Parables from the Upanishads Rishi Sanatkumara was once approached by Narada (evidently not yet become a Rishi), who said, “Lord, I desire to be taught by you. Please teach me.” The Rishi replied,”Very well, but first tell me how much you know; then I shall tell you if you need more.” Narada thereupon made out an inventory of his learning; it was a formidable list. “My Lord, this is what I have learnt: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda, the Fifth Veda comprising History and Mythology; next, Grammar, Mathematics, Logic and Politics, the Science of Computing Time, Theology, Fine Arts and the Ritual Lore; Demonology, Astrology, and the Art of Predicting Fate; the Knowledge of Ancestors and of Serpents. I know all this, my Lord, and very well. This has made me master of the Word, but has not given me knowledge of the Self. I have heard that only by the knowledge of the Self can one pass beyond sorrow and pain. I am immersed in sorrow and pain, please help me reach the other shore.” Sanatkumara said, “All that you have studied and learnt is nothing but ‘Name’, no more than words. You have reached as far as ‘Name’ can take you, giving you as fruit the power to roam at will, that is, you can go unimpeded where you will. But that is about all.” Then Narada asked, “Is there anything superior to Name?” “Of course, there is,” replied Sanatkumara. “Then tell me about it.” “Superior to Name is Speech, that is, Name with form and meaning.” Thus he went on replying to the series of Narada’s questions. Speech, Mind, Will, Thought, Meditation, Knowledge — these are the ascending grades, each higher than the one preceding. And each carries with it the power to move at will. The goal of this ascending series is, to use our own terminology, a widening of the consciousness. As we rise from grade to higher grade, our consciousness gains in width and depth and intensity. But after Meditation comes Power. It seems that marks the end of one series and the beginning of another. The first seven of the earlier series represent the line of our externalized consciousness already manifest. But these powers or functions cannot get their full play by remaining confined to the field of our inner being. In order to make them active and fruitful and effective in practice, Power is needed, the power of work. Hence, under this category of Power, are grouped the fourfold series that constitute in essence the material world in its forms of solids, liquids, energy and air — the fifth or ethereal element is omitted for it is not relevant here. The solids form the body’s material substance, the liquids give it life and mobility, energy is stamina and prowess, air gives it the sense of width and expansion. What sustains them all as their basic support has been termed Power, which ordinarily conveys the sense of capacity and strength. But beyond this second series there is a fresh turn which takes us round to the third. Here we get to the realm of the subliminal, with its silent movements behind our ordinary consciousness. This series consists of Memory, Hope, Life-force and Truth. In our language, Memory is constant remembrance, Hope is aspiration, Life-force is energy at work, and Truth means the rejection of falsehood and the unreal and the acceptance of what is real and true. Beyond this there is yet another series, the ascent to which lies in taking a further turn from behind. The first step on this path is Knowledge, that is, knowledge of the Vast and the Particular. The second step is Contemplation, implying a concentrated one-pointedness. The third is Faith, an unwavering trust. Faith implies steadfastness and, to make the latter effective, there is need of action, its application in life, making it concrete. Finally, action leads to joy, it is indeed the mainspring of action. We know that joy alone is the essence of creation, joy is its source, joy the ultimate end. But the Rishi says, this joy is no ordinary pleasure; its other name is the Vastness — the Vast, verily, is the Delight, there is no joy in smallness, says the Text. Starting from “Name”, the outermost expression and most concrete figure of gross physical substance, we have risen by stages to another Name of substance, to the Supreme Name, into the Highest Consciousness, from the uttermost division of the individualized ego to the endless infinity of Being. This progress or ascent of the consciousness or being has not been in a simple straight line, it has taken a zigzag serpentine path. First to develop were, as I have said, the parts of the externalized or manifest being; this is the stage of the waking mentality. On this level, the highest attainment is Knowledge. From Name or gross physical Word as our starting-point, we arrive in the end at its culmination as the knowledge of particulars, what we call the power of discrimination. But the growth and cultivation of the mind alone is not enough. For its sufficient development and capacity there is needed a physical capacity that has the body as its base. That is why, in the second stage of our progress, there is a turning back from the mind down to a lower level, for the cultivation of this physical base, in order to attain mastery there. Once the base got firmly established, the consciousness had to take another turn and enter upon a new stage of its progress. This was in the realm of the inner being. In this stage, there was gained the acquaintance and control of the functions and powers that work from behind the physical mind. From here there is the ascent to the fourth step while still keeping behind the veil, on to the gates of the spiritual consciousness, crossing beyond the limits of our ordinary state. Already, as we reached the level of the life-force, the Rishi had something new to say : one who gained entry into the inner or universal life became “extraordinary”, in that he had passed the limits of his ordinary consciousness, crossed over to the other side. And one who got firmly established in the integral Truth of the final stage attained the state of superconscience. According to our present-day Science there is no such thing as motion in a straight line, all movement has to take a zigzag serpentine path. The reason is that the created universe is actually spherical in shape, all lines on it must be curves. And because of the gravitational pull, all motions in it must be wave-motions. All progress or forward movement in the consciousness of man or in the lines of creation must likewise be a spiral movement. In the course of an ascent or forward movement, one can notice one thing, namely, that one has to pass again through the same place or condition which one has already crossed once. In actual fact one does not return to precisely the same place or condition, but certainly to an analogous place or situation: it is as if a replica of the earlier state appearing once again in the next higher stage or forward position. We know that the same process applies to our spiritual endeavour or even in ordinary training, when a particular quality or state has to be made more firmly and fully established. If, for example, peace is established in the first state of mind, in its physical functioning, the same state of peace has to be established over and over again in the depths of the inner being and on its ascending peaks. A somewhat similar method or process of working is noticeable in the path shown here by Rishi Sanatkumara to Narada. At the beginning of the series is the physical mind, at the end is the spiritual mind. The physical mind is the slave of sense, the spiritual mind is to become centred in God. The first series ends with Knowledge, Knowledge again begins the last series. It seems that the first is the knowledge of particulars, the last is that of the Vastness. Narada started on the march of consciousness with “Name”. He has passed from stage to stage, from level to higher level, till at last he has crossed beyond the material “Name” to the Supreme Name, Brahman. Thus surpassing the state of mortal man, he has, at last, attained the status of Rishi. With deep gratitude to Nolini Kanta Gupta of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, or Nolini Da, as he was fondly known to all in the Ashram. More on Nolini Da here
The Tent-House of Matter The modern scientific view of the human body is taken so much for granted that we hardly ever pause to consider that the body could be viewed from so many other standpoints. There is little doubt that modern medicine has been remarkable in making accurate observations about the material processes that govern the body. The grey area however is the inferences it has drawn from those observations. The inferences suffer the serious lacuna of being drawn upon a presumptuous premise of the sole reality of matter as we know it and its processes. The material world-view seen in isolation is much like a tent house hanging in mid-air with a vast and frightening unknown space within and around it. It is neither rooted to the ground below nor supported by a rope from above. Such is the figure of the human body drawn by our present day Science. Thus, we are told today of the inevitable fatalism of our genetic makeup. Convincing voices from some of the most sophisticated laboratories shout at us (or hypnotise us in believing) that our minutest reactions, from the first rush of love to the fits of post-partum blues, the immune response and the allergic response, the excess proliferation of cells as in Cancer or their under development, are all written somewhere in the genetic script of our destiny waiting for its hour to unfold. We are but our genes and our true identity is our genetic identity. Sounds familiar, like the racism of the old world in a new guise. And yet, ask the astute geneticist about identical twins that are Nature’s clones in a way and you have elaborate theories to explain (or explain away) the difference in psychological makeup, self-experience and the world-view of these genetically identical but psychologically different people. Multifactorial, we are told, a term no better than guess work. A guessing within boundaries of course. The boundaries are the walls of matter; the tent-house hanging in mid-air. The space within and around, the forces at play that hold and support and even build the fabric of the tent-house are as yet a forbidden territory. To probe them, even to question about them is a taboo, an unscientific speculation. But not for long! The materialist view of matter itself has led us to the point where fact and fantasy, the tangible and the intangible begin to mingle. The solidity of matter vanishes into the atomic void. The atomic void in turn collapses into a world of energy dancing in empty space. The seeming orderliness, the fixity of sequences, the links of cause and effect, the so called laws are nothing else but a trick of the brain, an illusion woven by the senses and supported by a limiting mind that cannot observe the totality and the whole as one movement. Or perhaps they are habits mimicking cause and effect! The mind only perceives events successively and divides them on the basis of the time of observation into a past, present and future. Thus it sees a person coming in contact with someone having flu, it sees next this person himself begin to show signs and symptoms of flu. It therefore feels it logical to presume that flu is contagious and spreads from one person to another. Further based upon the nature of the physical contact it feels that it can safely conclude about the mode of transmission. Finally, it administers a drug to the patient and sees a curative response repeated in a ‘statistically significant way’ and again feels confident in patenting a physical remedy to cure us of a physical illness with a physical cause. But this is incorrect. We can imagine or even consider a scenario as vast as Time itself — at least from the time since man appeared upon earth. Then, if we could somehow see how the symptoms of illness and ‘illnesses’ itself are a pattern thrown up during certain spaces of time, we may observe many new and unknown factors. The upsurge in the flu virus, the lowering of our body defences, the epidemic, may all be linked to a third or fourth factor, for example war, that we fail to see or co-relate since we observe things in small spaces of time. This third or fourth factor that we fail to see is the other side of physical phenomenon. In other words each phenomenon has its physical and its occult side. These do not cancel each other, they often complement and explain each other. This occult side is composed of certain psychological states or rather conditions that exist in the cosmos parallel to the physical world which is simply one kind of organisation of Reality or rather our experience of it. Ischemic heart disease is another case in point. It is barely a few decades back that the medical pundits were convinced about smoking, obesity and dietary habits as being the prime factor in causing or precipitating a heart attack. The pattern however changed soon enough within a few decades. The clinician began to see more younger people, appearing physically quite fit with no history of smoking, suffering from major coronary blocks. And consequently they discovered a new factor — the type A personality. It was the kind of person created by the competitive world of today; a person driven by time, critical of everyone and everything with no time to release his emotional life. These persons had blocked their emotions, at least the positive ones and the blocked coronaries well reflected and recorded this inner state. So things began to fall in place. Smoking, wrong eating habits and IHD were all common symptoms of an unknown factor — an impoverished and constricted emotional life driven by the mad rush of ambition. It is then that one began to observe and understand why quite a few people escaped an assault on their hearts despite the intake of high fat content, despite the nicotine and of course, despite being as obese as Sumo wrestlers. But then, where are the limits of the behind and the beyond? Our physical probes, even the most accurate and the minutest ones, stop at the threshold of the mind. They paused at the doorsteps of that grey passage where thoughts, feelings, attitudes mingle with molecular currents and electro-magnetic waves within the brain and reach out from there through a complex neuro-circuitry to the remotest cell, perhaps penetrating even deeper, touching the nucleus with its genetic core? We yet do not know and may never know as long as we limit our science to a study of physical vibrations alone. The vibrations of thoughts and feelings may and do affect our cells without the necessary support of a material medium just as the feelings aroused in one person can awaken and engulf another person who is emotionally or physically close without the aid of a physical medium. Or, perhaps like the vibrations of an ‘ultrasound’ which can go right up to the cells and resonate back without any visible physical evidence of penetration. So much for ‘Evidence-Based Medicine’. Evidence, yes, but is physical evidence alone enough is the question. We need to dig deeper into the dumb and dark depths of matter, beyond the cellular mechanisms and processes, beyond genes and electrical currents, beyond molecules and electrons, beyond the vast unknown that almost frighteningly occupies with a fathomless emptiness our physical atomic and sub-atomic space. The seer-poet probing thus, illumining by the inner Light of the Self the fathomless dark unknown, beautifully observes: I saw the electric stream on which is run The world turned motes and spark-whirls of a Light, A Fire of which the nebula and sun Are glints and flame-drops, scattered, eremite; And veiled by viewless Light worked other Powers, An Air of movement endless, unbegun, Expanding and contracting in Time’s hours And the intangible ether of the One. The surface finds, the screen-phenomenon, Are Nature’s offered ransom, while behind Her occult mysteries lie safe, unknown, From the crude handling of the empiric Mind. Our truths discovered are but dust and trace Of the eternal Energy in her race. [Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems: ‘Discoveries of Science’] Probing Deeper A day may well arrive when we are able to map each and every gene that determines some physical attribute and psychological event. We may also find the key that triggers into an amazing and unbelievable order the genetic concert and fine tunes the music of life down to the minutest details of its melody. We may, with stretches of imaginative fiction filling the factual gaps, relate each mental event to a precise neurochemical pathway. Perhaps, we may rather discover the varying intensity of molecular movements and electrical currents in the same pathway correlating with forming the material basis for an essentially mental experience. Having done that and thereby manipulating the chemistry to alter physiological events and psychological experience, we may sit back and congratulate ourselves at the wonders of molecular biology and its extreme limits! But where are the limits? The extreme limit is only a limit of our creative insight. As the horizons recede, the unknown is pushed a little further. And so will it be as long as we extend our gaze outward and outward. But where is the centre of this ever expanding circle of infinity? For having answered all questions about the mechanism we would still have the most fundamental question left unanswered: ‘Who or what is this Self that experiences the mental events?’ ‘Who is the witness, the thinker, the dreamer, the doer, the seer?’ Confining ourselves to the chemistry we may move within the confines of a closed system with no issue or scope of any authentic evolution and certainly none of a Self-experience. A group of cells, tissues, organs and even a totality of all these functioning in perfect order and harmony does not lead to the sense of Self. Just as a conglomeration of all the atoms and elements in the physical universe does not explain a single movement of life. However life can and does explain the movement of the cosmos, the forces holding it, the forces moving it apart — the breath of life expanding and contracting the living pulsating universe. So too with the entire physiological processes and events of life. Mind can explain the logic behind the magical movements of life. Yet all the processes of life, in plants and animals and all the genes from the yeast to the ape cannot explain the logic of logic itself. And what lies beyond the logic of logic itself and holds the key to the magic of the Infinite and the finite in a single embrace? What is it that can explain the gaps in our mind’s logic, the gaps in the rhythms of life and the gaps in our understanding of matter itself? This gap in our knowledge as well as the gap within the atom is filled by consciousness. Consciousness explains thought and mind and life and matter itself. Since it is Consciousness that has become these things — in the deeper view of things — it is indeed Consciousness that becomes all these myriad phenomenon, physical, psychological or any other. How are we to probe consciousness? It is evident that if consciousness is anterior and superior to phenomenon then naturally any amount of investigation of one phenomenon by another phenomenon will not lead us to any definite conclusion. Consciousness would always escape the grasp of phenomenon. Or we may at most understand only that much of ‘It’ as is involved in the process of the phenomenon, yet it is possible to study and understand consciousness and, having done that, it is possible to understand and know each and every phenomenon from the perspective of consciousness. Not only can one understand better, one can relate better, master better, this phenomenal world with the help of consciousness because consciousness is, in its essence, not only awareness or knowledge but also the force, the primal Conscious-Force that assumes and becomes the limited mind force and awareness and consciousness or life force and body force, etc. We have an analogy here. When the physical scientist began to perceive matter not as matter alone but as one pole of matter-energy continuum, he could understand better, manipulate better, the world of physical phenomenon. So too when we begin to understand physical matter not just as matter-energy but as matter-energy-consciousness, we would understand even better. For consciousness is neither just in the mental world, nor is it a chance by-product of an aberrant gland acting in conjunction with the brilliant babble of a billion neurons. Consciousness is there in the instinct of the beast holding it in a cyclic chain of oneness with the rest of the biological world. Consciousness is also there in the gaps between atoms and molecules and in the seemingly empty space within the atom upholding this ocean of quarks and electrons and drifting particles of energy and weaving them all together with the fabric of ether. Properties vs. Quality: The Unseen Factor If matter is nothing else but a condensation of consciousness (just as ice crystals are condensed vapour), each and every form has its correlate in terms of consciousness as well. While a phenomenal study of matter, can give us its quantitative attributes (for example weight, shape, properties, etc.), the qualitative aspects of matter or any material form can only be rightly and fully understood in terms of consciousness. The ancient seers knew it well. So, when they worshipped a stone idol they saw in it a living expression of the deity behind the form. It was not just another stone for them that can be hurled to hurt or huddled with other stones to build a wall. By appeal to the attribute of consciousness, they could use the stone idol to receive earthly and unearthly boons as if the stone suddenly came alive and were charged with a power that exceeded even the limited average human consciousness. On its obverse side, totems and amulets were charmed (charged) by people through an inner act of consciousness giving it properties to harm or heal. Elaborate studies exist that even classified metals and stones into categories that could attract and hold helpful or harmful vibrations of consciousness. The use of marble in places of worship because of its property to receive and hold spiritual vibrations is well known. Of course, it is understood that the object had to be charged by those who had a capacity to do so. And when a patient having faith and receptivity in the method used the amulet or the stone he could receive the vibrations of consciousness entrapped in it. So much so that instances are on record wherein a glass of plain water, a small leaf of Tulsi (a sacred plant), a flower, a thread, or for that matter any material object could be used to heal even difficult cases. We all have witnessed these things but choose to ignore since the bandage of a material science had covered our eye. But the bandage does get ripped off, the scales begin to fall off, the dust is cleared and we begin to truly see and know instead of, as we do now, know and see or rather still worse, think and see. Most of the time we see only the heap of dust thrown into our eyes as facts of truth but fail to see the force of wind behind and the luminous sun above. Or else we give the name of chance to our ignorance (or unwillingness to probe and know). Perhaps we feel safe within the limits of our material well till it collapses into the water underground and we suddenly see a very different, much vaster horizon and the world. The walls of the well are nothing else but the limits of our faith for in the end it is faith that precedes knowledge and not vice versa. Thus, we see and observe what we wish to see and observe. We draw inferences based on what will strengthen and support our basic belief about life. We see matter as matter alone because it absolves us of all except a minimum material responsibility. If we look deep into matter, we shall see that it is composed of electric charges spinning in 99% empty space (the ‘Nihil womb’). It is strange that something that is so unsubstantial gives rise to the sense of solidity. It is due to a complex interplay of material forces (the five subtle forces of Indian thought that corresponds to similar material forces in modern physics). The point is whether these forces, delicately balancing themselves and creating the atomic foundation of solid substance, are unconsciously driven or else are the result of Consciousness reducing Itself to form and qualities. The Nihil womb of atom is after all a cosy place to rest if we wish to pass off the burden of our life to a mechanical inconscient force of Nature. But we can equally and with greater force of mastery see matter as an act of consciousness and thereby open doors of our science to a conscious handling of the forces of life. Thus, we can use pure material means to master a sea-storm, a flood, an earthquake, or rain and gale. We can equally approach these seemingly material phenomenon from the pole of consciousness. We can then master the sea, the wind, the rain, the earth and the sky by an appeal to the consciousness behind these phenomenal forms. Or else, we can integrate both using matter as an instrument and means to hold and convey a particular mode of energy, a certain vibration of consciousness. Matter and material means are like a vehicle carrying different personages and housing different personalities. And in each age mankind has used it differently. It has observed the same matter from one or the other of many points of views and supported by the faith of the age-created mental systems, sciences and philosophies. After all each age had its own unique and successful system of science, valid for that epoch of time but denied and denounced in another age. Each system of science, of medicine, is nothing else but a special way of looking at the same phenomenon. The real truth however escapes unobserved since it is not trapped in the phenomena at all. Each system is valid and invalid depending upon the age and the faith mankind puts into it. Each system is nothing else but a certain bridge thrown across to fill the gap between the mental consciousness of man and the higher consciousness that is present everywhere but unseen and unfelt by us. The system is more like a movement in the wind that makes us aware of the air upon which our very existence depends, even though unseen and unfelt by us routinely. The ‘movement’ makes us sense what is otherwise insensible to our crude and limited senses. We however start relying too much on the ‘movement’ and not on that which moves and that which is the movement. Now it blows in one direction, now from another. And we look helplessly for the direction and search with a hopeless despair if the direction changes. But the thing that gives life is always there. Perhaps, we would do better if we stopped looking for directions and rather looked at the thing itself. Perhaps, we would recover much faster and better if we stopped relying so much on this or that system and rather put our trust in ‘That’ which acts through all the systems and acts even when we have dispensed away with them. For at the end of our search we discover only two things holding as an indispensable and solid pillar the different bridges and roads we take towards health and wholeness. On this side, it is the pillar of ‘Faith’, while on the other side it is the pillar of ‘Grace’. All the rest is a dispensable necessity in between. Systems are interim truths that change from time to time. But Faith and Grace are the eternal unchangeables that forever endure. Towards a Holistic View Neither is complete without the other. We need to understand matter afresh in terms of consciousness. We also need to extract the latent possibilities of consciousness and translate them in material terms. Not just consciousness as we know it today — that is the limited mental awareness. And not just the material matter or physical matter that our limited senses are accustomed to experience through evolutionary conditioning but also subtler matter appropriate to other planes of existence. The consciousness approach (if one may say so for want of a better term) therefore opens the doors to a much vaster understanding and mastery of the forces around us. It is a completer understanding and therefore truly holistic. All other forms of knowing are limited and therefore valid within a limited range and for a limited time. Even a combination of all the systems is not holistic since there will always be many other systems that are undiscovered or forgotten and lost through which consciousness can travel or has travelled once. Many pathways and by-lanes are yet to manifest since the One Consciousness is potentially infinite and can use all methods. To know the One Consciousness is therefore to know all in essence and principle. To know the parts is only to know intermediary details whose ends are missing from our sight. And to know the One Consciousness, the only known way is to identify with ‘It’ through whatever method. True knowledge therefore begins with knowledge of the One Consciousness that has become the many. And true science accordingly is the knowledge of the relationships of the One Consciousness in its application with the many. In other words, not only our self-view and world-view but also our understanding and means of mastery over phenomenon depend largely upon the level of consciousness with which we are habitually or instinctively identified. This identification varies from species to species, from race to race, from one period of Time to another; but also varies from individual to individual. The variation can sometimes be so marked as to make some individuals very distinctly different (for better or worse) from the age and the environment in which they are born or live. This creates one kind of disequilibrium at a social and psychological level and continues in the form of a seeking, (sometimes even a restless seeking or rebellion with its own share of experimentation and error) till the individual consciousness either discovers its own type in the world, or if a rarer variety, isolates himself or creates its own kind around it. Our extension into other bodies and minds is not only through the physical unit and genes but also and perhaps even more commonly and importantly through consciousness. Consciousness reproduces itself into other bodies through a continuous interchange of which we are largely unaware. That can explain many things about individual and group psychology if we wish to. Also many of the seeming anomalies of life arise because of an apparent dislocation of our inner consciousness from the outer; or the consciousness of the different parts of our being. A wide and generous heart may find itself stifled when surrounded with mean and selfish thoughts, within or around it. A high and clear thinking mind may get pulled back by narrow and limited perceptions and feelings arising within or in those around it. A strong and noble vital may feel frustrated when its natural impulse is curbed in a cramped up environment or a weak and fragile body. And, of course, a body full of natural ease and grace may lose its innate beauty due to a rough vital misusing it. All these and so many other forms of disequilibrium of consciousness may arise in a human being leading to various forms of inner and outer maladies of the body and mind. A disease, from a consciousness perspective is essentially an inner disequilibrium. This inner disequilibrium sometimes translates itself as the aberrant movement of molecules, genes, chemistry and physiology. Whether this disequilibrium is triggered by inner or outer causes matters little for in essence it is always an inability of the inner to respond to the challenge from outside. And at a certain point, the sharp distinctions we draw between inner and outer, within and without, ourselves and others begin to fall and we see all as a single extension, a single oneness and a single plan. Yet, for convenience we speak of individual pathologies and individual diseases. In reality it is not only the individual’s but also a larger disequilibrium within the humanity of which he is a part. No man is an island and that is much truer of our inner being. All the same, the human body is a symbol and an instrument. As a symbol it reflects faithfully the truth of our inner being, our inner strengths and weaknesses, our unique inheritance (psychological as well) and constitution; above all, it reflects the changes in our thoughts and feelings and impulses in the pattern of our consciousness. As an instrument it can be likened to a machine (as science does see it but unfortunately as an inconscient machine alone) driven by various forces — physical, vital, mental, spiritual forces of consciousness. When it opens too much to the forces of a lower order, in short, forces of division, and disintegration, it falls ill. The nature of illness then becomes a symbolic pointer to the level of consciousness at which the forces of disintegration are active. Thus, when we use our mouth and tongue to project very harsh and crude vibrations, the teeth and oral cavity become susceptible to decay and illness. When we hold tight our feelings and let ourselves be governed by excessive ambition, we develop tight and choked coronaries hurting our heart. The stifling smoke of anger (and proneness to it) can stifle our lungs. Depression depresses every healthy function in general but specifically the immune and the cardiovascular system. Anxiety erodes the stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) tract in general. The fire of desire finishes the bodily fuel much too early than warranted. Unkindness, jealousy, hate, fear, greed and lust in general attack the abdominal organs just as a weak and selfish sentimentalism adversely affects our liver. And so on and so forth. Equally, an opening of the body and mind to a higher spiritual or a deeper soul-consciousness can protect and heal and strengthen and succour. One may do it through prayers, meditation, contact with someone inwardly developed, but it works best when the opening comes naturally and spontaneously as an inner need of the soul. This way, the illness can itself become one of the gateways to a deeper consciousness, a turning point that helps us depart from our ordinary mental to a higher spiritual consciousness. To put the whole thing in an apparent paradoxical reconciliation, we may say that the price of opening to the lower forces is illness and the prize of illness is a possibility of opening to the higher forces, out of sheer necessity. This alone (and not the theories of God’s curse and punishment) justifies the presence of pain and illness in a world built by an all compassionate God and woven by His consciousness with the fabric of Love. This alone justifies our passage through the hell of suffering as a shortcut to heaven, a rough and bumpy road through which we move ahead when our feet are unwilling to tread the smooth and sunlit path. The Healer and the Healed The healer therefore has a threefold task. First, to understand the truth and level of inner dislocation from the outer illness. By doing so, he assists the patient’s entry into his own inner life and its unique features. Second, to induce faith and assist in opening the patient through the rickety and narrow wicket gate of illness to the higher and deeper forces of health and healing. Here he may use whatever means or system comes naturally to him and to which the patient himself may be receptive. Thirdly, and most importantly, he cannot accomplish the first two tasks unless he himself is open and progressing towards deeper and higher zones of consciousness. If the physician is himself entrapped in a narrow and limited self-view and world-view, he obviously cannot become a truly powerful catalyst for the inner change. To work upon others one has to work upon oneself for in fact there are no others but the One carrying the all. And each particle and unit of all that liberates itself from its fears and bondage automatically helps liberate others. Besides, we can give to the world only that which we have. Only one who has peace and harmony can potentially impart these to others. Only the strong can give strength to others. Only who save themselves can others save. [Sri Aurobindo, Savitri: Canto III, Book 4] For the rest there is the usual physical view of health and illness, physical remedies and drugs, physical doctors knowing and replacing body parts with astounding precision but who miss the ‘One’ and the ‘whole’. Just as we have the individual consciousness of the doctor and the patient so also there is the collective consciousness of the environment in which each of us dwells (our psychological dwelling place). The vibrations of consciousness and the quality of forces that cohabit and surround our inner dwelling are of importance in health and healing. This environmental consciousness may exist in a certain place as a formation from the past. Or else and in addition it is largely created by the consciousness of the patient and the people around him including the health care personnel. Interestingly, there is a reciprocal effect between our physical and psychological environment. A clean and simple environment full of sunlight and fresh air may well be conducive in attracting forces of beauty and harmony and health. So can certain colours and patterns and designs attract vibrations of peace and strength. The lighting of incense is not just a symbolic act of worship but a concrete physical means to purify the atmosphere. Equally, and in an obverse way, dirt, smoke, alcohol may make us ill not just by physical means alone but even more through a secret affinity to forces of disorder, confusion and disintegration. A whole world of consciousness based preventive hygiene is waiting to be explored! The End or the Beginning? Finally, at the end of this day, the debate continues about which came first — consciousness or matter. The ghost of Phineas Gage still haunts the scientific world . And so the miracle cures and sudden conversions of history like St. Paul and King Ashoka. The phenomena of a Hitler and Bin Laden on the one hand and that of a Buddha and Christ on the other hand continue to baffle the average humanity. Not to speak of the various hue and range though which the spectra of this world moves reflecting the shades of the viewer’s glass. Like the subjective-objective and the impersonal-personal dilemma it is unlikely to be resolved at the level at which we stand today. The mental consciousness of man stands at a strange crossroad. The problem and the solution move in a narrow arc of a modicum of few necessities. The animal does not carry the burden of its past or the load of a future destiny. Likewise, beyond man there is no need of answers just as there are no questions since all is self-explained, self-known in the light of a luminous Self. But here, in man, the mental self is like a blind man moving through a virgin forest with sometimes the staff of faith and at other times the touch of a half-lit ignorance full of reasoned guesses as his support. The eye of knowledge is however missing and therefore he knows not his map or his compass. He feels ever unsure in the midst of a thousand million cosmic forces around him. He sees nothing in the atomic space and stumbles over each idea that holds him for a while. His knowledge only pushes the unknown further and the ‘Thing’ always escapes his infant grasp. He knows not who he is or why he is or perhaps even where he is. Yet, unlike the animals he is aware that he is. And this is the source of his misery. He therefore has questions but no definite answers; problems with temporary solutions but no resolution of the enigma’s knot which ties his fate. He is defeated in the midst of his conquests and having fallen and failed finds himself victorious. Diseases and germs multiply even as drugs and remedies do. He only plays at pushing death for a while till it stares at his face again in another form mocking at his efforts. The issue cannot be resolved at the level of the mental man. The mental man must rise and become the spiritual man or man-divine to undo the Gordian knot. The script of the earth indeed seems to be written in double terms — the material and the spiritual. Both must embrace each other to complete each other. And that seems possible only in the common matrix of consciousness. Otherwise we have to rest content with playing with the mud of the earth or the mud of the stars and forget about the path of light that links the two. This however cannot be. The debate over ‘Consciousness’ may now be divided 50-50 in two camps. But there is a growing effort to genuinely link the two. The debate and the effort are themselves indicative that the resolution is near. It may not be just around the corner. And truly speaking how do 20, 40, 50 or a 100 years matter so long as we as a race are moving forward? How does it matter whether we, as we know ourselves today, would live to see the resolution? In the consciousness view of things, we all will be there as we have always been speaking and working and sensing through one body or another, through one form or another. The worm is nothing else but a forerunner and precursor of the now extinct dinosaur. So too, the dolphin and the ape are nothing else but humans in disguise awaiting the hour of an evolutionary knock that would shatter the simian mask and disclose the human face of analysis and reason from behind. And who or what is man? The Infinite wearing a finite mask; God denying his godhead; the Divine wearing the shape of a limited intelligence and power! On the answer to this question rests the future of science and of man. The Sphinx calls to man and to his science: … Thou thinkest term and end for thee are not; But though thy pride is great, thou hast forgot The Sphinx that waits for man beside the way. All questions thou mayst answer, but one day Her question shall await thee. That reply, As all we must; for they who cannot, die. She slays them and their mangled bodies lie Upon the highways of eternity. Therefore, if thou wouldst live, know first this thing, Who thou art in this dungeon labouring?” [Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems: ‘A Vision of Science’] Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alok Pandey’s book “Veda of the Body” Publications
There should be somewhere on earth a place which no nation could claim as its own, where all human beings of goodwill who have a sincere aspiration could live freely as citizens of the world and obey one single authority, that of the supreme Truth; a place of peace, concord and harmony where all the fighting instincts of man would be used exclusively to conquer the causes of his sufferings and miseries, to surmount his weaknesses and ignorance, to triumph over his limitations and incapacities; a place where the needs of the spirit and the concern for progress would take precedence over the satisfaction of desires and passions, the search for pleasure and material enjoyment. In this place, children would be able to grow and develop integrally without losing contact with their souls; education would be given not for passing examinations or obtaining certificates and posts but to enrich existing faculties and bring forth new ones. In this place, titles and positions would be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise; the bodily needs of each one would be equally provided for, and intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority would be expressed in the general organisation not by an increase in the pleasures and powers of life but by increased duties and responsibilities. Beauty in all its artistic forms, painting, sculpture, music, literature, would be equally accessible to all; the ability to share in the joy it brings would be limited only by the capacities of each one and not by social or financial position. For in this ideal place money would no longer be the sovereign lord; individual worth would have a far greater importance than that of material wealth and social standing. There, work would not be a way to earn one’s living but a way to express oneself and to develop one’s capacities and possibilities while being of service to the community as a whole, which, for its own part, would provide for each individual’s subsistence and sphere of action. In short, it would be a place where human relationships, which are normally based almost exclusively on competition and strife, would be replaced by relationships of emulation in doing well, of collaboration and real brotherhood. The earth is certainly not ready to realize such an ideal, for mankind does not yet possess the necessary knowledge to understand and accept it nor the indispensable conscious force to execute it. That is why I call it a dream. Yet, this dream is on the way of becoming a reality. That is exactly what we are doing on a small scale, in proportion to our modest means. The achievement is indeed far from being perfect, it is progressive; little by little we advance towards our goal, which, we hope, one day we shall be able to hold before the world as a practical and effective means of coming out of the present chaos in order to be born into a more true, more harmonious new life. The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram wrote this in 1954 and called it a “dream” because she felt that the earth is certainly not ready to realize such an ideal. To realize such an ideal, humanity has to outgrow many of its mental constructs and concepts, its old ideologies and beliefs, its destructive politics and greed-driven economics, its separative religions and creeds and its soulless models of education. One by one, systematically, we will need to demolish all our old moulds of thought and belief and soar upward into a free and unconditioned consciousness. It is in a free and unconditioned consciousness that the deepest and highest will truly blossom. We don’t need more education or religion, we need more consciousness, more harmony, more beauty. It is in this light that we ask you to read Swami Vivekananda’s talk being published this week.
