Our narrative has come up to the year 1914 when the monthly review, Arya, was started. Arya at once captured the spiritual idealism of the progressive mind of India and evoked an admiring response in some of the thinkers in the West, particularly in France. Its message of synthesis sounded a heartening note in the discord and chaos of the time. It paid its way “With a large surplus,” and was regularly published. Sri Aurobindo was particular about its regularity.
On February 21, 1915, the Mother’s birthday was celebrated. As the First World War had broken out, the Mother had to return to France, and she left on February 22, 1915.
Khasirao Jadhav, an old Baroda friend of Sri Aurobindo’s came down to visit him.
We reproduce below the seven letters written by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to each other on the subject of their Yoga between 1915 and 1916. They are extremely important as they throw much light on their joint mission and the trials and difficulties they had to pass through in order to bring down the new Light to the earth and make “Heaven and Earth equal and one”.
Letters of Sri Aurobindo to The Mother
All is always for the best, but it is sometimes from the external point of view an awkward best…
The whole earth is now under one law and answers to the same vibrations and I am sceptical of finding any place where the clash of the struggle will not pursue us. In any case, an effective retirement does not seem to be my destiny. I must remain in touch with the world until I have either mastered adverse circumstances or succumbed or carried on the struggle between the spiritual and physical so far as I am destined to carry it on. This is how I have always seen things and will see them. As for failure, difficulty and apparent impossibility I am too much habituated to them to be much impressed by their constant self-presentation except for passing moments…
One needs to have a calm heart, a settled will, entire self-abnegation and the eyes constantly fixed on the beyond to live undiscouraged in times like these which are truly a period of universal decomposition. For myself, I follow the Voice and look neither to right nor to left of me. The result is not mine and hardly at all now even the labour.
Heaven we have possessed, but not the earth; but the fullness of the Yoga is to make, in the formula of the Veda, “Heaven and Earth equal and one”.
Every thing internal is ripe or ripening, but there is a sort of locked struggle in which neither side can make a very appreciable advance (somewhat like the trench warfare in Europe), the spiritual force insisting against the resistance disputing every inch and making more or less effective counter-attacks…. And if there were not the strength and Ananda within, it would be harassing and disgusting work; but the eye of knowledge looks beyond and sees that it is only a protracted episode.
Nothing seems able to disturb the immobility of things and all that is active outside our own selves is a sort of welter of dark and sombre confusion from which nothing formed or luminous can emerge. It is a singular condition of the world, the very definition of chaos with the superficial form of the old world resting apparently intact on the surface. But a chaos of long disintegration or of some early new birth? It is the thing that is being fought out from day to day, but as yet without any approach to a decision.
A Letter of The Mother to Sri Aurobindo:
The entire consciousness immersed in divine contemplation, the whole being enjoyed a supreme and vast felicity.
Then was the physical body seized, first in its lower members and next the whole of it, by a sacred trembling which made little by little even in the most material sensation all personal limits fall away. The being progressively, methodically, grew in greatness, breaking down every barrier, shattering every obstacle, that it might contain and manifest a force and a power which increased ceaselessly in immensity and intensity. It was as if a progressive dilatation of the cells until there was a complete identification with the earth: the body of the awakened consciousness was the terrestrial globe moving harmoniously in ethereal space. And the consciousness knew that its global body was thus moving in the arms of the universal Personality, and it gave itself, it abandoned itself to Her in an ecstasy of peaceful bliss. Then it felt that its body was absorbed in the body of the universe and one with it; the consciousness became the consciousness of the universe, in its totality immobile, in its internal complexity moving infinitely. The consciousness of the universe sprang towards the Divine in an ardent aspiration, a perfect surrender, and it saw in the splendour of the immaculate Light the radiant Being standing on a many-headed serpent whose body coiled infinitely around the universe. The Being in an eternal gesture of triumph mastered and created at one and the same time the serpent and the universe that issued from it; erect on the serpent he dominated it with all his victorious might, and the same gesture that crushed the hydra, enveloping the universe, gave it eternal birth. Then the consciousness became this Being and perceived that its form was changing once more; it was absorbed into something which was no longer a form and yet contained all forms, something which, immutable, sees, — the Eye, the Witness. And what It sees, is. Then this last vestige of form disappeared and the consciousness itself was absorbed into the Unutterable, the Ineffable.
The return towards the consciousness of the individual body took place very slowly in a constant and invariable splendour of Light and Power and Felicity and Adoration, by successive gradations, but directly, without passing again through the universal and terrestrial forms. And it was as if the modest corporeal form had become the direct and immediate vesture, without any intermediary, of the supreme and eternal Witness.
Letters of Sri Aurobindo to The Mother:
The experience you have described is Vedic in the real sense, though not one which would easily be recognised by the modern systems of Yoga which call themselves Yogic. It is the union of the “Earth” of the Veda and Purana with the divine Principle, an earth which is said to be above our earth, that is to say, the physical being and consciousness of which the world and the body are only images. But the modern Yogas hardly recognise the possibility of a material union with the Divine.
