The Yoga of America (HH 154)


The United States of America is a relatively young nation. Originally a colony of settlers from Europe, the nation has grown past its adolescence and is forming its own unique identity. Its role in world-politics and the balance of power is becoming increasingly evident. At the same time there is in America, a more than passing interest in spiritual matters. A unique connection exists between India and America as if their fate is tied together with a subtle link. They represent as if two poles of the One Reality that must compliment each other. Though the full potential of their relationship is yet to be recognized, let alone realized, the two nations must come together for the good of the Earth and humanity.  Today we share some aspects of the American culture in the grand scheme of things as seen by Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and Swami Vivekananda.

Words of Sri Aurobindo

The difficulties we experience here are due rather to a wide-spread inability to go freely beyond ancient ideas and forms. Plenty of money can be had in India for orthodox religious purposes and also, although not on the American scale, for Asramas or other spiritual institutions which take the ascetic form or repeat established and well-understood formulas. But the general mind has not yet advanced far enough from the old moorings to form even an inadequate conception of what I am doing here and it is easily disconcerted by the departure from old forms, a willed absence of the customary paraphernalia and the breaking of traditional barriers and limits.

That is one considerable advantage of America; there is evidently a sufficiently widespread eagerness and openness of mind to new things. We have to see whether this will be sufficient to open the mind also to deep and true things. The spiritual future of America is not yet decided; it is in the balance. There is a great possibility before her, but it depends on Americans themselves whether she will make good and realise it. Otherwise she will follow the disastrous curve of other western peoples.

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India and America stand prominent at the two poles that have to meet and become one, the spiritual and the material life; one has shown a preeminent capacity of realisation on the spiritual, the other on the material plane. America must be able to receive freely India’s riches and to give freely in return from her own for the material organisation of a higher life on the physical plane; this is at once a condition and her chance. At present it is only a possibility; let us see whether it can be made an achieved and perfected symbol. (CWSA Vol 36: page 388)

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Yoga cannot be taught in schools and classes. It has to be received personally, it has to be lived, the seeker, sadhaka, has to change by a difficult aspiration and endeavour his whole consciousness and nature, his mind, heart, life, every principle of his being and all their movements into a greater Truth than anything the normal life of man can imagine. Those who can do this are not yet many, but some are to be found everywhere, and I see no reason why those in America should be condemned to only an elementary “instruction”. The true Truth, the great Path has to be opened to them; how far they will go in it depends on their own personal capacity and the help they receive.

(Evening Talks with AB Purani)

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I have been asked to send on this occasion of the fifteenth August a message to the West, but what I have to say might be delivered equally as a message to the East. It has been customary to dwell on the division and difference between these two sections of the human family and even oppose them to each other; but, for myself I would rather be disposed to dwell on oneness and unity than on division and difference. East and West have the same human nature, a common human destiny, the same aspiration after a greater perfection, the same seeking after something higher than itself, something towards which inwardly and even outwardly we move. There has been a tendency in some minds to dwell on the spirituality or mysticism of the East and the materialism of the West; but the West has had no less than the East its spiritual seekings and, though not in such profusion, its saints and sages and mystics, the East has had its materialistic tendencies, its material splendours, its similar or identical dealings with life and Matter and the world in which we live. East and West have always met and mixed more or less closely, they have powerfully influenced each other and at the present day are under an increasing compulsion of Nature and Fate to do so more than ever before. There is a common hope, a common destiny, both spiritual and material, for which both are needed as co-workers. It is no longer towards division and difference that we should turn our minds, but on unity, union, even oneness necessary for the pursuit and realisation of a common ideal, the destined goal, the fulfilment towards which Nature in her beginning obscurely set out and must in an increasing light of knowledge replacing her first ignorance constantly persevere.,,,,

