Yoga Day Special (2)

This article was originally published on 28th September 2014. It is being published again on 21st June 2019 as Yoga Day Special (2).

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, urged the United Nations General Assembly to observe an International Yoga Day, describing the science of Yoga as the “India’s ancient and traditional gift to the world”. Modi made the reference to Yoga when he was talking about the challenge of climate change taking place on Earth today.

Revealing an almost unknown facet of his life – that he really understands the essence of what Yoga is – Modi said “Yoga is the visible form of harmony between the “mind” and the “body”; between the “thought” and the “action”; between the “restraint” and the “achievement”; between the “human” and “Nature”. It is an integral viewpoint of health and well-being. Yoga is not a mere physical exercise; it is a means to achieve identification with the universe. It (Yoga) may help us in fighting the climate change by bringing a change in our life-style and creating in us an awareness”. As if to accentuate his seemingly airy statement with a more concrete reality, Modi showed no sign of fatigue during his 30-minute speech in UN General Assembly, which was delivered in a strong voice, without pausing even once to sip water, and while he was keeping a nine-day Navratri fast (during which he subsists only on water mixed with lemon-juice).

Modi rightly said, “Yoga is not just about fitness and exercise”. Today there seems to be euphoria the world over about Yoga, where Yoga is regarded as something synonym with a special kind of exercise to keep oneself physically fit. Yes, by practicing Yoga, one surely gets physical fitness of the first order; yet, this fitness is only a bye-product of Yoga. Yoga is not meant to achieve physical fitness; it aims at the changing of one’s thinking, behaving and living. Yoga is an ancient science of life well tested by the time in the way of Veda, Zarathustra, Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus Christ, Sufi saints, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Vivekanand, Sri Aurobindo and many countless others in almost all the geographical parts of the world.

This came to happen somehow that the age of reason and the quest for knowledge found receptive minds mostly in that part of the world that we call the West and the wisdom of the heart and the quest for ultimate truth found the receptive hearts mostly in the East. These innate urgings of humanity gave the West a lead in the development of science and technology and the East a lead in the development of the science of life. Yoga is the product of this ancient science. India happens to devote all her energy to this discipline since ages. One may justifiably say that Yoga is India’s gift to the world. What is Yoga?

Sri Aurobindo, a great Yogi of India, says: :“All Yoga is in its nature a new birth; it is a birth out of the ordinary, the mentalised material life of man to a higher spiritual consciousness and a greater and diviner being.

“No Yoga can be successfully undertaken and followed unless there is a strong awakening to the necessity of that larger spiritual existence….(T) here must be a decision of the mind and the will and, as its result, a complete and effective self-consecration.

“The mere idea or intellectual seeking of something higher beyond, however strongly grasped by the mind’s interest, is ineffective unless it is seized on by the heart as the one thing desirable and by the will as the one thing to be done.

“He who seeks the Divine must consecrate himself to God and to God only. The secret Teacher, the inner guide is already at work, though he may not yet manifest himself or may not yet appear in the person of his human representative…. (I)f we desire to make the most of the opportunity that this life gives us, if we wish to respond adequately to the call we have received and to attain to the goal we have glimpsed, not merely advance a little towards it, it is essential that there should be an entire self-giving. The secret of success in Yoga is to regard it not as one of the aims to be perused in life, but as the whole of life.”

He further says: “The first necessity is to dissolve that central faith and vision in the mind which concentrate it on its development and satisfaction and interests in the old externalized order of things. … The next need is to compel all our lower being to pay homage to this new faith and greater vision. All our nature must make an integral surrender. Our whole being – soul, mind, sense, heart, will, life, body – must consecrate all its energies so entirely and in such a way that it shall become a fit vehicle for the Divine.

“Everything in us has constantly to be called back to the central faith and will and vision. Every thought and impulse has to be reminded… that ‘That is the divine Brahman and not this which men here adore’.

“Every vital fiber has to be persuaded to accept an entire renunciation of all that hitherto represented to it its own existence.

“The average human being even now is in his inward existence as crude and undeveloped as was the bygone primitive man in his outward life. But as soon as we go deep within ourselves, – and Yoga means a plunge into all the multiple profundities of the soul – we find ourselves subjectively… surrounded by a whole complex world which we have to know and to conquer.

“The most disconcerting discovery is to find that every part of us – intellect, will, sense-mind, nervous or desire-self, the heart, the body – has each, as it were, its own complex individuality and natural formation independent of the rest; it neither agrees with itself nor with the others nor with the representative ego which is the shadow cast by some central and centralizing self on our superficial ignorance.

“We find that we are composed not of one but many personalities and each has its own demands and differing nature. … We find that inwardly too, no less than outwardly, we are not alone in the world; the sharp separateness of our ego was no more than a strong imposition and delusion; we do not exist in ourselves, we do not really live apart in an inner privacy or solitude. Our mind is a receiving, developing and modifying machine into which there is being constantly passed from moment to moment a ceaseless foreign flux, a streaming mass of disparate materials from above, from below, from outside.
“Much more than half our thoughts and feelings are not our own in the sense that they take form out of ourselves; of hardly anything can it be said this is truly original to our nature. A large part comes to us from others or from the environment, whether as raw material or as manufactured imports; but still more largely they come from universal Nature here or from other worlds and planes and their beings and powers and influences; for we are overtopped and environed by other planes of consciousness, mind planes, life planes, subtle matter planes, from which our life and action here are fed, or fed on, pressed, dominated, made use of for the manifestation of their forms and forces.

