Sri Aurobindo Ghose
1872 - 1950
"The meeting of man and God must always mean a penetration and entry of the Divine into human and a self-immergence of man in the Divinity."
Near the beginning of this century the enlightened sage, Sri Aurobindo, enunciated a new truth which had not been expressed before. In his high states of mergence with the divine reality he saw that the time had come for a new stage in the evolution of mankind. He saw that according to the divine plan, humanity would not just merge into the divine but that it was also destined to manifest the divine right here on earth and that the time for that divine emergence into earth life was now.
Sri Aurobindo pointed out that the divine force permeates all matter in a form that we generally call nature. Consciousness and intelligence appear in matter which seems to be inconscient and unintelligent. The process of the divine spirit descending down into matter is called involution. The process by which the divine ascends back upwards out of matter is called evolution.
On the earth, minerals formed and from that sprung life in the form of plants and animals. The origin of life was the first step in the release of the imprisoned consciousness. The second step in this evolution was the development of intelligence in men and animals. These two steps were taken in nature without a conscious will on the part of the evolving forms. But in man, for the first time nature becomes able to evolve by a conscious will within the instrument itself. This inward will does not come from a merely mental process. Instead it comes through a transformation of the mental into a supra (or greater than) mental consciousness which allows the descent of a higher principle into the world for the first time. Sri Aurobindo dubbed that higher principle supramental mind. Supramental mind comes from a plane of manifestation far above the merely mental plane that humans come into contact with. Although the term mind is used, this plane far transcends the logic and intellect that ordinary mind can reach.
He himself was an enormous intellect, even before attaining enlightenment. Although East Indian, he was educated in England from a young age where he studied the classics of literature, often reading them in their native languages. He thoroughly mastered Latin and Greek went on to study Italian, French and Spanish. As a young student in London, he saturated himself in western culture and literature while remaining completely ignorant of his own native Indian traditions. While he was attending Cambridge he began to take notice of the developments in India as the native population strained against British colonial rule. He felt intuitively that he had a part to play in the struggle of his motherland for independence so he began to study its language and culture. After returning to India he set about learning the major Indian languages - Marathi, Bengali, Hindustan, and the ancient mother tongue Sanskrit which many of the Eastern classics were written in. He devoured books by the hundreds, absorbing his country's thought, history, and vedic culture. He felt that Mother India was calling him to add his light and influence to the forces leading towards freedom and independence. He became a political firebrand, urging his fellow revolutionaries and the tepid Indian political leaders of the time on towards unity and independence. He was recognized by his countrymen as a major force for change and viewed with alarm by the ruling British authorities so that in 1907, at the age of 35, he was jailed and charged with treason. He was held in jail for a whole year during which his trial became a national sensation. For his part, he hardly paid attention to the proceedings spending most of his time while in jail and even during the trial, in deep meditation. During his year of quiet in solitary confinement, he had a major spiritual transformation that capped a series of previous illuminations that had occurred since he had returned to Indian soil. He found himself in a state in which everything appeared as Divine. No matter where he looked or what he looked at, he saw only the Divine.
In his illumined state he saw that India was destined to play the part of the light bearer among nations and that that destiny required a free India, unhindered by a ruling colonial power. He also received an inward assurance that he would be acquitted in the trial, and just as he had foreseen, all charges were eventually dropped against him and he was freed. He renewed his activities with vigor and with a new conviction in his cause, over the next few years churning out more articles and gathering ever more support for freedom. Then he learned of his impending re-arrest by the English and discussions arose over the best future course of action. In his own inner calm he heard clearly a voice inside him telling him to leave immediately for a French settlement within India where he would be safe from the English authorities. He followed the voice immediately and once he had arrived at French Pondicherry, he had a further inner revelation that his part in the Indian independence movement was over and that the cause of independence was assured.
From 1910 on he settled permanently in Pondicherry along with a small group of his followers. There he began to write all the major works which would convey to the world the revelations he received while in his state of Divine mergence. He wrote from a state of deep absorption, transferring the realities he saw in his inner vision direct to paper with no intervening mental process. Thus he wrote his major literary works: The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, The Human Cycle, The Ideal of Human Unity, and his epic poem Savitri detailing the human past and the future evolution of humanity into the divine state.