Here we have to take into account that there has been, not any absolute difference but an increasing divergence between the tendencies of the East and the West. The highest truth is truth of the Spirit; a Spirit supreme above the world and yet immanent in the world and in all that exists, sustaining and leading all towards whatever is the aim and goal and the fulfilment of Nature since her obscure inconscient beginnings through the growth of consciousness is the one aspect of existence which gives a clue to the secret of our being and a meaning to the world. The East has always and increasingly put the highest emphasis on the supreme truth of the Spirit; it has, even in its extreme philosophies, put the world away as an illusion and regarded the Spirit as the sole reality. The West has concentrated more and more increasingly on the world, on the dealings of mind and life with our material existence, on our mastery over it, on the perfection of mind and life and some fulfilment of the human being here: latterly this has gone so far as the denial of the Spirit and even the enthronement of Matter as the sole reality. Spiritual perfection as the sole ideal on one side, on the other, the perfectibility of the race, the perfect society, a perfect development of the human mind and life and man’s material existence have become the largest dream of the future. Yet both are truths and can be regarded as part of the intention of the Spirit in world-nature; they are not incompatible with each other: rather their divergence has to be healed and both have to be included and reconciled in our view of the future. (CWSA 36)

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Words of the Mother

December 18, 1971

Well, they’ve (India and Pakistan) stopped fighting in the west….

Again it won’t be for this time.

It won’t be done that way. I’ve seen how. It won’t be done through a battle: the different parts of Pakistan will demand separation. There are five of them. And by separating, they’ll join India – to form a sort of confederation. That’s how it will be done.

It will break up from within, yes, I see.

That’s right. That’s how it will be done.

I saw it, I don’t remember what day (recently), all of a sudden, for several hours there was a contact with the Divine Power and Vision – it was … it was magnificent, things became extraordinary; then, immediately the next day, all the news changed. Really extraordinary. What actually took place isn’t what I saw, for it was seen years ahead…. But that doesn’t matter, it’s all right.

We’re always in a hurry, because life on earth is short, but when you see what is in the offing … (vast, circular gesture). Really beautiful, much better! It takes more time, but it’s much better.

One of the things in the offing is the conversion of America, the United States, but it will take time.

The conversion of the United States…..

So, the things in the offing are a federation of all the states of India, and another one in the offing is the conversion of the United States. A federation of the states of India along the lines of The Ideal of Human Unity, as conceived and explained by Sri Aurobindo. And the conversion of the United States is in the same idea, just according to Sri Aurobindo’s revelation. But that will take time.

It came in an imperative way….

I personally have the feeling there is a close and invisible connection between America’s aspiration, as it is now, and the book (The Adventure of Consciousness by Satprem) . I have the feeling that’s where the center of transformation will be. The European countries are old.

Old, that’s right.

They’ve lost the enthusiasm that makes you act without thinking about consequences. They’re constantly weighing the consequences of everything they do. In America there’s an aspiration. That’s where the push will be….

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Words of Swami Vivekananda

I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. I have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose.

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An American thinks that whatever an American does in accordance with the custom of his country is the best thing to do, and that whoever does not follow his custom must be a very wicked man. A Hindu thinks that his customs are the only right ones and are the best in the world, and that whosoever does not obey them must be the most wicked man living. This is quite a natural mistake which all of us are apt to make. But it is very harmful; it is the cause of half the uncharitableness found in the world. When I came to this country and was going through the Chicago Fair, a man from behind pulled at my turban. I looked back and saw that he was a very gentlemanly – looking man, neatly dressed. I spoke to him; and when he found that I knew English, he became very much abashed. On another occasion in the same Fair another man gave me a push. When I asked him the reason, he also was ashamed and stammered out an apology saying, “Why do you dress that way?” The sympathies of these men were limited within the range of their own language and their own fashion of dress. Much of the oppression of powerful nations on weaker ones is caused by this prejudice. It dries up their fellow – feeling for fellow men. That very man who asked me why I did not dress as he did and wanted to ill – treat me because of my dress may have been a very good man, a good father, and a good citizen; but the kindliness of his nature died out as soon as he saw a man in a different dress.

I find in travelling in various countries that beneath the surface differences that we find in dress and food and little details of manners, man is man all the world over; the same wonderful human nature is everywhere represented. Yet there are certain characteristics….

I came here to represent a philosophy in India, which is called the Vedanta….

One principle it lays down — and that, the Vedanta claims, is to be found in every religion in the world — that man is divine, that all this which we see around us is the outcome of that consciousness of the divine. Everything that is strong, and good, and powerful in human nature is the outcome of that divinity, and though potential in many, there is no difference between man and man essentially, all being alike divine. There is, as it were, an infinite ocean behind, and you and I are so many waves, coming out of that infinite ocean; and each one of us is trying his best to manifest that infinite outside. So, potentially, each one of us has that infinite ocean of Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss as our birthright, our real nature; and the difference between us is caused by the greater or lesser power to manifest that divine. Therefore the Vedanta lays down that each man should be treated not as what he manifests, but as what he stands for. Each human being stands for the divine, and, therefore, every teacher should be helpful, not by condemning man, but by helping him to call forth the divinity that is within him.

