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April 24, 2021
At the Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles


Sri Aurobindo Center
of Los Angeles



The Quest
April 2021

Theme: Rebirth
 
  1. Events & Activities
  2. Introduction
  3. The True Foundation of Rebirth
  4. Not the External Being
  5. Earth is the Place for Progress
  6. Rebirth and Progress
  7. Not about Reward or Punishment
  8. Only the Essential Experiences Carried to Next Life
  9. Need for Evolution and the Next Life
  10. Poem: Rebirth
  11. In Gratitude
  12. On the Body
  13. Sri Aurobindo’s Humor
  14. Empowering Lines from Savitri

Events & Activities                                                    Home

The month of April being the Mother's final arrival in Pondicherry (April 24, 1920) always brings with it a feeling of deep gratitude that stems from the realization that this was also a final seal on our destiny by the golden tie that exists between Her and those who are drawn to Her. To be wholly Hers is the destiny that awaits us.  This was powerfully felt in the April 24th program which began with a wonderful video of the Ashramites marching in Her presence, followed by readings, song-invocations, Mother's organ music and sharing; all this in the presence of a beautiful altar which carried Her presence.

With the threat of Covid slowly receding, the activities have gathered momentum. The renovation of the kitchen is being reviewed; our young aspiring souls in Raj, Nistha, Nitika did weeding and planting along with their parents; offerings of others in the maintenance of the house and garden continues.

Lastly, we received a wonderful surprise in Jishnu's visit from India. He has always been a very precious and core part of our Center. His deep-rootedness in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo is a flame that continuously burns and enriches us. It is a thrill to have him back. We also welcome Falguni Patel, newly married wife of long-time devotee Hardik.  They have been regularly helping out in the garden. Our meetings, thrice a week, continue over zoom as does our Quest for the Divine. 
 
Introduction                                                              Home
 
Dear Readers,

Our offering this month is on “Rebirth”. The purpose of this terrestrial existence is growth of consciousness, an evolution, a constant development of the Self by which the psychic being, that comes with each birth and participates in the manifestation, develops and becomes sufficiently prominent to become the master of this life. Man, being the most complex of Nature’s creation, will not follow a restricted and linear formula of growth. It charts a multi-pronged path developing various qualities, growing different branches of the personality. The more influential a personality is, the richer and multifaceted his qualities will be. But one lifetime is too short a period to cover this ground towards perfection. Each birth, each life, is a heroic attempt to tide over the various forces of life and take a step towards the goal.   

Our team has scanned through the works of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo to re-present answers to thoughtful questions:

In each birth do we come to do the same work? But that will be a wastage in the occult economy of life. A soul may choose to continue an unfinished line of development of its previous birth, but to grow into a richer personality it will choose to nurture other undeveloped aspects.

What determines the burden and the prizes of our lives? Is there a distant dispassionate judge who metes out punishment or rewards to us for the next birth based on our conduct in the present birth, or is it our psychic being that chooses the difficulties as living exercises to grow stronger and emerge fuller individuals?

If life is a field of perennial progress, then why is there a cessation and a rebirth? Life on earth is indeed the only place of progress, in each birth the psychic being wears a different mask, dons a different personality and plays a different role to grow towards perfection. Our self has various elements – physical, vital and mental, and as of now they cannot grow perpetually. In each birth we create a frame with a combination of these elements, but we also get attached to our limitations and imperfections which is an obstacle to free progress. Nature by design dissolves the body, related associations and erases the memories to provide us a Tambula Rasa for a fresh start. Between one birth and another the psychic being has a period of rest and assimilation of the knowledge gathered during the last life, and then embarks afresh for the spiritual adventure. Through rebirth we transcend the limitations of the physical, mental and vital and plunge again in this journey towards fullness.

In Gratitude section we will be introduced to Ashwin, a sincere friend of the Center. Ashwin means, “Horse Tamer” ... horse the symbol of power of progress.

Quest is incomplete without the sections, “On the Body” and “Sri Aurobindo’s Humour”. “Empowering lines from Savitri” - the healing balm of our wounded lives, and finally artwork where art finds its best expression - in service of spirituality.

Please read through the current issue and renew your pledge to practice. Wish you all a joyous reading.

From the Quest Team.
All are invited to join us for the following virtual events taking place via Zoom video and teleconferencing calls.

