The soul is joy, it is thrill, it is bliss, it is freedom, it is freshness, it is hope, it is certitude, it is sure existence, it is continuity. It is truly a wonder, a marvel, a deep mystery.
The Gita says, “One sees it as a mystery, another speaks of it as a mystery, still another hears of it as a mystery, but even on hearing of it, not one knows it.” (Ch 2.29) The Gita speaks of the soul a great deal and in many contexts, but this verse sums up its descriptions by the use of the word ‘Ascharya’ over and over again. ‘Ascharya’ is what evokes surprise, wonder, what is felt as mysterious and marvellous.
We often found Mother’s ways mysterious and difficult to understand. She explained that when She saw a person, all that She was interested in seeing was the state of the soul in him. Was it sufficiently developed, bright and luminous, influential and active or too submerged and withdrawn, passive and a silent witness and not bright enough. If the soul sparkled in the eyes, then no vices of life mattered, he was a fine man.
The Mother once asked a young man, who happened to be placed in a situation of new experiences and strong external sensations, how his soul felt about it all, what his soul said to all that. Ordinarily, we are carried by the sensations and we do not, we cannot, withdraw from them a little and consult our soul, our deepest and best friend. And if we succeeded in doing so, we would immediately feel free and would no more feel lost in the crowding sensations.
The soul in us is the best thing. It is joy itself, free and master of the circumstances. It is security and safety itself. But it is really the thing we know nothing of. In fact, we have no feeling for it. We are so exclusively all the time engrossed in the external things. We are brought up that way, educated and trained that way, we feel the things worth knowing are all external. Thus we lose contact with the soul, which we had in a measure when our external engrossment was not so heavy.
Mother has even said it with emphasis that the education which draws out and fixes the attention on the external things and causes a loss of contact with the soul is not the right thing, whatever may be its value for earning a living. The sense and the feeling for the soul should really grow from more to more, it should become active and dynamic and the guiding principle of life that it, in fact, is by its nature and thus bring about unity, integration and true creativity in life.
The educational project initiated and worked out by the Mother exactly aims at affording to the children an atmosphere, an environment, a training and an education all breathing such a spirit of freedom that the least external suppression is caused, and in consequence the soul has the best chance of coming to the front and exercising its unifying influence on the mind, on the varied impulses, on the bodily movements.
Today education normally recognises integration of personality as an ideal and much emphasis is laid on the education of the whole man. But how is integration to be achieved? How is the whole man to be realised? Only if we have a feeling and appreciation of the quality of the soul and seek to afford to it the opportunity to grow and exercise its harmonising influence on the outer members of our personality, our mind, life and body, could this be done.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother just aimed at that quality in education and it provides a real solution to what education today basically seeks, the quality of integration and wholeness.
Lately we have had an exhibition at the Centre of Education of the Ashram — an exhibition of artistic work on cloth, drawings, paintings, poems and essays of boys and girls mainly of 12 to 14 years of age. The most striking thing in all this was what the students wrote in answer to the question — ‘What does your soul look like?’ The answers were accompanied by drawings too as to how the soul looked to them. These answers had, of course, a lot which belongs to the general atmosphere of the Ashram. But there were also statements which were very original, very vivid, very true, clearly showing that the students had some definite feeling for the soul. The drawings too were interesting. Many represented a flame in different forms. A few flowers — a rose, a lotus, etc. Some as a fruit, whole or cut in the middle with the core conspicuous. Quite a few as a formation of concentric circles with a prominent centre. A few represented an expanse without any form. Almost each drawing had an originality about it.
The striking sentences of a few students are presented here and we might try to see and feel what the student concerned has really felt within and what is the kind of feeling he has for the mysterious inner fact of the soul.
- My soul is a thing I cannot see but I can feel. I can guess how my soul looks, it is a misty figure, it has no eyes nor legs. It is smoke that goes about, … if we would like to feel or talk to it we can. I think I have heard it when I do a wrong thing. Before I used to hear it, but after some time I never cared for it and after that I never heard it. Now-a-days I hear it some times but not always. . .
- Perhaps my soul looks somewhat like a bluish white gas. . . It is like a seed in a fruit, which if one wants, can always go on and on existing. When a fruit is eaten up or rotten, the seed remains. If we take it out and replant it, it can give another tree or plant.
Sometimes our soul talks to us of something higher and superior which we ought to do. It always stays within ourselves and talks to no other person than us. It gives us good advice. When it talks to us, we really feel something from within which we cannot express.
- I think my soul looks like a star which is always lit even in the dark… The soul talks to me very softly. But I can’t see or feel it. I can hear it only when I am quiet and calm and when I want to hear it. I think I could hear the soul better when I was small.
- Whenever I sit still and quietly, I feel something soft in me. It purifies my mind and makes it clean again by pouring nice things in it. It makes me happy and glad. Sometimes when I sit for the meditation, I think something is glowing in me and it helps me meditate deeper and deeper on God.
Sometimes the glowing is transparent and sometimes it is blue. And once it pricked me and I could see that the light in me was fading. Sometimes I feel that I am empty and nothing is in me and I feel as light as a balloon. . .
- The soul is an unknown thing to me. I never see it nor do I imagine it, but I feel it. . .
There are moments when I can hear the soft voice of my pure soul which echoes through my mind. It is when I am calm and silent with a high aspiration for the divine. That’s when I feel an extraordinary change in myself. The soul is a very peculiar little thing to me but the voice is very well known.
- My soul is oval. I trust my soul as I trust my brain. It is beautiful. I like it very much. . . It cares for me as a brother. If I feel sad, it makes me happy and joyous. . . It is very playful. It jumps here and there. When it is big, it jumps out of our body. It is small as my wrist. It is my only best true friend. . .
- My soul is an invisible thing. Sometimes when I am quiet and happy I hear it. . . I don’t hear anything when I shout and become angry.
- I think that my soul is like a small, sweet, pleasant and powerful man. It tells me nice things. It seems that it hides behind my heart. My soul wants me to be absolutely pure, obedient, to be considerate and have a good man’s spirit. Every one may leave me but my soul will never. I am sure that it loves me and I love it too.
How interesting these answers read! Clear and vivid, original and direct. The soul, as it were, becomes vibrant in us and we seem to feel the thrill of it. It is surprising, the students were able to have that inward look, that inward feeling, that inward observation and write with such discrimination what they saw and felt. Surely they are open to it, are in some contact with it and do enjoy its pleasant influence. It must be moulding them in its own quality of harmony and unity.