Alec MacLeod, long-time CIIS Professor, shares his thoughts about teaching, his students, and reflects on his recent retirement
Celebrating 150 years of Sri Aurobindo at CIIS
CIIS’ East-West Psychology and Transformative Inquiry departments put together a week-long period of celebration of conferences, music, theater, film and food.
On the first full weekend of fall, students, faculty, and guests gathered at CIIS to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the anticolonial activist, poet and spiritual philosopher, and practitioner (yogi) Sri Aurobindo with a series of lectures and panel discussions pertaining to his work and dramatic presentations utilizing his visionary poetry. The event, made possible through the generosity of CIIS trustees Vaishali Shah Chadha and Mike and Gityjoon Hebel, was the columniation of a week-long celebration of Aurobindo’s life, one of the founding influences of CIIS, being the spiritual and philosophical teacher of CIIS founder Haridas Chaudhuri. The “integral” in California Institute of Integral Studies was inspired by Aurobindo’s coinages such as “integral yoga” and “integral consciousness.” The celebration was book-ended by two conferences; the first conference titled ‘Sustainability and Contemplative Civilization: The Integral Vision of Sri Aurobindo,” took place from Sept 23-26 and was organized by the Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies department and co-sponsored by the Journal of Dharma Studies. A second conference titled “The Emergence of Integral Consciousness: Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, C. G. Jung, Teilhard de Chardin,” was organized by the Transformative Inquiry department and the Gebser Society and took place from Sept 27-30. The conferences included academic papers, panels, and conversations around recent books pertaining to the work of Sri Aurobindo and dramatic presentations utilizing his visionary poetry.
Dr. Debashish Banerji, Haridas Chaudhuri Professor of Indian Philosophies and Cultures and department Chair of East-West Psychology and Asian Contemplative and Transcultural Studies, gave the keynote addresses for both conferences. The talks of the first conference expanded the idea of sustainability to include the geosphere, the biosphere and the psychosphere (the domains of culture and politics) and addressed an integral sustainability, exploring Sri Aurobindo’s solutions to these crises of our times in terms of a contemplative civilization of the future. It also considered in depth the contribution of Auroville, an aspirational community started by Mirra Alfassa, also known as “The Mother,” the spiritual collaborator and partner of Sri Aurobindo, which is as old as CIIS and has been a field of experimental practice for manifesting a sustainable contemplative society. Recently, about sixteen CIIS students returned from a summer study course in Auroville taught by Dr. Banerji; several of these students also presented their research studies through papers at the conference. Several new books which address the experiment of Auroville were also discussed. The theme of both conferences included a deep consideration of Haridas Chaudhuri’s contributions to a sustainable civilization of the future through integral pedagogy, as explored at CIIS. Speakers at the conferences came from across the world, including Canada, Brazil, Spain, India and from several part of the United States.