(Excerpted from a talk delivered in San Francisco, March 1900. The format of this article has been slightly altered for convenience of reading — Ed.) Monism We find that man, as it were, is always surrounded by something greater than himself, and he is trying to grasp the meaning of this. Man will ever seek the highest ideal. He knows that it exists and that religion is the search after the highest ideal. At first all his searches were in the external plane — placed in heaven, in different places — according to his grasp of the total nature of man. Then man began to look at himself a little closer and began to find out that the real “me” was not the “me” that he stands for ordinarily. As he appears to the senses is not the same as he really is. He began to search inside of himself, and found out that . . . the same ideal he had placed outside of himself is all the time within; what he was worshipping outside was his own real inner nature. The difference between dualism and monism is that when the ideal is put outside of oneself, it is dualism. When God is sought within, it is monism. Individuality Many want pleasure as the goal. For that pleasure they seek only the senses. On the higher planes much pleasure is to be sought. Then on spiritual planes. Then in himself — God within him. The man whose pleasure is outside of himself becomes unhappy when that outside thing goes. You cannot depend for this pleasure upon anything in this universe. If all my pleasures are in myself, I must have pleasure there all the time because I can never lose my Self. . . . Mother, father, child, wife, body, wealth — everything I can lose except my Self, my bliss in the Self. All desire is contained in the Self. This is individuality which never changes, and this is perfect. Who is born and who dies? You are having fun, playing with worlds and all that. You keep this body as long as you like. If you do not like it, do not have it. The Infinite is the real; the finite is the play. You are the infinite body and the finite body in one. Know it! But knowledge will not make any difference; the play will go on. . . . Two words — soul and body — have been joined. Partial knowledge is the cause. Know that you are always free. The fire of knowledge burns down all the impurities and limitations. I am that Infinite. . . . God & Me What becomes of God and worship and all that? They have their place. I have divided myself into God and me; I become the worshipped and I worship myself. Why not? God is I. Why not worship my Self? The universal God — He is also my Self. It is all fun. There is no other purpose. What is the end and aim of life? None, because I know that I am the Infinite. If you are beggars, you can have aims. I have no aims, no want, no purpose. I come to your country, and lecture — just for fun. No other meaning. What meaning can be there? Only slaves do actions for somebody else. You do actions for nobody else. When it suits you, you worship. You can join the Christians, the Mohammedans, the Chinese, the Japanese. You can worship all the gods that ever were and are ever going to be. . . . I am in the sun, the moon, and the stars. I am with God and I am in all the gods. I worship my Self. There is another side to it. I have kept it in reserve. I am the man that is going to be hanged. I am all the wicked. I am getting punished in hells. That also is fun. This is the goal of philosophy — to know that I am the Infinite. Aims, motives, purposes, and duties live in the background. I am One I am One, alone, through all eternity. Whom shall I fear? It is all my Self. This is continuously to be meditated upon. Through that comes realisation. It is through realisation that you become a blessing to others. “Thy face shines like that of one who has known God.” (Chhândogya Upanishad. IV. ix. 2.) That is the goal. This is not to be preached as I am doing. “Under a tree I saw a teacher, a boy of sixteen; the disciple was an old man of eighty. The teacher was teaching in silence, and the doubts of the disciple vanished.” (Dakshinâmurtistotram, 12.) And who speaks? Who lights a candle to see the sun? When the truth dawns, no witness is necessary. You know it. That is what you are going to do: realise it. First think of it. Reason it out. Satisfy your curiosity. Then think of nothing else. I wish we never read anything. Lord help us all! Just see what a learned man becomes. “This is said, and that is said. . . .” “What do you say, my friend?” “I say nothing.” He quotes everybody else’s thought; but he thinks nothing. If this is education, what is lunacy? Look at all the men who wrote! These modern writers, not two sentences their own! All quotations. There is not much value in books, and in second hand religion there is no value whatsoever. It is like eating. Your religion would not satisfy me. Jesus saw God and Buddha saw God. If you have not seen God, you are no better than the atheist. Only he is quiet, and you talk much and disturb the world with your talk. Books and bibles and scriptures are of no use. I met an old man when I was a boy; he did not study any scripture, but he transmitted the truth of God by a touch. Silence ye teachers of the world. Silence ye books. Lord, Thou alone speak.. Truth Within If there is this truth, if there is God, it must be within us. I must be able to say, “I have seen Him with my eyes,” otherwise I have no religion. Beliefs, doctrines, sermons do not make religion. It is realisation, perception of God which alone is religion. What is the glory of all these men whom the world worships? God was no more a doctrine for them. Did they believe because their grandfather believed it? No. It was the realisation of the Infinite, higher than their own bodies, minds, and everything. This world is real inasmuch as it contains a little bit of the reflection of that God. We love the good man because in his face shines the reflection a little more. We must catch it ourselves. There is no other way. That is the goal. Struggle for it! Have your own Bible. Have your own Christ. Otherwise you are not religious. Do not talk religion. Men talk and talk. “Some of them, steeped in darkness, in the pride of their hearts think that they have the light. And not only that, they even offer to take others upon their shoulders, and both fall into the pit.” (Katha Upanishad, I. ii. 5.) . . . No church ever saved by itself. It is good to be born in a temple, but woe unto the person who dies in a temple or church. Out of it! It was a good beginning, but leave it! It was the childhood place . . . but let it be! . . . Go to God directly. No theories, no doctrines. Then alone will all doubts vanish. Then alone will all crookedness be made straight. In the midst of the manifold, he who sees that One; in the midst of this infinite death, he who sees that one life; in the midst of the manifold, he who sees that which never changes in his own soul — unto him belongs eternal peace.
We are so used to seeing the body so much as organs, tissues, cells and their functions that we fail to observe any consciousness inherent in it. Is the body something unconscious, a machine driven by mechanical energy? It may appear so at first, but a deeper probe reveals that a consciousness stands behind the seemingly unconscious machine. The first impression itself is of a battalion of cells that has repeatedly rehearsed their drill and execute it to the minutest perfection. Or of an orchestra playing a concert with various musical instruments. What we see is the final performance, but what we do not see are the years of patient practice. This programming of each cell (in our body’s case) to perform a certain drill or strike a certain note in the concert of the body’s movements has come through aeons of conditioning. The fixity of laws and processes are the result of an adaptive conditioning over the years. Whether this conditioning and memory is passed down through the genetic mechanism or in some other way is open to discussion. But the fact of adaptation in one body acquired through years being transmitted to others of the species in a rapid and spontaneous way is an undisputed thing. Whatever be the mechanism behind this evolutionary adaptation this conditioning has its advantages. It provides stability essential for useful and coordinated function. It also provides a rapidity of response to known environmental cues and so enhances survival. But the flip side of this is a fixity, which prevents us from discovering new ways of understanding and meeting the challenges of life. The horns and the tail so useful to animal life become meaningless at the human level with the full development of hands and its power to hold and grasp. Again, for example, even when we eliminate fear of an object or social situation from our mind, the body still gives the response of fear in the form of a tremor. But once this fear is deconditioned from the physical body, it is done for good. The body is difficult to decondition but once done, the lesson is permanent. The memory of the mind may fail but the body’s imprints remain. The Physical Consciousness So where is the seat of physical imprint and memory? Where is the blueprint which registers all the changes and transmits it down the line and even horizontally? One can still stretch one’s imagination to conceive of reverse t-RNA, a strand of RNA that carries information from the cell surface to the nuclei. Its importance is that it is perhaps the micro-chip linking the outside world with the inside of a cell. Thus our environment (physical and psycho-spiritual) can induce changes within the cell itself, carrying messages from the outside to the nucleus and effectuating genetic changes to be subsequently passed down the generations. What is not so easily conceivable is the transmission of the evolutionary changes horizontally as if our very physical being extended into one another as a single continuum! The only way to understand this is that behind the gross and visible physical body is a layer of subtle physical consciousness extending as the archetype holding the imprints and images of our past as well as the present and the future. It is this physical consciousness that mingles with the gross physical body and becomes one with it. In fact the gross body is nothing but a derivative product precipitated through the condensation of this physical consciousness. The physical consciousness is like the healthy background against which the changing patterns of our physical being are matched and certified as healthy or sick. A consequent directive follows to correct the imbalance and the entire body’s processes adjust to its dictates. Or else we may visualize the physical consciousness as the uncorrupted original file containing the plans and processes of the gross body. Genes, chemical reactions, the various functions are only intermediary processes that adjust of themselves in accordance with the central directive. The real map and contours, the inner geography and history of each form is there in the individual physical consciousness. Perhaps, considering the great importance of this subtle body, Nature has kept this original file in secrecy lest our all too human curiosity corrupts it. Yet Nature does lend all its secrets if we pursue it rightly. So too the physical consciousness can be studied, awakened and called upon to assist in the healing as well as the evolutionary process. It is the last frontier where the sense of a separate body is preserved without losing the innate sense of oneness behind all physical existence and within the different parts of the body itself. Just as computer programming is not on the display screen or circuits, but in the mind of the programmer, the fixity of patterns in body movements and functions is not in the gross structure or genetic code (which are mainly transcripts), but in the physical consciousness that receives and transmits influences from subtle levels of consciousness. If subtlety and an incessant urge to progress are the hallmarks of mind and fluidity and an ever expanding plasticity are the hallmarks of life, then it may well be said that fixity and inertia are the hallmarks of the physical consciousness and the body. It is only natural that this be so because the very purpose of the body is to provide a stable basis for our individual existence. The human body is much like the take-off field for various types of aircrafts in the form of thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses, etc. If the field is not good then the forces of life and mind suffer a diminution and labour under great duress. The solidity of the field may not guarantee an equally robust and healthy life and mind but it does open such a possibility. In contrast, a handicap at the physical level generally (exceptions apart) does limit the possibilities. To take a common experience, while it is possible for us to turn our thoughts and emotions upwards or downwards when we are in a state of physical health, our thinking and feeling get grossly constricted when we are sick, say with fever! The significance of the body can therefore never be underestimated. The hardware has to be commensurate with the software we wish to install. The Hardware of the Body and its Future Possibilities Much of the body’s evolutionary hardware still pertains to our animal past and life in the jungles. If developed we can still recover many of the lost capabilities of animal life. A methodical programme of physical exercises can turn our muscles into steel, our legs into powerful wheels and our heart into an extraordinary pumping machine. But that would not really be a forward march but a sliding back to a left behind past. The physical consciousness has however not only the imprints of the past but also and more importantly the blueprints of the future. Any evolutionary change must first transit itself through the subtle physical consciousness and then trickle to the gross body through a complex system of nerves. The subtle body has many other possibilities than merely those of our animal past. It can, for example, escape the laws of gravity, change its size according to need, create additional covering for itself as a cloth wrapped around us, extend a portion of itself into other things, prolong its existence, reconstitute itself into different shapes, reach out through the subtle senses far beyond our limited sense, draw energy directly without food, transmute the experience of pain into delight, multiply itself and possibly exist indefinitely. We find these exceptional and higher possibilities manifested in the case of rare yogis. These rare possibilities, often mocked by our arrogant and limited science as fantasy and myths, are yet the things that would manifest in the future. The hidden possibility must one day come out and the concealed and latent energies release themselves. The human body may have an animal past; it yet has a god’s future. It is in this evolutionary direction that we need to develop the hardware of the body. This would need a twofold effort. First, an awakening and development of the body to its own highest human possibilities, that is, to bring the now automatic functions under a wilful, conscious and voluntary control. Next, to further sublimate the possibilities by the pressure of higher and higher energies accessible to us. The body consciousness has first to be awakened out of its animal sleep and next opened to the spiritual influences from above. It would need again a twofold labour. A deconditioning of the body from many of the animal instincts, which hinder the full play of higher energies in us, is the first requirement. The next requirement is to link our thus purified physical consciousness with the spiritual existence above through an aspiration and surrender. In fact, all physical culture properly pursued, awakens physical consciousness, makes it subtler and less obscure, introducing into it a certain plasticity and control, thereby making it more receptive to higher influences. Dancing is one such ‘exercise’ that reintegrates body, mind, life energy and even the higher consciousness. Yogasanas also reintegrate body, mind and deeper levels of consciousness. It is no easy task and needs persistence and perseverance. What is of utmost importance however is not the fact of doing this or that exercise but rather adopting a certain attitude within us and a concentrated aspiration in the physical consciousness towards its own higher future. Key to Educating the Body The mind with its dogmas, its rigid and arbitrary principles, the vital with its passions, its excesses and dissipations soon destroy the natural balance of the body and create in it fatigue, exhaustion and disease. It must be freed from this tyranny and this can be done only through a constant union with the psychic centre of the being. The body has a wonderful capacity of adaptation and endurance. It is able to do so many more things than one usually imagines. If, instead of the ignorant and despotic masters that now govern it, it is ruled by the central truth of the being, you will be amazed at what it is capable of doing. Calm and quiet, strong and poised, at every minute it will be able to put forth the effort that is demanded of it, for it will have learnt to find rest in action and to recuperate, through contact with the universal forces, the energies it expends consciously and usefully. In this sound and balanced life a new harmony will manifest in the body, reflecting the harmony of the higher regions, which will give it perfect proportions and ideal beauty of form. And this harmony will be progressive, for the truth of the being is never static; it is a perpetual unfolding of a growing perfection that is more and more total and comprehensive. As soon as the body has learnt to follow this movement of progressive harmony, it will be possible for it to escape, through a continuous process of transformation, from the necessity of disintegration and destruction. – The Mother, On Education: ‘The Science of Living’ Evolutionary Transformation or Disintegrative Destruction This therefore is the real challenge before the human body and every body. The animal body faced this challenge in its earlier leap towards the human form. The human body faces the same challenge today leading to an upsurge in the many forms of illnesses. Seen outwardly these illnesses are threats to survival to be crushed out by powerful medicines that eliminate germs and toxins (and perhaps the body itself in the long run). We forget that animal life knew nothing of all this consciously and yet it overcame the challenges and evolved to a greater possibility of life. The same evolutionary force is once again active in the earth atmosphere calling us to exceed our human limitations. Disease is merely a shadow showing us where we stand in this process. It is an inability of the physical parts to respond with a sufficient plasticity to the evolutionary pressure, firstly due to inertia and secondly due to the long standing habit of response to forces of a lower order. Unfortunately much of our present culture continues to strengthen our animal instincts and thereby making things even more difficult for the body that obeys these extravagances of our vital life of night clubs and late parties with the docility of a tamed animal and an obedient slave. The only way it can make noise or make itself heard is through the agency of illness. But do we listen and make the corresponding change in our lifestyle that precipitated the illness in the first place? The final conquest would not be therefore in eliminating the outer causes of illnesses or our ability to contain them through powerful drugs. The real conquest would be to eliminate the inner causes of illnesses by a spontaneous immunity to every force of disease and disintegration. This demands an evolutionary transformation of the body itself without which we will only replace one illness with another, create one mutant strain of virus after another, substitute one powerful chemical by another, change one form of illness into another without really eliminating them. The inner reasons for physical deterioration and aging therefore are: (i) An inability of the body to follow, due mainly to its fixity the progressive movement of other parts of the being. The body has learnt to obey the vital impulses (from its animal past) and thought-movements (in our human present). It does not yet respond to the forces of the higher consciousness (the superconscience). There are yet no centres in the body to respond to the higher touches. The superconscient is not yet organised in the body. In fact that is why traditionally, the body is required to be stilled so as to escape into a trance of superconscience. However the future body will be able to directly manifest the superconscience without resistance, in its waking, active state. Governed by the truth above, it will be able to respond much more surely and effectively. (ii) A conditioning of the physical consciousness due to past programming. (iii) A secret necessity of life to have infinite experience on a finite basis can also be the cause of aging and death. No form, however great and powerful, can provide this varied opportunity for infinite growth. Therefore, death is used as a device to assume new and different forms under different psychological and physical conditions. This cyclical return of growth through experience is the rationale for rebirth. In effect, nothing dies – all returns and reconstitutes itself, so that one day each element can manifest the highest harmony. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alok Pandey’s book “Veda of the Body” Publications
The Mother In Her Own Words I belong to no nation, no civilization, no society, no race, but to the Divine. I obey no master, no ruler, no law, no social convention, but the Divine. To Him I have surrendered all, will, life and self; for Him I am ready to give all my blood, drop by drop, if such is His Will, with complete joy; and nothing in His service can be sacrifice, for all is perfect delight. 15 August 1954 I want to mark this day by the expression of a long cherished wish; that of becoming an Indian citizen. From the first time I came to India — in 1914 — I felt that India is my true country, the country of my soul and spirit. I had decided to realise this wish as soon as India would be free. But I had to wait still longer because of my heavy responsibilities for the Ashram here in Pondicherry. Now the time has come when I can declare myself. But, in accordance with Sri Aurobindo’s ideal, my purpose is to show that truth lies in union rather than in division. To reject one nationality in order to obtain another is not an ideal solution. So I hope I shall be allowed to adopt a double nationality, that is to say, to remain French while I become an Indian. I am French by birth and early education, I am Indian by choice and predilection. In my consciousness there is no antagonism between the two, on the contrary, they combine very well and complete one another. I know also that I can be of service to both equally, for my only aim in life is to give a concrete form to Sri Aurobindo’s great teaching and in his teaching he reveals that all the nations are essentially one and meant to express the Divine Unity upon earth through an organised and harmonious diversity. My way of seeing is somewhat different. For my consciousness the whole life upon earth, including the human life and all its mentality, is a mass of vibrations, mostly vibrations of falsehood, ignorance and disorder, in which are more and more at work vibrations of Truth and Harmony coming from the higher regions and pushing their way through the resistance. In this vision the ego-sense and the individual assertion and separateness become quite unreal and illusory. When and how did I become conscious of a mission which I was to fulfill on earth? And when and how I met Sri Aurobindo? For the knowledge of the mission, it is difficult to say when it came to me. It is as though I were born with it, and following the growth of the mind and brain, the precision and completeness of this consciousness grew also. Between 11 and 13 a series of psychic and spiritual experiences revealed to me not only the existence of God but man’s possibility of uniting with Him, of realising Him integrally in consciousness and action, of manifesting Him upon earth in a life divine. This, along with a practical discipline for its fulfilment, was given to me during my body’s sleep by several teachers, some of whom I met afterwards on the physical plane. Later on, as the interior and exterior development proceeded, the spiritual and psychic relation with one of these beings became more and more clear and frequent; and although I knew little of the Indian philosophies and religions at that time I was led to call him Krishna, and henceforth I was aware that it was with him (whom I knew I should meet on earth one day) that the divine work was to be done. In the year 1910 my husband came alone to Pondicherry where, under very interesting and peculiar circumstances, he made the acquaintance of Sri Aurobindo. Since then we both strongly wished to return to India — the country which I had always cherished as my true mother-country. And in 1914 this joy was granted to us. As soon as I saw Sri Aurobindo I recognised in him the well-known being whom I used to call Krishna…. And this is enough to explain why I am fully convinced that my place and my work are near him, in India. Now remember one thing. Sri Aurobindo and myself are one and the same consciousness, one and the same person. Only, when this force or this presence, which is the same, passes through your individual consciousness, it puts on a form, an appearance which differs according to your temperament, your aspiration, your need, the particular turn of your being. Your individual consciousness is like a filter, a pointer, if I may say so; it makes a choice and fixes one possibility out of the infinity of divine possibilities. The Mother In Sri Aurobindo’s Words There is one divine Force which acts in the universe and in the individual and is also beyond the individual and the universe. The Mother stands for all these, but she is working here in the body to bring down something not yet expressed in this material world so as to transform life here — it is so that you should regard her as the Divine Shakti working here for that purpose. She is that in the body, but in her whole consciousness she is also identified with all the other aspects of the Divine. The Mother not only governs all from above but she descends into this lesser triple universe. Impersonally, all things here, even the movements of the Ignorance, are herself in veiled power and her creations in diminished substance, her Nature-body and Nature-force, and they exist because, moved by the mysterious fiat of the Supreme to work out something that was there in the possibilities of the Infinite, she has consented to the great sacrifice and has put on like a mask the soul and forms of the Ignorance. But personally too she has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda. In her deep and great love for her children she has consented to put on herself the cloak of this obscurity, condescended to bear the attacks and torturing influences of the powers of the Darkness and the Falsehood, borne to pass through the portals of the birth that is a death, taken upon herself the pangs and sorrows and sufferings of the creation, since it seemed that thus alone could it be lifted to the Light and Joy and Truth and eternal Life. This is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of the Purusha, but much more deeply the holocaust of the Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother. The Mother’s consciousness is the divine Consciousness and the Light that comes from it is the light of the divine Truth; the Force that she brings down is the force of the divine Truth. One who receives and accepts and lives in the Mother’s light, will begin to see the truth on all the planes, the mental, the vital, the physical. He will reject all that is undivine; the undivine is the falsehood, the ignorance, the error of the dark forces; the undivine is all that is obscure and unwilling to accept the divine Truth and its light and force. The undivine, therefore, is all that is unwilling to accept the light and force of the Mother. What people mean by the formless svarupa of the Mother, — they mean usually her universal aspect. It is when she is experienced as a universal Existence and Power spread through the universe in which and by which all live. When one feels that Presence one begins to feel a universal peace, light, power, bliss without limits — that is her svarupa. One meets this more often by rising in consciousness above the head where one is liberated from this limited body consciousness and feels oneself also as something wide, calm, one self with all beings — free from passion and disturbance in an eternal peace. But it can be felt through the heart also — then the heart too feels itself wide as the world, pure and blissful, filled with the Mother’s presence. There is also the Mother’s personal and individual presence in the heart which brings immediately love and bhakti and the sense of a close intimacy and personal oneness. The Gita does not speak expressly of the Divine Mother; it speaks always of surrender to the Purushottama — it mentions her only as the Para Prakriti who becomes the Jiva, i.e., who manifests the Divine in the multiplicity and through whom all these worlds are created by the Supreme and he himself descends as the Avatar. The Gita follows the Vedantic tradition which leans entirely on the Ishwara aspect of the Divine and speaks little of the Divine Mother because its object is to draw back from world-nature and arrive at the supreme realisation beyond it; the Tantrik tradition leans on the Shakti or Ishwari aspect and makes all depend on the Divine Mother, because its object is to possess and dominate the world-nature and arrive at the supreme realisation through it. This Yoga insists on both the aspects; the surrender to the Divine Mother is essential, for without it there is no fulfilment of the object of the Yoga. In regard to the Purushottama the Divine Mother is the supreme divine Consciousness and Power above the worlds, Adya Shakti; she carries the Supreme in herself and manifests the Divine in the worlds through the Akshara and the Kshara. In regard to the Akshara she is the same Para Shakti holding the Purusha immobile in herself and also herself immobile in him at the back of all creation. In regard to the Kshara she is the mobile cosmic Energy manifesting all beings and forces. It is a matter of realisation. In the yoga of the Gita the cosmic Divine is realised as Vasudeva (Krishna). The Vaishnavas realise it as Vishnu, the Shaivas as Shiva. The Tantrics (Shaktas) realise the Devi (Goddess) as the Cosmic and even as the Transcendent Divine. It is the Divine who is the Master — the Self is inactive, it is always a silent wideness supporting all things — that is the static aspect. There is also the dynamic aspect through which the Divine works — behind that is the Mother. You must not lose sight of that, that it is through the Mother that all things are attained. You are seeking for Self-realisation — but what is that Self if not the Mother’s self? There is no other. 21st February is the Mother’s birthday.
