Living Words (5): The Needed Wideness and Plasticity

In other words, we must have a synthetic understanding with as total a vision as possible of their complete vision and yet be plastic enough to admit that all that we understand today is nothing compared to what we will understand tomorrow and the day after. This wideness and plasticity are most needed when we deal with their writings that cover every aspect of life from every angle of vision without losing, even for a moment, the total picture. It is as if a Master-artist was filling a vast canvas with a meticulous eye on each detail but all the time keeping the full picture and every other detail in it constantly in his universal mind. Everything is there but in its just place and right proportion. If we take the word or the sentence out of this totality and put it as an exclusive truth then it turns into a falsehood by such misplacement. A certain understanding and formulation may have been needed for us at a certain point of time and a certain stage of development but if we do not constantly enlarge our vision and scope then this understanding begins to get petrified and turns the high spiritual truths contained within a body of words into a fixed and narrow formula or a dogmatic religion. Or worse still by repeating it too often, especially without an effort to live it, we turn the living body of Truth into a dead and sterile corpse whose carcass we carry as Shiva carrying Sati on his shoulders until Vishnu breaks the dead body into pieces so that Sati may be reborn as Parvati, Sati must pass through the flames of sacrifice to be thus reborn. So too, the word must pass through the flames of our inner aspiration to reveal its inmost truth. When we thus make an effort, we shall ourselves see how Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s Works are arranged in a hierarchical manner. There is a context to everything, a context at once inner and outer; and a purpose, a purpose that goes beyond mere understanding and living. It is to lead us to the heart of Love that the Divine Incarnate embodies. Each of Sri Aurobindo’s Works is a step of the Infinite Shakti that leads us closer and closer to Her and it is only when we have found Her that the real truth behind the luminous words is revealed to us by Her Grace. It is Her Grace that leads us to the vast and luminous heart of the Lord where the word stands self-revealed. This after all is the real, if not the only, purpose of his words, – to take us closer to the Divine and His workings in the creation and all these countless revelations to lead us to Her Feet where knowledge rests in a blissful Silence. This is the grand revelation towards which the all-powerful Word of the Avatar leads us.

Indeed, it is only to the degree that we grow close to Her that we can truly understand. Words of Sri Aurobindo are like illuminated stairs that lead us towards Her. Of course, the world experiences are also a staircase that takes us to Her but it is a dark and dangerous staircase. The ascension through the Word is swifter and safer provided we read it with the fire of aspiration to grow closer to the Divine. But if we get lost in mere outer meanings and pedagogy and analysis of the structure and the sentence then we shall be like the man who kept staring and appreciating a mountain from the foothills but never really tasted the bliss of rising into the skies which is where the mountains were meant to lead him. The more we ascend, the better we understand the mountain, in its totality and its specific details. The same is true of Sri Aurobindo’s books. The more we read about a given subject from different works of his, the better we understand the many-sided and all-encompassing vision contained within them. The more we put into practice what we read, the more we grow closer to the intrinsic sense of the Word rather than its outer meaning. The more we let the power within the Words penetrate deeper into the different layers of our consciousness, the more they do the work of illumining and awakening different parts of our being to the greater Truth-Light. Sound and sense are our mind’s contact with the Word. The soul however opens out to the state of consciousness contained within it and grows by this strengthening wine ‘born from the presses of Light’.  The Mother reminds us:

There is a world of ideas without form and it is there that you must enter if you want to seize what is behind the words. So long as you have to draw your understanding from the forms of words, you are likely to fall into much confusion about the true sense; but if in a silence of your mind you can rise into the world from which ideas descend to take form, at once the real understanding comes. If you are to be sure of understanding one another, you must be able to understand in silence. There is a condition in which your minds are so well attuned and harmonised together that one perceives the thought of the other without any necessity of words. But if there is not this attunement, there will always be some deformation of your meaning, because to what you speak the other mind supplies its own significance. I use a word in a certain sense or shade of its sense; you are accustomed to put into it another sense or shade. Then, evidently, you will understand, not my exact meaning in it, but what the word means to you. This is true not of speech only, but of reading also. If you want to understand a book with a deep teaching in it, you must be able to read it in the mind’s silence; you must wait and let the expression go deep inside you into the region where words are no more and from there come slowly back to your exterior consciousness and its surface understanding. But if you let the words jump at your external mind and try to adapt and adjust the two, you will have entirely missed their real sense and power. There can be no perfect understanding unless you are in union with the unexpressed mind that is behind the centre of expression. [CWM 3: 64 – 65]

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