A Talk by Alok Pandey from the “Tuesday Talks” series (AUDIO)
Today, the 22nd January is Shri Dilip Kumar Roy’s birthday. His has been an interesting and tumultuous journey. But what one finds most interesting and striking through his journey is Sri Aurobindo’s Compassion and the Mother’s Love. On this day we share some of the letters exchanged between him and the Master. Though these are only a very small fraction, written mostly in the early years of his arrival, they reveal some fundamental and important aspects of sadhana and the ways of working of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
Words of Sri Aurobindo
Parts of nature and the difficulty of aligning them
The solution of the enigma is that the being and nature are made up of different parts and personalities. There is a being in you which is a bhakta and in potency a Yogi—it is the one that has joined to him the poet and the musician and singer and expresses himself through them, they form now a harmonious group, almost a composite person. There is another part or being in you which was drawn towards the world, society, success, fame, food—a spoilt child of Fortune and Nature (but still vitally strong, generous, full of enthusiasm, amiable, affectionate) which was rather dragged to the Yoga rather than came to it willingly, but it came because the others insisted and did not allow it to have the rasa of the outside life and besides promised it something that would be the divine equivalent or compensation of these vital pleasures; a spiritual vital love, ananda, enjoyment of the Divine. This part has now less attraction for the old things or none, but it wants badly the thing promised and has no taste for tapasya and the long effort of sadhana. Thirdly, there was yet another who had many defects of egoism, vanity, egoistic sensitiveness, etc. which made a tremendous row against changing. A large part of it has been modifying itself—it is perhaps what Somnath meant when he spoke of the miraculous change in your character. For he told the Mother when he used the phrase, “We all loved Dilip, but there were defects in his character of which we could not approve and now I can no longer find any trace of them—he is so miraculously changed.” It is the combination of No.2 and No.3 which has made the difficulty all along because they were mixed up together, otherwise No.2 would not have been difficult to manage. The despair, defeatism, fretfulness, gloom, angry impatience which No.3 brought into the affair was the chief cause of your despondencies, otherwise No.2 might have been eager and impatient but not in this way. In combination with No.l there might have been yearning, pangs of viraha, etc. but not the crises. There is not the slightest doubt that your nature was made for ananda and that all the other beings except the last one are naturally themselves full of it. That is what people feel when you meet them and they contact your natural self in speaking with you or your inner self through your songs, poems, music. The rest from which you suffer so much is, as I have repeatedly told you, a formation, a sort of accretion, a recurring artificial crisis imposed on you from outside and accepted by No.3—not normal or native to the healthy sound- ness of your nature. The difficulty is that not being conversant with these things you take it as your own and let it have its course instead of drawing back from it as you did during the first few months when you began to follow the psychic movement. It is quite possible that if you definitely get rid of it and completed the psychic change, spiritual experience would come with a rush. That has happened to several and is happening to others.
Well, great guru, so be it. I will plump for asceticism then, since no other way for a speedy arrival I gather ? But let it be a concrete asceticism then, since I want the concrete realisations. Quid pro quo, what? So I propose these recipes for your full approval, for mind you, no non-committal supramental permissive ambiguous sanctions for me, to be obviated or disclaimed later by your arch- favourite “Well, Dilip-was-doing-his-own-Yoga” refuge. I must renounce then things which I like:
1) I’ll give up tea. I love it.
2) I’ll give up cheese. I like it.
3) I’ll bid adieu to fried potatoes, onions, butter, I adore these.
4) I will start periodic fasts, to feel hungry, heroically, without food.
5) Will part company with hair-oil.
6) Will shave off my head, that is authentic asceticism: I am not joking, I will, I grimly undertake, if only to show that I mean business. I will have at least the grim satisfaction of enjoying your failure to identify the metamorphosed Dilip and marvel how quickly the unregenerate Dilip has been made an end of by your withering Supramental.
7) I will sleep on blankets—pillowless. But note: I tried this before already and remember that although you have kept me in reasonable comfort, I came ready to brave any austerity.
8) Last, though not least, I will sleep without the mosquito-curtain which will be the most heroic of my ascetic stunts, as I have never yet been able to sleep without the comfy net.
Only please believe me when I urge that though my language is still unregenerate, poor Dilip being still Supramentally untransformed, my intention can defy the seriousest of Supramental vagaries. For though the language is flippant the heart is tearful comme il faut and tuned on to the top-notes of austerity. But now, do be business-like your-self, too, and bless beautifically: “Amen.”