The Pondicherry settlement grew into what is today the Sri Aurobindo Ashram which continues to publish his books and propagate his wisdom. An offshoot of the ashram is the visionary International community of Auroville, built according to a dream-vision by Sri Aurobindo's spiritual collaborator Mirra Richards (called simply the Mother by his devotees). It was she who inherited the mantle of Sri Aurobindo's spiritual leadership and ran the ashram while he secluded himself from the public and spent the remaining two and a half decades of his life in intense literary effort.
Attainment of Samadhi
After practicing Pranayama (breathing exercises) for several years with small results, Sri Aurobindo met an obscure yogi bhakta (devotee of God) who redirected his spiritual practice. Aurobindo scrupulously followed the Yogi's direction to clear his mind of all thoughts with the result that he had a radical transformation in consciousness.
"My mind became silent as a windless air on a high mountain summit and then I saw one thought and then another coming in a concrete way from outside. I flung them away before they could enter and take hold of the brain and in three days I was free." His mind soared into the vision of the universe as Brahmam. "There was no real world - only when one looked through the immobile senses, something perceived or bore upon its sheer silence a world of empty forms, materialised shadows without true substance. There was no One or many even, only just absolutely That, featureless, relationless, sheer indescribable, unthinkable, absolute, yet supremely real and solely real"
His new state of awareness continued for many months. In this state of absolute vacancy he was scheduled to address a national meeting. His yogi teacher told him to mentally bow down to his audience as Narayana and everything would take care of itself. He followed this advice and found that some force spoke through him. Thereafter whether speaking or writing, it was always done from the silent Brahmic consciousness.
But even this state was enlarged upon during his prolonged meditation in his jail cell. There instead of an impersonal and absolute Brahmam he saw a loving, personalized and immanent Divine posing as his jailer, as the guard, the magistrate, the prosecutor and even the jail cell itself. Of this final enlightenment he said: "The only result of the wrath of the British Government was that I found God"
Towards the Supramental
The One being, the True Consciousness is involved here in matter. Evolution is the process by which it liberates itself; consciousness appears in what seems to be inconscient, and once having appeared is self-impelled to grow higher and higher and at the same time to enlarge and develop toward a greater and greater perfection. Life is the first step in this release of consciousness; mind is the second. But the evolution does not finish with mind; it awaits a release into something greater, a consciousness which is spiritual and supramental. The next step of the evolution must be toward the development of Supermind and spirit as the dominant power in the conscious being. For only then will the involved divinity in things release itself entirely and it becomes possible for life to manifest perfection.
A descent of the higher principle is possible which will not merely release the spiritual Self out of the world, but release it in the world, replace the mind's ignorance or its very limited knowledge by a supramental Truth-Consciousness which will be a sufficient instrument of the inner self, and make it possible for the human being to find himself dynamically as well as inwardly and grow out of his still animal humanity into a diviner race.
The first process of yoga is to open the ranges of the inner being and to live from there outward, governing his outward life by an inner light and force. In doing so he discovers in himself his true soul, which is not this outer mixture of mental, vital, and physical elements, but something of the reality behind them, a spark from the one divine fire. he has to learn to live in his soul and purify and orientate by its drive toward the truth the rest of the nature. There can follow afterwards an opening upward and descent of a higher principle of the being. But even then it is not at once the full supramental light and force. For there are several ranges of consciousness between ordinary human mind and the supramental Truth-Consciousness. These intervening ranges have to be opened up and their power brought down into the mind, life, and body. Only afterwards can the full power of the Truth-Consciousness work in the nature. The process of this self-discipline or sadhana is therefore long and difficult, but even a little of it is so much gained because it makes the ultimate release and perfection more possible.
