Earth's Core
By Andrew Alden, See More About: structure of the earth core of the earth geomagnetism

A century ago, science barely knew that the Earth even has a core. Today we are tantalized by the core and its connections with the rest of the planet. Indeed, we're at the start of a golden age of core studies... Our main tool for core research has been earthquake waves, especially those from large events like the 2004 Sumatra quake. The ringing "normal modes," which make the planet pulsate with the sort of motions you see in a large soap bubble, are useful for examining large-scale deep structure.


Inner core
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Redirected from Earth's core)

The inner core of the Earth, its innermost layer as detected by seismological studies, is a primarily solid sphere about 1,220 km (758 mi) in radius, only about 70% that of the Moon. It is believed to consist of an iron-nickel alloy, and it may be hotter than the Sun's surface[1].

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The superorganism has castes; Individuals are automatons

The Superorganism from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen
The subtitle is
The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies and that is the new book by Bert Hölldobler and Edmund O. Wilson... Here is a New York Times review of the book [By STEVE JONES
Published: November 21, 2008

Hölldobler and Wilson’s central conceit is that a colony is a single animal raised to a higher level. Each insect is a cell, its castes are organs, its queens are its genitals, the wasps that stung me are an equivalent of an immune system. In the same way, the foragers are eyes and ears, and the colony’s rules of development determine its shape and size. The hive has no brain, but the iron laws of cooperation give the impression of planning. Teamwork pays; in a survey of one piece of Amazonian rain forest, social insects accounted for 80 percent of the total biomass, with ants alone weighing four times as much as all its mammals, birds, lizards, snakes and frogs put together. The world holds as much ant flesh as it does that of humans.

Karl von Frisch, discoverer of the famous waggle dance of the honey bee, said in the 1930s that “the life of bees is like a magic well. The more you draw from it, the more there is to draw.” Plenty of excellent science still springs from that source, and Wilson and Hölldobler gather some classics here. How does an ant work out how far it is back to the nest? Simple: by counting its steps. Glue stilts onto its legs as it sets out and it will pace out into the wilds; take them off and it will walk only part of the way back.

The superorganism has castes, based not on genetic differences but — like our own social classes — on the environment in which they are brought up. Sometimes, a chemical message does the job, but cold and starvation can be just as effective at condemning an individual to a humble life as a worker.

A few simple rules produce what appears to be intelligence, but is in fact entirely mindless. Individuals are automatons. An ant stumbles on a tasty item and brings a piece back to the nest, wandering as it does and leaving a trail of scent. A second ant tracks that pathway back to the source, making random swerves of its own. A third, a fourth, and so on do the same, until soon the busy creatures converge on the shortest possible route, marked by a highway of pheromones. This phenomenon has some useful applications for the social animals who study it. Computer scientists fill their machines with virtual ants and task them with finding their way through a maze, leaving a coded signal as they pass until the fastest route emerges.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Too much time spent on introversion could lead to depression and lack of spontaneity, joy, and gaiety

Discovering one's own golden mean

The term ‘golden mean’, according to Chambers dictionary means “moderation, a middle way between extremes.” An ancient Tamil proverb also notes that even the elixir of life (amrita) can become poison, if taken in excess.

Doubtless, life has to be marked by dynamism, extroversion and action but too much of these could also be damaging. Similarly, too much of ‘take it easy’ attitude or even reflection and introspection could lead to stagnation, with life drifting away without any tangible accomplishment.

The ceaseless and excessive dynamism of the warriors of Ulysses (Odysseus) and also their subsequent metamorphosis to lethargy and introversion, as portrayed by Tennyson, would suggest that there should be a golden mean between these extremes.

The ‘middle path’ concept, centred on finding the right ‘golden mean’, for sustained excellence, as applicable to each aspirant, would eventually depend on individual nature and needs. However, certain broad, practical and time-tested concepts in evolving this could serve as guidelines.

Those habituated to a busy bee life in search of fruits — they themselves may not be sure of and pushing themselves to near physical and psychological burn out — would do well to remember that all their activities would become counterproductive unless tempered with moments of needed reflection, solitude, relaxation and meditation.

Similarly the dreamer and one involving himself continually with substantial reflection, analysis and meditative exercises would also be benefited through forays into activities calling for dynamism and physical exercises marked by zest and exhilaration. In fact, too much time spent on such acts of introversion could also become counterproductive, leading to depression and lack of spontaneity, joy, and gaiety.

Research on depressed and schizophrenic patients has revealed that ‘work therapy’ and involvement with dynamic activities often work where passive counselling, analysis and even medication could fail. Indeed, work is worship. The business of life, if it were to be fulfilling, is to get on with it with briskness and natural ease, not cluttered by perceived ideas of excessive introspection, etc.

This natural approach could often prove to be the right sadhana for inner purification. Doubtless, the crux of all true accomplishment lies in discovering for oneself his own workable ‘golden mean’ and to build his dreams on this stable foundation!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sharing as social exchange was a social construct, never a biological adaptation

Why economists should study the origins of bargaining?
from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy
European Association of Evolutionary Political Economy,
Rome, November 2008

The Pre-History of Bargaining: a multi-disciplinary treatment (Part 1) [i]
© Gavin Kennedy (Heriot-Watt University)

The whole point of the quasi-bargain was to share the spoils between the catchers and the matrifocal family. Therefore there had to be a social mechanism to ensure that the chasers shared with the non-chasers, otherwise individuals and the group faced local extinction. In a Darwinian sense, the individual may not care about the group (natural selection works on the individual not the group) but an individual had to care about the fate of some minimum number of other individuals if he was to achieve his own survival goals. A chase was more successful if it was conducted by several of the most fleet-footed individuals, backed by the best stone toolmakers and the bravest perimeter skirmishers and pickets who warded of rival predators. A race with each other it was not.

To succeed in worthwhile scavenging the Ancients had to discover that there was safety in numbers and how to make noise near the carcass to ward off intruders. Scavenging induced co-operation, supported by stronger-willed enforcers. It also induced stone-tool creation and use. While predators were busy in a stand-off, or a snarling fight, the scavengers had time to risk a sneak snatch at whatever meat they could get. On such occasions their stone cutting and scraping tools and their disciplined numbers gave them a small enough advantage. Chimpanzees in a display charge can chase off a leopard; several Ancients screaming in an aggressive charge, catching predators with accurately aimed heavy stones, waving heavy branches, beating a predator’s body with clubs, and generally creating mayhem, could drive off even fearsome predators, at least for a short while. Meanwhile, the cutters would get to work. Skilled and brave distracters were party to the quasi-bargain too.

In principle, gatherers shared most of what they gathered, killed or found. In principle, strong quasi-bargains within the band’s matrifocal families embraced them all.[xxvii] Did this mean they all pulled their weight together in whatever way they could best contribute? Probably not; they were as riven by the usual dissents found in any group of Homo before or since. When it ‘worked’ reasonably well, it was an evolutionary stable compact. But there were wide variations in the behaviours of the individuals whose co-operation was essential for it to ‘work.’ Groups fell apart when laggards predominated; they were destroyed by careless acts in the vicinity of predators; they were scattered by internal discord and, in consequence, survivors may have endured generations of misery.

