You know, yesterday I ended with two verses: one from Vishwamitra and one from Sri Aurobindo. Now I shall repeat these two because they are very important, and I shall tell you why. It will show us what was the Vedic experience and how far we need to go forward, and how Sri Aurobindo has gone forward, and in what way he has gone forward, and therefore what is directly relevant to us.
When we study history, the important question we should ask is: what was the search of people of any given time? What were they looking for? What was their quest? What was their question? What were they searching for and what did they discover ultimately? The whole world history is a kind of account of a quest. And if you don’t ask this question, you don’t learn history. So when we study Vedic literature we must ask: what was the quest? What were they looking for and why were they looking for what they were looking for? It seems that Vedic Rishis made at least five important discoveries. And I shall come to these five discoveries, but they were all centered on one important question: what is the highest that the human being can attain? That was their quest. What is the highest? You try your utmost, you do your utmost, and as a result, what is available to humanity? That was their basic question. Ultimately they came to realise that what we can do at the most is to attain immortality. I had already spoken about this earlier in my talk on Dharma: the search for immortality. They did not like dislocation, disintegration, breaking, falling apart, division; they wanted to find a way by which this dislocation could be prevented. They found the utmost the human being can do was to attain to a state of immortality, to attain wholeness, completeness which does not break. This was their search. And in the discovery of immortality many discoveries were made. I speak of five discoveries which are important in the Vedic experience.
We come to our times, and when we study history we should always keep this in view: our times and those times, now and then, then and now. This is how we should study history all the time. What is our need to study Veda? Because it can help us now and open the gates to the future. So we must ask the question: What do we need now? What is our need? Why should we study the Veda? So it is for this that Sri Aurobindo has made a tremendous study of what we need today. What is our present time? What do we need? Is it sufficient to go back to the Veda and other past experiences, past discoveries, and repeat them, revive them, reestablish them, is it enough? Or do we need to do something more, or something different? Something that was not conceived before at all? And Sri Aurobindo, after making a great study, an intensive study, came to the conclusion that we need to do something quite different. We can take help from all the past discoveries, and among these discoveries the Vedic discoveries are very important. But merely bringing them back is not enough; we should of course learn of them, acquire them, rediscover them, but that is not enough. Something quite difference has to be attempted, because our times are different. Now what is that difference? Sri Aurobindo called our times a critical moment of evolution. Each word is important: “critical moment of evolution.” Sri Aurobindo made a discovery of evolution in a very fundamental way. The idea of evolution is not new, and yet in a certain respect it is new. If you read Sri Aurobindo’s book called The Life Divine (which one day you will study, in fact you should keep as a program of your life the idea that one day you will read ‘The Life Divine’, from cover to cover, and very well, very intensively, because that is very important). So if you study ‘The Life Divine’, you will find that the entire book is actually on the theme of evolution. What is evolution? There are many views of evolution today.
In a very striking manner this idea of evolution was brought forth by a scientist called Charles Darwin. You might have heard his name. Darwin wrote a book called Origin of the species. How different species have come into existence. And he spoke of an evolutionary movement by which species have grown and developed. In his studies every creature on earth is a struggling creature, everyone here is supposed to struggle, whether he likes it or not, every creature, whether it is a small insect or a bird, or a reptile, or a biped, or a quadruped, whatever it is, there is a struggle. There is a law of struggle as it were. And without a struggle, according to Darwin, no creature can survive, and there is a tremendous urge to survive, this is a basic law as it were. Every creature on this earth wants to survive, and therefore there is a struggle for survival, and unfortunately or fortunately the world is such that a creature confronts a vast system which wants to devour that creature. Whoever comes into existence is being attempted to be devoured. This is a new idea which Darwin put forward in history in recent times. It was in the middle of the Nineteenth century. Now of course we are going into Twenty-first century, but it was in the midst of the Nineteenth century that Darwin put forward this idea.
It was felt to be a new idea, but it was not entirely new because in India there is a very fine sentence: “The eater, eating, is been eaten.” “The eater, eating, is been eaten.” I am devouring something, I do not know that I myself am also been eaten by somebody, or there is an attempt by somebody to eat me up. But this is the small sentence, that we find, in the Upanishads, and Upanishad is a development from the Veda and we shall talk about it. This is a great sentence: the eater is eating, and that eater is also been eaten. So, you can see that in this world there is a tremendous struggle, everybody trying to devour, without devouring as it were you can’t survive, and yet there is a kind of a movement from behind you which is trying to eat you up. Therefore you have to struggle against that — who is trying to eat you up. This is the idea which was known in India, and which Darwin put forward in a very striking manner and he said: “There is a basic law in this world, and that law is the law of struggle for survival, the struggle for existence.” Each one is struggling. Struggling to eat, and struggling against being eaten. This is what is happening all the time in this world. And then he said there is a second law, and the second law is that only a creature which develops so much strength and power and faculties, it is only when you become fittest as it were, that you can survive. In this struggle you have to develop faculties, you have to develop powers, capacities. He said that these faculties and powers are inescapably physical in character. The better the organ, the better the faculty that you develop, the better is your capacity to be fit and the more fit you are, the greater is the possibility of your surviving. You may have to develop new kinds of organs. There are creatures which don’t have hands and feet as we have, therefore they couldn’t survive as much as human beings are able to survive. Certain animals developed wings like birds did, and they could survive, because they developed wings: their physical wings were developed. At a certain stage of development a brain was developed. And it is said that the human being, the human body has a great speciality because the brain has been developed. It is this brain power, as it were, which is responsible for directing the body, directing the thought, and thought has many capacities as a result of which, according to Darwin, the fittest instrument has been created, and therefore man is able to survive. He has developed the fittest instrument, and will survive because of this instrument: the brain power. This theory that he put forward has now become very widespread in the world. If you move out in the world, you will find that people are adherents of this theory. There are opponents, no doubt, but by and large this theory has spread all over the world with a great welcome. In his book he showed how, there was gradually, physical development, better and better organisation of the body, until the development of the brain. It is a great story of gradual development. Evolution is — if you ask the question: what is the meaning of evolution — the exact meaning of evolution is: graduated development. Evolution is development but graduated development; there is a step-by-step development. It is not as if everything develops at one stroke. But he admitted that at a certain moment of development, there is what is called, mutation. Here is another word which you must understand: mutation. Mutation means: a very radical development, a sudden change such as the development of the butterfly is a mutation. You know how a butterfly is produced; that is a process of sudden remarkable development which cannot even been foreseen. If you see the precedent event, and then the next event, there is such remarkable change that you cannot even imagine that such a thing can happen? It is as if somebody comes in your surroundings with crutches, unable to even walk on the crutches and within three days you find that person throwing away the crutches and running about and wrestling with you and winning the wrestling bout that would be a mutation. Suddenly within a short time these capacities developed, that is mutation. Now, Darwin accepted that at certain times in graduated development, mutation takes place, but that mutation can be traced still to the past. In development of flowers also you will see a bud suddenly opens out at a certain time with full glory, as it were. You see a small child also; suddenly a mutation takes place in the child’s development. The child has only learned two or three words which the child can utter today and after five days you just meet the child and you see that child speaking six, seven sentences in a few days time. This we see very often, quite easily. So Darwin said that there is evolution, graduated development, there is a war as it were, there is a struggle for survival, and suddenly after sometime a mutation takes place. These are, you might say, miracles of physical development. So Darwin’s theory is a theory of physical evolution.