One of the challenges for a spiritual aspirant is how should he deal with life, how should he act? On one side he is expected to practice the acceptance of all things as the Divine, which if carried to its logical extreme would lead to a near-total inaction. On the other hand he is expected to labour and put in effort towards self-perfection as also to practice compassion and charity towards others. How are these two attitudes, seemingly contradictory are to be reconciled. This is the theme of today’s sharing.
Words of the Mother
“The Lord is peaceful resignation, but the Lord is also the struggle and the Victory.
“He is the joyous acceptance of all that is; but also the constant effort towards a more total and perfect harmony.
“Perpetual movement in absolute immobility.”
This isn’t an intellectual reflection, it’s the notation of the experience: the constant, twofold movement of total acceptance of all that is, as an absolute condition to participate in all that will be, and at the same time, the perpetual effort towards a greater perfection. And this was the experience of all the cells.
The experience lasted more than an hour: the two conditions.
That’s exactly what made a sharp division in the whole spiritual thought or spiritual will of mankind. The point doesn’t seem to have been understood. Some, like Buddha and that whole line, have declared that the world is incorrigible, that the only thing to do is to get out of it, and that it can never be otherwise – it changes, but really remains the same. The result is a certain attitude of perfect acceptance. So, for them, the goal is to get out – that is, you escape: you leave the world as it is and escape. Then there are the others, who sense a perfection towards which men strive indefinitely and which is realized progressively. And I see more and more that the two movements complement each other, and not only complement each other but are almost indispensable to each other.
In other words, the change that arises from a refusal to accept the world as it is has no force, no power: what is needed is an acceptance not only total but comprehensive, joyous – to find supreme joy in things in order to have (it’s not a question of right or power) … in order to make it possible for things to change.
May 3, 1963
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It’s absolutely obvious, absolutely indisputable that all this, that is, all the circumstances of life, all that happens, has been willed, decided on, organized. And it’s the best possible training for the body. It’s to give it three things:
The first is (one more English word) a reliance – that is, it should lean on the Divine ALONE for support, for the source of its strength, its health, its capacity; it means that all material rules and laws are rejected and must cease to have any importance.
That’s the body’s experience almost every minute.
This first: the only support is the Divine – food, rest, etc., none of those things exist anymore. They no longer exist – in fact, they don’t exist, but they no longer exist as a factor of importance.
Then, two things, which seem to be contradictory (in the ordinary consciousness they are), but which in fact are only complementary. A surrender (there’s no other word), a total abdication – total, immediate, complete. That is to say, equality and acceptance – not even “acceptance”: everything, everything is good, everything is good. Which means that if death were to come tomorrow, it would cause no trouble, and if life must last forever, it causes no trouble – like that, you understand (perfectly equal and sovereign gesture): SPONTANEOUS, spontaneous, effortless acceptance, without reasoning, without … spontaneous and total, like that (same gesture). That’s the second point.
And the third: a tre-men-dous will! Every moment it expresses itself as … For instance, something is thrown out of gear, it hurts; then, with that background … it isn’t a “background,” it’s a BASE, a base of equality ( equality is still seen from the other side! It’s not that, it is … an adherence, a spontaneous adherence), on that base, there is a tremendous will – tremendous – to be … WHAT THE DIVINE WILLS, but not with the idea that it might be like this or like that. Well, to express it truly, we should say, “To be divine” – to be divine. That is, to dominate all situations, all wills, all circumstances, like that (same perfectly equal and sovereign gesture).
So those three things are simultaneous and constantly present. And all that is going on in the body.
February 10, 1968
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These past few days I have been reading Perseus – it was performed here, so I knew a little of it but it never much interested me. But reading it the way I read now, I have found it VERY interesting, I have discovered all kinds of things, all kinds.
Yes, I have noticed that in the space of (I don’t remember when we performed it, you were already here) … between then and now there is at least a good fifty years’ difference – a fifty-year change in consciousness.
But in practice, I am always up against the same problem.
Looking at it as a difference in attitude, the question is readily cleared up. But if I want the truth – the true truth behind this difference, it becomes very difficult.