Gathering plant food, insects, and small animals, was more reliable than relying on opportunistic scavenging. But gathering was subject to variability, which imposes a cycle, sometimes severe, of ‘feast or famine.’ Some variability was the ‘fault’ of the individual, such as a lack of skills, effort or learning, and sometimes it was bad luck, injury, illness, the chosen search pattern, or attacks by predators. Where there was variability, there was pressure for sharing among sociable hominids. With multi-lateral promiscuity, sharing whatever food was collected was a small but significant behavioural step for males from merely feeding themselves. Establishing the sex-for-food norm, and policing it effectively, took generations to evolve into a culture of sharing, with additional norms to cope with exceptions, to constrain selfish behaviours and to establish taboos that enforced the metanorms. Sharing undoubtedly enhances the survival of the individual amidst scarcity. Sharing as social exchange was a social construct, never a biological adaptation.[xxviii]

It arose directly from the psychology and practise of the quasi-bargain. If the Ancients suffered cycles of scarcity and abundance, and the cycles were asynchronous (while one individual enjoyed a feast, the other endured famine) a transfer of resources between each other to even-out the cycle proved beneficial (though that does not mean it always happened!). Over the cycle, sharers benefited. But could they co-operate despite the nature of their ‘prisoner’s dilemma problem (whether to do what was best for oneself or what was best for one’s partners and one’s self)? [xxix]

Frank Marlowe identified six useful distinctions between types of food sharing and by changing the order we glean its possible social-evolution:[xxx]

  • Mutualism: food for foraging partners, particularly, but not exclusively, for kin;[xxxi]
  • Tolerated scrounging (TS) - food for peace (sometimes known as ‘tolerated theft’);
  • Costly signalling (CS) – ‘food for non-food benefits, such as sexual access’ -
  • Reciprocity:
  • Not-in-kind exchanges - ‘food A for food B’; [xxxii]
  • In-kind exchanges with delayed reciprocity – ‘food now for same food later’ (e.g., human equivalent of bats with blood);[xxxiii]

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Open, generous, equal, frank and kind

Health News The beauty of flowers
Naini’s Page Monday, September 17, 2007 12:4:37 IST Mind Matters

Have you been amongst flowers early in the morning? Or seen them facing the sun waiting its advent? Felt the aspiration that surges all around when watching a bud slowly open its petals one by one. Seen the earth after a few drops of rain and realise how the flowers like little multicolored hands come out in a gesture of thanks giving. Walked by a bush at night and smelt the beautiful fragrance of the raat-ki-rani. Wondered why flowers make you so happy, peaceful and filling you with joy and love?

Says Sri Aurobindo in Savitri: “The worlds senseless beauty mirrors gods delight its hued magnificence blooms in leaves and flowers.”

Flowers have been an intrinsic part of my life- my grandmother's vast collection of plants from around the world, dad's constant pottering in the garden, mother filling the house with marigolds, asters, rajnigandas and mogras, my aunt weaving garlands with all of us joining in, especially during functions and weddings. Starting my morning by picking up a beautiful champa from the ground, placing it behind one of my ears gives me immense pleasure.

The mother of Pondichery always said, “Be like a Flower”. 'They are open, generous, equal, frank and kind'. Do you know why?

  • Open — to everything and everyone that surrounds it.
  • Generous — without restrictions, dispels its very own perfume which it sacrifices entirely for our pleasure.
  • Equal — It has no preference. Everyone can enjoy its beauty without rivalry.
  • Kind — Its presence fills us with joy.
  • Frank — It hides nothing of its beauty everyone can see what it is.

They are made an important part in the ashram life - teaching people the charm of silence and thus the self giving which demands nothing in return. Flowers have a spiritual significance and are extremely receptive. No wonder, flowers have charmed and attracted men and women alike. They have been associated with religion, love, myths, legends, deaths, remembrance. For they say it more profoundly than words representing peace, joy, purity, beauty aspiration, love humility, and surrender.

Cherish your flowers. Watch them bloom naturally or in a vase. Let them be till they are fresh, collect them when they are no longer and give them back to the earth for what it has given us or otherwise we will become poor.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If one pursues the quest, one would locate it — the source of all creativity

The human aspiration and integral yoga Wednesday August 20 2008 10:37 IST HEALTH
Manoj Das

THE aspiration often finds expression through our activities in the fields of art, literature, sculpture, music, dance, etc. But that does not stop there. It seeks the very source from which inspiration for such activities comes. If one pursues the quest, one would locate it — the source of all creativity.

The problem, however, is, by the time one locates that sublime source, the normal activities, the external demands of our gross life, assume a certain unreality, appear unsubstantial. As a consequence one tends to break away from the mundane life, pronouncing upon it the judgment that it was either false or illusory.

In other words, for centuries past, the spiritual path has been looked upon as a path opposite to the so called worldly way.But a deeper reflection would tell us that this vast and complex life could not have been conceived and allowed to flourish only to be abandoned by the enlightened. It has a purpose, it has a destination. One realises that however engrossed we may be in ignorance, we are nevertheless looking for knowledge; however we may be overwhelmed by sorrow and suffering, we are looking for delight.

Are these aspirations for light and delight vain? Did some unfathomably mighty power create this world and then forgot all about it, for it to ever rotate in darkness? Sri Aurobindo asserts that despite all signs to the contrary, a dynamic consciousness is unfolding itself gradually with all its splendours. True, with the unfolding of the manifold capacity of mind and intelligence, man has misused it in various ways.

While he has enriched life with a million inventions scientific and technological, he has also devised the terrible destructives. With the growth of intelligence, he has proved greater efficiency in corruption and hypocrisy.But such contradictory developments do not cancel the truth of the mind's growth. They only show that something greater than mind must control the activities of mind. A moral or ethical principle is too weak to give any spontaneous direction to mind towards its right use.There has to be a transformation, a qualitative change. In Sri Aurobindo’s own words,

“It is indeed as a result of our evolution that we arrive at the possibility of this transformation.As Nature has evolved beyond Matter and manifested Life, beyond Life and manifested Mind, so she must evolve beyond Mind and manifest a consciousness and power of our existence free from the imperfection and limitation of our mental existence, a Supramental or Truth-Consciousness and able to develop the power and perfection of the spirit.”

His Yoga, the Integral Yoga, shows the way. Manoj Das The author is a Padma awardee, recipient of the Saraswati Samman, Hon. D.Litt. from several universities and the Sahitya Akademi's highest honour, the Fellowship.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scientists find two contradictory trends of change in the average global temperatures

Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore Monday, May 5, 2008

The Mother and Sri Aurobindo on change in the global weather patterns

In the past decade we have been witness to dramatic upheaval in the weather patterns and climatic changes caused by “global warming”. We have had our share of Tsunamis, earthquakes, torrential rains, sweltering heat, forest fires, droughts, blizzards and what not. Recently in tropical Singapore there was a downpour of hail- or pieces of ice falling! The bizarre and weird weather is unpredictable and violent at times. The external forces causing this are changes in the solar radiation, and greenhouse gases and rising carbon-di-oxide levels to name a few. What are the other forces behind this?

More than seventy years ago Sri Aurobindo gave five indications to recognise the coming of the New world.