Says Sri Aurobindo: “(A seeker of spirit) has to harmonize deliberate knowledge with unquestioning faith… the passivity of the soul… has to be fused with the activity of the divine helper and the divine warrior. To him as to all seekers of the spirit there are offered for solution the oppositions of the reason, the clinging hold of the senses, the perturbations of the heart, the ambush of the desires, the clog of the physical body, but he has to deal in another fashion with their mutual and internal conflicts and their hindrance to his aim… “

Sri Aurobindo says: “There must be a flaming concentration of the heart on the All and Eternal and, when once we have found him, a deep plunging and immersion in the possession and ecstasy of the AII-Beautiful.

“But on that which as yet we know not how shall we concentrate? And yet we cannot know the Divine unless we have achieved this concentration of our being upon him. It is not enough to devote ourselves by the reading of Scriptures or by the stress of philosophical reasoning to an intellectual understanding of the Divine; for at the end of our long mental labor we might know all that has been said of the Eternal, possess all that can be thought about the Infinite and yet we might not know him at all. . . All that the Light from above asks of us that it may begin its work is a call from the soul and a sufficient point of support in the mind. .. The idea may be and must in the beginning be inadequate; the aspiration may be narrow and imperfect, the faith poorly iIIumined or even, as not surely founded on the rock of knowledge, fluctuating, uncertain, diminished; often even it may be extinguished and need to be lit again with difficulty like a torch in a windy pass. But if once there is a resolute self consecration from deep within, if there is an awakening to the soul’s call, these inadequate things can be a sufficient instrument for the divine purpose.

“Therefore the wise have always been unwilling to limit man’s avenues towards God; they would not shut against his entry even the narrowest portal, the lowest and darkest postern, the humblest wicket-gate. Any name, any form, any symbol, any offering has been held to be sufficient if there is the consecration along with it; for the Divine knows himself in the heart of the seeker and accepts the sacrifice.”

But today there are people who within their powers are not ready to put a full stop to limit man’s avenues towards God; and you see the vicious cycle of violence around us. Where does the religious fundamentalism stand in the light of this understanding of this subject?

You worship a deity. You prostrate and submit at the feet of idol of your faith. What do you do in this case? You simply condition your consciousness, body feelings, desires and thoughts. One does not do anything to the idol by praying to it. By such an act, one only affects his consciousness.

You worship your God. You prostrate on the ground before Him and offer your submission and subordination to Him. You do not do anything affecting anybody but your mind. It is not your mind alone that is affected by such an act on your part. Your desires, inmost urgings, body feelings, in addition to your thoughts, are affected by this process. They all are conditioned in a particular way. Thereby you bring a change in you.

You imagine there is God and that He is not dwelling in idols. You bow before Him and offer your complete self at His feet. You do so unconditionally. What do you do by such an act on your part? You do nothing but condition your mind, desires and body feelings. It is an act that affects nothing but you. You are completely changed by this process. Your inmost personality – subconscious and unconscious parts of the personality – becomes a totally new structure.

You read a holy book and bear faith in its sayings. What do you do to yourself by such an act? You simply change yourself. You bestow your utmost respect to this holy book and do not allow a single thought of its desecrating on your or anybody’s part a welcome place in your mind. By such an act, one does not do anything to the holy book. He simply conditions his mind, urgings and feelings.

You do not believe in any God or a holy book and hold that it is your conduct alone that matters in realizing the ultimate enlightenment. You give a particular direction to your conduct in life. What do you do to yourself? By this process you simply change yourself, that is, your thoughts, cravings and feelings.

In their substance and impact on human consciousness, what is the difference between one and another of these seemingly separate modes of religious faiths? There is no difference at all. Essentially, they all bring a psychological change in one’s total personality. One may follow a path that suits his nature and the path would bring a change in his personality, which is the sole means to progress on the consciousness’ evolutionary path. This is Yoga.

We all know of the manipulation of semiconductors by science and technology today. What does one do in this manipulation? It is rearranging of molecular structure of the material concerned to make the movement of atoms possible in the desired fashion. Prayer is something like this manipulation of one’s consciousness whereby the flow of supreme energy is made possible in a desired fashion. This energy is not a fiction, it is a real thing. By resorting to prayer, you bring a change in yourself. You make yourself a tool, the tool of supreme energy, and then the consequences follow unfolding the mystery of Nature. You get something, you receive something – something that is as real as hard rock, that is incomparably enlightening and empowering and that was not there before. Prayer, as a matter of fact, helps the one who prays. It brings miraculous consequences. It is a technology. It is a lever in the hands of feeble human being, a being who is ordinarily ignorant, egoistic and unwilling to desire or welcome a change for his betterment.

The great sage (Sri Aurobindo), writing in the dominant materialist age, says with a strikingly penetrating depth of mental inquiry: “By that hunger mysticism profits and new religions arise to replace the old that have been destroyed or stripped of significance by skepticism which itself could not satisfy because, although its business was inquiry, it was unwilling sufficiently to inquire. In the corollary of things we are dealing here, the most profound question that has ever been asked and will ever be asked is who, why and when initiated this universal evolution? And, mind’s Inquisitiveness logically further asks how the universe stood before this initiation?

