A profound Mystery
The Mother remarked to a disciple that the 15th of August being the day of Sri Aurobindo’s birth is
‘….the day of great amnesties, the day when all past errors are effaced.’
[The Mother, Conversations with a disciple: Aug 15, 1959]
It is a tremendous statement, a powerful revelation born out of some great depth of Divine Realisations that the Mother embodied. Though this would have remained true even if She had not revealed it, yet by the very fact of Her utterance this truth has acquired a tremendous power that will extend it through vast spaces of Time. To the eye of the man endowed with faith this is an obvious truth that he experiences often in his life. But to the mind endowed with a will to understand it is perhaps needed to dwell deep into this profound utterance that rings almost like the high close of the Gita when Krishna, the Divine Incarnate reveals to his dear disciple and friend Arjun, ‘Abandoning all dharmas, take refuge in Me alone. I shall deliver thee from all sin and evil…..’ We have a similar utterance from the lips of Christ when he declares that ‘He shall wash the sins of his disciples with his blood.’ Modern mind may however wonder if this is not merely some holy sentiment meant to satisfy some religious feelings. But a deeper look reveals that indeed this is the real mystery of the Incarnate Divine. Quite unlike the great Masters and Prophets who come to show the way that man must follow, the Avatar becomes the Way. His mere Presence is enough and all that is needed on part of man is to have faith and open himself to the Grace and Mercy that the Avatar embodies. Indeed, the birth of the Divine upon Earth is a very special event. It is also, as the Gita refers to it, one of the three great mysteries, the other two being the presence of the Divine in a human body and, the highest of all the effacement of all sin and evil for an individual who is thus endowed with surrender and faith in the Divine incarnation or sacrifice in Matter.
It is a mystery because for the unchaste thought of man and its crude logic it is perplexing even to imagine that the Infinite can not only dwell within each finite element but limit Itself to a form and name even though Himself Formless and Nameless. However if we take a look at creation itself we shall see that this miracle is always happening, – the formless forces of creation give rise to form and the play of qualities giving rise to differentiation (a name). We also see that the Universal Nature assumes a limited individual movement that we know as individual nature. But this apart, the manifestation of the Divine in Matter, is an even more special event. For in such an instance it is not just the Universal but some aspect of the Transcendent that assumes an individual name and form giving birth to the Avatar. By so doing He percolates into creation, permeates and impregnates it with some new Force or Power of the Transcendent that has hitherto been missing in universal and individual nature. The Avatar becomes a bridge for infusing into creation a new element and thereby changing the movements of nature itself. Thus He changes the tide of Time and gives a new direction to the collective life of humanity and the ongoing march of civilization. In fact by the coming together and contact of the Transcendent with Matter, matter itself has a chance of being redeemed from its unconscious and obscure state to one that is conscious and more luminous. The result is that after the Avatar’s departure we notice a growing sensitivity in humanity towards the higher truth that the Avatar brought into the earthly play and infused it in Matter. Thenceforth all earthly beings with a material body share this new element and begin to wake up to the new Truth by the very fact of being born after the Avatar’s withdrawal from the earthly scene. In fact it is not a withdrawal since what He brought for earth as a gift is left with earth, – a New Consciousness, a New Element, a New Power to lead and help humanity. The Avatar Himself simply steps out of the human range, His divine Personality assumed for this play however remains with the Earth as the Godhead marked out to lead and guide the Earth and men towards the next intended fulfillment.
The great Divine Descents in the Past
We see this clearly, at least with the four recognized Avatars of the past. Rama, brings in the Sattwic element amidst a largely animal and asuric humanity and slowly there is a development of thought and reason and an attempt to organise society around dharma all over. Krishna frees man from slavery to conventional thought and lifts it through love and Ananda towards illumined heights and we see a growing tendency towards bhakti and the ecstasy that comes through love for the Divine. Subsequently the human consciousness will experience such bhakti that it will break all barriers of human norms and measures and establish a new path amidst humanity changing it from God-fearing and God-knowing to God-loving in many parts of the world. Christ comes and humanizes barbaric mankind by giving it a taste of pure divine Love. Buddha comes and turns an indulgent humanity caught up in rituals and traditions towards an other-worldly uplook breaking the barriers of thought into the Silence of nirvana. The world is thence filled with world-shunning ascetics and the path of moderation and balance is given to mankind.