From: Sri Aurobindo on Sri Aurobindo
How Man must Conceptualise God, Need for Avatars and Prophets
God is the All and more than the All. But that which is more than the All, how shall man conceive? He cannot conceive as the Divine, cannot approach or cannot recognize something that is too much out of the circle of his ignorant or partial conceptions. It is necessary for him to conceive God in his own image or in some form that is beyond himself but consonant with his highest tendencies and seizable by his feelings or his intelligence. Otherwise it would be difficult for him to come into contact and communion with the Divine.
Even then his nature calls for a human intermediary so that he may feel the Divine in something entirely close to his own humanity and sensible in a human influence and example. This call is satisfied by the Divine manifest in a human appearance, the Incarnation, the Avatar - Krishna, Christ, Buddha. Or if this is too hard for him to conceive, the Divine represents himself through a less marvelous intermediary, - Prophet or Teacher. This also is not enough; a living influence, a living example, a present instruction is needed. For it is only the few who can make the past Teacher and his teaching, the past Incarnation and his example and influence a living force in their lives.
The Sadhaka of the integral Yoga will make use of all these aids according to his nature; but it is necessary that he should shun their limitations and cast from himself that exclusive tendency of egoistic mind which cries, "My God, my Incarnation, my Prophet, my Guru" and opposes it to all other realisation in a sectarian or a fanatical spirit.
On the contrary, the Sadhaka of the integral Yoga will not be satisfied until he has included all other names and forms of Deity in his own conception, seen his own Ishta Devata (chosen divine form) in all others, unified all Avatars in the unity of Him who descends in the Avatar, welded the truth in all teachings into the harmony of Eternal Wisdom.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
Present Travail Guarantee of Great Future
Man is a mental being whose mentality works here involved, obscure and degraded in a physical brain. Even in the highest of his kind it is baulked of its luminous possibilities of supreme force and freedom by this dependence, shut off even from its own divine powers, impotent to change our life beyond certain narrow and precarious limits; it is an imprisoned and checked force, most often nothing but a servitor or caterer of interests or a purveyor of amusement to the life and the body. But divine superman will be a gnostic spirit. Supermind in him will lay hands on the mental and physical instruments and, standing above and yet penetrating our lower already manifested parts, it will transform mind, life and body.
An immortal soul is somewhere within him and gives out some sparks of its presence; above an eternal spirit overshadows him and upholds the soul-continuity of his nature. But this greater spirit is obstructed from descent by the hard lid of his constructed personality; and that inner luminous soul is wrapped, stifled, oppressed in dense outer coatings. In all but a few the soul is seldom active, in most hardly perceptible.
Man's greatness is not in what he is, but in what he makes possible. His glory is that he is the closed place and secret workshop of a living labour in which supermanhood is being made ready by a divine Craftsman. But he is admitted too to a yet greater greatness and it is this that, allowed to be unlike the lower creation, he is partly an artisan of this divine change; his conscious assent, his consecrated will and participation are needed that into his body may descend the glory that will replace him. His aspiration is earth's call to the supramental creator.
If earth calls and the Supreme answers, the hour can be even now for that immense and glorious transformation.
From: The Hour of God
Mutually Approaching Polarities
There are two movements necessary for this connection between the vital being with the life force in it and the Divine Force. One movement is upward; the vital rises to join the higher consciousness and steeps itself in the light and in the impulsion of a higher force; the other is downward; the vital remains silent; tranquillised, pure, empty of the ordinary movements, waiting, till the dynamic power from above descends into it, changes it to its true self and informs its movements with knowledge as well as power. That is why the sadhake feels sometimes that he is rising up into a happier and nobler consciousness, entering into a brighter domain and purer experience, but sometimes, on the contrary, feels the necessity of going back into the vital, doing sadhana there and bringing down into it the true consciousness. There is no real contradiction between these two movements; they are complementary and necessary to each other, the ascension enabling the divine descent, the descent fulfilling that for which the ascension aspires and which it makes inevitable.
