A New Chapter in Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga

The Siddhi Day or the 24th Nov 1926 is an important landmark day in the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo. In fact this was the second great transitional moment in the vast and complex yoga for the Earth that had been initiated by Sri Aurobindo. The first great transition was in 1908 when Sri Aurobindo had a glimpse of the Supramental Oneness through the psychic door in the Alipore Jail. Until then his yoga had proceeded along traditional lines, at least in its experiences and realisations if not in the actual practice and practical results. Until then there was a large element of the yogic practices of different yogas embedded since time immemorial in the psychic memory of the Earth. This was natural since before going further Sri Aurobindo, as the Avatara of the Future had to recover the lost tracks of the ancient discoveries. These included, among others, the realization of the silent Self, the experience of the vacant Infinite, the experience of the World-Mother, the state of Brahmanirvana and Jivanmukta. All this even as Sri Aurobindo remained active in the world play, though with an ever increasing Truth-vision which he poured upon the world through the pages of various journals he edited.

But soon after the realization of Vasudeva sarvam iti in the Alipore jail, which the Mother clearly speaks of as the experience of supramental oneness, his yoga began to enter into uncharted territories. There came, for example, an opening to higher and higher planes of consciousness and their beings and forces, the gods of greater worlds or lokas of the Vedas. He was as if being drawn towards a great adventure, the ascent of consciousness towards heights beyond heights as the Vedic seers put it. It is during this period that there came an inner Command, or an Adesh for him to withdraw into outer seclusion to explore fully this new yoga which was being given to him. Even as he ascended, an unexpected experience began to enter and grow upon him opening an entirely new possibility for Earth, the descent of higher and higher states of consciousness into his very body. Sri Aurobindo describes this beautifully in some of his poems as well as in Savitri:

In a divine retreat from mortal thought,
In a prodigious gesture of soul-sight,
His being towered into pathless heights,
Naked of its vesture of humanity.
As thus it rose, to meet him bare and pure
A strong Descent leaped down. A Might, a Flame,
A Beauty half-visible with deathless eyes,
A violent Ecstasy, a Sweetness dire,
Enveloped him with its stupendous limbs
And penetrated nerve and heart and brain
That thrilled and fainted with the epiphany:
His nature shuddered in the Unknown’s grasp.
In a moment shorter than death, longer than Time,
By a Power more ruthless than Love, happier than Heaven,
Taken sovereignly into eternal arms,
Haled and coerced by a stark absolute bliss,
In a whirlwind circuit of delight and force
Hurried into unimaginable depths,
Upborne into immeasurable heights,
It was torn out from its mortality
And underwent a new and bourneless change.
An Omniscient knowing without sight or thought,
An indecipherable Omnipotence,
A mystic Form that could contain the worlds,
Yet make one human breast its passionate shrine,
Drew him out of his seeking loneliness
Into the magnitudes of God’s embrace.
As when a timeless Eye annuls the hours
Abolishing the agent and the act,
So now his spirit shone out wide, blank, pure:
His wakened mind became an empty slate
On which the Universal and Sole could write.
All that represses our fallen consciousness
Was taken from him like a forgotten load:
A fire that seemed the body of a god

Consumed the limiting figures of the past
And made large room for a new self to live.
Eternity’s contact broke the moulds of sense.
A greater Force than the earthly held his limbs,
Huge workings bared his undiscovered sheaths,
Strange energies wrought and screened tremendous hands
Unwound the triple cord of mind and freed
The heavenly wideness of a Godhead’s gaze.
As through a dress the wearer’s shape is seen,
There reached through forms to the hidden absolute
A cosmic feeling and transcendent sight.
Increased and heightened were the instruments.
Illusion lost her aggrandising lens;
As from her failing hand the measures fell,
Atomic looked the things that loomed so large.
The little ego’s ring could join no more;
In the enormous spaces of the self
The body now seemed only a wandering shell,
His mind the many-frescoed outer court
Of an imperishable Inhabitant:
His spirit breathed a superhuman air.
The imprisoned deity rent its magic fence.
As with a sound of thunder and of seas,
Vast barriers crashed around the huge escape.
Immutably coeval with the world,
Circle and end of every hope and toil
nexorably drawn round thought and act,
The fixed immovable peripheries