The third indication is of relevance here

“The vital is trying to lay hold on the physical as it never did before. It is always the sign that whenever the higher Truth is coming down, it throws up the hostile vital world on the surface, and you will see all sorts of abnormal vital manifestations such as an increase in the number of people who go mad, earth quakes etc “ (Beyond the Human Species - Georges Van Vrekhem)

Sraddalu Ranade observes, when asked what the first signs of change in Matter would be, The Mother pointed to two indications that the Supermind is working in Matter: change in human body and change in global weather patterns.

“Mother indicated that weather all over the world would become more temperate and the extremes of both heat and cold would become less intense, in practice the changes have been towards violent and unpredictable fluctuations of precisely such extremes all over the world. One may view this as a transitional period before the fluctuations even out into a steady average.It is interesting to observe that scientists find two contradictory trends of change in the average global temperatures: seen from satellites measuring changes in the upper atmosphere, the Earth seems to be cooling down, and seen from the ground, the Earth seems to be heating up. So is there global warming or global cooling? For the moment nobody is very sure about the answer: it depends on how you look at the data

Sraddhalu further observes that there is dramatic change in the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface, changes which have begun after the Supramental Manifestation. This explains the violent and extreme weather patterns all over the earth and the inner reason behind it. Nothing seems normal or fixed anymore, dramatic changes and upheavals all over the world and in the consciousness of people makes us aware of the Supramental Force working and tearing apart the “old and dying world”.

The Mother predicted on 14th March 1970

The change has been accomplished. The physical is able to receive the higher Light, the Truth, the true Consciousness. It is in the year 2000 that it will take a clear turn.

References: Service Letter- 30.1.2004 (Founder Editor: M.P. Pandit), Beyond the Human Species –Georges Van Vrekhem, Paragon House, St. Paul, Minnesota
Posted by Sri Aurobindo Society, Singapore at 10:56 PM

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Education of the whole person

Michael Murphy Helped Launch Human Potential Movement More Than 40 Years Ago
By Adam Phillips 23 April 2008

Michael Murphy is an author, intellectual and citizen-diplomat. He's also co-founder of California's Esalen Institute, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of the Human Potential Movement. VOA's Adam Phillips has a profile.

Michael Murphy had a passing acquaintance with Big Sur, California, the rugged area of Pacific coastline where, during his childhood, his family had owned some land with hot-spring mineral baths. But it was not until 1962, in his early 30s, that Murphy returned to Big Sur. He had completed nearly two years in India at the ashram of the Hindu philosopher, Sri Aurobindo. On fire with the idea of marrying Eastern and Western thought, Murphy drew up plans to open a holistic, mind-body center that he called Esalen.

"One of our basic ideas was the education of the whole person," Murphy says. "I had a particular interest in the body's role in personal development alongside spiritual development, emotional development, and intellectual development. The sky is the limit." ...

Today, with terrorism a global concern, the teachers at the Esalen Institute promote workshops in the psychology of enmity and reconciliation between Muslims, Christians and Jews. Esalen founder Michael Murphy says that world peace and understanding are front-and-center goals for him now – logical extensions, it seems, of his lifelong fascination with the greatness of human potential.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Begin at the bottom of the environmental pyramid – by farming trees

Outside My Window... Is A Tree from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

The house in which we live in Goa has a tall TEAK tree growing straight and proud in the middle of the garden. Yet, our doors and windows are made out of the wood of the jackfruit tree – they call it 'jackwood' here – because teak is unaffordable. Jackwood invariably warps. Our doors and windows do not shut properly. There is only one reason why teak costs so much here, where it grows wild: government restrictions. I cannot cut down the teak tree growing on my own property: I need permission from the State.

I have seen this phenomenon in other parts of the Western Ghats too: for example, in Coorg, where a coffee estate owner complained to me that he could not cut rosewood and ebony trees growing on his estate. Even mahogany grows naturally here. So, while I am in full sympathy with Barun Mitra's crusade to save the tiger by farming it, I do believe these arguments will ring true only if we begin at the bottom of the environmental pyramid – by farming trees.

As far as wildlife is concerned, instead of beginning with tigers, we could begin with deer and wild boar. Deer can be easily bred in ranches. So can wild boar. When these efforts at commercializing timber as well as wildlife succeed, the arguments for farming tigers will be better received. In the meantime, do reflect on the fact that the most valuable tree in the world – sandalwood – can also be easily farmed in this region.

When Veerappan was murdered in cold blood by the Karnataka police, I was the only one to call for free-market sandalwood farming. These are the best ways of preserving nature and taking the profit out of poaching. Think about it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Alcohol is not discussed in "politically correct" discourse

Feni's In the Air from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik
It is the cashew season in Goa. As the fruit ripens on the trees, the air in my little village smells of feni. Feni is an alcoholic drink distilled from the fermented fruit of the cashew... The ban on the trade of feni within India is an example of "real knowledge" going waste, thanks to the senseless restrictions imposed by a government that is desperate to "educate" the apparently stupid people. The funny thing is that not a single Goan politician talks about this. That, I presume, is because alcohol is not discussed in their "politically correct" discourse. Once again, the only solution lies in Liberty. In the meantime, I am enjoying the smell of feni that is wafting through the air of my little Goan village, morning, noon and night. Eat your hearts out, cityfolk. And when you drink that horrid IMFL this evening, dream of feni and urak.
Yet, dreaming is not enough: you must fight for freedom.

Three years of The Middle Stage from The Middle Stage by Chandrahas
I am 28 now — I dream of being rich and drinking champagne everyday now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why humanity has so profoundly forsaken the obvious benefits of mutualism

1. April 8th,2008 10:23 pm
Dear Olivia,
As is your habit in these lovely essays, you stick scrupulously to the fine points of your scientific analysis and leave it to your readers to apply your lessons to the deep dilemmas of modern mankind.
Let us begin by acknowledging that homo sapiens is fully capable of entering into long term mutualistic arrangements with other species. Man and dog is the most conspicuous of these alliances, a form of mutualism with roots that may be as ancient as two hundred thousand years.
The deeper question your essay implicitly raises is why humanity has so profoundly forsaken the obvious benefits of mutualism in favor of an extreme form of dominance over all other species. The short term benefits of this dominance are clearly at odds with the evolutionary catastrophe we are in the process of precipitating.
Let us hope that one day you will focus your theoretical prowess on that tragic paradox, and maybe even point the way toward a solution to it.
— Posted by David Moody

4. April 9th,2008 1:11 am
Symbiosis, or mutualism, is one of my favorite scientific subjects. Recently I have become aware of the extent to which humans depend on the beneficial gut bacteria for both digestion and immune function–and these same bacteria may explain why some people like chocolate and others do not. Intestinal worms, previously thought to be parasitic only, seem to have a modulatory effect on the immune system, staving off allergies, asthma, and some autoimmune disorders. Makes one wonder what other “disorders” have hidden medical benefits.
As you mentioned, you could go on forever talking about mutualisms, but you did omit one of my favorites. It’s another one involving ants and fungi, but parasitic rather than symbiotic. In this case, the fungus infects the ant’s brain, causing it to climb to the highest treetop where it is essentially petrified and dies. Then the fungus consumes the ant’s body, and the spores are dispersed from an optimal location, high above the ground.
I don’t have complete citations, but in the spirit of your detailed references I feel obliged to provide some supporting info. The parasitic fungus is cordyceps. The paper about the correlation between liking/disliking chocolate and metabolism is “Human Metabolic Phenotypes Link Directly to Specific Dietary Preferences in Healthy Individuals” by Rezzi et al. Dr. Joel Weinstock, at the University of Iowa, has done research on using pig whipworm eggs as treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn’s disease.
— Posted by Aurelio Ramirez