I am rather aghast as I stare at the detailed proposals made by you! Fastings ? I don’t believe in them, though I have done them myself. You would only eat like an ogre afterwards. Shaved head! Great heavens! have you realised the consequences ? I pass over the aesthetic shock to myself on the 24th November from which I might not recover—but the row that would arise from Cape Cormorin to the Himalayas! You would be famous in a new way which would cast all your previous glories into the shade. And just when you are turning away from fame and all the things of the ego! No, no— too dangerous by half. Sleep without the mosquito net? That would mean no sleep which is as bad as no eating. Not only your eyes would become weak, but yourself also—and to boot gloomy, grey and gruesome, more gruesome than the Supramental of your worst apprehensions. No and no again. As for the rest, I placed some of them before the Mother and she eyed them without favour.
After all real asceticism is hardly possible except in a hut or in the Himalayas. The heart of asceticism, besides, is having no desires or attachment, being indifferent, able to do without things, satisfied with whatever comes. If you asceticise outwardly it becomes a rule of life and you keep it up because it is a rule, for the principle of the thing or for the kudos of it or as a point of honour. But I have noticed about the ascetics by rule that when you remove the curb they become just like others—with a few exceptions, of course; which proves that the transformation was not real. A more subtle method used by some is to give up for a time, then try the object of desire again and so go on till you have thoroughly tested yourself! E.g., you give up potatoes and eat only Ashram food for a time—if a call comes for the potatoes or from them, then you are not cured: if no call comes, still you cannot be sure till you have tried the potatoes again and seen whether the desire, attachment or sense of need revives. If it does not and the potatoes fall away from you of themselves, then there is some hope that the thing is done!
However, all this will make you think that I am hardly fit to be a guru on the path of asceticism and you will probably be right. You see I have such a strong penchant for the inner working and am so persuaded that if you give the psychic a chance, it will get rid of the vital bonds without all this sternness and trouble.
But I will write again and try to see without being aghast. I had no time to steady myself under the shock today.
September 16, 1935
O Guru, I thank you sincerely for refusing assent to my doom. And yet, paradoxically, I feel a definite disappointment too along with the relief. For I had a lurking suspicion that your Supramental wisdom might still be wanting to impose asceticism on me since I have, willy-nilly, to practise your Supramental Yoga and no other; so I decided, after a mighty wrench, to ban everything my mental loved or even approved of. But now you yourself are turning down my proposal to conquer attachments which are holding me up. I repeat, however, that I am still “game” if you reconsider your veto to give me another trial.
How in the earthly did you get this strange idea that we were pressing asceticism on you? When? how? where? I only admitted it as a possibility after repeated assertions from you that you wanted to do this formidable thing, and it was with great heart-searchings and terrible apprehensive visions of an ascetic Dilip with wild weird eyes and a loin-cloth, eating ground-nuts and nails and sleeping on iron spikes in the presence of a dumbfounded Lord Shiva! I never prescribed the thing to you at all; it was you who were clamouring for it, so I gave in and tried to make the best of it, hoping that you would think better of it. As for the Mother the first time she heard of it, she knocked it off with the most emphatic “Nonsense!” possible. In fact what you proposed was even more formidable than my vision—a shaven-headed and mosquito-bitten Dilip + the loin-cloth and the rest of it (not that you actually proposed the last, but it is the logical outcome of that devastating shave!). Conquest of attachment is quite a different matter—one has to learn to take one’s tea and potatoes without weeping for them or even missing them if they are not there. But we have repeatedly said that you could go on with them and need not follow the way taken by some others. As to seclusion I have written my distrust of “retirement” several times; it is only a few people who can do it and profit, but they are not a rule for others. So your subtle supramental interpretation of our intentions or wishes was a bad misfit. However all’s well that ends well and in spite of your suggestion of being still game, I will consider the danger as over. Laus Deo [Praise be to God]!
The disciple is never abandoned
September 20, 1935
Last evening I saw H. off at the station for a few minutes. He looked very black in the face and gloomy too. I felt for the poor fellow who lost all through his own waywardness, etc. Still 1 felt a little sad as I came back alone. The question recurred to me again and again if Sri Krishna had truly meant it concretely or merely poetised when he had said na hi kalyanakrt kascid durgatim tata gacchati?
