Sri Aurobindo: The Grand Synthesis

Sri Aurobindo: The Grand Synthesis

On November 3rd, Dr. Ananda Reddy released his new book Sri Aurobindo: The Grand Synthesis at a function at Auroville’s Unity Pavilion in the presence of the Vice Chancellor of the Pondicherry University Prof. Gurmeet Singh and the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation Dr. Jayanti Ravi. The book is dedicated to Sri Aurobindo on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary.

The book is divided into two parts. In part one, Ananda highlights the turning points in Sri Aurobindo’s life and explains why he considers Sri Aurobindo to be the guiding spirit of humanity. In the chapter Sri Aurobindo: The Future, he comments on each of the five dreams of Sri Aurobindo, given as a message for the 15th of August 1947 on the occasion of India’s independence. Read more

Building a ‘New Earth’

Building a ‘New Earth’

Every so often a story comes along that captures the spirit of Auroville in a unique way, bringing to light aspects of its deeper purpose of transforming the world we live in to create a spiritualized life on our planet. ‘New Earth’ is one such story, captured in a colourful coffee table book with hundreds of vivid flower mandala images accompanied by a few short texts. Conceived and photographed by Avigal Lemberger, the book is intended as a meditative opening to the language and significance of flowers and mandalas.

The New Earth story started on October 13, 1972 when Auroculture brought an all-flower compost to The Mother who “put her lovely hands on it and meditated on it.” This original batch has been constantly added to, and taken from, in a homeopathic manner, so that a direct link back to Mother’s first touch and concentration remains. Before her passing, Auroculture designated Avigal to follow in her footsteps with the work of creating this ‘New Earth’. Read more

Crossroad: A New Humanity

Crossroad: A New Humanity

Paulette has published an interesting new compilation in celebration of Sri Aurobindo’s 150th birth anniversary. ‘Crossroad: A New Humanity’ contains extracts from “The Human Cycle”, “The Ideal of Human Unity” and “War and Self Determination”.

After examining the transition from the infrarational to rational, subjective and, ultimately, the spiritual age, along with the corresponding societal changes, the focus shifts to Sri Aurobindo’s research on the nation and group-soul, and a World Union of all the people, concluding with what Sri Aurobindo called the need for a ‘Religion of Humanity’ and the dawning of the spiritual age. Read more

Auroville from Above

Auroville from Above

A change of perspective can result in a change consciousness. Five hours after the launch of the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, astronaut Harrison Schmitt took a photo of the Earth from space which has become one of the most reproduced images anywhere. What made this image of the blue planet swimming in the black void of space so influential was that it emphasized both the beauty and precariousness of our existence, and the fact that we need to work together to preserve it.

Auroville from Above had a similar impact on some of the viewers. “What a change of perspective!” wrote one, “It feels like helping us to realize the amazing place/gift we are living in.”

The project was conceived in 2018 as an idea to create a photo book of aerial pictures of Auroville, complemented with inspiring quotes from Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. This also became an exhibition. “We had a basic idea to create a book of photos all around Auroville of places we know very well but have never seen from the sky,” says Julie. “We also had the initial idea of doing places less known. However, in the process we discovered so much more that the project became more and more refined,” notes Om. “For example, even something as simple as the colours and textures of the soil, the lushness of the trees and the intensity of the sky change almost minute by minute, offering us a new canvas to work with each time.”

“It really expanded our vision of Auroville,” notes Julie. “When you go up a little bit higher, you realize how much you didn’t know about this place, and you also realize there is more than one way to see things. For example, in the panorama photos you see how tiny we are in comparison to the trees.”

Om and Julie

In fact, one of the revelations of this exhibition is how green Auroville looks from the sky. Even in the city, the buildings poke almost apologetically above rolling waves of trees. “When you look from this perspective,” says Om, “you appreciate the tremendous collective effort that was made to plant this forest.”

Another discovery was the uniqueness of Auroville’s architecture. From above, one can admire the sweeping curves of Savitri Bhavan, the mandala pattern of the Tibetan Pavilion, the sprung thrust of the Amphitheatre, and the unusual geometry of places like Humanscapes. In fact, some designs seem to work much better from the air than from ground level. One revelation is the Garden of Bliss which, from a higher elevation, suddenly acquires a new interest and beauty.