Guidance by the Higher Mind - Preliminary to Yogic Unfoldment
Ordinarily, the vital is either moved by the human mind and governed by its more or less ignorant dictates, or takes violent hold of this mind and uses it for the satisfaction of its own passions, impulses or desires. Or it makes a mixture of these two movements; for the ordinary human mind is too ignorant for a better action or a perfect guidance. But when the vital is in contact with the higher mind, it is possible for it to be guided by a greater light and knowledge, by a higher intuition and inspiration, a truer discrimination and some revelation of the divine truth and the divine will. This obedience of the vital to the psychic and the higher mind is the beginning of the outgoing of the Yogic consciousness in its dynamic action upon life.
From: Riddle of This World
Major Facets of the Divine Mother
The four powers of the Mother are four of her outstanding personalities, portions and embodiments of her divinity through whom she acts on her creatures, orders and harmonises her creations in the worlds and directs the working out of her thousand forces. For the Mother is one but she comes before us with differing aspects; many are her powers and personalities, many her emanations and Vibhuttis that do her work in the universe.
Imperial Maheshwari is seated in the wideness above the thinking mind and will and sublimates and greatens them into wisdom and largeness or floods with a splendour beyond them. For she is the mighty and wise One who opens us to the supramental infinities and the cosmic vastness, to the grandeur of the supreme Light, to a treasure house of miraculous knowledge, to the measureless movement of the Mother's eternal forces. Tranquil is she and wonderful, great and calm for ever. Nothing can move her because all wisdom is in her; nothing is hidden from her that she chooses to know; she comprehends all things and all beings. Partiality she has none but she follows the decrees of the Supreme and some she raises up and some she casts down into the darkness. To the wise she gives a greater and more luminous freedom; on the hostile she imposes the consequence of their hostility; the ignorant and foolish she leads according to their blindness. In each man she answers and handles the different elements of his nature according to their need and their urge to prosper in the ways of the Ignorance or to perish. For she is above all, bound by nothing, attached to nothing in the universe. Her compassion is endless and inexhaustible. Even her rejections are only a postponement, her punishments a grace. The Truth of things is her one concern, knowledge her center of power and to build our soul and our nature into the divine Truth her mission and her labour.
Mahakali is of another nature. Not wideness but height, not wisdom but force and strength are her peculiar power. There is in her a an overwhelming intensity, a mighty passion of force to achieve, a divine violence rushing to shatter every limit or obstacle. All her divinity leaps out in a splendour of tempestuous action. Terrible is her face to the demonic Asura, dangerous and ruthless her mood against the haters of the Divine; for she is the Warrior of the Worlds who never shrinks from battle. Intolerant of imperfection she deals roughly with all in man that is unwilling and she is severe to all that is obstinately ignorant and obscure. Indifference, negligence and sloth in the divine work she cannot bear and she smites awake at once with sharp pain, if need be the untimely slumberer and the loiterer. Her love is as intense as her wrath and she has a deep and passionate kindness. Her anger is dreadful to the hostile, she is loved and worshipped by the great, the strong and the noble; for they feel that her blows beat what is rebellious in their material into strength and perfect truth, hammer straight what is wry and perverse and expel what is impure or defective. But for her what is done in a day might have taken centuries. Nothing can satisfy her that falls short of the supreme ecstasies, the highest heights, the noblest aims, the largest vistas.
Mahalakshmi (Beauty and Harmony)
Above the Wisdom of Maheshwari and the Force of Mahakali, is the subtler mystery of Mahalakshmi, the miracle of eternal beauty, and unseizable secret of divine harmonies, the compelling magic of an irresistible universal charm and attraction that draws and holds things and forces and beings together and obliges them to meet and unite that a hidden Ananda (bliss) my play from behind the veil and make of them its rhythms and its figures. There is no aspect of the Divine Shakti more attractive to the heart of embodied beings. All turn with joy and longing to Mahalakshmi, for she throws the spell of the intoxicating sweetness of the Divine: to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel; grace and charm and tenderness flow out from her like light from the sun and wherever she fixes her wonderful gaze or lets fall the liveliness of her smile, the soul is seized and made captive and plunged into the depths of an unfathomable bliss. And yet it is not easy to meet the demand of this enchanting Power or to keep her presence. Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, the thoughts and feelings; harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement and in the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi. All that is ugly and mean and base, all that is poor and sordid and squalid, all that is brutal and coarse repels her advent. If she finds herself in men's hearts surrounded with selfishness and hatred and jealousy and malignancy and envy and strife, it treachery and greed and ingratitude are mixed in the sacred chalice, if grossness of passion and unrefined desire degrade devotion, in such hearts the gracious and beautiful Goddess will not linger. It is through love and beauty that she lays on men the yoke of the Divine. Life is turned into a rich work of celestial art and all existence into a poem of sacred delight. Even the simplest and commonest things are made wonderful by her intuition of unity and the breath of her spirit. Admitted to the heart she lifts wisdom to pinnacles of wonder and reveals to it the mystic secrets of the ecstasy that surpasses all knowledge.
