A few things that he said I would like to repeat to you, he says when I was arrested, I asked the inner Supreme Reality why have you allowed this arrest, I thought I had a work to do, you wanted me to do a work and now I will be in jail without any work, so there was a reply from within, ‘wait, you will see’, and after three days when he was taken into the real cell of the jail, Sri Aurobindo says: Sri Krishna came to me, and said: ‘I have brought you here for a specific purpose, I had given you indication to withdraw from the political activity so that the work that I want you to do can be done. Since you did not respond to it, I had to find the means by which you could be delivered from this political activity and therefore, I have brought you here in the jail, so that you can do the work that I want you to do. And there Sri Aurobindo says, a friend came to the jail and gave him the Bhagvad Gita and Sri Aurobindo began to practise the yoga of the Gita. And the whole year he practised the yoga of the Gita and during that time one of the most remarkable experiences was what was called universal experience of Vasudeva. Vasudeva sarvam iti and as it were a concrete proof of it was he says: ‘when I was in the court, as a under trail prisoner ( because all the accused were taken to the court everyday and while the prosecution was expounding its prosecution the prisoners were supposed to listen but he was entirely absorbed in the yogic meditation during the period) and he said: when I looked at the prosecution lawyer, I found it was Sri Krishna was prosecuting me and I looked at the judge and saw Sri Krishna smiling at me, when I went back to my prison cell, I found Sri Krishna standing at the gate. When I looked at the tree which was behind the prison cells, I found Sri Krishna standing at the tree. And Sri Aurobindo says that Sri Krishna walked with me, talked to me. This is one of the most revealing experiences of Sri Aurobindo. In fact this experience reveals to us the living reality of Sri Krishna. Sri Krishna, who is so much worshipped in India, worshipped as the avatar of the Supreme Lord.
For a modern yogi Sri Aurobindo educated in England and himself confirming this experience, is for the history of Indian spirituality a momentous evidence that Sri Krishna is a reality, one can meet him, can talk to him, one can get guidance from him, one can be led by him. It was there that Sri Krishna, (Sri Aurobindo says in the Uttarpara speech) told him, I want India to rise not because India should rise but because the world should rise. It is India which can lead the world, if world has to move forward, India has to be freed and India will be freed that is a promise that Sri Krishna gave to him. India will be free. But India will be free so that the teaching of India is lived, not merely contemplated upon, but India’s truth should be lived. And this living message of India should be spread in the world.
Then Sri Aurobindo speaks of Sanatana Dharma and Sri Krishna’s revelation of the Sanatana Dharma. What is the truth of Sanatana Dharma? Something beyond rituals, beyond all kind of worship, the truth of Reality which can be lived, which can be experienced, which can be realised? This is the experience that Sri Aurobindo had in the Alipore jail and he was according to many compatriots who were also imprisoned, Sri Aurobindo was all the time found in the state of meditation. It was not a stay in the jail, according to Sri Aurobindo; it was a stay in an ashram where he was secluded from everything else, so that he could concentrate. It was here that Sri Aurobindo was told by Sri Krishna that he had a work to do, which goes much beyond political activity, it is not the denial of political activity, it was not the denial of the action which was to be done for the liberation of India. But this work had to be expanded into a greater work. The scope of his work had to be world–wide work. And world–wide work can be launched upon only when the truths of Indian spirituality are fully realised in actual experience. There was a third experience apart from the first experience in Baroda of silent Brahman, the cosmic consciousness of Vasudeva, he had a third experience and Sri Aurobindo says that this experience came to him from Swami Vivekananda.
Now we must remember that Swami Vivekananda was not alive at that time, he had passed away five years before. And this is the experience Sri Aurobindo says that he got from the voice of Vivekananda and he says for fifteen days Swami Vivekananda spoke to him of the planes which are lying between mind and Supermind, the passage from the mind to the Supermind. And he says when this exposition was over the voice also ceased.
