The New Synthesis of Yoga to overcome the New Impasse of Modernity
Let me begin by saying that I feel quite privileged this evening to be with everyone and as Debashish has explained this subject which is dearest to me is to explore with everyone first of all, the impasse through which modernity is passing and to realise this impasse and to see how this impasse can be crossed, can be surmounted or can be resolved. At a given time this impasse was seen to be such an impasse that it could not be crossed, it is for that reason that I regard Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as the latest helpers who have taken up the burden of this impasse and what is extremely significant is that they have crossed the impasse, they have made a way, hewn a path so that it may be easier for the whole humanity depending upon certain conditions also to cross this impasse.
I think that it is in that context that the synthesis of Yoga that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have developed is so important and it is for that reason that we first of all need to study this synthesis of Yoga and to understand this yoga to the best of our ability and then to see how we ourselves participate in the process of this Yoga. This can be a long process and I am prepared to be with all of you for as long as you think we can continue together, today and later on periodically and I shall be happy to be on this subject and we shall develop this subject leisurely, in the sense that we need not cross over this subject quickly like a capsule, we can explore this subject because it is extremely important and to my mind the most important subject of today. It is so important that if I am asked what would you like to do for the students of the world today? I would simply say that if I can simply discuss this question and if I can explore this question with them, I’ll be fulfilled. This is what I regard to be perhaps the task to be carried out for young people today. Let me therefore begin this subject by saying that we need to look upon ourselves as pilgrims, we are on a journey and we all together and let us assume that each one us wants to do the best to reach the highest and to be fulfilled up to the highest possible limit or even limitlessly and if we are travelling together we shall ask what exactly is the starting point? Where are we? Because each one of us has journeyed enough, the history of the world also has journeyed for millions of years and we have arrived at a certain point, even human history has been quite long and it may be quite useful for us to summarise first of all, at least the human history.
Now there are many ways in which you can summarise human history and I should like to share with you The Life Divine, it is the magnum opus of Sri Aurobindo, there are several places where he has summarised the history of the world in different contexts and for different purposes. I have before me one passage, it’s one paragraph where he has summarises in one paragraph the entire human history, it is in the second volume of The Life Divine, the chapter is entitled The Divine Life and for those who might have access to The Life Divine, I shall give them the reference exactly of that page on which one can read at leisure and reflect on it because amongst several paragraphs of this kind, I think it is such a succinct and precise summary of the world history that it builds up rapidly from the ancient times to the present day and shows us exactly where we are now facing an impasse.
In this paragraph Sri Aurobindo proposes that ultimately the human race can find justification of its existence if it can arrive at individual perfection and collective perfection and in order to arrive at that perfection, Sri Aurobindo makes one basic premise which is extremely significant. He points out that human nature is complex, and this word is very important. Human nature is complex, it has got many elements, many parts and these parts are not absolutely in harmony with each other. First of all he has got a physical aspect and then vital, mental aspect and then a spiritual aspect and then Sri Aurobindo points out that since we are all on the physical earth and in a sense we are all children of the earth, it is quite natural that human nature aims at first of all at establishing physical base of existence as securely as possible and once that is done there is a farther search and Sri Aurobindo points out that the development of the mind would be the second occupation of man and in the history of the world he refers to the Hellenistic period where the human mind came to be developed to a great extent and the early Greek civilisation stands out as an example of a state of humanity, at least in that part of the world as some kind of mental faculties were developed, some kind of harmonisation was aimed at, as a result of which Greek civilisation and thereafter later on Roman civilisation, as it is known as Greco–Roman civilisation developed and Sri Aurobindo said in a sense when Roman civilisation tried to capture Greek civilisation, Greek civilisation itself was weakened to some extent because there was again a great pressure in Roman civilisation towards rule of Law and organisation, they collided with the free movement of the mental consciousness and its development. Thereafter there was a need of a higher development because spirituality is a higher element and that was the element that is normally pressurised human beings to develop in that direction.
In ancient civilisations Sri Aurobindo says particularly the East, the message of spiritual development became extremely important and prominent and the fruits of spiritual development of the ancient times were passed on from Buddhism to Asia and to Egypt and from there Christianity took birth and this spiritual heritage as it was called in West and that is how we find in Europe the growth of spiritual civilisation but all that was effected in a very difficult period when invasions of barbarism, one after the other had come over Europe and the light of Christianity was like a torch–light, not a search light. And before it could be assimilated or it could make a big impact there arose in Europe a reversal, there was some kind of a new development and the reaffirmation of the cult of Reason and at this point of time the greatest light was developed was the light of science, with this light of science today we have a rationalistic culture, scientific culture and it has tended to serve the economic organisation and the attempt of whole mankind today is centred on economic development and arrival at some kind of organisation whereby physical life with the light of science and other facilities which have been created by science the political, social, economic life could be securely established. As a result of this there is today a reversal in which economic organisation and the economic aim of life seems to preponderate and this is exactly the point at which we are. I would like to read out those few lines from Sri Aurobindo just to make ourselves quite precise about what Sri Aurobindo said about world–history right from early times to the present day.
I shall refer to this particular page in Life Divine, those who have got Centenary Edition, it is on page no. 1051, but those who don’t have the book doesn’t matter because recently there is a new edition of The Life Divine, The Divine Life is the last chapter of The Life Divine. I’ll read out to you that passage, Sri Aurobindo says:
“Our nature is complex and we have to find a key to some perfect unity and fullness of its complexity. Its first evolutionary basis is the material life: Nature began with that and man also has to begin with it; he has first to affirm his material and vital existence. But if he stops there, there can be for him no evolution; his next and greater preoccupation must be to find himself as a mental being in a material life – both individual and social – as perfected as possible. This was the direction which the Hellenic idea gave to European civilisation, and the Roman reinforced – or weakened – it with the ideal of organised power: the cult of reason, the interpretation of life by an intellectual thought critical, utilitarian, organising and constructive, the government of life by Science are the last outcome of this inspiration. But in ancient times the higher creative and dynamic element was the pursuit of an ideal truth, good and beauty and the moulding of mind, life and body into perfection and harmony by this ideal. Beyond and above this preoccupation, as soon as mind is sufficiently developed, there awakes in man the spiritual preoccupation, the discovery of a self and inmost truth of being and the release of man’s mind and life into the truth of the Spirit, its perfection by the power of the Spirit, the solidarity, unity, mutuality of all beings in the Spirit. This was the Eastern ideal carried by Buddhism and other ancient disciplines to the coasts of Asia and Egypt and from there poured by Christianity into Europe. But these motives, burning for a time like dim torch lights in the confusion and darkness created by the barbaric flood that had submerged the old civilisations, have been abandoned by the modern spirit which has found another light, the light of Science. What the modern spirit has sought for is the economic social ultimate, – an ideal material organisation of civilisation and comfort, the use of reason and science and education for the generalisation of a utilitarian rationality which will make the individual a perfected social being in a perfected economic society. What remained from the spiritual ideal was – for a time – a mentalised and moralised humanitarianism relieved of all religious colouring and a social ethicism which was deemed all sufficient to take the place of a religious and individual ethic. It was so far that the race had reached when it found itself hurried forward by its own momentum into a subjective chaos and a chaos of its life in which all received values were overthrown and all firm ground seemed to disappear from its social organisation, its conduct and its culture.”
This is according to me one of the best quotations in The Life Divine, as Sri Aurobindo has summarised history of the world from the beginning to the present day, the briefest and the most precise summary of the human kind.