The difficulties you find in the spiritual progress are common to us all. In this yoga the progress is always attended with these relapses into the ordinary mentality until the whole being is so remoulded that it can no longer be affected either by any downward tendency in our own nature or by the impressions from the discordant world outside or even by the mental state of those associated with us most closely in the yoga. The ordinary yoga is usually concentrated on a single aim and therefore less exposed to such recoils; ours is so complex and many-sided and embraces such large aims that we cannot expect any smooth progress until we near the completion of our effort, — especially as all the hostile forces in the spiritual world are in a constant state of opposition and beseige our gains; for the complete victory of a single one of us would mean a general downfall among them. In fact by our own unaided effort we could not hope to succeed. It is only in proportion as we come into a more and more universal communion with the Highest that we can hope to overcome with any finality. For myself I have had to come back so often from things that seemed to have been securely gained that it is only relatively that I can say of any part of my yoga, “It is done.” Still I have always found that when I recover from one of these recoils, it is always with a new spiritual gain which might have been neglected or missed if I had remained securely in my former state of partial satisfaction. Especially, as I have long had the map of my advance sketched out before me, I am able to measure my progress at each step and the particular losses are compensated for by the clear consciousness of the general advance that has been made. The final goal is far but the progress made in the face of so constant and massive an opposition is the guarantee of its being gained in the end. But the time is in other hands than ours. Therefore I have put impatience and dissatisfaction far away from me.
An absolute equality of the mind and heart and a clear purity and calm strength in all the members of the being have long been the primary condition on which the power working in me has insisted with an inexhaustible patience and an undeviating constancy of will which rejects all the efforts of other powers to hasten forward to the neglect of these first requisites. Wherever they are impaired it returns upon them and works over and again over the weak points like a workman patiently mending the defects of his work. These seem to me to be the foundation and condition of all the rest. As they become firmer and more complete the system is more able to hold consistently and vividly the settled perception of the One in all things and beings, in all qualities, forces, happenings, in all this world-consciousness and the play of its workings. That founds the Unity and upon it the deep satisfaction and growing rapture of the Unity. It is this to which our nature is most recalcitrant. It persists in the division, in the dualities, in the sorrow and unsatisfied passion and labour, it finds it difficult to accustom itself to the divine largeness, joy and equipoise — especially the vital and material parts of our nature; it is they that pull down the mind which has accepted and even when it has long lived in the joy and peace and oneness. That, I suppose, is why the religions and philosophies have had so strong a leaning to the condemnation of Life and Matter and aimed at an escape instead of a victory. But the victory has to be won; the rebellious elements have to be redeemed and transformed, not rejected or excised.
When the Unity has been well founded, the static half of our work is done but the active half remains. It is then that in the One we must see the Master and His Power, — Krishna and Kali as I name them using the terms of our Indian religions; the Power occupying the whole of myself and my nature which becomes Kali and ceases to be anything else, the Master using, directing, enjoying the Power to his ends, not mine, with that which I call myself only as a centre of his universal existence and responding to its working as a soul to the Soul, taking upon itself his image until there is nothing left but Krishna and Kali. This is the stage I have reached in spite of all set-backs and recoils, imperfectly indeed in the secureness and intensity of the state, but well enough in the general type. When that has been done, then we may hope to found securely the play in us of his divine Knowledge governing the action of divine Power. The rest is the full opening up of the different planes of his world-play and the subjection of Matter and the body and the material world to the law of the higher heavens of the Truth. To these things towards which in my earlier ignorance I used to press forward impatiently before satisfying the first conditions — the effort, however, was necessary and made the necessary preparation of the material instruments — I can now only look forward as a subsequent eventuality in a yet distant vista of things.
To possess securely the Light and the Force of the Supramental being, this is the main object to which the power is now turning. But the remnant of the old habits of intellectual thought and mental will come so obstinate in their determination to remain that the progress is hampered, uncertain and always falls back from the little achievement already effected. They are no longer within me, they are blind, stupid, mechanical, incorrigible even when they perceive their incompetence, but they crowd round the mind and pour in their suggestions whenever it tries to remain open only to the supramental Light and the Command, so that the Knowledge and the Will reach the mind in a confused, distorted and often misleading form. It is, however, only a question of time: the siege will diminish in force and be finally dispelled.
After the Congress of 1914 Sri Aurobindo gave an interview to a correspondent of the Madras paper, Hindu. We quote the following as it appeared in the Hindu:
“But what do you think of the 1914 Congress and Conferences?” I insisted.
‘He spoke almost with reluctance but in clear and firm accents. He said:
“I do not find the proceedings of the Christmas Conferences very interesting and inspiring. They seem to me to be mere repetitions of the petty and lifeless formulas of the past and hardly show any sense of the great breath of the future that is blowing upon us. I make an exception of the speech of the Congress President which struck me as far above the ordinary level. Some people, apparently, found it visionary and unpractical. It seems to me to be the one practical and vital thing that has been said in India for some time past.”
