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At the Feet of The Mother

X. 2. LETTERS. Letters to Barin (I)

Pondicherry
Date unfixable [April 1920]

Dear Barin,

I have received your three letters (and another one today), but up till now I have not managed to write a reply. That now I sit to write is itself a miracle, because I write letters once in a blue moon, especially letters in Bengali. This is something I have not done even once in the last five or six years. If I can finish the letter and post it, the miracle will be complete.

First, about your yoga. You want to give me the charge of your yoga, and I am willing to accept it. But this means giving it to Him who, openly or secretly, is moving me and you by His divine power. And you should know that the inevitable result of this will be that you will have to follow the path of yoga which He has given me, the path I call the Integral Yoga. This is not exactly what we did in Alipur jail, or what you did during your imprisonment in the Andamans. What I started with, what Lele gave me, what I did in jail — all that was a searching for the path, a circling around looking here and there, touching, taking up, handling, testing this and that of all the old partial yogas, getting a more or less complete experience of one and then going off in pursuit of another. Afterwards, when I came to Pondicherry, this unsteady condition ceased. The indwelling Guru of the world indicated my path to me completely, its full theory, the ten limbs of the body of the yoga. These ten years he has been making me develop it in experience; it is not yet finished. It may take another two years. And so long as it is not finished, I probably will not be able to return to Bengal. Pondicherry is the appointed place for the fulfilment of my yoga — except indeed for one part of it, that is, the work. The centre of my work is Bengal, but I hope its circumference will be the whole of India and the whole world.

Later I will write to you what my path of yoga is. Or, if you come here, I will tell you. In these matters the spoken word is better than the written. For the present I can only say that its fundamental principle is to make a synthesis and unity of integral knowledge, integral works and integral devotion, and, raising this above the mental level to the supramental level of the Vijnana, to give it a complete perfection. The defect of the old yoga was that, knowing the mind and reason and knowing the Spirit, it remained satisfied with spiritual experience in the mind. But the mind can grasp only the fragmentary; it cannot completely seize the infinite, the undivided. The mind’s way to seize it is through the trance of samadhi, the liberation of moksha, the extinction of nirvana, and so forth. It has no other way. Someone here or there may indeed obtain this featureless liberation, but what is the gain? The Spirit, the Self, the Divine is always there. What the Divine wants is for man to embody Him here, in the individual and in the collectivity — to realise God in life. The old system of yoga could not synthesis or unify the Spirit and life; it dismissed the world as an illusion or a transient play of God. The result has been a diminution of the power of life and the decline of India. The Gita says: utsīdeyurime lokā na kuryāṁ karma cedaham[1], “These peoples would crumble to pieces if I did not do actions.” Verily “these peoples” of India have gone down to ruin. What kind of spiritual perfection is it if a few ascetics, renunciates, holy-men and realised beings attain liberation, if a few devotees dance in a frenzy of love, god-intoxication and bliss, and an entire race, devoid of life and intelligence, sinks to the depths of darkness and inertia? First one must have all sorts of partial experience on the mental level, flooding the mind with spiritual delight and illuminating it with spiritual light; afterwards one climbs upwards. Unless one makes this upward climb, this climb to the supramental level, it is not possible to know the ultimate secret of world-existence; the riddle of the world is not solved. There, the cosmic Ignorance which consists of the duality of Self and world, Spirit and life, is abolished. Then one need no longer look on the world as an illusion: the world is an eternal play of God, the perpetual manifestation of the Self. Then is it possible fully to know and realise God — samagraṁ māṁ jñātuṁ praviṣṭum, “to know and enter into Me completely”, as the Gita says. The physical body, life, mind and reason, Supermind, the Bliss-existence — these are the Spirit’s five levels. The higher we climb, the nearer comes a state of highest perfection of man’s spiritual evolution. When we rise to the Supermind, it becomes easy to rise to the Bliss. The status of indivisible and infinite Bliss becomes firmly established — not only in the timeless Supreme Reality, but in the body, in the world, in life. Integral existence, integral consciousness, integral bliss blossom out and take form in life. This endeavour is the central clue of my yogic path, its fundamental idea.