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Integral Healing by Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

There is no evidence that climate change has caused an increase in disease

The Civil Society Report on Climate Change, produced by a coalition of over 40 civil society organisations from around the world (CSCCC), concludes:

  • Cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the coming two decades is not a cost-effective way to address climate change.
  • Deaths from climate related natural disasters have fallen dramatically since the 1920s, as a result of economic growth and technological development. With continued economic growth, the death rate is likely to continue to fall regardless of climate change. (The number of reported natural disasters has increased continuously since 1900 for various reasons, including population growth and improvements in communication; climate change is most likely not one of them.)
  • There is no evidence that climate change has caused an increase in disease. If the main causes of diseases such as diarrhoea and malaria are properly addressed, climate change will not increase their incidence.
  • Agricultural production has outpaced population growth in the past 50 years. With continued technological improvements, this trend will continue to 2100, even if the global mean temperature rises by 3°C.
  • Water scarcity is a problem in many countries, but with better management and modern technologies, more water can made be available to all.
  • Millions of people in poor countries currently die unnecessarily due to a lack of wealth and technology. These problems have generally been exacerbated – not alleviated – by foreign aid, which has supported unaccountable governments that have oppressed their citizens, denying them the ability to improve their lot.
  • Global restrictions on greenhouse gases would undermine the capacity of people in poor countries to address the problems they face today as well as in the future by retarding economic growth and general economic development.
  • Instead of pushing emissions restrictions and failed ‘aid’ policies, governments should focus on reducing barriers to economic growth and adaptation – e.g. removing trade barriers and decentralising management of water and land.

For more information, please see the details on the Liberty Institute web site And the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change (CSCCC) Author: Liberty Institute is an independent think tank based in New Delhi. © In Defence of Liberty

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

But tonight I need my rice and dal and vegetable curry, what to do, we are like that only

I bought a book at the airport in Mumbai on my way to Chennai/Pondicherry/Auroville.
It is called "We are like that only" and it is a study of the consumer trends and attitudes in India. I love the title of the book, it is apt and suitable in so many contexts related to Indian people......Posted by Neeta at 19:51 integral dynamic healing

"we indians are like that only, we are open and completely willing to accept raw foods and green juices in our lives but how can you expect us to only drink juices without eating, one day or one week is enough but 92 days, what, you think we are rishis or yogis or something? and to give up our wholesome vegetarian food? even ayurvedic food is cooked, so don't forget, everything is not bad, you should not get rigid, so of course of course, we should not eat fried foods or sweets, if you say milk is bad now, then we will only use a teaspoon in our tea and take stevia instead of sugar, and we will only eat homemade yogurt and less ghee, we will take green juices everyday and that zucchini pasta you made was very good and maybe we can use that tasty pesto sauce on our toast instead of butter, i can't believe there is spinach in this smoothie, i can only taste the banana it is incredible, you must teach me more of this raw foods definitely......but tonight i need my rice and dal and vegetable curry, what to do, we are like that only........"

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The rooms are half left-as-they-were, half museum dioramas

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Room Darshan Published 29 February 2008 Art & Culture , Bio , India , Religion, Spiritualism & Other Make-Believe Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Today is known as “Golden Day” at the Sri Arobindo Ashram.

On this day in 1956, Sri Aurobindo’s lieutenant and chief disciple, the Mother, had an occult representational vision of the next phase of human development. Sri Aurobindo described this the transcendence from the conscious mind to the supramental state, in which one understands themselves to be a part of the completeness of existence, which he called “the divine.” He’s how she described her experience:
This evening the Divine Presence, concrete and material, was there present amongst you. I had a form of living gold, bigger than the universe, and I was facing a huge and massive golden door which separated the world from the Divine.
As I looked at the door, I knew and willed, in a single movement of consciousness, that “the time has come”, and lifting with both hands a mighty golden hammer I struck one blow, one single blow on the door and the door was shattered to pieces.

On special days, like Golden Day, the rooms of the Ashram which belonged to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are open to devotees, who take advanced appointments and queue for hours for the chance to spend five minutes walking through the private spaces, and among the relics, of the two people they consider their ultimate teachers. Today, we were gifted two passes for “room darshan.”
One enters the Ashram building, entering immediately into the central courtyard which contains the samadi (interment memorials) of the pair, beneath a wonderful old tree. I was somewhat surprised to realize that, in the years I’ve lived in Pondicherry, within a few blocks of this historic building – which plays such an important symbolic role in the lives of so many of my close friends – I had never before been in this place, though it is open daily.
It is my nature to react strongly to physical spaces I know are significant to people I care about; an I had a strong feeling of affection for the inner recesses of the Ashram. It’s not clear in this case, however, how much of this feeling was empathy, and how much was a function of the fact that it is an absolutely wonderful old building. The Mothers room, in particular, displayed an astonishing character. While the rest of the rooms were decorated in a rather precious Belle Époque style, her chamber has an entirely different feel, anachronistic and distinctive. With simply jointed teak paneling, and clean, spare detailing, the space mirrors some of the earliest experimental work of the Bauhaus architects, before they found their pallet in steel, concrete, and glass. The furnishings bear evidence of the fin de siecle and art deco periods, but he overriding impression is of proto-modernism, if not modernism itself. This would be far less surprising if this woman had not remained in this relatively remote corner of South India from 1920 until her death in 1973, at the age of 95. Given her own radical, progressive social engineering, she certainly should have had an affinity for the modernist movement – which, without overstating the point, shares quite a bit of philosophical common-ground with Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga – but it is far from clear from where the design influence would have come. Perhaps historians of the ashram will know the answer to this fascinating aspect of the Mother’s private space.
Walking through the ashram’s inner rooms evoked one other strong sentiment: that of I’m missing-something-good-here-if-only-I could-see-it, drive-by voyeurism. The items of décor, as well as simple, everyday objects from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are preserved, displayed, and fetishized. The rooms were half left-as-they-were, half museum dioramas. Sure, it is fun to get an up-close look at the way important historical figures lived in their homes; that part I got. But one need only look in the adoring faces of the supplicants as they pass through these treasures to know that they could still feel the presence of the people in the objects – and in the space itself. There is only one place in the world that makes me feel that way and, improbably enough, it is also an ashram: Sabarmati, which Gandhi-ji call “home” for much of his adult life.
It is quite odd that I find myself living amid so much deeply felt spirituality to which I am so perfectly immune.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Breema, Feldenkrais, and Yoga in Pitanga