Effaced themselves beneath the Incarnate’s tread.
The dire velamen and the bottomless crypt
Between which life and thought for ever move,
Forbidden still to cross the dim dread bounds,
The guardian darknesses mute and formidable,
Empowered to circumscribe the wingless spirit
In the boundaries of Mind and Ignorance,
Protecting no more a dual eternity
Vanished rescinding their enormous role:
Once figure of creation’s vain ellipse,
The expanding zero lost its giant curve.
The old adamantine vetoes stood no more:
Overpowered were earth and Nature’s obsolete rule;
The python coils of the restricting Law
Could not restrain the swift arisen God:
Abolished were the scripts of destiny.
There was no small death-hunted creature more,
No fragile form of being to preserve
From an all-swallowing Immensity.
The great hammer-beats of a pent-up world-heart
Burst open the narrow dams that keep us safe
Against the forces of the universe.
The soul and cosmos faced as equal powers.
A boundless being in a measureless Time
Invaded Nature with the infinite;
He saw unpathed, unwalled, his titan scope.
[Savitri: 80-83]

This descent which came to be termed by him as a progressive spiritualization of our being and nature, was the crucial intermediate step needed to ensure the further fulfillment of his yoga that aimed at nothing short of the supramental realization. This process went on for several years, for more than a decade until it entered its grand completion with the descent of the Overmind plane into earth-matter through the very physical body of Sri Aurobindo. This cleared the path for the last and final stage of his yoga, – the supramental transformation. The day when this long process was over and a new stage started was the 24th Nov 1926, known now as the Siddhi Day. It was called as the Siddhi day, since it marks the final seal of the Supreme upon His future work, the supramental transformation which was yet to be realized fully then. Sri Aurobindo himself describes it as:

….the descent in 1926 was rather of the Overmind, not of the Supermind proper.

What was said was that the Divine (Krishna or the Divine Presence or whatever you like) had come down into the material. It was also proclaimed that I was retiring—obviously to work things out…..

Krishna is not the supramental light. The descent of Krishna would mean the descent of the Overmind Godhead preparing, though not itself actually bringing, the descent of Supermind and Ananda. Krishna is the Anandamaya, he supports the evolution through the Overmind leading it towards his Ananda….

What happened on the 24th November prepared the possibility of this descent and on that day he retired into seclusion and entered into deep and powerful meditation.

[CWSA 35: 270-272]

It marked an entire new phase in the collective life of the seekers who had gathered around Sri Aurobindo. A B Purani, one of those present during this event describes it thus:

It was certain that a Higher Consciousness had descended on earth. In that deep silence had burgeoned forth, like the sprout of a banyan tree, the beginning of a mighty spiritual work. This momentous occasion carried its significance to all in the divine dynamism of the silence, in its unearthly dignity and grandeur and in the utter beauty of its every little act. The deep impress of divinity which everyone got was for him a priceless treasure.

 Sri Aurobindo and the Mother went inside. Immediately Datta was inspired. In that silence she spoke: “The Lord has descended into the physical today.”

 That 24 November should be given an importance equal to that of the birthdays of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is quite proper because on that day the descent of the Higher Power symbolic of the victory of their mission took place. The Delight consciousness in the Overmind which Sri Krishna incarnated – as Avatar – descended on this day into the physical rendering possible the descent of the Supermind in Matter.

[A B Purani: Life of Sri Aurobindo]

But then it was not just the descent of a plane of consciousness, the highest of the mind-planes that borders the empire of the Supramental Sun, but the descent of Krishna, the Avatara of the past into his very body. It was Sri Krishna tying Himself to Sri Aurobindo’s body, the Avatara or the manifestation of the Supreme in the past uniting with the Avatara of the Future, thereby becoming an irresistible power for the Future Work. The Mother recounts it beautifully.

I wanted to ask you what this realization of 1926 was.

It was this: Krishna consented to descend into Sri Aurobindo’s body – to be fixed there; there is a great difference, you understand, between incarnating, being fixed in a body, and simply acting as an influence that comes and goes and moves about. The gods are always moving about, and it’s plain that we ourselves, in our inner beings, come and go and act in a hundred or a thousand places at once. There is a difference between just coming occasionally and accepting to be permanently tied to a body – between a permanent influence and a permanent presence.

These things have to be experienced.

But in what sense did this realization mark a turning point in Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana?