A Look Behind and Ahead On one 21st of February in the last 1950’s, I repeated to the Mother the usual English formula for a birthday: “Many happy returns.” Immediately, half-jocular, half-serious, she exclaimed: “What! You want me to return again and to the earth still further? Haven’t I had enough of being born so far?” I was taken quite unawares by such a response. I mumbled something like: “No, Mother, I don’t at all wish you a rebirth. I have only used the customary words meaning that you should enjoy numerous future birthdays in this very life.” She answered: “That’s all right.” But her response set me thinking. My first thought was of her own statement made a little earlier in that decade: “Since the beginning of the earth, wherever and whenever there was the possibility of manifesting a ray of consciousness, I was there.” Then it struck me that though the work done each time had been glorious, the labour must have been heavy and that the need to carry on this illuminating toil from age to age must have taxed the human embodiments for it grievously. The Mother must have passed through her frequent births with a graceful heroism but there could be no denying the fact that for the sake of the world’s uplift she repeatedly: Assaults of Hell endured and Titan strokesAnd bore the fierce inner wounds that are slow to heal. In the wake of this second thought followed the sense that the Mother was carrying even in her present embodiment a tremendous burden whose recurrence she did not want in another incarnation – a burden she wished to dispose of by a supreme victory. The victory was, of course, for the earth’s good. Like Sri Aurobindo who once said that the mighty task he had undertaken was not for himself since he did not require either liberation or supramentalisation, the Mother as the Avatar of the Highest Divinity had nothing to accomplish for her own sake: she had shouldered the luminous load of the Integral Yoga in order to lighten humanity’s evolutionary travail. But the load was immense and such as nobody else could endure and it had become greater after the passing of Sri Aurobindo: now the concentration of the Supermind’s transformative pressure was wholly on the Mother’s body. Sri Aurobindo has well summed up the Avatar’s situation: “It is only divine Love which can bear the burden I have to bear, that all have to bear who have sacrificed everything else to the one aim of uplifting earth out of its darkness towards the Divine. The Gallic-like ‘Je m’en fiche’-ism (‘I do not care’) would not carry me one step; it would certainly not be divine. It is quite another thing that enables me to walk unweeping and unlamenting towards the goal.” (April 1934). Obviously, if her remark to me was to be fully understood, the Mother desired the Divine Love, which was sustaining her, to fulfil its aim of supramental descent and transformation in this very birth of hers: she had no inclination to write “To be continued” to the story of her present life. What is more, she did not think in terms even of her disciples being reborn for success. Not only to me did she say at one time: “When I speak of total realisation for any of you, I mean in this very life.” Her vision is expressed to others also when Sri Aurobindo wrote to a sadhak on 15 January 1934: “The Mother has never spoken of anything to be done in the next birth…. Naturally the vital has to be transformed if one is to succeed.” Yes, it was as she told me on one occasion: “Death is not in our programme.” The Mother’s birthday was meant to repeat year after year, with her work moving from strength to strength. In 1953 she expressed in general terms her vision as well as her will: “The transformation of the material body has not been done nor even attempted perhaps in the past. It can be done only if life is sufficiently prolonged; you do not leave the body unless you will it so and thus have the necessary time at your disposal to bring about this change. Sri Aurobindo once said – and he said it without the least hesitation, that it would take about three hundred years to do it; I can add, from the time when the last stage of union with the Divine is reached…. “To prepare such a body, three hundred years is nothing; even a thousand years will not be too much. Naturally, I am speaking of the same body. If you change your body in between, it will no longer be the same body. At 50, the body already begins to wear out. But, on the contrary, if you have a body that goes on perfecting itself, if each passing year represents a step in progress, then you can continue indefinitely….” After the Supramental Manifestation on 29 February 1956 in the subtle-physical layer of the earth, her hopes took a still more concrete shape. No doubt, she did not envisage a quick change in general world-conditions and said on 5 September of the same year: “Before the effects of the supramental manifestation become visible and tangible, perceptible to the whole world, thousands of years have perhaps to pass.” However, she had a shorter view for the small world of sadhaks around her. On 10 October 1956 she declared: what Sri Aurobindo has promised and what evidently interests us who are here now is that the time has come when some chosen beings out of the present-day humanity who fulfil the conditions of the necessary spiritualisation would be capable of transforming their body with the help of the Supramental Force, the Supramental Consciousness and the Supramental Light and would no longer be animal men but become supermen. This promise he based on the knowledge he had that the Supramental Force was about to break upon earth. In point of fact, the supramental Force had come down into him long ago.” The meaning of the last statement about Sri Aurobindo is evidently, as she explained to Monsieur Roger Anger one day and later to me on 25 November 1970, that Sri Aurobindo’s embodied being had experienced the Supermind’s descent but that the Supramental Force had not entered sufficiently and permanently his physical substance so as to start supramentalising it. She told Roger that because the physical supramentalisation had not been there Sri Aurobindo’s body could undergo death. To me she said: “Clearly, Sri Aurobindo did not have the supramental body, and neither do I have it. But that does not mean that the Supermind was not in his body. The two things are quite different. One can have the Supermind in the body without the body being supramentalised.” What applied to Sri Aurobindo in the past applied with some difference to the Mother in 1970. The Supermind had not only been in her body for a long time: the process of preparing the physical supramentalisation had also advanced further in her instance. Still, the exteriorising phenomenon was absent. The Mother never made claims for her own person. She did not say that her Yoga had perfected her body in the external sense of the word. Her body possessed certain qualities marking it out, it could transmit the inner divinity by a subtle ambience which all sensitive disciples and sometimes even sheer outsiders felt. It had also an unusual stamina: up to her eighty-second year she could play tennis every afternoon for about an hour. But purely material shortcomings she never concealed and latterly there was an avowed drop in the health of particular organs or parts. However, on 25 November 1970, there was no impression on me that she had given up the goal of supramental transformation. After she had asked me how old I was and I had replied “Sixty-three years complete” and then added: “Mother, I want to hang on till I see your Victory”, she at first looked a bit surprised at the tall order, but in a second she laughed and said, “Bien.” This signified that the Victory – that is, total physical transformation – was accepted as possible, if not certain, for her body in the long run. Over a year and a half earlier – to be precise, on 15 February 1969 – she had expressed, for the first time as far as I know, something less than certainty about the upshot of her lengthy spiritual endeavour. She said: “…the work is becoming more and more ‘exacting’. But I feel (that is to say the body feels very well) that it is part of a training. It looks like that: it must hold on, the body: or otherwise, so much the worse. It will be for another time.” Here the closing phrase conceives the possibility of giving up the body and getting reborn: a passing through the experience of death is not ruled out. Yet the insistence is upon holding on and facing the test, the hard discipline of enduring the more and more difficult conditions under which the body lived in its attempt to assimilate the Supramental Force, Consciousness and Light directly into its cells. The next occasion on which we hear of something less than certainty is, paradoxically, in the very talk of 24 March 1972 telling us her inner experience of “a body altogether new”, a subtle perfection of shape – “sexless … very white…very slim… pretty… truly a harmonious form”. She exclaims: “If that were to materialise…” Apparently, all was ready on the subtle-physical plane to precipitate itself in the gross; but the mode of precipitation, the technique for materialising the new body, was unknown. Feeling acutely the disparity between the waiting future perfection, so close yet so far, and the aspiring actuality, the Mother turned from the prospect of that glory, pointed to her partly handicapped frame and cried out: “Is that going to change? It must change or it has to follow the old ordinary process of undoing itself and remaking itself.” The possibility of having to follow this process became an actuality on 17 November 1973. But this is a way of speaking from the ordinary outer point of view. The Avatar of the Supermind cannot be said to be compelled to any course by a necessity of Nature. Whatever course is adopted is freely accepted: the Supramental Consciousness belongs to the Transcendence and is above all cosmic conditions even when it elects to work under them. What determines its future is its own transcendent Knowledge and Will. A moment must have come of such Knowledge and Will in the first week of December 1950 to Sri Aurobindo; and the instrumental being, put in front for world-action, obeyed. A period of crisis must have preceded this moment. We can discern it distinctly in a letter of May 1949 in which Sri Aurobindo writes that “things are getting too serious” for him “to waste time” on “inconclusive intellectualities”: he did not care for any distraction from his Yogic work. We see a similar crisis in the Mother’s sadhana. In 1972 she said: “It is becoming terrible. It is like a pressure, a frightful pressure to bring about the desired progress; I feel it in myself for my body. But my body is not afraid, it says: ‘Very well, if I am to end, it is the end.’ Every minute it is like that: the true thing or the end. The body knows that this is the way for the supramental body to be formed. It must be wholly under the influence of the Divine…” The formation of the supramental body: there is no mistaking the goal envisioned and sought. What was held in some doubt a few years earlier was simply whether the goal would be reached. In 1969 we get a glimpse of the sensitive situation. She states about her body’s future: “( … as if the world put the question) – Will it continue or will it get dissolved? .. But the body knows that it has been decided, and that it is not to be told to the body. It accepts, it is not impatient, it accepts, it says, ‘It is all right, it is as Thou wilt’….” Obviously, a little before 17 November 1973, the body must have been told the final decision of the Divine, the Mother’s own highest transcendent self – a decision guided by the two factors which, according to Sri Aurobindo, alone matter in the Avatar’s life and alone mould it: the Truth above which has to be manifested and the need of the world-play below. As a result, there was on 17 November a clear phase of great distress in the body, a marked painful difficulty for quite a time in breathing, the usual accompaniment of a severe heart-attack. Every sign showed that she was letting the body suffer the final stage of the prolonged disorder she had undergone with the unobstructed entry of the immense Supermind-power into a representative body for the first time in all history. When the end came, the doctor who had been summoned gave a closed-chest heart-massage but to no avail. Once the definite departure from the body had been ascertained, the vehicle that had striven and suffered and achieved even more than Sri Aurobindo had done twenty three years before was made ready to lie in state for the last darshan by those who had loved it. Not for long could it be kept. The Mother would seem to have got the utmost service out of it and willed that it should soon be put into the same Samadhi-vault which held the physical remains of the Master. Shortly after the body had been brought down from the Mother’s room, rapid and extensive deterioration was observed. On 1 February 1969, in a series of questions and answers on death, when she had been asked: “How can one tell for certain that the physical body is dead?” her reply was: ·”Only when it decomposes.” Now no doubt could remain as to what she had allowed to happen. This does not mean that the goal she had originally set up was anything else than physical supramentalisation. Up to almost the end she worked for it, just as Sri Aurobindo had done up to the eve of 5 December 1950. But even as he changed his course, so too did she – both of them for their own occult purposes. Let us repeat that the Supramental Avatar, the Incarnation from the Transcendence, is not forced by any cosmic law: an utter freedom goes hand in hand with the play of its action. The Mother has hinted at this freedom several times. On 26 December, three weeks after Sri Aurobindo had passed away, she declared: “Our Lord has sacrificed himself totally for us. He was not compelled to leave his body, he chose to do so for reasons so sublime that they are beyond the reach of human mentality.” On 2 April 1972 she said about herself: “The body has some difficulty, so I can’t be active, alas. It is not because I am old – I am not old. I am younger than most of you. If I am here inactive, it is because the body has given itself definitively to prepare the transformation.” In the same talk she added: “If you believe that I am here because I am bound – it is not true. I am not bound…” On 30 August the same year we see again the supramental instrument and the Supramental Transcendent in their free relationship. “Very often, very often,” she disclosed; “I ask the Lord: How can I help now that I can no more see clearly nor speak clearly? It is a state… the body does not feel the decline! It is convinced that if tomorrow the Lord wanted it to take up again its activities, it would be able to do so. The strength is there (the Mother touches her arms, her muscles), at times a mighty strength!… Why?.. The condition is willed so that … I might be left quiet.” With her acceptance of an exit from the body, we hark back to the subject of 21 February, the day of the Mother’s birth. And for this day the central question is: “When will she be reborn?” She has unequivocally announced that Sri Aurobindo will not be born in the human manner again: his return will be in the first supramental body built in the supramental way – through the extraordinary power the human body’s attainment of supramentalisation will win to bring about the entry of higher beings without the ordinary process of sex. About her own future, the Mother has not denied “another time” and a self-undoing and self-remaking as in the common run of human generation. 21 February is especially an occasion of spiritual spellbinding for me. My first darshan of the Mother side by side with Sri Aurobindo was on this date in 1928 when she was exactly at her half-century. And my last well-remembered darshan of her was also on 21 February in 1973. The April darshan is vague in my mind and on 2 May I left for Bombay for a cataract operation. Owing to unavoidable circumstances the operation was long delayed. I had to miss the darshan of 15 August when the Mother was seen as an embodied divinity for the last time by the Ashramites. I returned to the Ashram on hearing in the early morning of 18 November that she had renounced her embodiment. On the preceding night she had appeared to me in a vivid dream, with a bunch of red roses which she has told me to put on my head. Last year, on her birth-centenary, there was a very strong experience of her coming extremely close to our physical space-time, as if she were on the verge of taking up a body once more. If on every birthday of hers we could feel with increasing strength her proximity to the earth-scene, one day in the near future the thin veil will be rent and her supreme sweetness and power, instead of guiding us invisibly, will stand again intimate to our seeking gaze and eager touch. From Amal Kiran’s Book, Our Light and Delight With deep gratitude to Amal Kiran, aka K.D. Sethna, of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
There are two statements, which I hear from many of my friends in the ashram, around here and many places. “We are all doing the Mother’s work”, this one statement I hear very often. The second is, “The Mother will do everything.” And I tell you, with both the statements, I fully disagree. There was one disciple who wrote a letter to the Mother, I had taken it to the Mother. It said “Mother, I’m traveling all over India to do the Mother’s work”. So the Mother told me, “You cannot do the Mother’s work, you tell him. You first of all aspire to offer; secondly, you begin to offer your work to the Mother; don’t say I am doing the Mother’s work”. It is at a very high level, when you reach a kind of union with the Divine’s will and the Divine’s will manifests through your consciousness, when you receive the rays of the Mother’s work straight coming from above, transmitted to you, and when you are simply moved, then you can say, perhaps, if you at all want to say, if you still remain you, — that you are doing the Mother’s work. Similarly the statement, “The Mother will do everything”, It is also a great statement. I don’t want to discourage anybody when people say “The Mother will do everything”. But Sri Aurobindo himself has written very clearly, that this is very connected to being “at the feet of the Mother”. If you should think that the Divine will do everything, you remain what you are; do not be deceived. This is a big illusion; inert passivity is the one thing which has to be exiled if you really want to be “at the feet of the Mother”. Sri Aurobindo, while speaking of the threefold labor of personal effort — the aspiration, rejection and surrender — even the word surrender is used by Sri Aurobindo for personal effort. It requires personal effort to surrender. It is only when personal effort comes at a very high level, high intensity, that a real submission begins to take place. Sri Aurobindo has put down three great conditions to arrive at that condition; it is a condition of glad and strong submission, an obedience of an illumined disciple of truth; secondly, an inner warrior who fights against obscurity and falsehood; and thirdly, a faithful servant of the Divine. When these three things are combined together then we can say we are now approaching what is called “the submission and the surrender to the Divine”. It is when that surrender becomes perfect that you can truthfully say “The Mother will do everything”. To be “at the feet of the Mother”, according to me, is a long process of sadhana, which requires tremendous effort at getting illumination of the mind, and that illumination speaks all the time of truth and truth and truth and nothing but the truth; and to be a courageous hero and a warrior who fights against obscurity and falsehood. It is a tremendously difficult task to be a servant, and a faithful servant, and that also of the Divine. These three conditions put together, when they can be combined, then only one can say that one is fit to be “at the feet of the Divine Mother”. Excerpted from a talk given at the Gnostic Centre, New Delhi in 2007. A few sentences have been slightly altered for clarity of meaning. For the full talk
“It is true, O Rama, that the study of the scriptures is not the cause for the attainment of self-knowledge. Scriptures are composed of diverse expressions; the supreme being is indescribable” explained Rishi Vashisht to Shri Ram, as the 16-year-old seeker sat at his Guru’s feet for his journey to enlightenment. The Guru then goes on to say that the realization of Brahman is beyond description. That is why it cannot be found in the teachings of scriptures. However, he says that the precepts of scriptures and their practice create conditions for a sattvic or pure mind, which Rishi Vashist still calls “sattvika part of ignorance.” Sattvik is the purity of mind, but within the realm of spiritual ignorance nevertheless. Tamasik is the dull part of ignorance. Sattvik destroys that. In that action of moving from the dull side of ignorance to ignorance harbored by a pure mind, one is readied to move on to the spiritual path. A path that will eventually take one to the complete realization. A spiritual path in the Dharmic traditions, therefore, has always been more than just scriptures. For scriptures have a limitation – the curse of interpretation. By the mind that reads it. You see, no book is ever greater than the reader. The reader’s interpretation is what any writer’s work becomes. What Shri Ram attained to in his life was far beyond scriptures. His name, his energy, and his life left an imprint on the ether and the planet that we breathe in and walk upon. His presence, if tapped into, has the ability to transform life energies. When Nanak sang “टेक एक रघुनाथ” (Ram is the only support) that was exactly the dimension that he was referring to. The world of today is being interpreted by minds that are not just ignorant. But vile. They have no remorse nor guilt. They will readily fabricate lies backed by their own conscience. Or so they think. It is up to each one of us to seek the truth. At least intensify the effort to do so. Wading through the murky waters of falsehoods. Curated from दृष्टिकोण’s Newsletter Original article here
There are moments when the Spirit moves among men and the breath of the Lord is abroad upon the waters of our being; there are others when it retires and men are left to act in the strength or the weakness of their own egoism. The first are periods when even a little effort produces great results and changes destiny; the second are spaces of time when much labour goes to the making of a little result. It is true that the latter may prepare the former, may be the little smoke of sacrifice going up to heaven which calls down the rain of God’s bounty. Unhappy is the man or the nation which, when the divine moment arrives, is found sleeping or unprepared to use it, because the lamp has not been kept trimmed for the welcome and the ears are sealed to the call. But thrice woe to them who are strong and ready, yet waste the force or misuse the moment; for them is irreparable loss or a great destruction. In the hour of God cleanse thy soul of all self-deceit and hypocrisy and vain self-flattering that thou mayst look straight into thy spirit and hear that which summons it. All insincerity of nature, once thy defence against the eye of the Master and the light of the ideal, becomes now a gap in thy armour and invites the blow. Even if thou conquer for the moment, it is the worse for thee, for the blow shall come afterwards and cast thee down in the midst of thy triumph. But being pure cast aside all fear; for the hour is often terrible, a fire and a whirlwind and a tempest, a treading of the winepress of the wrath of God; but he who can stand up in it on the truth of his purpose is he who shall stand; even though he fall, he shall rise again, even though he seem to pass on the wings of the wind, he shall return. Nor let worldly prudence whisper too closely in thy ear; for it is the hour of the unexpected, the incalculable, the immeasurable. Mete not the power of the Breath by thy petty instruments, but trust and go forward. But most keep thy soul clear, even if for a while, of the clamour of the ego. Then shall a fire march before thee in the night and the storm be thy helper and thy flag shall wave on the highest height of the greatness that was to be conquered. These are words from The Hour of God written by Sri Aurobindo. This is Sri Aurobindo’s clarion call to another dharmayuddha, the one that must be fought and won within, as the dharmayuddha of old was fought and won within, long before adharma was conquered on the battlefield without. A dharmayuddha is a battle for the soul. This is what makes it infinitely more critical than the outer battles for wealth or territory. The future of civilization on earth will be determined by who conquers the spiritual space – the devas or the asuras. The devas are the forces of Light, the asuras are those who deny the Light. Dharma is the establishment of the Light of the highest Truth. In an earlier spiritual epoch, when the last dharmayuddha was fought, this Light was Sri Krishna’s, for Sri Krishna embodied that highest Truth and its Force. Today, in the twenty-first century, it is Sri Aurobindo who embodies this highest Truth and Force. It is Sri Aurobindo’s Truth and Light that must be brought down into the soul, and established in the battlefield which is civilization itself. These are not abstractions: these are hard realities that every one of us is confronting in our day to day lives, across the world. There are many who are calling this a civilizational battle, a battle of narratives, and it may very well be so. The details change with the spirit or dharma of the age. But the fundamentals remain the same. And they have remained the same since the first great devas fought the first great asuras, equal in strength and force and will, in that primeval mystical event we call the great churning. Such a churning, intense and profound, is happening today as well. If one is even a bit open to the play of forces in this universe, one will feel the vast swells of this churning, like an ocean right beneath one’s surface consciousness. And it is everywhere, raging in everyone, only the intensity of consciousness varies. If this dharmayuddha has to be won again, if we are to ascend to our next evolutionary plane, we must ask for a higher intervention, a higher and more potent Truth-Force. We need to invoke, as consciously as we can, the Light and Force of the highest Truth that we can access. This Truth was brought down for us, through a lifetime’s intense tapasya, by the Maharishi of this spiritual age, Sri Aurobindo. Many know him inwardly as the avatar of the new age; many know him intimately as the Jagat Guru; many know of him as the great Yogi and Sage of Pondicherry. It does not matter how one knows him, or of him: what matters is the fact that there is such a vast Presence of the Divine amongst us, guiding and aiding all those who are sincerely open to the truth of the future, and carrying forth those who give themselves willingly to the Truth that he represents and embodies, what he calls the Supramental Truth. This is the time to invoke the Supramental Truth for earth and humanity, for it is this Truth that will be our armor and our great astra in our battle for the eternal dharma. This is the Truth that we need to invoke. Sri Aurobindo’s Truth. In invoking Sri Aurobindo’s Truth, we will invoke the Force and Light at multiple levels simultaneously: the inner psychic, the higher spiritual, the all-comprehensive supramental, and the all-transcending, integral Sachchidananda where all consciousness, and all existences and universes merge into a single stream of eternal Light and Bliss. Let us remember that this invocation does not need mental knowledge. We do not need to know in order to invoke. Invocation itself brings the knowledge. No embodied consciousness, anyway, can know Sri Aurobindo’s Truth. But we can, using our deeper power and faculty of psychic intuition, invoke Sri Aurobindo’s Truth, without needing to mentally know or understand. Invocation is the deep secret of all mysticism and religion: nothing can exceed the power and effectivity of invocation. To invoke is to give oneself to what one invokes. The truly effective invocation is when the one who invokes becomes the invocation. Our Rishis of old knew that. Thus, they became flames of invocation themselves, beings of Agni, and plunged into the very forces of the dark and the obscure. The Vedic Rishis used the power of Yajna to invoke the great Gods, the Devas, the embodiments of Light and Truth. All invocations of the Divine needed the concentrated power of the Yajna. Indeed, the Yajna is the key to all higher realizations. In this day and age, Yajna has lost its truth and power and has become an external ritual without much inner significance. Therefore, the Yajna has to be restored to its original Vedic significance. To invoke the higher Truth and Shakti, we must resort to Yajna, for that remains the most effective and efficient tool. To undertake Yajna, we must first stand as the Yajman, the initiator of the Yajna, and the one who must preside over the Yajna. To stand as the Yajman, only one condition needs to be fulfilled: sacrifice of the personal. As the yajman, one has to take the stride from the personal to the terrestrial. The yajman cannot be an individual: she or he must be representative of the collective, the samuha, one who stands for earth and represents the race. The Yajna demands the absolute and utter sacrifice of the personal consciousness in the Vast of Brahman. This is the deep import of the mantra Om Svaha…To Thee I give and give utterly… not as myself, a small and limited personality, but as the vast, the terrestrial, the one who stands for human consciousness itself. All that is petty and limited in me, I offer to the Vast… Om Svaha… This Yajna for Sri Aurobindo’s Truth must be terrestrial, for Sri Aurobindo’s Truth is of the brihat, the divine Vast. Sri Aurobindo’s own Yoga was for the Divine and for the earth, not for himself. He paved the way for those who would follow as the forerunners of the Luminous Future. Thus, our own Yajna must be impersonal, terrestrial, cosmic. Any trace of self-interest or expectation of personal gain, material or spiritual, would be an asuddhi and would instantly corrupt the Yajna and turn the fires downward, into patala instead of svarga. Patala, as we would know, is the domain of the asura, where all darkness rests self-gathered. By sacrificing one’s personal self, the greatest and most difficult of all sacrifices, one recovers from the ancient sleep of the unconscious and awakes to the luminous, the true, the eternal. This is the essential condition for the invocation of Truth and Light. He who must invoke the Light must first be awake to the Light. Thus the yajman, as representative of the tribe or the race, presides over the Yajna and lights the sacrificial fire to the resounding sounds of the old Vedic hymn… May all this go to Thee, for all this we offer to Thee…nothing of all this, neither the Sacrifice, nor the oblations, nor even the fruits of the Sacrifice, belong to us… idam na mama… nothing of this is mine, nothing of this is mine… The Yajna is a self-giving and self-emptying. All must be offered and nothing kept back. With each offering, the yajman must affirm that he or she gives utterly of himself or herself — Om Svaha. Then, indeed, the yajman is no longer an external agent presiding over the Yajna but has himself become the sacrifice and the priest who offers the sacrifice; his own physical body has become the havan-kund, the sacrificial pit, the core of the Yajna, and his own inner movements have become the various oblations to Agni, the undying Shakti of the Divine. And each time one offers oneself to the Divine, one receives a portion of the Divine: this is the ancient law, and the beauty of the Yajna. Ishvara or the Self seated within, our inmost Narayan, receives the offering, sanctifies it by His touch, and returns it to our consciousness, made whole and holy. This loop of giving and receiving between the yajman without and Narayan within is the sacred process of the Yajna, and it is only by Narayan’s sanctification and blessings that the Yajna proceeds from one stage to the next. As one gives of one’s mind and will, one’s desires and actions, one receives into oneself a little of the Divine Light, for, by the occult laws of the Yajna, what one gives is returned sanctified, as Light and Substance of the devas. And thus, the devas descend, bit by bit, sacrifice by sacrifice, into our human terrestrial substance. Understanding something of all this, we understand a little bit of the profound mystery of Sri Aurobindo’s Truth and Light. At least, a first ray of understanding descends into the mind and heart. सत्यं श्री अरविन्दस्य आविर्भवतु पृथिव्याम् May Sri Aurobindo’s Truth manifest upon earth And may this understanding and knowledge spread in all directions, be scattered with the winds and waters, and reach all those who thirst for the divine Truth and Light… may such be our prayer and our aspiration.. Om Svaha. 12th February, 2021
“We have to make it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied in such a manner and that too indefinitely. Democracy and dissent go hand in hand, but then the demonstrations expressing dissent have to be in designated places alone. The present case was not even one of protests taking place in an undesignated area, but was a blockage of a public way which caused grave inconvenience to commuters. We cannot accept the plea of the applicants that an indeterminable number of people can assemble whenever they choose to protest.” This is not some kind of peroration from me, but merely an extract from the Supreme Court judgment on the Shaheen Bagh disruptions. Directing that the protests must be held only in designated places, the court further said, “We have, thus, no hesitation in concluding that such kind of occupation of public ways, whether at the site in question or anywhere else for protests is not acceptable and the administration ought to take action to keep the areas clear of encroachments or obstructions.” The ugly violence that erupted in Delhi on Tuesday merits not just condemnation of the hooligans masquerading as farmers, but also of the failure of all the four pillars of democracy–legislature, executive, judiciary, and media. Democracies are under siege everywhere as the radicals march forward to subvert them by using their strengths, free speech and free assembly. I am not surprised as I have been talking about American community organizer Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ on my talk show quite regularly. These are: 1. “Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” 2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” 3. “Whenever possible go outside the expertise of the enemy.” 4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” 5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.” 6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” 7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” 8. “Keep the pressure on.” 9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” 10. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.” 11. “If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.” 12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” 13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Add to this, the well-rehearsed Communist theory of 4-stage takeover of other States, used so artfully in many countries by the Soviet Union, through demoralization, destabilization, creation of crisis, and normalization after takeover (euphemism for finishing class enemies and collaborators, and also free speech and rights). Go back and trace the pattern woven by the cabal of the so-called progressives–the Mulla, the Missionary, the Marxist, the Media, and Macaulay’s children (the anglophile elite), and you can see the play of these strategies and tactics to bring down not just the government, but also the entire democratic structure. The English-speaking elite, that deracinated class that know little about the country’s past, its culture, its traditions, and even lesser about its people, gets drawn into spinning romantic tales to further undermine the integrity of the country. The summum bonum of my assertion is that a routine condemnation of the Republic Day violence by anti-nationals masquerading as farmers serves little purpose unless we are willing to go behind the causes. The farm laws were merely the smokescreen behind which the larger machinations were being played out. The Congress, as usual, is clueless, but the Aam Aadmi Party is really the diabolical force that understands these concepts and has been supporting one anarchical movement after the other. The farm laws are the proverbial red herring in this scheme. We know that at least 95 per cent farmers are firmly behind the laws. The group that is affected by these laws is the big landlord, middlemen and the drug mafia nexus. If it were not the farm laws, there would be some other excuse for creating similar anarchy. Look at the leadership involved in the agitation, from Hannan Mollah to Gurvinder Singh, and Gurnam Chaduni, and you can figure out that this is going to be a regular affair. People tasked with the governance of the country must get hold of this narrative and devise counters, otherwise we will see frequent repeats with increasing ferocity. Remember, there can be no victory without winning the narrative. Original article Reprinted with permission of the author from https://www.news18.com
Identity establishes the attachment for survival. If you identify with something, anything for that matter, its loss will define your existence. In your mind. One, who is free and liberated has no time or need for that. Protection can never be of a person, for that which is sure to die can never be saved, even by the Divine. Aspiration can only be to dissolve what is divine into the Divine in every perceptible way. Mata Gujri and her two grandsons had died in the custody of Wazir Khan – who was pursuing and attacking Guru Gobind Singh’s panthis. At that time, the Guru turned to his Guru, the Formless, Stainless and Self-reliant. Primal, Blemishless, Endless, and Birthless. That which was the manifestation as Brahm, Vishnu, and also Shiva, the Adi Yogi. To understand the panth of the Khalsa, one needs to understand its architect. The Khalsa and India – how the path was formed The foundation of Khalsa Panth, not religion, was laid down by Guru Gobind Singh. Not because it was a new way to be, but because it was the need of the hour. Many Spiritual Masters have understood the contemporary situations with clarity that only unencumbered beings can. Clearing out the nonsense, they can see what is needed. When Guru Gobind Singh’s family – his father, his kids, his mother – and his colleagues had been tortured and killed by Aurangzeb’s associates and generals, he was praying to the one eternal consciousness and divinity. In his powerful poem titled Benti Chaupaee, he calls out the enemy and what he would prefer happened to those inimical forces. ਦੁਸ਼ਟ ਜਿਤੇ ਉਠਵਤ ਉਤਪਾਤਾ ॥ ਸਕਲ ਮਲੇਛ ਕਰੋ ਰਣ ਘਾਤਾ ॥੩੯੬dusht jitai uthvat utpata skal mlaich kro run ghataदुष्ट जीतइ उठवत उत्पाता सकल मलेछ करो रन घाता The evildoers who arise to create destruction, kill all those Mlechh (Islamic invaders*) in the battle. *Mlechh was the Sanskrit word used for foreign invaders, specifically those who did not follow Dharma. Not as in a religion, but in its social and spiritual construct. Rules of wars being one component. This word was used for the Greek invaders in earlier times and later in Guru Gobind Singh’s time it was used for the Islamic Invaders. He was asking for strength from the Supreme Eternal consciousness, also known as Hiranyagarbha in most scriptures, for the destruction of अधर्म – Adharma. Entities that did not follow the rules and laws which align with the one eternal being. The reason for creating the panth – which essentially means a path and not religion – was to raise a group of co-travelers on the difficult but necessary journey that he had undertaken. Gurus, you see, are not doing things for others or for a frivolous exhibition. They do what is needed for those times as their offering to life and the life-force that pervades the existence. It is needed so they do. For, think about it – what needs of others or even yours are important enough to give away the lives of your kids and mother after your father has been publicly tortured and beheaded? That which is temporary – body – cannot be protected. To ask for help for that – his mother or his kids – was a waste of time for the Guru. What he was raising his voice for was for the life force to align against that which was the source of destruction. The disgust for Mlechhas came from that understanding. The co-travelers who laid the foundation of the पंथ that Guru Gobind Singh set out to create were not chosen by him at all. When he asked for five people who could give their lives for the पंथ as he took them inside the tent one by one, emerging every time with blood on his sword, he was sharing the intensity that his band of co-travelers had to possess. When Bhai Daya Ram from Lahore went in, he could do so when the love and trust in the integrity and the purity of his Guru’s way was greater than his own need for survival. His walk up to his Guru was a walk away from survival. To a step into eternity. When his Guru was greater than his own physical existence. Similarly, Bhai Dharam Das from Hastinapur (Meerut), UP and Bhai Himmat Singh from Puri, Odisha and Bhai Mohkam Singh from Dwarka, Gujarat and finally Bhai Sahib Singh from Bidar, Karnataka walked up, as the certainty of their physical end and birth into eternal path became crystal clear. Not everyone took those steps. Only five did that day. The test – give up the need for the physical temporary existence and align with the eternal. The Khalsa – खालसा पंथ – or the path to the pure and eternal. Except one, none of those who held Guru Gobind Singh higher than every possible security in life was from Punjab. One spoke Brij bhaasha, one Oriya, one Gujarati, and the final one Kannada. That is what made the first set of co-travelers of Guru Gobind Singh. Singh is not born. Singh is one who holds the eternal dharma higher than even his death. Birth is not what defines a Khalsa, his intensity for dharma does. For, that goes beyond death. What started the first band of travelers on the Khalsa Panth was not allegiance or narrow relationship to Punjab or Punjabiyat, but the intensity to give up all for the lofty work of the Guru. If the Sikhs, who imagine Khalistan as their goal and some synthetic concept of Sikhi as their ideal, and trample on the concept of India as the way to establish their allegiance, think they have anything to do with Guru Gobind Singh or his path, they can’t be more dishonest. In fact, they are doing the most spectacular job of trampling on the very being of Guru Gobind Singh. Just as Adi Shankara established the four centers of Dharma in the four corners of this land called India, Guru Gobind Singh established his path with the induction of four amazing beings also from the four corners of India. The Guru who was born in Patna and left his physical existence in Nanded, Maharashtra had as much importance for an establishment linked to Punjab as his life’s work did for that piece of land. With gratitude to दृष्टिकोण’s Newsletter Original Article Here