It also teaches that all the vast mass of energy that we see displayed in society and in every plane of action is really from inside out  Consciously or unconsciously, every man is trying to  unfold that divinity. Man is like an infinite spring, coiled up in a small box, and that spring is trying to unfold itself; and all the social phenomena that we see are the result of this trying to unfold. All the competitions and struggles and evils that we see around us are neither the causes of these unfoldments, nor the effects. As one of our great philosophers says — in the case of the irrigation of a field, the tank is somewhere upon a higher level, and the water is trying to rush into the field, and is barred by a gate. But as soon as the gate is opened, the water rushes in by its own nature; and if there is dust and dirt in the way, the water rolls over them. But dust and dirt are neither the result nor the cause of this unfolding of the divine nature of man. They are co – existent circumstances, and, therefore, can be remedied.

This expression of oneness is what we call love and sympathy, and it is the basis of all our ethics and morality. This is summed up in the Vedanta philosophy by the celebrated aphorism, Tat Tvam Asi, “Thou art That”.

To every man, this is taught: Thou art one with this Universal Being, and, as such, every soul that exists is your soul; and everybody that exists is your body; and in hurting anyone, you hurt yourself, in loving anyone, you love yourself. As soon as a current of hatred is thrown outside, whomsoever else it hurts, it also hurts yourself; and if love comes out from you, it is bound to come back to you. For I am the universe; this universe is my body. I am the Infinite, only I am not conscious of it now; but I am struggling to get this consciousness of the Infinite, and perfection will be reached when full consciousness of this Infinite comes.

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You…people (Americans) have very hard ideas and are so superstitious and prejudiced! These messengers must have come from God, else how could they have been so great? You look at every defect. Each one of us has his defects. Who hasn’t? I can point out many defects in the Jews. The wicked are always looking for defects. …Flies come and seek for the [ulcer], and bees come only for the honey in the flower. Do not follow the way of the fly but that of the bee. …

The characters of the great souls are mysterious, their methods past our finding out. We must not judge them. Christ may judge Mohammed. Who are you and I? Little babies. What do we understand of these great souls?

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The greatest religion is to be true to your own nature. Have faith in yourselves! If you do not exist, how can God exist, or anybody else? Wherever you are, it is this mind that perceives even the Infinite. I see God, therefore He exists. If I cannot think of God, He does not exist [for me]. This is the grand march of our human progress.

Faith, faith, faith in ourselves, faith, faith in God — this is the secret of greatness. If you have faith in all the three hundred and thirty millions of your mythological gods, and in all the gods which foreigners have now and again introduced into your midst, and still have no faith in yourselves, there is no salvation for you. Have faith in yourselves, and stand up on that faith and be strong; that is what we need. Why is it that we three hundred and thirty millions of people have been ruled for the last one thousand years by any and every handful of foreigners who chose to walk over our prostrate bodies? Because they had faith in themselves and we had

not. What did I learn in the West….There I saw that inside the national hearts of both Europe and America reside the tremendous power of the men’s faith in themselves. An English boy will tell you, “I am an Englishman, and I can do anything.” The American boy will tell you the same thing, and so will any European boy. Can our boys say the same thing here? No, nor even the boys’ fathers. We have lost faith in ourselves. Therefore to preach the Advaita aspect of the Vedanta is necessary to rouse up the hearts of men, to show them the glory of their souls….

All weakness, all bondage is imagination. Speak one word to it, it must vanish. Do not weaken! There is no other way out. …Stand up and be strong! No fear. No superstition. Face the truth as it is! If death comes — that is the worst of our miseries — let it come! We are determined to die game. That is all the religion I know. I have not attained to it, but I am struggling to do it. I may not, but you may. Go on!

Where one sees another, one hears another, so long as there are two, there must be fear, and fear is the mother of all [misery]. Where none sees another, where it is all One, there is none to be miserable, none to be unhappy.  There is only the One without a second. Therefore be not afraid. Awake, arise, and stop not till the goal is reached!

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