No, the phenomenon was important for the creation; he himself was rather indifferent to it. But I did tell him about it.

It was at that time that he decided to stop dealing with people and retire to his room. So he called everyone together for one last meeting. Before then, he used to go out on the verandah every day to meet and talk with all who came to see him (this is the origin of the famous ‘Talks with Sri Aurobindo’. I was living in the inner rooms and seeing no one; he was going out onto the verandah, seeing everyone, receiving people, speaking, discussing – I saw him only when he came back inside.

After a while, I too began having meditations with people. I had begun a sort of ‘overmental creation,’ to make each god descend into a being – there was an extraordinary upward curve! Well, I was in contact with these beings and I told Krishna (because I was always seeing him around Sri Aurobindo), ‘This is all very fine, but what I want now is a creation on earth – you must incarnate.’ He said ‘Yes.’ Then I saw him – I saw him with my own eyes (inner eyes, of course), join himself to Sri Aurobindo.

Then I went into Sri Aurobindo’s room and told him, ‘Here’s what I have seen.’ ‘Yes, I know!’ he replied (Mother laughs) ‘That’s fine; I have decided to retire to my room, and you will take charge of the people. You take charge…..’

This was in 1926.

It was only … (how can I put it?) a participation from Krishna. It made no difference for Sri Aurobindo personally: it was a formation from the past that accepted to participate in the present creation, nothing more. It was a descent of the Supreme, from … some time back, now consenting to participate in the new manifestation.

[The Mother’s conversation with a disciple on 2nd Aug 1961]

What does this mean? Now we know that each Avatara is the conscious Descent of the Divine upon earth with all its attendant consequences. But with this descent there is also the formation of a divine personality through which the Supreme pours out a new manifestation upon earth and men. It is this divine personality, not the eternal personality that ever exists on the Anandmaya plane and with which Sri Aurobindo always had a deep and intimate identity, but the earthly personality of Sri Krishna, the Avatara that joined itself with Sri Aurobindo. It meant that now the full continuity was established between Sri Krishna’s work and Sri Aurobindo. This also meant above all that all the forces and powers and beings of the Overmind plane will now be linked to and assist in the work of supramental transformation undertaken by Sri Aurobindo. This was indeed an important step since without the active collaboration of these world-powers that had governed the earth so far, it would have been nearly impossible to achieve the supramental change. Sri Aurobindo refers to this in His evening talks:

Disciple : What would you say this time about the success of our efforts ? Last time you said that you were certain about it.

Sri Aurobindo : I can say that I am morally sure but practically not sure. I am not sure practically because the material world is unrepentant. The chief obstacle which may prove to be insurmountable is the resistance of the material world.

Disciple : What do you mean by- “unrepentant” ?

Sri Aurobindo : I mean, that the material world does not care a jot for the Divine or the Divine Life.

Disciple : What do you mean by the resistance of the material world ?

Sri Aurobindo : Its impossibility of opening to something high, of conceiving something different from what it is accustomed to. I am referring to the obscurity and stupidity of the human being, if I may say so. When I speak of the resistance of the material world, I do not mean the external material but the subtle material. There is the subtle and the external material and when I say that Matter is impenetrable, I mean that the subtle material has not accepted the Truth, the material mind has not accepted the higher truth. The cells of the material body have a consciousness of their own and that consciousness has to open itself to the Truth. But the material mind does not believe in the Divine possibility of transformation. And as I already said for us nothing is done unless all is done.

Disciple : How are you morally sure ?

Sri Aurobindo : Because I see more and more power coming down into the physical and the physical being is showing signs of awakening.

Disciple : What are the conditions to be fulfilled before the resistance can be overcome and have we any responsi bilities in fulfilling them ?

Sri Aurobindo : Conditions ! It is more than I can say {Pause). You would not understand it even if I were to say it.

Disciple : Let us hear it. We shall try to understand it.

Sri Aurobindo : Well, the condition is that if man could open a direct connection with the world of the Gods, then only it would be possible.

Disciple : Do you mean the lower or the higher gods ?

Sri Aurobindo : I mean the gods, and not the vital gods nor the mental gods.