Mahasaraswati (Detailed Perfection)
Mahasaraswati is the Mother's Power of Work and her spirit of perfection and order. The youngest of the four she is the most skillful in executive faculty and nearest to physical Nature. Maheshwari lays down the large lines of the world-forces, Mahakali drives their energy and impetus, Mahalakshmi discovers their rhythms and measures, but Mahasaraswati presides over their detail of organization and execution, relation of parts and effective combination of forces and unfailing exactitude of result and fulfillment. The science and craft and technique of things are Mahasaraswati's province. Always she holds in her nature and can give to those whom she has chosen the intimate and precise knowledge, the subtlety and patience, the accuracy of intuitive mind and conscious hand and discerning eye of the perfect worker. Her action is laborious and minute and often seems to our impatience slow and interminable, but it is persistent, integral and flawless. Moulding and remoulding, she labours each part till it has attained its true form, is put in its exact place in the whole and fulfills its precise purpose. When her work is finished, nothing has been forgotten, no part has been misplaced or omitted or left in a faulty condition; all is solid, accurate, complete, admirable. Nothing short of a perfect perfection satisfies her and she is ready to face an eternity of toil if that is needed for the fullness of her creation. Therefore of all the Mother's powers she is the most long suffering with man and his thousand imperfections. Kind, smiling, close and helpful, not easily turned away or discouraged, insistent even after repeated failure, her hand sustains our every step on condition that we are single in our will and straightforward and sincere.
If you desire this transformation, put yourself in the hands of the Mother and her Powers without cavil or resistance and let her do unhindered her work within you. Three things you must have, consciousness, plasticity, unreserved surrender. For you must be conscious in your mind and soul and heart, aware of the Mother and her Powers and this working; for although she can and does work in your obscurity and your unconscious parts and moments, it is not the same thing as when you are in an awakened and living communion with her.
From: The Mother
The Subtle Worlds and their Inhabitants
If we regard the gradation of worlds or planes as a whole, we see them as a great connected complex movement; the higher precipitate their influences on the lower, the lower react to the higher and develop or manifest in themselves within their own formula something that corresponds to the superior power and its action. The material world has evolved life in obedience to a pressure from the vital plane, mind in obedience to a pressure from the mental plane. It is now trying to evolve supermind in obedience to a pressure from the supramental plane. Particular forces, movements, powers, beings of a higher world can throw themselves on the lower to establish appropriate and corresponding forms which will connect them with the material domain, and as it were reproduce or project their action here. And each thing created here has, supporting it, subtler envelopes of forms of itself which make it subsist and connect it with forces acting from above. Man, for instance, has, besides his gross physical body, subtler sheaths or bodies by which he lives behind the veil in direct connection with supraphysical planes of consciousness and can be influenced by their powers, movements and beings.
Each plane, in spite of its connection with others above and below it, is yet a world in itself, with its own movements, forces, beings, types, forms existing as if for its and their own sake, under its own laws, for its own manifestation without apparent regard for the other members of the great series. The existence of anything in the vital, subtle physical or any other plane creates a possibility for a corresponding movement of manifestation in the physical world. But something more is needed to turn that static or latent possibility into a dynamic potentiality or an actual urge towards a material creation. That something may be a call from the material plane, e.g., some force or someone on the physical existence entering into touch with a supraphysical power or world or part of it and moved to bring it down into earth-life. Or it may be an impulse in the vital or other plane itself, e.g., a vital being moved to extend his action towards the earth and establish there a kingdom for himself or the play of the forces for which he stands in his own domain.