You have forgotten the context. Arjuna asks what of a yogi who fails in this life because of his errors—does he fall from both the ordinary life and the spiritual and perish like a broken chord? Krishna says no. All who follow the Good get the reward of their effort and don’t perish as they get it first in the life beyond and afterwards in the next birth in which the Yogi who fails now may even resume his effort under the best conditions and arrive at Siddhi. Krishna never said that nobody ever in this life fails who attempts the Yoga.
For all of us have some failing or other—enough for any Divine to declare us unfit after even a superficial examination of our immeritoriousness. H.’s demerit seems to have been—constantly thinking that he was too meritorious.
Harin’s collapse—he looked perfectly annihilated—made me think why should a seeker, like him, after spiritual life (for a seeker he was, was he not?) head so straight for disaster especially with you and Mother as his gurus?
And if a man refuses to listen to his gurus and claims to be wiser and more righteous than they are?
You need not imagine that we shall ever lose patience or give you up—that will never happen. Our patience, you will find, is tireless because it is based on an unbounded sympathy and love. Human love may give up, but divine love is stable and does not falter. We know that the aspiration of your psychic being is sincere and the falterings of the vital cannot affect the support that we shall always give to it. It is because the sincere aspiration is there that we have no right and you have no right to disbelieve in your adhikara [fitness] for the Yoga.
To stop coming to Pranam would be quite the wrong thing – it is a suggestion that always comes to push people away from the helping Force. Do not yield to it.
These difficulties do not last for ever—they exhaust themselves and disappear. But to reject them always when they come is the quickest way to get rid of them for ever.
The touch and action of Grace
I think this saying of Ramakrishna’s expresses a certain characteristic happening in sadhana and cannot be interpreted in a general and absolute sense; for in that sense it is hard for it to be true. All difficulties disappearing in a minute? Well, Vivekananda had the grace of Ramakrishna from the beginning, but I think his difficulty of doubt lasted for some time and to the end of his life the difficulty of the control of anger was there—making him say that all that was good in him was his Guru’s gift, but these things (anger etc.) were his own property. But what could be true is that the central difficulty may disappear by a certain touch between the Guru and the disciple. But what is meant by the kripā? If it is the general compassion and grace of the Guru, that, one would think, is always there on the disciple; his acceptance itself is an act of grace and the help is there for him to receive. But the touch of grace, divine grace, coming directly or through the Guru is a special phenomenon having two sides to it, the grace of the Guru or the Divine, in fact both together, on one side and a “state of grace in the disciple on the other. This “state of grace” is often prepared by a long tapasya or purification in which nothing decisive seems to happen, only touches or glimpses or passing experiences at the most, and comes suddenly without warning. If this is what is spoken of in Ramakrishna’s saying, then it is true that when it comes, the fundamental difficulties can in a moment and generally do disappear. Or, at the very least, something happens which makes the rest of the sadhana—however long it may take— sure and secure. This decisive touch comes most easily to the “baby cat” people, those who have at some point between the psychic and the emotional vital a quick and decisive movement of surrender to the Guru or the Divine. I have seen that when that is there and there is the conscious central dependence compelling the mind also and the rest of the vital, then the fundamental difficulty disappears. If others remain they are not felt as difficulties, but simply as things that have just to be done and need cause no worry. Sometimes no tapasya is necessary—one just refers things to the Power that one feels guiding or doing the sadhana and assents to its action, rejecting all that is contrary to it, and the Power removes what has to be removed or changes what has to be changed, quickly or slowly—but the quickness or slowness does not seem to matter since one is sure that it will be done. If tapasya is necessary, it is done with so much feeling of a strong sup- port that there is nothing hard or austere in the tapasya.
For the others, the “baby monkey” type or those who are still more independent, following their own ideas, doing their own sadhana, asking only for some instruction or help, the grace of the Guru is there, but it acts according to the nature of the sadhak and counts upon his effort to a greater or less degree; it helps, succours in difficulty, saves in the time of danger, but the disciple is not always, is perhaps hardly at all aware of what is being done as he is absorbed in himself and his endeavour. In such cases the decisive psychological movement, the touch that makes all clear, may take longer to come.
But with all the kripa is there working in one way or another and it can only abandon the disciple if the disciple himself abandons or rejects it—by decisive and definitive revolt, by rejection of the Guru, by cutting the painter and declaring his independence, as X and others did, or by an act or course of betrayal that severs him from his own psychic being. Even then, except perhaps in the last case if it goes to an extreme, a return to grace is not impossible.