Free Flowing Discussion – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Pacific Time
Savitri Reading - Thursdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Pacific Time
Essays on the Gita - Saturdays, 4:30 pm- 6:00 pm Pacific Time

Click here for the Zoom Meeting details.
CWSA, Volume 21, Page 784.
The True Foundation of Rebirth                               Home

The true foundation of the theory of rebirth is the evolution of the soul, or rather its efflorescence out of the veil of Matter and its gradual self-finding. … But what is the aim of that evolution? Not conventional or interested virtue and the faultless counting out of the small coin of good in the hope of an apportioned material reward, but the continual growth towards a divine knowledge, strength, love and purity. These things alone are real virtue and this virtue is its own reward. The one true reward of the works of love is to grow ever in capacity and delight of love up to the ecstasy of the spirit’s all-seizing embrace and universal passion; the one reward of the works of right Knowledge is to grow perpetually into the infinite Light; the one reward of the works of right Power is to harbour more and more of the Force Divine, and of the works of purity to be freed more and more from egoism into that immaculate wideness where all things are transformed and reconciled into the divine equality. To seek other reward is to bind oneself to a foolishness and a childish ignorance; and to regard even these things as a reward is an unripeness and an imperfection.

And what of suffering and happiness, misfortune and prosperity? These are experiences of the soul in its training, helps, props, means, disciplines, tests, ordeals,—and prosperity often a worse ordeal than suffering. Indeed, adversity, suffering may often be regarded rather as a reward to virtue than as a punishment for sin, since it turns out to be the greatest help and purifier of the soul struggling to unfold itself. To regard it merely as the stern award of a Judge, the anger of an irritated Ruler or even the mechanical recoil of result of evil upon cause of evil is to take the most superficial view possible of God’s dealings with the soul and the law of the world’s evolution. And what of worldly prosperity, wealth, progeny, the outward enjoyment of art, beauty, power? Good, if they be achieved without loss to the soul and enjoyed only as the outflowing of the divine Joy and Grace upon our material existence. But let us seek them first for others or rather for all, and for ourselves only as a part of the universal condition or as one means of bringing perfection nearer.

- Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 13, Page 267.

[Emphasis added by the editor]
 
Not the External Being                                          Home

In rebirth it is not the external being, that which is formed by parents, environment and circumstances,—the mental, the vital and the physical,—that is born again: it is only the psychic being that passes from body to body. Logically, then, neither the mental nor the vital being can remember past lives or recognise itself in the character or mode of life of this or that person. The psychic being alone can remember; and it is by becoming conscious of our psychic being that we can have at the same time exact impressions about our past lives.

Besides, it is much more important for us to fix our attention upon what we want to become than upon what we have been.

2 April 1935

The Mother, CWM Volume 15, Page 124.
 
Earth is the Place for Progress                               Home

The centre of organisation and transformation is always the presence of the psychic in the body. Therefore, it is a very big mistake to believe that the progress continues or even, as some believe, that it is more complete and rapid in the periods of transition between two physical lives; in general, there is no progress at all, for the psychic enters into a state of rest and the other parts, after a more or less ephemeral life in their own domain, are dissolved.

Earthly life is the place for progress. It is here, on earth, that progress is possible, during the period of earthly existence. And it is the psychic which carries the progress over from one life to another, by organising its own evolution and development itself.

12 February 1958

- The Mother, CWM Volume 9, Page 269.
 
Rebirth and Progress                                              Home
Granting, for example, that the psychic being has had the experience of a man who was a writer and could translate his experience through books and speeches; thus he covered a particular field of experience due to the associations and circumstances in which this being lived. But there is a field of experience he misses. For example, he says: “I have lived with my brain, with the reactions of an intellectual to life, now I want to live with my feeling.” For usually this over-activity of the intellect in ordinary life diminishes very much the capacity of feeling. Therefore in order to have another field of experience, of development, he renounces his intellectual height; he is no longer a genius, a writer of genius, he becomes an ordinary man, but with a remarkable heart, very kind, very generous. I said “idiot”, but it is a question of comparison. It is not rare, for example, that a psychic being which has reached its maximum growth, after having enjoyed the experiences of a ruling authority (of all that the life of an emperor or king may bring) may want to be able to work in an obscure life, without being fettered all the time by governmental pomps, and may very well choose to be born in quite an ordinary environment, an ordinary bourgeois family, in the most mediocre conditions, so as to have that kind of incognito which will allow it to work without being hampered by all the necessities of governmental display that are binding on one who is at the head of a country. So if you look at the thing from one point of view, you say: “How is it? what is this downfall?” It is not a downfall. It is meeting the problem from another angle, from another point of view. For the consciousness (I mean the true consciousness, the divine consciousness) success or failure are the same, glory or mediocrity are the same. What is important is the growth of the consciousness. And certain conditions that appear very favourable to human beings can be very unfavourable for the growth of the consciousness ….