Of course there is a term to the action of the Avatar after which Matter needs the direct Divine touch again to invigorate it and bring in the next new element for human progress. In other words the Avatar does not come so much to perform common-place miracles as much as to change something fundamentally here, in the very workings of earth – nature. It is neither for helping the faithful few by creating a new cult or path or religion nor to display his miraculous powers so that men may believe in God that He comes. Nor does He come for Justice, to punish the evil-doers and reward the righteous. Such terms and expressions possibly do not exist in the Divine Consciousness for whom all life, all nature, all forms are a single Body and a single movement. He simply takes out certain elements from creation back into Himself and brings in some others out of Himself into creation. Thus He executes rather than performs the miracle of miracles that surpasses all things but often goes unnoticed by a selfish and self-centered humanity concerned only with its little gains and petty benefits. Yet even if none noticed or understood or even knew about the existence of the Avatar He would still do His work and Earth shall feel rejuvenated by His very touch even if there is none to recognize and acknowledge. All that humanity will experience is a tremor and a change but know not whence and wherefrom the Power came.
Grace washing the stains on Matter
This is what is perhaps meant by the saying that the Avatar washes away our sins and frees us from evil. The sin is surely not in the soul that is a portion of the Divine and hence always pure and good and divine in essence. It is rather the covering of nature in which this divine seed is wrapped that is the source of our difficulty and the tendency to error and evil and sin as also to suffering and pain. The moment we or rather the soul enters the material sheath or casing of nature it forgets its divinity and becomes conditioned and limited by the covering envelope. Even when it wakes up within this dark womb and seeks for Light and hungers for Truth, still it is not easy to break through the dense and dark covering that is spun around it with invisible but strong threads, like iron bars and chains that keep someone in captivity denying him even his just privileges and powers. Something similar happens to the soul when it enters this field of Ignorance. Of course the very purpose of its entry into this dark terrestrial robe is to transform into a robe of Light fit for the wearer and worthy of a divine creation. But it takes long for it to change and the Avatar must come again and again to help the process especially during the crucial and critical phases of this evolutionary adventure. In other words, what the soul as the divine representative does slowly and in a small field for the individual, the Avatar does it rapidly and in a larger cosmic field for the earth and the human race. His Presence and wearing of the same robe as humanity does automatically washes the stains of habits and defects and impressions that have accumulated on the robe of terrestrial matter that the soul wears. These accumulated grooves of habit create a spontaneous and automatic pull on the soul towards these past ways of being and animal life. But the Avatar by the very fact of assuming the same dress washes these stains away and when He leaves the earthly field there is a new terrestrial robe for the coming generations to wear. Of course it takes time still since the inner being of man tied to past karma and ways of being habitually calls back its past formations but the strong grip of these past energies is weakened and wears off with little effort. Not finding enough support in matter which is the main enslaving element they lose ground soon and free the soul of man from the collective past. What about the individual past we may ask? Well since there is a clear interdependence between the individual and the collective this too is weakened but there we find a special Grace for those who are endowed with faith in the Divine Incarnate. This very faith puts them in a position of special advantage, individually so to say (since collective work is done independent of an individual’s faith or understanding), and opens the individual’s inner being to the Grace that accompanies the Divine Incarnate. Not justice but Grace is the Master stroke of the Divine. He comes to redeem and not punish. He comes to uplift and not reward. Of course the faith spoken of here is not a mere belief or a calculated bargain with the Divine Incarnate. It is the spontaneous reflex of the soul in man to the Divine when He comes to Earth and assumes a human body. Possibly the revelation itself is an act of Grace though one may say that those few souls who recognize the divinity of the Avatar have reached a certain inner development of their souls or are themselves descents from a higher world or plane of consciousness who come along with the Divine to be part of the Divine Work. The Mother reminds us:
The Divine Grace alone has the power to intervene and change the course of Universal Justice. The great work of the Avatar is to manifest the Divine Grace upon earth. To be a disciple of the Avatar is to become an instrument of the Divine Grace. [CWM 14: 83]
The alchemy of Divine Love
In its essence Matter is divine. It is created out of the Spirit’s substance and therefore in its true nature it shares the qualities of the Spirit. In fact Matter is the condition for manifestation of the Spirit. The Spirit is hidden in it as all the colours are hidden inside a white piece of cloth. But through its long evolutionary journey it has gathered many impressions over its surface just as dye colours a cloth. These imprints on Matter are the result of conditioning during successive evolutionary attempts. To the surface reading they appear as the truth of matter and material existence. In fact the dye is so strong that it offers great resistance to putting any other colour. These cannot be rubbed off and hence appear as Matter’s original nature. But not so to the trained eye! Behind all these impressions gathered over trienniums, Matter still retains its truth. It can still become, indeed is destined to become the basis for the Spirit’s perfect manifestation. To prepare Matter, to transform it so that it may thus become a perfect instrument of the Spirit is one of the main works of the Avatara, even the chief work if we may say so. The Mother so reveals to us this unique dimension of the Avatara’s work which we do not find anywhere else:
It is a fact that the Godhead has always taken a physical body with the intention of transforming that body and making of it a fit instrument for His manifestation upon earth. [CWM 13: 54]
By so doing, by redeeming Matter, by restoring it to its original purpose, the Avatar also brings into play the highest Grace that can completely efface not only past errors but also the future tendency towards evil and sin. He does it not by show of miracles or by any outward means visible to our eyes that the Avatar does it but by simply infusing a New consciousness in Matter, a consciousness that makes it difficult to continue with the old tendencies, a consciousness in Matter that automatically responds to the Light and the Beauty of the Future.