Pitanga picture gallery Pitanga schedule For further information about our activities you may contact: Andrea or Kumar at:
Below are descriptions of some activities:
Asanas - with Helga, for constant groups only.
Asanas – with Abha, based on the Iyengar School of yoga.
Pregnancy yoga – with Appie, for pregnant women.
Pathanjali Yoga – following the Sutras by the Indian yoga master Pathanjali: asanas, breathing and meditation.
Yoga therapy – various traditions to regain strength and agility. Main focus: Five Tibetans, breathing, Chi self massage and Taoist rejuvenation.
Back exercises – simple exercises, focusing on the spine, strengthening abdomen, lower back and thighs.
Tai Chi – Yang Chen-fu style, long forms. Develops basic principles.
Aikido – Auroville has its own branch, Aikikai, developed by students of Tamura Sensei Shihan.
Iado – Martial defense, which forms a part of Aikido practice.
Odissi dance – Indian classical dance for children of 7+ years and adults
Dance / body work – to feel graceful in the body, through a dialogue with yourself and the group. Classical and modern dance.
Schedule - February 2008
Workshops on Breema ® : The Art of Being Present
Based on a profound yet practical understanding of the unifying principle of all life, Breema ® includes Self-Breema ® exercises as well as the dynamic Breema ® bodywork method.
Paola is already offering Breema bodywork sessions at Pitanga.
Christina and David Hamilton are two experienced Breema Instructors and practitioners from Hawaii . They are kindly offering further Breema activities in Dec. and later in Jan. and Feb. again:
Self-Breema ® Classes
Self-Breema exercises are both nurturing and energizing. All the movements are natural and comfortable—no muscular force is involved—so they are enjoyable and appropriate for just about everyone.
Each simple exercise is based on the Nine Principles of Harmony. Practiced in a nonjudgmental atmosphere, they allow us to discover a natural, joyful connection to the body and the benefit of fully participating in life.
The movements of Self-Breema are balanced and in harmony with our essential nature. Practicing Self-Breema invites physical flexibility, emotional balance, and mental clarity.
Time: 10.30 – 11.30 at Pitanga
Dates: In Dec. on 10, 12 and 17. From 21 Jan. onwards
on Mon, Wed until end of Feb.
Breema Bodywork Class
Christina is offering special classes on learning Breema Bodywork:
Time: 10.30 – 12.30 (2hrs.) at Pitanga
Dates: In December on 14 th and 19 th
From 25 Jan. onwards every Friday until end of Feb.
Feldenkrais exercises
We are inviting you to participate in Feldenkrais exercises by Marry Kroon which are now part of our regular program in Pitanga. Exercises are starting from Monday, 11 Dec. onwards. Beginners : Wednesday 17.00 - 18.30 & Saturday 10.30 - 11.30 Medical : Monday 17.00 - 18.00 & Friday 10.30 - 11.30 The medical classes are inviting people who do not move so easily, either because of their age or an accident or an illness. Therefore this class is especially suitable for elderly people.
Iyengar Yoga
Tatiana will be offering five more weekly classes for different levels, starting from 10 Dec. onwards.
Beginners: Monday 10.30 – 12.00, first class: 10 Dec.
Intermediate: Tuesday10.30 – 12.00 , first class: 11 Dec.
Saturday 15.30 – 17.00, , first class: 15 Dec.
Acknowledging the increased demands from guests during the coming months, we will introduce further
Beginners’ classes for guests:
Wednesday 08.00 – 09.30, first class: 13 Dec.
Saturday 08.00 – 09.30, first class: 15 Dec.
Hatha Yoga - Iyengar & Ashtanga style
Alain Sigrist is by profession a Yoga teacher in New Caledonia, where he manages his own centre. He has been visiting Auroville every year since 1985 and is therefore already known to many. During his stay this year he is offering for three months special Hatha Yoga classes: “Hatha Yoga: An inspiration from the style of B.K.S. Iyengar for the precision of the alignment combined with the full control and support of the breath like in Ashtanga Yoga style”. Alain quotes “Yoga is like a necklace on which asanas are the pearls and the breath is the thread that connects the pearls.”
Classes are offered to mixed level students so as to evaluate the level of students first. The aim is to give a special attention to the needs of intermediate students later. Main teaching language will be French, enriched with hints in EnglishJ.
Mixed level:
Thursday & Saturday 15.30 – 17.00, first class: 6 Dec.
Home > Society > Pitanga gallery >Pitanga Schedule of the month

Friday, February 22, 2008

Diversity and universality of earth architecture

HALF-DAY PROGRAMME 26th February 2008
Earth as a building material has been used worldwide since millennia. UNCHS and UNESCO report that
- 40 % of the world population lives in earthen dwellings
- 25 % of the world population does not have access to decent housing.
- 17 % of the “world cultural heritage sites” is built with earth
- 25 % of the “world heritage sites in danger” is built with earth
- 14 % of the “hundred most endangered world heritage sites” is built with earth
Auroville has become through the endeavour of the Auroville Earth Institute one of the world leader in earthen architecture and people are coming from all over the world to learn something from us. More than 5,000 people from 53 countries have trained by us since 1989. Join and discover what earth as a building material can offer. This awareness course is organised in the framework of the UNESCO Chair “Earthen Architecture, Constructive Cultures and Sustainable Development”, for which the Auroville Earth Institute is the representative for Asia.

VENUE Auroville Earth Institute training centre / CSR / Auroshilpam ELIGIBILITY People of all ages and all skills REGISTRATION The workshop is free but please register in advance for a smooth organisation of the event. Please contact Satprem, Ayyappan or Colleen: – Tel 262 3064 / 262 3330
posted by earth-institute

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Everything you always wanted to know about evolution but the mass media wouldn’t tell you

Issue 35 / January–March 2007
The Mystery of Evolution
You’ve heard the debate: Creation vs. Evolution, Darwinism vs. Intelligent Design. But could it really be that simple? Exploring the nature of evolution through perspectives both scientific and spiritual, this issue attempts to do what the mainstream media won’t, offering a complex and nuanced look at one of the greatest mysteries of the modern era. Featuring Robert W. Godwin, Ken Wilber, John F. Haught, Zoltan Torey, John Stewart, and more. Subscribe · Buy this issue · Back issues
The Real Evolution Debate
Everything you always wanted to know about evolution but the mass media wouldn’t tell you
Ranging from the scientific to the spiritual to cutting-edge perspectives that integrate both, this multidimensional overview presents a dozen different theories of what evolution is, how it works, and where it might be headed.
Introduction by Carter Phipps
A Brief History of Evolutionary Spirituality
From Leibniz to Hegel to Teilhard de Chardin, three hundred years of progressive thinkers reveal that evolution has always been a fundamentally spiritual concept.
PLUS: Timeline of Evolutionary Spirituality’s Leading Pioneers
by Tom Huston
The Only Journey There Is
An Exploration of Cosmic and Cultural Evolutionwith Robert W. Godwin
In this provocative interview, spanning cosmic singularities and virgin sacrifices, psychologist Robert Godwin traces the epic—and often barbaric—journey of the evolutionary process in its never-ending quest for higher consciousness.
Interview by Elizabeth Debold
A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being
Evolutionary Theology with John F. Haught
Will science and religion ever see eye to eye? With disarming simplicity, theologian John Haught explains how both domains are actually in pursuit of the same eternal mystery.
Interview by Amy Edelstein

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What we eat, how we eat, and where what we eat comes from

Resources for sustainable eating
from The Daily Goose by Matthew
Via Michael Pollan’s website, here’s a three page PDF with books and websites that look very useful for those of us who think what we eat, how we eat, and where what we eat comes from are important issues based upon fundamental principles.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The old Ashrams were not entirely like monasteries