But it is not an easy thing. After fifteen years I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when the process is complete, there is not the least doubt that God through me will give this supramental perfection to others with less difficulty. Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for the fulfilment of my work. What is to happen will happen in God’s appointed time. I am not disposed to run like a madman and plunge into the field of action on the strength of my little ego. Even if my work were not fulfilled, I would not be disturbed. This work is not mine, it is God’s. I listen to no one else’s call. When I am moved by God, I will move.

I know that Bengal is not ready. The spiritual flood which has come is for the most part a new form of the old. It is not a real change. But it too was needed. Bengal has been awakening within itself all the old yogas in order to exhaust their ingrained tendencies, extract their essence and with it fertilise the soil. First it was the turn of Vedanta: the doctrine of non-dualism, asceticism, the Illusionism of Shankara, and so forth. Now, according to your description, it is the turn of the Vaishnava religion: the divine Play, love, losing oneself in the delight of spiritual emotion. All this is very old and unsuitable for the new age. It cannot last, for such excitement has no lasting power. But the Vaishnava way has this merit, that it keeps a certain connection between God and the world and gives a meaning to life. But because it is a partial thing, the connection and the meaning are not complete. The sectarianism you have noticed was inevitable. This is the law of the mind: to take one part and call it the whole, excluding all the other parts. The realised man who comes with an idea keeps, even if he leans on the part, some awareness of the whole — although he may not be able to give it form. But his disciples are not able to do this, because the form is lacking. They are tying up their bundles — let them. When God descends completely on the country, the bundles will open of themselves. All these things are signs of incompleteness and immaturity. I am not disturbed by them. Let the force of spirituality have its play in the country in whatever way and through as many sects as there may be. Afterwards we shall see. This is the infancy, the embryonic state, even, of the new age, just a hint, not yet the beginning.

Then about Motilal’s group.[2] What Motilal got from me is the first foundation, the base of my yoga — surrender, equality etc. He has been working on these things; the work is not complete. One special feature of this yoga is that until the realisation has been raised to a somewhat elevated level, the base does not become solid. Motilal now wants to rise higher. In the beginning he had a number of old fixed notions. Some have dropped off, some still remain. At first it was the notion of asceticism — he wanted to create an Aurobindo order of monks.[3] Now his mind has admitted that asceticism is not needed, but the old impression in his vital being has still not been thoroughly wiped out. This is why he advocates renunciation and asceticism while remaining a part of the life of the world. He has realised the necessity of renouncing desire, but he has not fully been able to grasp how the renunciation of desire can be reconciled with the experience of bliss. Moreover, he took to my yoga — as is natural to the Bengali nature — not so much from the side of knowledge as from the side of devotion and service. Knowledge has blossomed out a little; but much more is yet to come, and the fog of sentimentality has not been dissipated, though it is not so thick as it used to be. He has not been able to get beyond the limitations of the sattwic nature, the temperament of the moral man. The ego is still there. In a word, his development is progressing, it is not complete. But I am in no hurry. I am letting him develop according to his own nature. I do not want to fashion everybody in the same mould. The real thing will be the same in all, but it will take many aspects and many forms. Everyone grows from within; I do not wish to model from outside. Motilal has got the fundamental thing; all the rest will come.

You ask, “Why is Motilal tying up his bundle?” I will explain. First, some people have gathered round him who are in contact with him and with me. What he received from me, they too are receiving. Secondly, I wrote a small article in Prabartak[4] called “About Society”[5] in which I spoke about the sangha or community. I do not want a community based on division. I want a community based upon the Spirit and giving form to the unity of the Spirit. This idea Motilal has taken up under the name deva-sangha (divine community). I have spoken in my English writings of the “divine life”. Nolini has translated this as deva-jīvana. The community of those who want the deva-jīvana is the devasaṅgha. Motilal has begun an attempt to establish this kind of community in seed-form in Chandernagore and to spread it across the country. If the shadow of the fragile ego falls upon this sort of endeavour, the community turns into a sect. The idea may easily creep in that the community which will be there in the end is this very one, that everything will be the circumference of this sole centre, that all who are outside it are not of the fold or, even if they are, that they have gone astray, because they are not in accord with our current line of thinking. If Motilal is making this mistake — he may have some tendency to make it, though I do not know whether he has done so or not — it will not do much harm, the mistake will pass. Much work has been done and continues to be done for us by Motilal and his little group — something nobody else has been able to do up till now. The divine power is working in him, there is no doubt about that.

