Sri Aurobindo Center
of Los Angeles

Perfection of the Body
February 2021
In the one task for which our lives were born,
To raise the world to God in deathless Light,
To bring God down to the world on earth we came,
To change the earthly life to life divine.
  Savitri, Book XI, Canto One, page 692
From the Mother and Sri Aurobindo
"... [W]hen one sees the absolutely marvellous results of this culture, when one observes the extent to which the body is capable of perfecting itself, one understands how useful this can be to the action of the psychic being which has entered into this material substance. For naturally, when it is in possession of an organised and harmonised instrument which is full of strength and suppleness and possibilities, its task is greatly facilitated."

CWMCE 28 November 1958

Few persons understand that generally they who are against this external discipline, this concentration on a material achievement like sports, are exactly the people who lack totally control over their physical being. But to realize the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo, control of the body is one of the first indispensable steps. They who despise physical activities are people who will not be able to take a single step on the true way of integral yoga, unless they get rid of their despise first. The control of the body in all its forms is an indispensable basis.”

“From our experience we have found that a particular system of exercises cannot be stamped as the only yogic type of exercises and we cannot definitely say that participation in those exercises only will gain health because they are yogic exercises.... Any rational system of exercises suited to one’s need and capacity will help the participant to improve in health. Moreover, it is the attitude that is more important. Any well-planned and scientifically arranged programme of exercises practised with a yogic attitude will become yogic exercises and the person practising them will draw full benefit from the point of view of physical health and moral and spiritual uplift .”

CWMCE Bulletin, April 1959 


The Mother and Sri Aurobindo sought to embody a divine life upon earth, and the body therefore became the focal point and its development insisted upon and considered as important, perhaps even more than that of the other parts of our being.  They refused to give their sanction to an asceticism that rejected the body.  As we proceed on the inner quest through the renunciation of self-will, the purification of ourselves of the thorns and thickets of desire and the taming of the mind, the body too must participate in this journey by progressing through a disciplined physical culture.

A disciple writes "For almost two decades, The Mother spent over three hours a day around the Physical activities that She was intimately involved in establishing and setting a personal example by playing tennis for an hour every evening from 4 to 5 PM. She was on the court for the full hour while players rotated on the other side of the net, every few games. I had the unique privilege to witness this because I was one of Her ball boys, standing in the shade of the umpire’s chair! Group meditation was held for one hour a week in the Playground. It was held on Thursdays and Sundays for half hour".

The body can be a great aid, and its place in our inner endeavour can be much more consequential than what has been accorded it. Physical exercise effectively rejects Tamas, induces a feeling of euphoria thereby setting up the right atmosphere for meditation, concentration and a receptivity to the Divine force. It can dissolve mental and vital formations that sometimes besiege the aspirant, and regular engagement in physical culture infuses confidence and optimism, making for an enthusiastic self-giving to the Divine. 
In this journey of the perfection of the body, we take a moment to express our gratitude to the scientists, doctors and front-line workers for their gallant efforts during this pandemic. The first since 1918, it has affected millions of lives around the world causing death and physical upheaval. In the response of science and medicine that has saved many lives and developed vaccines in record time we are reminded of The Mother’s words:
"If the body is considered as the tabernacle of the Lord, then medical science, for example, becomes the initiatory ritual for service of the temple and doctors of all categories are the priests who officiate in the different rituals of the worship. Thus, medicine is truly a priesthood and should be treated as such. The same thing may be said of physical culture and of all the sciences dealing with the body and its working. And if the material universe is regarded as the external robe and manifestation of the Supreme, then it can be said, generally, that all the physical sciences are rituals of worship.“

Collected Works of The Mother, First Edition, Volume 15, p. 374
The Mother watching the children's boxing competition
The Mother taking keen interest in track and field results
An early disciple of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo who was part of the P.E under the Mother writes:

As I recall my years of participation in physical culture under Her ever wakeful eye, I am filled with awe, wonder and amazement at Her interest, encouragement, and passionate engagement with it. The smallest detail did not escape Her attention.  From the mid 1940s when The Mother established a children’s boarding and the playground, her focus was a continuous expansion of the physical education facilities with the addition of the tennis ground in 1947 and the acquisition of the sportsground with swimming pool in 1952, the year that International Center of education was opened.
All the children participated all forms of physical activities for about 90 minutes every day. There was no gender differentiation. These activities included gymnastics, boxing and wrestling, track and field, football, basketball, volleyball, swimming. We also played tennis and cricket, the latter on Sunday mornings. Dancing was also available that included Indian classical as well as ballet. Dancing provides endurance, strength, flexibility, balance and musicality. Rhythmic gymnastics for example has been an olympic event since 1984. It is dancing with a hoop,ball, ribbon or rope. To this day there are no educational institutions anywhere in the world that provide all the children equal access to all these activities as required part of their education. They may undertake one or more of these based on interest, ability and affordability but NOT as a required daily discipline of life.

