For millions of years man has wandered through forests and mountains in search of Something that would bring Perfection to his life. He has tried various ways, devices various means that could help him come out of the narrow strip of mental consciousness in which he moves hanging between an eternal “Yes” and an eternal “No”. The eternal ‘Yes’ is the plane of Absolute Freedom, of Omnipotent Knowledge and an Omniscient Will. The eternal ‘No’ is the fixed rigid mechanical determinism of physical and material Nature to which he finds himself bound, unable to free himself of its heavy load of Ignorance and Unconsciousness. The truth is that there is no ineluctable law, only habits that have evolved in the evolutionary process when a new plane has tried to emerge out of the physical world into which the Absolute Consciousness has plunged Itself. Man with his mind studies these relations and associations that are nothing more than processes of evolutionary adaptation, one way or the other. He tries to make the best out of this knowledge. But now, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have come to change the ‘law’. They have come to introduce a New element in the determinism of earth and its laws that would create an absolutely new poise and discover new and better ways of adaptation than what mere mental knowledge, however high may create. This new adaptation is tilted towards a complete hold of the Spirit over Matter, so that the Spirit decides how matter should respond and the Matter is completely responsive to the Spiritual will. The only thing that counts towards this is the Grace Above and the call and response from our soul and nature below. All the rest are temporary intermediary causes. The preset focuses upon these issues of Karma, Grace and the power of Prayer.
Words of Sri Aurobindo
I spoke of a strong central and, if possible, complete faith because your attitude seemed to be that you only cared for the full response that is, realisation, the presence, regarding all else as quite unsatisfactory, and your prayer was not bringing you that. But prayer in itself does not usually bring that at once only if there is a burning faith at the centre or a complete faith in all the parts of the being. That does not mean that those whose faith is not so strong or surrender complete cannot arrive, but usually they have at first to go by small steps and to face the difficulties of their nature until by perseverance or tapasya they make a sufficient opening. Even a faltering faith and a slow and partial surrender have their force and their result, otherwise only the rare few could do sadhana at all. What I mean by the central faith is a faith in the soul or the central being behind, a faith which is there even when the mind doubts and the vital despairs and the physical wants to collapse, and after the attack is over reappears and pushes on the path again. It may be strong and bright, it may be pale and in appearance weak, but if it persists each time in going on, it is the real thing. Fits of depression and darkness and despair are a tradition in the path of sadhana in all yogas oriental or occidental they seem to have been the rule. I know all about them myself – but my experience has led me to the perception that they are an unnecessary tradition and could be dispensed with if one chose. That is why whenever they come in you or others I try to lift up before them the gospel of faith. If still they come, one has to get through them as soon as possible and get back into the sun. Your dream of the sea was a perfectly true one in the end the storm and swell do not prevent the arrival of the state of Grace in the sadhak and with it the arrival of the Grace itself. That, I suppose is what something in you is always asking for – the supramental miracle of Grace, something that is impatient of the demand for tapasya and self-perfection and long labour. Well, it can come, it has come to several here after years upon years of flat failure and difficulty or terrible struggles. But it comes usually in that way – as opposed to a slowly developing Grace – after much difficulty and not at once. If you go on asking for it in spite of the apparent failure of response, it is sure to come.
Sri Aurobindo: Letters on Yoga, Vol 2, p. 575
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I should like to say something about the Divine Grace for you seem to think it should be something like a Divine Reason acting upon lines not very different from those of human intelligence. But it is not that. Also it is not a universal Divine Compassion either, acting impartially on all who approach it and acceding to all prayers. It does not select the righteous and reject the sinner. The Divine Grace came to aid the persecutor (Saul of Tarsus), it came to St. Augustine the profligate, to Jagai and Madhai of infamous fame, to Bilwamangal and many others whose conversion might well scandalise the puritanism of the human moral intelligence; but it can come to the righteous also curing them of their self-righteousness and leading to a purer consciousness beyond these things. It is a power that is superior to any rule, even to the Cosmic Law for all spiritual seers have distinguished between the Law and Grace. Yet it is not indiscriminate only it has a discrimination of its own which sees things and persons and the right times and seasons with another vision than that of the Mind or any other normal Power. A state of Grace is prepared in the individual often behind thick veils by means not calculable by the mind and when the state of Grace comes, then the Grace itself acts. There are these three powers: (1) The Cosmic Law, of Karma or what else; (2) the Divine Compassion acting on as many as it can reach through the nets of the Law and giving them their chance; (3) the Divine Grace which acts more incalculably but also more irresistibly than the others. The only question is whether there is something behind all the anomalies of life which can respond to the call and open itself with whatever difficulty till it is ready for the illumination of the Divine Grace and that something must be not a mental and vital movement but an inner somewhat which can well be seen by the inner eye. If it is there and when it becomes active in front, then the Compassion can act, though the full action of the Grace may still wait attending the decisive decision or change; for this may be postponed to a future hour, because some portion or element of the being may still come between, something that is not yet ready to receive.
