Evolution of the Rakshasa and the Asura (HH 214)

A Talk by Alok Pandey from “Tuesday Talks” series (AUDIO)


This week is celebrated in India as the week of victory, when Goddess Durga wins a fierce battle over the Demon-king Mahisasura and, on the other hand, the Avatar of God Vishnu, King Ram conquers Ravan. Hidden behind these stories is a deep symbolism. Today we share these subtle and profound truths through Sri Aurobindo’s poem and Conversations with the Mother.


Words of Sri Aurobindo

The Rakshasas

(The Rakshasa, the violent kinetic Ego, establishes his claim to mastery of the world replacing the animal Soul,—to be followed by controlled and intellectualised but unregenerated Ego, the Asura. Each such type and level of consciousness sees the Divine in its own image and its level in Nature is sustained by a differing form of the World-Mother.)

“Glory and greatness and the joy of life,
Strength, pride, victorious force, whatever man
Desires, whatever the wild beast enjoys,
Bodies of women and the lives of men,
I claim to be my kingdom. I have force
My title to substantiate, and I seek
No crown unearned, no lordship undeserved.
Ask what austerity Thou wilt, Maker of man,
Expense of blood or labour or long years
Spent in tremendous meditations, lives
Upon Thy altar spent of brutes or men,
Or if with gold Thy favour purchasable
I may command, rich offerings to glut
Thy temples and Thy priests. I have a heart,
A hand for any mighty sacrifice,
A fiery patience in my vehement mood;
I will submit. But ask not this of me,
Meek silence and a pale imprisoned soul
Made colourless of its humanity;
Ask not the heart that quakes, the hand that spares.
What strength can give, not weakness, that demand.
O Rudra, O eternal Mah´adev,
Thou too art fierce and mighty, wrathful, bold,
Snuffing Thy winds for blood of sacrifice,
And angrily Thou rul’st a prostrate world.
O R´akshasa Almighty, look on me,

R´avan, the lord of all Thy R´akshasas,
Give me Thy high command to smite Thy foes;
But most I would afflict, chase and destroy
Thy devotees who traduce Thee, making Thee
A God of love, a God too sweet to rule.
I have the knowledge; what Thou art, I know,
And know myself, for Thou and I are one.”
So prayed the Lord of Lunca, and in Heaven
Sri Krishna smiled, the Friend of all mankind,
A smile of sweetness and divine delight,
And asked, “O Masters of the knowledge, Seers
Who help me by your thoughts to help mankind,
Hearken what R´avan cries against the stars,
Demanding earth for heritage. Advise,
Shall he then have it?” And a cry arose,
“He would root out the Brahmin from the earth,
Impose his dreadful Yoga on mankind,
And make the violent heart, the iron hand
Sovereign of all.” Sri Krishna made reply,
“From out Myself he went to do My will.
He has not lied, he has the knowledge. He
And I are one. How then shall I refuse?
Does it not say, the Veda that you know,
‘When one knows That, then whatso he desires,
It shall be his’?” And Atri sage replied,
“Let him then rule a season and be slain.”
And He who reigns, “Something you know, O Seers,
Not all My purpose. It is long decreed,
The R´akshasa shall rule the peopled earth.
He takes the brute into himself for man,
Yielding it offerings, while with grandiose thoughts
And violent aspirations he controls;
He purifies the demon in the race,
Slaying in wrath, not cruelty. Awhile
He puts the V´anara out of the world,
Accustoming to grandeur all mankind;

The Ifrit he rejects. Were he denied
His period, man could not progress. But since
He sees himself as Me, not Me in him,
And takes the life and body for the whole,
He cannot last. Therefore is Atri’s word
Accepted.” And before the R´akshasa,
Out of the terror of the sacrifice,
Naked and dark, with a blood-dripping sword
And dreadful eyes that seemed to burn the world,
K´ al´ı the R´akshas´ı in flames arose.
“Demand a boon!” she cried, and all the gods
Trembled. “Give me the earth for my delight,
Her gods to be my slaves,” the Giant cried,
“Of strength and passion let me have my fill,
Of violence and pride.” “So let it be,”
She answered. “Shall it be eternal then?”
R´avan demanded and she thundered, “No!
For neither thou nor I are best nor last.
The Asur´ı shall rise to fill my place,
The Asura thy children shall dethrone.
An aeon thou hast taken to evolve,
An aeon thou shalt rule. But since thy wish
I have denied, ask yet another boon.”
“Let this be mine, that when at last I sink,
Nor brute nor demon, man nor Titan’s hand,
Nor any lesser creature shall o’erthrow,
But only God Himself compel my fall.”
And K´ al´ı answered, smiling terribly,
“It is decreed,” and laughing loud she passed.
Then R´avan from his sacrifice arose.

