Chapter 7 Pt 3. Quest for Immortality – The Two Approaches. The End of Death.

Quest for Immortality – The Two Approaches

The Indian tradition has given a lot of attention to this subject of immortality. Through a significant series of myths it has pointed out basically two different approaches to the problem. One is the asuric or the demoniac way typified in the tales of Ravana, Hiranyakashapa, Trishanku, Jarashandha and others. These beings were attracted towards immortality for the sake of prolonging their ego’s empire indefinitely. Meaning thereby they wanted physical immortality without changing within in their consciousness. For this they try many outer, inner, subtler and occult means, including great tapasya and mastery over deeper forces of nature. Still their efforts are foredoomed to failure since immortality for them would mean a great imbalance in All-life whom these gigantic egos are out to devour. Death finds some way or the other to reach their doorsteps. The message is clear, you cannot forcibly wrest the cup of immortality from the hands of Eternal life, certainly not by clinging to the body out of fear or vanity. Fear is in fact a dangerous ally of death and one who strives for immortality must be therefore free of all fear and attachment.

The other method is the way of the gods and godly beings. The tales of Markandeya, Savitri, Hanuman, Narada, Nachiketassymbolize this other approach. These do not strive for immortality per se but for some other higher spiritual good that they may serve through their bodies. They are granted immortality as a boon or gift of Grace and not as a result of some arduous tapasya done for egoistic purposes. The story of Bheesma who was granted the gift of Iccha-mrityu is especially touching. A man of godly bearing and rare wisdom, he himself reveals the means of his death to his opponents since he feels that thus alone he can serve the cause of truth. Though potentially capable of prolonging life indefinitely, yet he is not attached to it as the frightful and fearful asura.

Especially significant in this regard is the legend of the churning of the ocean.[1] The gods and the  titans join hands to churn the ocean of life together to bring out the nectar of immortality buried in its depths. Many things come out as a result of the great churning, but the two groups continue to strive unfazed and unallured. They continue to churn till just before they hit rock bottom, there appears the most potent poison, kalkoota. There is a furor as to who would take it. The answer is obvious — who else but the great god Shiva who is eternal life dancing over death. That danger gone, now comes out the great elixir, but also the subtlest of tests devised by the preserver of the worlds, Vishnu. Knowing the hidden intention of the titans, the great god assumes the form of a world-alluring figure, Viswa-Mohini. The titans are shaken as their hidden lusts come out to the surface. Their gaze and desire is now fixed upon the alluring form and thereby they miss the nectar. But the gods who are in the secret confidence of the preserver himself, keep their gaze fixed upon the aim and thereby succeed in getting the nectar. Modern science is similarly in the position of the asura who tries to forcibly snatch and take away the powers of nature to serve the egoistic purposes of man. And nature does reveal it quite a bit through this excess violence of force, but not the last secrets. Therefore is all effort without the true knowledge and right attitude foredoomed to collapse like a house of cards.

The Traditional Spiritual View of Immortality

The energies of mind, life and body, however powerful, are as yet subordinate energies moving in the fields of a cosmic ignorance. The issue of death cannot be settled here. This is not the plane where the power for physical immortality can be found, though a relative mastery and prolongation of life may be possible by tapping these powers. This relative mastery is also useful and necessary as a first preliminary step towards the final mastery. One of the great significances of life upon earth is to master outer and inner nature. At the animal level, the field of this mastery is limited to certain gross things in the outer environment. With man and the advent of mind with its capacity to reflect upon itself and introspect, the field of self-mastery extends to one’s inner nature as well. All ethics, science especially the psychological sciences, art with its pursuit of perfection, occultism, meditation, are so many means to move towards this mastery. But all these are incomplete means. They are not perfect in power because they are not perfect in their knowledge. The seat of authentic power and knowledge lies even deeper than our natural combination of mind-life-body. It lies in the secret adytum of our inmost soul.

