An increasing interest in Sri Aurobindo’s thought
Sri Aurobindo’s thought is drawing humanity more and more towards itself. This is only bound to increase as mankind evolves and seeks to find complete answers to the cosmic riddle of which man is a part. Among this humanity, that is turning towards Sri Aurobindo, there is a section that seeks to engage primarily with his thought and the new ideas that Sri Aurobindo has seeded into the earth atmosphere. Many of them engage with these ideas in an academic way and it goes as far as it could, which is not very far. One soon encounters the first difficulty, since these ideas are so new that all our previous understanding of yoga and man and life’s goal stands in the way. The more we compare Sri Aurobindo to various other similar or dissimilar thoughts, the more we get confused. We perhaps enter into a cocoon constructed by our ignorant receiving of the profound truths, that have descended from the plane of Truth into the realms of our mortal ignorance and its small, cramped up understanding of life. One plays with the ideas, churns them in the mind, tries even to digest them mentally or understand intellectually, seeks to discover the truths concealed within the words. But that cannot be done by the mind alone since these ideas were never born from the Mind. What Sri Aurobindo has brought to this earth in terms of Idea-forces has been born through the fire of yoga. It is the gift of his intense and arduous tapasya, the kind of which one hardly had even in far back times. The true understanding can therefore only come as one engages with the yoga itself. The mental lights are not sufficient, it is the fire of yoga that can illumine our understanding and reveal to us what is hidden behind the written word. Still to an extent this difficulty begins to be overpassed if one persists. The words themselves then kindle the fire in one who is now prepared through the readings, and he begins to see what was unclear before.
Undertaking the journey of Integral Yoga
This naturally creates another section of humanity, that which wants to engage with the yoga of Sri Aurobindo, also known as the Integral Yoga, the Supramental Yoga or very simply as the Mother’s Yoga. It is here that one encounters a second difficulty, that of practice of the Yoga in the physical absence of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. One feels lost and caught up between an incessant urge to practice the yoga and an inability to quite comprehend as to what a sadhaka is supposed to do to follow the path. This happens especially when there has been a little reading or none at all, and yet one has been drawn for the yoga. Of course, if the inmost soul has awakened and takes the lead of our being and the sadhana, if one has felt intuitively the Mother’s Presence and opened oneself to Her in a wide gesture of self-giving, devotion and service, then there is no fundamental difficulty. Such a person walks the straight and sunlit path of Yoga, freed from doubts and serious difficulties. Even if he has countless defects in his nature, his path and the eventual outcome is assured. But such souls are still rare and fortunate. Most experience some initial difficulties with understanding the way. It is here that we discover the treasure trove of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s works. It is important however to know that there is no external initiation in this yoga. What is needed is a call for the path from within, and if there is this call and a sufficient support of faith, the Divine Master will build the Divine Perfection and transform this mud-born creature, shaped so far under the shadows and laws of ignorance.
The importance of Sri Aurobindo’s and the Mother’s works
The spiritual literature left by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is vast, and one may be at loss how to approach and where to begin. After some initial attempts to read the original sources, the sadhaka may start looking for a book that describes an easy-to-do step-by-step practice of the integral yoga. They are often disappointed to learn that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have not only never written such an oversimplified guide to the Integral Yoga, but rather discouraged any such shortcut procedures and reliance on external techniques and outer methods. They can find their limited use, no doubt, but do not form the core of the yoga. Of course, there are books written by well-meaning disciples to satisfy this seemingly legitimate need, but it is important to understand from the very beginning that this yoga does not proceed in this easy to do step-by-step manner. It is a wide movement in many directions towards an opening and self-giving to the Divine. The Yoga therefore takes place in real-time and all our outer and inner experiences, however trifle or small in our eyes, become catalysts for opening the path or closing the doors to it. It is through the everyday life experiences and our attitude towards them that the doors open one after another, especially with the cultivation and application of that rare quality called sincerity. If the seeking is sincere and not a mask for some earthly or spiritual ambition, then one finds oneself walking the path spontaneously as if an inner Hand is leading him through everything. Of course, there are special processes, well described in so many books by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Foremost among them is the triple labour of aspiration, rejection and surrender, undertaken with faith and sincerity of our seeking. It is beautifully described in a seminal work of Sri Aurobindo titled ‘The Mother (with question and answers on the Mother)’. There are also other important works, especially Conversations with the Mother, notable among which are the conversations 1929 – 1931, now published as Vol. 3 of the Collected Works of the Mother. There are also countless letters of Sri Aurobindo, written to various disciples, that touch upon the details of Integral Yoga from every angle. These voluminous works answer every possible question one may have on the subject, in essence and often in detail as well.