No wonder the Mother spoke of Sri Aurobindo’s day of birth as a day of amnesties. She also confirmed the action of the Avatara on creation with these prophetic words that inspire man and give him hope for the future.
‘In its essence, in its origin, love is like a flame, a white flame which overcomes all resistances. You can experience this yourself: whatever the difficulty in your being, whatever the burden of accumulated error, ignorance, incapacity and bad will, a single second of this pure, essential, supreme love dissolves it as in an all-powerful flame; a single moment and a whole past can disappear; a single instant in which you touch it in its essence and a whole burden is consumed.
And it is very easy to explain how a person who has this experience can spread it, can act on others; because to have the experience you must touch the one, supreme Essence of the whole manifestation, the Origin and the Essence, the Source and the Reality of all that is; and at once you enter the realm of Unity —there is no longer any separation of individuals, there is only one single vibration that can be repeated indefinitely in external form.
If you rise high enough, you find yourself at the heart of all things. And what is manifest in this heart can manifest in all things. That is the great secret, the secret of the divine incarnation in an individual form, because in the normal course of things what manifests at the centre is realised in the external form only with the awakening and the response of the will in the individual form. Whereas if the central Will is represented constantly and permanently in an individual being, this individual being can serve as an intermediary between this Will and all beings, and will for them. Everything this individual being perceives and offers in his consciousness to the supreme Will is answered as if it came from each individual being. And if for any reason the individual elements have a more or less conscious and voluntary relation with that representative being, their relation increases the efficacy, the effectiveness of the representative individual; and thus the supreme Action can act in Matter in a much more concrete and permanent manner. That is the reason for these descents of consciousness—which we may describe as “polarised”, for they always come to earth with a definite purpose and for a special realisation, with a mission— a mission which is decided upon, determined before the incarnation. These are the great stages of the supreme incarnations on earth.’
[CWM 10: 72 – 74]
Certain prophets in the past have had this apocalyptic vision but, as usual, things were mixed, and they did not have together with their vision of the apocalypse the vision of the supramental world which will come to raise up the part of humanity which consents and to transform this physical world. So, to give hope to those who have been born into it, into this perverted part of human consciousness, they have taught redemption through faith: those who have faith in the sacrifice of the Divine in Matter will be automatically saved, in another world—by faith alone, without understanding, without intelligence. They have not seen the supramental world nor that the great Sacrifice of the Divine in Matter is the sacrifice of involution which must culminate in the total revelation of the Divine in Matter itself.’
[CWM 9: 300 – 301]
Indeed we are witnessing today a similar phenomenon as accompanies the advent of Incarnate Divine. We find that the world-forces have drastically changed in their alignment and action since the previous century. This has led to unprecedented changes in man’s nature and his understanding of life. A New Consciousness has become active and is bearing results with each new generation as if something has changed within matter itself. Many things that were natural to us at the beginning of the previous century have become increasingly un-natural for today’s man. At least the majority of mankind regardless of their nationalities and political affiliations, are beginning to feel that the old way of life does not augur well for the race. It is striving to bring in a new era of harmony and peace and a new understanding and vision, indeed a new way of living and dealing with nature. True there are still pockets of resistance but they are losing ground and thinning out. It is like a winning war that the New Way is fighting against the old. But of this we shall speak later. Today it is enough to remember the Mother’s powerful messages on Sri Aurobindo’s Birthday, words with which we can enter into the spirit that the day represents, the spirit to be free from the old tendency to selfishness and sin and to welcome the New and the Divine way of Life that seeks Harmony and Beauty and Light in everything.
“Some day surely
The world too shall be saved from death by love.”
[from Sri Aurobindo’s play “Eric”, was given by The Mother
as a message for Sri Aurobindo’s birthday on Aug 15, 1965]