The traditional spiritual view, higher than the scientist’s and the occultist’s, reaches deeper into the very spiritual fount of nature. The soul in us is the divine element and therefore authentic and true. Being divine in its essence, it is also immortal and eternal. It does not perish with the destruction of the body nor with the return and dissolution of the elements of life and mind into their native worlds. The first genuine step towards immortality is taken when we touch and begin to dwell within our soul. We then begin to share the consciousness of immortality that is natural to the soul itself. The fear of death leaves us forever since we know its unreality. The false ‘I’ of the ego, which is a conglomeration of the mind-life-body self, is dissolved by death. But death cannot touch the immortal soul in us and nothing can destroy it. The true ‘I’ never perishes. To find this soul and live in it is to discover the secret of immortality even while we continue to function in an otherwise perishable body.

Most spiritual traditions do not resolve the mystery of death. They only make it deeper by bypassing the question. The mystic has so far regarded life as a field of sorrow and impermanence where everything dies. Birth therefore is seen as an occasion of sorrow since it is bound to bring along with it grief and suffering and pain. Being born again and again is seen as a source of prolonging one’s misery by entering repeatedly into this transient, unhappy world where death takes its prey at will and nothing can save us from its grip, not even good deeds or a powerful mind and body. The only solution left is to somehow cut the knot of birth. The soul that arrives at this departure does it by one of the two methods. One is by going deep within using one or more powers of nature — the mind, emotions or will, until one gets at the secret soul. Once this true self is touched, one wakes up from the stupor of a false identity. With this knowledge one cuts the bonds of false attachment and desire or retires into solitude till these things fall off by starvation and the soul denuded of its sheaths returns back to its origin. The second method is to go higher and higher with the help of the mind and its power of meditation. The ascending mind reaches ultimately a state of impersonality or the static Self. The whole effort of the practitioner then is to dwell in that state more and more by increasingly retiring into his inner solitude and the stillness of his Impersonal self till the body and mind wear off and drop in a natural way. There are other lesser known methods as well like the method of constantly witnessing nature and observing without sanctioning its activities till they drop off as a flower would wilt, unsupported by the sap that nourishes it. Whatever be the means, the immortality sought by the mystics is the immortality of the soul within or of the higher Self above.

As to immortality of the body, all spiritual traditions seem to have passed a final verdict of anityam asukham (this transient suffering world where neither permanence nor delight can dwell). Thus far and no further stops all search and ends the mystery. Having realised the soul and its convincing immortality, the hold of death is gone forever and so also of birth. The purpose for which we came to earth is over. The drape of illusion is torn from our mist-laden eyes and we make the final-most exit into some heaven of mukti, salvation, nirvana.

“Be thyself, immortal, and put not thy faith in death; for death is not of thyself, but of thy body. For the Spirit is immortality.”[2]


The End of Death, the Death of Ignorance

“To free the self is but one radiant pace”…
“A first betrothal of the Earth to Heaven…” [3]

but not the last word, not the final seal of God’s work or the sign of His sanction to our efforts. There is a still greater work to do, a still greater problem to be understood, and a still greater mystery to be solved. All that we realise by discovering the immortal soul in us is who we truly are. Knowing our true self frees us individually from the clutches of sorrow and suffering. But to know oneself is only the beginning of another line of progress. It consists in knowing what we came here to do, our purpose beneath the stars, our real work amidst this wilderness. If the purpose of the soul was simply to free itself from nature then there was no need for it to accept the bondage at all! It is a weird logic to believe that the soul, though divine becomes somehow helplessly bound by nature and has then only to cry for its release from this pitiable state. What a waste of all creative effort of God or whoever else that would be if the whole drama began just so that after millions of years we realise its utter futility and walk out of the play, shocked and dazed and bitter. That would not only be a bad creation but a terrible folly to boot. Here must we pause and reconsider whether it is the folly of the Creator who made this intriguing world where our souls have strayed unwittingly or unwillingly, or is it the folly and impatience of our blinded hearts attracted to the lure of escape due to which we are unable to see the purpose even when it stares us in the eyes. The purpose of creation must also be the secret purpose of the soul adventuring in time and space. That purpose, if we care to see it, is obviously the evolution of more and more perfect life forms upon earth and a correspondingly higher and higher consciousness as well. There is an ascending evolution in Nature through which Nature seems to be working out the development of higher and higher forms. Higher in capacity of life and its powers, higher in capacities of feeling and willing, higher in capacities of mind and of knowledge, and most importantly higher in terms of soul-vision and soul-force. But is this the end? Is this imperfect creature called man the summit of Nature’s evolutionary effort? Not so, says Sri Aurobindo.