Now this experience of going beyond mind to the Supermind, Sri Aurobindo later on found was the fundamental thing of the Veda. That is say the Vedic knowledge is so vast and so perfected that the glimpses of that knowledge which he got in the Alipore jail through Vivekananda’s exposition and on the lines on which he was practising yoga when he came to Pondicherry, it was with this background that he was practising and it is during that practise he began to have the experiences of Saraswati and Ila. And it is in that context when he started reading the Veda; he got the clue to the real meaning of the Veda. That is to say Sri Aurobindo’s revelation of the Vedic knowledge is not by reading commentaries and by books, which of course he had read and also was reading, he had read afterwards so much. But his own understanding of the Veda was by direct experience.
In fact, it can even be said he did not discover his experience through Veda, his experiences led him to confirm the Veda that the Vedic knowledge is a true knowledge, this truth of the knowledge contained in the Veda came to him by his own experiences and by the enrichment of these experiences. And then he began to find that this book which is regarded by the Western scholars to be a book of primitive people, of the people who were afraid of the forces of nature, who were afraid of darkness and who were praying for the rise of the sun and worshipping ushas and wondering at the movement of the sun and the moon and the stars. And then the whole theory of the invasion of Aryans on India, in which Dravidians were thrown out from the north and sent to the south, where dasuyas were identified with Tamilians or Dravidians. Vritra and vala and panis of the Vedic allusions were all as if Dravidians. Sri Aurobindo said that all that fell absolutely like a screen falling at one stroke. It is that experience of him that brought him to the real study of the Veda.
I took you to this long story of Sri Aurobindo because it is very important to have this background that Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation of the Veda is not an intellectual interpretation of the Veda. It is a revelation to a Rishi of the experiences of the Rishis in the method of the Rishi. As Vamadeva says ninyami vachamsi the secret words, Kavahi vachanai it is given to the poet, poet means according to the Veda, poet is a seer, is a Rishi. And these words which are secret words, Sri Aurobindo himself says that the Veda declares that the words of the Veda are secret. That is to say, do not read the Vedic words as they are, there are secret words. In another essay, Sri Aurobindo has written the language of the Veda is algebraic. Just as in algebra you have to understand symbols, xyz, whatever it is, you have to understand what it means? Similarly the Veda contains a number of words, which are secret words. And these secret words were deliberately designed by the Vedic seers. The Vedic seers according to Sri Aurobindo were masters of knowledge. the question as to how masters of knowledge could come about in that ancient time is a very interesting question for historians, because according to historians the knowledge grows little by little and primitive people must be much less advanced then what we are because we are more advanced.
This whole story of the development of religion, not only of India but of the whole world is according to the Western thinking and many disciples of the West in India, they believe that religion starts from fear. This is the starting point of all beliefs in religion, human beings are afraid and they want to get protection from the objects of fear and the whole world is fearful. To the primitive man everything is fearful, frightening, so the primitive man was a frightened man. And therefore he was seeking some kind of solace, some kind of protection, and when you are afraid you immediately seek help psychologically. And when you get some help, you think that some help has come from outside and you deify the object that gives you help or seems to be giving you help. This is according to them the starting point of religion.
The theories of animism, of spiritism, fetishism, toteism, theories of tribal religion, theories of national religion, story of universal religion, all gradual development starting from fear of man. Now according to that theory, therefore Veda, if it is a religious book, if it is a book in which prayers are being offered, then the objects to whom prayers are offered must be objects which were worshipped by these primitive people to get some kind of solace, some kind of help. In other words the objects which seem to be giving you help may not be real at all, it’s simply a belief. But such flimsy objects having flimsy reality became deified and therefore this whole theory of the Vedic religion as understood in the West has behind it this theory that man begins religious beliefs starting with fear and gradually you begin to develop more and more refined ideas even though ultimately you are never sure whether the object of religion is real or not. Even as late as William James who wrote great book called ‘Varieties of Religious Experience’ this is the exposition he has made, he has described a number of religious experiences in his book, starting from the presence of the Divine, or of God, or of Christ, because largely he has taken the Christian experiences and experiences of conversion, experiences of saintliness, experiences of mysticism, has even taken from Raja Yoga, some of the experiences described by Vivekananda, but having done all that he says that I take a pragmatic view of religion, whether the object of religion exists or not, cannot be determined. There may not be any God, or gods, or anything of the kind, but I favour religion because the belief cures the human mind. If you believe in God, your mind remains healthy, so because of health reasons, he says you can allow religion to flourish.