Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is a complex and many-sided movement thereby often making it difficult to comprehend. Of course as in all yogas, here too, the true nature of the Yoga is revealed by practice and not by reading books alone. We look for some simple easy-to-do technique, one single book or method that can help us through the difficult journey of yoga. In this talk we discuss some of these issues and method of practice of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga, especially the help of Japa and Mantra.
Words of the Mother
When you follow the ascending path, the work is relatively easy. I had already covered this path by the beginning of the century and had established a constant relationship with the Supreme – That which is beyond the Personal and the gods and all the outward expressions of the Divine, but also beyond the Absolute Impersonal. It’s something you cannot describe; you must experience it. And this is what must be brought down into Matter. Such is the descending path, the one I began with Sri Aurobindo; and there, the work is immense.
The thing can still be brought down as far as the mental and vital planes (although Sri Aurobindo said that thousands of lifetimes would be needed merely to bring it down to the mental plane, unless one practiced a perfect surrender’). With Sri Aurobindo, we went down below Matter, right into the Subconscient and even into the Inconscient. But after the descent comes the transformation, and when you come down to the body, when you attempt to make it take one step forward – oh, not even a real step, just a little step! – everything starts grating; it’s like stepping on an anthill … And yet the presence, the help of the supreme Mother, is there constantly; thus you realize that for ordinary men such a task is impossible, or else millions of lives would be needed – but in truth, unless the work is done for them and the sadhana of the body done for the entire earth consciousness, they will never achieve the physical transformation, or else it will be so remote that it is better not even to speak of it. But if they open themselves, if they give themselves over in an integral surrender, the work can be done for them – they have only to let it be done.
The path is difficult. And yet this body is full of good will; it is filled with the psychic in every one of its cells. It’s like a child. The other day, it cried out quite spontaneously, ‘O my Sweet Lord, give me the time to realize You!’ It did not ask to hasten the process, it did not ask to lighten its work; it only asked for enough TIME to do the work. ‘Give me the time!’
I could have begun this work on the body thirty years ago, but I was constantly caught up in this harassing ashram life. It took this illness’ to enable me truly to begin doing the sadhana of the body. It does not mean that thirty years were wasted, for it is likely that had I been able to start this work thirty years ago, it would have been premature. The consciousness of the others also had to develop – the two are linked, the individual progress and the collective progress, and one cannot advance if the other does not advance.
I have also come to realize that for this sadhana of the body, the mantra is essential. Sri Aurobindo gave none; he said that one should be able to do all the work without having to resort to external means. Had he reached the point where we are now, he would have seen that the purely psychological method is inadequate and that a japa is necessary, because only japa has a direct action on the body. So I had to find the method all alone, to find my mantra by myself. But now that things are ready, I have done ten years of work in a few months. That is the difficulty, it requires time …
And I repeat my mantra constantly – when I am awake and even when I sleep. I say it even when I am getting dressed, when I eat, when I work, when I speak with others; it is there, just behind in the background, all the time, all the time.
In fact, you can immediately see the difference between those who have a mantra and those who don’t. With those who have no mantra, even if they have a strong habit of meditation or concentration, something around them remains hazy and vague. Whereas the japa imparts to those who practice it a kind of precision, a kind of solidity: an armature. They become galvanized, as it were.
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I would like to ask you something about my japa34…. Do you feel it’s getting me anywhere? Is there any sense to it?
That’s what I have been studying these past two days – not for you in particular, but the general effect of japa, the reason for it in the organization of one’s life…. I can’t say I have made any discoveries (maybe for myself, I don’t know); but my study is not on higher levels, it’s right here.
It would take too long to give the details; I can summarize, but I don’t want to make a doctrine, and for it to be living it’s bound to be long.
For ordinary people, all other bodily activities are used for personal pleasure and benefit. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has given his body to serve the Divine, so that the Divine may use it for His work and perhaps, as Sri Aurobindo said, for His joy – although given the present state of Matter and the body, that seems to me unlikely or at best very intermittent and partial, because this body is much more a field of misery than a field of joy. (None of this is based on speculation, but on personal experience – I am relating my personal experience.) But with work, it’s different: when the body is at work, it’s in full swing. That’s its joy, its need – to exist only to serve Him. To exist only to serve. And of course, to reduce maintenance to a bare minimum while trying to find a way for the Divine to participate in the very restricted, limited and meager possibilities of joy this maintenance may give. To associate the Divine with all those movements and things, like keeping clean, sleeping (although sleep is different, it’s already a lot more interesting); but especially with personal hygiene, eating and other absolutely indispensable things, the attempt is to associate them with the Divine Presence so that they may be as much an expression of divine joy as possible. (This is realized to a certain extent.)