And that is exactly what I have seen in the light of the events described in Perseus. If you don’t take the problem generally but specifically, down to the least detail…. But it evaporates as soon as you formulate it. Only when you feel it concretely, when you get a grip on it, can you grasp both things….
The problem is roughly this: nothing exists that is not the result of the divine Will.
Always the same problem. Always the same problem.
Generally speaking, the antidivine is easily understood, but in the minute details of daily life, how do you choose between this and that?… What is the truth behind the thing you choose and the one you don’t choose? And you know, my standpoint is totally beyond any question of egoistic, individual will – that isn’t the problem here. It’s not that….
Perhaps the problem is the opposition (if it is an opposition) between two attitudes, both of which should express our relationship with the Supreme. One is the acceptance – not only voluntary but perfectly content – of everything, even the “worst calamities” (what are conventionally called “the worst calamities”). I won’t use this story as an example because it’s self-explanatory, but if Andromeda were a yogi (with “ifs” you can build castles in the air, but I am trying to explain what I mean), she would accept the idea of death readily, easily. Well, it’s precisely this conflict between an attitude quite ready to accept death (I am not talking about what happens in the story itself, but merely giving a case in point to make myself clear) because it is the divine Will, for this reason alone – it’s the divine Will, so it’s quite all right; since that’s how it is, it’s quite all right – and at the same time, the love of Life. This love of Life. Following the story, you would say: she lived because she had to live – and everything is explained. But that’s not what I mean. I am looking at this outside the context of the story…..
Automatically, everything that exists is a natural expression of divine Joy, even the things human consciousness finds most horrifying – this is understandable. But at the same time there is this aspiration, so intense that it’s almost anguish, for a perfection of creation to come. And it does seem that this intense aspiration and anguish in the material world is a necessary preparation for this perfection to come. Yet at the same time, whatever exists is perfect at each moment, since it is ENTIRELY the Divine. There is nothing other than the Divine. So there is simultaneously this plenitude of Divine Joy in each second, in whatever exists, and the aspiration, the anguish – and the difficulty lies in joining the two, there you have it.
Practically, you go from one to the other, or one is in front and the other behind, one active and the other passive. With the feeling of perfect joy comes an almost static state (certainly the joy of movement is also there, but all anticipation of the goal stays in the background). Then, when the aspiration of the Becoming is there, the joy of divine perfection at each moment withdraws into a static state…..
At my fullest and most intense moments – moments when truly what exists is the universe (by universe I mean the Becoming of the Supreme) with the utmost active awareness of the Supreme – at such moments I am suddenly caught by that [the static, nirvanic aspect]. It’s not a matter of choosing between the two, but rather a question of priorities from the standpoint of action on the lowest level. Instinctively (the instinct of this body, this material base), the choice is aspiration, because this being was built for action; but this cannot be taken as an absolute rule, it’s almost like a casual preference.
One feels that life Is this aspiration, this anguish, while bliss leads most naturally to the nirvanic side – I don’t know….
But then how to help people? … You can recommend neither one nor the other. And if you say both, you are plunged into this same dilemma.
A problem like that reaches a point of such acute tension that you feel you know nothing, understand nothing, you will never understand anything, it’s hopeless. When I reach that point, I always tilt in the same direction, it’s always: “All right, I adore the Lord, as for the rest, it doesn’t matter to me!” I enter into a … marvelous adoration … and let Him do what He wants! That’s how it all ends up for me….
February 6, 1962
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On the one hand, there is the attitude of those in yesterday evening’s film’: God is everything, God is everywhere, God is in he who smites you (as Sri Aurobindo wrote – ‘God made me good with a blow, shall I tell Him: O Mighty One, I forgive you your harm and cruelty but do not do it again!’), an attitude which, if extended to its ultimate conclusion, accepts the world as it is: the world is the perfect expression of the divine Will. On the other hand, there is the attitude of progress and transformation. But for that, you must recognize that there are things in the world which are not as they should be.
In The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo says that this idea of good and bad, of pure and impure, is a notion needed for action; but the purists, such as Chaitanya, Ramakrishna and others, do not agree. They do not agree that it is indispensable for action. They simply say: your acceptance of action as a necessary thing is contrary to your perception of the Divine in all things.
