I sat with my lunch plate, an extra large stainless steel plate or thali with two oversized stainless bowls and equally an oversized stainless steel tumbler of water, at the table on the Ashram's Dining Room verandah. The fan above, way up above, propelled with full speed, but could not send down enough breeze to stop me sweating from the sweltering humid heat. All were busy eating their lunch. There was cereal with vegetables or samber in one bowl, yogurt in another, rice, couple of slices of brown bread and two small yellow bananas. Although the food was the same for all, I was amazed at the ingenuity of the people producing a variety out of such plain uniformity. Some would transfer their rice portion to the samber bowl until it would be full, others would mix rice, yogurt and samber, while some would have taken the porridge and milk, others would deftly slice in bananas in the yogurt using the bowl's' sharp edge for the purpose; yet others would manage to have more bananas and less rice; some would eat bread first and rice later and vice versa, some would keep the yogurt as desert as they would have taken sugar in it. No two people ate the same way. But all did eat in silence; or, even if there were to be some talk, it was very subdued. Such an atmosphere overwhelmed me, where there were people from all states of India, all sorts of regions and languages and people from all around the world. I could hear people whispering to each other in German, French, English and other languages that I could not identify. There was no one to issue orders or oversee the mammoth functioning of the feeding of the people. Tens of hundreds of people ate satisfied, carried their own plates, ate in a dignified manner and left the table just as neat and clean as when they came to sit there. An unseen spirit seemed to admonish them for no one is trained here to be disciplined; the same spirit seemed to guide them as they moved around without confusion and the very same spirit seemed to keep their thoughts busy as they maintained silence. There was peace here. There was silence and reflection. There was the presence of a spirit, for I cannot find any other reason for the creation of such an atmosphere. There wasn't anyone, I sure, who couldn't have experienced these, the peace, the presence.
In both Eastern and Western traditions, commentaries have been in widespread use to pass on knowledge and wisdom from the masterminds to the novices, and to the next generations. Commentaries were an ideal form to explain these minds and their sayings. At the same time these explanations broadened the horizon of understanding and was an ideal platform for the "follower", the "pupil", the "student" to develop one's own arguments and articulate one's own views.
Daniel Albuquerque's book belongs to such a kind of literature and he makes a perfect use of it. No doubt, he is deeply rooted in Sri Aurobindo's thought and he can explain it with ease. He knows what to quote and how to stress the most important statements. He has absorbed Aurobindos mode of knowledge to the point where he can resume it in his own words without loosing its point. He adds his own colour but remains in line with Aurobindo's sayings and, more important, his intentions. The German philosopher Karl Jaspers has coined the phrase "lebendige Aneignung" ("living acquisition") and he followed the principle himself: When studying, the heritage of another philosopher or a sage of the past, Jaspers seemed to absorb it and when he reproduced, e.g., the teachings of St. Augustine or Kant; it is hard to tell what "really" is Kantian what is Jaspers's part. Daniel Albuquerque's writing reassembles Jasper's way of adopting the other persons' insights, which he presents them truthfully. But in the meantime, it has become his own and he has given it a new twist and certainly a new language. He gives his "master's voice" more than just his new language; he has understood the meaning well enough to transcend it.
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