As a consequence, it follows that only a limited part of the action of the vital or other higher plane is concerned with the earth-existence. But even this creates a mass of possibilities which is far greater than the earth can at one time manifest or contain in its own less plastic formulas. All these possibilities do not realise themselves; some fail altogether and leave at the most an idea that comes to nothing; some try seriously and are repelled and defeated. Others effectuate a half manifestation, and this is the most usual result. A certain number succeed in precipitating their results in a more complete and successful creation, so that if you compare this creation with its original in the higher plane, there is something like a close resemblance or even an apparently exact reproduction or translation from the supraphysical to the physical formula.
The subtle physical is closest to the physical, and most like it. But yet the conditions are different and the thing too different. For instance, the subtle physical has a freedom, plasticity, intensity, power, color, wide and manifold play (there are thousands of things there that are not here) of which, as yet, we have no possibility on earth. And yet there is something here, a potentiality of the Divine which the other, in spite of its greater liberties, has not, something which makes creation more difficult, but in the last result justifies the labor.
From: Riddle of this World
Determining factors in the Transformation Process
Spiritual development, in its rapidity, its amplitude, the intensity and power of the results, depends primarily, in the beginning of the path and long after, on the aspiration and personal effort of the Sadhaka. The process of Yoga is a turning of the human soul from the egoistic state of consciousness absorbed in the outward appearances and attractions of things to a higher state in which the Transcendent and Universal can pour itself into the individual mould and transform it. The first determining element of the Siddhi (Yogic perfection) is, therefore, the intensity of the turning, the force which directs the soul inward. The power of aspiration of the heart, the force of the will, the concentration of the mind, the perseverance and determination of the applied energy are the measure of that intensity.
In proportion as the Divine contact establishes itself, the Sadhake must become conscious that a force other than his own, a force transcending his egoistic endeavour and capacity, is at work in him and to this Power he learns progressively to submit himself and delivers up to it the charge of his Yoga. In the end his own will and force become one with the higher power; he merges them in the divine Will and its transcendent and universal Force. He finds it thenceforward presiding over the necessary transformation of his mental, vital and physical being with an impartial wisdom and provident effectivity of which the eager and interested ego is not capable. It is when this identification and this self-merging are complete that the divine center in the world is ready.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
The ordinary life is that of the average human consciousness separated from its own true self and from the Divine and led by the common habits of the mind, life and body which are the laws of the Ignorance. The religious life is a movement of the same ignorant human consciousness, turning or trying to turn away from the earth towards the Divine, but as yet without knowledge and led by the dogmatic tenets and rules of some sect or creed which claims to have found the way out of the bonds of earth-consciousness into some beautific Beyond. The religious life may be the first approach to the spiritual, but very often it is only a turning about in a round of rites, ceremonies and practices or set ideas and forms without any issue. The spiritual life, on the contrary, proceeds directly by a change of consciousness, a change from the ordinary consciousness, ignorant and separated from its own true self and from God, to a greater consciousness in which one finds one's true being and comes first into direct and living contact and then into union with the Divine. For the spiritual seeker this change of consciousness is the one thing he seeks and nothing else matters.
From: Letters on Yoga
Between God and ManThe Divine Representative - Avatars, Incarnations, Prophets
It is difficult for man to believe in something which he can image as extraneous to himself. The spiritual progress of most human beings demands an extraneous support, an object of faith outside us. It needs an external image of God; or it needs a human representative, - an Incarnation, Prophet or Guru; or it demands both and receives them. For according to the need of the human soul the Divine manifests himself as deity, as human divine or in simple humanity, - using that thick disguise, which so successfully conceals Godhead, for a means of transmission of his guidance.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
Divine Veiled by MayaThe Divine is concealed behind a thick veil of his Maya and does not answer at once or at any early stage to our call. Or He gives only a glimpse uncertain and passing and then withdraws and waits for us to be ready. But if the Divine has any value, is it not worth some trouble and time and labour to follow after him and must we insist on having him without any training or sacrifice or suffering or trouble? It is surely irrational to make a demand of such a nature. It is positive that we have to get inside, behind the veil to find him; it is only then that we can see him outside and the intellect be not so much convinced as forced to admit his presence.