You will perhaps ask, “What is the need of a sangha? Let me be free and fill every vessel. Let all become one, let all take place within that vast unity.” All this is true, but it is only one side of the truth. Our business is not with the formless Spirit only; we have to direct life as well. Without shape and form, life has no effective movement. It is the formless that has taken form, and that assumption of name and form is not a caprice of Maya. The positive necessity of form has brought about the assumption of form. We do not want to exclude any of the world’s activities. Politics, trade, social organisation, poetry, art, literature — all will remain. But all will be given a new life, a new form. Why did I leave politics? Because our politics is not the genuine Indian thing; it is a European import, an imitation of European ways. But it too was needed. You and I also engaged in politics of the European style. If we had not done so, the country would not have risen, and we would not have had the experience or obtained a full development. Even now there is a need for it, not so much in Bengal as in the other provinces of India. But now the time has come to take hold of the substance instead of extending the shadow. We have to awaken the true soul of India and to do everything in accordance with it. For the last ten years I have been silently pouring my influence into this foreign political vessel, and there has been some result. I can continue to do this wherever necessary. But if I took up that work openly again, associating with the political leaders and working with them, it would be supporting an alien law of being and a false political life. People now want to spiritualise politics — Gandhi, for instance. But he can’t get hold of the right way. What is Gandhi doing? Making a hodgepodge called satyāgraha out of “Ahimsa parama dharma[6], Jainism, hartal, passive resistance, etc.; bringing a sort of Indianised Tolstoyism into the country. The result — if there is any lasting result — will be a sort of Indianised Bolshevism. I have no objection to his work; let each one act according to his own inspiration. But it is not the real thing. If the spiritual force is poured into these impure forms — the wine of the spirit into these unbaked vessels — the imperfect things will break apart and spill and waste the wine. Or else the spiritual force will evaporate and only the impure form remain. It is the same in every field of activity. I could use my spiritual influence; it would give strength to those who received it and they would work with great energy. But the force would be expended in shaping the image of a monkey and setting it up in the temple of Shiva. If the monkey is brought to life it may grow powerful, and in the guise of the devotee Hanuman do much work for Rama — so long as the life and strength remain. But in the temple of India we want not Hanuman but the Godhead, the Avatar, Rama himself.

I can associate with everyone, but only in order to draw them all onto the true path, while keeping the spirit and form of our ideal intact. If that is not done we will lose our way and the true work will not be accomplished. If we are spread out everywhere as individuals, something no doubt will be done; if we are spread out everywhere in the form of a saṅgha, a hundred times more will be accomplished. But the time has not yet come for this. If we try to give it form hastily, it will not be the exact thing I want. The saṅgha will at first be in a diffused form. Those who have accepted the ideal, although bound together, will work in different places. Afterwards, bound into a saṅgha with a form like a spiritual commune, they will shape all their activities according to the Self and according to the needs of the age. Not a fixed and rigid form like that of the old Aryan society, not a stagnant backwater, but a free form that can spread itself out like the sea with its multitudinous waves — engulfing this, inundating that, absorbing all — and as this continues, a spiritual community will be established. This is my present idea; it is not yet fully developed. What is being developed is what came to me in my meditations at Alipur. I shall see what shape it finally takes later. The result is in God’s hands — let his will be done. Motilal’s little group is just one experiment. He is looking for the means to engage in trade, industry, agriculture, etc. through his saṅgha. I am giving force and watching. There may be some materials for the future and some useful suggestions to be found in it. Do not judge it by its current merits and demerits or its present limitations. It is now in a wholly initial and experimental stage.

to be continued.

  1. The Gita (3.24) []
  2. The Prabartak Sangha of Chandernagore. West Bengal, founded by Motilal Roy, an early associate of Sri Aurobindo.[]
  3. Today I have received a letter from Motilal. He writes that he never had this idea, he was misunderstood. [Sri Aurobindo’s note.] []
  4. A magazine published by Motilal Roy’s Prabartak Sangha.[]
  5. Presently published Under the title “The Chariot of Jagannath” (Jagannather Rath). []
  6. “Non-violence is the highest law.”[]

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