“You also see that some buildings are consciously placed – like the way that the main line of Savitri Bhavan is exactly orientated to the Matrimandir,” says Om. “Then again, I’d always assumed that the two pathways around the Urn were symmetrical – but they’re not! Also, you see immediately where architects have made an effort to incorporate nature into their designs, as in the kindergarten, and where, on the contrary, they have simply created a block without reference to the natural surroundings.”

The narrative structure of the exhibition is a day in Auroville: it begins and ends with panoramas of the community spread out under wonderful morning and evening skies. An early morning photo, which is one of their favourites, is titled ‘Gratitude’. It shows early morning light pouring down through the mist and forest, while a lone cyclist circles a tree. “Because of the mist we were actually considering whether we would shoot or not, but when we lifted the drone and saw this golden light pouring down, everything came together for a few seconds: it really was the City of Dawn,” says Julie.

“For me, images like this are a reminder of the original Auroville,” says Om. “Growing up here you hear a lot about the ideals of Auroville, but as you get older you start seeing we are not really there yet. This is also why we included the quotes, not only to complement the images but also to remind us of what we are supposed to be.”

“We wanted to present the beauty of Auroville rather than the problems,” says Julie. “For me, Auroville is beauty; this is the ideal Auroville for me. By diving into this project we re-centred ourselves. Seeing so much more of the beauty from this unique perspective brought us back to the vision, and made us feel so lucky and grateful to be part of this place.”

Originally published at:

A 120 page book, Aerial Auroville, accompanies the exhibition.
For further information contact

Isha Upanishad

Isha Upanishad by Sri Aurobindo


Translated by Sri Aurobindo in “Arya” August 1914
(With transcription of the original text in Sanskrit and notes of the translator)

īśā vāsyamidaḿ sarvaṁ yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat ǀ
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasya sviddhanam ǁ

  1. All this is for habitation1 by the Lord, whatsoever is individual universe of movement in the universal motion. By that renounced thou shouldst enjoy; lust not after any man’s possession.


kurvanneveha karmāṇi jijīviṣecchataḿ samāḥ ǀ
evaṁ tvayi nānyatheto’sti na karma lipyate nare ǁ

  1. Doing verily2 works in this world one should wish to live a hundred years. Thus it is in thee and not otherwise than this; action cleaves not to a man. 3


asūryā nāma te lokā andhena tamasā’’vṛtāḥ ǀ
tāḿste pretyābhigacchanti ye ke cātmahano janāḥ ǁ

  1. Sunless4 are those worlds and enveloped in blind gloom whereto all they in their passing hence resort who are slayers of their souls.


anejadekaṁ manaso javīyo nainaddevā āpnuvan pūrvamarṣat ǀ
taddhāvato’nyānatyeti tiṣṭhat tasminnapo mātariśvā dadhāti ǁ

  1. One unmoving that is swifter than Mind, That the Gods reach not, for It progresses ever in front. That, standing, passes beyond others as they run. In That the Master of Life5 establishes the Waters. 6


tadejati tannaijati tad dūre tadvantike ǀ
tadantarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasyāsya bāhyataḥ ǁ

  1. That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within all this and That also is outside all this.


yastu sarvāṇi bhūtāni ātmanyevānupaśyati ǀ
sarvabhūteṣu cātmānaṁ tato na vijugupsate ǁ

  1. But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.


yasmin sarvāṇi bhūtāni ātmaivābhūd vijānataḥ ǀ
tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvamanupaśyataḥ ǁ

  1. He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings7 for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?


sa paryagācchukramakāyamavraṇamasnāviraṁ śuddhamapāpaviddham ǀ
kavirmanīṣī paribhūḥ svayambhur yāthātathyato’rthān vyadadhācchāśvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ ǁ

  1. It is He that has gone abroad — That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil. The Seer, the Thinker,8 the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years sempiternal.


andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye’vidyāmupāsate ǀ
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyāḿ ratāḥ ǁ

  1. Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Ignorance, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Knowledge alone.


anyadevāhurvidyayā’nyadāhuravidyayā ǀ
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇāṁ ye nastadvicacakṣire ǁ

  1. Other, verily,9 it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.


vidyāñcāvidyāñca yastadvedobhayaḿ saha ǀ
avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā vidyayā’mṛtamaśnute ǁ

  1. He who knows That as both in one, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, by the Ignorance crosses beyond death and by the Knowledge enjoys Immortality.


andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye’sambhūtimupāsate ǀ
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u sambhūtyāḿ ratāḥ ǁ

  1. Into a blind darkness they enter who follow after the Non-Birth, they as if into a greater darkness who devote themselves to the Birth alone.


anyadevāhuḥ sambhavādanyadāhurasambhavāt ǀ
iti śuśruma dhīrāṇāṁ ye nastadvicacakṣire ǁ

  1. Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Birth, other that which comes by the Non-Birth; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.


sambhūtiñca vināśañca yastadvedobhayaḿ saha ǀ

vināśena mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā sambhūtyā’mṛtamaśnute ǁ

  1. He who knows That as both in one, the Birth and the dissolution of Birth, by the dissolution crosses beyond death and by the Birth enjoys Immortality.


hiraṇmayena pātreṇa satyasyāpihitaṁ mukham ǀ
tat tvaṁ pūṣannapāvṛṇu satyadharmāya dṛṣṭaye ǁ

  1. The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove, O Fosterer,10 for the law of the Truth, for sight.


pūṣannekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha ǀ
tejo yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇatamaṁ tatte paśyāmi
yo’sāvasau puruṣaḥ so’hamasmi ǁ

  1. O Fosterer, O sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illumining Sun, O power of the Father of creatures, marshal thy rays, draw together thy light; the Lustre which is thy most blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold. The Purusha there and there, He am I.


vāyuranilamamṛtamathedaṁ bhasmāntaḿ śarīram ǀ
OM krato smara kṛtaḿ smara krato smara kṛtaḿ smara ǁ

  1. The Breath of things11 is an immortal Life, but of this body ashes are the end. OM! O Will,12 remember, that which was done remember! O Will, remember, that which was done, remember.


agne naya supathā rāye asmān viśvāni deva vayunāni vidvān ǀ
yuyodhyasmajjuhurāṇameno bhūyiṣṭhāṁ te namauktiṁ vidhema ǁ

  1. O god Agni, knowing all things that are manifested, lead us by the good path to the felicity; remove from us the devious attraction of sin. 13 To thee completest speech of submission we would dispose. 14

1 There are three possible senses of vasyam, “to be clothed”, “to be worn as a garment” and “to be inhabited”. The first is the ordinarily accepted meaning. Shankara explains it in this significance, that we must lose the sense of this unreal objective universe in the sole perception of the pure Brahman. So explained the first line becomes a contradiction of the whole thought of the Upanishad which teaches the reconciliation, by the perception of essential Unity, of the apparently incompatible opposites. God and the World, Renunciation and Enjoyment, Action and internal Freedom, the One and the Many, Being and its Becomings, the passive divine Impersonality and the active divine Personality, the Knowledge and the Ignorance, the Becoming and the Not-Becoming, Life on earth and beyond and the supreme Immortality. The image is of the world either as a garment or as a dwelling-place for the informing and governing Spirit. The latter significance agrees better with the thought of the Upanishad.

2 Kurvanneva. The stress of the word eva gives the force, “doing works indeed, and not refraining from them”.

3 Shankara reads the line, “Thus in thee — it is not otherwise than thus — action cleaves not to a man.” He interprets karmani in the first line in the sense of Vedic sacrifices which are permitted to the ignorant as a means of escaping from evil actions and their results and attaining to heaven, but the second karma in exactly the opposite sense, “evil action”. The verse, he tells us, represents a concession to the ignorant; the enlightened soul abandons works and the world and goes to the forest. The whole expression and construction in this rendering become forced and unnatural. The rendering I give seems to me the simple and straightforward sense of the Upanishad.

4 We have two readings, asūryāh. sunless, and asuryāh, Titanic or undivine. The third verse is, in the thought structure of the Upanishad, the starting-point for the final movement in the last four verses. Its suggestions are there taken up and worked out. The prayer to the Sun refers back in thought to the sunless worlds and their blind gloom, which are recalled in the ninth and twelfth verses. The sun and his rays are intimately connected in other Upanishads also with the worlds of Light and their natural opposite is the dark and sunless, not the Titanic worlds.

5 Mātariśvan seems to mean “he who extends himself in the Mother or the container” whether that be the containing mother element, Ether, or the material energy called Earth in the Veda and spoken of there as the Mother. It is a Vedic epithet of the God Vayu, who, representing the divine principle in the Life-energy, Prana, extends himself in Matter and vivifies its forms. Here it signifies the divine Life-power that presides in all forms of cosmic activity.