The Living Words
It may be important to note that the spiritual literature left for posterity by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother cannot be compared with other books even they claim to carry Their work forward. First of all, the answers from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are not only comprehensive in terms of the spiritual knowledge and wisdom, but are also loaded with the power of their consciousness. They not only instruct but awaken, not only advice but inspire, not only tell us what should be done but give us the power to do it. Such books take birth once in thousands of years and cannot be replicated even by the best of disciples. This is especially true for Savitri and Prayers and Meditations, which are imbued with the occult power of the authors and mere reading of them means engaging in the yoga. Nothing else is than needed, and these books alone can become living guides to take us through the tremendous journey of yoga. They create in the seeker a ground of consciousness like the mantras of old, that draw forces of transformation into the consciousness of the sadhaka while keeping away all that comes to deform, pervert or distract him or her away from the path. In fact, they are a living mantra and to read these books with quietude and trust and conscious aspiration is to practice mantra sadhana which is indeed regarded as one of the highest and simplest forms of yoga. Books like the Gita, the Upanishads, the Vedas continue to awaken and inspire the seekers thousands of years after they have been written. One can imagine the long-lasting impact of books like Savitri, that have been given to humanity to help in the transformation. Savitri is the mantra of transformation as the Mother puts it. It is surely not only a non-replicable but also an irreplaceable scripture, if scripture we can call it. This Word-Sound body of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother that contains their dynamic consciousness is enough to take us through the ocean of life in the ship of yoga.
Of gurus and channels in this yoga
Many if not most of us still live in the outward nature and feel as real only that which we can see and know through our external senses and do visibly and tangibly. When such a humanity is sometimes drawn by the yoga, it seeks some kind of outer support and an external practice. Such outer practices exist and we can find them abundantly in the vast literature of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. But the outer man is not satisfied with this. He wants someone to prescribe it for him, give him the yoga externally, perhaps even make him sit and do the practice almost as a ritual. It is here that one runs the risk of falling straight into the hands of those who come imitating the Master or claim to intercede between Him and us as a special channel or manifestation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. While the need in an intermediary has its own reasons to exist, the way to satisfy it is not to run after some neo-Aurobindonian Guru who claims to be continuing His lineage or receiving transmissions from Him to guide humanity. Most such claimants are either imposters or are caught up in an Intermediate Zone where truth and falsehood are mixed inextricably. They may see visions and hear voices, some of which can be very engrossing and convincing. A display of lights of all kinds can impress the neophyte or cause an unchaste feeding upon the vanity and ego. The vital is capable of staging a super show and often not only those who follow such masters, but also the one claiming to be such a master is himself unwittingly caught up and becomes a victim of his own pretense. To get into their leading is actually to be misled; it is to be caught in a web of falsehood where ‘Death walks wearing a robe of deathless life.’ Unfortunately, those ‘masters’ seldom recognize the fatal error of their misgiving, and their disciples too often remain oblivious of this deep folly and refuse to recognise that they have actually gone astray.
The key to this yoga
The central element of this yoga is not any intellectual or other knowledge or experience, but a turning and eventual giving of all one is and does to the Divine Mother. Nothing else is then needed. All the readings and writings, all meditation and prayers and other practices and disciplines must center and converge around this one single focus of opening oneself to the Mother more and more in a spirit of faith, devotion and sincerity. In this yoga the key is to remain psychically open to the Mother and to no other, not even to the Force but to the Mother alone. By turning towards someone else who claims to be a guru of Integral Yoga or an appointed successor of Their Divine legacy, one actually comes into contact with their consciousness, whereas one should go directly and straight towards the Mother. And for this turning and opening to the Mother one needs no other person or aid, save a faith and receptivity born out of love and devotion towards Her. Sometimes it is enough to merely call Her Name or meditate upon Her luminous form within or on Her photograph. She has left a host of aids for a physical contact with Her Consciousness. Her symbol, photographs, voice and music are among such concrete aids that help the sadhaka come into contact with Her Consciousness through outer channels. One needs no one else. Even one of these aids is enough, while there are many of them to help us on the Path.