16 September 1953

- The Mother, CWM Volume 5, Page 267.

________________________________________________________

Question: But for those who are not conscious of their psychic?

The Mother: They are compelled to progress whether they want it or not.
The psychic being itself progresses in them and they are not conscious of it. But they themselves are compelled to progress. That is to say, they follow a curve. They follow an ascent in life. It is the same progress as that of the growing child; there comes a time when it is at the summit of its growth and then, unless it changes the plane of progress, unless the purely physical progress turns into a mental progress, a psychic progress, a spiritual progress, it goes down the curve and then there will be a decomposition and it will not exist any longer.

It is just because progress is not constant and perpetual in the physical world that there is a growth, an apogee, a decline and a decomposition. For anything that does not advance, falls back; all that does not progress regresses.

So this is just what happens physically. The physical world has not learnt how to progress indefinitely; it arrives at a certain point, then it is either tired of progressing or is not capable of progressing in the present constitution, but in any case it stops progressing and after a time decomposes. Those who lead a purely physical life reach a kind of summit, then they slide down very quickly. But now, with the general collective human progress, there is behind the physical progress a vital progress and a mental progress, so that the mental progress can go on for a very long time, even after the physical progress has come to a stop, and through this mental progress one keeps up a kind of ascent long after the physical has ceased to progress.

And then there are those who do yoga, who become conscious of their psychic being, are united with it, participate in its life; these, indeed, progress till the last breath of their life. And they do not stop even after death, when they have left their body under the plea that the body cannot last any longer: they continue to progress.

5 August 1953

CWM Volume 5, Page 204.
 
Not about Reward or Punishment                           Home
How comforting it would be if we could tell a good man and even the amount of his goodness,—for should not the Supreme be a strict and honourable accountant?—by the amount of ghee that he is allowed to put into his stomach and the number of rupees he can jingle into his bank and the various kinds of good luck that accrue to him. Yes, and how comforting too if we could point our finger at the wicked stripped of all concealment and cry at him, “O thou wicked one! for if thou wert not evil, wouldst thou in a world governed by God or at least by good, be thus ragged, hungry, unfortunate, pursued by griefs, void of honour among men? Yes, thou art proved wicked, because thou art ragged. God’s justice is established.” The Supreme Intelligence being fortunately wiser and nobler than man’s childishness, this is impossible. But let us take comfort! It appears that if the good man has not enough good luck and ghee and rupees, it is because he is really a scoundrel suffering for his crimes,—but a scoundrel in his past life who has suddenly turned a new leaf in his mother’s womb; and if yonder wicked man flourishes and tramples gloriously on the world, it is because of his goodness—in a past life, the saint that was then having since been converted—was it by his experience of the temporal vanity of virtue?—to the cult of sin. All is explained, all is justified. We suffer for our sins in another body; we shall be rewarded in another body for our virtues in this; and so it will go on ad infinitum. No wonder, the philosophers found this a bad business and proposed as a remedy to get rid of both sin and virtue and even as our highest good to scramble anyhow out of a world so amazingly governed.

Obviously, this scheme of things is only a variation of the old spiritual-material bribe and menace, the bribe of a Heaven of fat joys for the good and the threat of a hell of eternal fire or bestial tortures for the wicked. The idea of the Law of the world as primarily a dispenser of rewards and punishments is cognate to the idea of the Supreme Being as a judge, “father” and school-master who is continually rewarding with lollipops his good boys and continually caning his naughty urchins. It is cognate also to the barbarous and unthinking system of sometimes savage and always degrading punishment for social offences on which human society, unable still to find out or organise a more satisfactory way, is still founded. Man insists continually on making God in his own image instead of seeking to make himself more and more in the image of God, and all these ideas are the reflection of the child and the savage and the animal in us which we have still failed to transform or outgrow.

- Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 13, Page 265.
Artist: Huta
Only the Essential Experiences Carried into Next Life
Home
The psychic when it departs from the body, shedding even the mental and vital on its way to its resting place, carries with it the heart of its experiences,—not the physical events, not the vital movements, not the mental buildings, not the capacities or characters, but something essential that it gathered from them, what might be called the divine element for the sake of which the rest existed. That is the permanent addition, it is that that helps in the growth towards the Divine. That is why there is usually no memory of the outward events and circumstances of past lives—for this memory there must be a strong development towards unbroken continuance of the mind, the vital, even the subtle physical; for though it all remains in a kind of seed memory, it does not ordinarily emerge. What was the divine element in the magnanimity of the warrior, that which expressed itself in his loyalty, nobility, high courage, what was the divine element behind the harmonious mentality and generous vitality of the poet and expressed itself in them, that remains and in a new harmony of character may find a new expression or, if the life is turned towards the Divine, be taken up as powers for the realisation or for the work that has to be done for the Divine.

- Sri Aurobindo, CWSA Volume 28, Page 544.
The Need for Evolution and the Next Life              Home
Question: Is it sure that in the next life too one will be here or in the Ashram? Or will it be that one will go somewhere else for other experiences?

The Mother: Well, it depends absolutely on the condition in which they died and their last wish, and on the resolution of the psychic. It is not a mechanical or imposed thing, it is different for each one.

I have already told you many times that, for the destiny which follows after death, the last state of consciousness is usually the most important. That is, if at the moment of death one has the intense aspiration to return to continue his work, then the conditions are arranged for it to be done. But, you see, there are all the possibilities for what happens after death. There are people who return in the psychic. You see, I have told you that the outer being is very rarely preserved; so we speak only of the psychic consciousness which, indeed, always persists. And then there are people for whom the psychic returns to the psychic domain to assimilate the experience they have had and to prepare their future life. This may take centuries, it depends on the people.

The more evolved the psychic is, the nearer it is to its complete maturity, the greater the time between the births.

There are beings who reincarnate only after a thousand years, two thousand years.
The closer one is to the beginning of the formation, the closer are the reincarnations; and sometimes even, altogether at the lower level, when man is quite near the animal, it goes like this (gesture), that is, it is not unusual for people to reincarnate in the children of their children, like that, something like that, or just in the next generation. But this is always on a very primitive level of evolution, and the psychic being is not very conscious, it is in the state of formation. And as it becomes more developed, the reincarnations, as I said, are at a greater distance from one another. When the psychic being is fully developed, when it no longer needs to return to earth for its development, when it is absolutely free, it has the choice between no longer coming back to earth if it finds that its work lies elsewhere or if it prefers to remain in the purely psychic consciousness, without reincarnating; or else it can come when it wants, as it wants, where it wants, perfectly consciously. And there are those who have united with forces of a universal order and with entities of the Overmind or elsewhere, who remain all the time in the earth atmosphere and take on bodies successively for the work. This means that the moment the psychic being is completely formed and absolutely free—it when it is completely formed it becomes absolutely free—it can do anything it likes, it depends on what it chooses; therefore one can’t say, “It will be like this, it will be like that”; it does exactly what it wants and it can even announce (that has happened), at the moment of the death of the body, what its next reincarnation will be and what it will do, and already choose what it is going to do. But before this state, which is not very frequent—it depends absolutely on the degree of development of the psychic and the hope formulated by the integral consciousness of the being—there is still the mental, vital and physical consciousness, united with the psychic consciousness; so at that moment, the moment of death, the moment of leaving the body, it formulates a hope or an aspiration or a will, and usually this decides the future life.

16 March 1955

CWM Volume 7, Page 85.

Poem: Rebirth                                                              Home

Not soon is God’s delight in us completed,
               Nor with one life we end;
Termlessly in us are our spirits seated
               And termless joy intend.

Our souls and heaven are of an equal stature
               And have a dateless birth;
The unending seed, the infinite mould of Nature,
               They were not made on earth,

Nor to the earth do they bequeath their ashes,
                But in themselves they last.
An endless future brims beneath thy lashes,
                Child of an endless past.

Old memories come to us, old dreams invade us,
                Lost people we have known,
Fictions and pictures; but their frames evade us,–
               They stand out bare, alone.

Yet all we dream and hope are memories treasured,
               Are forecasts we misspell,
But of what life or scene he who has measured
               The boundless heavens can tell.

Time is a strong convention; future and present
               Were living in the past;
They are one image that our wills complaisant
               Into three schemes have cast.

