Lila or The Divine Play (HH 227)

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


One of the mysteries of creation is the presence of Evil. This is especially so if we take the stand of there being a ‘Divine Creator’ behind creation. Is not the world play set into motion by ‘Delight’ which is the origin and the fulfillment of creation? What about the middle term? Why is it the way it is? What is His Play and to what Purpose? What attitude should we take in a world besieged with cruelty and evil? What exactly is this lila of Krishna that is difficult to understand? These are some of the questions we take up today, this aspect of the Divine Play.


Words of the Mother

9 January 1957

Because God is invincibly great, He can afford to be weak; because He is immutably pure, He can indulge with impunity in sin; He knows eternally all delight, therefore He tastes also the delight of pain; He is inalienably wise, therefore He has not debarred Himself from folly.

Can God truly be said to be weak or to fail? Does this actually happen, or is it simply the Lord’s play?

That’s not how it is, mon petit! This is precisely how the modern Western attitude has become twisted compared to the ancient attitude, the attitude – it isn’t exactly ancient – of the Gita. It’s extremely difficult for the Western mind to comprehend vividly and concretely that ALL is the Divine. It is so impregnated with the Christian spirit, with the idea of a ‘Creator’ – the creation on one side and God on the other! Upon reflection, one rejects this, but … it has entered into our sensations and feelings, and so – spontaneously, instinctively, almost subconsciously – one credits God with all one considers to be the best, the most beautiful, and especially with what one wishes to attain, to realize. (Each individual, of course, changes the content of his God according to his own consciousness, but it’s always what he considers to be the best.) And just as instinctively, spontaneously and subconsciously, one is shocked by the idea that things one doesn’t like or doesn’t approve of or which don’t seem to be the best, could also be God.

I am putting this purposely into rather childish terms so that it will be clearly understood. But this is the way it is. I am sure of it because I have observed it in myself for a VERY long time, and I had to…. Due to the whole subconscious formation of childhood – environment, education, and so forth – we have to DRUM into this (Mother touches her body) the consciousness of Unity : the absolute, EXCLUSIVE unity of the Divine – exclusive in the sense that nothing exists apart from this Unity, even the things which seem most repulsive.

Sri Aurobindo also had to struggle against this because he too received a Christian education. And these Aphorisms are the result – the flowering – of the necessity to struggle against the subconscious formation which has produced such questions (Mother takes on a scandalized tone): ‘How can God be weak? How can God be foolish? How….’ But there is nothing but God! He alone exists, there is nothing outside of Him. And whatever seems repugnant to us is something He no longer wishes to exist – He is preparing the world so that this no longer manifests, so that the manifestation can pass beyond this state to something else. So of course we violently reject everything in us that is destined to leave the active manifestation. There is a movement of rejection.

Yet it is He. There is nothing other than He! This should be repeated from morning to night, from night to morning, because we forget it every minute.

There is only He, there is nothing other than He. He alone exists, there is no existence without Him. There is only He!

In any case, there it is – asking that kind of question is still taking the attitude of those who make a distinction between what is Divine and what is not Divine, or rather what is God and what is not God. ‘How can He be weak?’ It’s a question I could never ask.

I quite understand. But when one speaks of the Lila, the divine play, it implies that He in some way remains in the background and doesn’t really ‘get into the act,’ as they say – that He’s no really part of the game, but simply watches.

Yes, yes He is! He is totally involved in it. He Himself is the Play.

It must be remembered that there are all these gradations of consciousness: when we speak of God and his Play we are speaking of God in his transcendent state, beyond everything, beyond all the degrees of matter; when we speak of the Play we are speaking of God in his material state. So we say that God transcendent is watching and playing – in Himself, by Himself, with Himself – his material game.

But all language – all language! – is a language of Ignorance. All means of expression, all that is said and all the ways of saying it, are bound to partake of that ignorance. And that’s why it’s so difficult to express something concretely true; to do so would require extremely lengthy explanations, themselves, of course, fully erroneous. Sri Aurobindo’s sentences are sometimes very long for precisely this reason – he is trying to get away from this ignorant language.

You wonder what’s true, what you really encounter. Isn’t it all a figment of your imagination?… It’s a bit disquieting.

But when you have the positive experience of the sole and exclusive existence of the Supreme and that everything is just the play of the Supreme with Himself, instead of its being something disquieting or unpleasant or unsettling, it’s on the contrary a sort of total security.

The only reality is the Supreme. And all this is a game He plays with Himself. I find this much more comforting than the other way around.

And to begin with, this is the only certitude that it can become something marvelous, otherwise …

That, too, depends on the stand one takes. A complete identification with the play as play, as a self-existent and independent thing, is probably necessary, first in order to play the game as one should play it. But at one point one does in fact reach that detachment, such a complete disgust for the whole falsehood of existence that it becomes intolerable unless one sees it as the inner play of the Lord in Himself, for Himself.

And then, one feels that absolute and perfect freedom thanks to which the most marvelous possibilities become realizable, all the most sublime things that can be imagined are realizable.

(Mother goes into contemplation, then opens “Savitri”:)

“And earth [shall] grow unexpectedly divine” (I.IV.55)

(silence)

You’ll see, there comes a point when you can tolerate yourself and life only if you take the attitude that the Lord is everything. See, that Lord, how many things He possesses: He plays with all that – He plays, He plays at … changing the positions. And then, when you see it, that whole, you feel the limitless marvel, and that whatever the object of the most marvelous aspiration, it’s all quite possible and will even be surpassed. Then you are consoled. Otherwise, this existence … is inconsolable. But that way, it becomes charming. One day, I will tell you.

