Finding the soul is all the issue of life. One must be first what one really is. One must get right oneself first. If a person is himself wrong, how can his actions be right!
When the Buddha, after his enlightenment, was yet pondering whether to share his realisation with others or to keep it to himself and was staying in a forest near Banaras, he saw one day a group of young people making merry round about where he was. At one time he saw them worried and he called them and asked what the matter was. They said, ‘We were playing hide and seek sort of thing and now we find one of us is missing. We have lost him. We have searched long and we cannot find him.’ The Buddha sympathised with them, felt deep compassion for them, but then asked a question, ‘Supposing one loses oneself, not another, a companion, what should one do?’ They all felt intrigued and perplexed and asked with much curiosity, ‘How can one lose oneself?’ The Buddha replied emphatically, ‘But that is exactly the case, you have all lost yourself, you do not know who you are?’ They felt, as it were, stunned by the powerful affirmation, yet they were clear that they knew who they were and inquired, ‘How can that be?’ The Buddha then asked, ‘All right, tell me, who you are.’ One said, ‘I am so and so’, another, ‘Am so and so’s son’, a third ‘I live at such and such a place.’ The Buddha rebutted all this strongly, saying, ‘I do not ask your name or your father’s name or the name of the street you live in, I ask, who you yourself are.’ They all felt deeply puzzled and shaken within and felt that they really did not know who or what they were.
This story can easily induce in us that same state of surprise and wonder at our ignorance regarding this primary sort of fact as to what we are. The more we think of it, the worse is our regret and disappointment with ourselves.
Now, why we are normally by nature placed in a wrong awareness of ourselves and why finding of the soul is ordinarily so difficult an adventure are highly intriguing questions, to which answers are very many and perhaps none is felt satisfactory. We are so hard set in our present formation of self-hood that another conception is emotionally unacceptable even though intellectually it may be, on the whole, convincing.
It is, in fact, much simpler and truer to facts that we take things as they are and not ask why it is so, why we are all in a lost sort of condition and why we have to find ourselves in order that we may be able to live properly with clarity, certitude and confidence.
The things are plain enough. Our present form is one of insecurity, unstability, shakiness, vacillation, anxiety, struggle, sorrow, regret, etc., etc. We seek external props of security but do not have a sureness of self-existence. We seek external sensations of pleasure, but do not feel joyous by ourselves. Surely we do see lot of confidence and joy and certitude round about us. But if we examine closely, they are not sound and strong enough and there is always an inner fear and anxiety present in us.
However, our experience does clearly show to us that the more superficial, the more externally dependent sort of persons constitute one class and those who are more self-collected and given to a deeper posture of life constitute another class. The latter enjoy, on the whole, a fuller satisfaction.
These are facts of life free from any philosophical speculation. Now, do these facts not show clearly enough what we are and what we have to become. Is it too much to say that by nature we are poised superficially and then we feel insecure and lost. If, however, we seek to go deeper and deeper within ourselves, we feel surer, clearer and fuller.
Finding of the soul is essentially a process of inner exploration, of discovering and identifying the movements at their source in consciousness, of progressively disengaging ourselves from the less satisfying identifications and building up the more satisfying ones, until we discover at the centre deepest within the object of spontaneous attraction and absolute satisfaction. Then we know what we are spontaneously and live and act with clarity, certitude and confidence.
Of course, this process is a long one and since the inner realm is a wide and a complex one, our exploration is always beset with difficulty and doubt. But that is how the inner discriminations are built up. And what is more important is that the exploration must proceed in a spirit of freedom and detachment.
In this connection, we might also get clear about the two types of persons called extroverts and introverts. To the former, the external things alone are real. To the latter, in a sort of reaction, the inner states engage most of the attention. In fact, we should cultivate a due awareness of ourselves as well as of our external situation. Then alone we can build up and enjoy inner harmony as also external mastery.
Savitri’s sadhana as narrated by Sri Aurobindo in his epic poem is really that of inner exploration and of finding the soul and it is extremely interesting to read about the course followed by her in her search for the soul. The call comes to her in these words:
Find out thy soul, recover thy hid self,
In silence seek God’s meaning in thy depths.
Then mortal nature change to the divine.
She is roused by this call to the adventure. In the words of the book,
She looked into herself and sought for her soul.
She goes deeper and deeper within traversing many inner countries. These inner countries are by themselves fine and tempting. She feels attracted at one place, but then says,
Here I can stay not, for I seek my soul.
And at last she arrives and her last experience is described in these words:
A house was there all made of flame and light
And crossing a wall of doorless living fire
There suddenly she met her secret soul.
What a joy comes to our entire outer personality at that time!
Then lifts the mind a cry of victory:
“O soul, my soul, we have created Heaven,
Within we have found the kingdom here of God,
His fortress built in a loud ignorant world.
Our life is entrenched between two rivers of Light,
We have turned space into a gulf of peace
And made the body a Capitol of bliss.
What more, what more, if more must still be done?”
Sri Aurobindo also gives a thrilling account of an entire world of souls, the psychic world. A single person with soul-realisation is a marvellous joy and a wonderful support to innumerable other persons. And if the number of the persons with that realisation becomes even a little more, our world would easily enjoy more peace, more joy, more harmony. But it is absolutely thrilling to contemplate a whole world of souls, of Sri Krishna’s Baikuntha Lok as it were. Here is an account of it:
All there was soul or made of sheer soul-stuff:
A sky of soul covered a deep soul-ground.
All here was known by a spiritual sense:
Thought was not there but a knowledge near and one
Seized on all things by a moved identity,
A sympathy of self with other selves,
The touch of consciousness on consciousness
And being’s look on being with inmost gaze
And heart laid bare to heart without walls of speech
And the unanimity of seeing minds
In myriad forms luminous with the one God.
* * *
A quivering out from soul to answering soul,
A mystic movement, a close influence,
A free and happy and intense approach
Of being to being with no screen or check,
Without which life and love could never have been.
Body was not there, for bodies were needed not,
The soul itself was its own deathless form
And met at once the touch of other souls
Close, blissful, concrete, wonderfully true.
* * *
There was a strange spiritual scenery,
A loveliness of lakes and streams and hills,
A flow, a fixity in a soul-space,
And plains and valleys, stretches of soul-joy,
And gardens that were flower-tracts of the spirit,
The intimacy of God was everywhere,
No veil was felt, no brute barrier inert,
Distance could not divide, Time could not change.
A fire of passion burned in spirit-depths,
A constant touch of sweetness linked all hearts.
The throb of one adoration’s single bliss
In a rapt ether of undying love.
An inner happiness abode in all,
A sense of universal harmonies,
A measureless secure eternity
Of truth and beauty and good and joy made one.