Life and creation have a deeper purpose than simply bondage and later a doorway of escape. The soul, that is the seed of divinity in us has not ventured here simply to return empty handed and naked back to its source just as it came. Life in Sri Aurobindo’s vision is not an unfortunate accident, creation not a meaningless tale. It is rather the supreme means for a progressive unfolding of the divine possibilities hid in the soil of matter in the form of the divine seed. These are the deeper and higher truths of life itself — the truth of Knowledge and Light, the truth of Freedom and Peace and Bliss, the truth of Harmony and Love, the truth of a collective and terrestrial perfection of life upon earth. Nature tends towards that, revealing these possibilities as hints and stray glimpses in an exceptional individual here and there. But what is found in one is also latent in another. It is only a matter of time for the race to discover what the individual has uncovered within himself. But that this higher possibility may manifest itself fully in all its many sided perfection and not occasionally and partially, what is needed here is the preparation of the soil and the climate. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother gave their lives to realise this vision of Divine Perfection of our earthly life. Through decades of an intense sadhana they discovered the roots of the problem and the cure. Not only did they discover it but worked it out for man. The soil and the climate could be made ready for this higher possibility of a Divine Life upon earth if a higher than mind principle, the Supramental Truth-Consciousness, could establish itself upon earth. That would hasten this divine outflowering of the race. Right now we are governed by the mental principle which in its very nature is imperfect, leaving us with the choice of either leading an ignorant and imperfect life or else quitting it by ascending to one of the spiritual planes of consciousness beyond our ordinary human mind. But beyond even the spiritual planes there exists the sun blaze of a Supramental Truth-Consciousness where ignorance and suffering, limitation and division, falsehood and error, disharmony and imperfection has no place. Its presence upon earth would mean the natural appearance of truth and oneness, harmony and delight, love and light upon earth and not away from it. It would also naturally mean an evolution of the human race into a race of Supramental gnostic beings[4] just as the advent of mind evolved our humanity out of the unthinking animal. At its apex it would mean the transmutation of the very stuff of our bodies so that this mortal and perishable bag of bones becomes a home of light, a translucent mantle that does not hold back and hide the inner light of the soul but transmits and even enhances its beauty and radiance. With the appearance of this divine body and the end of Ignorance there would end the reign of Death.

What would that mean? Firstly that there will be a change in the inner consciousness of human beings so that they would become in their inner constitution and psychological nature more and more open and receptive to the higher forces of light and love and harmony and truth. Nevertheless these beings though conscious of a higher Light and Law will still have the limitations of the physical body constituted in the animal way. That means that for some time a division will persist with a transformed inner consciousness in a section of humanity ready for the evolutionary leap and an unchanged outer consciousness resisting and dragging it behind towards our animal past. An improved software in an unchanged hardware so to say! But this inner growth will press further and further from within outwards till the very physical body begins to undergo the necessary transmutation, a body fully expressive of the inner divinity and not hiding and obstructing it. The very presence of this new being of Light and Truth will radically alter the balance of earthly life just as the presence of man has altered the balance of animal and plant life and even of the material life upon earth. For, this new being will handle everything with the full and true consciousness, the simultaneous consciousness of the part and the whole, the simultaneous knowledge of the truth of its inner and outer working, the simultaneous insight and intuition of the moment’s need and the vision of eternity. These higher beings will escape the law of death since they will be fully conscious. That does not mean wearing the same body forever. But a conscious changing of the body by an act of supraconscious will without any intermediary stages of forgetfulness, loss of consciousness and helpless subjection to a blind mechanism (blind to our ignorance) which death now represents. Those still subject to Ignorance will no doubt continue to die and be born the present human way but a higher knowledge and power lent to them by this beautiful and luminous ‘other’ will take away much of their pain and suffering that the existence of death carries now. Death then will become an instrument of Light and not a blind unthinking law that it has now assumed for itself before a humanity helpless before its dark and ambiguous veil. Just as with the advent of mind, the forces of nature which appeared as blind for an animal have assumed a different meaning for man who can now harness and use them for a greater good, so too with the advent of the new being the forces of death and destruction will become instruments of a higher will which will harness and use them consciously for a greater good.