[Sri Aurobindo conversation with a disciple on the l5th Aug 1926]

However this active collaboration from the gods did not mean that Sri Aurobindo would be satisfied with anything less than the Supermind. The gods indeed helped create and establish an Overmental creation here at the behest of the Mother but then Sri Aurobindo would not stop at anything short of the Supermind.

Therefore after this day, Sri Aurobindo withdrew into a deeper seclusion to now focus entirely on bringing down the Supermind whereas the Mother was given the charge of preparing Earth and humanity for receiving the Truth-Light and the Truth-Consciousness as and when it came down. This was the birth of a nucleus of seekers, pioneers of the New Yoga for earth in the form of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.  Thus this day marks the realization or Siddhi that assured definitively that the Supramental Descent is now no more a promise but a certainty. In itself it was an achievement that was never realized for the Earth so far. Sri Krishna had indeed opened the way for the Overmind consciousness and also, by assuming a human body, brought the free play of Overmind consciousness into matter. But when he withdrew he left his divine personality charged with the Overmind afflatus and qualities in contact with Earth so as to prepare and lead humanity towards the future. That future is indeed Delight since all creation has emerged from Delight, it cannot but end with delight. The delight of Oneness must transform into the delight of multiplicity. If earth were ready and receptive, perhaps Sri Krishna would have established this delight here but he had to withdraw his earlier play of freedom and delight at Vrindavan and prepare the Earth through the great War that shook the Indian subcontinent. The Mother speaks of this in one her commentaries:

As for Krishna, he came upon earth to bring freedom and delight. He came to announce to men, enslaved to Nature, to their passions and errors, that if they took refuge in the Supreme Lord they would be free from all bondage and sin. But men are very attached to their vices and virtues (for without vice there would be no virtue); they are in love with their sins and cannot tolerate anyone being free and above all error. That is why Krishna, although immortal, is not present at Brindavan in a body at this moment.

[CWM 10: 59]

Since man was not ready for the dance of Radha and Krishna, we had to experience the dance of Krishna and Kali which Sri Aurobindo refers to in one of his poems:

THE COSMIC DANCE
(Dance of Krishna, Dance of Kali)

Two measures are there of the cosmic dance.
Always we hear the tread of Kali’s feet
Measuring in rhythms of pain and grief and chance
Life’s game of hazard terrible and sweet.
The ordeal of the veiled Initiate,
The hero soul at play with Death’s embrace,
Wrestler in the dread gymnasium of Fate
And sacrifice a lonely path to Grace,
Man’s sorrows made a key to the Mysteries,
Truth’s narrow road out of Time’s wastes of dream,
The soul’s seven doors from Matter’s tomb to rise,
Are the common motives of her tragic theme.
But when shall Krishna’s dance through Nature move,
His mask of sweetness, laughter, rapture, love?
[CWSA 2: 590]

Yet his withdrawl from Vrindavan released streams of bhakti that had never been experienced before upon Earth. And even as he withdrew from Earth he continued to labour behind the range of our mortal vision preparing us and waiting for the Hour of God when we shall be ready for the dance of Krishna’s delight. Sri Aurobindo came to continue this work for which the first necessity is to establish the Truth-Consciousness or the Supermind. Then only can there be a free play of Krishna’s manifold delight and His love and sweetness thrill our very body and flesh and nerves with the rapture eternal. Now the two became one, Sri Krishna uniting with Sri Aurobindo so as to hasten the advent of Delight for which Earth is made. Sri Aurobindo notes this in one of his letters:

To bring the Divine Love and Beauty and Ananda into the world is, indeed, the whole crown and essence of our Yoga. But it has always seemed to me impossible unless there comes as its support and foundation and guard the Divine Truth—what I call the Supramental—and its Divine Power.

[CWSA 838]

Soon after or rather immediately after this great event, this definitive and decisive turning point in his yoga, Sri Aurobindo now gave himself completely to the work of opening the way and establishing the next evolutionary step, the Supermind. But even as he withdrew he established in our midst, in the midst of our blind and ignorant, suffering and struggling humanity, the Divine Mother to whom he entrusted all of us so as to prepare us for the supramental manifestation:

As one who watching over men left blind
Takes up the load of an unwitting race,
[Savitri: 8]

And yet there is hope, for

If this is she of whom the world has heard,
Wonder no more at any happy change.
Each easy miracle of felicity
Of her transmuting heart the alchemy is.”
[Savitri: 723]

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