Now where does japa fit into all this?
Japa, like meditation, is a procedure – apparently the most active and effective procedure – for joining, as much as possible, the Divine Presence to the bodily substance. It is the magic of sound, you see.
Naturally, if there’s also an awareness of the idea behind it, if one does japa as a very active CONSCIOUS invocation, then its effects are greatly multiplied. But the basis is the magic of sound. This is a fact of experience, and it’s absolutely true. The sound OM, for instance, awakens very special vibrations (there are other such sounds as well, but of course that one is the most powerful of all).
It is an attempt to divinize material substance.
From another, almost identical point of view, it fills the physical atmosphere with the Divine Presence. So time spent in japa is time consecrated to helping the material substance enter into more intimate rapport with the Divine.
And if one adds to this, as I do, a mantric program, that is, a sort of prayer or invocation, a program for both personal development and helping the collective, then it becomes a truly active work. Then there’s also what I call “external” work: contact with others, reading and answering letters, seeing and speaking to people, and finally all the activities having to do with the organization and running of the Ashram (in meditation this work becomes worldwide, but physically, materially, it is limited for the moment to the Ashram).
In the course of my observation, I also saw the position of X and people like him, who practically spend their lives doing japa, plus meditation, puja,35 ceremonies (I am talking only about sincere people, not fakers). Well, that’s their way of working for the world, of serving the Divine, and it seems the best way to them – perhaps even the only way – but it’s a question of mental belief. In any case, it’s obvious that even a bit of … not exactly puja, but some sort of ceremony that you set yourself to do – habitual gestures symbolizing and expressing a particular inner state – can also be a help and a way of offering yourself and relating to the Divine and thus serving the Divine. I feel it’s important looked at in this way – not from the traditional viewpoint, I can’t stand that traditional viewpoint; I understand it, but it seems to me like putting a brake on true self-giving to the Divine. I am speaking of SELF-IMPOSED japa and rules (or, if someone gives you the japa, rules you accept with all your heart and adhere to). These self-imposed rules should be followed as a gesture of love, as a way of saying to the Divine, “I love You.” Do you see what I mean? Like arranging flowers in a certain way, burning incense, dozens of little things like that, made beautiful because of what is put into them – it is a form of self-giving.
Now, I think that doing japa with the will and the idea of getting something out of it spoils it a little. You spoil it. I don’t much like it when somebody says, “Do this and you will get that.” It’s true – it’s true, but it’s a bit like baiting a fish. I don’t much like it.
Let it be your own manner of serving the Divine, of relating to Him, loving Him, of joining Him to your physical life, being close to Him and drawing Him close to you – that way it’s beautiful. Each time you say the Word, let it be an invocation, let it be like the recitation of a word of love; then it’s beautiful.
That’s how I see it.
And so according to your mission in the world, you have to find for yourself the right proportion between this work and external, intellectual or organizational work; and then there are the body’s needs, which can be met in the same way, trying to make it possible for the Lord to take delight in them. I have seen this for trivial things: for example, making your bath a pleasant experience, or caring for your hair, or whatever (of course, it’s been a long time since there have been any of those stupid, petty ideas of personal pleasure), so that these things aren’t done indifferently, out of habit and necessity, but … with a touch of beauty, a touch of charm and delight for the Lord.
There, that’s all….
Mon petit … (Mother gazes a long time at Satprem).
For me, you know, japa means a moment when all physical life is EXCLUSIVELY for the Divine. A moment when nothing but the Divine exists – every single cell of the body, each second, is EXCLUSIVELY for the Divine, there is nothing but the Divine.
When you succeed in doing that, it’s good.
Japa shouldn’t become so exclusive that it’s done twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, because then it’s equivalent to asceticism – but there should be a good dose of it.
It’s almost the one luxury of life – that’s how it feels to me. The luxury of That alone, nothing but that divine vibration around you, within you, everywhere. Nothing but the divine vibration.