“Answers to these questions are the most sacred secrets of Nature.

“We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word, which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness.

“And then there seems to be little objection to a farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind. In that case, the unconquerable impulse of man towards God, Light, Bliss, Freedom, Immortality presents itself in its right place in the chain as simply the imperative impulse by which Nature is seeking to evolve beyond Mind, and appears to be as natural, true and just as the impulse towards Life which she has planted in certain forms of Matter or the impulse towards Mind which she has planted in certain forms of Life. As there, so here, the impulse exists more or less obscurely in her different vessels with an ever-ascending series in the power of its will-to-be; as there, so here, it is gradually evolving and bound fully to evolve the necessary organs and faculties.”

We all know the transformation of classical physics into the physics of relativity and then of qantum mechanics. It was a leap forward in the unknown domain of knowledge. When one looks back today, he gets the uncomfortable feeling of the slow pace of our march forward on the path of knowledge. It seems really long for our physics to come out from the beliefs steeped in the simplistic Newtonian mechanical notions of Nature to astonishingly fresh concepts of Einsteinium Relativity universally operating in Nature. But, then, humanity took an incalculable span of time to put her knowledge that was mere of a speculative nature than a science onto a firm pedestal of Newtonian mechanics. It seemed obvious that on the part of humankind there is geometric progression in the rate of uncovering mysteries of Nature.

Our science once more seems to be on the verge of a new and further transformation. What could be the nature of this lurking transformation? We may get a glimpse of this new understanding of Nature by comparing the essence of our modern concepts of unified field of energy with the old and outmoded Newtonian concepts. By this comparison, we find that matter and its properties are not absolute in quantum of content and their behavior as was once thought. The impending transformation should bring a further new freshness to our understanding of Nature. In which way and on what front of our knowledge, it could happen? There is a great probability that this time it should relate to the operating universe of human mind and brain, which is its biological seat. It may commence with the labor, management, motive and enabling environment neno-scale investigation of biological brain. It may commence with establishing the co-relation of mind’s specific functions with brain’s specific chemical structure of neurons, the neurons’ synaptic connections between its various regions, the significance of transmitting of electric impulses therein etc.

If what we have been maintaining all along here is correct, then one thing is certain to be established one day by science by such investigation. It is not only the brain’s biological structure at nanoscale that determines the mind’s thoughts – and other mental functions – but, equally, it is the mind’s thoughts and other functions that determine, change and rearrange the brain’s nano-scale structure. And, this mutual interrelation is not confined to brain and mind. It goes much beyond that. It covers the whole physical body. And, this interrelation of biological and life’s functions is not limited to human beings alone. It operates universally wherever the duality of biology and life exist. It is much like wave and particle duality of quantum mechanics. You observe life only where it is bound to biology but it can exist sans biology also.

We have already indicated elsewhere, biology – and for that matter, all Matter – is pure energy, the amount of which is equivalent to mass multiplied by a number obtained by squaring the speed of light, as we all know. However, as we have said earlier the fundamental energy is not only the ultimate truth but also conscious and blissful.

The transformation of science, which is being hastened by its rapid progress today, would not confine its scope to subjective feelings of mind alone. It would transcend human mind and relate itself to the reality existing there in Nature in an objective and verifiable manner. Here, at this point the essence of all religions condensed into a neat spiritualism may meet science and form a new confluence of two diverse streams of knowledge.

One such connecting common point for study between science and spiritualism could be the interrelation between nano-scale structure of biological brain and spiritual exercise of faith and prayer. Faith in Divine and a sincere prayer to Him are the commonest phenomenon in religions and spiritualism, and their impact on human brain at the molecular level may be conveniently studied by science today. The material consequences that might be brought into existence by these spiritual exercises not only in biological brain but also in in the surrounding material hard world may also be studied today.

There are already signs that science is moving towards establishing some link between biological brain and the way we think, remember and deal with our surroundings. If we further find, with the progress of science, that religious or spiritual faith and prayer bring about a biological change in human brain at the nano-scale and a predictable “divination” takes place in the surrounding material world, what would it show? If it is repeated that yields the same consequences again and again, what would it show? Can one conclude that there is a force that is real and that is canalized by altered biological brain and reflected in one’s changed mind, the change which is always brought in one’s personality by religious or spiritual faith and prayer? And, if a predictable “divination” also takes place in the material hard world by the force of faith and prayer, what would it amount to? If the progress of science brings forth these interelations between “faith” and “Matter: in a positive direction, then one can truthfully say that the force is there, it is real, it is energy and it is conscious also. It would be a meeting place of two diverse disciplines of knowledge. It would be a confluence of two separate streams of knowledge.

Today, there is necessity to shift our focus, in taking decisions and planning things, from this our one life to the one that is spread over many such lives. The happening of rebirth cases has to be studied, in the interest of human beings, by our science, the science whose scope and reach are enriched by its transformation from the present monolithic form to an elastic multidiscipline vibrant one.

