| General Information
Where is the Ashram located?
The Ashram is located close to the Bay of Bengal in the eastern part of Pondicherry, a small city and a union territory of modern India. Pondicherry was a French colony until 1954, long after India attained its political freedom. It is located 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state and a major city of southern India.
How do I travel to Pondicherry?
If you are traveling from abroad, you can fly to Chennai on one of several airlines. If your first destination in India is elsewhere, you can fly to Chennai by one of the several local airlines, or else take the train. If you are geographically close to Chennai, you can also take a bus or taxi. Once you are in Chennai, you can take a taxi from the airport or the railway station to go to Pondicherry. If you reach Chennai at night, it is best to stay in a hotel for the night and resume in the morning. If you have reserved in advance, Autocare Services will pick you up either at the airport, hotel or railway station. This is usually cheaper than hiring a taxi from Chennai. Alternatively, you can take a bus from one of several bus services in Chennai. Buses are often uncomfortable and inconvenient if you have a lot of luggage, but the cheapest mode of transport between Chennai and Pondicherry.
Where can I stay in the Ashram?
Apart from the many hotels, lodges and guest houses in Pondicherry, there are a number of guest houses run by the Ashram where visitors can stay. However, as these are primarily for the guests of the Ashram, it might be difficult to get accommodation without prior reservation, especially during the Special Days in the Ashram. Visitors from abroad must be registered in the government's Foreign Registration Office and only few of the guest houses are authorised to do so. There are a few decent hotels in town, although they too may not have vacancies.
Information on bus and train services in Pondicherry
- TTC Express Bus Service
Timings: 8.00 am to 8.00 pm (daily)
- TPTC General Bus Service
Timings: 5.00 am to 12.30 pm and 2.0 pm to 9.30 pm (daily)
- Railway Station
Timings: 8.00 am to 1.00 pm and 1.15 pm to 8.00 pm (weekdays), 8.00 am to 2.00 pm (Sundays)
How do I move about in Pondicherry?
Pondicherry is a relatively small town, so if you stay close to the Ashram, you can manage by walking. If you have put up far off, you may need a bicycle or a motorised two-wheeler. Some guest houses rent bicycles, mopeds and scooters. These of course, can also be rented in the town.
What passes do I need in the Ashram?
When you are given accommodation in an Ashram guest house, you will be given a pass needed for attending Ashram activities such as collective meditation at the playground. The Ashram canteen, called "Dining Hall", provides food for the inmates and guests of the Ashram. If you would like to take your meals there, you will also need to purchase a dining room coupon. Guest house attendants issue daily or weekly passes. If you are staying at a hotel, the Bureau Central may be able to give you an Ashram pass and dining room pass, or both.
What activities of the Ashram can I participate in?
- Visit to the Samadhi
You can go to the samadhi for pranam and meditation any time during the day. The Ashram gate opens at 4.30 in the morning and closes at 11.00 at night. There is also a meditation hall inside the main Ashram building where you can sit.
- Collective Meditations
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday there is a collective meditation around the samadhi from 7.25 pm to 7.50 pm. This is open to everyone. No pass is required. On Thursdays and Sundays, a collective meditation is held in the Ashram Playground between 7.45 pm and 8.15 pm. This is open only to the Ashramites and the visitors staying in the Ashram guest houses who have been given Playground passes. These must be shown at the gate.
- Exhibition and Video programmes at Bureau Central
The exhibition is an introduction to the life and yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother through their own writings. It also offers a glimpse into the Ashram and its activities.
Everyday, except Sundays, there is a video presentation on one of several topics. The video programmes present the life and work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the Ashram, flowers and their significances, etc.
- Conducted Tours
Autocare Services operates two tours every week day: at 8.15 am, to see Ashram and Ashram-related departments and at 2.00 pm, to visit Auroville (Matrimandir). The Auroville trip does not wait for the meditation (5.00 pm to 6.00 pm) at the Matrimandir, since first-time visitors are not allowed.
| Sri Aurobindo's Yoga
What is the basic principle underlying Sri Aurobindo's teaching?
Sri Aurobindo's teaching states that there is a one Being and Consciousness involved here in Matter which is impelled to enlarge and develop towards a greater and greater perfection. Life and Mind are only the first two steps of this evolution. The next step of the evolution must be towards development of a greater spiritual and supramental Consciousness which will release the involved Divinity in things after which it will become possible for life to manifest perfection.
What are the main lines of practice of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga?
In Sri Aurobindo's view, Man, at present, lives mostly in his surface mind, life and body. There is an inner being within which pushes him to a constant pursuit of a greater beauty, harmony, power and knowledge. He has to awake to the greater possibilities of this inner being and purify and orientate by its drive towards the Truth the rest of the nature. There can follow afterwards an opening upward to the several ranges of consciousness between the ordinary human mind and the Supramental Truth-Consciousness and their power brought down into the mind life and body. This will enable the full power of the Truth-Consciousness to work in the nature.
How is Sri Aurobindo's Yoga related to earlier systems of Yoga?
There are many things belonging to the earlier systems that are necessary on this way - an opening of the mind to a greater wideness and to a sense of the Self and the Infinite, an emergence into the cosmic consciousness, mastery over the desires and passions; an outward asceticism is not essential, but the conquest of desire and attachment and a control over the body and its needs, greeds and instincts are indispensable. There is a combination of the way of knowledge through the Mind's discernment between Reality and appearance, the heart's way of devotion, love and surrender and the way of works turning the will away from motives of self interest to the Truth and the service of a greater reality than the ego. For the whole being has to be trained so that it can respond and be transformed when it will be possible for a greater Light and Force to work on the nature.
Is this not a very difficult spiritual discipline?
The opening of all parts of the being to a conversion through a descent and working of the higher Consciousness cannot be done at once or in a short time or by any rapid or miraculous transformation. Many steps have to be taken by the seeker before this is possible. The process of this discipline is therefore long and difficult but even a little of it is so much gained because it makes the ultimate release and perfection more possible.