Sri Ramkrishnadas, also known as Babaji, is a revered elder sadhak who has lived in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry for over 50 years. This conversation between Babaji and an American devotee Vishnu Eschner took place on October 14 and 15, 1994. The answers have been translated from the original Oriya.
A small, nondescript wooden door opens and takes me from the sunlit, noisy, Pondicherry street into a dim hallway. Passing through the hallway, I step outside again, but into another world. The harsh sunlight is now filtered by trees and cooled in the towering shade of whitewashed walls speckled with tiny windows which give glimpses into myriad mysterious rooms. Somewhere, water is running. Somewhere above me I catch low snatches of conversation. Somewhere, a woman sings melodiously and quietly.
I sit on a bench briefly, then a screen door is opened and a women gestures to me — “come.” I had asked for this interview, and so I am expected.
Babaji’s room is small — no, tiny — yet I easily find a place to sit on the carpet amidst four or five meditating people who shift slightly to accommodate me. Nothing else stirs for a few moments and I am aware of the omnipresent sounds of auto horns drifting into the single window along with the sunlight.
On the walls surrounding me are pictures tacked upon pictures — of the Mother, of Sri Aurobindo, Hanuman, Sri Ram. Every calendar ever printed by the Ashram must be up there somewhere.
Babaji sits in a corner, on a small stool. As I watch him, I am again impressed by the absence of dark motives showing in the lines of his face. It is as though his expressions are only various shades of delight, and his face reflects the happy peace of a child. He nods and a young woman tells me I should ask my questions.
I know from a previous visit that his answers will challenge my narrowness — my sophisticated, educated western mind rejects apparently simple interpretations of the Integral Yoga.
Can I remember that his answers come not from books, but from more than 50 years of inward focus on Sri Aurobindo and Mother, and that, out of humility, he only reluctantly agreed to answer my questions — on the off chance that someone in America might be helped? Can I look past the intellectual preconditions I have imposed upon the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, and find those teachings wide enough to encompass the full spectrum of human experience without contradiction?
Collaboration: These days among American devotees of Sri Aurobindo, I see a lot of interest in the supramental transformation. What should we understand about the transformation?
Sri Ramkrishnadas: There are three aspects of God: The Being, the Nonbeing, and above these, the Purushottama, which is known as Satchidananda, the Supreme Divine. By the old traditional yogas, the first two aspects, the Being and Nonbeing, the personal and impersonal, have been realized. But not the satchidananda Purushottama, which can only be realized in the supramental consciousness. All three aspects of the Divine — the Personal, the Impersonal, and the transcendent Satchidananda — can be simultaneously realized by following the path of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga to the supermind.
In the beginning there was nothing but God, and God was only One; then He decided to manifest the creation. All that we see now — trees, plants, rivers, animals — all these things were not there in the beginning. When the Divine decided to create the world, He divided Himself into the creation, into the upper and lower hemispheres.
In the upper hemisphere all is divinity. There is no death, no illness or old age, no suffering — only the Divine realms exist there. While here in the lower hemisphere of the creation there is just the opposite; here we have old age, suffering, disease and death, depression and sorrow, ignorance and unconsciousness. But also, here is the place of evolution. In the upper divine hemisphere there is no evolution; but this lower hemisphere of the creation exists for this possibility of evolution, so that it can rise and be transformed into its divine counterpart.
In the beginning of the creation there was only darkness. Gradually sand and stone — matter — evolved. Next, life evolved as the vital prana in plants, and when the vital was completely manifested in the animals, only then did the development of the mind become established on earth in the form of human beings.
The human being has a body, vital and mind. But, here in the lower hemisphere, these elements of his nature have the qualities of ego, jealousy, sex urge, depression, laziness, anger, bad thoughts and so on. When the human being becomes very strong in his vital, it often happens he is influenced and guided more and more by these ignorant powers, and eventually can himself become an asura [incarnated power of falsehood — ed.] Even when this happens and the asuric powers rise and dominate, evolution must still go on. So, in order to rid the earth of asuras and hasten the evolutionary process, the Divine takes birth on this earth.
Today, the development of the mind, vital, and body of the human being in the evolution is complete. The sign of this completion is the general loss of morality in humans. The morality that was guiding the people is a mental principle, constructed by the mind. It has failed because a higher light than that of the mind is now needed. Therefore Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have taken birth — they have brought down the supramental consciousness upon the earth so that, by the action of that Force, the mental, vital and physical nature of the human being will be transformed into divine mind, divine vital, and divine body.
As animals are still here on the earth in the course of the mental evolution, so will human beings still be here when the superhuman race is realized. When that time comes, the divine world of the upper hemisphere will be established here on earth and there will be no death, no suffering, no illness or old age. All human beings now on earth want to be free of these things — whether they are sadhaks or not, they are searching. As long as its time had not yet come, nobody was conscious of this new aim, but now that the mind’s evolution is complete and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have brought down the supramental consciousness on the earth, people are becoming conscious of it, and the evolution can proceed beyond Mind. As human beings begin to understand the purpose of life and accept to hasten the evolutionary process through the practice of yoga, then gradually their whole human nature will be transformed.
In life at this stage in the world, no one is completely or constantly happy; all humanity is subject to suffering which is the consequence of those qualities inherent in our mind, vital, and body — ego, lust, anger, jealousy, laziness and so on. These qualities can fully be transformed by the supramental consciousness and nothing else. It is by the yoga of transformation and by surrendering to the supramental consciousness that one’s nature will be transformed here in the body on the earth.