There is the realization today on the part of science that there are some facts that exist there but are not scientific in nature. Its very movement, that is, the rapid progress of science, is hastening the moment of their admission. The more science uncovers the secret mysteries of Nature, the nearer would be the moment of dawning of a new civilization.

Yoga is intimately connected to the concept of evolution. What is evolution?

Evolution is nothing but coming of something that is already there in the potential form into the state of being. This whole universe before coming into the manifestation that it is today had the potential of this happening. Evolution is a process that is made possible by the availability of many relevant conditions, including the element of duration of Time. We associate evolution with life; but this is a mistaken idea. If we go back in Time, we would realize that everything that we see today has evolved over a period of time. However, it required certain favorable conditions to make this happen. This applies to life also. But, then, we cannot confine this concept to the form of life that we know; its scope is much wider. There are things that we know and there also things that we do not know yet; evolution apply to them as well. Evolution is a mechanism of transformation of entities from one state to another. It is the beauty of Nature. It is as fundamental a concept as the dimensions of Space and Time, which are now known to exist. We may justifiably say that our universe exists in the form that we see it today only because there is this process of evolution operating there.

Sri Aurobindo says: “We are living in modern times and we have to inquire of the problem, albeit ancient one, in the terms of our times. Let us see the slot that Nature – and her device called evolution – accords to man – and his mind with all its brilliant conclusions – in the universal scheme of things.

“The progressive self-manifestation of Nature in man, termed in modern language his evolution, must necessarily depend upon three successive elements, that which is already evolved, that which is persistently in the stage of conscious evolution and that which is to be evolved and may perhaps be already displayed, if not constantly, then occasionally or with some regularity of recurrence, in primary formations or others more developed and, it may well be, even in some, however rare, that are near to the highest possible realization of our present humanity.

“That which Nature has evolved for us and has firmly founded is the bodily life. She has effected a certain combination and harmony of the two inferior but most fundamentally necessary elements of our action and progress upon earth, – Matter, which is our foundation and the first condition of all our energies and realizations, and the Life-Energy which is our means of existence in a material body. . . She has successfully achieved a certain stability of her constant material movement which is at once sufficiently steady and durable and sufficiently pliable and mutable…

“If the bodily life is what Nature has firmly evolved for us as her base and first instrument, it is our mental life that she is evolving as her immediate next aim and superior instrument. This in her ordinary exaltations is the lofty preoccupying thought in her; this… is her constant pursuit wherever she can get free from the trammels of her first vital and physical realizations. … Mind in man is first enmeshed in the life of the body, where in plant it is entirely involved and in animals always imprisoned. … The true human existence, therefore, only begins when the intellectual mentality emerges out of the material and we begin more and more to live in the mind independent of the nervous and physical obsession and in the measure of that liberty are able to accept rightly and rightly to use the life of the body….

“And when the preliminary conditions are satisfied, when the great endeavor has found its base, what will be the nature of that farther possibility which the activities of the intellectual life must serve?

“The assertion of a higher than the mental life is the whole foundation of Indian philosophy and its acquisition and organization is the veritable object served by the methods of Yoga. Mind is not the last term of evolution, not an ultimate aim, but, like body, an instrument. It is even so termed in the language of Yoga, the inner instrument (antahkarana). And Indian tradition asserts that this which is to be manifested is not a new term in human experience, but has been developed before and has even governed humanity in certain periods of its development. In any case, in order to be known it must at one time have been partly developed.

“But what then constitutes this higher or highest existence to which our evolution is tending? In order to answer the question we have to deal with a class of supreme experiences, a class of unusual conceptions which it is difficult to represent accurately in any other language than the ancient Sanskrit tongue in which alone they have been to some extent systematized. The only approximate terms in.English language have other associations and their use may lead to many and even serious inaccuracies.

“The terminology of Yoga recognizes besides the status of our physical and vital being, termed the gross body and doubly composed of the food-sheath and the vital vehicle, besides the status of our mental being, termed the subtle body and singly composed of the mind-sheath or mental vehicle (manah-kosa), a third, supreme and divine status of supramental being, termed the causal body and composed of a fourth and a fifth vehicle (vijnankosa and anandkosa) which are described as those of knowledge and bliss.

“But this knowledge is not a systematized result of mental questionings and reasoning, not a temporary arrangement of conclusions and opinions in the terms of the highest probability, but rather a pure self-existent and self-luminous Truth. And this bliss is not a supreme pleasure of the heart and sensations with the experience of pain and sorrow as its background, but a delight also self-existent and independent of objects and particular experiences, a self-delight which is the very nature, the very stuff, as it were, of a transcendent and infinite existence.

“Do such psychological conceptions correspond to anything real and possible?

“All Yoga asserts them as its ultimate experience and supreme aim. They form the governing principles of our highest possible state of consciousness, our widest possible range of experience. There is, we say, a harmony of supreme faculties, corresponding roughly to the psychological faculties of revelation, inspiration and intuition, yet acting not in the intuitive reason or the divine mind, but on a still higher plane, which see Truth directly face to face, or rather live in the truth of things both universal and transcendent and are its formulation and luminous activity.

“And these faculties are the light of a conscious existence superseding the egoistic and itself both cosmic and transcendent, the nature of which is Bliss. These are obviously divine and, as man is at present apparently constituted,, superhuman states of consciousness and activity.