But why allow anything to come in the way between you and the Divine, any idea, any incident? When you are in full aspiration and joy, let nothing count, nothing be of any importance except the Divine and your aspiration. If one wants the Divine quickly, absolutely, entirely, that must be the spirit of approach, absolute, all-engrossing, making that the one point with which nothing else must interfere.
What value have mental ideas about the Divine, ideas about what he should be, how he should act, how he should not act – they can only come in the way. Only the Divine himself matters. When your consciousness embraces the Divine, then you can know what the Divine is, not before. Krishna is Krishna, one does not care what he did or did not do: only to see him, meet him, feel the Light, the Presence, the Love and Ananda is what matters. So it is always for the spiritual aspiration – it is the law of the spiritual life.
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“The ordinary action of the Divine is a constant intervention within the actual law of things” – that may or may not be but is not usually called the Divine Grace. The Divine Grace is something not calculable, not bound by anything the intellect can fix as a condition, v though ordinarily some call, aspiration, intensity of the psychic being can awaken it, yet it acts sometimes without any apparent cause even of that kind.
Sri Aurobindo: Letters on Yoga, Vol 2, p. 609
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Words of the Mother
You have said here that we are “tied to the chain of Karma”, but then sometimes when the Divine Grace acts, that contradicts…
Completely, the Divine Grace completely contradicts Karma; you know, It makes it melt away like butter that’s put in the sun. That is what I was saying just now. What you have just told me is another way of speaking. I was putting myself in your place and asking: There you are, if you have an aspiration that’s sincere enough or a prayer that’s intense enough, you can bring down in you Something that will change everything, everything – truly it changes everything. An example may be given that is extremely limited, very small, but which makes you understand things very well: a stone falls quite mechanically; say, a tile falls; if it gets loose, it will fall, won’t it? But if there comes, for example, a vital or mental determinism from someone who passes by and does not want it to fall and puts his hand out, it will fall on his hand, but it will not fall on the ground. So he has changed the destiny of this stone or tile. It is another determinism that has come in, and instead of the stone falling on the head of someone, it falls upon the hand and it will not kill anybody. This is an intervention from another plane, from a conscious will that enters into the more or less unconscious mechanism.
So the consequences of Karma are not rigorous?
No, not at all. In all religions there are people who have said that, who have given such absolute rules, but I believe it was in order to substitute themselves for Nature and pull the strings. There is always this kind of instinct that wants to take the place of Nature and pull the strings of people. So they are told: “There is an absolute consequence of all that you do….” It is a concept necessary at a given moment of evolution to prevent people from being in a completely unconscious egoism, in a total unconsciousness of the consequences of what they do. There is no lack of people who are still like that, I believe it is the majority; they follow their impulses and do not even ask themselves whether what they have done is going to have any consequences for them and for others. So it is good that someone tells you straight, with a severe look: “Take care, that has consequences which will last for a very long time!” And then there are others who come and tell you: “You will pay for it in another life.” That, however, is one of those fantastic stories…. But it does not matter: this also can be for the good of people. There are other religions which tell you: “Oh! If you commit that sin, you will go to hell for eternity.” You can imagine!… So people have such a fright that it stops them a little, it gives them just a moment for reflection before obeying an impulse and not always; sometimes the reflection comes afterwards, a little late.
It is not absolute. These are still mental constructions, more or less sincere, which cut things into small bits like that, quite neatly cut, and tell you: “Do this or do that. If it is not this, it will be that.” Oh! what a nuisance is this kind of life. And so people go mad, they are frightened! “Is it like that or rather this?” And they want it to be neither this nor that, what should they do? They have only to climb to a higher storey. They must be given the key to open the door. There is a door to the staircase, a key is needed. The key, as I told you just now, is the sufficiently sincere aspiration or the sufficiently intense prayer. I said “or”, but I do not think it is “or”. There are people who like one better and others, the other. But in both there is a magical power, you must know how to make use of it.
There is something very beautiful in both, I shall speak to you about it one day, I shall tell you what there is in aspiration and what in prayer and why both of them are beautiful…. Some dislike prayer; if they entered deep into their heart, they would find it was pride worse than that, vanity. And then there are those who have no aspiration, they try and they cannot aspire; it is because they do not have the flame of the will, it is because they do not have the flame of humility.
Both are needed. There must be a very great humility and a very great will to change one’s Karma.
The Mother: CWM, Vol. 5, pp.88 – 90