How, you may ask. Death at present deals with us the way forces of Nature dealt with man till he became aware of Nature’s reality. Death is also a similar universal force, not all evil, not all good. Rather he seems to be a villain trying to become a do-gooder, like all the forces. The reason is that it chose to be autonomous and therefore cut off from the Integral truth. The psychic being as it develops to perfection can bring it back to surrender to the Truth as we find in tales of Icchamrityu and other notable legends. After that happens and the growing soul of man has mastered death it will be able to use its powers to harness life and to recreate a balance. Death has been indeed used by the Luminous ones as an instrument, for example to destroy the unnecessary past, to remove an obstruction on the way to the future or even to destroy conscious evil as Sri Krishna did. In the same way, man will be able to use the force of death to remove all that obstinately stands in the way of the evolutionary future of mankind. Of course this assumes that one would have reached a stage of evolution to such a height where one is the natural possessor of an unerring wisdom, that sees truth even more concretely than one sees a material object. Such a vision of truth is conterminous with Compassion and to that luminous eye even destruction becomes an act of compassion, releasing the soul from a material encasement where it was trapped in the prison house of a dark and fallen nature. This is surely very, very different from the senseless killing in the name of religion or an ideal or even a high sentiment which are nothing else but ignorance fabricating the name of truth. Such people often quote the Gita or other religious authority to justify an act motivated by their own blindness. The Gita itself clarifies this by extolling non-injury to others (ahimsa) as a divine quality to be practised by one who is still struggling in the maze of the ignorance. But it equally emphasises that it is a midway point and the soul in man has to one day ascend beyond this duality by growing into the authentic soul, seeing beyond the relative good and the relative evil born of our ignorant outlook and ascend to his home in the permanent and divine Good.

Therefore says Savitri whom Death tries to intimidate but ends up being conquered and intimidated himself — “Live, Death, awhile, be still my instrument.” It is not just a change of outlook towards death but a change of capacity and power in dealing with it.

Sounds like a fairy tale. Well, no more a fairy tale than the appearance of thinking man amidst the immense void of space, out of the cosmic dust. No more a fairy tale than the emergence of poetry and philosophy out of the dumb heart of a cave-man. No more a fairy tale than the reptile crawling in dark holes in the bowels of the earth developing wings of a bird and spanning the skies.

Perhaps, but one day our human mode of feeling and communicating may itself become utterly incomprehensible to a future man. For one thing is both consistent with the logic of Nature as well as of God, or the logic of Science and the logic of spiritual philosophy, that such an unsure imperfect creature called man cannot be the apex of God’s creativity or of Nature’s. Man by his very nature is destined to be a transitional being for the gap is still wide between what he hopes for and what he has, between his actuality and his possibility, between his dream visitations and his present day mundane reality.

How can we participate in the process?

By bringing the future closer to us through an inner door, opening to the new consciousness and receiving its influx into our lives.

By a conscious aspiration and changing ourselves in the direction of the future. By unburdening ourselves of that past which seeks to perpetuate the reign of Ignorance and ties us down to littleness and pettiness of thought and endeavour and action.

Or perhaps by simply being happy and hopeful as a child full of enthusiasm and wonder, free of conditioning and arrogant mental pride.

Even if we do not participate, the future will still force itself upon us. Nature did not seek permission from the fish before removing the fins and the gills and replacing them with lungs and limbs. It goes about the task set for it by the secret Time-Spirit whose passing breath is felt by a few, heard by fewer still.

