Workshop: Svādhyāya I: Human Relations in Yoga
Dates: September 11 – November 20, 2021
The Mother once said that reading the words of Sri Aurobindo “opens the doors of the future to us” (CWM, 12: 214). She also advises – “It is not by books that Sri Aurobindo ought to be studied but by subjects — what he has said on the Divine, on Unity, on religion, on evolution, on education, on self-perfection, on supermind, etc., etc.” (CWM, 12: 208).
Keeping these words as our inspiration AuroBharati and AuroYajna came together to start a series of Svādhyāya or study groups focused around a selected topic. The aim of ‘Svādhyāya: Study, Reflect and Grow Within’ is to give interested seekers and participants an opportunity to experience the Living Force and Power of the Words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother through a focused programme which involves self-study and a weekly shared reflection session which happens online. Participants are informed of the selected readings a week in advance.
To facilitate a deeper reflection on a specific topic, each Svādhyāya round lasts several weeks.
We recently finished a 10-week-long Round 1 of Svādhyāya on the topic – Human Relations in Yoga. For this study group, our primary readings were selected from Sri Aurobindo’s Letters on Yoga. Additionally, we included some relevant passages from the Mother’s writings and conversations on the topics of human love and relationships as well as the nature of Love as a universal force. We also included a few simple essays from Nolini Kanta Gupta on related themes which came up during some of the discussions. Also, when participants brought to attention some relevant quotes and passages from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, references and links to those were also sent to all participants as suggested readings.
The first online session of Round 1 of Svadhyaya was on September 11, 2021 which was primarily an introductory session. A total of 39 people joined that afternoon. An online email group was created with all the members, which was used to share the assigned readings for every week.
As we progressed, the number of participants slipped down a bit as only those who were seriously committed to complete the weekly readings and participate in the reflection session stayed with the study group. On an average, 15-18 people participated in every shared reflection session, sometimes the number going up to 22.
The online sessions were facilitated by Beloo Mehra and Shweta Shekhar. Each session started with a moment of silence, followed by the chanting of a Vedic mantra by Shivaram Prasad, a participant as well as a research volunteer at AuroYajna. The sessions began with Beloo Mehra sharing a brief comment about the week’s readings or highlighting some specific points. Participants were encouraged to share what key points from the readings resonated most deeply with them and why. Shivaram, with his deeper exposure to Vedantic teachings, often brought in that light to unpack some of the issues regarding our understanding of ‘self’ and ‘other’ in the context of relationships.
A safe and comfortable space was created where participants could freely share what they received from the readings and how it helped them understand the rightful place of their relationships in their inner journeys. Several participants shared how some of the words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were helping them unpack some personal situations with which they were struggling.
Given the sensitive nature of the topic, an open-hearted and completely non-judgmental approach was encouraged and practiced throughout. As the time progressed, we saw more and more participants opening up and sharing how these readings were helping them clarify some of their personal doubts regarding how to manage meaningful relations while also being sincere to their inner journeys.
Some participants brought in highly significant questions regarding man-woman relationships and spiritual quest, parent-child relationships, nature of human love, ego and its demands, etc. We spent time exploring how relationships can become a helpful context to facilitate inner work, and how to figure out when a relationship becomes an obstacle in our inner journeys. Throughout, we paid close attention that all these reflections and discussions were happening in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s vision for a transformed earthly life, and for a more harmonious future society.
During our last session, Shivaram Prasad shared an inspiring explanation about a specific Vedic mantra, a prayer for auspiciousness, and helped the participants learn how to chant it through slow demonstration.
īśānassarva vidyānām īśvaras sarva bhūtānām brahmādhipatir brahmaṇo’dhipatir brahmā
śivo me astu sadāśivom
This mantra from the Taittiriya Aranayaka (10.21.1), also called Mahanarayana Upanishad, of Krishna Yajurveda brought a quietude and calmness necessary for sharing some final reflections on love, goodness and human relations in the path of yoga.
- I found the points regarding ‘internalization of the fact that universal love can be brought in harmony with loving oneself’ very useful.
- Thank you for your insightful guidance, and to all of you – thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas and for allowing me to learn and grow with you.
- Focused reading and reflection is definitely helpful, as it streamlines my thoughts. Learning with a group widens my understanding and offers insights that I may have never entertained on my own.
- Thank you for arranging the Svadhyaya sessions. The most appealing and pragmatic part of these sessions was when some participants shared their personal experiences on how they overcame some tough situations in their relationships while also being conscious of their deeper aspiration.
- I found reading Their Works in a scheduled manner helped a lot. Hearing real life examples of others also broadened my perspective on general life encounters. Also, for an overseas follower and new to Mother and Sri Aurobindo, this group kept me connected to other followers of Their Work.
- As far as seeing my relationships in a ‘new and different light’ – absolutely, as I learn to think in terms of Love as the Mother taught and speaks of Divine Love, my desire is to dedicate myself to a more fervent consciousness of the Divine within me, thereby allowing me to become more intimate with the ‘highest form of love’ so that I may love ‘purely and simply, without any other need or joy than that of loving’.
- My whole take from the Svadhyaya so far is the Mother’s sole stress upon Love as the keyword and as one of the most powerful universal Forces at work irrespective of the subject in which and through which it manifests itself. All human relation and Yoga, therefore, must needs culminate into a Love as vast as the universe. This I take as the final shape of things in all human relationships, simultaneously, individually and collectively.
– Report prepared by Beloo Mehra