“A trinity of transcendent existence (sat), self-awareness (chit) and self-delight (anand) is, indeed, the metaphysical description of the supreme Atman, the self-formulation, to our awakened knowledge, of the Unknowable whether conceived as a pure Impersonality or as a cosmic Personality manifesting the universe. But in Yoga they are regarded also in their psychological aspects as states of subjective existence to which our waking consciousness is now alien, but which dwell in us in a super conscious plane and to which, therefore, we may always ascend.

“So dazzling is even a glimpse of this supreme existence and so absorbing its attraction that, once seen, we feel readily justified in neglecting all else for its pursuit.”

Sri Aurobindo says: “This terrestrial evolutionary working of Nature from Matter to Mind and beyond (it) has a double process: there is an outward visible process of physical evolution with birth as it’s machinery, -for each evolved form body housing its own evolved power of consciousness is maintained and kept in continuity by heredity; there is, at the same time, an invisible process of soul evolution with rebirth into ascending grades of form and consciousness as its machinery.

“The first by itself would mean only a cosmic evolution; for the individual would be a quickly perishing instrument, and the race, a more abiding collective formulation, would be the real step in the progressive manifestation of the cosmic Inhabitant, the universal Spirit: rebirth is an indispensable condition for any long duration and evolution of the individual being in the earth-existence. Each grade of cosmic manifestation, each type of form that can house the indwelling Spirit, is turned by rebirth into a means for the individual soul, the psychic entity, to manifest more and more of its concealed consciousness; each life becomes a step in a victory over Matter by a greater progression of consciousness in it which shall make eventually Matter itself a means for the full manifestation of the Spirit.”

He says: “If you take terrestrial history, all the forms of life have appeared one after another in a general plan, a general programme, with the addition, always, of a new perfection and a greater consciousness. Take just animal forms – for that is easier to understand, they are the last before man – each animal that appeared had an additional perfection in its general nature – I don’t mean in all the details – a greater perfection than the preceding ones, and the crowning point of the ascending march was the human form which, for the moment, from the point of view of consciousness, is the form most capable of manifesting consciousness; that is, the human form at its height, at the height of its possibilities, is capable of more consciousness than all preceding animal forms.

The Mother of Pondicherry Sri Aurobindo Ashram (a disciple of Sri Aurobindo) said, “This is one of Nature’s ways of evolution. Sri Aurobindo told us last week that this Nature was following an ascending progression in order to manifest more and more the divine consciousness contained in all forms. So, with each new form that it produces, Nature makes a form capable of expressing more completely the spirit which this form contains. But if it were like this, a form comes, develops, reaches its highest point and is followed by another form; the others do not disappear, but the individual does not progress.

“The individual dog or monkey, for instance, belongs to a species which has its own peculiar characteristic; when the monkey or the man arrives at the height of its possibilities, that is, when a human individual becomes the best type of humanity, it will be finished; the individual will not be able to progress any farther. He belongs to the human species; he will continue to belong to it. So, from the point of view of terrestrial history there is a progress, for each species represents a progress compared with the preceding species; but from the point of view of the individual, there is no progress; he is born, he follows his development, dies and disappears. Therefore, to ensure the progress of the individual, it was necessary to find another means; this one was not adequate.

“But within the individual, contained in each form, there is an organization of consciousness which is closer to and more directly under the influence of the inner divine Presence, and the form which is under this influence – this kind of inner concentration of energy – has a life independent of the physical form – this is what we generally call the “soul” or the “psychic being” – and since it is organized around the divine centre it partakes of the divine nature which is immortal, eternal.

“The outer body falls away, and this remains throughout every experience that it has in each life, and there is a progress from life to life, and it is the progress of the same individual. And this movement complements the other, in the sense that instead of a species which progresses relative to other species, it is an individual who passes through all the stages of progress of these species and can continue to progress even when the species have reached the limit of their possibilities and… stay there or disappear – it depends on the case – but they cannot go any farther, whereas the individual, having a life independent of the purely material form, can pass from one form to another and continue his progress indefinitely. That makes a double movement which completes itself. And that is why each individual has the possibility of reaching the utmost realization, independent of the form to which he momentarily belongs.”

In one of his numerous letters to his disciples written in answer to their queries, Sri Aurobindo says: “I mean by the psychic the inmost soul-being and the soul-nature. This is not the sense in which the word is used in ordinary parlance, or rather, if it is so used, it is with great vagueness and much-misprision of the true nature of this soul and it is given a wide extension of meaning which carries it far beyond that province. All phenomena of an abnormal or supernormal psychological or an occult character are dubbed psychic… though these things have nothing whatever to do with the psychic….. There is a constant confusion between the mentalised desire-soul which is a creation of the vital urge in man, of his life-force seeking for its fulfillment and the true soul which is a spark of the Divine Fire, a portion of the Divine. Because the soul, the psychic being uses the mind and the vital as well as the body as instruments for growth and experience, it is itself looked at as if it were some amalgam or some subtle substratum of mind and life. But in Yoga if we accept all this chaotic mass as soul-stuff or soul-movement we shall enter into confusion without an issue.”

