Start date: July 17, 2023
End date: July 19, 2023
Venue: Freedom Land, Doddaballapura, Karnataka
Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor, AuroBharati and Editor, Renaissance Journal, was invited by the Creative School co-founders and trustees of The Healing Circle, Ms. Jayashree Ashok and Mr. B. Ashok to conduct an intensive course for about 70 teachers on the theme: Indian culture and Self-development.
This 3-day intensive organised at the beautiful and serene campus of Freedom Land – a residential campus in rural Karnataka about 1.5 hours drive from the city. Teachers from The Creative School, Bengaluru as well as those staying and working at Freedom Land participated in the course.
Situated near the hills, Freedom Land is coming up as a conscious community space dedicated to inner freedom and outer productivity through collaborative work. This provided a very wholesome environment and the right kind of ambience to delve into topics related to the spiritual foundations of Indian culture and their implication for one’s inner journey and progress.
A beautiful participant kit was prepared by the Renaissance journal team for all the participants which included copies of some of Society’s publications, inspiring message cards with Sri Aurobindo’s and Mother’s words, a few other small but thoughtful gifts. Reading materials for continued learning beyond the three-day intensive was also provided which covered all the main topics covered during the course.
The topics covered during the course included:
- Why and how should we study Indian civilisation and culture?
- What is culture? How does Sri Aurobindo define culture?
- An Indian view of nation and culture; is there a relation between culture and nation?
- Spiritual foundations of Indian culture
- The Indian view of life and aim of human existence
- Our many selves
- The inmost truth of our being
- Principle of gradual progress and evolution
- Living within: Becoming a conscious individual
- Organising individual and collective life for human development
- Dharma – the right inner law of living and gradual progress
- Rethinking ancient ideals of varnāshrama system for the coming age
- Relevance of study of ancient texts for our times: Lessons for inner growth
- The core of Vedic teaching and vision
- Stories from the Upanishads
- The Mahavākyas of the Upanishads
- The uniqueness of the Bhagavad Gita as a scripture
- Key insights from the Bhagavad Gita for self-development
- Chatuhsasti Kalā: Sixty-four Arts of India
- Appreciation of Indian Arts
- Sacred roots of Indian art
The 3-day intensive programme which started from 9 in the morning and continued throughout the day till dinner time included talks, interactive sessions, Q & A, small group reflection sessions, participant sharing, cultural performances, games and more. Two films were also screened after the dinner on day 1 and 2. These included: The Transformation, produced by Sri Aurobindo Society; and Hindu Nectar: Spiritual Wanderings in India.
Each day of the program opened with a short concentration, and every session closed with a conscious offering of our work to the Divine. The diverse group of teacher-participants included a mix of age-groups, life-experience and cultural backgrounds. This allowed for some interesting interactions during the sessions. Some of the discussions around topics related to dharma, chaturvarna vs. caste system, and stories from itihāsa-s also brought in the angle of how teachers can sensitively address such topics with their students who are often easily influenced by the misguided and distorted interpretations of these ideas.
On the last day of the intensive, a group of teachers prepared and presented a cultural performance with music and dance inspired by a Bhakti song by Sri Purandara Dasa, a noted 15th century poet and musical genius, often spoken of as the father of the Carnatic music tradition of India. Another group presented a performance on the very popular Kannada song titled Kannada Nadina Veera Ramaniya which speaks of the bravery of Onake Obavva, an 18th century female warrior who fought the forces of Hyder Ali single-handedly with a pestle in the kingdom of Chitradurga, Karnataka.
As part of the discussion on 64 arts of India, a game of tongue twisters was also organised which brought in a lot of fun as the workshop came to a close. The 3-day programme ended with a sharing circle where each participant spoke of one key takeaway from the workshop.
Throughout the workshop, several discussions brought out clearly the point how our mainstream education in general, including higher education, does not help create a deeper appreciation and understanding of the truths of Indian culture. For some of the participants, this was their first formal exposure to deeper spiritual aspects of Indian culture and dharmic traditions.
Given the short duration of the intensive, some of the topics could not be explored in as much detail and depth as was required particularly for these participants. Some of the feedback received reflected this point; also some of these participants who are fairly new in their conscious journey to explore the spiritual basis of Indian culture requested for more in-depth, experiential and interactive sessions in the future.