The Mother was a daily participant overseeing all physical activities with great focus. Give you an example. I was competing in the triple jump in the Ashram sports ground. On my final attempt I took off about 6 ‘’ behind the line. The measurement was made as required from the line. Once she was told that distance, She had it remeasured from my take off point! She watched with the same singular focus regardless of what sporting activity we were involved with.  When the Indian Prime Minister visited the Ashram, besides meeting in the ashram, She arranged for him to visit the playground where he got to witness a demonstration of our physical activities our activities that included gymnastic floor exercises that I had the unique opportunity to participate in.
 The Mother greeting the Russian Gymnasts in the playground.
It is very obvious that those who practise physical culture scientifically and with coordination acquire a control over their bodies that’s unimaginable for ordinary people. When the Russian gymnasts came here, we saw with what ease they did exercises which for an ordinary man are impossible, and they did them as if it was the simplest thing in the world; there was not even the least sign of effort! Well, that mastery is already a great step towards the transformation of the body. And these people who, I could say, are materialists by profession, used no spiritual method in their education; it was solely by material means and an enlightened use of human will that they had achieved this result. If they had added to this a spiritual knowledge and power, they could have achieved an almost miraculous result.…Because of the false ideas prevalent in the world, we don’t usually see the two things together, spiritual mastery and material mastery, and so one is always incomplete without the other; but this is exactly what we want to do and what Sri Aurobindo is going to explain: if the two are combined, the result can reach a perfection that’s unthinkable for the ordinary human mind, and this is what we want to attempt.

- The Mother, Question and Answers April 1957

Without Character, without some kind of high or strong discipline, there is no enduring power of life.

Sri Aurobindo

To be able to be regular is a great force, one becomes master of one’s time and one’s movements.

Sri Aurobindo


"Knows neither fatigue nor exhaustion”

The Mother

Nothing great is ever accomplished without endurance.

The Mother

Self mastery is the greatest conquest, it is the basis of all enduring happiness.

The Mother

Perseverance is patience in action

The Mother

Reference : The Spiritual Significance of Flowers. The Mother
It is interesting to note that the global emphasis today on physical culture was anticipated by the Mother more than five decades ago. She had observed " it's quite remarkable if you think of how recent physical training is. And it's spreading very quickly nowadays, which means that the proportion of the human population that is interested in it and practices it is snowballing. So when I saw all those photos (for me, it's especially through pictures that I see), it occurred to me that through those qualities, the cells, the cellular aggregates acquire a plasticity, a receptivity, a force that make the substance more supple for the permeation of the supramental forces".

The gym culture has been steadily spreading around the world. Even proponents of traditional practices of meditation and pranayam are becoming its advocates.  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar being one example. Click below to listen.

In Former Taliban Stronghold, Defiant Women Hit the Gym
A women’s health club in Kandahar challenges conservative Afghan traditions that vilify exercise for women. Many work out secretly.
Maryam Durani, left, guiding a gym member through an exercise at her fitness club for women in Kandahar. Women agreed to be photographed only while wearing fully concealing clothing instead of their usual workout clothes.Credit...Farzana Wahidy for The New York Times

By David Zucchino and Fatima Faizi

"A new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race" said Sri Aurobindo in 1947. Could the movement of this global emphasis of physical culture be part of this movement of the new spirit? Its scope crosses all barriers of age, race, religion, gender, country and ideology. Deeply conservative societies where women have been socially oppressed, even outcast, find themselves participating in it. Did the Mother with Her emphasis on P.E anticipate and perhaps initiate this more than half a century ago in the Ashram? Could this collective global conscious emphasis on the body be accelerating its evolution, towards the fulfillment of Sri Aurobindo's vision, revelation of a new race inhabiting an immortal body?
If man lives bound by his humanity,
If he is tied for ever to his pain,
Let a greater being then arise from man,
The superhuman with the Eternal mate
And the Immortal shine through earthly forms.
Savitri, Canto XI, Page 693
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