He says in another of his letters: “What is meant in the terminology of the yoga by the psychic is the soul element in the nature, the pure psyche or divine nucleus which stands behind mind, life and body (it is not the ego) but of which we are only dimly aware. It is a portion of the divine and permanent from life to life, taking the experience of life through its outer instruments (i.e. mind, vital and physical body).

“People do not understand what I mean by the psychic being, because the word psychic has been used in English to mean anything of the inner mental, inner vital or inner physical or anything abnormal or occult or even the more subtle movements of the outer being, all in a jumble; also occult phenomena are often called psychic.

“The distinction between these parts of the being is unknown. Even in India the old knowledge of the Upanishads in which they are distinguished has been lost. The Jivatman, the psychic being (Purusha Antaratman), the Manomaya Purusha, the Pranmaya Purusha are all confused together.

“The psychic part of us is something that comes direct from the Divine and is in touch with the Divine. In its origin it is the nucleus pregnant with the divine possibilities that supports this lower triple manifestation of mind, life and body.

“There is this divine element in all living beings, but it stands hidden behind the ordinary consciousness, is not at first developed and, even when developed, is not always or often in the front; it expresses itself, so far as the imperfection of the instruments allows, by their mean and under their limitations. It grows in the consciousness by Godward experience, gaining strength every time there is a higher movement in us, and, finally, by the accumulation of these deeper and higher movements, there is developed a psychic individuality, – that which we call usually the psychic being. It is always this psychic being that is the real, though often the secret cause of man’s turning to the spiritual life and his greatest help in it. It is therefore that which we have to bring from behind to the front in the Yoga…..

“The psychic being may be described in Indian language as the Purusha in the heart or the Chaitya Purusha, but the inner or secret heart must be understood, hrdaye guhayam, not the outer vital-emotional centre.”

The Mother in answer to the question: “Are the soul and the psychic being one and the same thing” says thus: “This depends on the definition you give to the words. In most religions, and perhaps in most philosophies also, it is the vital being which is called “soul”, for it is said that “the soul leaves the body”, while it is the vital being which leaves the body. One speaks of “saving the soul”… but all that applies to the vital being, for the psychic being has no need to be saved! It does not share the faults of the external person; it is free from all reaction.”

Sri Aurobindo says: “At a certain stage in the Yoga when the mind is sufficiently quieted and no longer supports itself at every step on the sufficiency of its mental certitude, when the vital has been steadied and subdued and is no longer constantly insistent on its own rash will, demand and desire, when the physical has been sufficiently altered not to bury altogether the inner flame under the mass of its outward ness, obscurity or inertia, an inmost being hidden within and felt only in its rare influences is able to come forward and illumine the rest and take up the lead of the Sadhana Its action is like a searchlight showing up all that has to be changed in the nature; it has in it a flame of will insistent on perfection, on an alchemic transmutation of all the inner and outer existence. It sees the divine essence everywhere but rejects the mere mask and the disguising figure.”

He further says: “What is meant by (the psychic’s) coming to the front is simply this. The psychic ordinarily is deep within. Very few people are aware of their souls – when they speak of their soul, they usually mean the vital + mental being or else the (false) soul of desire.

“The psychic remains behind and acts only through the mind, vital and physical wherever it can. For this reason the psychic being except where it is very much developed has only a small and partial, concealed and mixed or diluted influence on the life of most men. By coming forward is meant that it comes from behind the veil, its presence is felt already in the waking daily consciousness, its influence fills, dominates, transforms the mind and vital and their movements, even the physical. One is aware of one’s soul, feels the psychic to be one’s true being, the mind and the rest begin to be only instruments of the inmost within us.”

The Mother says: “In the ordinary life there’s not one person in a million who has a conscious contact with his psychic being, even momentarily. The psychic being may work within, but so invisibly and unconsciously for the outer being that it is as though it did not exist. And in most cases, the immense majority, almost the totality of cases, it is as though it were asleep. Not at all active, (it is) in a kind of torpor.

“It is only with the sadhana and a very persistent effort that one succeeds in having a conscious contact with his psychic being. Naturally, it is possible that there are exceptional cases – but this is truly exceptional, and they are so few that they could be counted – where the psychic being is an entirely formed, liberated being, master of itself, which has chosen to return to earth in a human body in order to do its work. …

“In almost, almost all cases, a very sustained effort is needed to become aware of one’s psychic being. Usually it is considered that if one can do it in thirty years one is very lucky – thirty years of sustained effort, I say. It may happen that it’s quicker. But this is so rare that immediately one says, “This is not an ordinary human being”. That is the case of people who have been considered more or less divine beings and who were great yogis, great initiates.”

The Mother says: “In rebirth it is not the external being, that which is formed by parents, environment and circumstances – the mental, the vital and the physical being that is born again: it is only the psychic being that passes from body to body. Logically, then, neither the mental nor the vital being can remember past lives or recognize itself in the character or mode of life of this or that person. The psychic being alone can remember; and it is by becoming conscious of our psychic being that we can have at the same time exact impressions about our past lives.”

She says: “The psychic being may be made centre for self-unification: The work of unifying the being consists of:-

Becoming aware of one’s psychic being.