Certainly, Mother does not want only sportsmen in the Ashram: that would make it not an Ashram but a playground. The sports and physical exercises are primarily for the children of the school and they also do not play only but have to attend to their studies as well. Incidentally, they have improved immensely in their health and in discipline and conduct as one very valuable result. Secondarily, the younger Sadhaks are allowed, not enjoined or even recommended, to join in these sports, but certainly they are not supposed to be sportsmen only; they have other and more important things to do. To be a sportsman must necessarily be a voluntary choice and depends on one having the taste and inclination. There are plenty of people around the Mother herself— X for instance — who would never dream of frequenting the playground or engaging in sports and the Mother also would never think of asking them to do it. So, equally, she could not think of being displeased with you for shunning these delights. Some, of course, might ask why any sports at all in an Ashram which ought to be concerned only with meditation and inner experiences and the escape from life into Brahman. But that applies only to the ordinary kind of Ashram to which we have got accustomed and this is not that orthodox kind of Ashram. It includes life in Yoga, and once we admit life we can include anything that we find useful for life's ultimate and immediate purpose and not inconsistent with the works of the Spirit. After all, the orthodox
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Ashram came into being only after Brahman began to shun all connection with the world and the shadow of Buddhism stalked over all the land and the Ashrams turned into monasteries. The old Ashrams were not entirely like that; the boys and young men who were brought up in them were trained in many things belonging to life: the son of Pururavas and Urvasie practised archery in the Ashram of a Rishi and became an expert bowman, and Kama became disciple of a great sage in order to acquire from him the use of powerful weapons. So there is no a priori ground why sports should be excluded from life of an Ashram like ours where we are trying to equate life with the Spirit. Even table-tennis and football need not be rigorously excluded. But putting all persiflage aside, my point is that to play or not to play is a matter of choice and inclination and it would be absurd for Mother to be displeased with you any more than with X for not caring to be a sportsman. So you need not have any apprehension on this score; that the Mother should be displeased with you for that is quite impossible. So the idea that she wished to draw away from you for anything done or not done was a misinterpretation without any real foundation since you have given no ground for it and there was nothing farther from her mind. She has herself explained that it was just the contrary that has been in her mind for sometime past and it was an increasing kindness that was her feeling and intention. The only change she could expect from you was to grow in your psychic and spiritual endeavour and inner progress and in this you have not failed — quite the contrary. Apart from that, the notion that she could be displeased with you because you did not change according to this or that pattern is a wild idea; it would be most arbitrary and unreasonable.


The Mother does not want anybody to take up the sports if he has no inclination or natural bent for them; to join or not to join must be quite voluntary and those who do not join are not cold-shouldered or looked down upon by her for that reason. It would be absurd for her to take that attitude: there are those

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who do her faithful service which she deeply appreciates and whom she regards with affection and confidence but who never go to the playground either because they have no turn for it or no time, — can you imagine that for that reason she will turn away from them and regard them with coldness? The Mother could never intend that sports should be the sole or the chief preoccupation of the inmates of the Ashram; even the children of the school for whose physical development these sports and athletic exercises are important and for whom they were originally intended, have other things to do, their work, their studies and other occupations and amusements in which they are as interested as in these athletics. There are other things more important: there are Yoga, spiritual progress, Bhakti, devotion, service....
I do not understand what you mean by my "giving time to sports": I am not giving any time to it except that I have written at Mother's request an article for the first number of the Bulletin1 and another for the forthcoming number. It is the Mother who is doing all the rest of the work for the organisation of the sports and that she must do, obviously, till it is sufficiently organised to go on of itself with only a general supervision from above and her actual presence once in the day. I put out my force to support her as in all the other work of the Ashram, but otherwise I am not giving any time for the sports.


There is no need for anyone to take up sports as indispensable for Yoga or enjoying the Mother's affection and kindness. Yoga is its own object and has its own means and conditions; sports is something quite different as the Mother herself indicated to you when she said that the concentration practised on the play­ground was not meditation and was used for the efficacy in the movements and not for any purpose of Yoga.

1Bulletin of Physical Education, a quarterly journal published by the Ashram.
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It is also not a fact that either the Mother or I are turning away from Yoga and intend to interest ourselves only in sport; we have no intention whatever of altering the fundamental character of the Ashram and replacing it by a sportive association. If we did that it would be a most idiotic act and if anybody should have told you anything like that, he must be off his head or in a temporary crisis of delirious enthusiasm for a very upside-down idea. The Mother told you very clearly once that what was being done in the playground was not meditation or a concentration for Yoga but only an ordinary concentration for the physical exercises alone. If she is busy with the organisation of these things — and it is not true that she is busy with that alone — it is in order to get finished with that as soon as possible after which it will go on of itself without her being at all engrossed or specially occupied by it, as is the case with other works of the Ashram. As for myself, it is surely absurd to think that I am neglecting meditation and Yoga and interested only in running, jumping and marching! There seem to have been strange misunderstandings about my second message in the Bulletin. In the first, I wrote about sports and their utility just as I have written on politics or social development or any other matter. In the second, I took up the question incidentally because people are expressing ignorance as to why the Ashram should concern itself with sports at all. I explained why it had been done and dealt with the more general question of how this and other human activities could be part of a search for a total perfection of all parts of the being including the body and more especially what would be the nature of the perfection of the body. I indicated clearly that only by Yoga' could there come a supreme and total perfection of all the instruments of the Spirit and the ascent of the whole being to the highest level and a divine life on earth and the assumption of a divine body. I made it clear that by human and physical means such as sports only a limited and precarious human perfection could come. In all this there is nothing to justify the idea that sport could be a means for jumping into the Supermind or that the Supermind was going to descend on the playground and nowhere else and only those who are there will receive it; that would be a bad look-out for me as I would have no chance!
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I write air this in the hope of clearing away all the strange misconceptions with which the air seems to have become thick and by some of which you may have been affected.


You ought to be able to see that your idea of our insistence on you to take up sport or to like it and accept it in any way has no foundation. I myself have never been a sportsman or — apart from a spectator's interest in cricket in England or a non-player member of the Baroda cricket club — taken up any physical games or athletics except some exercises learnt from Madras! wrestlers in Baroda such as daṇḍ and baiṭhak, and those I took up only to put some strength and vigour into a frail and weak though not unhealthy body, but I never attached any other importance or significance to these things and dropped the exercises when I thought they were no longer necessary. Certainly, neither the abstinence from athletics and physical games nor the taking up of those physical exercises have for me any relevance to Yoga. Neither your aversion to sport nor the liking of others for it makes either you or them more fit or more unfit for Sadhana. So there is absolutely no reason why we should insist on your taking it up or why you should trouble your mind with the supposition that we want you to do it. You are surely quite free, as everybody is quite free, to take your own way in such matters.