Why do you always insist on cherishing the idea that I refuse all human love? I have surely written to you to the contrary. I don’t reject it, neither human nor vital love. But I want that behind the vital there shall be the constant support of the psychic human love (not all at once the divine), because that alone can prevent the movements which make you rest- less, obscured and miserable. In asking this I am surely not asking anything excessive or beyond your power.
The necessity and power of faith
I spoke of a strong central and, if possible, complete faith because your attitude seemed to be that you only cared for the full response—that is, realisation, the Presence, regarding all else as quite unsatisfactory, and your prayer was not bringing you that. But prayer in itself does not usually bring that at once—only if there is a burning faith at the centre or complete faith in all the parts of the being. That does not mean that those whose faith is not so strong or surrender complete cannot arrive, but usually they have at first to go by small steps and to face the difficulties of their nature until by perseverance or tapasya they make a sufficient opening. Even a faltering faith and a slow and partial surrender have their force and their result, otherwise only the rare few could do sadhana at all. What I mean by the central faith is a faith in the soul or the central being behind, which is there even when the mind doubts and the vital despairs and the physical wants to collapse, and after the attack is over reappears and pushes on the path again. It may be strong and bright, it may be pale and in appearance weak, but if it persists each time in going on, it is the real thing. Fits of despair and darkness are a tradition in the path of sadhana—in all Yogas oriental or occidental they seem to have been the rule. I know all about them myself—but my experience has led me to the perception that they are an unnecessary tradition and could. be dispensed with if one chose. That is why whenever they come in you or others I try to lift up before them the gospel of faith. If still they come, one has to get through them as soon as possible and get back into the sun. Your dream of the sea was a perfectly true one—in the end the storm and swell do not prevent the arrival of the state of Grace in the sadhak and with it the arrival of the Grace itself. That, I suppose is what something in you is always asking for—the supramental miracle of Grace, something that is impatient of the demand for tapasya and self-perfection and long labour. Well, it can come, it has come to several here after years upon years of lank failure and difficulty or terrible internal struggles. But comes usually in that way—as opposed to a slowly developing Grace—after much difficulty and not at once. If you go asking for it in spite of the apparent failure of response, it is sure to come.
The practice of yoga
It will be evident that the two most important things here are the opening of the heart centre and the opening of the mind centres to all that is behind and above them. For the heart opens to the psychic being and the mind centres open to the high consciousness and the nexus between the psychic being and the higher consciousness is the principal means of the siddhi. The first opening is effected by a concentration in the heart’ a call to the Divine to manifest within us and through the psychic to take up and lead the whole nature. Aspiration prayer, bhakti, love, surrender are the main supports oft” part of the sadhana—accompanied by a rejection of all the stands in the way of what we aspire for. The second opening is effected by a concentration of the consciousness in the head (afterwards, above it) and an aspiration and call and a sustained will for the descent of the divine Peace, Power, Light Knowledge, Ananda into the being—the Peace first or the peace and Force together. Some indeed receive Light first and first or some there is first or some sudden pouring down of Knowledge . With some there is first an opening which reveals to edge vast infinite Silence, Force, Light or Bliss above them a vast infinite silence, force either they ascend to that or these things begin to descend into the lower nature. With others there is either the descend , first into the head, then down to the heart level, then to the navel and below and through the whole body, or else an inexplicable opening—without any sense of descent—of peace, light, wideness or power, or else a horizontal opening into the cosmic consciousness or in a suddenly widened mind an outburst of knowledge. Whatever comes has to be welcomed—for there is no absolute rule for all—but if the peace has not come first, care must be taken not to swell oneself in exultation or lose the balance. The capital movement however is when the Divine Force or Shakti, the power of the Mother comes down and takes hold, for then the organisation of the consciousness begins and the larger foundation of the Yoga.
The result of the concentration is not usually immediate— though to some there comes a swift and sudden outflowering; but with most there is a time longer or shorter of adaptation or preparation, especially if the nature has not been prepared already to some extent by aspiration and Tapasya. The coming of the result can sometimes be aided by associating with the concentration one of the processes of the old-Yoga. There is he Adwaita process of the way of knowledge—one rejects from oneself the identification with the mind, vital, body, saying continually “I am not the mind,” “I am not the vital,” ,”I am not the body,” seeing these things as separate from s real self—and after a time one feels all the mental, vital, physical processes and the very sense of mind, vital, body becoming externalised, an outer action, while within and detached from them there grows the sense of a separate self-existent being which opens into the realisation of the cosmic and transcendent spirit. There is also the method—a very powerful method—of the Sankhyas, the separation of the Purusha and the Prakriti. One enforces on the mind the position of the Witness—all action of mind, vital, physical becomes an outer play which is not myself or mine, but belongs to Nature and has been enforced on an outer me. I am the witness Purusha; I am silent, detached, not bound by any of these things. There grows up in consequence a division in the being; the sadhak feels within him the growth of a calm silent separate consciousness which feels itself quite apart from the surface play of the mind and the vital and physical Nature Usually when this takes place, it is possible very rapidly to bring down the peace of the higher consciousness and the action of the higher Force and the full march of the Yoga. But often the Force itself comes down first in response to the concentration and call and then, if these things are necessary, it does them and uses any other means or process that is helpful or indispensable.
