As part of their celebrations of 150th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, Sri Arvind Sadhna Kendra at Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat organised a special event on January 22, 2023. Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor, AuroBharati and Editor of online journal Renaissance, was invited to deliver the Dr. Devkinandan Srivastava and Smt. Shakuntala Ramdevi Srivastava Memorial Lecture (2023). Dr. Devkinandan Srivastava, an exponent of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga and a well-known Hindi poet, was the Sri Aurobindo Chair of Integral Studies at Sardar Patel University from July 1998 to April 2001.
The topic chosen for the special memorial lecture was – All Life is Yoga: Cultivating Right Attitude Towards Work. In addition to the sadhaks and devotees associated with the Sri Arvind Sadhna Kendra, Dr. Devkinandan Srivastava’s son and his family from Ahmedabad were also present for this special event. Other special guests included Dr. Utpala Kharod, Provost of Bhaikaka University and Dr. Bhalendu Vaishnav who is Chairperson of Sri Aurobindo Chair of Integral Studies at Sardar Patel University.
The participants also included a special group of youngsters who are being given several orientation sessions in preparation for an upcoming study and learning camp at Pondicherry. Dr. Mehra presented her lecture in a way so that it would also appeal to the youngsters. A simple and beautifully designed PowerPoint presentation was also used with selected words of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on selected aspects of Yoga of Works.
Mrs. Rajeshwari Singh, President of the Sri Arvind Sadhna Kendra welcomed all the audience present and introduced Dr. Beloo Mehra. After a few more initial remarks by other officials of the Kendra, Dr. Mehra began her lecture by thanking the organisers for their kind invitation and warm hospitality. She started off by saying that we should first get some understanding of what is the significance of Yoga of Works in Integral Yoga. She used selections from various passages of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to highlight that work helps us to keep up the balance between the internal experience and the external development. Through simple examples and anecdotes she expanded on the idea that if we only focus on inner development in our sadhana path, we may develop exaggerated ideas about our progress and through our work, especially with others, we can bring out the inner progress into the external nature and life. And this helps with the integrality of the sadhana.
She then focused on the right kind of attitudes we must cultivate toward work. Throughout her presentation and lecture Dr. Mehra narrated several relevant anecdotes and stories to make the ideas more relatable. She also highlighted that for the sadhak or anyone trying to do work for the Divine, all outward struggles, troubles, calamities should become a means of surmounting ego and rajasic desire and attaining to complete surrender. She reminded that so long as one insists on success in one’s work, one is doing the work partly at least for the ego. And that Sri Aurobindo explained that difficulties and outward failures in work come to warn one that it is so. So we must constantly develop an attitude of equality toward the outcome of our work.
Dr. Mehra also highlighted the importance of ‘remember and offer’ as a core practice one can do when practicing the Yoga of Works. She reminded everyone that Sri Aurobindo has explained that the spiritual effectivity of work depends on the inner attitude. What is important is the spirit of offering put into the work, and it is not the kind or nature of work but the inner attitude with which any work is done that makes the work yogic in spirit.
Another important point highlighted by Dr. Mehra was that when practicing yoga of works one must do what is best for the work, without regard to one’s own prestige or convenience. One must not regard the work as one’s own but as the Mother’s, and one must do the work in a disciplined manner and in a spirit of collaboration and harmony with others. And even if the outer conditions are not favourable one must do the best according in the spirit of an offering to the Mother. A sadhak must also remember that the work is always meant as field for growing in consciousness and self-consecration. And therefore, it has to be done as an offering to her so that through the self-offering one may come to feel her force acting and her presence.
Several other points were briefly touched upon in an hour-long lecture by Dr. Mehra. This was followed by a few questions and comments from the participants. A lunch was also organised by the Kendra following the lecture. Dr. Mehra then accompanied Mrs. Rajeshwari Singh for a brief visit to the home of Dr. Bhalendu Vaishnav, the current Chairperson of Sri Aurobindo Chair of Integral Studies.