Report by Rathirekha Paranthaman
‘Benevolence’ was the theme of this year’s Women’s Council seminar organized annually by Sri Aurobindo Society. The seminar, conducted by Rathi and presided over by Sushilaben, held from November 21 to 23, 2016, at the Society House in Puducherry was attended by around 35 people from different states across the country.
The programme began with a beautiful morning session of ‘Rhythmic movements of widening our consciousness for Integral Health’ with Datta when all the participants moved with rhythmic unison to a classical piece of music. Through this, on every morning, Datta lucidly demonstrated and taught how one’s body, when trained and exercised, becomes a marvellously docile, yet a perfect instrument, with its immense capabilities and potential possibilities – the essential requisite being sincere interest, effort and time for oneself.
The first day’s programme recommenced with the Mother‘s recorded music ‘Compassion of the Divine’ followed by a soulful invocation by Kajari Sen. The next session was ‘Flower of the Day’, a PowerPoint Presentation by Krishna Modi. She explained the significance of flowers representing and signifying benevolence along with flowers with synonymous significance such as goodwill, kindness and sweetness.
The following session was ‘Introduction and Interaction on the Subject’ with Shri Pradeep Narang, Chairman of Sri Aurobindo Society who with comprehensive clarity on a seemingly complex subject, explained how benevolence is a virtue that comes straight from the heart and has to be felt, but when theorized and expressed verbally loses its ingrain potency. He further elaborated that the closer one gets to the soul within, the more benevolent one becomes as the soul guides the receptive being enabling oneself to come closer to the Divine presence. ‘Self-Introduction by the Delegates’ was a fascinating session during which attending delegates introduced themselves to create a benevolent kinship with each other.
Later, the participants were divided into smaller groups for ‘Group Discussion’ on the seminar topic based on the texts of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother distributed to them, thereby bringing additional clarity facilitating them to express their personal thoughts and understanding on the subject. The morning session ended with a beautiful ‘Recitation of Sri Aurobindo’s poem – Rishi’ by Sushanto along with his impressive paintings on the text. This poem is a dialogue between a Rishi and a King parleying on the truth of human existence on Earth and its Evolution.
The first day’s afternoon session began with a powerful musical offering presented by Aishiki, Kajari and Saikat Sen. The offering evoked a beatific divine presence amongst the gathering. ‘Self-Cure by Self-Awareness’ by Akhila was a practical session in which the participants were yet again made aware of the body as a benevolent instrument. Akhila highlighted the various organs located in different regions of the body, each playing a key role for its harmonious functioning, by demonstrating a set of exercises which activate each organ thereupon suffusing into the system renewed vitality and energy, making it more dynamic. It was a highly beneficial session of active exchanges in which many delegates asked questions and wanted solutions to their pains and problems. She not only gave demonstrations but made the delegates do the exercises in order to experience the effects for themselves.
The second day resumed with the Mother’s recorded music ‘Let Us Try to Collaborate’, followed by a pious invocation by the youngest member of the gathering, Aishiki Sen. The next session was a dialogue between Padma and Rathi. It was an extempore and spontaneous interaction revealing the tender-most touch of Divine benevolence. In ‘Benevolence in my Household’, Sharda Goenka pertinently remarked that all circumstances of life can be accepted with a benevolent smile and attitude, which has a ripple-effect reflecting on oneself and on others as well. In her talk, ‘A Doctor’s Benevolence Heals the Patient,’ Dr. Maya Kirpalani narrated several incidents as examples of healing by the miraculous power of benevolence. Then Dr. Shakuntala Manay spoke about the benevolence of the Divine’s Grace and beneficence, guiding her at every step through her journey of life, surpassing and conquering arduous obstacles with reliance, hope, goodwill and earnest candidness from her part. In another ‘Group Discussion’, the delegates gathered in groups to discuss the remaining set of texts from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s writings. Finally, the respective group guides gave a consolidated report based on the discussion of the two days.
The afternoon started with ‘Act of benevolence’ by Dr. Arati who spoke on universal benevolence by urging the audience to set a chain of benevolence, where one derives the joy of accepting and reciprocating benevolence. This chain can be started by carrying vibrations of benevolence within oneself and applied in our everyday activities by integrating them even in little acts, feelings of sympathy, concern and filial affection that make interactions and relations more meaningful and empathetic. This was followed by an engaging two-hour ‘Workshop on Benevolence’ by Saikat Sen, which included a series of activities comprising questionnaires, PowerPoint presentation, video clippings, etc., rendering virtue more tangible and perceptible to grasp.
The final day of the seminar began with the Mother’s recorded music ‘Joy’ followed by a heart-rending invocation by Saikat Sen. Jayantika Basu related an incident which proved that every sincere prayer and call is answered with the benevolent Grace. Following this, Gayatri spoke of benevolent understanding and sensitivity to be cultivated not only towards others but towards oneself to begin with. She began by quoting the Mother who said, “Compassion seeks to relieve the suffering of all, whether they deserve it or not.” It was akin to having the Mother’s darshan when a video was screened, depicting the ‘four aspects’ of the Divine Mother viz., Maheshwari, Maha-Kali, Maha-Lakshmi and Maha-Saraswati shown in Her all-encompassing benevolence. An active interaction session followed with Dr. Alok Pandey who aptly remarked that questions must change to quest and answers are responses from the Divine Grace. He compared this noble quality of benevolence to a flower which spreads its fragrance spontaneously. Similarly, the blossoming of benevolence leads to all the other higher virtues. Benevolence is a reflection of Divine Love which is very vast and may be difficult to understand initially, but its touch can ultimately transform our life. Harvinder validated the phrase ‘Calm Amidst the Storm’. All the participants were made to relax to realize that one has to be inwardly peaceful and benevolent despite all the turmoil and disorder outside, and carry forth the spirit of kinship. The final session was open for delegates. They shared their views and perceptions on the topic, which had greatly awakened and inspired them to come again next year. They put up a lively and delightfully entertaining cultural programme by performing short skits and reciting devotional songs on ‘Benevolence’.
The seminar ended with collective chanting of Om and receiving a sweet and a book The Divine Touch as Prasad from the Mother.