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In order to remove many misunderstandings which seem to have grown up about his Asram in Pondicherry Sri Aurobindo considers it necessary to issue the following explicit statement:

An Asram means the house or houses of a Teacher or Master of spiritual philosophy in which he receives and lodges those who come to him for the teaching and practice. An Asram is not an association or a religious body or a monastery – it is only what has been indicated above and nothing more.

Everything in the Asram belongs to the Teacher; the sadhaks (those who practise under him) have no claim, right or voice in any matter. They remain or go according to his will. Whatever money he receives is his property and not that of a public body. It is not a trust or a fund, for there is no public institution. Such Asrams have existed in India since many centuries before Christ and still exist in large numbers. All depends on the Teacher and ends with his lifetime, unless there is another Teacher who can take his place.

The Asram in Pondicherry came into being in this way. Sri Aurobindo at first lived in Pondicherry with a few inmates in his house; afterwards a few more joined him. Later on after the Mother joined him, in 1920 the numbers began so much to increase that it was thought necessary to make an arrangement for lodging those who came and houses were bought and rented according to need for the purpose. Arrangements had also to be made for the maintenance, repair, rebuilding of houses, for the service of food and for decent living and hygiene. All these were private rules by the Mother and entirely at her discretion to increase, modify or alter there is nothing in them of a public character.

All houses of the Asram are owned either by Sri Aurobindo or by the Mother. All the money spent belongs either to Sri Aurobindo or the Mother. Money is given by many to help in Sri Aurobindo’s work. Some who are here give their earnings, but it is given to Sri Aurobindo or the Mother and not to the Asram as a public body, for there is no such body.

The Asram is not an association; there is no constituted body, no officials, no common property owned by an association, no governing council or committee, no activity undertaken of a public character.

The Asram is not a political institution; all association with political activities is renounced by those who live here. All propaganda religious, political or social has to be eschewed by the inmates.

The Asram is not a religious association. Those who are here come from all religions and some are of no religion. There is no creed or set of dogmas, no governing religious body; there are only the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and certain psychological practices of concentration and meditation, etc., for the enlarging of the consciousness, receptivity to the Truth, mastery over the desires, the discovery of the divine self and consciousness concealed within each human being, a higher evolution of the nature....

Sri Aurobindo
16 February 1934

The Mother. Agenda. — Volume 10. — 1969

This Ashram has been created with another object than that ordinarily common to such institutions, not for the renunciation of the world but as a centre and a field of practice for the evolution of another kind and form of life which would in the final end be moved by a higher spiritual consciousness and embody a greater life of the spirit. There is no general rule as to the stage at which one may leave the ordinary life and enter here; in each case it depends on the personal need and impulsion and the possibility or the advisability for one to take the step.

*

This is not an Ashram like others the members are not Sannyasis; it is not mokṣa that is the sole aim of the yoga here. What is being done here is a preparation for a work a work which will be founded on yogic consciousness and Yoga-Shakti, and can have no other foundation. Meanwhile, every member here is expected to do some work in the Ashram as part of this spiritual preparation.

*

No, it is not enough to be in the Ashram; one has to open to the Mother and put away the mind which one was playing with in the world.

*

What you write shows that you had a wrong idea of the work. The work in the Ashram was not meant as a service to humanity or to a section of it called the sadhaks of the Ashram. It was not meant either as an opportunity for a joyful social life and a flow of sentiments and attachments between the sadhaks and an expression of the vital movements, a free vital interchange whether with some or with all. The work was meant as a service to the Divine and as a field for the inner opening to the Divine, surrender to the Divine alone, rejection of ego and all the ordinary vital movements and the training in a psychic elevation, selflessness, obedience, renunciation of all mental, vital or other self-assertion of the limited personality. Self-affirmation is not the aim, the formation of a collective vital ego is also not the aim. The merging of the little ego in union with the Divine, purification, surrender, the substitution of the Divine guidance for one's own ignorant self-guidance based on one's personal ideas and personal feelings is the aim of Karmayoga, the surrender of one's own will to the Divine Will.

*

There is no formal initiation, acceptance is sufficient, but I do not usually accept unless I have seen, or the Mother has seen the person or unless there is a clear sign that he is meant for this yoga. Sometimes those who desire to be disciples have seen me in dream or vision before acceptance.

Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library in 30 Volumes. — Volume 23. — Letters on Yoga.-P.2-3

The Ashram as it is now is not that ideal, for that all its members have to live in a spiritual consciousness and not in the ordinary egoistic mind and mainly rajasic vital nature. But, all the same, the Ashram is a first form which our effort has taken, a field in which the preparatory work has to be done. The Mother has to maintain it and for that all this order and organisation has to be there and it cannot be done without rules and discipline. Discipline is even necessary for the overcoming of the ego and the mental preferences and the rajasic vital nature, as a help to it at any rate. If these were overcome outward rules etc. would be less necessary; spontaneous agreement, unity, harmony and spontaneous right action might take its place. But while the present state of things exists, by the abandonment or leaving out of discipline except such as people choose or not choose to impose upon themselves, the result would be failure and disaster.

*

Independent work does not exist in the Ashram. All is organised and interrelated, neither the heads of departments nor the workers are independent. To learn subordination and co-operation is necessary for all collective work; without it there will be chaos.

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There are only two possible foundations for the material life here. One is that one is a member of an Ashram founded on the principle of self-giving and surrender. One belongs to the Divine and all one has belongs to the Divine; in giving one gives not what is one's own but what already belongs to the Divine. There is no question of payment or return, no bargain, no room for demand and desire. The Mother is in sole charge and arranges things as best they can be arranged within the means at her disposal and the capacities of her instruments. She is under no obligation to act according to the mental standards or vital desires and claims of the Sadhaks; she is not obliged to use a democratic equality in her dealings with them. She is free to deal with each according to what she sees to be his true need or what is best for him in his spiritual progress. No one can be her judge or impose on her his own rule and standard; she alone can make rules, and she can depart from them too if she thinks fit, but no one can demand that she shall do so. Personal demands and desires cannot be imposed on her. If anyone has what he finds to be a real need or a suggestion to make which is within the province assigned to him, he can do so; but if she gives no sanction, he must remain satisfied and drop the matter. This is the spiritual discipline of which the one who represents or embodies the Divine Truth is the centre. Either she is that and all this is the plain common sense of the matter; or she is not and then no one need stay here. Each can go his own way and there is no Ashram and no Yoga.

If on the other hand one is not ready to be a member of the Ashram or bear the discipline and is still admitted to some place in the Yoga, he remains apart and meets his own expenses. There is no discipline for him on the material plane, except the rules necessary for the safety of the work; there is no material responsibility for the Mother.

Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library in 30 Volumes. — Volume 25. — The Mother

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