Physical and inner nearness
Here it must be understood that this yoga was never given through instructions and physical nearness. If anything, the disciples were cautioned not to mistake the physical nearness with a sign of inner progress. True, it could be of tremendous help if someone had an external contact and used it rightly, but human consciousness is seldom ready to use this rarest of Grace. To be too close physically to the Divine often increases the hidden resistances. The sun that gives warmth and light from afar burns and scorches when it draws very near. Rare is the man who knows that the ego must indeed be burnt away and the desire-self destroyed for the Divine Consciousness to find enough room. Most want to have a physical nearness to the guru for receive help with their worldly and spiritual needs. What they forget is that this instant help does not depend upon physical nearness but on psychic intimacy and closeness with the Divine. All who have walked the path through the psychic door, testify to this fact that the Divine Mother is as accessible, Her help is as constant and instantaneous now as it was before, when She was in Her physical body. Still to satisfy this need of Her children She has left not only Her numerous photographs but signed cards and books, pieces of Her sarees and Relics, flower petals touched by Her and many such sweet little things that not only serve as a reminder but help the physical consciousness to come into contact with Her.
Places specially charged with the supramental vibrations
The Mother has created spaces charged with Her Consciousness so that those, who wish to remain enveloped in Her atmosphere and breath Her air, can go there, ‘recharge their batteries’ and return back rejuvenated. Herein we find the significance of the Ashram with the Samadhi, charged with the supramental vibrations, a fact to which countless sadhakas would testify. There are other places as well, such as Auroville and Centers, especially Relic Centers that provide a luminous divine ambience for the sadhaka to practice the yoga. It is up to each of us to use them to strengthen our core that is turned towards the yoga through faith, devotion and aspiration. It is a great mistake of the modern mind to regard these places as some kind of a cult or sect. Cults and sects exist in the mind of man, and a person living alone may live under a sectarian belief, whereas one engaged in constant prayer and worship turned towards the Master may be freed completely from all man-made and mind-made bonds of ignorance, including limitations of belief and practices. His sheer love for the Master that has drawn him even outwardly, converts his limited human consciousness into a communion and consequent union with the Divine Consciousness of the Master.
Special practices and rituals
Prayer, worship can be and are very much a part of this yoga, but their method is different from the traditional processes. Traditional practices rely too much on outer rituals such as beads and fasting, outer withdrawal and such. But the communion in the Integral Yoga takes place in an inner ground of consciousness. The prayer is not a repetitive mechanical prayer remembered from a prayer book but one that rises spontaneously from the heart. Worship is not an external ritual but an inner state of adoration and humility before the Divine. Needless to say that things like fasting and other extreme forms of religious and ascetic practices have no place here. Balance, moderation, an invocation and aspiration to create a solid foundation of calm, peace and equanimity are the ways forward. This can be greatly helped by living in a place that has a touch of infinity upon it, but this or any other practice is not indispensable. The only indispensable thing in this yoga is to keep oneself open and turned towards the Mother. Sometimes the company of other sadhakas endowed with devotion towards Her, or those in whom the flame of aspiration rises high and wide, acts like a living fire to light up or increase a low-burning flame. The same purpose is served through study circles or a satsang, a coming together of sadhakas in a common uplifting aspiration. Conferences, seminars and discussions that are mostly mental activities do not help much if any at all.
A word of caution
Finally, it must be remembered that this yoga is a long journey, sometimes smooth and at other times a battle against seen and unseen forces that rise up in revolt to obstruct and block the path and deter and discourage the aspirant. Revolt, doubt and depression increase the hold of these forces, whereas faith and surrender, sincerity of aspiration and self-giving to the Mother clears the passage. All impatience, especially born of a spiritual ambition to be a yogi or a guru, all hankering after other-worldly experiences can be very dangerous and lead us straight into the hands of the adversary. The only experience worthwhile to have in the beginning and as a base is the contact and identification with the psychic being within us. All else grows spontaneously as a flower blooms under the sun. This is the straight and sunlit path as shown by Them, and it is enough to turn towards Her as a child ever new born in the flame of one’s aspiration. As Sri Aurobindo warns us,
One may practise Yoga and get illuminations in the mind and the reason; one may conquer power and luxuriate in all kinds of experiences in the vital; one may establish even surprising physical siddhis; but if the true soul-power behind does not manifest, if the psychic nature does not come into the front, nothing genuine has been done. In this Yoga, the psychic being is that which opens the rest of the nature to the true supramental light and finally to the supreme Ananda. Mind can open by itself to its own higher reaches; it can still itself and widen into the Impersonal; it may too spiritualise itself in some kind of static liberation or Nirvana; but the supramental cannot find a sufficient base in spiritualised mind alone. If the inmost soul is awakened, if there is a new birth out of the mere mental, vital and physical into the psychic consciousness, then this Yoga can be done; otherwise (by the sole power of the mind or any other part) it is impossible. If there is a refusal of the psychic new birth, a refusal to become the child new born from the Mother, owing to attachment to intellectual knowledge or mental ideas or to some vital desire, then there will be a failure in the sadhana.
[Letters on Yoga CWSA 30: 337-338]
Pondicherry, July 06, 2019