Dr. Beloo Mehra recently attended the International Seminar on ‘Tantric Religion: Philosophy, Literature, Cults, Art, History and Continuities’ organised by Department of History at Pondicherry University in association with Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts (IGNCA), Regional Chapter, Puducherry, and Indian Council of Historical Research.
The academic programme of the seminar also included a special symposium on Tantra Yoga and Sri Aurobindo's Integral Yoga, especially curated and organised by Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research (SACAR), Puducherry. Dr. Mehra presented a paper at this symposium titled 'Worship of the Divine Mother in Integral Yoga'.
The other speakers at the panel included: Dr. Ananda Reddy, Founder-Director of SACAR, who also chaired the session; Dr. Anuradha Choudhary, IKS Coordinator, Govt. of India and Asst. Professor at IIT, Kharagpur and Dr. Soumitra Basu, editor of NAMAH, Sri Aurobindo Society and working as independent consultant in psychiatry, counselling and integral health approach since 1982.
During her talk, Dr. Mehra emphasised that the eternal quest of Indian sages and seers has been a progressive march through the epochs of Veda and Upanishads to the age of Darshana-s, and to Puranic and Bhakti and Tantra – each dealing with the conscious shaping and perfecting of one or the other layer of human consciousness. The Tantric discipline concerns itself with illumining the very physical layer, the material nature of consciousness. It focuses on release of the very energies and forces of Prakriti, Nature, and their mastery through their purification and opening into the consciousness of the Divine Shakti, or what is also spoken of as the Divine Mother.
Divine Shakti or Divine Mother is essentially the Executive Power of the Supreme Being or the Supreme Creatrix Consciousness which is truly in-charge of all the manifestation. And Prakriti or Nature is, in truth, the lower and limited form of the Divine Shakti, which is also known as the Para Prakriti.
Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga is a synthesis of both the Vedic and Tantric lines of spiritual realisation but also transcends them both by bringing in the element of Transformation. Sri Aurobindo writes that the synthesis he presents in Integral Yoga “starts from the method of Vedanta to arrive at the aim of the Tantra.” (CWSA, Vol. 24, p. 612)
While Integral Yoga has its own forms and processes of integrating the Vedantic and Tantric disciplines, some of the important aspects of the Tantric Yoga are fundamental to Integral Yoga. These include: the ascent of the consciousness, and that nothing can be done except through a descent of the force of the Divine Mother, the Shakti. Opening to the Force of the Divine Mother is the key to the transformation that is the aim of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga. Surrender to the Divine Mother is at the heart of the practice of Integral Yoga.
Dr. Mehra highlighted that Sri Aurobindo speaks of four key aspects of the Divine Mother, corresponding to the four essential powers through which she does her work – Maheshwari (Wisdom), Mahakali (Force and Courage), Mahalakshmi (Love, Beauty and Harmony) and Mahasaraswati (Perfection in details). In his descriptions of these four powers, she said that we find important hints on the true, inner worship of the Divine Mother. In many other writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother also, we find deep insights into how one can grow in a conscious relation with the Divine Mother which is the essential foundation of adoration of the Divine Mother.
Dr. Mehra pointed out that given that Sri Aurobindo speaks of yoga as practical psychology and a systematic effort to evolve in consciousness, these practices are new forms for the essential spirit behind the more outward Shakti Upasana practices in the traditional Tantric sadhana. She highlighted some of these practices which carry the essence of the worship and adoration of Divine Mother and are integral to Integral Yoga.
Dr. Mehra also presented a copy of her book 'Understanding Contemporary India in the Light of Sri Aurobindo' to Dr. Bharat Gupt, Member, Trust Board, IGNCA and a well-known authority on Indian and Greek Classic Literary Texts, musicologist and Theatre theorist.