“A Witness of creation, if there had been one conscious but uninstructed, would only have seen appearing out of a vast abyss of an apparent non-existence an Energy busy with the creation of Matter, a material world and material objects, organising the infinity of the Inconscient into the scheme of a boundless universe or a system of countless universes that stretched around him into Space without any certain end or limit, a tireless creation of nebulae and star-clusters and suns and planets, existing only for itself, without a sense in it, empty of cause or purpose. It might have seemed to him a stupendous machinery without a use, a mighty meaningless movement, an aeonic spectacle without a witness, a cosmic edifice without an inhabitant; for he would have seen no sign of an indwelling Spirit, no being for whose delight it was made. A creation of this kind could only be the outcome of an inconscient Energy or an illusion-cinema, a shadow-play or puppet-play of forms reflected on a superconscient indifferent Absolute. He would have seen no evidence of a soul and no hint of Mind or Life in this immeasurable and interminable display of Matter. It would not have seemed to him possible or imaginable that there could at all be in this desert universe for ever inanimate and insensible an outbreak of teeming life, a first vibration of something occult and incalculable, alive and conscious, a secret spiritual entity feeling its way towards the surface.”

“But after some aeons, looking out once more on that vain panorama, he might have detected in one small corner at least of the universe this phenomenon, a corner where Matter had been prepared, its operations sufficiently fixed, organised, made stable, adapted as a scene of a new development, — the phenomenon of a living Matter, a Life in things that had emerged and become visible: but still the Witness would have understood nothing, for evolutionary Nature still veils her secret. He would have seen a Nature concerned only with establishing this outburst of Life, this new creation, but Life living for itself with no significance in it, a wanton and abundant creatrix busy scattering the seed of her new power and establishing a multitude of its forms in a beautiful and luxurious profusion or, later, multiplying endlessly genus and species for the pure pleasure of creation: a small touch of lively colour and movement would have been flung into the immense cosmic desert and nothing more. The Witness could not have imagined that a thinking mind would appear in this minute island of life, that a consciousness could awake in the Inconscient, a new and greater subtler vibration come to the surface and betray more clearly the existence of the submerged Spirit. It would have seemed to him at first that Life had somehow become aware of itself and that was all; for this scanty new-born mind seemed to be only a servant of life, a contrivance to help life to live, a machinery for its maintenance, for attack and defence, for certain needs and vital satisfactions, for the liberation of life-instinct and life-impulse. It could not have seemed possible to him that in this little life, so inconspicuous amid the immensities, in one sole species out of this petty multitude, a mental being would emerge, a Mind serving Life still but also making Life and Matter its servants, using them for the fulfilment of its own ideas, will, wishes, — a mental being who would create all manner of utensils, tools, instruments out of Matter for all kinds of utilities, erect out of it cities, houses, temples, theatres, laboratories, factories, chisel from it statues and carve cave-cathedrals, invent architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry and a hundred crafts and arts, discover the mathematics and physics of the universe and the hidden secret of its structure, live for the sake of Mind and its interests, for thought and knowledge, develop into the thinker, the philosopher and scientist and, as a supreme defiance to the reign of Matter, awake in himself to the hidden Godhead, become the hunter after the invisible, the mystic and the spiritual seeker.”

“But if after several ages or cycles the Witness had looked again and seen this miracle in full process, even then perhaps, obscured by his original experience of the sole reality of Matter in the universe, he would still not have understood; it would still seem impossible to him that the hidden Spirit could wholly emerge, complete in its consciousness, and dwell upon the earth as the self-knower and world-knower, Nature’s ruler and possessor. ‘Impossible!’ he might say, ‘all that has happened is nothing much, a little bubbling of sensitive grey stuff of brain, a queer freak in a bit of inanimate Matter moving about on a small dot in the universe.’ On the contrary, a new Witness intervening at the end of the story, informed of the past developments but unobsessed by the deception of the beginning, might cry out, ‘Ah, then, this was the intended miracle, the last of many, the Spirit that was submerged in the Inconscience has broken out from it and now inhabits, unveiled, the form of things which, veiled, it had created as its dwelling-place and the scene of its emergence.’ But in fact a more conscious Witness might have discovered the clue at an early period of the unfolding, even in each step of its process; for at each stage Nature’s mute secrecy, though still there, diminishes; a hint is given of the next step, a more overtly significant preparation is visible. Already, in what seems to be inconscient in Life, the signs of sensation coming towards the surface are visible; in moving and breathing Life the emergence of sensitive mind is apparent and the preparation of thinking mind is not entirely hidden, while in thinking mind, when it develops, there appear at an early stage the rudimentary strivings and afterwards the more developed seekings of a spiritual consciousness. As plant-life contains in itself the obscure possibility of the conscious animal, as the animal-mind is astir with the movements of feeling and perception and the rudiments of conception that are the first ground for man the thinker, so man the mental being is sublimated by the endeavour of the evolutionary Energy to develop out of him the spiritual man, the fully conscious being, man exceeding his first material self and discoverer of his true self and highest nature.”[5]