The moment one sincerely accepts the yoga and the personal effort of aspiration, rejection and surrender, then he remains in a true and lasting happiness — because surrender means that all that we are, all that we have, now belongs to the Mother. Always we are in her presence and she is doing everything for us. If, along with the surrender, the sadhak invokes the divine Mother by the practice of namajapa [repetition of the divine Name] Ma Ma Ma with strong determination, then the transformation will go ahead more swiftly and surely.
C: What about the many other paths of yoga and the people following these other paths?
SR: Those who are doing sadhana of the traditional paths are leaving behind the body, vital and mind. Individually they are progressing and doing sadhana, but everything in the world remains the same, unchanged. Sri Aurobindo’s yoga is not like that of the old yogas. It is a collective yoga — while the old yogas are individual yogas, aiming at the liberation of the individual. By the practice of Sri Aurobindo’s collective yoga, eventually the entire earth consciousness will be transformed. As the number of people doing this transformation increases, the world atmosphere will also change; and when this change is complete, the earth will be transformed into the divine world of the upper hemisphere. It will be the fulfillment of the Supreme’s decision in the beginning to create this world in order to establish the divine life on earth.
By accepting this yoga with sincerity and surrender, the sadhak realizes a true and lasting happiness, just like a child in the sheltering arms of its mother. All the child’s problems are solved by the mother. When one accepts this yoga, one surrenders oneself to the Mother and at each step she takes all the responsibility of one’s life and sadhana.
Now you can ask any question to clear all your doubts.
C: Some people in the West are interested in the transformation of the body. They want a program or exercises, something to do for that aim.
SR: Those who are interested in this body transformation should do continuous namajapa to invoke the Mother’s Force — the simple and direct way is to repeat Mother’s name: Ma Ma Ma, either out loud or silently with the lips or the tongue. They also have to accept that the aim of their life is to realize the Divine in the transformed mind, vital, and body.
By accepting this aim of life and continuously repeating the Mother’s name, one surrenders and opens one’s whole nature to the transforming action of her force. Only then will the body’s transformation happen. As the number of individuals that accept this collective yoga increases, the faster the work of transformation will go on. The complete transformation will definitely happen, there is no doubt about it, but it will take time.
There is a saying from the Tulsidas Ramayan — just as butter cannot be pressed out of earth, as oil cannot be pressed out of sand, happiness cannot come out of life without surrendering to the Divine.
C: Many times I have prayed and surrendered, and also contacted a quiet mind inside, but it does not remain with me. What is the best way to quiet the mind?
SR: The way to keep the mind in silence is to become conscious of the aim of life and go on repeating continuously Ma Ma Ma. While meditating, you repeat Mother’s name and think and feel that, “Mother is with me, always Mother is with me, helping me, protecting me.” When you have made it a habit during meditation, then gradually silence of the mind will come and concentration will also come. It will take some time, but you have to make it a regular habit. At first you will have only a few minutes of silence, five or ten minutes perhaps, but gradually it will increase and the mind will automatically become silent.
C: What does it mean, “to become conscious of the aim of life”?
SR: It means to remember that the aim of life is to realize the Divine in a transformed mind, vital, and body. One must also remember that the method of sadhana is through aspiration, rejection and surrender.
To have silence in the mind, one should speak only what is absolutely essential. Many times we speak unnecessarily and that disturbs the silence.
C: That is difficult for me.
SR: You must make a strong determination, a strong promise. Then you will speak less.
C: Many people who are studying Sri Aurobindo’s writings and practicing the yoga are householders. Do you have any suggestions for householders who want to practice the yoga?
SR: Those who live as householders should realize that all that is theirs belongs, in truth, to the Mother. Whatever they have, including the family members, including their own selves, belongs to the Mother. The proof of this is that when one leaves the body, he takes another birth in another family that is different from the last one, and has no claim on the old family.
For example, we keep our money in the bank. Now when we die and are born into another family, we cannot claim a single paisa of this former money of ours. In truth it is never ours, we are only the trustee of this money during our lifetime. Similarly, if we construct a house in one lifetime, when we are born in another family in the next life, we cannot even set foot in our old house. All these things in truth never belonged to us, but to the Mother.
That is why householders should remember and realize that all the household possessions, all the family members — including they themselves, belong to the Mother, and that they have to work in the family, in the household, as a service to the Divine. Child care, cooking, looking after a sick family member, the elderly, earning money to support the family, all this is to be done in service to the Divine.
C: Can Americans do yoga in this way? Will this further the work in America?
SR: Whether one is from America, from East or West, it doesn’t matter. The truth is the same for everyone to follow. Only by surrendering to the divine Mother will they discover true and lasting happiness.
C: If people are unwilling, or unable, to completely surrender, can they still make progress?
SR: It is not the outer surrendering, it is the inner attitude that must change. It is a true fact that everything belongs to the Divine … it is not a dream or imagination. If we understand this and live accordingly, then we can remain in happiness and the household will turn into the household of the Divine.
C: In his writings, Sri Aurobindo has placed much emphasis on renouncing the family outwardly — no sexual life, no marriage, and so on. How can householders practice the yoga?
SR: This yoga of Sri Aurobindo is for all who are called, whatever their walk of life. Those in whom the soul has decided to leave family life, will spontaneously do so. Then they cannot indulge in those things which will not help their sadhana. Otherwise, those whose souls have decided to remain in the family will find that they cannot leave the family. They will stay and do the sadhana there.
An Interview by Vishnubhai Eschner, originally published in Collaboration, Summer 1998.