From the Editors

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From the Editors
Vol. 48, No. 2

Relationships as Spiritual Practice

[T]he Spirit created the world for Ananda, enjoyment and possession of the many by the One, of the One by the many and of the many too by the many …

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, vol. 24, p. 646

ACCORDING TO SRI AUROBINDO, there are three poises of Being, or modes of consciousness: individual, universal, and transcendent. While the individual consciousness is centered on the soul as its organizing principle, the universal dimension comprises all possible relationships between two or more individuals, between the individual and the world, and with the entire universe. The transcendent mode is usually beyond our immediate phenomenal experience of time and space; it is otherwise known as Being—the unified ground of existence out of which all manifestation springs into existence, and to which everything returns.

While spiritual practice is often described in the context of the relationship between the individual soul and the transcendent dimension (God), the universal or relational dimension plays a key part in Integral Yoga. In traditional forms of spirituality, enlightenment was often defined by the process of dissolution of the small self in its return to transcendent consciousness. In Integral Yoga, on the other hand, the goal is to transform both the individual and the world with the assistance of transcendent consciousness. Relationships of all kinds, therefore, play a key role. How do yogic practices affect our ordinary family or work lives, our relationship with other aspirants, and our relationship with nature? How do spiritual insights affect our understanding of our planet and the current crises that threaten our very existence?

In this issue our source material includes letters and conversations by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on a variety of topics, from human relations and spiritual life to relations with the Divine, culminating in the intimate unity between our own self and the self of the cosmos: “… the fulfilment of our self-existence and at the same time the fulfilment of our cosmic existence, of the individual in himself and of the individual in his relation to the cosmic Many” [Synthesis of Yoga, Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, vols. 23–24, p. 386].

Next, we have two featured articles. In “A Planetary Initiation,” California Institute of Integral Studies professor Sean Kelly begins with the premise that our universe is a finely tuned manifestation of consciousness, and that matter, life, and mind are evolving toward the cosmos awakening to itself. However, we are now entering a new era where we are facing environmental and climatic challenges that threaten our existence and potential evolution toward higher truth, beauty, and goodness. These challenges are forcing us to undergo a change of consciousness that brings us out of our narrow sense of identity to a wider sense of participation with the earth community. He ends with a sense of guarded optimism by affirming our capacity to participate consciously in the next phase of human evolution.

“Why Collective Yoga?” is a talk given by Lynda Lester during the summer 2022 All USA Meeting (AUM) conference. Collective transformation, a key feature of Integral Yoga, expands the notion of spiritual practice beyond the individual level and into larger communities of spiritual aspirants—and ultimately, to the entire planet. Lynda describes how the Sri Aurobindo Ashram was first a collection of individual aspirants, but after 1956, the year of supramental descent, a new collective reality began to take shape. Lynda reminds us of the evolutionary crises we now face and the urgent need to find a wider truth of being. She concludes with an emphasis on the need for supportive companions on this journey.

In the section titled “Reflections,” we have two short pieces. In “Finding a Hallway to Harmony,” drawing on Vedic wisdom, Rand Hicks argues that although the realization of the soul plays a pivotal role in spiritual development, “our yogic work is incomplete until we extend soul-awareness into society.” Through conscious and harmonious action in the service of the Divine Mother, we can manifest a greater love, power, and delight by eliminating divisions and finding strength in oneness. “Yoli’s Story” is a poignant and inspiring short story by Vishnu Eschner about the relationship between humans and other animals. Just before dying, his canine friend Yoli reminds him of the human responsibility towards all forms of life—a vow made to the other animals long ago that we have since forgotten. Yet it not too late to remember, and to create a safe and prosperous world for all beings.

Next we have two practice-oriented pieces. “Circle Work as a Tool for Collective Sadhana” is a process developed by Shree Hindman at the Mother’s Center in Colorado as a “way of being, sharing, and holding space.” Circle work can be a powerful way for building collective yoga, as was demonstrated during the 2022 AUM conference. Circle work is offered, first, as an “alignment, a purification, a commitment, and a discipline”; second, as a living symbol that can facilitate transformation; and finally, as an extension into our daily lives. Shree concludes her essay by inviting us all to join a circle or start our own circle. “We can become a powerful social stem cell because this process will self-replicate itself, calling forth a new social fabric and allowing the soul of the circle to create a new birth, a new life, and ultimately usher in the descent of a new creation.”

“Connecting with the Psychic Being” describes a workshop by Bluestar Shama Deerwomon given at Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham in Lodi, California. Through guided visualization and artwork exercises, participants tap into their inner being and create a visual symbol that represents their psychic consciousness. This in turn is used as a way of contemplating and accessing one’s psychic qualities.

In the poetry section we have a poem by Mary ‘Angel’ Finn titled “Shakti of the Sun,” as well as several selections from Sri Aurobindo: “The Truth of Love” and ”The Finding of the Soul” from Savitri, and a short poem titled “In Some Faint Dawn.”

Collaboration is grateful for all the contributions by authors and artists. We hope you find our selections stimulating and inspirational.

Bahman A. K. Shirazi for the editorial team