The annual seminar of the Women’s Council of Sri Aurobindo Society was held from November 21 to 23, 2017, at the Society House in Puducherry. This year the theme of the seminar was ‘Know Thyself’. It was attended by 45 persons, both women and men from different states across the country.
On all the three days, the programme began at 6 a.m. with a morning one-hour session of ‘Rhythmic Movements to Know Oneself, conducted by Datta. With simple and gentle movements, she demonstrated how one can overcome inhibitions with a childlike attitude and follow the body’s own rhythm, as the body with a supple and docile nature can be easily educated.
The first day’s programme recommenced at 8.30 a.m. with the Mother’s recorded music ‘Marching in the Search of the Soul’, followed by invocation by Angira Patel. After a brief ‘Welcome Address’ by Rathirekha, Shri Vijay Poddar, Member Executive – Administration & Finance of Sri Aurobindo Society introduced the subject, emphasising that ‘knowing oneself’ is not an easy task. It is a vast ocean where one must delve deep within to comprehend its true meaning. He interacted with the team by asking questions and giving relevant and simple examples making everybody aware of how most of us fail to observe even the outer self which is a preparatory step of knowing oneself.
‘Self-introduction by the Delegates’ was conducted by Sushanto Da for participants to know each other. The Women’s Council team was also introduced. The next session included a beautiful recitation by Sushanto of Sri Aurobindo’s poem – Ascent, with a PowerPoint presentation of Sushanto Da’s apt and inspiring paintings. The magnificent lines resonated with the striking message that this circle of life is a flowing cycle and one should look within oneself and not get carried away by the outward happenings of life to which one becomes easily attached and caught in a capricious net.
The participants were then organized into smaller groups for ‘Group Discussion’ on the seminar topic based on the quotes of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother distributed to them, thereby bringing additional clarity facilitating them to express their personal thoughts and understanding of the subject. ‘Science of Living’ and ‘Half an Hour with the Divine’ leaflets were given to the delegates.
Dr. Maya Kirpalani narrated several interesting incidents as examples of ‘Light Within’ to know the topic better. The morning session ended with a devotional hymn by Chitra Narendra.
In the afternoon, Shivakumar gave a lively presentation on ‘Stepping Back’. The four parts of our being were demonstrated in the form of a skit and illustrated with video clippings to analyse between the concepts of ‘need’ and ‘want’, accentuating the various perspectives and dimensions of ourselves. ‘Practical Knowledge of the Different Parts of the Body’ by Akhila evoked keen interest. She taught various sets of gentle exercises to handle stress and how beneficial they can be for the body if practised daily. She showed the importance of correct posture and guided on that aspect too. As requested by the participants, diagrammatic representation with the anatomy and practical concepts of the demonstration was distributed.
The second day’s programme resumed with the Mother’s recorded music ‘Mystic Solitude’. Krishna Modi gave a delightful presentation with different flowers signifying the theme of the seminar. She explained how different qualities must be inculcated and incorporated to know oneself with different flowers each possessing its own special significance contributing to know oneself deeper. The delegates gathered in groups to reflect on the second day’s act of quotations for group discussion to ‘Know Thyself’ with the Mother’s music ‘Aspiration of the Body for the Divine’. The group discussion always involves a very active and expressive interaction between the delegates from different dimensions, according to the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It ended with a brief report by the groups guides.
Dr Shakuntala Manay made a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Divine’s Dreams in Me’ based on her life experiences. She narrated her journey on how she has progressed by going through different phases of life which always presented opportunities for her to know herself. Thereafter, an interactive session started with Dr. Alok Pandey. He comprehensively put this complex concept of ‘Know Thyself’ to go deep within, to be that which is one’s truest self – one with the supreme self – ‘Tat twam assi’ as declared by the Upanishadic Rishis – is the source of all happiness, knowledge, strength and love. This self-knowledge brings also spontaneously the true harmony and unity with others because then there is no need of talks or exchange of words. Only by one’s mere presence, one can communicate that truth to others.
Pushpa Di expressed her gratefulness to the Mother for bringing her at Her feet with unexpected turn of events, possible only with Her grace. Sharda Goenka shared inspiring incidents that take place in her household and explained that to know oneself, the lessons begin with the ones near and around us. One must always be conscious not to miss the opportunities to know ourselves in any circumstance. The Mother has advised to take a positive approach in all our endeavours instead of a negative one.
Jayantika Basu, with her PowerPoint presentation on the topic ‘Knowing Our True Self’, initiated a discussion with an allegory of an iceberg where our outer self is only 10%, like the tip of an iceberg and the rest of the mass is hidden beneath the depth of the ocean. Likewise, our inner self is also hidden for which we make efforts to explore. She gave a set of questions for self-introspection. The third day’s programme began with a video screening of the Mahalakshmi aspect of the Divine Mother, which pleased everybody’s hearts as it was like having Her darshan and receiving blessings from Her.
Dr. Arati then spoke on an interesting topic – ‘Know Thyself, Forget Thyself’ – where a lot of interest was created among the audience by her laying emphasis on that the fact to know oneself does not mean really to think only of oneself, but also to learn how to forego one’s smaller self which is always busy with mundane activities and problems of life. Gayatri Di interacted on the theme ‘Am I Happy?’. She explained that we must be optimistic in our attitude towards life and try to remain always in good humour. In dealing with others, we have to be considerate to their level of understanding and be compassionate.
Padmavathi explained, ‘Why Is It Important to Know Oneself’ and why there is need for an aim in life? She completed the presentation with a self-explanatory video on knowing our soul. In the final presentation, with the guidance of the Mother’s symbol possessing 12 attributes such as Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Equanimity, Generosity and Peace, accentuated that by cultivating these virtues within oneself one can be assured to be on the path of ‘Knowing Oneself’. Rathi added related stories on the Mother’s virtues, which were much appreciated.
The last afternoon consisted of an open session for the delegates. They shared their views and perceptions on the topic of the seminar which had greatly awakened and inspired them to undertake the journey of self-knowledge and self-realization. They put up a dynamic and enjoyable cultural programme by performing short skits, reciting devotional songs and other skills. The seminar ended with receiving a book Discovery of Our True Self and prasad from the Mother.