Putting before the psychic being, as one becomes aware of them, all one’s movements, impulses, thoughts and acts of will, so that the psychic being may accept or reject each of these movements, impulses or acts of will. Those that are accepted will be kept and carried out; those that are rejected will be driven out of the consciousness so that they may never come back again.”

She again says: “If we truly want to progress and acquire the capacity of knowing the truth of our being, that is to say, what we are truly created for, what we can call our mission upon earth, then we must, in a very regular and constant manner, reject from us whatever contradicts the truth of our existence, whatever is opposed to it. In this way, little by little, all the parts, all the elements of our being can be organized into a homogeneous whole around our psychic centre. This work of unification requires much time to be brought to some degree of perfection. Therefore, in order to accomplish it, we must arm ourselves with patience and endurance, with a determination to prolong our life as long as necessary for the success of our endeavor….

“In various times and places many methods have been prescribed for attaining this perception and ultimately achieving this identification. Some methods are psychological, some religious, some even mechanical. In reality, everyone has to find the one which suits him best, and if one has an ardent and steadfast aspiration, a persistent and dynamic will, one is sure to meet, in one way or another – outwardly through reading and study, inwardly through concentration, meditation, revelation and experience – the help one needs to reach the goal. Only one thing is absolutely indispensable: the will to discover and to realize. This discovery and realization should be the primary preoccupation of our being, the part of great price which we must acquire at any cost.

“Whatever you do, whatever your occupation and activities, the will to find the truth of your being and to unite with it must be always living and present behind all that you do, all that you feel, all that you think.”

Sri Aurobindo says: “There are a thousand ways of approaching and realizing the Divine and each way has its own experiences which have their own truth and stand really on a basis one in essence but complex in aspects, common to all but not expressed in the same way by all. There is not much use in discussing these variations; the important thing is to follow one’s own way well and thoroughly.”

The Mother says thus in answer to the following question: “How is it that in newspapers one quite often reads stories of small children who remember their past lives and that the details have been verified? And it is the study of such events that leads parapsychologists to assert the existence of reincarnation. So are they not on a completely wrong track? And how can reincarnation be demonstrated scientifically in any other way?

“The memories you refer to, which are mentioned in newspapers, are memories of the vital being that, exceptionally, has gone out of one body in order to enter another. It is something that can happen, but it is not frequent.

“The memory that I refer to is that of the psychic being, and one is conscious of it only when one is in conscious relation with one’s psychic being. There is no contradiction between the two things.”

The subject of death, states of after-death and rebirth is not simple for mind to understand because it deals with many states of consciousness that are totally foreign to ordinary human consciousness. However, modern science has now begun to taste the glimpse of these states by its own fanciful tools. One such tool is the application of hypnosis in the field of Psychiatry. Dr. Brian Weiss, a psychiatrist, while he was treating his patient Catherine to rid her of the symptoms of fear-psychosis by the application of hypnosis, had a fascinating chance to peep into some of these consciousness’ states, which are alien to our own normal state of consciousness. He writes in his “Many Lives, Many Masters”:

“Hypnosis is an excellent tool to help a person remember long-forgotten incidents. There is nothing mysterious about it… I instructed Catherine to lie on the coach with her eyes slightly closed and her head resting on a small pillow… After a while I began to regress her, asking her to recall memories of progressively earlier ages. She was able to talk and to answer my questions while maintaining a deep level of hypnosis.”

Catherine recollected her past memories and described with graphic vivid details of events not only of her earlier lives that she had lived (in one case a life lived in 1863 BC) but also of what happened to her after her physical deaths in many such past lives. Most interestingly, she described as seeing many Master Spirits, in addition to many ordinary spirits, dwelling in those after-worlds and caused those Master Spirits through her deep hypnotized state to answer Dr. Brian’s questions. She said there were many people (spirits) living there in those worlds. There were also many Master Spirits (or more evolved spirits). The answers given by those Master Spirits are full of wisdom and echo the teachings of the founders of mankind’s religions. Catherine described the moments of her physical deaths in her previous many lives and what had happened thereafter. She said she came out of her physical body and floated out there after these deaths. Describing one such occasion, she says:

“I am aware of a bright light. It is wonderful’ you get energy from this light.”

“The soul… the soul finds peace here. You leave all the bodily pains behind you. Your soul is peaceful and serene. It is a wonderful feeling … wonderful like the sun is always shining on you. The light is so brilliant! Everything comes from the light. Energy comes from this light. Our soul immediately goes there. It is almost like a magnetic force that we are attracted to. It is wonderful. It is like a power source. It knows how to heal.”

It is the experience of Divine force guiding the Psychic Being. Catherine speaks of the Master Spirits (or more evolved psychic Beings) being present in those worlds. Catherine acted as instrument for these Spirits to speak words. These words are full of wisdom and reassert what has been said by great spiritual leaders of Mankind since ages. These spirits said:

“Our task is to learn, to become God-like through knowledge. We know so little. “

“We have no right to abruptly halt peoples’ lives before they have lived out their karma. And we are doing it. We have no right. They will suffer greater retribution if we let them live. When they die and go to the next dimension, they will suffer there. They will be left in a very restless state. They will have no peace. And they will be sent back, but their lives will be very hard. And they will have to make up to those people that they hurt for the injustices that they did against them. They are halting these peoples’ lives, and they have no right to do that. Only God can punish them, not us. They will be punished.”