‘He continued: “The old, petty forms and little narrow, make-believe activities are getting out of date. The world is changing rapidly around us and preparing for more colossal changes in the future. We must rise to the greatness of thought and action which it will demand upon the nations who hope to live. No, it is not in any of the old formal activities, but deeper down that I find signs of progress and hope. The last few years have been a period of silence and compression in which the awakened Virya and Tejas of the nation have been concentrating for a greater outburst of a better directed energy in the future.”
“We are a nation of three hundred millions,” added Mr. Ghosh, “inhabiting a great country in which many civilisations have met, full of rich material and unused capacities. We must cease to think and act like the inhabitants of an obscure and petty village.”
‘I asked: “If you don’t like our political methods, what would you advise us to do for the realisation of our destiny?”
‘He quickly replied: “Only by a general intellectual and spiritual awakening can this nation fulfil its destiny. Our limited information, our second-hand intellectual activities, our bounded interests, our narrow life of little family aims and small money-getting have prevented us from entering into the broad life of the world. Fortunately, there are ever-increasing signs of a widened outlook, a richer intellectual output and numerous sparks of liberal genius which show that the necessary change is coming. No nation in modern times can grow great by politics alone. A rich and varied life, energetic in all its parts, is the condition of a sound, vigorous national existence. From this point of view also the last five years have been a great benefit to the country.”
‘I then asked what he thought of the vastly improved relations that now exist between the Briton and the Indian in our own country and elsewhere.
“It is a very good thing,” he said, and he explained himself in the following manner: “The realisation of our nationhood separate from the rest of humanity was the governing idea of our activities from 1905 to 1910. That movement has served its purpose. It has laid a good foundation for the future. Whatever excesses and errors of speech and action were then disclosed came because our energy, though admirably inspired, lacked practical experience and knowledge.
“The idea of Indian nationhood is now not only rooted in the public mind, as all recent utterances go to show, but accepted in Europe and acknowledged by the Government and the governing race. The new idea that should now lead us is the realisation of our nationhood not separate from, but in the future scheme of humanity. When it has realised its own national life and unity, India will still have a part to play in helping to bring about the unity of the nations.”
‘I naturally put in a remark about the Under-Secretary’s “Angle of Vision”.
“It is well indeed,” observed Mr. Ghosh, “that British statesmen should be thinking of India’s proper place in the Councils of the Empire, and it is obviously a thought which, if put into effect, must automatically alter the attitude of even the greatest extremist towards the Government and change for the better all existing political relations.
“But it is equally necessary that we Indians should begin to think seriously what part Indian thought, Indian intellect, Indian nationhood, Indian spirituality, Indian culture have to fulfil in the general life of humanity. The humanity is bound to grow increasingly on. We must necessarily be in it and of it. Not a spirit of aloofness or a jealous self-defence, but of a generous emulation and brotherhood with all men and all nations, justified by a sense of conscious strength, a great destiny, a large place in the human future — this should be the Indian spirit.”
‘The oneness of humanity is a topic dear to the heart of Babu Arabinda Ghosh and when I suggested to him that Vedantic ideas would be a good basis for unity, his reply was full of enthusiasm:
“Oh, yes,” he said, “I am convinced and have long been convinced that a spiritual awakening, a re-awakening to the true self of a nation is the most important condition of our national greatness. The supreme Indian idea of the oneness of all men in God and its realisation inwardly and outwardly, increasingly even in social relations and the structure of society is destined, I believe, to govern the progress of the human race. India, if it chooses, can guide the world.”
‘And here I said something about our “four thousand” castes, our differences in dress and in “caste-marks”, our vulgar sectarian antipathies and so on.
“Not so hard, if you please,” said Mr. Ghosh with a smile. “I quite agree with you that our social fabric will have to be considerably altered before long. We shall have, of course, to enlarge our family and social life, not in the petty spirit of present-day Social Reform, hammering at small details and belittling our immediate past, but with a larger idea and more generous impulses. Our past with all its faults and defects should be sacred to us. But the claims of our future with its immediate possibilities should be still more sacred.”
‘His concluding words were spoken in a very solemn mood:
“It is more important,” he said, “that the thought of India should come out of the philosophical school and renew its contact with life, and the spiritual life of India issue out of the cave and the temple and, adapting itself to new forms, lay its hand upon the world. I believe also that humanity is about to enlarge its scope by new knowledge, new powers and capacities, which will create as great a revolution in human life as the physical science of the nineteenth century. Here, too, India holds in her past, a little rusted and put out of use, the key of humanity’s future.
“It is in these directions that I have been for some time impelled to turn my energies rather than to the petty political activities which are alone open to us at the present moment. This is the reason of my continued retirement and detachment from action. I believe in the necessity at such times and for such great objects of Tapasya in silence for self-training, for self-knowledge and storage of spiritual force. Our forefathers used that means, though in different forms. And it is the best means for becoming an efficient worker in the great days of the world.”