Introduction The recognition of a spiritual dimension of health by the World Health Organization (WHO) has indeed been a landmark event. It is doubtful, however, that the full import and significance of this fundamental aspect of human existence has been grasped even by well-intentioned persons. The reason is very simple. The spiritual dimension is still a concealed possibility in the race as a whole. Even though its emergence is the inevitable next step in Nature’s scheme of things; yet it is a slow emergence. There have been individuals no doubt, who have experienced a greater spiritual consciousness. It is also true that such individuals have cut across the barriers of race and gender, language and culture. Yet for the majority of humankind, the spiritual dimension still remains a possibility which many do not care to explore. Most of us confuse it with philosophy, religion, morality and occultism. While these four approaches can prepare man and even throw open a window to the spiritual truth, in themselves they are insufficient to solve the riddle of man and conquer for him freedom from suffering, limitation, death, disease and incapacity. Philosophy, religion and ethics prepare man’s thoughts, emotions and will for an awakening to the true spiritual impulse. Occultism explores the inner hidden dimension of existence and its forces and powers and faculties. All of these however miss the deepest truth. At best they throw some reflection or hint and thereby act as a preparatory catalyst. At worst they distract and confuse us by offering an imitation in lieu of the real spiritual truth. Defining the Indefinable The first need is therefore to get rid of this misconception of confusing the spiritual dimension with philosophy, religious values, ethical morality and even occultism. When we thus get rid of these elementary misconceptions and understand the spiritual reality by self-identification, we discover that there is a unity of experience that cuts across the barriers of time and space. The real figure is seen only if we sound the depths ourselves and try to fathom the vastness that hides behind the human persona of those who have truly experienced and lived a spiritual life. Since such men have been few and scattered (though always present), it is doubtful if the statistical approach of interviewing the average or even an above average intellectual can help us understand this dimension better. Such a process may even be counterproductive by diluting or, worse still, falsifying or replacing the real thing by an imitative mimicry. “The spirit is other than the mind” affirm the seers. It is unity and oneness while the mind is duality and division. It is peace and bliss while the mind dwells in pain, pleasure and indifference. It is harmony and truth while the mind fumbles through error and ignorance. It is easy to understand from this that the spiritual dimension defies any simple definition. In fact, the spiritual reality does not necessarily need a language to communicate itself. Rather, it is best communicated and understood in the silence and stillness of our being. This inability to define and describe the spiritual reality is not any limitation as many suppose. It stems because firstly speech itself is a lesser term and faculty. Secondly, since it belongs still to the mental domain in its manifestation, it evokes different meanings and images in different human beings. To obviate this dual difficulty, we can attempt to define the spiritual dimension as the highest perfection man is capable of through self-evolution. This too, however, runs the risk of contamination by the mind which constantly confuses the human ideas of perfection with a spiritual one. Human perfection is a quantitative thing. It is the development of human capacities to their utmost pitch. Spiritual perfection is however a qualitative thing. It is the emergence of new faculties and capacities better and superior to what the human mind can at present imagine. For example, the Sanskrit word for health – ‘Swasth’ – literally means “rooted in the (true) self”. That is to say, true health exists only when man’s consciousness is firmly fixed in the spiritual self, the ‘sva’. Short of it, there can be absence of disease ‘Arogya‘ or, physical prowess and fitness ‘bala’ but not health. As Dr Bisht rightly pointed out in his recommendation to the WHO that “a pack of wolves are physically strong, mentally alert and socially well-knit but there is something more in man which marks him apart“. And that ‘something more’ in him is not just the maximum development of his mind through education and learning but the wisdom and power of his soul. Spirit and Body: A False Opposition We have also to understand spirituality not as an escapist-illusionist tendency but the awareness of a fundamental spiritual Reality behind every form and name. This is supported by the experience that it is the spirit that has become all beings and things including matter. This is well reflected in the evolutionary Indian parable of the ‘Dasavatara’ where the incarnation of the One Divine becomes the fish, the tortoise, the boar, the half-animal, half-man etc., through evolution to a perfect mental man. The missing link in our evolutionary journey may not be the Archaeopteryx but the mediatrix Consciousness that runs as a common thread through all phenomena. The story of evolution is still a half-told tale. The adventure of the Spirit upon earth is not yet over. It will continue till Nature evolves a body capable of manifesting the Perfect Consciousness. Unless we grasp this, we will continue the mistake of regarding the spiritual dimension not only as a separate but also an exclusive dimension that exists in isolation without any hold upon the creature that inhabits it. If that is so then all hope of spiritual health remains a chimera and the great utterance of the spiritual dimension of health becomes only an idealistic doctrine. The spiritual dimension includes the material and can and does intervene subtly to alter the laws and processes of the material universe and to change the course decreed by the so called purely material and biological forces. Measuring the Immeasurable If defining spiritual reality is difficult, studying its complex effects is even more difficult. Statistics are useful for recording phenomena. The present scientific methods and equipments register gross events. To pursue and discover subtler truths and spiritual laws we have to follow another method whose usefulness has been verified since ancient times. Firstly, we need to trust the word of those who have awakened the spiritual consciousness in themselves. Secondly, we must begin to observe ourselves and the movements of subtler levels in us. The effects of those subtle movements escape conventional data collection since most of us are not conscious of these subjective psychological events. ‘We are asleep there’, to use an Upanishadic image. The scientist must first and foremost make himself the field of his observation and record his experiences. Such cumulative records over a period of time would be very helpful for all who wish to explore this dimension. But simultaneously we should avoid the rash attempt to codify too rigidly the experiences. Our mind always likes to formulate laws but the spiritual field being very subtle and plastic escapes the rigidities of human logic. Thus, if in a certain state of consciousness, say ‘peace’, the patient recovers faster or is even cured of an acute emergency like a heart attack or appendicitis, we can truthfully record it. We can equally record the effect of negative emotions on health and disease. But we should not rush to reduce it into a system. Peace for example may not always cure. It may not always be readily accessible either. But even though not reproducible, a single event of ‘cure by peace’ is significant and opens doors of enormous possibilities for those who can and will. The Law of Averages The method of studying, analysing and understanding physical phenomena has its great utility in the physical domain. The accuracy and predictability are somewhat more reliable here because in gross matter, there is not the free play of other subtler domains. But to extrapolate the same method mechanically in the spiritual domain may lead to gross errors. The reasons are threefold. Firstly, our equipments are not yet geared to register and record subtler energy impacts. However in these we can find the presence of the anomalous and the unpredictable. As all practitioners of medicine know, medicine is not an exact science like mathematics. Secondly, there is a whole range of phenomena which are subjective and cannot be measured. And yet these may be quite crucial in matters of health and healing. For instance, peace and faith are two such non-measurable units that do determine our state of health. Thirdly, and most importantly, scientific methods deal with phenomena. But as spiritual experience constantly affirms, behind the phenomena of name and form there is a supporting and sanctioning consciousness and force. It is difficult to envisage how we could possibly measure the quantum of spiritual consciousness and force in units of grams or kilograms or god-knows-what, that goes into healing a malady. Even where a method is used, there is always the secret force and consciousness that makes all the difference. The force can use one particular method or another. It may even dispense with all methods and techniques. A given method is after all only one condition of spiritual awakening. Just as clouds and lightning are one condition for the emergence of electricity. Besides, the force and power of electricity exist as principles even if we have not discovered the method to tap them and likewise, spiritual force and power are a latent possibility in every human being. They can be awakened and brought to the fore by a number of methods. The method is however only an excuse for the emergence. The real essence escapes the technique. When human evolution reaches a certain crucial and critical inner point the pressure of the spiritual consciousness bursts the limited bounds of our ego and we emerge in a larger and freer consciousness. Spirituality is essentially this change of consciousness from the human to that which is greater than man and beyond him. The Truth that Escapes Us It is a fact that human consciousness is not the highest and man not the last word of creation. Man is a transitional being to be surpassed by a more perfect being. Till that new step in evolution happens, man’s life will be riddled with death, his efforts at outer conquest marred with inner defeats, his glorious successes sum up into specious failure. Man’s commerce with life and forces around him will remain precarious at his own level of evolution. Even at best, he may arrive at a healthy equilibrium with his environment as a pack of wolves or a species of plants. But Nature would not allow this. It is thus that disease, death and infirmity pursue man. All stress and strain that besieges this race is in essence a call to evolve. All crisis is a challenge and stimulus to growth and liberation. All pain and suffering is Nature’s hint and reminder that the joy we experience is imperfect and the power we command is yet a narrow and limited one. Each limitation we experience is a pointer towards our own incomprehension and ignorance. To remove this stamp of death and seal of suffering, we must remove ignorance and divinise this dust that wakes to life in plant and climbs to thought in man. This is the inner significance of disease and illness as seen from a spiritual consciousness. The Central Disease The central root of our difficulty lies mainly in our sense of separateness and its attendant problems of want, greed, lust and desire. It is this that translates itself physically and psychologically as self and not-self. The sense of ‘not-self’ leads to effort for adaptation as well as imbalances of various kinds at physical, vital and mental levels leading to disease and death. Our true identity is neither physical nor psychological but a spiritual one. And this spiritual individuality is not opposed to other spiritual individualities but is conterminous with a sense of universality and oneness. It widens us and by widening liberates us from suffering and makes us more capable of receiving the peace and bliss that heal our maladies of body and mind. For spiritual health to emerge we have to dissolve the false sense of ego-self and replace it by the true “I”, the soul in us. The emergence brings, as testified by all who have had the contact, its attendant effects of peace and fullness and joy, and openness towards truth and harmony and light, a freedom from the stress and strain of want and desire. This spiritual change has a positive effect on our entire constitution bringing health and fitness in the body, quietude and goodwill in the vital, clarity of understanding, generosity and broadness as well as balance in the mind. Overall it results in progress and harmony and a general sense of well-being, security and satisfaction. The effects are there so long as the contact remains. But it is difficult for most of us to retain a constant contact. The old person that we are comes back to the surface with all its habits, conditioning and unhealthy preoccupations and preferences. The peace is replaced by restlessness, clarity by confusion, generosity and goodwill by narrowness and bigotry, and health by want of balance and illness. These periods of light and darkness alternate till the spiritual element is fully freed in us and once purified of all egoism it sets the other parts of our nature to its own harmonious rhythm. The spiritual self holds the key to release the forces of progressive harmony and health in us. Under the stress of the soul the human consciousness begins to grow deeper, wider and higher. All our values of understanding, sensing, feeling and living start undergoing a marked qualitative change which is superior to the mere philosophising idealism, ethical and moral piety, emotional fervour and exalted sentimentalism. The mind opens to intuition, illumination, visionary revelation and prophetic inspiration. The heart opens to a deep, pure and calm capacity to love without possessiveness and turbulent attachment. The life-force and will, bereft of the heaving disturbance of desire, becomes a dynamo for selfless Divine work in the world. Even the body shares the spiritual touch which translates itself in terms of calm and balance, trust and an absence of fear, things that help us immensely in healthy living and even cure us of disease. Yet this is not enough. More is needed. A greater perfection can emerge by the total transformation of nature wherein an immunity from all types of diseases is possible, not just for a few exceptional individuals, but as a potentiality for the entire race. Search versus Research How are we going to do that? By research or by search, by convincing statistical proofs or by living example? This is a question everyone has to answer for oneself. However, history shows that one example in this regard is far more convincing than a whole mass of data and statistics. Data and statistical analysis reach out only to a small section of the human mind — the scientific one. Often, it only helps to convince the already convinced. The sceptic continues to disbelieve, for such is the nature of mind that it can interpret the same truth differently, and by a subtle twist of logic and change of premises arrive at totally different and even opposite conclusions. But example touches much deeper and has a wider range of action. It is like fire. Talking about fire can ignite only curiosity but actual contact with it can light up a similar fire and convince one of the mass of heat and light that fire is. One such living fire is of far greater value than a whole pile of figures that often gather dust in our libraries. Thus it is the pressure of the spirit that wakes up the sleeping soul of man. There are no other means for it. A Practical Programme for the Future How are we going to implement all this in our collective health programmes? This is not a simple question and perhaps there are no easy answers. A few approaches can however help us integrate the spiritual dimension with the others. Here are some suggestions: Subjective psychological experiences like peace, joy, faith, etc. should be included in our research designs. So far, scientific studies have largely ignored personality factors of the patient and therapist in health and illness. These need to be included.There is a need for health education programmes creating greater awareness about the role of our psychological states in health and illness. This awareness needs to reach both physicians and health educators as well as their clientele.From a scientific point of view it may be better to approach the spiritual dimension through a better understanding of our subjective psychological states than through an understanding of religion. Psychological states are universal whereas religions have become a source of misunderstanding, confusion and division rather than being one of the means of arriving at higher states of consciousness.At least, a minimum stress should be put in our medical education curriculum on the spiritual aspects of human existence. This can be done by inviting guest speakers to give lectures or perhaps going on experiential tours for a couple of weeks to places which carry a spiritual atmosphere.Medical training should include knowledge of self-help techniques that would help physicians develop greater calm and confidence. They can in turn extend and apply it to patients. Many such methods for self-development and self-mastery exist but need implementation.Individuals and institutions with expertise in the field of self-mastery and self-growth and willing to help impart the necessary knowledge and skills to selected workers can be identified. These trained workers can then serve as a link between the community and the public health system.A serious and sincere study of the psychic sciences and their interface with other aspects of our biology and psychology needs to be undertaken. So far, mainstream science has only maintained distance, seeing it with a sceptic’s eye and denying it even before exploration.Above all, a paradigm shift is needed about our concept of man himself. One could work towards this end by inviting more constructive debates amongst leading men in each field, who feel the necessity to go beyond the present notion of man and life. These alternative views need to be publicised and presented to the health workers. At present they are made aware (as if almost deliberately) only about the physical side of man even though enough data and material already exist to show that man is not just a biological organism but something more.An open minded study of ‘consciousness’ and ‘self-experience’ will be of great help. The study and corresponding literature and publications could be funded through world bodies dealing with health and education, like the WHO and UNESCO. The persons identified to study this must be those having a reasonably good understanding about these aspects.We have to understand that even a highly qualified person with good standing in his specialised field may know next to nothing about ‘consciousness’ and ‘spirituality’. His opinion carries little or no meaning. On the contrary, there are specialists in ‘consciousness’ and ‘spirituality’ just as in other fields. It is on these that initially the responsibility for a deeper exploration of the spiritual dimension must rest.Finally, serious efforts should be made to study the psychological evolution of the human race, especially as it is happening now. The key to the spiritual dimension may well be found there. Conclusion The task therefore before us as physicians is not just the relief of symptoms but to seek deeper into the layers of our psychology where the roots of health and illness lie. The illness is a crisis point which leads us, as if by Nature’s irony, to the doors of our own concealed possibilities. We suppress one form of illness but another returns. It is so because we have failed to take note of the hint and refused to learn from the wisdom of Mother Nature. We can avoid this responsibility of learning what Nature intends to teach, only at our own peril. We can ignore the lesson and the leading, only to face the threat of extinction. But if we are to not only survive but progress and evolve beyond our religions and ideological cults, then we must open the doors to this greater and vaster spiritual consciousness and allow its influx in us. It is in this spiritual emergence that lies our hope and future as a race. The spiritual dimension holds the key to the enigma called ‘man’ and the solution to the paradox called ‘life’. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alok Pandey Publications
How I used to hate Kali! And all Her ways! That was the ground of my six years’ fight — that I would not accept Her. But I had to accept Her at last! Ramakrishna Paramahamsa dedicated me to Her, and now I believe that She guides me in every little thing I do, and does with me what She will. Yet I fought so long! I loved him, you see, and that was what held me. I saw his marvelous purity. I felt his wonderful love. His greatness had not dawned on me then. All that came afterwards, when I had given in. At that time I thought him a brainsick baby, always seeing visions and the rest. I hated it. And then I too had to accept Her! No, the thing that made me do it is a secret that will die with me. I had great misfortunes at that time… It was an opportunity… She made a slave of me. Those were the very words — “a slave of me.” And Ramakrishna Paramahamsa made me over to Her. Strange! He lived only two years after doing that, and most of the time he was suffering. Not more than six months did he keep his own health and brightness. Guru Nanak was like that, you know, looking for the one disciple to whom he would give his power. And he passed over all his own family — his children were as nothing to him — till he came upon the boy to whom he gave it, and then he could die. The future, you say, will call Ramakrishna Paramahamsa an Incarnation of Kali? Yes, I think there’s no doubt that She worked up the body of Ramakrishna for Her own ends. You see, I cannot but believe that there is somewhere a great Power that thinks of Herself as feminine, and called Kali, and Mother. Excerpted from The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita Sister Nivedita
There are moments when the Spirit moves among men and the breath of the Lord is abroad upon the waters of our being; there are others when it retires and men are left to act in the strength or the weakness of their own egoism. The first are the periods when even a little effort produces great results and changes destiny; the second are spaces of time when much labour goes to the making of a little result. It is true that the latter may prepare the former, may be the little smoke of sacrifice going up to heaven which calls down the rain of God’s bounty. Unhappy is the man or the nation which, when the divine moment arrives, is found sleeping or unprepared to use it, because the lamp has not been kept trimmed for the welcome and the ears are sealed to the call. But thrice woe to them who are strong and ready, yet waste the force or misuse the moment; for them is irreparable loss or a great destruction. In the hour of God cleanse thy soul of all self-deceit and hypocrisy and vain self-flattering that thou mayst look straight into thy spirit and hear that which summons it. All insincerity of nature, once thy defence against the eye of the Master and the light of the ideal, becomes now a gap in thy armour and invites the blow. Even if thou conquer for the moment, it is the worse for thee, for the blow shall come afterwards and cast thee down in the midst of thy triumph. But being pure cast aside all fear; for the hour is often terrible, a fire and a whirlwind and a tempest, a treading of the winepress of the wrath of God; but he who can stand up in it on the truth of his purpose is he who shall stand; even though he fall, he shall rise again; even though he seem to pass on the wings of the wind, he shall return. Nor let worldly prudence whisper too closely in thy ear; for it is the hour of the unexpected, the incalculable, the immeasurable. Mete not the power of the Breath by thy petty instruments, but trust and go forward. But most keep thy soul clear, even if for a while, of the clamour of the ego. Then shall a fire march before thee in the night and the storm be thy helper and thy flag shall wave on the highest height of the greatness that was to be conquered. Sri Aurobindo (in “The Hour of God”, Section One)
I wish to discuss here a new spirituality, a spirituality which has discarded its old limitations and inhibitions but still draws on its ancient roots and whose aim is the perfection of human life on earth. Sri Aurobindo and his collaborator the Mother were the pioneers of this new spirituality. They have been, in my opinion, the greatest revolutionaries in the spiritual annals of mankind. The intellectual elite in many parts of the world have already taken note of their contribution. The time has surely come for us as Indians to throw away the coloured glasses of our inherited and borrowed prejudices and to make an honest attempt to understand what they have been saying. The world is preparing for a great change; and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are our safest guides to this new world. My own discovery of Sri Aurobindo took place when as a university student I chanced upon a statement of his which read: “Heaven we have possessed, but not the earth; but the fullness of the Yoga is to make, in the formula of the Veda, ‘Heaven and Earth equal and one’.” The word ‘heaven’ is used here to symbolise perfection and this goal of achieving perfection of life here on earth has always appealed to me. Later, I came across a more definitive statement from him on his commitment to this goal: “I am concerned with the earth, not with worlds beyond for their own sake; it is a terrestrial realisation that I seek and not a flight to distant summits.” (Sri Aurobindo: On Himself) This emphasis on bringing perfection to life on earth and this preoccupation with this world, would be regarded by many as ‘unspiritual’ and ‘unyogic’, for they suppose that yoga and spirituality are primarily modes of acting on our inner being, leaving the world to its own devices. And for the most part, spirituality has either refused to concern itself with making this world a happier place or, when it has tried, it has been ineffectual. Sri Aurobindo sought to make spirituality capable of acting on the world and transforming it. Sri Aurobindo received a totally Western education, and knew its civilisation very well. His discovery of India and of its spiritual heritage came about later, after he returned to India in 1893. He had by then spent the formative years of his life, from the age of seven to 21, in England. Because he knew the West so well, he was keen to avoid the excesses and pitfalls he had seen in the Western approach to life, although he had a deep appreciation for all that was progressive and liberal in Western humanism. Western civilisation is supposed to be characterised by three features: a strong drive towards action, a scientific world-view, and a philosophy of enlightened self-interest. Western civilisation has been one of action; it has sought to act on human history through politics and it has sought to act on the world through knowledge of the laws of nature which it has transformed and bent to man’s needs. This has been true of most of its thinkers from Plato to Karl Marx who have always sought to put their thoughts into action. Inventions like the steam engine, the telescope and the microscope, the use of electricity and nuclear energy— all these technological achievements have brought about a real change in the world we live in. The Western model of acting on the world has a global appeal today and everywhere there is a frenzy not only to copy this Western model of action but also to adopt Western notions of happiness and lifestyle. To describe Western culture as scientific may not be entirely correct since very few people even in the West take part in science, although everyone benefits from it. There is no denying, however, that the West has tried to use practical reason and modern science to find solutions to the problems of the world; it has tried to eliminate from human life error, sorrow, pain and death. But it has largely failed to do so because the West envisages only external and secondary causes, and tries to remove them; it is unable to eliminate the roots of the malady against which we struggle. Its science is hampered in reaching its goal because of its excessive subjection to apparent fact and its refusal to look into the profounder facts of man’s inner life. On the whole, it has some times managed to manipulate circumstances and alleviate pain and suffering but it cannot exercise essential control over them. In spite of the spectacular successes of the West, a widespread weariness, a malaise seems to have affected it which makes a significant minority of people in these countries thirst for a more spiritual concept of happiness. There is a growing realisation that although the so-called Western methodology is a major contribution to satisfying elementary, physical needs, its obsession with improving living conditions through technological progress helps only to solve secondary problems. This spectacular material progress is a deceptive facade that masks the meaninglessness of modern life. What is the point in trying to double the length of human life if we fail to give meaning to that life? This would only condemn us to a life of 200 years of depression and bad moods. Thus a significant minority in the West is now looking for a happiness which is beyond that defined by a Harvard degree, a large stock portfolio, a flat stomach, an international credit card and an agreeable live-in companion. If Jesus and Marx have proved to be gods that failed, it may be time to turn to the Buddha. If the traditional church and Marxism haven’t delivered, a spirituality which is sufficiently secular may be the answer. The Western value system is said to be based on enlightened self-interest; but often this self-interest is selfishness glorified as the enhancement of the self. The strengthening of individuality as a primary agent in decision-making seems to be yielding diminishing returns. There is a growing dissatisfaction with the ability of the Western value system to govern individual lives. In its American variety of this value system, money has become a sublime good and has become a surrogate for love, work, art, play and thought. As Lapham points out we can buy everything that anybody can buy in the department store of the free world: “the Ferrari, the third husband, the F-16, the villa at Cap d’Antibes, the indoor tennis court and the Strategic Defence Initiative. But, no, it is not enough. We are not happy. Somehow we deserve more.” Western civilisation in general has also come under serious criticism at the hands of thinkers like Aldous Huxley, Arthur Koestler and Konrad Lorenz as the harbinger of the various crises humanity is facing today. Since these critiques are well-known, I do not wish to repeat them here. There is another aspect of the Western civilisation which the rest of the world is trying to emulate, although with diminishing enthusiasm. The West has tried fervently to bring happiness to man, primarily by transforming the outer world. This is the materialist approach, which seeks to perfect humanity by using outward means and one of its main efforts has been to construct a perfect social and political system which will train men to be what they ought to be. I am referring here to the large-scale attempts made in the West to build utopias through social reform and revolution. Since the early 18th century, Europe sought to attain justice and happiness by organising a society that delivered happiness to its members through collective justice. The study of political systems became a new branch of ethics and revolution became the mode of establishing a utopia by building a new political, economic and social system from top to bottom. The first major attempt of this sort was the French Revolution in which the modern concept of a revolution emerged. Now whenever the authors of a revolution have conceived a model of society they consider perfect, they feel that they have the right to impose it on others, and, if necessary, to eliminate anyone who resists their attempts. This took place in Russia when the Marxist-Leninist theory was put into practice after the Bolshevik revolution, and later in China under Mao. In the Pol Pot in Cambodia the logic of such systems was pushed to the extreme; the result was grotesque and deadly excesses. All of these systems share a central idea—building a utopia through the revolutionary transformation of society. But all of them failed in practice. Social reform was supposed to replace ethical reform, but it has led to disaster; the West is now distraught by the failure of its social systems and is faced with an ethical vacuum. Hence the widespread interest in wisdom doctrines and Eastern spirituality. We see a growing tendency in the West to look up towards Eastern spirituality to learn how to act on oneself and on the world. But what has spirituality to offer? In its essence, spirituality is an awakening to the inner reality of our being. The spiritual way is to work outward from within the way of materialism is to work inward from without. Materialism makes the inner a result of the outer, and therefore fundamentally a phenomenon of matter. Spirituality works inward by opening the mind, vital and physical to the inner reality in us. The spiritualist believes that transforming the outer world has its limits and the effect of outer transformation on our inner happiness is limited. For man is not a machine and it is his mind that makes him feel happy or miserable. The spiritualist thus believes that trying to act on the outer world without having transformed oneself inwardly can’t lead to long-term or lasting happiness. If we have the necessary inner power, we should try to act on the outer world, but the inner transformation is the indispensable first step. To eliminate long-term suffering, we should reflect on the origin of suffering and become aware of the ignorance which brings us suffering. Our identification with the ego or a separate self is the root cause of our suffering. We cherish this ego-self, with all its desires, and suffering comes when it does not get what it wants. This ego-self is believed by some spiritualists to be a fictitious thing with no real existence, while others believe that it is only a mask or a surface self which hides our true self. But both agree that we must detach ourselves from it. Once we develop a detachment from this limited self, we are no longer afraid of not getting what we want or being subjected to what we don’t want. This then leads to a state of inner illumination. And all are unanimous about the positive, blissful and abiding nature of the experience that comes from this state of egolessness. Once you are in that state, you find yourself engulfed in infinite peace, infinite knowledge, infinite bliss and immortality. The efficacy of spirituality in acting on oneself and removing the real causes of our suffering permanently is a proven fact of subjective experience. It is not surprising, therefore, that a growing number of people in the West are attracted by the various kinds of meditation practices and to Eastern spirituality in general. Here we must pause for a while and raise a few questions about the value of this spiritual enterprise. For one thing, it is necessary to recognise that this enterprise has a fairly low rate of success. In spite of the popularity of spiritual establishments in the West, genuine spirituality is a very arduous undertaking and success in it demands an inner call, patience, perseverance and total commitment. It is worthwhile, therefore, to bear in mind the caution voiced by the Bhagavad Gita, that among the many who strive to follow the path only a rare individual reaches the destination. Secondly, we must ask, isn’t spirituality in the final analysis a selfish undertaking? I am only one person, while others are countless; how significant then is what happens to me, whether good or bad, to the happiness of others? Third, spirituality seems to be concerned only with the suffering caused by what are called the shad ripus, by our own failings, wrongs and weaknesses, our excessive anger, pride and greed. But what about malnutrition, famine, torture by tyrants or being put to the sword by a hostile population? There is evil all around us playing havoc with our world. How are we going to deal spiritually with situations like the ones we had in Auschwitz and in Bosnia? Surely, to eliminate evils like these we need remedies which are more outwardly effective than enlightened Buddhahood or the poised consciousness of a sthitaprajna. Many spiritualists would agree that to free oneself alone from suffering is a severely limited goal. One should have the intention of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings. You transform yourself in order to acquire the capacity to help others free themselves from suffering. But the question is: what power does this give us to prevent the kinds of evil that I have just mentioned? In other words, does spirituality enable us to act on the world and make it a better place? Of course, the enlightened spiritual person has the power to help others take to his path through his example, influence and teaching. But how far does this go towards alleviating the world’s suffering? There has been no dearth of spiritual luminaries in this world and most of them have tried vigorously to propagate their teachings to the world at large. What has been its tangible effect on the human mass ? As a character in Sri Aurobindo’s great epic Savitri puts it: The Avatars have lived and died in vain, Vain was the sage’s thought, the prophet’s voice; In vain is seen the shining upward Way. Earth lies unchanged beneath the circling sun; She loves her fall and no omnipotence Her mortal imperfections can erase, Force on man’s crooked ignorance Heaven’s straight line Or colonise a world of death with gods. The non-spiritualists have tried to solve the problems of war, poverty, famine and ecological destruction, but we have seen that their solutions are temporary in effect because they do not go deep enough in their search for the roots of these maladies. But the spiritualist does not seem to fare any better here since he has an almost impracticable agenda before him. For he believes that it is never going to be possible for groups of humans to stop killing each other, as in Bosnia, until individuals change themselves—that is, until the individuals themselves one by one give up anger, hatred and violence. Many thinkers and ideologies base their hopes of universal peace on a transformation of human nature. All the systems of wisdom, the great Utopias and the main religions have reckoned on that hypothesis. But we haven’t yet found a way of changing human nature that really works on a wide scale. There is another ideological stance some spiritualists take—an isolationist one—and many varieties of Indian spirituality proudly proclaim their adherence to it. In essence, this ideology asks you to reject the world as a source of falsehood, corruption and imperfection in order to save yourself from being contaminated by it. The lure of moksha, liberation from the world-illusion, has caught many in its net. The world in which we live, they say, is like the crooked tail of a dog; it can never be made straight. The only wise course of action is to reject this world and turn within to the consciousness of Brahman which is the only reality. But withdrawing from the world in the name of spirituality is tantamount to saying that the creator has made a blunder in creating this world, and we in our wisdom have decided to correct it by opting out and uniting inwardly with the divine. This kind of spirituality has been the bane of our nation; it has made life seem not worth living, and so we have neglected it. The question is not whether Mayavada, the name by which this philosophy is known, is logically sound or not, but whether it is a worthy ideal for mankind, for it fails both man and God and makes this marvellous creation a pointless exercise. It is against the background of such a world-negating spirituality that the new spirituality propounded by Sri Aurobindo has to be seen. Sri Aurobindo does not reject the Indian spiritual tradition. He only extends it in such a way that it ceases to be merely an endeavour for personal fulfilment and becomes instead a means of bringing perfection to life on earth as a whole. His starting point is the perception of the ancient sages of India that behind the appearances of the universe there is the reality of a being or a consciousness, a self of all things, one and eternal. To put his teaching briefly in his own words: … this One Being and Consciousness is involved here in Matter. Evolution is the method by which it liberates itself; consciousness appears in what seems to be inconscient, and once having appeared is self-impelled to grow higher and higher and at the same time to enlarge and develop towards a greater and greater perfection. Life is the first step of this release of consciousness; mind is the second; but the evolution does not finish with the mind, it awaits a release into something greater, a consciousness which is spiritual and supramental. The next step of the evolution must be towards the development of Supermind and Spirit as the dominant power in the conscious being. For only then will the involved Divinity in things release itself entirely and it become possible for life to manifest perfection. (Sri Aurobindo: On Himself) The early steps in evolution were taken by nature since there is no conscious will in the plant and animal life. In man, nature at last has a conscious instrument since it has evolved in him a conscious mind and will. This self-reflective consciousness has brought with it the ability to direct its own destiny. But for further evolution, the mind in man is not enough because after a point it can only move in a circle. A conversion has to be made, a turning of the consciousness by which the mind may change into a higher principle. The method to do this is the ancient psychological discipline and practice of yoga. In the past, yoga meant drawing away from the world and it culminated in merging into the self or the spirit. Sri Aurobindo teaches that a yoga is possible which will enable man to acquire a consciousness which is higher than the mind; he called it the Supermind, or the ‘supramental truth-consciousness’. This new consciousness will have sufficient power not only to release man inwardly into the highest spirit but also to enable him to grow out of his animal humanity into a divine being. His claim is that this supramental consciousness will be able to change human nature and bring to all the parts of our being, mind, life and body, a divine perfection. This briefly is Sri Aurobindo’s thesis. My concern here is not with the scientific certitude of this thesis. In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo has shown that this new consciousness is a logical inevitability in evolution. On the basis of his own spiritual experience and vision, he has proclaimed the inevitability of man’s further evolution to this level of consciousness. Now to go back to our basic question: how will this new consciousness change human life on earth? Let me begin with a brief quotation from one of Sri Aurobindo’s letters in which he explains what effect this consciousness will have on human life in general. It is likely that as the supramental principle evolved itself the evolution would more and more take another aspect—the Daivic nature would predominate, the Asuro-Rakshaso-Pishachic prakriti which now holds so large a place would more and more recede and lose its power. A principle of greater unity, harmony and light would emerge everywhere. It is not that the creation in the ignorance would be altogether abolished, but it would begin to lose much of its elements of pain and falsehood and would be more a progression from lesser to higher truth, from a lesser to a higher harmony, from a lesser to a higher light, than the reign of chaos and struggle, of darkness and error that we now perceive. Each level of consciousness is a power. The mental consciousness, for example, is a power which has enabled us to take in the experience of the physical world, subject it to the processes of induction and deduction and reshape it. Not even the chimpanzee, which among the higher primates is closest to man, has been able to do this because it does not possess the mental consciousness which man has. Again, consider the acquisition of human language which is a complex means of communication. It has been shown that even when systematic efforts are made a chimpanzee’s capacity to acquire human language is extremely limited, may be a few 100 words and less than 1,000 sentences after several years of training. But a human child effortlessly acquires the language to which he is exposed by the time he is around four years old. This is once again because the human child has a mental consciousness. In the same way, the supramental consciousness will bring to us powers which will change human nature by breaking down its present limits. Its greatest promise is that it will enable us to change human nature at all levels. And there is no doubt that a radical change in human nature holds the key to our very survival on this planet. In Janus, one of the last books he wrote, Arthur Koestler lamented that humanity is a doomed species. He was convinced that the species suffers from a paranoid streak and this is seen in the way man has always used his powers to harm himself. Now with the acquisition of nuclear power he has acquired the awesome capability of destroying the whole of human species. And it may be only a few more decades before man actually succeeds in committing this final holocaust. Koestler attributed this to a fundamental flaw in the evolution of the human brain as maintained in the Papez-Maclean theory of emotions. This theory states that man has a tripartite brain structure; at the bottom he has a reptilian brain, on top of it the brain of a horse and on the topmost level, the human aspect, the neo-cortex. The two old brains have remained un-evolved for some reason while the neo-cortex has evolved tremendously during the last half a million years. As a result of this evolutionary confusion, our reasoning powers, which reside in the new brain are unable to control our instincts, passions and biological drives which are controlled by our reptilian and mammalian brains. Thus the raging fury of passionately held irrational beliefs and attachments drives us to savage behaviour while reason sits unable to control that part of our life. Sri Aurobindo spoke about an evolutionary crisis that humanity is facing today. He pointed out that in certain directions the mind has achieved enormous development but in others it stands bewildered and no longer knows the way. There is nothing in the mental consciousness that makes man look beyond the stress of economic and physical needs. He is presently engaged in cultivating a multiplication of new wants and an aggressive expansion of his collective ego. Science in the meanwhile has put into his hands great powers of the universal Force and has also made the life of humanity materially one, but what uses this universal Force is a little human ego, individual and communal. Whether we accept Sri Aurobindo’s analysis or Koestler’s analysis of the human predicament, it is clear that the human mind today stands arrested. Everybody is convinced that until human nature is changed there is no future for mankind. Koestler believes that human nature cannot be changed because the evolutionary flaw in the making of the brain cannot now be rectified, except partially through medication. But Sri Aurobindo takes this evolutionary impasse as an indication that a leap in to a higher consciousness has to be taken, beyond the mind to the supermind. He believes that with this new consciousness man will be able to do what the mental consciousness has been unable to do, namely, change human nature. Here is an example of what this might mean. More and more people have come to the conclusion that the limitations on human happiness are not primarily external limitations any more, they are inner limitations. If people still die today of malnutrition, and children in large numbers are crippled for life for lack of elementary health care and safe drinking water it is not because we do not have adequate resources to prevent these tragedies but because we do not have the heart and the will to share with our unfortunate brothers what we have in plenty. The limits of our happiness are essentially the inner ones—our narrowness, selfishness, ego, our greed and possessiveness and the tendency to exploit people who are weaker than us. The older spirituality recognised this, but the means it had were not adequate for transforming human nature completely and permanently. All that the religious teachings and moral exhortations have given us is the thin veneer of a satwic nature. But at the first opportunity, the beast in us is ready to come out and rule us. At present the grades of consciousness above the ordinary mind can only act as influences; they can indirectly influence the human mind and consciousness but cannot do more. Therefore, there is no permanent change in human nature yet. This explains why the efforts of the saints and the old spirituality have so far not produced permanent results. For this we have to grow into a greater spiritual consciousness—what Sri Aurobindo called the supramental consciousness. The supramental consciousness is a consciousness of unity, a consciousness that is not ego-bound like the mental consciousness. Harmony and oneness with all are natural to it because it is a spiritual consciousness. Just as the consciousness of a chimpanzee does not have a natural aptitude for acquiring a human language, the human mind too does not seem to have a natural aptitude for spiritual attributes. Only the supermind has a natural propensity for what are called the daivic qualities like love, brotherhood, charity and compassion. The manifestation of the supermind outwardly, visibly and physically, is a long process, or at least a process with a long preparation. The yoga-tapasya of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother was aimed at hastening the descent of the supramental consciousness in the earth-atmosphere and the Mother has assured us that the new consciousness has descended. It is now a living force on earth just as the thinking mental consciousness and the higher mental consciousness are already at work here. Its effects on individuals and earth-life will be slowly worked out in the course of time just as the effects of the mental consciousness were worked out over time. During the initial stages a few human beings will succeed in acquiring the new consciousness and they will be the pioneers. In course of time an increasing number of people on earth will be able to manifest this consciousness. However, it is not likely to overpower the earth in a moment. All those who aspire for the transformation of consciousness will now find the earth-atmosphere more favourable for their progress. As time passes, more and more people will be able to acquire this consciousness and eventually a race of supramental beings will appear on this earth. Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the future is the vision of a divine life on earth. As he says in the concluding part of Savitri: Nature shall live to manifest secret God,The Spirit shall take up the human play,This earthly life become the life divine. Even among those who accept this vision there is the question: how soon will this change happen? Students of evolution have told us that evolution is continuing to accelerate and that wherever we are going, we are going there fast. Many who have watched the cross-catalytic progress in biology, atomic physics, energy sources, mobility and communication have come to the conclusion that we are today passing through a jump in evolution far more concentrated and intense and of far greater evolutionary importance than any we have so far seen. Those of us who are impatient to see the manifestation of the new consciousness would do well to remember that we are now on the threshold of an evolutionary leap as significant as the evolution of life from inanimate matter, which took billions of years. The change I have described above is not expected to take billions of years, but it may take centuries. On the other hand, for those of us who are sensitive to such things evidence is already gathering thick and fast indicating that the new force is at work in our midst. Finally, people often wonder whether this marvellous light of the new consciousness can ever really descend on our sordid earth. For many, Sri Aurobindo’s vision for man may appear more like a scenario in a fairy tale than in real life. As he himself said in Savitri: A few shall see what none yet understands; God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep; For man shall not know the coming till its hour And belief shall be not till the work is done. Thus we must ask, can earthly life be made really perfect? I cannot do better than quote a few lines from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri which answer a similar scepticism: How sayst thou Truth can never light the human mind And Bliss can never invade the mortal’s heart Or God descend into the world he made? If in the meaningless Void creation rose, If from a bodiless Force Matter was born, If life could climb in the unconscious tree, Its green delight break into emerald leaves And its laughter of beauty blossom in the flower, If sense could wake in tissue, nerve and cell And Thought seize the grey matter of the brain, And soul peep from its secrecy through the flesh, How shall the nameless Light not leap on men, And unknown powers emerge from Nature’s sleep? Even now hints of a luminous Truth like stars Arise in the mind-mooned splendour of Ignorance; Even now the deathless Lover’s touch we feel: If the chamber’s door is even a little ajar, What then can hinder God from stealing in Or who forbid his kiss on the sleeping soul? Already God is near, the Truth is close: Because the dark atheist body knows him not, Must the sage deny the Light, the seer his soul?10 From an edited transcript of a talk delivered at the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, in September 2001. Originally printed in the book “India’s Spiritual Destiny: Its Inevitability and Potentiality” (2006). Our deep gratitude to the Late Sri Mangesh V Nadkarni More of Nadkarniji’s talks & writings