Our past that we forget, is with us deathless,
               Our births and later end
Already accomplished. To a summit breathless
               Sometimes our souls ascend,

Whence the mind comes back helped; for there emerges
               The ocean vast of Time
Spread out before us with its infinite surges,
               Its symphonies sublime;

And even from this veil of mind the spirit
              Looks out sometimes and sees
The bygone aeons that our lives inherit,
               The unborn centuries:

It sees wave-trampled realms expel the Ocean,–
                From the vague depths uphurled
Where now Himaloy stands, the flood’s huge motion
                Sees measuring half the world;

Or else the web behind us is unravelled
               And on its threads we gaze,–
Past motions of the stars, scenes long since travelled
                In Time’s far-backward days.

 - Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Volume 2, Page 213.

In Gratitude                                                                 Home

Ashwin Prakash
In this life I first got introduced to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother in my university days in 2010. On the internet I had come across an interview of a person who grew up in the Ashram. It made me want to know more about the Ashram and Their teachings.
“A casual passing phrase can change our life.” – Savitri, Page 373.
 
At first only my mind was drawn to Sri Aurobindo’s works. I realized here was someone who was able to answer cogently all the various questions I had since my childhood – the meaning of life, the purpose of creation etc. But it would be until a few more years till I would realize who The Mother is. Till then I was very centered in my head. I would try to understand Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. But by Her Grace I became less centered in the head and more in the heart, and so now I try to love Them. And where is the end in loving Mother and Sri Aurobindo. There is always something more of ourselves that we can give to Them.
 
It is an interesting story how I became connected with the Sri Aurobindo LA center. I was visiting my sister, then based in LA, in 2018. Back then I was based out of the middle-east and it had been a while since I had visited any center. When I found out there was a center in LA I was eager to visit it. However, I wasn’t aware of the timings and had gone at some time in the evening to find it closed. I sat at the porch for quite some time; there was a man gardening in the next house who noticed me. When it became dark, I decided to leave and so booked an uber. I was half-way down the street when Janani and Bharani (beloved devotees at the Center) had just drove in. Something made the man who was gardening earlier to go out of his way and inform Janani and Bharani that I had been waiting. Then they called out to me, I cancelled my uber and couldn’t believe the luck that got me inside the Center. My second visit was in 2019. This time heeding from my experience the previous year I emailed Vikas asking him when I could visit the center. He informed me about the darshan day program on 17th Aug. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it for the program as I was travelling to San Diego. Fortunately, I had returned to LA on the 17th just in time to attend the program. And that was when I could meet most, if not all, of the lovely deeply devoted members of the LA center. Though I have visited the LA center only a few times I am really glad to be a part of this wonderful family. I feel it has helped in my sadhana a lot.
 
If I had to summarize my (home)coming to The Mother and Sri Aurobindo to only two things - it would be a lot of Grace and incommensurate Gratitude.
 
- Ashwin resides in India but he is a part of The Mother’s family at Sri Aurobindo Center, LA. His beautiful offerings are done with deep devotion, across every aspect of Sri Aurobindo Center, LA. Plays an inspiring role in bringing out Center’s monthly newsletter “QUEST”. He enhances our experience online with Center’s WhatsApp group of Devotees by sharing, reciting, helping to search and always offers with love. He is an avid reader so he shares generously and promptly our Gurus’ words.

Ashwin is an inspiring devotee of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo and The Center is grateful for all his services and offerings.

On the Body                                                                 Home

In the past the body has been regarded by spiritual seekers rather as an obstacle, as something to be overcome and discarded than as an instrument of spiritual perfection and a field of the spiritual change. It has been condemned as a grossness of Matter, as an insuperable impediment and the limitations of the body as something unchangeable making transformation impossible.

Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol 16, Page 7.

Sri Aurobindo's Humor                                            Home

Sadhak: Everybody seems to be happy to find me shifted from the “timber throne” to the Dispensary, and says, “Now is the right man in the right place”!

Sri Aurobindo: Men are rational idiots. The timber-godown made you make a great progress and you made the timber-godown make a great progress. I only hope it will be maintained by your successor.

Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo – by Nirodbaran, Page 110.

Empowering Lines from Savitri                         Home

In the mute strength of the occult Idea
Determining predestined shape and act,
Passenger from life to life, from scale to scale,
Changing his imaged self from form to form,
He regards the icon growing by his gaze
And in the worm foresees the coming god.

- Savitri, Page 23.
A Collective Offering by

Team at Sri Aurobindo Center of Los Angeles.
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