6 Apas, as it is accentuated in the version of the White Yajurveda, can mean only “waters”. If this accentuation is disregarded, we may take it as the singular apas, work, action. Shankara, however, renders it by the plural, works. The difficulty only arises because the true Vedic sense of the word had been forgotten and it came to be taken as referring to the fourth of the five elemental states of Matter, the liquid. Such a reference would be entirely irrelevant to the context. But the Waters, otherwise called the seven streams or the seven fostering Cows, are the Vedic symbol for the seven cosmic principles and their activities, three inferior, the physical, vital and mental, four superior, the divine Truth, the divine Bliss, and divine Will and Consciousness, and the divine Being. On this conception also is founded the ancient idea of the seven worlds in each of which the seven principles are separately active by their various harmonies. This is, obviously, the right significance of the word in the Upanishad.

7 The words sarvāṇi bhūtāni literally, “all things that have become”, is opposed to Atman, self-existent and immutable being. The phrase means ordinarily “all creatures”, but its literal sense is evidently insisted on in the expression bhūtāni abhūt “became the Becomings”. The idea is the acquisition in man of the supreme consciousness by which the one Self in him extends itself to embrace all creatures and realises the eternal act by which that One manifests itself in the multiple forms of the universal motion.

8 There is a clear distinction in Vedic thought between kavi, the seer and manīṣī, the thinker. The former indicates the divine supra-intellectual Knowledge which by direct vision and illumination sees the reality, the principles and the forms of things in their true relations, the latter, the labouring mentality, which works from the divided consciousness through the possibilities of things downward to the actual manifestation in form and upward to their reality in the self-existent Brahman.

9 Anyadeva — eva here gives to anyad the force, “Quite other than the result described in the preceding verse is that to which lead the Knowledge and the Ignorance.” We have the explanation of anyad in the verse that follows. The ordinary rendering, “Knowledge has one result. Ignorance another”, would be an obvious commonplace announced with an exaggerated pompousness, adding nothing to the thought and without any place in the sequence of the ideas.

10 In the inner sense of the Veda Surya, the Sun-God, represents the divine Illumination of the Kavi which exceeds mind and forms the pure self-luminous Truth of things. His principal power is self-revelatory knowledge, termed in the Veda, “Sight”. His realm is described as the Truth, the Law, the Vast. He is the Fosterer or Increaser, for he enlarges and opens man’s dark and limited being into a luminous and infinite consciousness. He is the sole Seer, Seer of Oneness and Knower of the Self, and leads him to the highest Sight. He is Yama, Controller or Ordainer for he governs man’s action and manifested being by the direct Law of the Truth, satya-dharma, and therefore by the right principle of our nature, yāthā-tathyatah, a luminous power proceeding from the Father of all existence, he reveals in himself the divine Purusha of whom all beings are the manifestations. His rays are the thoughts that proceed luminously from the Truth, the Vast, but become deflected and distorted, broken up and disordered in the reflecting and dividing principle. Mind. They form there the golden lid which covers the face of the Truth. The Seer prays to Surya to cast them into right order and relation and then draw them together into the unity of revealed truth. The result of this inner process is the perception of the oneness of all beings in the divine Soul of the Universe.

11 Vayu, called elsewhere Matarishwan, the Life-Energy in the universe. In the light of Surya he reveals himself as an immortal principle of existence of which birth and death and life in the body are only particular and external processes.

12 The Vedic term kratu means sometimes the action itself, sometimes the effective power behind action represented in mental consciousness by the will. Agni is this power. He is divine force which manifests first in matter as heat and light and material energy and then, taking different forms in the other principles of man’s consciousness, leads him by a progressive manifestation upwards to the Truth and the Bliss.

13 Sin, in the conception of the Veda, from which this verse is taken bodily, is that which excites and hurries the faculties into deviation from the good path. There is a straight road or road of naturally increasing light and truth, rjuḥ panthāh, ṛtasya panthāḥ, leading over infinite levels and towards infinite vistas, vitā p̣rṣṭhā, by which the law of our nature should normally take us towards our fulfilment. Sin compels it instead to travel with stumblings amid uneven and limited tracts and along crooked windings (duritāni, vṛjināni).

