Editor’s note: We are happy to feature AuroYajna, a new vertical at Sri Aurobindo Society, headed by Shweta and Shekhar. We will let their words describe for our readers the guiding spirit behind AuroYajna and its various works and programmes. Their thoughtful responses to our questions are presented here, with only minor editing done for language and readability purposes.
Q: Please describe the meaning of the term Auroyajna.
The preface ‘Auro’ as you can guess, comes from Sri Aurobindo, and the word ‘Yajna’ connotes sacrifice.
As Sri Aurobindo has said, “All Life is Yoga,” similarly this whole human life is a yajna, a constant yajna, sacrifice towards an integral perfection of life. By constantly sacrificing our lower nature (mental, vital, physical) for a higher and ever-growing perfection, Life itself becomes a sacrificial fire and everything begins to get purified.
The sacred fire of aspiration (individual yajna) is there within all of us to make this ordinary human life a Divine life; AuroYajna is, we can say, a collective yajna, a collective offering.
Q: What was the guiding thought when you started AuroYajna?
To work towards ‘the Divine Life in the Divine Body’ by contributing our little bit in bringing a transformation in the humanity’s attitude from seeing a body as a mere mortal object to one which begins to recognise its immortal truth.
The Divine forces are already at work and it is so evident when we see how the world is moving towards a better health consciousness day by day. But Yoga can not and should never be a mere tool to recover from illnesses, diseases, depressions etc. Yoga is an attitude to be adopted towards progress and transformation – from an ordinary human life and existence to an extraordinary divine life and existence.
Yoga must be taken up by individuals to deepen the awareness and know the why behind the unwanted, hampering incidents, and know how to correct these things with a yogic consciousness.
Q: In what ways is Integral Yoga different from traditional yoga?
It is better to know this directly from the words of Sri Aurobindo which throw light on the difference between old systems of Yoga and Integral Yoga.
“The aim [of Integral yoga] is an opening to a higher Divine Truth beyond mind, life or body and the transformation of these three things into its image. But that transformation cannot take place and the Truth itself cannot be known in its own unmistakable spirit, perfect light and real body until the whole of the adhara has been fundamentally and patiently purified, and made plastic and capable of receiving what is beyond the constructions of the mind, the desires of the body and the habits of the physical consciousness and physical being.” (CWSA, Vol. 36, p. 378)
“The old Yoga demanded a complete renunciation extending to the giving up of the worldly life itself. This Yoga aims instead at a new and transformed life. But it insists as inexorably on a complete throwing away of desire and attachment in the mind, life and body. Its aim is to refound life in the truth of the spirit and for that purpose to transfer the roots of all we are and do from the mind, life and body to a greater consciousness above the mind. That means that in the new life all the connections must be founded on a spiritual intimacy and a truth quite other than any which supports our present connections. One must be prepared to renounce at the higher call what are called the natural affections. Even if they are kept at all, it can only be with a change which transforms them altogether. But whether they are to be renounced or kept and changed must be decided not by the personal desires but by the truth above. All must be given up to the Supreme Master of the Yoga.” (CWSA, Vol. 36, p. 369)
“All other Yogas regard this life as an illusion or a passing phase; the supramental Yoga alone regards it as a thing created by the Divine for a progressive manifestation and takes the fulfilment of the life and the body for its object.” (CWSA, Vol. 29, p. 482-483)
“All Yoga which takes you entirely away from the world, is a high but narrow specialisation of divine tapasya. God in His perfection embraces everything; you also must become all-embracing.” (CWSA, Vol. 12, p. 98)
To put it more simply, in the traditional or conventional yoga, the sadhaka takes up any one path of Yoga to achieve liberation or Divine attainment which only perfects or fulfills one part of his being. This leads to a lopsided siddhi or partial attainment. Whereas in Integral Yoga, the sadhaka is supposed to bring perfection at every level of our consciousness, i.e., Mental, Vital, Physical, Psychic and Spiritual. The Karma Yoga opens up into Bhakti Yoga which further opens up into Jnana yoga. Integrating all this with what Sri Aurobindo refers to as the Yoga of Self-perfection in all parts of one’s outer nature and being we have Integral Yoga. The consciousness is then so much attuned during every single act that even a daily chore becomes Yoga and hence All Life can become Yoga.