(Spoken on September 15, 1995) Our subject will be what is known as the System of Yoga. As you are all aware, the word ‘yoga’ has been exercising a kind of mesmerising effect on the minds of people; everyone seems to be attracted towards it, whatever their reason may be. There is an unknown enigmatic power exerted by the very word ‘yoga’, due to which everyone wants to know what it is, under the impression that it is apparently going to shower upon them immense blessings of an unknown character. People feel it is something wonderful, and very necessary. This word yoga comes from a Sanskrit root, yug, meaning ‘uniting’ or ‘the union’. Yoga is the attainment of union, and also the process of achieving this union. It is the end, as well as the methodology involved in achieving the end known as union. But union with what? What is to be united with what? This question is, perhaps, not easily answered. There is a nebulous feeling about the nature of this union, and a clear-cut answer will not be easily available from any quarter which seems to be concerned with the teaching of yoga. Hundreds of definitions will be provided, all which look perfectly sensible and logical; yet, you may not feel that you have obtained anything. You will be still searching, moving from one Guru to another Guru, one institution to another institution, and trying every blessed method of practising yoga. The answer to this great question of what this union is will take you deep into the very nature and structure of existence itself. Very profound is this science because it goes deep into the very nature of what is called existence itself. The meaning of the word ‘existence’ will be clear to you all because of the fact that everyone exists, everything exists. Existing is a common denominator, a factor that is at the back of the very meaning of all life. There is no meaning in anything unless it exists. That which does not exist has no value. Inasmuch as existence is a common background of every person and every thing in the world, it has to be considered as covering the whole structure of life. Everywhere is existence, but in our day-to-day life, we seem to be psychologically creating a sort of rift in this otherwise-generalised definition of existence. For instance, everyone feels, “I exist; you also exist.” Here, when you conceive your existence as a ‘myself’, you will automatically distinguish this existence of ‘myself’ from the existence of what you call ‘yourself’. My existence is not actually identical with your existence. If it were identical, there would be no ‘you’. For every ‘myself’ there is a counter-correlative known as ‘yourself’. Now, who is this ‘myself’? Every person in the world is a ‘myself’, because every person refers to oneself as ‘me’. Who is ‘yourself’ or ‘itself’? Anything that is not ‘myself’ is ‘yourself’ or ‘itself’. Please remember this peculiar subtle enigma before you: Anything that is not ‘myself’ is ‘yourself’ or ‘itself’, but this ‘yourself’ is also a ‘myself’ from its own point of view. While I may regard you as ‘yourself’ from my feeling of myself as a subjective existence, you are also in a position to consider yourself as a ‘myself’, and consider me as a ‘yourself’. Is there a distinction between myself and yourself? You will find that here we are in a strange difficulty that eludes ordinary understanding. Who is this ‘myself’, and who is the ‘yourself’? Everyone seems to be ‘myself’, and at the same time everyone is a ‘yourself’, though these two terms are totally contradictory. How can these contradictions seem to be existing in one person simultaneously? I am ‘yourself’ and ‘myself’ at the same time, though the characteristics of the existence of ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ are two different things altogether. The existence of ‘myself’ cannot get identified with your existence; else, there will be no difference between people. Are you able to recognise the great problem before you? Are you justified in regarding anyone as a ‘yourself’? Why do you call somebody as ‘yourself’, or call something as ‘itself’, when that ‘itself’ also is a ‘myself’ from its own point of view? If you are going to live in the world with this kind of contradiction in your own way of thinking, you should think thrice before saying, thinking or doing anything. It is a tremendous mystery that you are facing in your day-to-day life, and you have taken it for granted, as if it is perfectly clear. Why do you regard another person as a ‘yourself’, if you are able to conceive that person called ‘yourself’ to be a ‘myself’ from its own point of view? So, the basic philosophical question is, “Is there an object in the world, apart from the subject?” The ‘yourself’ is an object, the ‘myself’ is a subject. The ‘myself’ observes the ‘yourself’ as an externally independently existing something. Are you justified in coming to this conclusion that there is someone who is not at all a subjective ‘me’ or ‘I’, but totally an object? Can you say that there is anything called an object at all, really speaking, inasmuch as every person and every thing cannot be regarded as an object from their own point of view? But, do you not make this distinction between the subjective perceiving consciousness and the object outside? Put a question to your own self: Why do you make this distinction? In what way can you consider yourself justified in calling yourself a determining factor in foisting a definition on someone else whom you regard as an object? There is something of a secret hidden behind all these things: How do you know that you are existing? What makes you feel that you are really there, in some place? Have you any proof? Do you not ask for proofs, nowadays, for anything to be accepted? Now, bring a syllogistic deduction, a logical argument, to establish that you are existing. You may be wondering, “The question is ridiculous. I am existing; it is very clear, and you want a proof for it?” There is a clarity which is a hundred-percent illumination that confirms the existence of oneself. But, you will not grant this concession that you are, which you give to your own self, to others. For any other thing you want a proof in order that you may establish their existence. You cannot know the nature of even an atom. You want laboratories, equipment, by means of which you can know the nature of the existence of a little thing called a material substance, an atom. If everyone and everything has a substantive characteristic and not an objective characteristic, there would be some fallacy in your asking for instruments to enable you to know the nature, existence, or the structure of something which you call an object. Why do you not apply the same logic to your own self? Why do you not subject yourself to a laboratory test of observation and experimentation to know that you are really existing? You will say, “It is meaningless. You want me to subject myself to an experiment in a laboratory so that I may know that I am existing?” But then, why should you apply this logic to another, which you regard as something different from you, though wrongly? There is a psychological rift between the operation taking place within yourself and the same operation that is taking place in regard to something that you regard as not yourself. The mind of a person divides itself into two segments of activity, knowing in a subjective way on the one side and characterising in an objective way another thing on the other side. You do not deal with another in the same way as you deal with your own self. Is it possible for you to deal with another thing or another person in the same way as you are likely to deal with your own self? Inasmuch as you will not be able to do this, and you would not like to do it also, for your own personal reasons, you are unjustly parading your competency in knowing all things perfectly, while in fact your knowledge of things is imperfect. You have created an unjustifiable dissection of the types of existence attributed to yourself and others. Yoga, as I mentioned, is an act of union. Now I am coming to the point as to what it is that is going to be united. Two realities cannot be united, because a reality is something which is valid by its own existence as a total independence. An independent thing cannot come in contact with another independent thing, because there is a total subjectivity characterizing the independence of a particular person or thing which differs from the same nature that you can attribute to another person or thing. Two ‘reals’ cannot join and become one, because both are ‘real’; if two ‘reals’ can join together and become one, there must be some mistake in the assumption that there are two ‘reals’ at all. In this sense, in the attempt to achieve the union known as yoga, you are dealing with vast existence itself, which stands before you as an object, from which you distinguish yourself as an observer. The world stands before you as something that is observed, and you are standing apart from it as an observing subject. But, do you not know that you are also a similar type of object that can be observed by other substantives, who also have the prerogative of judging you? Have you heard the very famous saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged?” In the way you are judging another, you will be judged correspondingly. You will receive what you are meting out to another, the reason being that there is an undercurrent of uniformity between the subjective side and the objective side which is missed in ordinary sensory perception. The consciousness that is what makes you feel a ‘myself’ or ‘me’ in regard to your own self cannot be observed as operating in another person. You can experience the consciousness in you, but you cannot experience the consciousness in another person. You only concede the fact of there being consciousness in another person by the behaviour of that person, which indicates the presence of consciousness in that person, also. So, the conceding of the fact of there being a consciousness in another person is a conclusion drawn by inference; but in the case of yourself, it is a direct experience. You cannot know that there is consciousness in another person, because consciousness is pure subjectivity. The nature of consciousness is nothing but the capacity to know. That which knows cannot become what is known. That is to say, consciousness cannot become an object of itself. This is the reason why you are only inferring consciousness in other people by a deductive process of reasoning, while in your case it is a direct experience. If it is possible for you to adopt some method by which you can enter into the consciousness of another person, that person will immediately cease to be an object to you. There will be a commingling of consciousness, which is supposed to be the pure subject in you with the consciousness which also is a pure subject in another person. But practically, this is not possible to achieve. By any amount of effort on your part, you cannot enter into the consciousness of another person. The other person always stands as an object to be dealt with, while you do not want to deal with yourself. Here is a basic fundamental error in the process of perception and experience in which we are daily involved, and no one wants to go deep into this difficulty under the impression that everything is clear, and all things are going on well. The process of action and reaction, with which you are well accustomed, arises on account of this bifurcation of your existence as differentiated from another’s existence. There is something which the existence of another resents in your characterisation of its existence. It resents the definition of that existence, because it is not possible to dissect two segments of existence which otherwise is uniformly present in all people. Now, the Yoga System takes up this question in right earnest: How would you be able to solve this psychological malady that has crept into everyone, due to which you cannot truly know what is outside you? Even your knowledge of your own self is a perfunctory psychological appreciation, not a true knowledge. If you cannot have a true knowledge of your own in-depth essence, you cannot know the in-depth essence of anybody else, either. So, all knowledge received through our modern-day education is a make-believe. The characterization, the ‘how’ and the behaviour of a particular person or thing is given, but the ‘why’ of it is not known. You can know how a thing behaves, but you cannot know why it behaves in that manner. With your own self, you know why you are behaving in a particular manner. So, that ‘why’ which you are applying to yourself as something very clear should also be equally applied to the other, which stands on equal footing in the process of perception. The philosophical definition of this subjectivity in oneself standing as opposed to the existence of another is the correlation of the seer and the seen. How do you come to know that something is there in front of you? You will have a very easy answer: “Because, I see that there is something in front of me.” What do you mean by ‘seeing’? The light rays come in contact with the retina of your eyes and cast a reflection of what is in front of you. Opticians tell you that in the beginning it is a topsy-turvy reflection that is cast on the retina; later, it gets rectified into a vertically existing object. Yet, the primary question, how you have come to the conclusion that you know this object, is not answered. Knowledge cannot be identified with rays of light, because no one believes that a light ray is conscious. It is a physical phenomenon. An object which is far away, like a mountain, becomes an object of your knowledge. You are, of course, aware that the mountain cannot enter into your eyes; it is distant, and yet, you come to know that the mountain exists. The knowing process is actually the function of consciousness. Your consciousness establishes the existence of something in front which is called a mountain. It brings about a conscious relationship between the mountain and itself in the perception of this object called a mountain. Do you attribute consciousness to a mountain? Does it think in the manner you think? You say, “The mountain is a material substance.” If you cannot regard matter as having an element of consciousness, then matter stands always as an object of consciousness; and if there is always a difference between consciousness and matter, as well known to everybody, then there is a difference between the consciousness that knows the object known as the mountain, and the mountain itself. If there is such a difference between the material object called the mountain and the consciousness which is supposed to know the existence of that object, how do you come to know that it exists? The only apparent connection between your consciousness and the object which is known as the mountain is light rays, air and space. Neither light rays, nor the air, nor the space intervening between you and the mountain can be regarded as conscious elements. They are all material, one-hundred percent. If that which intervenes between your consciousness and the object outside is material in its nature, this consciousness which knows the object cannot be connected with that object, because the connection is made of material substance. What is the relation between this material connection existing between your consciousness and the object, and the knowing Self itself? No intelligible answer to this question is possible. A material connection cannot bring about a conscious apprehension of the object. We have to conclude that there is some other mysterious element operating between your so-called subjective consciousness and the object outside, because the object, such as the mountain, is material, as is well known; and matter and consciousness cannot come together, as they are of dissimilar characters. Similar things unite; dissimilar things divide. Now, the mountain being dissimilar to the nature of consciousness, it cannot be known under any circumstance that it exists, unless you appreciate that there is something of the nature of consciousness itself interlinking your subjective consciousness with the object outside. What is the conclusion? The conclusion is that your consciousness that knows the object is not connected to the object by any material content; it has to be, by an in-depth analysis of the situation, a conscious link only – which means to say, your mind has to exceed the limit of this bodily frame. The mind cannot go so far as the mountain outside if you believe the mind is inside the body only. Do you not think that the mind is inside you? Do you believe your mind is going outside into the marketplace? If the mind is locked up within the framework of your physical being, there is no way of knowing that there is an object outside – unless, by a logical deduction of the fact, you have to infer that this mind which apparently seems to be locked up within the body is really not so locked up. It has a wider connotation, which permits its existence outside the body, also. There is a larger mind than the individual mind, which is the reason why your so-called subjectivity is able to apprehend the object outside. Your mind is touching the object because of the fact that it is not really confined to the location of your physical body. I will give you an example to illustrate this point. Suppose there is a broadcasting station in Delhi or anywhere, and somebody speaks or sings there. That sound wave is carried through space to the receiving set somewhere far away, and that receiving set plays the voice of the person in the broadcasting station. Does it mean that the sound is travelling through space? But the sound itself does not travel through space; otherwise, we would all be hearing the broadcasted sound even without the receiving set. The audio structure of the speech or the song of the person gets converted into a vibration, an energy, which is ubiquitous, existing everywhere; and the medium of that energy which is everywhere is contacted by the process of the conversion of the sound into that very energy which communicates that vibrating force to the receiving set, which re-transforms that energy into the sound that you are hearing. So, between the sound in the broadcasting station and the sound that you are hearing through the receiving set, there is something that is not seen at all by any person and which cannot be contacted, but without which the connection between that sound and this sound is unintelligible. In a similar manner is this question of the perception of an object. There has to be a super-mind, a wider mind, a more comprehensive mind, you can call it the Universal Mind, which operates in an impersonal manner between your individualized mind, which is apparently locked up in your body, and the so-called object, which is apparently external to you. Now, here again a question arises: What is it that this extra-physical mind is doing when this individual mind vibrates in a manner contactable with this Universal Mind? What actually takes place? The mental faculty which is superior to the individual mental faculty, the wider mind, comes in contact with the object which is called the mountain. You can see even the stars, which are several light years away. How do you see them, when they are not entering your eyes? The same process takes place. There is a larger, wider, universalized mind through which the individual mind comes in contact, without knowing that there is this transparent intermediary operation taking place between the knowing mind and the object that is known. Another question automatically follows from this conclusion. The fact that the mountain is a material substance cannot be overlooked. Even the Universal Mind, which knows itself, which reflects consciousness, cannot identify itself with something which is totally material in its nature. Mind cannot contact matter, unless the matter also has some characteristics similar to the mind. If you cannot concede this fact, the reason why you are able to know an object outside cannot be explained. The conclusion, therefore, philosophically arrived at, is that there is some Over Mind operating everywhere, even inside the structural pattern of an object called matter, such as a mountain. There is a universal operative mind that is hiddenly present even in a so-called material object called the mountain, and it reacts in a conscious manner in respect of the conscious mind which is seeing the object outside, and a commingling of two centres of mind takes place. There has to be something of a similar character between the medium that broadcasts the sound in the station, and the receiving set. If they are totally dissimilar, they cannot come in contact with each other; there would be no hearing the sound at all. There is, therefore, for all practical purposes, a hidden content as a mysterious existence which operates universally and ubiquitously everywhere, which being unknown as an existing factor to the individual mind, creates the so-called bifurcation between the subject and the object. What does yoga do, then? It is a very subtle and adroit method adopted in the disciplining of the individual mind, by which it can directly come in contact with that Universal Mind intervening between itself and the so-called object outside. That is to say, you will directly come in contact with that object. The objectiveness, the ‘yourself-ness’ of the object ceases. It becomes a ‘myself’ in a different sense, and this ‘myself’ which is the observing factor unites with the ‘myself’ of that object. There is a larger ‘me’, a large ‘I’, which transcends the individual ‘I’, an experience which will include whatever you know about yourself and whatever you seem to be knowing about another. There is, therefore, an enhancement of perceptive capacity in this process, and when the attainment of this kind of union becomes an actual experience, you will find yourself in a flood of experience which inundates your total personality, and you will feel that what is outside you is not really outside you. The problems of life arise on account of the existence of ‘yourself’ contradicting ‘my existence’. That contradiction has to be resolved by adopting such subtle means of self-discipline by which the otherness of an object gets melted down to the true ‘myself’ aspect of what that object is. That is to say, yoga is a union of the true subject with the true subjectivity of another thing, which you erroneously and wrongly call the object. So, what is the union in yoga? It is the union of the subject with the object. But, in another sense, it looks that the two cannot be united at all, so I have to explain why, in one sense, the subject and the object stand apart and they cannot be united, and in what sense they can be united. You will find the Yoga System of Patanjali practically mentioning that the problem of life arises in the contradiction between the subjectivity and the objectivity of a thing, and the separation of the objective character in an object from the subjectivity in it – in its technical language, the prakriti aspect being separated from the purusha aspect in the perceiving consciousness. In that sense, there is a separation, but in a deeper sense, there is a union, as I have indicated to you briefly in this introduction to this great subject, to which we have to revert later on in greater detail. Our gratitude to Swami Krishnananda of Divine Life Society
Involution and Evolution of Consciousness The Sankhya system begins with consciousness and shows how it systematically fragments and becomes more dense until it is fully involved in Matter. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that there is an intense, concentrated involved intelligence which we can see even in the atom. The mathematical precision and obvious interface between forces of attraction and repulsion, organized energy and the ability to develop from the atom to any number of complex structures, eventually leading to the development of life and mental action, shows that this consciousness is there, if hidden, in an involved state. Modern science in fact is now confirming that where they originally thought Matter was the origin, they then moved on to state that “matter is energy” and more recently “energy is consciousness”. We see therefore close agreement between the leading edge of modern scientific thought and the ancient teachings of the Sankhya. “In the evolution of the soul back from Prakriti towards Purusha, the reverse order has to be taken to the original Nature-evolution, and that is how the Upanishads and the Gita following and almost quoting the Upanishads state the ascending order of our subjective powers.” ‘Supreme,’ they say, ‘beyond their objects are the senses, supreme over the senses the mind, supreme over the mind the intelligent will: that which is supreme over the intelligent will, is he,’ — is the conscious self, the Purusha. Therefore, says the Gita, it is this Purusha, this supreme cause of our subjective life which we have to understand and become aware of by the intelligence; in that we have to fix our will. So holding our lower subjective self in Nature firmly poised and stilled by means of the greater rally conscient self, we can destroy the restless ever-active enemy of our peace and self-mastery, the mind’s desire.” The evolution of consciousness we see expounded here tracks, in reverse order, the involution that brought consciousness into Matter. The process of the yoga the Gita prescribes is to turn the focus and attention on that highest consciousness and see and experience it as the ultimate and first cause of all we experience. (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita) The Instruments of Our Subjective Experience In the Sankhya analysis, which the Gita by and large adopts, our interaction with the objective world is carried out by the instruments of subjective experience, which themselves are elements of Nature, Prakriti. Because the subtler, higher and finer consciousness precedes the gross outer material world, these elements develop starting with the Buddhi, the discriminating intelligence and will. The ego-sense is an outgrowth of the development of the Buddhi. From there, the sense-mind, Manas is developed, which develops the senses of perception and action to interact with the material world and its objective reality based on the 5 elements. Sri Aurobindo carries this analysis further by relating it to the role of the Purusha: “Reflected in the pure consciousness of Purusha these degrees and powers of Nature-force become the material of our impure subjectivity, impure because its action is dependent on the perceptions of the objective world and on their subjective reactions.” “Buddhi…takes for us the form of intelligence and will. Manas, the inconscient force which seizes Nature’s discriminations by objective action and reaction and grasps at them by attraction, becomes sense-perception and desire, the two crude terms or degradations of intelligence and will, becomes the sense-mind sensational, emotive, volitional in the lower sense of wish, hope, longing, passion, vital impulsion, all the deformations…of will. The senses become the instruments of sense-mind, the perceptive five of our sense-knowledge, the active five of our impulsions and vital habits, mediators between the subjective and objective; the rest are the objects of our consciousness…” We see here, then a mechanism whereby the 24 principles of Sankhya have undergone systematic transformations in order to create the conscious experience that we all have and take for granted. The forms of intelligence and will have undergone a step-down effect in order to interact with the elements, and the intervening steps of sense-reaction and desire, and the grasping after the objects of senses are the operative aspects of our subjective experience in the lower nature. (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita) The Supreme Purusha Of the Gita The Gita incorporates, in the first six chapters, most of the premises of the Vedantic concept of knowledge. Sri Aurobindo describes it: “The Gita takes it over at once and completely and throughout the six chapters quietly substitutes the still immutable Brahman of the Vedantins, the One without a second immanent in all cosmos, for the still immutable but multiple Purusha of the Sankhyas. It accepts throughout these chapters knowledge and realisation of the Brahman as the most important, the indispensable means of liberation, even while it insists on desireless works as an essential part of knowledge.” The Gita weaves together the concepts of Sankhya and Vedanta in a way that takes up, expands and harmonises their positions. In the way of knowledge, however, it is clear that the Vedantic viewpoint is predominant. At the same time, both Sankhya and Vedanta, in the sense that they were understood and practiced at the time, were unable to resolve the ultimate question that would be able to integrate action and inaction, the immobile and the mobile. The Gita addresses this by describing a supreme Purusha, Purushottama, which was able to hold within itself, without conflict or disharmony, both the unmoving and the moving concurrently. “The Brahman is its supreme and not in any lower aspect has to be presented as the Purusha with the lower Prakriti for its Maya, so to synthesize thoroughly Vedanta and Sankhya, and as Ishwara, so to synthesize thoroughly both with Yoga; but the Gita is going to represent the Ishwara, the Purushottama, as higher even than the still and immutable Brahman, and the loss of ego in the impersonal comes in at the beginning as only a great initial and necessary step towards union with the Purushottama. For the Purushottama is the supreme Brahman.” The concept is alluded to in the Upanishads, but it is the Gita which clearly sets it forth and positions it in such a way as to allow all the major schools of understanding to fit within it. (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita) The Challenges Facing the Gita’s Synthesis The Vedas, Upanishads and other texts of the ancient seers were vast storehouses of observation, information and analysis, along with practical guidelines for gaining an understanding through personal experience. They, in fact, started from the experience, observation and standpoint of a specific seer in many cases. While they focused on and moved toward the central unifying experience, they did so from multiple unique and individual views, and thus, came to the observation and the solution in multiple different ways. They were, therefore, a fragmented view of the unity, and more or less represented the attempt of the blind men to describe the elephant by each one touching a different part of it, and thereby coming up with vastly different descriptions. The Gita, on the other hand, is attempting to unify these different descriptions into a unified whole. The standpoint can be compared to the concept of the first time humans observed the planet earth from outer space, and began to recognise that the world is one unified eco-sphere and bio-sphere and that all human beings are one species and just one part of this unified biological and ecological whole. The Gita therefore does not outright dismiss any particular path or philosophical direction that was current at the time, but works to integrate it into a more complete web of understanding, eliminating thereby the most exclusive and rigid aspects of each one, and looking to find where it fits into the larger picture and thereby harmonises with the others. During this process, the Gita adds its own contributions which provide some of the unifying factors. Sri Aurobindo describes the process of the Gita: “The Gita has to synthesize the Yoga doctrine of liberation by works and the Sankhya doctrine of liberation by knowledge; it has to fuse karma with jnana. It has at the same time to synthesize the Purusha and Prakriti idea common to Sankhya and Yoga with the Brahmavada of the current Vedanta in which the Purusha, Deva, Ishwara,–supreme Soul, God, Lord,–of the Upanishads all became merged in the one all-swallowing concept of the immutable Brahman; and it has to bring out again from its overshadowing by that concept but not with any denial of it the Yoga idea of the Lord or Ishwara. It has too its own luminous thought to add, the crown of its synthetic system, the doctrine of the Purushottama and of the triple Purusha for which, though the idea is there, no precise and indisputable authority can be easily found in the Upanishads and which seems indeed at first sight to be in contradiction with that text of the Shruti where only two Purushas are recognised.” Other views are also harmonised along the way as the Gita addresses the main lines of Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta in its integrating view. (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita) The Synthesis of the Gita If we look past the philosophical details to the underlying focus and action, we can see a lot of similarity between the Vedantic yoga of knowledge and the philosophy of the Sankhya. They both use the power of the intelligence, and the discriminating intellect to determine the underlying truth of existence, regardless of whether they consider that truth to be an illusory Maya or Prakriti consisting of the action of the 3 gunas. Each of them sees liberation as the result of a process of abstraction from involvement in the works of the world, leading to a quiescent opening to a vast, unmoving, silent Reality, however it is actually described or defined. This provides us a basis for the Gita taking up the Sankhya and integrating it with the Vedantic path that is at its core. The Gita adds to this path of knowledge, an emphasis on the value and importance of the Yoga of Works. Sri Aurobindo describes it this way: “But for the Yoga of the Gita, as for the Vedantic Yoga of works, action is not only a preparation but itself the means of liberation; and it is the justice of this view which the Gita seeks to bring out with such an unceasing force and insistence….” The Gita brings about the integration of these diverse paths through a re-defining of the meaning of renunciation: “Renunciation is indispensable, but the true renunciation is the inner rejection of desire and egoism; without that the outer physical abandoning of works is a thing unreal and ineffective, with it it ceases even to be necessary, although it is not forbidden.” Sri Aurobindo summarizes the integrated path of the Gita: “Knowledge is essential, there is no higher force for liberation, but works with knowledge are also needed; by the union of knowledge and works the soul dwells entirely in the Brahmic status not only in repose and inactive calm, but in the very midst and stress and violence of action. Devotion is all-important, but works with devotion are also important; by the union of knowledge, devotion and works the soul is taken up into the highest status of the Ishwara to dwell there in the Purushottama who is master at once of the eternal spiritual calm and the eternal cosmic activity.” (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita) Our gratitude to Sri Aurobindo Studies Originally published hereVisit here for more of Sri Aurobindo’s writings
Sankhya darshana is a distinctive contribution of India to world philosophy. It is a pity that it is not studied globally since it impacts not only metaphysics, but psychology, cosmogony, epistemology and soteriology. And it is one of the singular leaps in human thought that eventually, I believe, led to the flowering of Indic civilization, its world-view, its arts and sciences and its continued uniqueness. Sankhya as propounded by sage Kapila (although we have no extant works from him) see the Universe as the continued interaction of two principles, the Purusha and the Prakriti. The Purusha is the conscious principle, which is inactive, aware and unblemished. The Prakriti is the principle of manifestation, whether in gross or subtle worlds, and all that is mobile and unconscious. There are various theories about its original relationship with Vedanta but it seems to be a precursor, or at least a parallel line of thought, to Vedanta. It is considered by some to be the most ancient Indian darshana that combines all the categories of Nyaya and Vaisesika, its precedent philosophies, into its dualistic framework. It comes to us in its most historical and traditional formulation in Sankhya Karika by Ishvara Krsna, with commentaries later from Gaudapada, Vacaspati Misra and Vijnana Bhiksu as being the most important tikakaars. Sankhya is not only experiential but metaphysical, granular and universal. Prakriti as conceived in its understanding is the eternal, all pervading and uncaused cause, which is subtler than mind and intellect and latent in everything. Prakriti creates mind, buddhi and ego, along with the five bhutas and five tanmatras and the ten senses. Its most important characteristics are that it is unlimited and independent, inherent and unchanged in everything, with same potential in every manifestation, the primal cause of all that exists and of infinite potential in its unmanifest state. It comprises of three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas, which can only be inferred, and are formless and omnipresent. These three gunas interact in each manifestation, change into one another, with the same principles of interaction in the human body as in the mind and the Universe. Rajas can convert satva into tamas and vice versa; satva can bring rajas into balance. Each guna is part of the whole and has its own significance. None may be eschewed, rejected or ignored. Sankhya accepts the principle of Satkaryavada, which means that the effect exists in the cause prior to its manifestation or appearance, says Rajmani Tigunait in his ‘Seven Systems of Indian Philosophy’. And it also accepts the proposition of Parinamvada, which implies that the transformation of cause into effect is real, not illusory. Unlike Charaka, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Buddhism and Jainism, Sankhya does not see Prakriti as comprising of material or subtle atoms but as a subtle cause that is constantly changing in expression. This Sankhya, as originally propounded, was dualistic and atheistic. And it was Sri Krishna, as far as we know, who transformed it with his genius into a Theistic, pantheistic and monistic darshana. Sri Krishna widened the connotations of the technical terms of the original Sankhya and turned its enumerative and analytical approach into a part of his synthetic and vast vision. He saw the description of Prakriti as unconscious to be applicable only to its lower status, the Apara Prakriti. There is yet a higher Prakriti he said, that is conscious, divine, intelligent, wise, nurturing and intimate. And he called this higher status as the Para Prakriti. It is possible that the development of Tantra as a powerful flowering of Indian darshana was influenced by the introduction of the concept of Para Prakriti. For Tantra, as it developed, elevated this higher understanding of Prakriti, as Shakti or the Divine Mother, to be adored and worshipped and considered even more exalted than Shiva. Sri Krishna also further enumerated the status of Purusha that is involved in lower Prakriti as the Kshara Purusha. The Purusha that frees itself of Prakriti in the individual is that which can never be destroyed or divided, as the primal unit, the Akshara Purusha. Yet, there is an even higher status of the Purusha, the Uttama Purusha, that is universal, that subsumes all the multiple purushas of traditional Sankhya, into a higher unity. That one eternal and pure consciousness that is behind all consciousnesses of the Purushas, the cetanas cetananam of the Upanishads. The Uttama Purusha and the Para Prakriti as the higher stations of the original principles of Sankhya are yet unified in Sri Krishna’s person as the Purushottama, that supreme consciousness that is each and all, transcendent and universal and yet in each smallest atom of existence. Sankhya and yoga are thus brought together in Sri Krishna’s vast synthesis of the Gita. Sankhya, thus, is a yoga that proceeds by knowledge, as explained by Sri Aurobindo in his ‘Essays on the Gita’. And the intellectual, discriminatory, analytic approach of Sankhya is made inclusive, synthetic and malleable by the great Teacher. This permeation of Sankhya and Yoga into a unity of approach that does not exclude work or bhakti or knowledge is his unparalleled contribution to India. Sankhya became integral, poorna, and its principles applicable not only in intellectual realms that tended towards sannyasa, a detachment and movement away from the world, but also towards adoration and worship in bhakti and intense engagement of worldly activities as karma yoga. This was a significant achievement of Indian thought with far-reaching consequences towards making life richer and giving us an understanding of life that is not exclusionary but comprehensive and all-embracing. The final transformation of Sankhya came when Sri Aurobindo took Sri Krishna’s Vedanta forward and brought into it elements of the higher Tantra. When asked to describe his integral or Poorna yoga, Sri Aurobindo called it ‘advaitic in principle and tantric in execution’. He accepted the darshana of the Gita in its entirety and then brought into it the unity and dynamic aspects of Shakti, the Divine Mother, who is the executrix and makes his yoga truly universal and transformative. This introduction of Shakti into the Vedanta of the Gita is not an intellectual exercise but springs from his realization of Brahman in both its static and dynamic aspects and insight into how the Truth-Consciousness shall act on earth plane. Thus, Sankhya not only became even more poorna, but also an integral part of a more unified darshana, that incorporated all the important darshanas of Indic civilization into a single movement of self-transformation and yoga. And Tantra which had been shunned from Indian society as the leftist path, the vama marga, became established in all its dynamis in our lives as part of its own spiritual evolution. Sankhya has been modified and adapted over the last few millennia by some of our greatest spiritual figures, widened, expanded and deepened in their own more complete adhyatma. And it is to the credit of the Indian mind that these remarkable transformations have grown seamlessly in its own journey towards greater and greater establishment of truth in life, mind and body.