From: Riddle of this world
Divine Method and Human ExpectationThe divine working is not the working which the egoistic mind desires or approves; for it uses error in order to arrive at truth, suffering in order to arrive at bliss, imperfection in order to arrive at perfection. The ego cannot see where it is being led; it revolts against the leading, loses confidence, loses courage. These failings would not matter; for the divine Guide within is not offended by our revolt, not discouraged by our want of faith or repelled by our weaknesses; he has the entire love of the mother and the entire patience of the teacher.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
Real and Imagined Spiritual FreedomWhen the human ego realises that its will is a tool, its wisdom ignorance and childishness, its power an infant's groping, its virtue a pretentious impurity, and learns to trust itself to that which transcends it, that is its salvation. The apparent freedom and self-assertion of our personal being to which we are so profoundly attached, conceal a most pitiable subjection to a thousand suggestions, impulsions, forces which we have made extraneous to our little person. Our ego, boasting of freedom, is at every moment the slave, toy and puppet of countless beings, powers, forces, influences in universal Nature. The self-abnegation of the ego in the Divine is its self-fulfillment; its surrender to that which transcends it is liberation from bonds and limits and its perfect freedom.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
You must avoid a popular blunder about reincarnation. The popular idea is that Titus Balbus is reborn again as John Smith, a man with the same personality, character, attainments as he had in his former life with the sole difference that he wears coat and trousers instead of a toga and speaks in cockney English instead of popular Latin. That is not the case. What would be the earthly use of repeating the same personality or character a million times from the beginning of time till its end? The soul comes into birth for experience, for growth, for evolution till it can bring the Divine into Matter. It is the central being that incarnates, not the outer personality - the personality is simply a mould that it creates for its figures of experience in that one life. In another birth it will create for itself a different personality, different capacities, a different life and career.
As the evolving being develops still more and becomes more rich and complex, it accumulates its personalities, as it were. It is not the personality, the character that is of the first importance in rebirth - it is the psychic being who stands behind the evolution of the nature and evolves with it. The psychic when it departs from the body, shedding even the mental and vital on its way to its resting place, carries with it the heart of its experiences, - not the physical events, not the vital movements, not the mental buildings, not the capacities or characters, but something essential that it gathered from them, what might be called the divine element for the sake of which the rest existed. That is the permanent addition, it is that that helps in the growth towards the Divine. That is why there is usually no memory of the outward events and circumstances of past lives - for this memory there must be a strong development towards unbroken continuance of the mind, the vital, even the subtle physical; for though it all remains in a kind of seed memory, it does not ordinarily emerge. What was the divine element in the magnanimity of the warrior, that which expressed itself in his loyalty, nobility, high courage, what was the divine element behind the harmonious mentality and generous vitality of the poet and expressed itself in them, that remains and in a new harmony of character may find a new expression or, if the life is turned towards the Divine, be taken up as powers for the realisation or for the work that has to be done for the Divine.
From: Riddle of This World
Limitation of Mind
Because man is a mental being, he naturally imagines that mind is the one great leader and actor and creator or the indispensable agent in the universe. But this is an error; even for knowledge mind is not the only or the greatest possible instrument, the only aspirant and discoverer. Mind is a clumsy interlude between Nature's vast and precise subconscient action and the vaster infallible superconscient action of the Godhead.
There is nothing mind can do that cannot be better done in the mind's immobility and thought-free stillness. When mind is still, then Truth gets her chance to be heard in the purity of the silence.