Before coming to the main point I may as well clear out one matter not unconnected with it: my articles or messages, as they are called, in the Bulletin', for their appearance there and their contents seem to have caused some trouble, perplexity or mis­understanding in your mind and especially my speculations about the Divine Body. I wrote the first of these articles to explain about how and why sport came to be included in the programme of the Ashram activities and I think I made it clear, as I went on, that sport was not Sadhana, that it belonged to what I called the lower end of things, but that it might be used not merely for
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amusement or recreation or the maintenance of health, but for a greater efficiency of the body and for the development of certain qualities and capacities, not of the body only but of morale and discipline and the stimulation of mental energies: but I pointed out also that these could be and were developed by other means and that there were limitations to this utility. In fact, it is only by Sadhana that one could go beyond the limits natural to the lower end means. I think there was little room for misunderstanding here, but the Mother had asked me to write on other subjects not connected in any way with sport and had suggested some such subjects as the possibilities of the evolution of a divine body; so I wrote on that subject and went on to speak of the Supermind and Truth-Consciousness which had obviously not even the remotest connection with sport. The object was to bring in something higher and more interesting than a mere record of gymnasium events but which might appeal to some of the readers and even to wider circles. In speaking of the divine body I entered into some far-off speculations about what might become possible in the future evolution of it by means of a spiritual force, but obviously the possibilities could not be anything near or immediate, and I said clearly enough that we should have to begin at the beginning and not attempt anything out of the way. Perhaps I should have insisted more on present limitations, but that I should now make clear. For the immediate object of my endeavours is to establish spiritual life on earth and for that the first necessity must always be to realise the Divine; only then can life be spiritualised or what I have called the Life Divine be made possible. The creation of something that could be called a divine body could be only an ulterior aim undertaken as part of this transformation, as, obviously, the development of such a divine body as was visioned in these speculations could only come into view as the result of a distant evolution and need not alarm or distract anyone. It might even be regarded as a phantasy of some remotely possible future which might one day happen to come true.
I then come to the main point, namely that the intention attributed to the Mother of concentrating permanently on sports and withdrawing from other things pertinent to Sadhana and
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our spiritual endeavour is a legend and a myth and has no truth in it. Except for the time given to her own physical exercise — ordinarily, two hours or sometimes three in the evening on the playground — the Mother's whole day from early morning and a large part of the night also has always been devoted to her other occupations connected with the Sadhana — not her own but that of the Sadhaks — Pranam, blessings, meditation and receiving the Sadhaks on the staircase or elsewhere, sometimes for two hours at a time, and listening to what they have to say, questions about the Sadhana, results of their work or their matters, complaints, disputes, quarrels, all kinds of conferences about this or that to be decided and done — there is no end to the list: for the rest she had to attend to their letters, to reports about the material work of the Ashram and all its many departments, correspondence and all sorts of things connected with the contacts with the outside world including often serious trouble and difficulties and the settlement of matters of great importance. All this has certainly nothing to do with sports and she had little occasion to think of it at all apart from the short time in the evening. There was here no ground for the idea that she was neglecting the Sadhaks or the Sadhana or thinking of turning her mind solely or predominantly to sport and still less for imputing the same preoccupation to me. Only during the period before the first and second December this year Mother had to give a great deal of time and concentration to the preparation of the events of those two days because she had decided on a big cultural programme: her own play, Vers l'Avenir, dances, recitation from Savitri and from the Prayers and Meditations for the first December and also for a big and ambitious programme for the second of sportive items and events. This meant a good deal more time for these purposes but hardly any interruption of her other occupations except for one or two of them just at the end of this period. There was surely no sufficient ground here either for drawing the conclusion that this was going to be for the future a normal feature of her action or a permanent change in it or in the life of the Ashram ending in a complete withdrawal from spiritual life and an apotheosis of the Deity of Sport. Those who voiced this idea or declared that sport would henceforth be
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obligatory on all were indulging in fantasies that have no claim to credibility. As a matter of fact, the period of tension is over and after the second December things have returned to normal or even to subnormal in the activities of the playground and as for the future you may recall the proverb that "once is not for ever."
But there seems to be still a survival of the groundless idea that sportsmanship is obligatory henceforth on every Sadhak and without it there is no chance of having the Mother's attention or favour. It is therefore necessary for me to repeat with the utmost emphasis the statement I made long ago when this fable became current for a time along, I think, with the rumour that the Supermind was to descend on the playground and the people who happen to be there at the time and nowhere else and on nobody else — which would have meant that I for one would never have it!! I must repeat what I said then, that the Mother had never imposed or has any idea of imposing any such obligation and had no reason for doing so. She does not want you or anybody else to take to sports if there is no inclination or turn towards it. There are any number of people who enjoy her highest favour, among them some of her best and most valued workers, some most near to her and cherished by her who do not even set foot on the playground. Nobody then could possibly lose her favour or her affection by refusing to take up sport or by a dislike of sport or a strong disinclination towards it: these things are a matter of idiosyncrasy and nothing else. The idea, whether advanced or not by someone claiming to have authority to voice the Mother's intentions, that sport is now the most important thing with her and obligatory for Sadhana is absurd in the extreme.


The realisation of the Divine is the one thing needful and the rest is desirable only in so far as it helps or leads towards that or when it is realised, extends or manifests the realisation. Manifestation or organisation of the whole life for the Divine work:
first, the Sadhana personal and collective necessary for the realisation
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and a common life of the God-realised men, secondly, for help to the world to move towards that and to live in the Light, is the whole meaning and purpose of my Yoga. But the realisation is the first need and it is that round which all the rest moves, for apart from it all the rest would have no meaning. Neither the Mother nor myself ever dreamed or could dream of putting anything else in its place or neglecting it for anything else. Most of the Mother's day is in fact given to helping the Sadhaks in one way or another towards that end, most of the rest is occupied with work for the Ashram which cannot be neglected or allowed to collapse, for this is too work for the Divine. As for the gymnasium, the playground and the rest of it, the Mother has made it plain from the beginning what place she assigned to these things; she has never done anything so imbecile as to replace essential things by these accessories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Become the instrument and servant of a higher consciousness, a spiritual life

Notes From a Fellow Traveller Elliott S. Dacher, M.D.
author of Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing January 22, 2008
Mental and Spiritual Development
The great Indian sage Aurobindo divided psychospiritual development into 12 progressive stages. His work falls within the great philosophical and spiritual traditions, East and West, that identify an ascending development of consciousness reaching from a survival-based instinctual life, through progressive levels of mental experience to the highest attainment of direct spiritual experience. This final apotheosis transcends all previous levels of cognitive mental experience...
The Spiritual Experience
We have all had a glimpse at the spiritual experience. We’re given small tastes and touches whose significance we often overlook. That’s to say we have the experience but miss the meaning. This glimpse can occur in communion with nature, the first blush of romance, the peak of orgasm, in the arts and music, meditation, and the heights of athletic performance. It’s the moment of timeless presence when, for a brief moment followed by a quick return to ordinary consciousness, self and cognition dissipate revealing a spacious choiceless and open awareness unfettered by usual mental activity. But these are only glimpses of the real thing. They are neither fully developed, matured, or stable. So we cannot hold these experiences and they rapidly drop back into our day-to-day level of development. If we grasp or attach to these “peek-peak” experiences we end up with suffering and addiction rather than the liberation and enlightenment of the genuine and fully developed spiritual experience.
What is revealed in these brief touches of the divine is neither created nor constructed. This liberating open, non-cognitive awareness is always present untouched and untainted by obscuring and unceasing mental activity that hides us from our source. This place of inner peace free of suffering and custodian of the transcendent and permanent qualities of wholeness, happiness, love, and compassion is hidden not absent. These brief glimpses we have spoken of beak through the obscuring clouds of our active mental life and for a moment we see what has always been present and discover the key to the end of all suffering and the emergence of the fullness of human life.
To turn a glimpse into a permanent reality is to develop our inner life, expand consciousness, accurately understand the nature of mind, self, and reality, and progressively extend and stabilize this higher and direct level of human experience. It is not that we abandon the rational cognitive mind, but rather than we abandon our fixation on it, its misperceptions and afflictive emotions. The center of our life is lived from a spiritual awareness and our rational capacities to investigate and know the relational day-to-day world become the instrument and servant of a higher consciousness, a spiritual life.
If we do not understand the distinction between a higher mental life and a spiritual life our development will be frozen at the mental life. We may be wise but we will neither attain the final and complete freedom from suffering that is immune to life’s adversities nor the enduring and changeless qualities of the enlightened spirit.