One thing more. In this process of the descent from above and the working it is most important not to rely entirely on oneself, but to rely on the guidance of the Mother and myself and to refer all that happens to us. For it often happens that the forces of the lower nature are stimulated and excited by the descent and want to mix with it and turn it to their profit. If there is the assent of the sadhak to the Divine working alone and the submission or surrender to the guidance, then all can go smoothly. This assent and a rejection of all egoistic forces or forces that appeal to the ego are the safeguard throughout the sadhana. This is the reason why in this Yoga we insist so much on what we call Samarpana—rather inadequately rendered by the English word surrender. If the heart centre is fully opened and the psychic is in control, then the is no question; all is safe. But the psychic can at any moment be veiled by a lower upsurge. It is only a few who are exempt from these dangers and it is precisely those to whom surrender is easily possible. The guidance of one who himself represents the divine is in this difficult endeavour imperative and indispensable. In suggesting to you to concentrate in the head and heart, I have really been asking you to take up this central method of the yoga . What I have written may help you to get some clear idea of what I mean by this process. I have written at some length but, naturally, could cover only the fundamental things. Whatever belongs to circumstance and detail must arise as one works out the method or rather as it works itself out—for the last is what usually happens when there is an effective beginning of the action of the sadhana.
Love, bhakti, human and Divine Love
Love, bhakti, surrender, the psychic opening are the only short-cut to the Divine—or can be; for if the love and bhakti are too vital, then there is likely to be a seesaw between ecstatic expectation and viraha, abhiman [hurt love], despair, etc., which make it not a short cut but a long one, a zigzag, not a straight flight, a whirling round one’s own ego instead of a running towards the Divine.
Affection, love, tenderness are in their nature psychic; the vital has them because the psychic is trying to express itself ‘ through the vital. It is through the emotional being that the ‘ psychic most easily expresses, for it stands just behind it in ” the heart centre. But it wants these things to be pure. Not that , it rejects the outward expression through the vital and the Physical, but as the psychic being is the form of the soul, it naturally feels the attraction of soul to soul, the nearness of , Soul to soul, the union of soul with soul are the things that are to it most abiding and concrete- Mind, vital, body are means of expression and very precious means of expression, but the inner life is for it the first thing, the deepest reality and these have to be subordinated to it and conditioned by il, its expression, its instruments and channel. I do not think that in my emphasis on the inner things, on the psychic and spiritual, I am saying anything new, strange or unintelligible. These things have always been stressed from the beginning and the more the human being is evolved, the more they take an importance. I do not. see how Yoga can be possible without this premier stress on the inner life, on the soul and the spirit. The emphasis on the mastery of the vital, its subordination and subjection to the spiritual and the psychic is also nothing new, strange or exorbitant. It has been insisted on always for any kind of spiritual life; even the Yogas which seek most to use the vital/ like certain forms of Vaishnavism,, yet insist on the purification and the total offering of it to, the Divine—and the relations with the Divine arc an inner realisation, the soul offering itself through the emotional being. The soul or psychic being is not something unheard of or incomprehensible.
Ego and the psychic change
What you say is perfectly correct—I am glad you are becoming so lucid and clear-sighted, the result surely of a psychic change. Ego is a very curious thing and in nothing more than in its way of hiding itself and pretending it is not the ego. It can always hide even behind an aspiration to serve the Mother. The only way of getting rid of it is to chase it out of all its veils and corners.
You are right also in thinking that this is really the most important part of your Yoga. The Rajayogis are right in putting purification in front of everything and a preliminary to successful meditation—as I was also right in putting it in front along with concentration in The Synthesis of Yoga. You have only to look about you to see that experiences and even realisations cannot bring to the goal if this is not done—at any moment they can fall owing to the vital still being impure and full of ego.