How can the two be reconciled?
I recall that once I tried to speak of this, but no one followed me, no one understood, so I did not insist. I left it open and never pursued it further, for they could not decipher anything or find any meaning in what I was saying. But now I could give a very simple answer: Let the Supreme do the work. It is He who has to progress, not you!
June 22, 1958
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I looked at the problem when I tried to understand the position of Buddha, who reproached the Manifestation for its impermanence; to him, perfection and permanence were one and the same thing. In his contact with the manifested universe, he had observed a perpetual change, and so his conclusion was that the manifested world was imperfect and had to disappear. And the change (the impermanence) does not exist in the Nonmanifest, therefore the Nonmanifest is the true Divine. When I looked and concentrated on this point, I saw that his observation was indeed correct: the Manifestation is absolutely impermanent, it’s a perpetual transformation.
But in the Manifestation, perfection is to have a movement of transformation or unfolding identical to the divine Movement, the essential Movement. Whereas all that belongs to the unconscious or tamasic creation tries to keep its existence unchanged, instead of lasting by constant transformation.
That’s why certain minds have postulated that the creation was the result of an error. But we find all the possible conceptions: the perfect creation, then a “fault” that introduced the error; the creation itself as a lower movement, which must end since it began; then the conception of the Vedas according to what Sri Aurobindo told us about it, which was a progressive and infinite unfolding or discovery – indefinite and infinite – of the All by Himself…. Naturally, all these are human translations. For the moment, as long as we express ourselves humanly, it’s a human translation; but depending on the initial stand of the human translator (that is, a stand that accepts the primordial “error,” or the “accident” in the creation, or the conscious supreme Will since the beginning, in a progressive unfolding), the conclusions or the “descents” in the yogic attitude are different…. There are the nihilists, the “Nirvanists” and the illusionists, there are all the religions (like Christianity) that accept the devil’s intervention in one form or another; and then pure Vedism, which is the Supreme’s eternal unfolding in a progressive objectification. And depending on your taste, you are here or there or here, and there are nuances. But according to what Sri Aurobindo felt to be the most total truth, according to that conception of a progressive universe, you are led to say that, every minute, what takes place is the best possible for the unfolding of the whole. The logic of it is absolute. And I think that all the contradictions can only stem from a more or less pronounced tendency for this or that position, that other position; all the minds that accept the intrusion of a “fault” or an “error” and the resulting conflict between forces pulling backward and forces pulling forward, can naturally dispute the possibility. But you are forced to say that for someone who is spiritually attuned to the supreme Will or the supreme Truth, what happens is necessarily, every instant, the best for his personal realization – this is true in all cases. The unconditioned best can only be accepted by one who sees the universe as an unfolding, the Supreme growing more and more conscious of Himself.
To tell the truth, all those things are without any importance (!) because in any case what IS exceeds entirely and absolutely all that the human consciousness may think of it. It is only when you stop being human that you know; but as soon as you express yourself, you become human again, and then you stop knowing.
This is undeniable.
And because of this incapacity, there is a sort of futility in wanting absolutely to reduce the problem to what human comprehension can understand of it. In that case, it’s very wise to say, as Théon used to, “We are here, we have a work to do, and what’s necessary is to do it as best we can, without worrying about the why and the how.” Why is the world as it is?… When we are able to understand why, we’ll understand.
From a practical standpoint, that’s obvious.
But everyone takes his stand…. I have all the examples here, I have a little selection of samples of all the attitudes, and I see the reactions very clearly. I see the same Force – the same single Force – acting in this selection of samples and, of course, producing different effects; but those “different” effects are, to the deep vision, very superficial: it’s just “they like to think that way, so then they like to think that way.” But to tell the truth, the inner advance, the inner development, and the essential vibration aren’t affected – not in the least. One aspires with all his heart to Nirvana, the other aspires with all his will to the supramental manifestation, and in both cases the vibratory result is about the same. And it’s a whole mass of vibrations which prepares itself more and more to … to receive what must be.
There is a state – an essentially pragmatic state, spiritually pragmatic – in which of all human futilities, the most futile is metaphysics.