“Yes, we choose when we will come into our physical state and when we will leave. We know when we have accomplished what we were sent down here to accomplish. We know when the time is up., and you will accept your death. For you know that you can get nothing more out of this life time. When you have time, when you have had the time to rest and re-energize your soul, you are allowed to choose your re-entry back into the physical state…. “

“Everybody’s path is basically the same. We all must learn certain attitudes while we are in physical state. Some of us are quicker to accept them than ohers. Charity, hope, faith, love … we must all know these things and know them well. It is not just one hope and one faith and one love – so many things feed into each one of these. There are so many ways to demonstrate them. And yet we have only tapped into a little bit of each one… People of the religious orders have come closer than any of us have because they have taken these vows of chastity and obedience. They have given up so much without asking for anything in return. The rest of us continue to ask foe rewards – rewards and justifications for our behavior. .. when there are no rewards, rewards that we want. The reward is in doing, but doing without expecting anything…. Doing unselfishly. “

“To be in physical state is abnormal. When you are in spiritual state, that is natural to you. When we are sent back, it is like being sent back to something we do not know. It will take us longer. In the spirit world you have to wait, and then you are renewed. There is a state of renewal.”

“Those are different levels of learning, and we must learn some of them in the flesh. We must feel the pain. When you are a spirit you feel no pain. It is a period of renewal. Your soul is being renewed. When you are in physical state in the flesh, you can feel pain; you can hurt. In spiritual form you do not feel. There is only happiness, a sense of well-being. But it is a renewal period for … us. The interaction between people in the spiritual form is different. When you are in physical state.. You can experience relationships.”

Sri Aurobindo, the great Yogi of modem India, says, “the consciousness of the ordinary human mind is subject to the control of vital and material Nature and is limited wholly by birth and death and Time and the needs and desires of the mind, life and body. … The animal has the conscious vital mind, but whatever beginnings there are in it of anything higher are only a primary glimpse, a crude hint of the intelligence which in man becomes the splendor of the mental understanding, will, emotion, aesthetes and reason.

“Man elevated in the heights and deepened by the intensities of the mind becomes aware of something great and divine in himself but which he has not yet become. And he turns the powers of his mind, his power of knowledge, his power of will, his power of emotion and aesthetes to seek out this, to seize and comprehend all that it may be, to become it and to exist wholly in its greater consciousness, delight, being and power of highest becoming. But what he gets of this higher state in his normal mind is only intimation, a primary glimpse, a crude hint of the splendor, the light, the glory and divinity of the spirit within him.

“The mind by its very nature cannot render with an entirely rightness or act in the unified completeness of the divine knowledge, will and Ananda because it is an instrument for dealing with the divisions of the finite on the basis of division, a secondary instrument therefore and a sort of delegate for the lower movement in which we live.

“ The mind can reflect the Infinite, it can dissolve itself into it, it can live in it by a large passivity, it can take its suggestions and act them out in its own way, a way always fragmentary, derivative and subject to a greater or less deformation, but it cannot be itself the direct and perfect instrument of the infinite Spirit acting in its own knowledge.

“The object of Yoga is to raise the human being from the consciousness of (his) ordinary mind… to the consciousness of the spirit. (This spirit is) free in its self and (uses) the circumstances of mind, life and body as admitted or self-chosen and self-figuring determinations of the spirit, (uses) them in free self-knowledge, a free will and power of being, a free delight of being. This is the essential difference between the ordinary mortal mind in which we live and the spiritual consciousness of our divine and immortal being which is the highest result of Yoga.”

Nature is ceaselessly at its work of evolving life further and consciousness higher. This evolutionary process is extremely slow. It takes centuries, if not thousands of years, for this process to bring even a minor change that may be perceptible. The outer signs of this change are exhibited in the mutation that continuously takes place in the molecular formations of DNA and RNA. But the mutation is only an outer sign or evidence of the internal process going on in the living bodies. It is not the mutation of DNA etc. that is the cause of life’s evolution.

On the contrary, it is the life’s evolution – or struggle against blind forces of Nature – that brings about the mutation in the molecular formation of these building blocks of life. Human beings have evolved and perfected to a certain degree the tool of reason that we call Mind. Organic structure of the seat of this process – physical brain – is merely the outer apparatus – like the hardware of a computer – enabling the internal – software – process to take place. Mind – that is, reason – is not the ultimate product of Nature. Mind is bound to be superseded by a better – higher – instrument of consciousness.

But Nature will take thousands of years in its general course to achieve this next stage of evolutionary march. Is it possible to accelerate this evolutionary process by artificial (conscious Yogic) means? Is it possible to squeeze the time scale of thousands of years into a few centuries, or still more, into a few decades? It cannot be done by solely human efforts however heroic this effort may be. It can be done, if the Supreme Being wills it. But the Supreme Being does not will it unless at least a few individuals are ready to become vehicle of this Supreme Will and the mankind’s collective consciousness is willing and ready to cooperate and collaborate. Such an effort, even a thought of it, by a human being would be bizarre. It would be a kind of unparalleled heroic work in the entire span of mankind’s history.

All this is the part of the science of Yoga.

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