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The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a spiritual community (ashram) established at Pondicherry, in the Indian territory of Puducherry, by Sri Aurobindo on 24 November 1926 (Siddhi Day). At the time there were few disciples staying with Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo subsequently decided to withdraw from public view for continuing his spiritual work and handed over the responsibility of the sadhaks (spiritual aspirants) and the ashram to his spiritual collaborator, "the Mother", earlier known as Mirra Alfassa.
In the early history of the ashram there was a regular routine. At 6:00 every morning the Mother appeared on the ashram balcony to initiate the day with her blessings. Sadhaks (spiritual aspirants), would have woken very early and completed a good portion of the day’s work including meditation and then assembled under the balcony to receive her blessings.
As the ashram grew, many departments came up and were looked after by the sadhaks as part of their sadhana: the offices, library, dining room, book/photograph printing, workshops, sports/playground, art gallery, dispensary/nursing home, farms, dairies, flower gardens, guest houses, laundry, bakery, etc. The heads of the departments met the Mother in the morning and took her blessings and orders. She would meet the sadhaks individually again at 10 am and, in the evening at 5:30 pm, she would conduct meditation and meet the sadhaks.
In addition, four times a year Sri Aurobindo and the Mother used to give public Darshans (spiritual gatherings where the guru bestows blessings) to thousands of devotees gathered to receive grace.
Today, Pondicherry has become an important destination for spiritual seekers as well as tourists. Thousands of visitors from all over the world come to the ashram.
The visiting hours for the visitors are from 8 am to 12 noon and then again from 2 pm to 6 pm.
Aims and ideals
A complete method of Integral Yoga aims to transform human nature to divine life. In Sri Aurobindo's yoga, the highest aim is the state of being of one, without the renunciation of life in the world. Such a fulfillment of the consciousness, the urge for perfection, must not be confined to few individuals but must extend to the masses, leading to a new type of being that is "eternal, self-existing, and inalienable".
Sri Aurobindo lays the foundation of his inquiry by focusing on the contradiction between the mundane human existence and the desire to acquire a divine perfection in life. By introducing the category of Spiritual evolution, he wants to resolve the paradox of the human beings' delimited consciousness and the desire to be identical with a divine form.
Apart from study of Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's writings, there are no specific disciplines recommended, but rather the practice of Integral Yoga means that every sadhak should follow whatever spiritual techniques they feel guided to from within.
Anyone can start this quest at any time. There is no fixed method, no rituals and no discourses or training as such. It is only through self-practice that a person is able to reach the highest and eternal state and a continuous help will be sourced only from divine and no one else.
Sri Aurobindo's teachings have influenced not just the Indian thought, but has also been established throughout the world, thanks to books and regional centres. It is also a contributing element in Integral philosophy.
Sri Aurobindo Ashram does not have any branches and is located only in Pondicherry. Some organisations may use the same name but that does not make them part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Allegations of sexual harassment
Between 2004 and 2013 a series of allegations of sexual harassment were made by members of the ashram against other members. In 2004 one of five sisters who had been asked to leave the ashram owing to "gross misconduct" filed charges against various members. These charges were dismissed by a retired deputy secretary to the local government, who found the accusations "false". Subsequently the same persons made similar charges to the National Human Rights Commission of India, which found the complaint "baseless", and the National Commission for Women, which described the allegations as "false", noting that there "appeared to be malicious planning behind the complaints". In 2012 the complainants were again ordered by the Madras High Court to leave the ashram, but refused. In 2013 the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare, Krishna Tirath, communicated complaints from residents of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram to the Chief Minister of Pondicherry, N. Rangaswamy, and the Madras High Court "appointed a retired judge of the Kerala high court to probe the allegations of sexual harassment and misappropriation of funds at the Ashram". The retired judge, and his successor, took evidence from various participants, and also received complaints from "some 165 people from Odisha stated to be ashram devotees" but with no connection with the ashram itself. The activities of the court-appointed inquiry were suspended on the death of the incumbent. As of August 2014 no successor has been appointed. The administrators of the ashram have maintained throughout that the various complaints were "false and ill motivated".
List of journals
The Aurobindo Ashram press is located on Goubert Street (Beach Road). Some of the journals published or once published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, or by groups connected with it, are listed below. Many of Sri Aurobindo's letters, articles, poems and so on first appeared in them.
- The Advent (English), quarterly, Pondicherry (originally Madras), since 1944
- All India Magazine (English and other languages), monthly, Pondicherry
- Bartika (Bengali), quarterly, Calcutta, since 1942
- Bulletin of Physical Education, presently the Bulletin of Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education (English-French), quarterly, Pondicherry, since 1949
- Mother India (English), monthly, Pondicherry (originally a Bombay fortnightly), since 1949
- Srinvantu, quarterly, Calcutta, since 1956
- World Union (English), monthly, Pondicherry
- Auroville- not part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
- Sri Aurobindo Educational Resources
- Sri Aurobindo International School- not part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
- The Mother's International School- not part of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
- Integral education
- Das, Nolima ed., Glimpses of the Mother's Life vol.1, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry 1978, pp.233–4
- Karmayogi Life and Teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Mere Cie, Inc. online
- "Five Aurobindo ashram inmates defy HC orders". The New Indian Express. 24 July 2010.
- "Scandal in the Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry". Tehelka. 10 August 2013.
- "Kerala judge to probe irregularities at Pondicherry's Aurobindo ashram affairs". Times of India. 27 September 2013.
- "Retired HC judge begins probe into allegations against Aurobindo Ashram". Times of India. 27 September 2013.
- "New enquiry officer to probe Aurobindo Ashram case". The Hindu. 27 September 2013.
- "Ashram seeks police help to rein in litigant sisters". The Hindu. 3 August 2014.
- A B Purani, Life Of Sri Aurobindo, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, Page 376
- Official website
- SABDA, Publishers of Books for Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- On-line reading and search on books by Sri Aurobindo,The Mother and disciples.