[Sri Aurobindo: Collected Poems. Written in 1910]

Words of the Mother

May 16, 1960

If there is one fundamental necessity, it is humility. To be humble. Not humble as it is normally understood, such as merely saying, ‘I am so small, I’m nothing at all’ – no, something else …

Because the pitfalls are innumerable, and the further you progress in yoga, the more subtle they become, and the more the ego masks itself behind marvelous and saintly appearances. So when somebody says, ‘I no longer want to rely on anything but Him. I want to close my eyes and rest in Him alone,’ this comfortable ‘Him,’ which is exactly what you want him to be, is the ego – or a formidable Asura, or a Titan (depending on each one’s capacity). They’re all over the earth, the earth is their domain. So the first thing to do is to pocket your ego – not preserve it, but get rid of it as soon as possible!

You can be sure that the God you’ve created is a God of the ego whenever something within you insists, ‘This is what I feel, this is what I think, this is what I see; it’s my way, my very own – it’s my way of being, my way of understanding, my relationship with the Divine, etc.’

And then they say, ‘I want to close my eyes and see nothing but Him I want nothing more of the outer world.’ And they forget there’s Love! That is the great Secret, that which is behind the Existent and the Non-Existent, the Personal and the Impersonal – Love. Not a love between two things, two beings … A love containing everything….

And what is wonderful is that at each moment the Grace, the Joy, the Light, the Love never cease pouring down in the very midst of all this – despite the ego, despite the shame, despite the unworthiness. To be humble …

***

I have a sort of memory – the memory of a very ancient story no one ever told me … in which the first Asura challenged the supreme Lord and told him, “I am as great as You!” And the answer was, “I wish you would become greater than I, because then there will be no more Asura.”

This memory is very living, somewhere…. If you become the Whole, it’s finished – you see, the Asura’s ambition is to be greater than the supreme Lord: “Become greater than I, then there will be no more Asura.”

On a very small scale, it’s the same thing on the earth.
   (silence)
In a certain state of consciousness, it becomes absolutely impossible to worry about what may happen; everything becomes visibly, obviously, the work of one and the same Force, one and the same Consciousness, one and the same Power. So that sense and will and ambition to be “more” – more powerful, greater – is again the SAME Force which pushes you to expand to the Limitless. As soon as you cross the limit, it’s finished.

Those are old ideas – the old ideas of two powers opposing each other: the power of Good and the power of Evil, the battle between the two, which of the two will have the last word…. There was a time when children were entertained with such stories. They’re just children’s stories.

Some people (or if you like, some beings, or forces, or consciousnesses) in order to progress need to give themselves, to merge, and in total self-annihilation, they attain Realization; for others the path is diametrically opposite: it’s a growth, a domination, an expansion which assumes fantastic proportions … until the separation disappears – it can no longer exist.

Some prefer this path, others prefer that one – but when we reach the end, it will all meet.
   (silence)
Ultimately, the one thing necessary is to abolish limits…. There are many ways to abolish limits.

And maybe they are all equally difficult.
   (silence)

***

But up above, “one” really isn’t in favor of havoc.

One isn’t in favor of havoc?

(Mother makes a gesture of vigorous denial) It’s a waste of time. All the more so as men have perfected such means of destruction that it could mean centuries lost, not just a few years. Entire civilizations to rebuild.

No, “one” isn’t in favor of that.

It’s a seething of something very dark, very dark.

It reminds me of the words of the “Lord of Nations,” the great Asura, when he told me, “I know that my power is drawing to its close, but you may be sure that before disappearing I will destroy everything I can.”

That’s it, that’s exactly it.

And unfortunately, people give him the opportunity to do so: it’s stupidity, ignorance, a sort of blindness.

What’s lamentable above all is the way men confuse power with violence. That sort of ignorant feeling that thinks power must manifest as violence. Violence is an asuric deformation. True power acts in peace – a peace like this (gesture of massive descent), which nothing can disturb.

 

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