November 24, 1926, was the day on which Sri Aurobindo went into seclusion for concentrated Yogic work towards the creation of a new humanity. In the forefront he put, as guru and guide to his disciples, one whom he regarded as the spiritual Mother of the greater world that was to be. On this day, when the Mother’s genius of spiritual organisation took up the group of souls dedicated to the Aurobindonian ideal, the Ashram was conceived and set growing to be the nucleus-light of the divine Consciousness into which mankind was intended to be reborn. In the years that followed, this day was one of those few on which Sri Aurobindo, seated side by side with the Mother, used to give darśan to the hundreds who gathered in Pondicherry to pay them homage. But since 1950 the Mother alone has been visible on this day as on others like it. For, Sri Aurobindo who had retired for twenty-four years from common outer contact with the world chose to retire still further and, on December 5, 1950, withdrew from even his body. Then followed those five days of magnificent mystery when he lay in state, with not a sign of decomposition, and men and women in their thousands filed past that picture of imperial repose which was yet to the deep-seeing soul the dynamo of a divine energy let loose on the earth. Also, to the deep-seeing soul, on every darśan day after the great withdrawal the Mother has never sat alone: Sri Aurobindo, conscious and alive though not in the corporeal sheath, has been there, unmistakably felt in the double intensity of spiritual light that the Mother’s bodily presence has manifested in Sri Aurobindo’s physical absence. It is as if the wonderful work that was his could be, after a certain point of progress, best done by packing the whole force of it into one form instead of two. Two can indeed be glorious company for revealing what the Upanishads have called “the Light by whose shining all this shineth”, but sometimes a solitude of one can be a more potent focus for setting aflame what the Vedas have termed “the darkness which is enwrapped within darkness”. To get a glimmering of what happened on November 24 in 1926 and what lies behind the Mother’s apparent solitariness on the same date after 1950 and what Sri Aurobindo brought about on December 5 in that year, we must understand this Vedic phrase. While the Rishis saw an absolute and perfect Spirit that is all and more than all, a transcendent and a universal Godhead, at once personal and impersonal, while they saw also within all a divine dweller ever developing forms higher and higher, they did not fail to see that this development (which we now recognize as evolution) is often a most paradoxical story because the transcendent and universal and immanent Godhead has worked out the dynamics of our cosmos from a first foundation of gigantic unconsciousness, a vast welter of blind brute energy. Hidden in the energy are all omniscience and omnipotence, but the secret divinity is formidably locked and breaks out by a most difficult process. Hence the rise of life and mind in a context of enormous randomness and devious waste, as though it were an emergence through layer on obstructive layer, through labyrinth on misleading labyrinth of gloom. Yes, the Rishis recognized the immense obstruction at the roots of life and mind. They recognized too the necessity not only of ascending to the domains of knowledge and bliss beyond earth but also of disclosing in its full splendor the Sun, as they put it, lost in the Cave of Night. To bring about that disclosure, the cave-walls must be demolished. But how were the ancient barriers to be broken down? The question seems to have met with no positive answer. Hence the later Indian masters of Yoga read, in that irreducible opposition which introduced some ever-resistant element of the undivine into all our parts of nature, an enigmatic māyā which, being unconquerable, has to be evaded by a world-exceeding absorption of the inner being into an infinity that has no form, an eternity that has no movement. Even the less intransigent masters felt that ultimately the world was the field of a play, līlā, without a denouement, a play which could be inwardly ecstatic to a God-lover but never completely resolvable in its outward terms to God’s freedom and light and beatitude and immortality. Sri Aurobindo harks back to the Vedic endeavour. Not only the Godhead above, around and within but also the Godhead below is the object of his Yoga. Unless the Godhead below is compassed and set free completely in the forms of evolution, there can be no overcoming of those resistant elements that have made mysticism a magnificent failure, the grandest human achievement that yet could not bring heaven to earth. Of course nothing else than mysticism can hope to build a perfect life fulfilling man to the innermost and the outermost. However, mysticism must open its eyes to the darkness enwrapped within darkness and find some means of irradiating it. If the old spirituality fell short, it was because the means remained undiscovered. Sri Aurobindo’s teaching is that there must be in the infinite Divine the power that put forth the formula of a huge involution as the starting-point of an endless evolution and that in this power must reside the key to the irradiation of the Vedic darkness so that the Godhead may stand manifest in the very atoms of matter, secure in them as in its own home since matter would release in its own terms the Supreme Spirit crypted within it. This power he calls Supermind, Truth-Consciousness, Gnosis. To make the Supermind descend into earth-life, to carry it down into the Cave of Night and, by making the “Sun on the head of the Timeless” join the Sun immured below the feet of Time, render possible a perfect existence here and now, an existence no longer open to invasion from the nether glooms nor liable to slip down into their abyss: this is the epic of the Aurobindonian Yoga. Its uniqueness lies, on the one hand, in the full realisation of the hitherto unexplored and undynamised Supermind where the Truth is wide-awake and, on the other, in the full fathoming of the hitherto evaded and untransformed “inconscience” of matter where the Truth is deep-asleep. This uniqueness leads us to look upon Sri Aurobindo as, in the most literal sense, the Scientist of the Spirit — one who in the light of the highest spiritual Knowledge grapples with the plane of matter, the basic sphere of Science, and asserts that, until the heart of matter’s mystery is spiritually entered and possessed, the Life Divine can never become for embodied souls an assured reality, an established and consolidated evolution. For evolution means not just the emergence of the higher from the lower: it means also the transformation of the lower by the higher, the integration of it into a richer value. To evolve is to climb to the top of the scale and then turn back to the bottom in order to master it with the peak’s puissance. But the significance of mastery must be properly grasped. There is the old word siddhi doing duty for it in spiritual parlance. It is not sufficient, as ordinarily interpreted. For, it suggests a gripping and shaping of recalcitrant substance — the substance itself regarded as alien to the force that grips and shapes. Such siddhi can never have permanence inherent in it nor can it reach down to the very essence. Whatever it does is by way of sustained miracle and constitutes a splendid superimposition: it is not something natural, intrinsic, inevitable. The latter is possible only if the gripped and the shaped is not essentially different from the gripper and the shaper, but is the same being in a phenomenal form put out of the original Perfection for a particular process of self-loss and self-finding. The utter concealment, the absolute involution, comes as the last step of a graded devolution from the Supermind and serves as the first step of a graded evolution due to an expressive push upward from below by the hidden powers and an evocative pressure downward upon them and a progressive entry into them by the same powers — life, mind, Supermind — which have their planes above. What Sri Aurobindo, therefore, means by mastery of the black nadir of existence by the golden zenith is nothing super- imposed by a miraculous seizure: it is the Supreme coming into His own and fulfilling in evolutionary Time a figure of the perfect that He is in His Truth-Consciousness, His plane of creative archetypes which joins the eternal to the temporal. That is why Sri Aurobindo has said that the supramental manifestation is in the very logic of earthly things and is the final sense of the developing terrestrial nature. As such it will be intrinsically sustained, permanent — matter itself crystallising as Spirit. However, the luminous crystallisation cannot take place without unprecedented labour on the part of those whose mission it is to turn the potentiality of it into actuality. The promise that the potential would be the actual as a result of his Yoga is the significance of November 24, 1926, when the towering ascent that Sri Aurobindo had accomplished was matched by the crossing of a critical point of descent. This day was the culmination of year on long year of travel along uncharted ways of the inner life — travel far beyond the goals of Nirvana, Moksha, Cosmic Consciousness, Krishna-realisation, union with the World-Creatrix which were reached before he withdrew from the political field of British India to Pondicherry in 1910. It is known as the Day of Victory because it marked a decisive turn pregnant with the divinisation of material existence. But between the casting of the seed and the advent of flower and fruit there must again be a mighty passage through the unknown. And here the unknown was the penetration more and more of the Vedic darkness with the supramental Gnosis. All the old Yogas move out of the gloom of mortal ignorance into the Immortal’s light. The Aurobindonian discipline alone wants the illumined soul not to pause there but to adventure into a gloom of which mortal ignorance is only an attenuated form — the abyss from which evolving life and mind have sprung and which must be conquered if life and mind are to be completely divinised, for, unless matter is also divinised, the embodied deity will always have feet that are fragile. The promise of Victory could grow a realised Triumph only by Sri Aurobindo’s becoming at the same time a Pilgrim of Day and a Pilgrim of Night. The pilgrimage through occult regions of consciousness totally involved within matter is the stupendous sacrifice Sri Aurobindo was giving for decade on decade from the time the Victory had been promised, bearing – as a line of Savitri phrases it — “the fierce inner wounds that are slow to heal.” Nothing save Divine Love in the supreme degree could support him in such a journey — Divine Love that throws itself out infinitely to lead the evolving world, sparing itself no struggle however dangerous, no self-immolation however exorbitant. A body that housed the illimitable power of the Supermind and could become permeated with the Light beyond this universe of death took upon itself not the mere task of an extraordinary individual transformation but the giant labour of being representative of all bodily life and hence accepting a universal responsibility so that the hope of an entire transformed mankind might result from its achievement. In a Yoga thus representative and responsible the greatest apparent advantages, the most striking personal benefits can be thrown away in a dire strategy of losing the immediate all to gain the ultimate all for the race. Understanding this, we have to view the events that occurred in the first week of December in 1950 — the attack by a fearful malady, uraemia, symbolic of the “inconscience” of the depths surging to drown the heights, the acceptance of it in spite of the Supermind’s inherent ability to ward off all disease, the day-to-day aggravation on the one hand and on the other the response of the descending Supermind to the sacrifice being given by a leader of the evolution for the whole earth’s sake, the deadly suffusion of the leader’s body with the uprising poison and yet the lack of the least trace of discolouration and decay for over 111 hours in the tropical climate, the spectacle at once of death and of its transcendence, as though to proclaim in a convincing parable that through the aspect of defeat a triumph was being worked out in the future that lay with Sri Aurobindo behind the visible scene and, here before us, with his companion in the creation of a super-humanity: the Mother. We await the flaming up of that future from the tenebrous fuel offered to the imperishable Splendour by the strategic sacrifice of Sri Aurobindo. What marvels the flaming will lay bare none can fully gauge. But, if the words of one who incarnated the Truth-Consciousness can be believed, the flaming is certain, arid the Mother’s eyes are a mirror of the things to be. They bear ever brighter witness to the prophetic close of that poignantly profound sonnet written by the Master of the Supermind’s everlasting Day: I made an assignation with the Night; In the abyss was fixed our rendezvous: In my breast carrying God’s deathless light I came her dark and dangerous heart to woo.I left the glory of the illumined Mind And the calm rapture of the divinised soul And travelled through a vastness dim and blind To the grey shore where her ignorant watersroll.I walk by the chill wave through the dull slime And still that weary journeying knows no end; Lost is the lustrous godhead beyond Time, There comes no voice of the celestial Friend,And yet I know my footprints’ track shall be A pathway towards Immortality. With deep gratitude to Amal Kiran, aka K.D. Sethna, of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
The body can change by the power of consciousness from within. In fact, we see this happening more often than we believe. A blind man performs the function of sight by the development of other organs. The consciousness involved in the organ of sight withdraws itself and puts a pressure on other centres and organs for them to develop. Even the normal functioning of the body reveals that the seemingly blind and mechanical movements of the organ-systems are secret with a tremendous intelligence. There is a conscious manipulation, an intelligent adaptation even at the most minute level, in the molecular dealings. Many organs even directly respond to thought suggestions, feelings, desires and emotions, movements which we associate with a certain degree of developed awareness. Quantitatively too, we have already alluded to the fact that the body can be made to do things which appear impossible. And this happens not only as a result of methodical training but also during moments of intense crises. A sense of danger or an overwhelming emotion (conscious experience) triggers a cascade of physical responses through glandular secretions. Perhaps the links are there through ‘nadis’ (subtle nerve sheaths) in the energy body. These subtle nerve sheaths serve to mediate between the universal forces and the individual. They are like so many knots or centres through which the physical consciousness and other levels of consciousness pass into the gross body and influence its behavior and change it. What we observe and record as symptoms are the end point of processes in a chain of events. This was well demonstrated by the famous experiment of Sanger. Two groups of subjects were injected adrenaline. One was shown a pleasant film while the other a horror movie. Adrenaline gave rise to joy in the former group and fear in the latter. Thus the body processes have common pathways to accommodate many types of experiences and forces and vibrations. The difference is not due to the pathways but due to the intensity of the energy-stimulus. The human body has been designed to interpret certain intensities of vibrations and leave out others. Sight for example responds to a very narrow range of visual energies; so with hearing and touch and other senses. Even the sense of pain, pleasure and indifference are a limitation, necessary for the body in our present stage of evolution but not an absolute truth in itself. It is possible to neutralise pain by conscious will. Instances are known wherein people could pierce their tongue with needles, walk on burning coal and not get hurt or burnt. It is also known that our conscious will can modify pain by a certain psychological process into joy. One can go as far as changing the action of a chemical through consciousness. In an experiment, saccharin was paired with cyclophosphamide (an immunosuppressant). Later, cyclophosphamide was removed and only saccharin given. The body still responded with immuno-suppression. Such a learning would not be possible if the body was a fixed structure. In fact the body is much more plastic than we usually believe it to be. It responds wonderfully to psychological forces. Only we do not utilise this capacity and disbelieve this knowledge. Growth – the Physical Dimension To learn how to alter the body processes to our advantage is therefore possible. But for this, two things are necessary. One, we must be able to disengage, discover and develop the powers of the hidden physical consciousness in us. Second, we must rediscover the now lost knowledge which links the body-organ systems to the different levels of consciousness and the effects of their corresponding movements. All physical culture and discipline is essentially a means to develop the physical consciousness and through it make the body strong and healthy, more plastic and adaptable. It is also a means to infuse consciousness into the very cells of the body. Many parts of the body are not yet under conscious voluntary control of the mind or will. It is however possible to do so through the power of suggestion and imagery. Over a period of time, through practice, the body can be made to respond to the power of thought-will in those parts also which are normally not under its control. Just as anastomoses develop to meet the increased demands of oxygen, so too new nerve channels can develop to link up the organ. This is not an impossibility – nerves too are known to respond to necessities of growth. New dendrites are known to develop in the brain to accommodate a greater pressure of information and learning. Yogis less restricted in approach and less conditioned to the idea of physical fixity know this very well. Elaborate techniques (pranayama, for instance) have been developed to clear the nerve channels, open them and create new ones. It is, thus, that through rigorous and painstaking discipline and practice even the most autonomous organs can be brought under conscious control. Not only that but the body can also draw energy directly through the senses and live without food. The art/science of converting this directly drawn energy into gross material substance was however not known and hence a minimal intake of food became necessary to provide the substance for the material stuff of the body. An instance is known in the life of Sri Aurobindo wherein during one such experiment with the body consciousness, he took nothing for 21 days and carried on with hours of walk, regular writing and all other activities without the least diminution of energy. One can also learn to conserve the energy normally lost through sex, speech and other forms of restless, incessant, meaningless dissipative activities transmute it into forms of emotional, vital, mental and spiritual energy for corresponding actions. Growth — the Spiritual Dimension But most of all the consciousness can grow and develop by opening itself to a consciousness higher than the mind. This it can do by two methods. One method is to first bring the body under the control of the mind. Next, one can use the mind as a mediating link by opening it to higher ranges of consciousness through faith, aspiration, invocation or offering. The mind of man can, instead of moving in fixed, narrow circles of conditioning, open to wider and higher movements. Thus, one can bring down the power of ‘peace’ and ‘stillness’ into the body through the mind. Peace and stillness are concrete forces that can actually alter the sense-perception, cancel pain, give a sense of rest and well-being, create conditions of harmony and the early return of balance and health, even effectuate a cure. A disturbance of the body’s normal rhythm can arise due to strong and violent internal forces like anger and fear (observe how our breath becomes irregular under the influence of these movements) or the impact of strong external forces impinging and crowding upon us. Peace, if invoked, restores the inner rhythm by calming the system and its violent upheaval. But it can also create a wall of stillness that separates us and our senses from contact with strongly violent forces that come from outside. Whatever enters the atmosphere of peace and wherever peace penetrates there it creates a quietening effect. Peace however is only one such higher force which our body-mind conglomerate is not normally aware of. There are other even stronger forces that can help the body consciousness to grow and develop—the forces of Wideness, Harmony, Strength, Love, Beauty, Delight and the mysterious and wonderful power of Grace. However the Mind is not the only way through which one can open the body-consciousness to the action of higher forces. The body contains in itself its own principle of divinity and if one can, through practice learn to still the body and concentrate its energy on a point, a moment comes when the physical consciousness is disengaged and can directly open to higher forces. This originally was the principle of Hatha Yoga. But it requires a very arduous, painstaking difficult and time-consuming labour. The method of opening through the mind is easier and swifter. Apart from these two methods is the discovery of the secret soul, the psychic being within oneself. This is the divine principle in man, the secret psychological centre which is the key to everything else. It holds all the movements of our complex nature together. Once discovered, the psychic being can spontaneously bring the body into contact with the highest forces to which even the mind and life in us has no access. Our body has learned to respond to ignorant forces like fear, desire, pain and pleasure, greed and lust. The price it pays for this contagion is a wearing out, exhaustion, premature decay, disease and illness. But it can also learn to open to the influence of higher forces and develop harmoniously and function smoothly under their pressure. For a fuller understanding of the process of a consciousness approach to health and healing, we have to turn for a while towards understanding of the principle and power of consciousness itself. Source of Consciousness We have been referring to a higher as well as lower consciousness and its action upon the body. All this may present a picture as if there are different types of consciousness and also that the body is different from the consciousness. This may be true from a strictly pragmatic point of view. It is also easier for our sense-experience mind to understand things by contrast and comparison. But it is not the whole truth of the matter and leaves many gaps and unresolved questions. The original truth is essentially oneness, whatever we call it. Yet, right up to the atom we find differentiation and differences (even the constituting charges are not one but two or three or more). This problem arises because we have been working the creation backwards. But once we open to the other end of the experience we see that the roots of creation are not in the atomic void but elsewhere. We then begin to discover through hidden faculties that at the origin there is something that nothing can describe. It is supremely undifferentiated, an infinite and eternal, concealing or showing itself through infinite ways. No law can be made of it, no symbol or language or formula describe it. It simply ‘is’ or ‘is not’. The ancients gave it the name of ‘Parabrahman’—the Reality that transcends all and yet contains all. Consciousness is the power of this Reality. The one consciousness becomes many by a process of differentiation and concentration or we may say absorption and involution. Thus, we have the many levels and layers of ‘consciousness’ arising out of the one consciousness, yet supported by it. Thus is also created a hierarchy of planes’ and substances’ and energies and systems of worlds that finally precipitate themselves into the atomic void or gross matter as we know it. Thus matter and its processes are the last step, in the process of differentiation and involution making them dense and limited. So an emergence out of it brings forth all the hidden possibilities. Each hidden possibility that emerges alters matter, making it more pliable, capable and subtle. This is another process of evolution. The Evolutionary Transformation of the Body A perfectly healthy body as we envisage it now is a body fit, open and receptive to higher forces. Short of it there is only an absence of disease or its presence. The concept of health has shifted therefore from a passive to a dynamic one. Passive adaptation is the equilibrium that Nature creates between the organism and the world around it. Evolution follows by a temporary dissolution of this equilibrium! An active adaptation would therefore mean the ability of the body to not only survive but also to evolve by a collaboration with nature. The stress of survival is born because of a sense of separateness. Each organism therefore tries to overpower or ‘outsmart’ others in the competitive game of life. This leads to an equal adaptive reaction in other forms of life that assert their right to existence. The individual unit, holds out for a while against the rest, but, sooner or later succumbs as it must, since no individual form of life can be greater than the whole. But while the individual form cannot be greater than the whole, the individual can rediscover its link with the whole and thus arrive at a new mode of mastery. Elimination versus Assimilation If we step back from our excessive preoccupation with the individual forms and their differences, we find that all life is essentially one. So, as evolution proceeds, clash and strife are replaced more and more by assimilation, accommodation and transmutation. Growth, at a lesser level assumes the appearance of eliminative competition. Growth, at a higher level, assumes the appearance of acceptance and assimilation. At present, our body has developed capacities to fight and reject whatever is to it ‘not self’. In future, the body will develop the capacity to absorb and change the disparate elements into a harmonious element. But for this, we have to discover a new station of consciousness. Out of the strong separative sense, we have to grow into wholeness and oneness. Out of division and knowledge based upon division we have to grow into oneness and knowledge based upon unity. Obviously, there will be a period of transition and its attendant difficulties but once the body has discovered the new mode of functioning based upon oneness, there will the power of spontaneous immunity rather than simply a power to cure. A Newer Reality Thus seen, we understand many happenings in this world in a new way. The human body, on the one hand is being forced to bear the onslaught of a large number of toxins and poisons as never before. Bacteria and viruses have taken a backseat. There are enough self-generated poisons: the industrial wastes, nuclear fall outs, drugs, insecticides, cosmetics (to name just a few), that threaten to eliminate the entire race. Or challenge it to evolve! At another level, there are scientific studies to work on the oneness of physical matter. Organ transplants, cloning, breaking of biological boundaries through cross matings are all obscure ways through which a subconscious foundation for oneness is being laid. All this should not be taken to mean that this crisis is a good thing for there are simpler, safer, direct and better ways to evolve towards oneness. But Nature has taken this risky, bumping course only because man refuses to admit a straight, smooth road to evolution. Everything in us resists the evolutionary pressure and most of this resistance comes from our notion of distinct separateness that makes us blind to everything else in the universe. Yet, man can collaborate in this great transition and evolutionary transformation of the body. How? That is the secret Sri Aurobindo had set about to discover in the ‘cave of tapasya’ at Pondicherry. He saw it with the lens of truth-vision that awakens in the yogi and the seer. The Mother practically applied this ‘secret’ on her own body. It is hardly possible to describe their yoga of the body-cells here. The true understanding however grows only through experience or identification with the truths thrown as powerful hints. Sri Aurobindo writes, “The essential purpose and sign of the growing evolution here is the emergence of consciousness in an apparently inconscient universe,…. As we rise we have to open to them our lower members and fill these with those superior and supreme dynamisms of light and power; the body we have to make a more and more and even entirely conscious frame and instrument, a conscious sign and seal and power of the spirit. As it grows in this perfection, the force and extent of its dynamic action and its response and service to the spirit must increase, the control of the spirit over it also must grow and the plasticity of its functioning both in its developed and acquired parts of power and in its automatic responses down to those that are now purely organic and seem to be the movements of a mechanic inconscience.” Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alok Pandey First printed here Publications
Sri Aurobindo was a political and social rebel and in the process of his transformation to a sage delineated highly inspiring supramental pathways to the future and Indian resurgence. Why is it that of all the great civilisations that arose on this planet 5000-7000 years ago, it is perhaps the Indian civilisation alone that has continued unbroken down the long and tortuous corridors of time? There were other great civilisations that were even older, with magnificent structures and ruins, but these civilisations have disappeared. It is India alone and, to some extent China, that has maintained this continuity. The reason seems to lie in two remarkable facts. First, there has been a spiritual and philosophical foundation for Indian culture provided by the Vedas, Upanishads or the Vedanta that has sustained Indian culture even in the most terrible and tragic circumstances. This has constantly given Indian culture the capacity for regeneration and renewal over time. Second, a series of great men and women have articulated these truths. These philosophical truths are not merely intellectual constructs, but have been an inspiration for people in their daily lives. If one looks at Indian history from the very dawn of civilisation, one will constantly see this phenomenon of challenge and response – the Vedas, the Upanishads, the great teachings of Mahavira and Buddha, the South Indian acharyas, the Bhakti movement in the medieval times, and even down to the present age, there have been a series of resurgence, as it were. The latest one is known as the Indian renaissance, which began in the nineteenth century and swept to a triumphant conclusion by the middle of the twentieth century. The Indian Renaissance The Indian renaissance is a very complex set of phenomena. It was triggered off largely by the British rule, and at one stage after 1857 or the “Indian mutiny”, now called the “first war of independence”, India lay crushed and broken at the feet of the conqueror. It appeared as if Indian culture was at last going to be extinguished. But once again the miracle of regeneration took place, and within only 90 years, from 1857 to 1947, there was a whole movement of revival and renaissance and India became free. It is clear that all these movements had a spiritual background. Sri Aurobindo said, ‘All great movements of life in India have begun with the new spiritual thought and usually a new religious activity.’ To quote Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreword in the author’s book on Sri Aurobindo: ‘It is significant to note that great political mass movements in India have had a spiritual background behind them.’ The real inspiration has been spiritual. One cannot go into the details about the renaissance; there were many streams. There were the early social reformers, such as Raja Rammohan Roy, Devendranath Tagore, Kesub Chandra Sen, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, R K Bhandarkar and M G Ranade in Maharashtra, Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Punjab. There were also Orientalists, great British scholars, who made tremendous contribution to the rediscovery of our heritage, namely James Prince, Monier Williams, Sir William James and Alexander Cunningham. There were the spiritual giants as well, such as Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and a whole group of fellow monks. It is interesting that the renaissance in India coincided with the setting up of the Indian National Congress in 1885 by an Englishman, Allen Octavian Hume. The Indian National Congress became the main vehicle for the renaissance movement and political freedom. This political movement saw two sets of great leaders. There were the early revolutionaries, and later a set of leaders led by Mahatma Gandhi who were ultimately responsible for bringing about freedom. While the latter set is better known, it is important to remember that the foundations for Gandhiji’s work were laid by the earlier stalwarts. The Congress was divided very quickly into two groups; the divisions in the Congress are not new but very old. One group was known as the moderates, among whom included Pherozeshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and other great but moderate people; the other group included the radicals led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo’s Life: Political and Spiritual Activism Sri Aurobindo’s life can be divided into two clear phases. The first relates to political activism and the second to spiritual activism. He was born in 1872 in Calcutta. At the age of seven he was sent to study in England where he spent the next 14 years. He was a brilliant student and scholar at school and at King’s College, Cambridge, where he won prizes for Greek and Latin. While in England, he was deeply influenced by two well-known revolutionary movements. First, the Sinn Fein movement in Ireland that had spearheaded the movement for Irish freedom under Charles Parnell and Eamen de’Velara. Second, the resurgomento in Italy, the great movement for the reunification of Italy led by Matsini, Garibaldi and other great revolutionary leaders. Sri Aurobindo came under the influence of these revolutionary movements and started a society called “The Lotus and the Dagger” in Cambridge. Though he was urged by his family to take the ICS examination, luckily for all of us, he declined to do so; otherwise he would have probably ended up as a deputy commissioner of Thiruchirapalli. While this would have been good for Tiruchirapalli, India would have lost the greatest philosopher of this century. Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda used to visit England every year to select outstanding young people to join his service. On meeting the 20-year Sri Aurobindo he immediately offered him a job in the Baroda College. Sri Aurobindo returned to India in 1893, a year of powerful synchronisation when Swami Vivekananda sailed from east to west to attend the Chicago World Parliament of Religions, and Sri Aurobindo sailed from the west back to the east. It was also the same year when Mahatma Gandhi sailed from London to Durban to start his career. Having returned to India to join the Baroda service, Sri Aurobindo immediately set about writing on politics. A brilliant writer, his first series of articles was published in a journal called Indu Prakash, in which he castigated the moderate leadership of the Congress. He said that their policy of prayer, petition and protest would lead nowhere. What was needed was a revolutionary movement against the British. A born revolutionary, Sri Aurobindo revolted against the British and the Congress leadership. While writing his articles he was secretly in touch with the revolutionary movement in Bengal. The revolutionary movement was the strongest in Bengal and Maharashtra. Since Bengal was the first state to feel the impact of the British rule, the genius of the Bengali people threw up an extraordinary galaxy of outstanding spiritual, scientific, intellectual, and literary figures, many of whom were revolutionaries. Sri Aurobindo’s brother Barindra Ghosh and Khudiram Bose were leaders of the revolutionary movement in Bengal. Sri Aurobindo led a double life: on the one hand, he was a professor in Baroda, while on the other hand, he was secretly in touch with revolutionary movements. In 1905 an event occurred that changed the course of Indian history and the freedom movement. This was the Partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, known as Banga bhanga, which immediately created a tremendous reaction in the whole of India and particularly in Bengal. The whole of Bengal galvanised into activity. Sri Aurobindo resigned his job in Baroda and moved to Calcutta. For five years, from 1905 to 1910, he shone like a meteor in the political firmament of India. His writings in Bande Mâtaram and the Karmayogin are unparalleled in their power. He became a vociferous leader of the radical movement. The Congress moved towards a split in 1906 in Calcutta. In 1907 in Surat a crisis in the Congress led to a break between the moderates and the radicals. The moderates met under Pherozeshah Mehta, while the radicals met under Sri Aurobindo’s chairmanship; they continued their activities. The British came down very heavily upon the radicals, who were hostile towards them. Sri Aurobindo was arrested in the Alipore Bomb Conspiracy Case and was sent to jail for a year in 1908. In fact, it was in jail that he had his first major spiritual experience which later changed his life; after 1910 Sri Aurobindo moved on to a new realm. Spiritual Nationalism During these five years 1905-1910, he articulated a coherent and powerful theory of political action. The first part of Sri Aurobindo’s message could be called spiritual nationalism that is based on two or three key concepts. The first is the concept of the nation. For Sri Aurobindo, the nation was not only a political construct, it was in fact a divinity. It was Bhavâni Bhârati, Mother India. And it was a divinity into which one had to be prepared to offer everything as a sacrifice so that one could be freed from bondage imposed by foreigners. So his fiery and flaming nationalism was because he looked upon the nation as a living goddess. In his writings, he refers to Bhavâni Mahishamardini and how the power of the people of India is expressed in terms of the great goddess. In the story of the goddess in the Puranas, all the devas pooled their weapons when they were overcome by the asuras, but could not defeat the asura individually and independently. They pooled their weapons and out of that pool of energy, the goddess arose riding on the lion with ashtâdash bhujâ, eighteen arms, each arm holding one weapon belonging to the different gods. In other words, she was the symbol of the collective aspiration and power of the Indian nation. That was his concept of the nation. Sri Aurobindo’s concept of nationalism also was not merely political activity but a great and holy yajnya, as he put it for national emancipation. Everything that was done at that time was done as an offering to the divine. That is what made a tremendously powerful impact upon the younger generation, particularly at that time. He was the first thinker in India, who had a clear appreciation of the role of the masses, and the role of the proletariat. This was in 1893, long before the Marxist-Leninist revolution in the Soviet Union. According to him the proletariat may appear to be docile and immobile, but whoever succeeds in understanding the proletariat and arousing them will be master of India’s destiny. This was a very important concept, because sometimes the freedom movement has been called “bhadraloka movement” or elitist movement. Among the radical group, Sri Aurobindo was the first person to take the movement out of the drawing room and conference room on to the streets, minds and hearts of the Indian people. Previously, the moderates would draw up beautifully drafted resolutions requesting the British government to give them dominion status. That is not the way that the radicals saw it. As a radical Sri Aurobindo was the exponent of the ideological concept of the poorna swarâjya theme. As Lokmanya Tilak said, ‘Swarâj is my birthright and I will have it.’ Being a political theorist and having lived for 14 years in the west, Sri Aurobindo realised that political theory without a plan of action was meaningless for the achievement of this goal. Therefore he developed a two-pronged strategy to achieve this goal. One was a link with the revolutionary movement, namely a violent revolutionary movement. There is a great difference between Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi put non-violence as an absolute factor, an absolute imperative, but this was not so with Sri Aurobindo and the radicals. Sri Aurobindo once wrote that if one’s mother is being strangled and cannot breathe, then one is fully justified in using force in order to break that stranglehold upon her. Hence, Sri Aurobindo never had any hesitation about using force. While the radicals did not preach violence, the use of force as a legitimate instrument to achieve national freedom and national emancipation was justified as the basic tenets of the radicals. Sri Aurobindo was very clear that he was, in fact, the guru, the spiritual inspirer of this band of revolutionaries. At that time the power of the state was not as overwhelming as it is today. The possibility of some kind of a revolt in the army was still possible. It must not be forgotten that 1857 had taken place only 35-40 years before all this happened. And so this was one part of his programme. The other aspect of his strategy was an elaborate theory of boycott. The common perception is that boycott was something which Gandhiji invented. This is not true. The theory of boycott was first put forward by Sri Aurobindo in his luminous writings at the turn of the century between 1905 and 1910. He advocated economic boycott and the correlate swadeshi; educational boycott and the correlate national educational system. In fact, he was the principal of the National Education College, Jadavpur, now known as the Jadavpur University. He talked of judicial boycott and the setting up of national arbitration courts. At the same time he also referred to executive boycott and the setting up of a national organisation for self-government. As a sanction he talked of social boycott. In this way he evolved a whole theory. However, it did not work at that time, because he was far ahead of his times. It did not work but he had a complete theory of how to achieve independence. The theory revolved around the whole concept of boycott and the setting up of an alternative, not merely a negative boycott; with each negative boycott he had a positive plan as well. Consequently, his vision was a combination of remarkable idealism and a practical programme of action – a very rare combination. Usually people who are idealistic have very little time for the nitty-gritty of organisation, while those involved with the organisation do not have enough time to dream. Sri Aurobindo was one of those extraordinary minds who was able to comprehend both elements of the movement. Another point that is very important to remember is that Sri Aurobindo always placed India’s freedom in the larger context of the destiny of the human race. This fact is most remarkable because revolutionaries talk only about their own country. However, Sri Aurobindo always had a deeper vision of what India should do for humanity. In fact, he said that India has to be free in order that it can play its role in the emancipation of the human race. Sri Aurobindo was not chauvinist; he did not look upon Indian freedom as an end in itself. The remarkable coincidence is that India achieved independence on Sri Aurobindo’s seventy-first birthday, that is August 15, 1947. The first phase of Sri Aurobindo’s message is one of spiritual nationalism; the message that the nation is a spiritual power, the goddess, the message that nationalism is a spiritual imperative. It is not any longer a question of choice or another career, or another thing to do; it is something that has an inner imperative, because it is only possible to fulfil one’s dharma if one does it. It is a message of clear-cut political thinking and organisation of how to defeat the most mighty empire the world had ever known through a combination of activities, both violent underground and non-violent overground; a vision of a regenerated India, a vision that is the link between the first phase of Sri Aurobindo’s life and the second phase and image of India that would play a major role in the emancipation. The Alipore Bomb Conspiracy Case is an interesting event in Sri Aurobindo’s life. Oddly enough, the judge who tried him, Justice Beech Croft had been with him in Cambridge. It was a tribute to the British system of justice that although it was quite clear that Sri Aurobindo was involved, and there was no doubt about it, they could not find adequate proof, so they released him. However, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was sitting in his room when he read in the papers that Sri Aurobindo was arrested. He moved the court and took up defence of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo was totally detached, because when he went to jail (what he called his ‘âshram-vâs’), he had a great vision of Sri Krishna. The quote from C R Das: ‘my appeal to you is this, that long after the controversy will be hushed in silence, long after his turmoil and agitation will be ceased, long after he is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism, and the lover of humanity. Long after he is dead and gone, his words will have echoed and re-echoed not only in India, but across distant seas and lands. Therefore, I say that the man in his position is not only standing before the bar of this court, but before the bar of the high court of history.’ It is easier to write about the first part of Sri Aurobindo’s life because it was on the surface, largely on the surface. The second half of his life is much more difficult. He suddenly left Bengal in 1910. He went first to Chandranagore and then to Pondicherry in 1910 and for 40 years he did not move out of Pondicherry. He lived the rest of his life there and in the course of these 40 years he produced some of the most remarkable works of this century. His Collected Works have been published in 30 volumes. His great books, The Life Divine, Essays on the Gita, The Human Cycle, Synthesis of Yoga and his great poem Savitri, stand as monumental literary and spiritual achievements. It is a formidable corpus of work which covers every aspect of life, because Sri Aurobindo always used to say, all life is yoga; there is no aspect of life which is not included in yoga because his yoga was an integral yoga covering all elements of the human personality. It is not easy to approach his work during this period. He was a poet. Apart from Savitri, which is a very long poem, he wrote short poems as well as a beautiful one called WHO. The great concepts of the Vedanta, all pervasiveness of the divine, the light of all lights – tameva bhântamanubhâti sarvam, tasya bhâsa sarvamidam vibhâti – all of these are projected by Sri Aurobindo in his own unique manner. Ever since he returned to India, he had a series of spiritual experiences – one in Baroda soon after he returned; and another one in Kashmir in the Shankaracharya temple while he was walking. He had a vision of “the vacant infinite” as he calls it. He started practising yoga in Baroda with a Maharashtrian yogi, Vishu Bhaskar Lele; he had this great transformative vision of Sri Krishna in the Alipore jail, when he looked upon everything, he saw – the jailer, wardens, fellow prisoners, the judge, the jury – all of them appeared to be animators of Sri Krishna. When he came to Pondicherry, he started developing his own comprehensive theory: his earlier work can be called “spiritual nationalism”, while his later work could be called “spiritual evolution”. He was par excellence “an evolutionary philosopher”. That is the key to an understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s work, and that is what sets him apart from the other great rishis and teachers that India has produced. Spiritual Evolution Aurobindo’s theory of cosmo genesis, his theory of the creation of the cosmos is that pure consciousness plunges into the other pole which is the inert matter, seemingly inert matter. It is the plunge of consciousness into matter that really starts the process of creation. It could be called a spiritual big bang because the big bang is not simply something coming out of nothing. Obviously if all of this is involved in consciousness, then consciousness must have existed; it plunges into the other extreme, and then the long flow of evolutionary development begins. Sri Aurobindo talks of the three billion years of pre-biological evolution, primitive life-forms and a billion years of biological evolution through various forms and then up through the ascending chain, when the mind begins to appear after a long, long gap. The human race begins to develop on this planet, consciousness begins to grow gradually and slowly consciousness begins to dawn. Stanley Rubric’s great film 2001 Space Oddysey, based upon a short story by Arthur C Clarke graphically shows the apes and the sudden leap into human consciousness. So from mineral, vegetable, animal to human forms, these are all developing on this planet. Sri Aurobindo lays great stress on the planet because he feels that this planet is a special crucible for the evolution of consciousness. With the advent of man or human beings, there is for the first time a being that is self-conscious. In other words, conscious of being conscious. With the development of the human mind, for the first time there is a creature that is self-conscious, and therefore, for the first time there is a new evolutionary possibility. The advent of human consciousness marks an important step in the adventure of consciousness on planet earth. According to Sri Aurobindo, man is not the end product of evolution. Man is simply an intermediate creature, between the animal and the divine. In the same way as evolution has come up for mineral, vegetable, animal to human consciousness, according to Sri Aurobindo, the evolutionary thrust will necessarily proceed to the next step which would be the movement from the mental to the supramental, and from man to superman. This is the critical point to understand in Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy; there are implications to it. The first implication is that whereas previously evolution was blind in as much as plants did not have any particular role to play in evolution, or fish did not have any real role to play, it was a sort of a natural instinctive evolution. But with the advent of man, for the first time, there is a creature on planet earth that can cooperate consciously with the force of evolution. This is the great difference. Evolution need no longer be blind and instinctive. Human beings are endowed with consciousness that enables them to cooperate with the evolutionary thrust. And thereby perhaps, speed up and telescope what, otherwise would have taken another billion years into a much shorter time span. The concept that has evolved is that man is an intermediate creature between the animal and the divine, and is endowed with consciousness that enables him to cooperate with the forces of evolution. A Practitioner of Integral Yoga In his political thought, Sri Aurobindo had put forward a brilliant theory of nation and nationalism and a methodology for achieving it. In the case of his spiritual theory he did the same thing. Basically, Sri Aurobindo was not a theorist, but a yogi; he was the pioneer of the supramental. In the first part of his life he was a prophet of Indian nationalism, and in the second half of his life, he was a pioneer of the supramental. Through his own sâdhana, and yogic practices and with the help of the Mother, who was a very powerful spiritual figure in her own right and his spiritual collaborator, Sri Aurobindo gradually developed and perfected what he called the “integral yoga”. According to him, it is the integral yoga which can enable us to move from the present fractured, fragmented and disoriented state of our consciousness to a much clearer and sharper focus of our psyche and ultimately a breakthrough into the higher consciousness. It is important to remember that Sri Aurobindo was not a theoretical philosopher. He was a yogi, a practitioner of integral yoga who looked upon himself as the path finder, as somebody who has gone where nobody else had ever been. In trying to clear the way, he had to undergo sâdhana and tremendous spiritual and psychological and physical strain. For 40 years he lived in one house, and in one room for 25 years without ever leaving the room. The astounding thing was that a man like Sri Aurobindo, with a brilliant mind, a great activist, effectively shut himself off from the rest of the world and with his sâdhana developed the whole concept of the integral yoga. In all his books, he describes in great detail the difficulties he encountered on his path, and what is to be done. Yoga cannot be described in words; it has to be experienced, but basically it involves the quest for what he calls the psychic being. The psychic being, in some way, would be what in traditional Hindu thought would be the atman, the divinity within us. Sri Aurobindo has analysed the physical dimension, the psychological dimension of what he calls a vital, emotional dimension, the psychological dimension and then the other deeper dimensions of the human body. His integral yoga brings together the four traditional yogas of Hindu philosophy and religious striving: the Jnana yoga (the way of wisdom), the Bhakti yoga (the way of devotion), Karma yoga (the way of words), and Raj yoga (the way of spiritual practices), and inner development. Sri Aurobindo brings these together in an extraordinary way and is able, therefore, to put before us the integral yoga with all its difficulties. He has never underestimated the difficulties involved. He talks about the negative, hostile and dark forces that are constantly trying to obstruct the descent of the light. And yet he has ultimately overcome it. Three movements in his yoga can be identified. The first would be an entire surrender of all the elements of life to a total and integral surrender to the divine, not only a psychological surrender, but a physical, emotional and a psychic surrender. Second, an ascent of consciousness to the supramental realm. The absorption of the light and the power of the supramental. Third, the return to earth with the light of the supramental. This is really where Sri Aurobindo’s teachings are different from most other traditional teachings. The concept of rising into higher levels of consciousness and going out in ecstasy is well established in Vedanta; it is not new. In fact, that is the goal of Vedanta, of spiritual striving, to join the atman and the brahman just as the dew drop slips into the shining sea to become one with the ocean of light. But it is important to remember and this is a key concept in Sri Aurobindo that his goal was not individual salvation. His goal was not even a collective salvation; it was nothing short of a divination of matter, a transmutation of terrestrial consciousness. It is an astounding goal, amazing in its audacity. He revolted against the British, the Congress, and the texture of matter itself. He was not satisfied with this matter and felt it had got to change, and the only way to change the texture of the matter, molecular or otherwise, is to bring down the light and the power of supramental to bear upon terrestrial consciousness. That was the key. And bringing down that light – a riddle like Prometheus in the Greek myth – brings down the first from heaven. Similarly, Sri Aurobindo sought to bring down the supramental fire and make it operative on earth. That was in fact his main task; nothing less than the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. That is why we have to understand the dimensions of what Sri Aurobindo was trying to do in collaboration with the Mother. The only parallel in our tradition is the story of Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra, dissatisfied with the present creation began his own srishti, a new creation, but of course, Menaka intervened and his new creation never took place. Bharat was born after whom our nation is called Bhârat, but the idea of Vishwamitra existed. Vishwamitra’s ideas were to create a new srishti, a new creation. Sri Aurobindo’s concept was not so much of a new creation, as a transmutation of this creation into a new dimension. This is the strength and a tremendous power and sweep of Sri Aurobindo’s writings. Sri Aurobindo’s Essays on the Gita is masterly; one does not have to accept his theory of supramental transformation to take advantage of his tremendously powerful writings on the Gita, the Upanishads, our social, political problems, education and health. His genius illuminated the intellectual landscape. But if you are to follow or understand what his peculiar contribution to philosophy has been, then one has to realise it has been this theory of evolutionary spiritualism, supramentalisation and consciousness on planet earth; it is only this ultimate according to Sri Aurobindo. When this new dimension comes about, there will be final reconciliation between matter and spirit, inner and the outer light, thinking and feeling, being and doing, and between the kinetic and the quiet elements of the human psyche. None of the problems of the world can be solved unless there is a leap in the new consciousness. There have been great rishis, seers and avataras who have done great things, but they left the world pretty much as it was when they came in. He said he was not satisfied with that. He wanted to create a new world, change the texture of this world, and change matter itself. Matter itself will be divinised according to Sri Aurobindo, once the supramental light begins its full efflorescence on planet earth. In this process, Madame Alfasa, Mira Alfasa, the Mother, was a remarkable woman, who was already involved in a great deal of spiritual activity. She came to Pondicherry and became Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual collaborator. When Sri Aurobindo passed away on December 5, 1950, the Mother continued his work for another quarter of a century. She, in fact, recorded that February 29, 1956, which is a leap day, was the golden day, a day on which supramental finally descended on the planet. Aurobindo Ashram, the new experiment of Auroville, an international, inter-cultural, multi-religious, multi-racial township in Tamil Nadu set up by the Mother is based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo was a remarkable person who began his life as a student in England, came back as a teacher to Baroda, moved as a revolutionary to Calcutta, then went on to become the greatest philosopher of this century in Pondicherry. His shikshabhoomi was England, his karmabhoomi was Baroda, krantibhoomi Calcutta and his yogabhoomi Pondicherry. In his message on August 15, 1947, he says: ‘August 15, 1947 is the birthday of free India. It marks for her the end of an old era, the beginning of a new age, but we can also make it by our own life and acts as a free nation, an important date in a new age opening to the whole world for the political, social, cultural and spiritual future of humanity. August 15 is my own birthday and it is naturally gratifying to me that it should have assumed this vast difference. I take this coincidence not as a fortuitous accident, but as the sanction and seal of the divine force that guides my steps on the work with which I began life, the beginning of its full fruition. Indeed on this day, he says, I can watch almost all the world movements which I hope to see fulfilled in my lifetime; though then they looked like impracticable dreams arriving at fruition or on their way to achievement. In all these movements, free India may well play a large part and take a leading position.’ He then goes on to talk about his five dreams. The first dream was a revolutionary movement for a free and united India, and he laments the fact that although India is free, it is not united. He says the partition must go, and ultimately there must be unity. Whether that happens through SAARC which is my interpretation, or some kind of a regional organisation or whatever. The second was a resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia and he says that also was nearing completion since the colonial age has come to an end. The third was a world union for all mankind and that is what, in fact, we are all striving for now with a global society. The fourth was a spiritual gift of India to the world and he speaks about this, the spiritual gift, and finally, the evolutionary step to a higher and a larger consciousness. Our gratitude to Dr. Karan SinghDr. Singh on FB
5th December marks the day Sri Aurobindo, the Maharishi of Sanatan Dharma and the Guru of Integral Yoga, left his body in a supreme act of Yogic sacrifice. While it may take many years for the inner significance of his passing to be understood by most of us, we may catch a few glimpses of that profound truth even now. We reprint here an article written by Amal Kiran, also known as K.D. Sethna, in January 1951 in the journal ‘Mother India’ published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. The Mother herself liked the article and got it reprinted as a booklet which was then distributed to all members of the Ashram. (Ed) “No one can write about my life because it is not on the surface for men to see” – this is what Sri Aurobindo said when the idea of a definitive biography was mooted. There is no doubt that, except perhaps for his brilliant academic career in England and the early phases of his fiery political period in India, his life was too deeply inward for its utmost sense and motive and achievement to be unravelled by a narration of external events supplemented by a psychological commentary. To arrive at some vision of it one would have to catch an inkling of not only the vast mysteries of traditional spiritual realisation but also the dazzling immensities of the new earth-transforming light which he called the Supermind and which he endeavoured for forty years to bring down in toto for suffering humanity. As with his life, so too with the phenomenon which the world has reported to be his death. Sri Aurobindo’s “dying” cannot but be as inward, as profound as Sri Aurobindo’s living. No Yogi dies in the ordinary meaning of the word: his consciousness always exceeds the formula of the physical body, he is beyond and greater than his material sheath even while he inhabits it, and his action on mankind is essentially through his free and ample spirit to which both life and death are small masks of a fully aware immortality in the limitless being of the Divine and the Eternal. All the more inapplicable is the term “death” to the passing of a Master of Yoga like Sri Aurobindo. For, it is well known that the transformative power of the Supermind was at work in the very cells of his body and that it commanded an efficacy physical no less than psychological, to which hundreds of his disciples can testify because of the wonderful curative impact of it on their own ailments. This efficacy was not confined to his Ashram: telegraphic offices all over India will bear witness to the daily flashing of appeals for help in various illnesses – including those that often defeat medical science – and then messages of thanksgiving for relief and remedy by spiritual means. No, Sri Aurobindo, the Yogi of the Supermind, descending into the outer as well as the inner being and bringing a divine life on earth in addition to the infinite immortality of the Beyond, cannot be looked upon as passing away on account of old age and physical causes. Whatever the purely clinical picture, it must have behind it a significance integral with his highly significant and immeasurably more-than-physical life of spiritual attainment. That there should be a clinical picture instead of a miraculous vanishing trick is exactly in keeping with Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga. His Yoga was meant to be a process and a progression of the evolutionary method: it aimed not at a bewildering superimposition of divine qualities which still left the grain of human nature unchanged, but at a spiritually organic luminous growth, an assimilation by nature of supernature, a marvellous and yet no freakish transfiguration, an intense working out within a life-time of what is not foreign to the purpose of terrestrial evolution but its inmost meaning whose unfoldment is in the very logic of things, though that unfoldment may ordinarily take aeons. The evolutionary was always fused with the revolutionary in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga of the Supermind and, just as his life’s audacities, like those of his art of poetry and prose, were always felicitous, full of ease and aptness, gloriously adapting nature rather than violating it, so too the adventure of his death would be no utter supernormality but carry for all its profound import and exceptional mode some semblance of the common passage to the stillness and the shadow. What medical science would try to describe as physical causes are, therefore, far indeed from being any contradiction of the thesis that Sri Aurobindo did not pass away as a result of them. And this thesis, we may now add, is based not only on Sri Aurobindo’s special spiritual status but also on a number of remarkable physical facts. Doctors have declared, on the strength of typical non-response to stimuli, that he entered into deep coma in consequence of an extreme uraemic condition following upon a failure of all treatment. As every medical tyro knows, such a state of uraemic coma admits of no return to consciousness. Yet to the surprise of the doctors attending on him, Sri Aurobindo opened his eyes at frequent intervals and asked for a drink or inquired what the time was! This repeated occurrence of the scientifically impossible leads one to believe that the deep uraemic coma was intermixed, as it were, with a very conscious Yogic self-withdrawal from an instrument which was too damaged to be kept for common use but which yet could not quite bar the uncommon will of its master. Here was no brain of mere carbon and iron and phosphorus: here was the subtilised servitor of a mind that had sat on the peaks of God and from there could command response in the midst of all material determinism. Even half an hour before the breathing ceased and the heart stopped beating, Sri Aurobindo looked out from his calm compassionate eyes, spoke the name of the doctor by his side and drank some water. This was the strangest uraemic coma in medical history. Nor did the extraordinary character of the passing of this Yogi of Yogis end there. In a case certified to be one of complete pervasion of the system by the accumulation in the blood of body poisons which should be thrown off by the kidneys, the system gets discoloured in a short time, a blackening grows apace and then decomposition sets in. But when there was a consultation of doctors, both French and Indian, two and a half days after the death-certificate had been signed, Sri Aurobindo’s body was found to have retained the beautiful white-gold colour that had distinguished it during his life and there was not the slightest trace of decomposition. It was just as it had been at the moment of his passing – 1.26 a. m. on December 5 – and also just as it had been 41 hours later when instead of the scheduled burial the famous announcement was made by the Mother, indefinitely postponing it: “The funeral of Sri Aurobindo has not taken place today. His body is charged with such a concentration of supramental light that there is no sign of decomposition and the body will be kept lying on his bed so long as it remains intact.” It lay intact for several days in a grandeur of victorious quiet, with thousands upon thousands having darshan of it. Only at 5 p. m. on December 9, in a rosewood case lined with silver and satin, it was buried most simply and without any sectarian religious ceremony in a vault specially prepared in the centre of the Ashram courtyard. Even when the body was put into the case, there was neither actual decay nor the odour of death, though marks were present to indicate that the miraculous preservative light had begun to depart. The light may be said to have remained in full for over 90 hours – a period more than double the record time which Lyons’ Medical Jurisprudence gives of a body keeping undecayed in the climatic conditions of the East. When during the transition to life’s close and even after, in the very thick of death, a challenging lordship is manifested over Matter and the transformative power of the Supermind that was ever increasingly Sri Aurobindo’s is not denied but paradoxically proved, it is, to say the least, reasonable to see the whole event of his passing as the culmination of a momentous deliberate fight whose implications must be read only by understanding a little the supramental light. But here the question arises: If the fight was deliberate, did he give any signs of its forthcoming? The answer is: Yes. It is indeed true that, though the great illuminating letters to his disciples had not quite ceased nor the fine humour forgotten altogether its leap and flash, nor yet the wide look on the world’s movement turned away, he had been for the last couple of years rather reticent about his plans for the future and more and more absorbed in his own inner spiritual work and in literary creation, especially his epic poem Savitri: a Legend and a Symbol. But through the reticence and the absorption a few hints did glimmer out of a strange and dire possibility he might have to confront in the course of his mission. Some time in November the predictions of a Gujarati astrologer were read out to him. Their focal points were the years 1950 and 1964. The astrologer wrote: “In 1950, as the sun and the moon are in conjunction and the moon is the master of the twelfth house, there is a chance of Sri Aurobindo’s self-undoing.” About 1964 he opined: “In that year some mighty miracle of Sri Aurobindo’s power will be witnessed. Aged 93, he will withdraw from the world at his own will after completing his mission.” On hearing this, Sri Aurobindo raised his hand and half jocularly said: “Oh, ninety-three!” as if he had found that age too far away for his mission’s achievement. With regard to 1950 a disciple remarked that it must be a year of importance, since important things had happened in Sri Aurobindo’s life at intervals of 12 years. 1926 was an outstanding landmark in Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual career: it is called the year of assurance of victory and marks practically the beginning of the Ashram with the Mother radiantly presiding over it. In 1938 -12 years after that landmark- Sri Aurobindo passed through a physical crisis by falling and fracturing his thigh-bone. 1950 – with its indication of a possibility of “self-undoing” – makes again a 12 years’ lapse. And, though the astrologer took only his forecast of a memorable ninety-third year in Sri Aurobindo’s life very seriously, Sri Aurobindo seemed to regard his statements as not quite fantastic. He said: “The man has got hold of some truth.” Then he was asked: “Isn’t the prediction about your ‘self-undoing’ this year nonsensical? Surely, you are not going to leave us?” In his grand unhurrying way came the calm counter-query of just one mysterious word: “Why?” A most surprising word, this, to all who had expected that an unusual longevity as a result of the Supermind’s increasing descent was part of Sri Aurobindo’s programme. Another surprise was fraught with a strange foreboding joy. To those who looked after him or worked in his room he gave a sign of sudden personal tenderness. Sri Aurobindo was not exactly of a demonstrative nature: he had the subtle kindness as of an all-enveloping ether and though his extreme compassion is evident both in the labour he undertook and in many letters written to his disciples in difficulty, physical expressions of his great paternal attitude were rare. But now for a brief moment there went out to his attendants, to each in a different way and on a different occasion, a distinct outward gesture of affection, as if he had wished them to know before it might be too late his appreciation of their service. The gesture, exceedingly sweet and welcome though it was, appeared to hold vaguely in it the poignancy of a possible leave-taking. A third surprise may be recorded: a remark which fell oddly on the ear of the disciple whose job it was to take down whatever Sri Aurobindo dictated by way of letter or book. The Master had been busy with his Savitri for several years, revising the text he had composed earlier and constantly adding to it, amplifying the significances, enriching the story, extending the symbolism, catching more and more intensely the vision of the superhuman planes of existence and consciousness to which he had access, breathing with an ever-truer thrill the vast rhythms of the movements of the Gods with which he had grown familiar. Out of some unfathomable silence he would draw out golden phrase and apocalyptic line—wait as if he had eternities to throw away—proceed with splendid bursts of occult imagery and revealing description—hark back to expand or amend, with an eye to the tiniest detail of punctuation or sequence, and again press forward with a comprehensive yet meticulous inspiration. A lordly, a leisurely labour was Savitri, conceived with something of the antique temperament which rejoiced in massive structures—especially the temperament of the makers of Ramayana and Mahabharata which take all human life and human thought in their spacious scope and blend the workings of the hidden worlds of Gods and Titans and Demons with the activities of earth. A kind of cosmic sweep was Sri Aurobindo’s and he wanted his poem to be a many-sided multi-coloured carving out in word-music of the gigantic secrets of the supramental Yoga. More than fifty thousand lines were thought necessary to house the unique vision and the unparalleled experience. A patience as vast as that vision and that experience characterised always Sri Aurobindo’s dealings with this epic. Even the version on which he was engaged was the eleventh or the twelfth. Time without end appeared to be at his disposal when he sat dictating lines like those about the central figure of the poem: As in a mystic and dynamic danceA priestess of immaculate ecstasiesInspired and ruled from Truth’s revealing vaultMoves in some prophet cavern of the Gods,A heart of silence in the hands of joyInhabited with rich creative beatsA body like a parable of dawnThat seemed a niche for veiled divinityOr golden temple door to things beyond. But all of a sudden a couple of months before the fateful December 5 Sri Aurobindo startled his scribe by saying: “I must finish Savitri soon.” Of course, all this does not fix the very date of his passing nor does it show any desire to depart, but clearly, the grim struggle in which he got involved and which came to a close on that date had loomed already as a likelihood in the near future. And a certain fact about Savitri fits in here with the aptest symbolism. Though he strove to finish his epic soon, it just fell short of completion. It had been projected in twelve Books, with an epilogue, but while even the epilogue got written -at least as a general first draft- and the Book of Beginnings, the Book of the Traveller of the Worlds, the Book of the Divine Mother, the Book of Birth and Quest, the Book of Life, the Book of Love, the Book of Fate and several other Books are either in print or in manuscript, the one single Book which does not exist in any form at all -except for a short piece written a long time ago and meant to be revised and included in a much larger whole- is the Book of Death. Most suggestive is this fact, as if that Book could not be composed until the Grim Spectre had been grappled with in actuality and as if Sri Aurobindo had been waiting for some mighty crisis of his own bodily existence before he could launch on this part of his Legend and Symbol. Everything goes to prove that what happened in the small hours of that December day was no purely physical casuality, no fell accident to the seeker of the life divine on earth, but a dreadful gamble freely accepted, an awesome trial undergone for a set purpose, a battle faced in every wounding detail with open eyes and joined with the explicit possibility threatening him of losing in it the most gifted and glorious bodily instrument forged by the manifesting Spirit that is for ever. But the question still stands to be answered: What could be the reason of the perilous experiment? It is doubtful whether any answer expressible by the mere mind can be entirely satisfying. Perhaps none ought to be attempted and we might rest with the conviction that Sri Aurobindo of his own will did what he deemed most necessary for the advancement of his work and we might leave it to the Mother -Sri Aurobindo’s partner in that work- to unroll the supreme rationale of the Master’s will in the actual developments of the Integral Yoga in the future. However, the Master himself never completely discouraged the effort of the mind to comprehend the Spirit’s manifold action. Intellectual formulation of direct inner knowledge or else of intuitive seizures of the Unknown was a thing he fostered, and if by some rapport with his own luminous philosophy we could arrive at a mental glimmer of the Aurobindonian Supermind’s intention we should be doing what he himself from beyond our gross senses would perhaps not refuse to sanction. The core of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and Yoga is the dynamic Truth-consciousness that is the Supermind. By “Truth-consciousness” is meant that status and force of the Divine which brings out of the Divine’s absolute Transcendence into a perfect manifestation of Self-being and self-becoming the potentialities of the play of the One who is at the same time the Many. This manifestation is a complete harmony in which exist and function the creative truths, the flawless originals, the golden archetypes of all that is in our imperfect cosmos in which the Divine has posited a difficult evolution of matter, life-force and mind -with a soul supporting them- out of a vast Inconscience, a primal darkness set by Him as the nether pole to the transcendent Absolute. Between the two poles and above the evolving earth and below the archetypal Supermind are various occult planes -Subtle Matter, Vitality, Mind, Overmind and, at the back of the first trio, Psyche,- with their beings and movements and there is a complex interaction in the whole system of cosmos on cosmos. All this was known in general to the ancient seers and they saw in man who is the microcosm, a threefold reality concretised into what they termed three sheaths or shariras – the gross outer, the subtle inner, the causal higher. The last is the substance of the Supermind, compacted of its creative light of total knowledge, infinite power, immortal bliss. But the ancients did not realise that the earthly evolution is not meant only to release the being into the Cosmic Self and into ever more deep, ever more high poises of consciousness and into some eternity beyond birth and death but also to bring into earth-terms the dynamic modes of the widths, the depths and the heights and ultimately the supreme perfection of the Truth-plane -the karana sharira, the causal body- so that earth-terms themselves may be fulfilled and not merely serve as bright points of departure into the wide and the deep and the high. In short, the ancients lacked a full and organised possession of the Supermind’s purpose and power: the fusion of the supramental light with the inmost soul and the descent of it into mind and life-energy and even the physical body, transforming and divinising them in entirety, are Sri Aurobindo’s special discovery and Yoga. With the supramental descent Sri Aurobindo aimed at creating a new humanity enjoying true self-consummation and living divinely in every field, and it is with this aim that he sought to form an initiating double centre for the new humanity by his own supramentalisation and the Mother’s. Supramentalisation involves, among its final elements, freedom from disease, duration of life at will and a change in the functionings of the body – all, of course, as a material expression of the divine nature emerging in the human and not as an outer aggrandisement of an expanding inner egoism. But to compass these final elements which alone would found with utter security a supramental earth-existence, the Yogi has to tackle at last the bed-rock of the Inconscience, the dark basis of the submerged Divine from which evolution seems to issue. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, taking upon themselves as representative pioneers the age-long difficulties of all human nature, have been striking against this bed-rock for the last decade and a half. “No, it is not with the Empyrean that I am busy,” wrote Sri Aurobindo in 1936 to a disciple and added: “I wish it were. It is rather with the opposite end of things; it is in the Abyss that I have to plunge to build a bridge between the two. But that too is necessary for my work and one has to face it.” In the course of this plunge, as layer after layer of the occult Inconscient is torn open and the supramental light sought to be called down into it, various dreadful possibilities rise up and great inner wounds as well as severe bodily tensions have to be endured. But throughout the fight the Master of the Supermind carries the talisman, as it were, that can ward off the fatal blow. Immense, in spite of the sublimest light within his very body, are his trials and yet he has also the capacity to emerge finally the victor and blaze a path of ultimate triumph for the men who follow him. Thus to emerge had been Sri Aurobindo’s plan, so far as the plan can be read through his philosophical writings and his personal letters. Both the plan and the non-egoistic world-wide attitude of an Avatar find voice in a letter of 1935: “I am not doing anything for myself, as I have no personal need of anything, neither of salvation (Moksha) nor supramentalisation. If I am seeking after supramentalisation it is because it is a thing that has to be done for the earth-consciousness and if it is not done in myself, it cannot be done in others.” Yes, Sri Aurobindo, in his published pronouncements, appears to have envisaged the need and therefore the prospect of himself constituting together with the Mother the starting point of supramental humanity. But in the same pronouncements he leaves also a small margin for a different denouement. A letter of 1934 speaks in general about the ways of a vessel of God: “The Divinity acts according to the consciousness of the Truth above and the Lila below and It acts according to the need of the Lila, not according to men’s ideas of what It should do or should not do.” A clearer hint of unexpected turns in the Divine’s dealings is contained in a letter of 1935: “Why should the Divine be tied down to succeed in all his operations? What if failure suits him better and serves better the ultimate purpose? What rigid primitive notions are these about the Divine!” This suggests that apparent defeat of the Divine’s grandest goal could even be a concealed victory, a way precisely to reach that goal with greater swiftness by means of a paradoxical strategy. And, all conditions considered, it is truly such a strategy that seems to have been employed by Sri Aurobindo when to the superficial gaze he succumbed to a renal disorder. The whole supramental Yoga was indeed like a great general’s campaign against forces that had never been combated before by any spiritual figure. In the teeth of every common experience, every posture of human living down the ages, even every articulate spiritual tradition, this Yoga hoped to change the very foundations of Matter and proceeded into an embattled darkness: only a fearless fighter like Sri Aurobindo, only a genius like him of the Spirit militant could have intuited the mighty secret of the epiphany in evolution and planned the transformative onslaught on established nature and moved ahead in the frame of mind that is disclosed in yet another letter of 1935: “It is not for personal greatness that I am seeking to bring down the Supermind. I care nothing for greatness or littleness in the human sense…If human reason regards me as a fool for trying to do what Krishna did not try, I do not in the least care. There is no question of X or Y or anybody else in that. It is a question between the Divine and myself – whether it is the Divine Will or not, whether I am sent to bring that down or open the way to its descent or at least make it more possible or not. Let all men jeer at me if they will or all Hell fall upon me if it will for my presumption – I go on till I conquer or perish. This is the spirit in which I seek the Supermind, no hunting for greatness for myself or others.” A splendid heroism of selflessness is here, the vividest picture of a warrior Yogi who would take any risk, if thereby he could press closer to his objective – and though the formula is “I conquer or perish” the frame of mind is one that might easily avail itself of a yet more audacious formula: “I perish to conquer.” To embrace this formula what would be required is simply the sense that, by sacrificing in a final grapple with the black powers of the Inconscient a wonderful body tinged with supramental light, those powers would be terribly exhausted and the golden godhead above tremendously pulled towards earth and into this body’s partner in the Yoga of the Supermind. As soon as the momentous sense would dawn, Sri Aurobindo would be ready -supreme general that he was- to alter his entire scheme of battle, relinquish his whole line of previously prepared forts, abandon the old method of advance, change suddenly his well-plotted direction and, instead of attempting to supramentalise his physical existence in every detail, move imperturbably towards some titanic ambush, cast away the very guard given him by the Supermind and go down fighting to win all in secret, while losing all on the surface. Nothing except a colossal strategic sacrifice of this kind in order that the physical transformation of the Mother may be immeasurably hastened and rendered absolutely secure and, through it, a divine life on earth for humanity may get rooted and be set aflower – nothing less can explain the passing of Sri Aurobindo. There would also be implied in the holocaust a world-saving action by the sweet power of which Sri Aurobindo speaks in a letter as far back as 1934: “It is only divine Love which can bear the burden I have to bear, that all have to bear who have sacrificed everything else to the one aim of uplifting earth out of its darkness to the Divine.” We may say that some undreamt of catastrophe would have overwhelmed the world if the vast poison had not been drawn away into the body of this one man whose spiritual consciousness, armed with divine Love, had made him a universalised individual incarnating the Transcendent’s Will. And here we may refer again to the fact that the obstacles confronting Sri Aurobindo in his Yoga were not really personal. They were representative of the race and he gladly accepted their retarding perilous load in spite of or perhaps because of his own exceptional gifts and abilities. Apropos a query about some temporary complaint in the Mother’s body many years ago, he wrote: “We have not sought perfection for our own separate sake, but as part of a general change – creating a possibility of perfection for others. That could not have been done without our accepting and facing the difficulties of the realisation and the transformation and overcoming them for ourselves. It has been done to a sufficient degree on the other planes – but not yet on the most material part of the physical plane. Till it is done, the fight there continues… The Mother’s difficulties are not her own; she bears the difficulties of others and those that are inherent in the general action and work for the transformation. If it had been otherwise, it would be a very different matter.” Obviously, then, whatever sacrifice is made by Sri Aurobindo or the Mother cannot be one imposed on them by personal defects. Theirs the unique adhars or vehicles of Yoga which could, if left to themselves, surmount every obstacle. This, in the present context of Sri Aurobindo’s departure, means that death is not anything he was obliged to undergo on account of some jack in himself. It is some stupendous crisis of the evolving earth-consciousness -some rebellious clouding upsurge of the divinely attacked Inconscient- that has been diverted to his own life, concentrated in the mortal risk of the uraemic coma and utilised by the master strategist for an occult advantage to the work he had assumed – the work which was always more important than direct personal consummation. But it would be of the essence of the sacrifice and the strategy, as well as typically Aurobindonian, that a keenly struggling resistance should be there together with the large and tranquil acceptance. That is why we have said that Sri Aurobindo has gone down fighting. Never to acquiesce in any shortcoming of earth-nature was his motto, for he saw the very secret of evolution to be the manifestation in earth-nature of what superficially looks impossible – the quivering forth of vitality and sensation in seemingly lifeless Matter, the glimmering out of mind and reason in apparently instinctive animality, the all-perfecting revelation of Supermind in ostensibly groping intelligence, stumbling life-force and mortal body. So there never could be for Sri Aurobindo either a surrender to ordinary world-conditions or a flight into peace away from the world. An inviolable timeless peace he had always known ever since those three grand days in Baroda in 1908 when through a complete silencing of the mind the absolute experience of Nirvana, which has been the terminus of so many other Yogas, became his – not as a terminus but only as a base for further conquests. As for surrender, he could surrender to nothing except the Divine. Consequently, he battled for the Supermind’s descent till his last breath – calling the immortal Sun of the Spirit down, passionately packing his earthly envelope with the supramental light so much so indeed that he could keep for several days that envelope free from the taint of discolouration and decay. To battle thus in the very moments of the sacrifice was in tune with his whole life-endeavour. Has he not himself expounded in a letter the technique of triumph in the midst of seeming downfall? “Even if I foresee an adverse result I must work for the one that I consider should be; for it keeps alive the force, the principle of Truth which I serve and gives it a possibility to triumph hereafter so that it becomes part of the working of the future favourable fate even if the fate of the hour is adverse. “ With these far-seeing phrases of the Master we may close our attempt to elucidate a little the mystery of that look of magnificent meditation with which he lay from early morning of December 5 for more than 111 hours in his simple bed in the room where he had spent over two decades of intense world-work. “Spiritually imperial” – this is the only description fitting the appearance of his body: the heroic countenance with its white beard and its flowing white hair above the massive forehead, its closed quiet eyes and its wide nostrilled aquiline nose and its firm lips whose corners were touched with beatitude, the broad and smooth shoulders, the arms flexed to place on the indomitable chest hand over gentle, artistic yet capable hand, the strong manly waist covered by an ample cloth of gold-bordered silk, even the legs stretched out with an innate kingship reminiscent of their having trod through seventy-nine years with holy feet at once blessing and possessing earth. The atmosphere of the room was vibrant with a sacred power to cleanse and illumine, a power which appeared to emanate from the Master’s poise of conquering rest and to invade the bodies of all the watchers with almost a hammering intensity from over their heads as if, in redoubled force because of Sri Aurobindo’s selfless physical withdrawal, there came pouring down to humanity the life-transfiguring grace of the Supermind. And we may add that somehow the personal presence itself of Sri Aurobindo grew intenser. He who had so long kept to a room for the sake of concentratedly hastening the Yogic process of transformation the wonderful bliss and dynamics of which the Mother had been canalising by her physical nearness to the disciples – he by setting aside his most exterior sheath broke out into a new intimacy with his followers and took them even more directly into his immense being. But it would hardly do justice to that being if we thought of it as merely a pervading greatness. Behind the material envelope are other organised vehicles -subtle and causal- and Sri Aurobindo had brought the remote causal effectively into the proximate subtle and was pressing it into the outer sheath at the time of his strategic sacrifice. To quote again his words, “The transformation has been done to a sufficient degree on the other planes.” This means that he held the Supermind embodied in his subtle sharira and that he was under no occult necessity, no law of subtle Nature, to give up the latter for the purpose of returning to some plane of the soul’s rest before being reborn with a new subtle body as well as a new gross one. Sri Aurobindo, at the hour of his physical withdrawal, was in a position to do much more than be the cosmic and transcendent Purusha that his supramental Yoga had made his incarnate personality. He could actually be that Purusha active in an indissoluble subtle body at once divine and human, in a far more direct constant touch with the material world than could the forms which mystics have visioned of past Rishis and Prophets and Avatars. In a most special sense, therefore, Sri Aurobindo the marvellously gifted and gracious person who was our Guru and whom we loved is still at work and a concrete truth is expressed by the Mother when she says: “To grieve is an insult to Sri Aurobindo, who is here with us conscious and alive.” The same concrete truth is ingemmed in the beautiful message of December 7, which she delivered out of her depths where she and Sri Aurobindo are one: “Lord, this morning Thou hast given me the assurance that thou wouldst stay with us until Thy work is achieved, not only as a consciousness which guides and illumines but also as a dynamic Presence in action. In unmistakable terms Thou hast promised that all of Thyself would remain here and not leave the earth-atmosphere until earth is transformed. Grant that we may be worthy of this marvellous Presence and that henceforth everything in us be concentrated on the one Will to be more and more perfectly consecrated to the fulfilment of Thy Sublime Work.” So the work goes on, the Mother fronting the future, with the Master by her side in subtle embodiment. And for those who have faith in the work’s fulfilment and who understand what that would be, there is a hope that sees the future pregnant with a particular most heart-soothing possibility. Sri Aurobindo has written in connection with the time when the Supermind’s descent into flesh and blood will be complete: “In the theory of the occultists and in the gradation of the ranges and planes of our being which Yoga-knowledge outlines for us there is not only a subtle physical force but a subtle physical Matter intervening between life and gross Matter and to create in this subtle physical substance and precipitate the forms thus made into our grosser materiality is feasible. It should be possible and it is believed to be possible for an object formed in this subtle physical substance to make a transit from its subtlety into the state of gross Matter directly by the intervention of an occult force and process whether with or even without the assistance or intervention of some gross material procedure. A soul wishing to enter into a body or form for itself a body and take part in a divine life upon earth might be assisted to do so or even provided with such a form by this method of direct transmutation without passing through birth by the sex process or undergoing any degradation or any of the heavy limitations in the growth and development of its mind and material body: inevitable to our present way of existence. It might then assume at once the structure and greater powers and functionings of the truly divine material body which must one day emerge in a progressive evolution to a totally transformed existence both of life and form in a divinised earth-nature.” These words hold out the prospect that Sri Aurobindo who has already a divinised subtle physical sheath may employ the supramental mode of manifestation for the purpose of presiding in the domain of Matter itself over the new humanity which the Mother will initiate. In that dawn of God’s gold the Mother will be the first being to achieve the divine body by a progression through a body born in the natural manner, while through the support of her achievement Sri Aurobindo may be the first being to put on the physical vesture of transformation by a projection of substance and shape from supernature. Nothing, of course, is certain about what Sri Aurobindo may will to do, but the possibility we have figured is not out of accord with all that we have glimpsed of a quenchless and victorious light beyond the human in the very event which strikes the surface eye of the aspiring world as a universal sunset – the passing of Sri Aurobindo. With deep gratitude to Amal Kiran, aka K.D. Sethna, of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Sri Aurobindo wrote a letter to his younger brother, Barin Ghosh in 1920, explaining, among other things, his Yoga and spiritual approach. We are publishing excerpts from his letter, with minor modifications in formatting, to mark his Mahasamadhi Day. (Editor) First, about your yoga. You want to give me the charge of your yoga, and I am willing to accept it. But this means giving it to Him who, openly or secretly, is moving me and you by His divine power. And you should know that the inevitable result of this will be that you will have to follow the path of yoga which He has given me, the path I call the Integral Yoga. This is not exactly what we did in Alipur jail, or what you did during your imprisonment in the Andamans. What I started with, what Lele gave me, what I did in jail — all that was a searching for the path, a circling around looking here and there, touching, taking up, handling, testing this and that of all the old partial yogas, getting a more or less complete experience of one and then going off in pursuit of another. Afterwards, when I came to Pondicherry, this unsteady condition ceased. The indwelling Guru of the world indicated my path to me completely, its full theory, the ten limbs of the body of the yoga. These ten years he has been making me develop it in experience; it is not yet finished. It may take another two years. And so long as it is not finished, I probably will not be able to return to Bengal. Pondicherry is the appointed place for the fulfillment of my yoga—except indeed for one part of it, that is, the work. The centre of my work is Bengal, but I hope its circumference will be the whole of India and the whole world. Later I will write to you what my path of yoga is. Or, if you come here, I will tell you. In these matters the spoken word is better than the written. For the present I can only say that its fundamental principle is to make a synthesis and unity of integral knowledge, integral works and integral devotion, and, raising this above the mental level to the supramental level of the Vijnana, to give it a complete perfection. The defect of the old yoga was that, knowing the mind and reason and knowing the Spirit, it remained satisfied with spiritual experience in the mind. But the mind can grasp only the fragmentary; it cannot completely seize the infinite, the undivided. The mind’s way to seize it is through the trance of samadhi, the liberation of moksha, the extinction of nirvana, and so forth. It has no other way. Someone here or there may indeed obtain this featureless liberation, but what is the gain? The Spirit, the Self, the Divine is always there. What the Divine wants is for man to embody Him here, in the individual and in the collectivity—to realise God in life. The old system of yoga could not synthesise or unify the Spirit and life; it dismissed the world as an illusion or a transient play of God. The result has been a diminution of the power of life and the decline of India. The Gita says: utsīdeyur ime lokā na kuryām karma ced aham, “These peoples would crumble to pieces if I did not do actions.” Verily “these peoples” of India have gone down to ruin. What kind of spiritual perfection is it if a few ascetics, renunciates, holy-men and realised beings attain liberation, if a few devotees dance in a frenzy of love, god-intoxication and bliss, and an entire race, devoid of life and intelligence, sinks to the depths of darkness and inertia? First one must have all sorts of partial experience on the mental level, flooding the mind with spiritual delight and illuminating it with spiritual light; afterwards one climbs upwards. Unless one makes this upward climb, this climb to the supramental level, it is not possible to know the ultimate secret of world-existence; the riddle of the world is not solved. There, the cosmic Ignorance which consists of the duality of Self and world. Spirit and life, is abolished. Then one need no longer look on the world as an illusion: the world is an eternal play of God, the perpetual manifestation of the Self. Then is it possible fully to know and realise God—samagram mām jnāturh pravistum, “to know and enter into Me completely”, as the Gita says. The physical body, life, mind and reason, Supermind, the Bliss-existence—these are the Spirit’s five levels. The higher we climb, the nearer comes a state of highest perfection of man’s spiritual evolution. When we rise to the Supermind, it becomes easy to rise to the Bliss. The status of indivisible and infinite Bliss becomes firmly established — not only in the timeless Supreme Reality, but in the body, in the world, in life. Integral existence, integral consciousness, integral bliss blossom out and take form in life. This endeavour is the central clue of my yogic path, its fundamental idea. But it is not an easy thing. After fifteen years I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when the process is complete, there is not the least doubt that God through me will give this supramental perfection to others with less difficulty. Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for the fulfillment of my work. What is to happen will happen in God’s appointed time. I am not disposed to run like a madman and plunge into the field of action on the strength of my little ego. Even if my work were not fulfilled, I would not be disturbed. This work is not mine, it is God’s. I listen to no one else’s call. When I am moved by God, I will move… Next I will discuss some of the specific points raised in your letter. I do not want to say much here about what you write as regards your yoga. It will be more convenient to do so when we meet. But there is one thing you write, that you admit no physical connection with men, that you look upon the body as a corpse. And yet your mind wants to live the worldly life. Does this condition still persist? To look upon the body as a corpse is a sign of asceticism, the path of nirvana. The worldly life does not go along with this idea. There must be delight in everything, in the body as much as in the spirit. The body is made of consciousness, the body is a form of God. I see God in everything in the world. Sarvam idam brahma, vāsudevah sarvamiti (“All this here is the Brahman”, “Vasudeva, the Divine, is all”) — this vision brings the universal delight. Concrete waves of this bliss flow even through the body. In this condition, filled with spiritual feeling, one can live the worldly life, get married or do anything else. In every activity one finds a blissful self- expression of the divine… Next, in reference to the divine community, you write, “I am not a god, only some much-hammered and tempered steel.” I have already spoken about the real meaning of the divine community. No one is a god, but each man has a god within him. To manifest him is the aim of the divine life. That everyone can do. I admit that certain individuals have greater or lesser capacities. I do not, however, accept as accurate your description of yourself. But whatever the capacity, if once God places his finger upon the man and his spirit awakes, greater or lesser and all the rest make little difference. The difficulties may be more, it may take more time, what is manifested may not be the same — but even this is not certain. The god within takes no account of all these difficulties and deficiencies; he forces his way out. Were there few defects in my mind and heart and life and body? Few difficulties? Did it not take time? Did God hammer at me sparingly — day after day, moment after moment? Whether I have become a god or something else I do not know. But I have become or am becoming something —whatever God desired. This is sufficient. And it is the same with everybody; not by our own strength but by God’s strength is this yoga done… …Let me tell you briefly one or two things I have been observing for a long time. It is my belief that the main cause of India’s weakness is not subjection, nor poverty, nor a lack of spirituality or religion, but a diminution of the power of thought, the spread of ignorance in the “birthplace of knowledge”. Everywhere I see an inability or unwillingness to think — incapacity of thought or “thought-phobia”. This may have been all right in the mediaeval period, but now this attitude is the sign of a great decline. The mediaeval period was a night, the day of victory for the man of ignorance; in the modern world it is the time of victory for the man of knowledge. He who can delve into and learn the truth about the world by thinking more, searching more, labouring more, gains more power. Take a look at Europe. You will see two things: a wide limitless sea of thought and the play of a huge and rapid, yet disciplined force. The whole power of Europe is here. It is by virtue of this power that she has been able to swallow the world, like our tapaswis of old, whose might held even the gods of the universe in terror, suspense, subjection. People say that Europe is rushing into the jaws of destruction. I do not think so. All these revolutions, all these upsettings are the first stages of a new creation. Now take a look at India. A few solitary giants aside, everywhere there is your simple man, that is, your average man, one who will not think, cannot think, has not an ounce of strength, just a momentary excitement. India wants the easy thought, the simple word; Europe wants the deep thought, the deep word. In Europe even ordinary labourers think, want to know everything. They are not satisfied to know things halfway, but want to delve deeply into them. The difference lies here. But there is a fatal limitation to the power and thought of Europe. When she enters the field of spirituality, her thought-power stops working. There Europe sees everything as a riddle, nebulous metaphysics, yogic hallucination — “It rubs its eyes as in smoke and can see nothing clearly?” But now in Europe not a little effort is being made to surmount even this limitation. Thanks to our forefathers, we have the spiritual sense, and whoever has this sense has within his reach such knowledge, such power, as with one breath could blow all the immense strength of Europe away like a blade of grass. But power is needed to get this power. We, however, are not worshippers of power; we are worshippers of the easy way. But one cannot obtain power by the easy way. Our forefathers swam in a vast sea of thought and gained a vast knowledge; they established a vast civilisation. But as they went forward on their path they were overcome by exhaustion and weariness. The force of their thought decreased, and along with it decreased the force of their creative power. Our civilisation has become a stagnant backwater, our religion a bigotry of externals, our spirituality a faint glimmer of light or a momentary wave of intoxication. So long as this state of things lasts, any permanent resurgence of India is impossible. All writings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Perhaps if those who from the beginning have proclaimed that it would be, those very people say, “It is going to be…”, after all, perhaps they are the best informed. I am considering how from the beginning of the earth’s history (we shall not go farther back to the antecedents, you know, for we have already enough to do with the earth), from the beginning of the earth’s history, in one form or another, under one name or another, Sri Aurobindo has always presided over the great terrestrial transformations; and so when he tells you, “Well, this is the right time”, perhaps he knows. That’s all that I can say. So, if it is the right time, this is how the problem is put: there are people who are ready or will become ready, and these precisely will be the first to start on the new path. There are others who, perhaps, will become aware of it too late, who will have missed the opportunity; I think there will be many of this kind. But in any case, my point of view is this: even if there should be only half a chance, it would be worth the trouble of trying. For after all… I don’t know… I told you just now, there is a moment when life such as it is, the human consciousness such as it is, seems something absolutely impossible to bear, it creates a kind of disgust, repugnance; one says, “No, it is not that, it is not that; it can’t be that, it can’t continue.” Well, when one comes to this, there is only to throw in one’s all— all one’s effort, all one’s strength, all one’s life, all one’s being — into this chance, if you like, or this exceptional opportunity that is given to cross over to the other side. What a relief to set foot on the new path, that which will lead you elsewhere! This is worth the trouble of casting behind much luggage, of getting rid of many things in order to be able to take that leap. That’s how I see the problem. In fact it is the sublimest of adventures, and if one has in him in the slightest the true spirit of adventure, it is worth risking all for all. But those who are afraid, who wonder, “Am I not going to let go the substance for the shadow?” according to the most banal proverb one can imagine, those who tell themselves, “Bah! After all it is better to profit by what one has than to risk losing everything, we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, let us take precautions”… unfortunately this is very widespread, extremely widespread… well, about those who are in this state of mind, I can assure you of one thing: that even when the thing occurs before their very nose, they will not perceive it. They will say, “It is good, in this way I won’t regret anything.” It is possible. But perhaps later they will; this we do not know. In any case what I call being sincere is this: if one thinks that this new realisation is the only thing which is truly worth being lived; if what is, is intolerable — not only for oneself, perhaps not so much for oneself… but still, if one is not absolutely selfish and mean, one feels that, truly, it has lasted long enough, that one has had enough of it, that it must change — well, when one feels like that, one takes everything, all that one is, all that one can, all that one has, and one throws oneself into it completely without ever looking behind, and come what may! I indeed feel that it would be preferable even to plunge into an abyss in this way than to be on the shore, trembling and wondering, “What will happen to me tomorrow if I take this rather rash step?” There we are. It is preferable to buck up a little, as they say familiarly, and chance it! That’s my opinion… From the Mother’s Questions and Answers 1955, Volume 7. All writings of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram
In a recent article in TOI, Chetan Bhagat lamented the fact that Indian liberals are a disappearing species. And he points out four reasons for the same: 1) Failure to express themselves in a way India understands 2) Obnoxious, holier-than-thou, one-upmanship 3) The lack of focus on changing the Congress leadership 4) Modi-Shah obsession. These seem to be largely correct but these are symptoms, not a diagnosis. Being a physician, my approach is: if the right diagnosis is not made, the right treatment plan cannot be followed. So this is my diagnosis: Indian liberals are liberals only in name; they neither have the understanding of liberalism, nor its spirit. In fact, they are some of the most illiberal people I have seen. For what is liberalism? In ‘The Conscience of a Liberal’, Paul Krugman notes that liberalism focuses on political reform primarily to create equity in society and not the other way round. The watershed event for liberals was the New Deal presented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He focused on the poorest, workers with the lowest wages, and equalized their wages with the help of the National War Labor Board. And I am amused at the obvious confusion that Indian liberals form: Narendra Modi is the most socialistic Prime Minister that India has seen since independence. It is almost as if he has put antyodaya, the raising up of the poorest, on steroids. Almost all his policies, including Jan Dhan, housing schemes, power and water policies, support for farmers and rural women, are ‘political and governmental reform to primarily create equity in society’. Thus, the visceral hatred of Modi that the liberals feel is based not on their liberalism but due a fundamental lack of understanding of what liberalism truly is. Liberalism is not liberal economic policies; nor is it a free pass to be libertarians as they wish to be since they are the cultural and social elites of the society. Nor is liberalism against social conservatism since they could not care two hoots about what the society really is, so far as they are from any connection with the society, its religious and spiritual milieu, its cultural and social needs, its age-old structures and foundations. Nor can liberalism be shallowness, best exemplified in our society by personages such as RG or Shashi Tharoor. Without the slightest understanding of what Bharat or Sanatana Dharma is, they rely on what they learnt in management courses in the US, or lectures in Aspen, or panel discussions at literary festivals or twitter feeds. But the biggest challenge to liberalism today is a fundamental lack of integrity. The unwillingness to take a stand, whether it is against dynasty in politics, or to stand up for inconvenient truths like the exodus of Kashmiri pandits, or the degenerate and pernicious activities in Bollywood, or the inconsistency flagrantly displayed to gain votes by milking Sabarimala. A gratuitous giveaway given to the Nehru-Gandhi family, no matter how atrocious or undemocratic their behavior might be, whether it is matters of National Tribune or Bofors or corruption by Vadra or the disrespect shown by Rahul Gandhi towards the entire cabinet of the country, is a glaring contradiction in terms. Thus, liberalism has become justification for dynasty and cryonism. And has become an instinctive hatred for Modi, even if he accomplishes something great for the country, such as abolition of 370, or allowing farmers the ability to sell wherever in the country they wish to, contract as they please, and no longer depend on doles by powerful middle-men or their minions. Nor is liberalism anti-Hinduism at any cost. Since they did not deem it necessary to read about or delve deeply into Sanatana Dharma, anything that does not seem like good western etiquette is anathema to them, unless of course it translates into returns at the hustings. Nor is liberalism a blind adherence to the Left since the Left in India is beholden to the interests of another country and that country is surely not India. Nor whatever is left of the communists today has anything to do with idealism or social and economic equality. For, if it were so, they would be cheering for Modi today, like they did for Indira Gandhi, the bourgeois product of confused Nehruvian non-alignment and socialism. This is the diagnosis then. The Indian liberals are not liberal. Unless they truly become so, all charades and façades are an illusion and condemned to a slow painful disappearance, as they so fortunately deserve.