Truth cannot be attained by the Mind's thought but only by identity and silent vision. Truth lives in the calm wordless Light of the eternal spaces; she does not intervene in the noise and cackle of logical debate.
From: The Hour of God.
Confusing Path with Destination
There is in fact, an intermediate state, a zone of transition between the ordinary consciousness in mind and the true Yoga knowledge. One may cross without hurt through it, perceiving at once or at an early stage its real nature and refusing to be deceived, or one may take up one's abode in this intermediate zone, care to go no farther and build there some half-truth which one takes for the whole truth or become the instrument of the powers of these transitional planes - that is what happens to many sadhaks and Yogis. Overwhelmed by the first rush and sense of power of a supernormal condition, they get dazzled with a little light which seems to them a tremendous illumination or a touch of force which they mistake for the full Divine force or at least a very great Yoga Shakti (power); or they accept some intermediate power (not always a power of the Divine) as the Supreme and an intermediate consciousness as the supreme realisation. Very readily they come to think that they are in the full cosmic consciousness when it is only some front or small part of it or some larger Mind, Life-Power or subtle physical ranges which they have entered into dynamic connection.
The receiving mind of the sadhak often understands or transcribes ill what has been received or throws up to mix with it its own ideas, feelings, desires, which it yet takes to be not its own put part of the Truth. There is also the opposite danger that he may become the instrument of some apparently brilliant but ignorant formation; for these intermediate planes are full of little Gods or strong Daityas or smaller beings who want to create, to materialise something or to enforce a mental and vital formation in the earth life and are eager to use or influence or even possess the thought and will of the sadhak and make him their instrument for the purpose. Anyone allowing himself to be taken hold of by one of these beings, who often take a divine Name, will lose his way in this Yoga.
From: Riddle of this World..
Awakening Under the Divine Touch
The supreme Sastra, the science of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being. The lotus of the eternal knowledge and the eternal perfection is a bud closed and folded up within us. It opens swiftly or gradually, petal by petal, through successive realisations, once the mind of man begins to turn towards the Eternal, once his heart, no longer compressed and confined by attachment to finite appearances, becomes enamoured, in whatever degree, of the Infinite. All life, all thought, all energising of the faculties, all experiences passive or active, become thenceforward so many shocks which disintegrate the teguments of the soul and remove the obstacles to the inevitable efflorescence. He who chooses the Infinite has been chosen by the Infinite. he has received the divine touch without which there is no awakening, no opening of the spirit; but once it is received, attainment is sure, whether conquered swiftly in the course of one human life or pursued patiently through many stadia of the cycle of existence in the manifested universe.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
Necessity for contact with a Higher Power
The Life-Force in the vital is the indispensable instrument for all action of the Divine Power on the material world and the physical nature. It is therefore only when this vital is transformed and made a pure and strong instrument of the Divine Shakti, that there can be a divine life. Then only can there be a successful transformation of the physical nature or a free perfected divine action on the external world.
This must always be remembered that the vital being and the life-force in man are separated from the Divine Light and, so separated, they are an instrument for any power that can take hold of them, illumined or obscure, divine or undivine. Ordinarily, the vital energy serves the common obscure or half-conscious movements of the human mind and human life, its normal ideas, interests, passions and desires. But is it possible for the vital energy to increase beyond the ordinary limits and, if so increased it can attain an impetus, an intensity, an excitation or sublimation of its forces by which it can become, is almost bound to become an instrument either of divine powers, the powers of the gods, or of Asuric (demonic) forces. Or, if there is no settled central control in the nature, its action can be a confused mixture of these opposites, or in an inconsequent oscillation serve now one and now the other. It is not enough then to have a great vital energy acting in you; it must be put in contact with the higher consciousness, it must be surrendered to the true control, it must be placed under the government of the Divine. That is why there is the necessity of opening to inspiration and power from a higher source. The vital energy by itself leads nowhere, runs in checquered, often painful and ruinous circles. It must be connected with the dynamic power of the higher consciousness and with the Divine Force acting through it for a great and luminous purpose.
From: The Synthesis of Yoga.
Sri Aurobindo (approx. 1918)
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