When you have the sense of the unreality of life – the unreality of life – compared with a reality that’s certainly found beyond, but at the same time WITHIN life, then … ah, yes, THAT is true at last – THAT is true at last and deserves to be true. That is the realization of all possible splendors, all possible marvels, all, yes, all possible felicities, all possible beauties – that, yes, otherwise …

The present way of being is a past that really should no longer exist. While the other way, ah, at last! At last!… That’s why there is a world.

And everything remains just as concrete and just as real – it doesn’t become misty. It’s just as concrete, just as real, but … it becomes divine, because … because it IS the Divine. It’s the Divine playing.

*

Perhaps, when one knows it is a game and plays it for fun, it is amusing. But when one doesn’t know it is a game, it is not amusing. You see, it is only when one is on the other side, on the divine side, that one can see it like that; that is, as long as we are in the ignorance, well, inevitably we suffer from what should amuse and please us. Fundamentally, it comes to this: when one does something deliberately, knowing what one is doing, it is very interesting and may even be very amusing. But when it is something you don’t do deliberately and don’t understand, when it is something imposed on you and endured, it is not pleasant. So the solution, the one which is always given: you must learn, know, do it deliberately. But to tell you my true feeling, I think it would be much better to change the game…. When one is in that state, one can smile, understand and even be amused, but when one sees, when one is conscious of all those who, far from knowing that they are playing, take the game very seriously and find it rather unpleasant, well… I don’t know, one would prefer it to change. That is a purely personal opinion.

I know very well: the moment one crosses over to the other side… instead of being underneath and enduring, when one is above and not only observes but acts oneself, it is so total a reversal that it is difficult to recall the state one was in when carrying all the weight of this inconscience, this ignorance on one’s back, when one was enduring things without knowing why or how or where one was going or why it was like that. One forgets all that. And then one can say: it is an “eternal game in an eternal garden”. But for it to be an amusing game, everybody should be able to play the game knowing the rules of the game; as long as one does not know the rules of the game, it is not pleasant. So the solution you are given is: “But learn the rules of the game!”… That is not within everybody’s reach. I have the impression, a very powerful impression, that a practical joker came and spoilt the game and made it into something dramatic, and this practical joker is obviously the cause of the division and the ignorance which is the result of this division, and of the suffering which is the result of ignorance. Indeed, in spite of all the spiritual traditions, it is difficult to conceive that this state of division, ignorance and suffering was foreseen at the beginning of creation. In spite of everything, one doesn’t like to think that it could have been foreseen. Indeed, I refuse to believe it. I call it an accident—a rather terrible accident, but still, you see, it is especially terrible to the human consciousness; for the universal consciousness, it may only be quite a reparable accident. And after all, when it has been set right, we shall even be able to recall it and say, “Ah! it has given us something we wouldn’t have had otherwise.” But we must first wait for it tobe put right.

Anyway, I don’t know if there are people who say that it was foreseen and willed, but I tell you it was neither foreseen nor willed, and this is precisely why when it happened, quite unexpectedly, immediately something else sprang forth from the Source, which probably would not have manifested if this accident had not taken place. If Delight had remained Delight, conceived as Delight, and everything had come about in Delight and Union instead of in division, there would never have been any need for the divine Consciousness to plunge into the inconscience as Love. So, when one sees this from very far and from high above, one says, “After all, something has perhaps been gained from it.” But one must see it from a great distance and a great height to be able to say that. Or rather, when it is left far behind, when one has gone beyond this state, entered into Union and Delight, when division and inconscience and suffering have disappeared, then one may very wisely say, “Ah, yes, we have gained an experience we would never have had otherwise.” But the experience must be behind, we must not be right in the midst of it. For, even for someone who—this is something I know— even for someone who has come out of this state, who lives in the consciousness of Oneness, for whom ignorance is something external, no longer something intimate and painful, even for that person it is impossible to look on the suffering of all those who have not come out of it with a smile of indifference. That seems impossible to me. Therefore, it is really necessary that things in the world should change and the acute state of sickness should disappear, so that we can say, “Ah! yes, we have benefited by it.” It is true that something has been gained, but it is a very costly gain.

That is why, I believe, because of that, so many initiates and sages have been attracted by the solution of the void, of Nirvana, for this is obviously a very radical way of escaping from the consequences of an ignorant manifestation. Only, the solution of changing this manifestation into a true, truly divine reality is a far superior solution. And this is what we want to attempt now, with a certitude of succeeding one day or another, for, in spite of everything, despite everything, what is true is eternally true, and what is true in essence must necessarily become true in the realisation, one day or another. Sri Aurobindo told us that we had taken the first step on the path and that the time had come to accomplish the work, therefore one has only to set out. That’s all.

So, your question? (To the child who asked about the game of hide-and-seek) Was this what you wanted to know? Actually what you were asking was: Why this image? One could reverse the thing. Instead of saying that the universe is like this, that is, the Divine and man are like this, look like this, one should say that this is perhaps an outer, superficial expression of what the essential relation between the Divine and man is at the present moment.

In fact, this would amount to saying that when one plays one is much more divine than when one is serious! (Laughing) But it’s not always good to say this. Perhaps there is more divinity in the spontaneous play of children than in the erudition of the scholar or the asceticism of the saint. That’s what I have always thought. Only (smiling) it is a divinity which is quite unconscious of itself.

As for me, I must confess to you that I feel much more essentially myself when I am joyful and when I play—in my own way—than when I am very grave and very serious—much more. Grave and serious—that always gives me the impression that I am dragging the weight of all this creation, so heavy and so obscure, whereas when I play—when I play, when I can laugh, can enjoy myself—it gives me the feeling of a fine powder of delight falling from above and tinting this creation, this world with a very special colour and bringing it much closer to what it should essentially be.

 

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