When darkness deepens strangling the earth’s breast
And man’s corporeal mind is the only lamp,
As a thief’s in the night shall be the covert tread
Of one who steps unseen into his house.
A Voice ill-heard shall speak, the soul obey,
A Power into mind’s inner chamber steal,
A charm and sweetness open life’s closed doors
And beauty conquer the resisting world,
The truth-light capture Nature by surprise,
A stealth of God compel the heart to bliss
And earth grow unexpectedly divine.
In Matter shall be lit the spirit’s glow,
In body and body kindled the sacred birth;
Night shall awake to the anthem of the stars,
The days become a happy pilgrim march,
Our will a force of the Eternal’s power,
And thought the rays of a spiritual sun.
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.[6]

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother probed the purpose of earthly life and its rendezvous with death and found its ultimate solution. Not for themselves was their labour. They had already seen and walked several times over the hidden and occult territories of existence, known its powers and limitations, trod the traditional spiritual paths, discovered once again the immortality of the soul, realised the eternal, immutable Self, known the taste of Nirvana and the boundless freedom of the Infinite, charted for all times to come for earth and humanity the maps of Consciousness and filled in the gaps of its unknown dimensions, uncovered the secret pages from the hidden scripts of the past — and yet the paradox of life upon earth and the ultimate mystery of birth and death remained to be satisfactorily solved.

The issue was not just the escape of one or many souls from the clutches of death but the very purpose for which this immortal stuff dallies with mortality. If life upon earth was just to realise the immortality of the soul and the true Self then there was no reason to take this plunge into creation at all. Is the drama of pain and suffering justified in the name of karmic justice or whatever else if the end were to be the same as the beginning — that is, the soul that already knew itself once again knows itself after an intermediate period of apparent self-forgetfulness? The escapist solution cannot satisfy a serious quest. It can at best soothe a weak and tired heart needing some rest after the struggle. But man seeks for more and not just an escape from the drama of life. He seeks also for truth and love and bliss and peace and perfection amidst (and not away) from this troubled restless world. Something within us continues to strive for terrestrial perfection with hope and prayer. Ignorance, one might say. But wherefrom came this Ignorance clouding the native self-knowledge of the soul? Or perhaps we have missed the whole sense and meaning of creation! It is this that Sri Aurobindo discovered, not as an armchair philosopher musing upon the enigmas of life but as a spiritual warrior conquering unknown domains of knowledge, hitherto undiscovered so far. A full justice can never be done to His work for mankind and earth in a short book or many books even.

But for our present purposes we can now turn to some of the salient aspects of His discovery that are of immediate relevance to us.

Life upon earth is not an accident, spiritual or chemical but a willing self-plunge of the Spirit. And since the Spirit is All-Knowledge and All-Power, this plunge could not be a helpless subjection to some dark and mysterious (or mischievous) force of Satan or Maya. All has come out of the One Self and is sustained by It to serve a great purpose in the grand scheme. Even matter is nothing else but an act of the Spirit. The Spirit has become matter, so to say, even as it has become everything else.

Since Spirit has become matter it is logical to see that it is matter that must discover its own spiritual reality. In other words, all life is a process of discovery of its own spiritual reality. The new definition of this self-discovery is in material terms. The delight of being at the origin of all things must also taste the delight of becoming. Becoming what? God in clay, or shall we say God smiling through divinised matter, perfectly adapted to receive and transmit His Delight and Force and Truth and Light and Love and all else that is now and always contained in the silent folds of the Spirit. It is to manifest in material life upon earth, the eternal Perfection above.

This cannot happen in a trifle. Therefore there are stages and processes, a gradual and apparently painful progression towards a greater future. The pain is due to the resistance. Yet in the secret Providence of things this is unavoidable. A too rapid unfolding may mean dissolution rather than a new creation. One cannot carve a beautiful sculpture out of entirely soft clay. The chipping of the stone is a slow process and goes on till the Image concealed and imprisoned within its crude contours is released to its utmost perfection. Nature is working towards this New Creation or a divine creation upon earth. This alone can justify the long labour, explain the ensuing suffering for a greater and as yet unrealised delight, and make perfect sense to the mystery of life upon earth. Not so much to find the soul alone (though that is necessary as a first step) but to find its own divine fulfilment.

This new and diviner creation in material terms necessarily means the appearance upon earth of a new and divine being. It will be a race of beings who would be fully governed and driven by the Truth of the Spirit and no more by the body’s hunger, vital impulses and desires, and the mind’s ignorant dictates as it is now. This means the appearance upon earth of a new species whose very centre of consciousness and source of functioning would be radically different than what we have today. While it will be presumptuous for any of us to envisage the details of this new species, if we may call it so, suffice it to say that man like everything else that proceeded before him is a transitional being. Just as out of the ape there arose the phenomenon of man, so too out of man there shall arise this New being who will be radically different from man not only in his inner consciousness and constitution but also and finally in the very body itself. This would necessarily imply many successive and intermediary stages. One such stage will naturally be a being whose consciousness is radically and fundamentally changed but whose body is yet to undergo the needed divinisation.

This change of form and with it a corresponding change of the powers of consciousness has been happening so far over millenniums and this is what we call evolution. But evolution as described by Darwin is only half the story with its most important causal link missing. The missing link is filled up in science by the neat and ambiguous word ‘Chance’. By chance this world sprang up, by chance the dust under our feet began to breathe and crawl, by chance again the crawl changed into a run and a flight, and yet again by another stupendous chance this lump of clay began to feel and think and introspect, consciously seek for beauty and truth and higher things! Underlying this fictitious chance, there is the unseen thread of consciousness that weaves out one form after another and would continue to do so until the perfect form arrives. And the perfect form will be naturally that which can hold the breath and full force of the Spirit without breaking, and contain delight without spilling, spoilage and degradation. It would also mean the end of disease, suffering (of all kinds, including material suffering) and death.

Death itself has evolved or been imposed upon living things out of an evolutionary necessity. If death were not, then imperfect forms would multiply ad infinitum as virus and bacteria do. We need not imagine what a frightful world there would be if forms of Ignorance (limited and partial knowledge and power) continued to multiply. If nature is foredoomed to imperfection then surely earthly life will become a prison for the soul.

The same would not be true for a being of true and total Knowledge, a Gnostic being, since harmony will be the very law of his existence. He would be free from the law of death even physically, but he will not be misusing this freedom to perpetuate itself and exterminate all other species. And his freedom will not be limited by a helpless continuance in the same body for that too would be a limitation, but a freedom to change the body consciously by an act of will and without going through the process of death.

Death in other words is a necessity when life struggles with imperfection and reels under ignorance. Death will no more be necessary when Ignorance changes into Gnosis, imperfection into divine Perfection (and not what we call as human perfection which even at its best is a creation of ignorance), and suffering into the Immortal’s Ananda. As of now, Death is a temporary release from earthly joys and suffering; the joy that ends too soon into its opposite, the suffering that necessarily follows when the immortal soul assumes the mask of imperfection, ignorance and limitation. It will drop off and cease to exist when all life will become a wave of the Supreme Ananda.

[1] Story from the Vishnu Purana (The legends of Lord Vishnu): Dashavatara. Koormavatara retold in English.

[2] Sri Aurobindo: Essays Divine and Human, p. 159

[3] Sri Aurobindo: Savitri, pp. 312, 531

[4] A new creation embodying the Supramental Truth-Consciousness moved by the very highest Truth alone, just as we at present embody the ignorant mental-consciousness, which is the chief source of our error and grief and suffering and evil and death. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother took upon themselves to establish this principle of Truth Consciousness upon earth so that by its pressure a new race of Supramental beings appear in due course. This great and momentous event, the supramental descent, took place upon earth on 29 February 1956.

[5] Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, pp. 849-51.

[6] Sri Aurobindo: Savitri, p. 55

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