Q: One of the works you do at AuroYajna is yoga therapy. Can you speak a little about it? How is it different from asanas and pranayama and other such aspects which generally come to mind when we think of Yoga?
To start with, we know that Yoga in ancient India was never a science of therapy. These days of course we hear of Yoga Therapy being used and also found beneficial in curing and recovering from an illness. However, when using yoga as a therapeutic tool, the first thing has to be about seeing in the light of Yoga how disease happens in the first place. And then we can try and understand how to apply yoga science as a therapy!
The two basic reasons behind all illness are:
- Not having proper education and awareness of the individual self or different planes and parts of one’s own consciousness, i.e., mental, emotional, physical, psychic and also the spiritual.
- Remaining unconscious of our own higher self (psychic being) –
Yoga is the science of union of the individual self with the higher self / universal self. In the course of this union it is inevitable to find the lost alignment with one’s deeper and higher self which in turn brings back the sense of wellness in one’s entire being and a harmony in the mental, vital and physical parts of our being.
Asana, pranayama and many other techniques are great tools which are used in yoga therapy. The key element that Integral yoga adds to it is injecting and cultivating an attitude behind taking up any particular practice. This way, it is no longer about merely practicing a technique for getting rid of a particular illness or ailment, but more about bringing a deeper harmony and establishing equilibrium or union in all parts of the individual’s being.
Q. In what kinds of illnesses you have found yoga therapy to be effective?
All kinds of illnesses. But of course, it mostly depends upon the receptivity and personal effort of an individual. As the Mother has explained it so simply yet profoundly:
“Actually, everything in the world is a question of equilibrium or disequilibrium, of harmony or disorder. Vibrations of harmony attract and encourage harmonious events; vibrations of disequilibrium create, as it were, a disequilibrium in circumstances (illnesses, accidents, etc.). This may be collective or individual, but the principle is the same—and so is the remedy: to cultivate in oneself order and harmony, peace and equilibrium by surrendering unreservedly to the Divine Will.” (CWM, 16: 322)
What we are learning is that yoga therapy can be a great tool for individuals to understand the root cause of the disharmony and disequilibrium in their system and gradually rectify it.
Q: Does yoga therapy involve light therapy, colour therapy and meditation?
Certainly it can, if need be. The work we are doing is in the light of Integral Yoga, so in our approach to yoga therapy, we may take the help of all kinds of holistic healing practices which can help restore the balance and harmony for an individual. The Mother has explained and emphasised very clearly:
“Any rational system of exercises suited to one’s need and capacity will help the participant to improve in health. Moreover it is the attitude that is more important. Any well-planned and scientifically arranged programme of exercises practised with a yogic attitude will become yogic exercises and the person practising them will draw full benefit from the point of view of physical health and moral and spiritual uplift.” (CWM, 12: 287)
Q: What other activities are conducted by AuroYajna? Tell us in brief.
We are presently engaged in following areas of work:
- Yoga for teachers
- Yoga for police personnel
- Yoga for children
- Yoga for special children
- Prenatal Yoga Programs (Yoga for Pregnant Women: pre & post-delivery)
- Harmonising relations in the light of Yoga (a yogic counselling-based approach)
- Art and Yoga therapy
- Music and Yoga therapy
- Individual counselling and therapy
- Regular Yoga classes for common wellness
- Once a month Yoga Workshop or camp with a special purpose addressing specific disease or ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, etc.
- Yoga and Ayurveda based Detox camps
- Training the Trainer: We provide Yoga teaching training inclusive of Integral Yoga aspects to the people aspiring or willing to contribute and work in the field of Yoga.
- Conscious Living: How to become more aware during our daily chores and make our living more conscious.
- We also look forward to taking up some research-based projects.
Apart from these, we are keen to include yogic practices in the works of other verticals of Sri Aurobindo Society. We are presently working on a few projects, including:
- Yoga on the Beach – Basic yoga asanas & Pranayama for a healthy mind and body. This is an initiative of SVARNIM Puducherry to bring awareness of yoga to the masses. Two sessions (30 minutes each) in the morning will be taken on the beach (free & open for all).