William James disavowed any scientific method that tried to dissect the mind into a set of elemental units

Misreading the mind
If neuroscientists want to understand the mystery of consciousness, they'll need new methods.
By Jonah Lehrer LAT Home > Op-Ed: Sunday Current January 20, 2008
Since its inception in the early 20th century, neuroscience has taught us a tremendous amount about the brain. Our sensations have been reduced to a set of specific circuits. The mind has been imaged as it thinks about itself, with every thought traced back to its cortical source. The most ineffable of emotions have been translated into the terms of chemistry, so that the feeling of love is just a little too much dopamine. Fear is an excited amygdala. Even our sense of consciousness is explained away with references to some obscure property of the frontal cortex. It turns out that there is nothing inherently mysterious about those 3 pounds of wrinkled flesh inside the skull. There is no ghost in the machine.
The success of modern neuroscience represents the triumph of a method: reductionism. The premise of reductionism is that the best way to solve a complex problem -- and the brain is the most complicated object in the known universe -- is to study its most basic parts. The mind, in other words, is just a particular trick of matter, reducible to the callous laws of physics. But the reductionist method, although undeniably successful, has very real limitations. Not everything benefits from being broken down into tiny pieces. Look, for example, at a Beethoven symphony. If the music is reduced to wavelengths of vibrating air -- the simple sum of its physics -- we actually understand less about the music. The intangible beauty, the visceral emotion, the entire reason we listen in the first place -- all is lost when the sound is reduced into its most elemental details.
In other words, reductionism can leave out a lot of reality. The mind is like music. While neuroscience accurately describes our brain in terms of its material facts -- we are nothing but a loom of electricity and enzymes -- this isn't how we experience the world. Our consciousness, at least when felt from the inside, feels like more than the sum of its cells. The truth of the matter is that we feel like the ghost, not like the machine. If neuroscience is going to solve its grandest questions, such as the mystery of consciousness, it needs to adopt new methods that are able to construct complex representations of the mind that aren't built from the bottom up.
Sometimes, the whole is best understood in terms of the whole. William James, as usual, realized this first. The eight chapters that begin his 1890 textbook, "The Principles of Psychology," describe the mind in the conventional third-person terms of the experimental psychologist. Everything changes, however, with Chapter 9. James starts this section, "The Stream of Thought," with a warning: "We now begin our study of the mind from within." With that single sentence, James tried to shift the subject of psychology. He disavowed any scientific method that tried to dissect the mind into a set of elemental units, be it sensations or synapses. Modern science, however, didn't follow James' lead.
In the years after his textbook was published, a "New Psychology" was born, and this rigorous science had no use for Jamesian vagueness. Measurement was now in vogue. Psychologists were busy trying to calculate all sorts of inane things, such as the time it takes for a single sensation to travel from your finger to your head. By quantifying our consciousness, they hoped to make the mind fit for science. Unfortunately, this meant that the mind was defined in very narrow terms. The study of experience was banished from the laboratory. But it's time to bring experience back. Neuroscience has effectively investigated the sound waves, but it has missed the music. Although reductionism has its uses -- it is, for instance, absolutely crucial for helping us develop new pharmaceutical treatments for mental illnesses -- its limitations are too significant to allow us to answer our biggest questions.
As the novelist Richard Powers wrote, "If we knew the world only through synapses, how could we know the synapse?" The question, of course, is how neuroscience can get beyond reductionism. Science rightfully adheres to a strict methodology, relying on experimental data and testability, but this method could benefit from an additional set of inputs. Artists, for instance, have studied the world of experience for centuries. They describe the mind from the inside, expressing our first-person perspective in prose, poetry and paint. Although a work of art obviously isn't a substitute for a scientific experiment -- Proust isn't going to invent Prozac -- the artist can help scientists better understand what, exactly, they are trying to reduce in the first place. Before you break something apart, it helps to know how it hangs together.
Virginia Woolf, for example, famously declared that the task of the novelist is to "examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day ... [tracing] the pattern, however disconnected and incoherent in appearance, which each sight or incident scores upon the consciousness." In other words, she wanted to describe the mind from the inside, to distill the details of our psychological experience into prose. That's why her novels have endured: because they feel true. And they feel true because they capture a layer of reality that reductionism cannot. As Noam Chomsky said, "It is quite possible -- overwhelmingly probable, one might guess -- that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology."
In this sense, the arts are an incredibly rich data set, providing neuroscience with a glimpse behind its blind spots. Some of the most exciting endeavors in neuroscience right now are trying to move beyond reductionism. The Blue Brain Project, for example, a collaboration between the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland, and IBM, is in the process of constructing a biologically accurate model of the brain that can be used to simulate experience on a supercomputer. Henry Markram, the leader of the project, recently told me that he's convinced "reductionism peaked five years ago." While Markram is quick to add that the reductionism program isn't complete -- "There is still so much that we don't know about the brain," he says -- he's trying to solve a harder problem, which is figuring out how all these cellular details connect together. "The Blue Brain Project" he says, "is about showing people the whole." In other words, Markram wants to hear the music.
One day, we'll look back at the history of neuroscience and realize that reductionism was just the first phase. Each year, tens of thousands of neuroscience papers are published in scientific journals. The field is introduced to countless new acronyms, pathways and proteins. At a certain point, however, all of this detail starts to have diminishing returns.
  • After all, the real paradox of the brain is why it feels like more than the sum of its parts.
  • How does our pale gray matter become the Technicolor cinema of consciousness?
  • What transforms the water of the brain into the wine of the mind?
  • Where does the self come from?

Reductionism can't answer these questions. According to the facts of neuroscience, your head contains 100 billion electrical cells, but not one of them is you, or knows you or cares about you. In fact, you don't even exist. You are simply an elaborate cognitive illusion, an "epiphenomenon" of the cortex. Our mystery is denied. Obviously, this scientific solution isn't very satisfying. It confines neuroscience to an immaculate abstraction, unable to reduce the only reality we will ever know. Unless our science moves beyond reductionism and grapples instead with the messiness of subjective experience -- what James called a "science of the soul" -- its facts will grow increasingly remote. The wonder of the brain is that it can be described in so many ways: We are such stuff as dreams are made on, but we are also just stuff. What we need is a science that can encompass both sides of our being. Jonah Lehrer, an editor at large for Seed magazine, is the author of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist."