The Greatest Obstacle (HH 081)


One of the questions that arises in the mind of a sceptic is that if God is the sole Reality then what really prevents us from knowing that That Reality as naturally as we breathe or think or feel. The seeker confronts it in a different way. He does not question the fundamental Reality of the Divine Whole but asks what prevents him from coming in contact with That Reality or even living That with every breath of his life. There have been various answers to this enigma ranging from the materialists denial of any such Reality at all to the utter impossibility of living That Truth while being amidst life of the world and its normal activities. The Mother and Sri Aurobindo bring another dimension to this problem. The obstacle to experiencing and living out That Reality in everyday life lies in matter itself which forms the base substratum of all expression in this world. It is not man but matter that denies the Spirit and the more we are identified with this material reality the lesser we are receptive to the spiritual Truth and vice versa. For this reason various schools have stated an extreme solution, that of withdrawing from the material reality through various means and eventually even dropping off this hard rigid physical covering completely so that we can become awake in the realms of the Spirit. This does not solve the problem or rather it cuts the knot so abruptly that the connecting threads and strings that weave the universe are undone and the individual escapes from the vast interconnected chain refusing to play his part in the whole. The Mother brings another solution, a difficult one no doubt, but one that is more complete, an integral conquest of the material world by the power of the Spirit, – not a conquest that annihilates matter but one that transforms it. This talk is based on this idea of the difficulty of material transformation developing on two talks of the Mother separated by nearly 52 years.


Words of the Mother

 

What is the greatest obstacle in ourselves to our consecration to impersonal work?

Regarded from the most general point of view, this obstacle is indistinguishable from the very reason for the work to be accomplished: it is the present state of imperfection of physical Matter.

Since we are made up of an imperfect substance, we cannot but share in this imperfection. Therefore, whatever degree of perfection, consciousness or knowledge is possible to our inmost being, the very fact that it incarnates in a physical body gives rise to obstacles to the purity of its manifestation; and on the other hand, the aim of its incarnation is victory over these obstacles, the transformation of Matter. We must therefore not be surprised or saddened if we encounter obstacles within ourselves, for every single being on earth has difficulties to overcome.

The cause of this imperfection may become apparent to us from two points of view, one general, the other individual.

From the general point of view, the imperfection of Matter comes from its lack of receptivity to the more subtle forces which are to be manifested through it. But this lack of receptivity itself has many causes, and to explain them would lead us too far away from the heart of our subject. Besides, I think that, in the last analysis, all difficulties lie in the illusion of personality, that is, the illusion that one thing can be distinct from the whole……

The second tendency, which is in fact a normal consequence of the first, is an excessively conservative spirit, a fixity of the whole nature intellectual, moral and physical which makes it impossible for us to transform ourselves as rapidly

as we should in order to be always in harmony with the law of universal progress.

It is as if the individual were afraid of not being different enough from others if he encouraged too free and large an exchange with the whole. Moreover, this fixity comes from the desire to appropriate and the error of believing that we can own something in the universe.

We think that the elements we are made of are our own. Consciously or unconsciously, we want to hold on to them for ourselves while at the same time we are quite ready to add to them by drawing other elements to ourselves; but we forget that since there is no real separation, we can receive nothing if we do not give.

We must be a link in the chain: the link does not grow bigger at the expense of its neighbours. But when it faithfully transmits the current it has received, it will receive another, and the more complete and swift its transmission, the more it will

be brought into contact with a great number of forces or things for it to use or manifest. And so, little by little, by taking and keeping nothing for itself, it can become aware of everything by communing with everything…..

If we consider ourselves as cells of an immense living organism, we shall immediately understand that a cell, which is dependent for its own life on the life of the whole and can separate itself from it only at the risk of destruction, does in fact have its own special part to play in the whole. But this role is precisely what is most profoundly spontaneous in our being; no egoistic assertion of our personality is needed to discover it. On the contrary, the more fully we give ourselves to an impersonal action, the more this role will gain in strength and clarity within us. But this role is precisely what constitutes our true individuality, since it is our own special way of manifesting the Divine Essence, which is one in everything and in all.

CWM Vol 2. pp. 56 – 57. May  21, 1912.

 

* * *

But according to what people tell me who listen to the radio or read the newspapers (none of which I do), the whole world is undergoing an action … which for the moment is unsettling. It seems that the number of apparently “mad” people is increasing considerably. In America, for instance, all the youth seem to be seized with a kind of curious giddiness, which for reasonable people would be disquieting, but which is a sure indication that an uncommon Force is at work. It is the disruption of all habits and all rules – it’s good.

For the moment, it’s a bit “strange” (!), but it’s necessary.

Above all, one should be trusting.

The big difficulty, in Matter, is that the material consciousness, that is to say, the mind in Matter, was formed under the pressure of difficulties – difficulties, obstacles, suffering, struggle. It was, so to speak, “worked out” by those things, and that gave it an imprint almost of pessimism and defeatism, which is certainly the greatest obstacle.

This is the thing I am conscious of in my own work.

The most material consciousness, the most material mind, is in the habit of having to be whipped into acting, into making effort and moving forward, otherwise it’s tames. So then, if it imagines, it always imagines the difficulty – always the obstacle, always the opposition, always the difficulty … and that slows down the movement terribly. So it needs very concrete, very tangible and VERY REPEATED experiences to be convinced that behind all its difficulties, there is a Grace; behind all its failures, there is the Victory; behind all its pain and suffering and contradictions, there is Ananda. Of all the efforts, this is the one that has to be repeated most often: you are constantly forced to stop, put an end to, drive away, convert a pessimism, a doubt or a totally defeatist imagination.

I am speaking exclusively of the material consciousness.

Naturally, when something comes from above, it goes vrrm! like that, so everything falls silent and waits and stops. But … I well understand why the Truth, the Truth-Consciousness, doesn’t express itself more constantly: it’s because the difference between its Power and the power of Matter is so great that the power of Matter is as if canceled – but then, that doesn’t mean Transformation: it means a crushing. It doesn’t mean a transformation. That’s what used to be done in the past: they would crush the entire material consciousness under the weight of a Power that nothing can fight, nothing can oppose; and then they would feel, “Here we are! It’s happened!” It hadn’t happened at all! Because the rest down below remained as it was, unchanged.

Now, there is a will to give it the full possibility of changing; well, for that, it has to be given free play, without bringing in a crushing Power – this I understand very well. But it has the obstinacy of stupidity. How many times at the moment of a suffering, for instance, when a suffering is there, acute, and you feel it’s going to become intolerable, there is in the cells a little inner movement of Call: the cells send out their S.O.S. Everything stops, the suffering disappears. And often (now it’s becoming more and more like that), the suffering is replaced by a feeling of blissful well-being. But the first reaction of that stupid material consciousness, its first reaction: “Ha! Let’s see how long it’s going to last.” So, naturally, with that movement, it demolishes everything. Everything has to be started again.

I think that for the effect to be lasting (not to be, as I said, a miraculous effect that comes, dazzles, and goes away), for it to be truly the effect of a TRANSFORMATION, one has to be very, very, VERY patient. We are dealing with a very slow, very heavy, very obstinate consciousness, which cannot move on rapidly, which holds on tight to what it has, to what has seemed to it to be a “truth”: even if it is a very small truth, that consciousness holds on tight to it and doesn’t want to budge anymore. So to cure that takes a great deal of patience – a great, great deal of patience.

The whole thing is to endure – endure and endure.

Sri Aurobindo said it several times, in various forms: Endure and you will conquer…. Bear – bear and you will vanquish.

The triumph belongs to the most enduring.

And then (Mother points to her own body), this seems to be the lesson for these aggregates (bodies, you know, seem to me to be simply aggregates). And as long as there is, behind, a will to keep this together for some reason or other, it stays together, but … These last few days (yesterday or the day before), there was this: a sort of completely decentralized consciousness (I am always referring to the physical consciousness, of course, not at all to the higher consciousness), a decentralized consciousness that happened to be here, there, there, in this body, that body (in what people call “this person” and “that person,” but that notion doesn’t quite exist anymore), and then there was a kind of intervention of a universal consciousness in the cells, as though it were asking these cells what their reason was for wanting to retain this combination (if we may say so) or this aggregate … while in fact making them understand or feel the difficulties that come, for example, from the number of years, wear and tear, external difficulties – from all the deterioration caused by friction, wear and tear. But they seemed to be perfectly indifferent to that! … The response of the cells was interesting enough, in the sense that they seemed to attach importance ONLY TO THE CAPACITY TO REMAIN IN CONSCIOUS CONTACT WITH THE HIGHER FORCE. It was like an aspiration (not formulated in words, naturally), and like a … what in English they call yearning, a longing for that Contact with the divine Force, the Force of Harmony, the Force of Truth and … the Force of Love, and [the cells’ response was] that because of that, they valued the present combination.

It was an altogether different point of view.

I am expressing it with the mind’s words because there’s no other way, but it was in the field of sensation rather than anything else. And it was very clear – very clear and very continuous, without fluctuations. And then, at that moment, the universal Consciousness intervened, saying, “But here are the obstacles….” And those obstacles were clearly seen: that kind of pessimism of the mind (a formless mind that’s beginning to be born and organized in these cells). But the cells themselves didn’t care a whit! To them it was like a disease, they said, “Oh, that …” (the word distorts, but it was felt as a sort of “accident” or an “inescapable disease or something that DID NOT FORM A NORMAL PART of their development and had been forced on them), “Oh, that, we don’t care about it!” And then, at that moment, a sort of LOWER power to act on that mind was born; it gave the cells a MATERIAL power to separate themselves from that and reject it.

From that point of view, it was interesting. And it was after that that there was the turning point I told you about: a turning point in things as a whole, as if something truly decisive had taken place. There was a sort of trusting joy: “Ah! We’re free from that nightmare.”

Usually, I don’t say anything until it’s firmly established, because … But anyway, that’s how it was.

And at the same time, a relief – a physical relief – as if the air were easier to breathe…. Yes, it was a bit like being shut inside a shell – a suffocating shell – and … at any rate, an opening has been made in it. You can breathe. I don’t know if it’s more than that, but at any rate, something has been as if torn open, and you can breathe.

It was a totally, totally material and cellular action.

But as soon as you descend into that realm, the realm of the cells and even of the cells’ constitution, how much less heavy it seems! That sort of heaviness of Matter disappears: it becomes fluid and vibrant again. Which would tend to show that the heaviness, the thickness, the inertia, the immobility, is something that has been ADDED ON, it’s not an essential quality of Matter – it’s false Matter, Matter as we think or feel it, but not Matter itself as it is.

That was very perceptible. (silence)

The best one can do is not to have any prejudices or preconceived ideas or principles – oh, moral principles, fixed codes of conduct, “what must be done” and “what must not be done,” and preconceived ideas with regard to morals, with regard to progress, and then all the social and mental conventions – there’s no obstacle worse than that. I know people who wasted dozens of years trying to overcome one of those mental constructions!

If one can be like this, open – truly open in a simplicity … you know, the simplicity of ignorance that knows it’s ignorant … like this(gesture, hands open), ready to receive all that comes … then, perhaps, something will happen.

Naturally, the thirst for progress, the thirst to know, the thirst to transform yourself, and above all the thirst for Love and Truth – if you can keep that, then you go faster. Really a thirst, a need, you know, a need…. All the rest doesn’t matter, what you need is THAT.

(silence)

To cling to what you think you know, to cling to what you feel, to cling to what you like, to cling to your habits, to cling to your so-called needs, to cling to the world as it is, that’s what binds you hand and foot. You must undo all that, one thing after the other. Undo all the bonds.

This has been said thousands of times, but people go on doing the same thing…. Even those who are, you know, very eloquent, who preach this to others, they CLING – they cling to their own way of seeing, their own way of feeling, their own habit of progress, which to them is the only possible one.

No more bonds – free, free, free, free! Always ready to change everything, except ONE thing: to aspire. That thirst.

I quite understand: some people don’t like the idea of a “Divine” because it immediately gets mixed up with all the European or Western conceptions (which are dreadful), and so it makes their lives a little bit more complicated – but we don’t need that! The “something” we need, the Perfection we need, the Light we need, the Love we need, the Truth we need, the supreme Perfection we need – and that’s all. The formulas … the fewer the formulas, the better. A need, a need, a need … that THE Thing alone can satisfy, nothing else, no half measure. That alone. And then, move on! Move on! Your path will be your path, it doesn’t matter; any path, any path whatever, even the follies of today’s American youth can be a path, it doesn’t matter.

October 7, 1964

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