- Working on Diabetes-Free Puducherry through a Yogic Programme in collaboration with some renowned organizations.
- Collaborations with government and private organizations to promote health and wellness through Yoga.
- Designing of a health studies programme which can be included in the mainstream education curriculum. Currently working on a survey of different practices followed by different schools, colleges, and educational institutions in Puducherry.
Q: Do you follow any particular approach or school of yoga in your work at AuroYajna?
We do not follow any one style of yoga in particular, but as per the suitability to the nature and receptivity of the practitioner we may curate and use a combination of practices to meet the needs of the person. We are always open to learn and try new styles for same practices and also newly invented and authorised practices.
Q: Are you planning to work in collaboration with other yoga teachers and institutions?
Yes, very much so. We are guided by these words of the Mother;
“The world is preparing for a big change. Will you help? …This great change is the appearance on earth of a new race that will be to man what man is to the animal. The consciousness of this new race is already at work on earth to give light to all who are capable of receiving it and heeding it.” (CWM, Vol. 16, p. 417)
So, AuroYajna is humbly open and delighted to work in collaboration with those institutes, organizations or even individuals who are open to and believe in this transformational work.
Q: In what ways do you see your work expanding given the present world situation?
As the need of the hour comes, the horizon of our work is certainly going to expand. The focus will always be more on sincerity towards the work which is there in the hand at the moment. Divine guidance will be there to direct as and when an expansion or a re-focusing of our present works is necessary.
Q: What future do you envision for AuroYajna?
We see AuroYajna becoming a perfect medium and instrument to assist the aspirants on the path of Integral Yoga. We aspire to become a sincere and perfect torch of the Supreme Light of wisdom and guidance, which illuminates and uplifts and works directly on the consciousness of the matter. In the near future, we expect to come up with some beautiful programmes which will help provide an easy understanding and concrete experiential learning of the vital role of the physical in the overall philosophy and practice of Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.
Q: How can one contribute to AuroYajna’s purpose and work?
Every single person who is seeking to and is willing to transform oneself, and is keen to contribute toward the collective transformation and integral growth of the humanity, is heartily welcome to join. We invite them to take part in our programmes and activities. They may write to us at: [email protected] or call us +91 8870813888
Thank you for your time in answering our questions!
Early into her management career, Shweta had a breakthrough that a corporate career was not aligned with her inner nature. Having grown up in a family which valued sattvic lifestyle and faith in the Divine, she was naturally inclined to a wholistic approach to life. Initiated into yoga at a young age of 16, she completed her yoga teacher training course from Bihar School of Yoga and SVYASA, Bangalore. She later did a teacher training course in prenatal yoga from Kaivalyadham, Lonavala. Her first introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga was through camps organised by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Delhi Branch. But it was during the youth camp organised by Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry in 2008 that Shweta felt a deeper connection to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and since then participated in conducting and organising various programmes of the Society. She also continued her practice as a yoga therapist along with her husband Shekhar in their studio based in Nasik. Their years of combined effort in the field of yoga led to the blossoming of AuroYajna at SAS, Pondicherry in 2020.
Shekhar is a Yoga therapist, Reiki healer and a violinist. At the age of 16 he joined yoga classes offered at the Bharatiya Yoga Vidya Dhaam in Nasik, which practiced Bihar school of yoga. His primary motivation then was to be rid of multiple ailments which he was suffering from including asthma, lumbar spondylitis, and chronic constipation. But regular and intense yoga practice there not only cured him of these ailments but also made a yoga teacher out of him after he completed an advanced teacher’s training course there. In 2007 another major turn came in his life when he was initiated in the path of Sikh Gurus and took a sankalp of living a disciplined life as per the spiritual teachings of Sikhism. His first introduction to Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was in the year 2010 through a youth camp organised by Sri Aurobindo Society in Pondicherry. Since then, he has participated in many programmes and camps at Pondicherry, and his interest in Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother continues to deepen. As a co-director of AuroYajna, Shekhar has been trying to incorporate the spirit and teachings of Integral Yoga in his therapeutic approach. He is presently also pursuing M.Sc. from S-VYASA University in yoga therapy.