14 The word vidhema is used of the ordering of the sacrifice, the disposal of the offerings to the God and, generally, of the sacrifice or worship itself. The Vedic namas, internal and external obeisance, is the symbol of submission to the divine Being in ourselves and in the world. Here the offering is that of completest submission and the self-surrender of all the faculties of the lower egoistic human nature to the divine Will-force, Agni, so that, free from internal opposition, it may lead the soul of man through the truth towards a felicity full of the spiritual riches, rāye. That state of beatitude is the intended self-content in the principle of pure Love and Joy, which the Vedic initiates regarded as the source of the divine existence in the universe and the foundation of the divine life in the human being. It is the deformation of this principle by egoism which appears as desire and the lust of possession in the lower worlds.

The Word in the Rig-Veda and in Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri

The Word in the Rig-Veda and in Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem Savitri

The Word in the Rig-Veda
and in Sri Aurobindo’s
epic poem Savitri

by Nishtha Müller

The inspired poetic Word was the means of passing on knowledge and experience by the Vedic Seers and by Sri Aurobindo, especially in his epic Savitri. What do the Vedic seers and Sri Aurobindo in their poetic creations themselves tell us about the Word, its nature and usage?

At the outset it must be said that this study is not exhaustive and does not intend to cover all relevant passages either from the Veda or from Savitri. Its central idea is simply to make potential readers more conscious of the great value of these mantric texts and point out a possible way to approach these divine gifts to aspiring humanity. In regard to the Veda it must be said right from the outset that there exists the special barrier of the Sanskrit language in general and the multi-layer meaning of Vedic terms in particular.[1] In addition there is the all-pervasive Vedic symbolism. Sri Aurobindo often calls the Vedic Rishis “symbologists” and refers back to the period of the composition of the Vedic hymns both as the age of symbolism and the age of intuition. In fact Sri Aurobindo also makes much use of symbolism. In this study we will see that the Veda and Savitri shed light on each other in their symbolism.

But let us first ask the general question: what do the Veda and Savitri have in common? They are both mystic mantric poetry of the highest order. Sri Aurobindo refers to the Veda – certainly among Indian literature and scriptures, and perhaps even beyond – as “our supreme poetry”[2] They both bring forth an integral vision of reality and transmit it as revelatory knowledge and verifiable experience (and that does not exhaust the subject.)

What is the basic difference between them? Savitri, in its outer form, is one single epic poem written by one sole author, whereas the Rig-Veda consists of a collection (samhita) of more than one thousand hymns (suktas, meaning perfect utterances) of many different seers, spanning a time of at least several centuries. Even though some of the Suktas are made up of a considerable number of verses or stanzas they generally do not reach the length of any of the cantos which we find in the twelve books of Savitri. From that point of view one could say, with a few exceptions, that the Vedic hymns are even more concise than any paragraph in Savitri. Still, all Vedic hymns presume a common background, and many of them are related to the same theme but present it from different standpoints, a practice which we also find within the different books of Savitri.

It is a known fact that Sri Aurobindo in Savitri makes abundant use of Vedic imagery as the carrier of his knowledge and experience. It might be worthwhile to remember in this context that in the period from 1912 up to perhaps 1920 Sri Aurobindo was studying and writing on the Veda on an almost daily basis, and also translated hundreds of its hymns into English. Among other reasons, it could have as well been due to this preoccupation with the Book of Mantra (the traditional name given to the Veda) that Sri Aurobindo conceived the idea to do something of the kind – even though in a different form – for the present age in the much more easily accessible English language. At the same time we should not forget the fact that already before this period Sri Aurobindo was an accomplished poet and seer. But, knowing on one hand how central is the usage (and its constant mentioning in hymn after hymn) of the inspired Word to the Vedic seers, and on the other hand how much and in detail Sri Aurobindo writes about this fact in “The Secret of the Veda”[3], one could still dare the thought that it might have inspired him to do something similar.

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Gayatri Mantra Sri Aurobindo

Gayatri Mantra by Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo's Sanskrit  Handwriting of Gayatri Mantra

Sri Aurobindo’s Sanskrit Handwriting of Gayatri Mantra

तत्सवितुर्वरं रूपं ज्योतिः परस्य धीमहि |
यन्नः सत्येन दीपयेत् ||

“Om Tat savitur varam rūpam jyotiḥ parasya dhīmahi, yannaḥ satyena dīpayet”

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