Now the question that you have asked – has mankind made progress? This question is loaded with many other suggestions in it. The Bhagavad Gita itself says: 'yada yada hi dharmasya, glanir bhavati bharata'; Sri Krishna is aware that even if now if dharma is restored again it will go back to glanir, again it will be lost, even if the wicked are punished now then again they will rise up. Then the loaded question is then what is the point? If all that you do is ultimately again going to be ruined then what is the point in it? The progress really would mean the progress that has been made at one time does not recur. The other loaded question is: is it possible to arrive at a point where these evils will really be eradicated once for all? Is the world such, is the world so constituted that it is possible to overcome evil and wicked people once for all. Even though if that is so then why is it uptil now recurring again, again? Is it that the world is simply a cycle? You go from bad to good and again you return to bad, is the world so constituted it is only to be like this? A deeper question is – is it really so? Is it really true that evil recurs again and again in the same way, in the same intensity, or is there some misreading of our own history? All these questions are involved and this question can even be formulated with a greater vehemence. There is one very interesting passage in The Life Divine and I am going to read to you that passage where the question that you have raised is presented with a greater force.
Sri Aurobindo argues the argument that you have presented in a very formidable manner. This is not Sri Aurobindo's standpoint but he has made an argument coming from those who question the idea of progress. So if you see in the middle "the idea of human progress itself is very probably an illusion, for there is no sign that man, once emerged from the animal stage, has radically progressed during his race history; at most he has advanced in knowledge of the physical world, in Science, in the handling of his surroundings, in his purely external and utilitarian use of the secret laws of Nature. But otherwise he is what he always was in the early beginnings of civilisation: he continues to manifest the same capacities, the same qualities and defects, the same efforts, blunders, achievements, frustrations. If progress there has been, it is in a circle, at most perhaps in a widening circle. Man today is not wiser than the ancient seers and sages and thinkers, not more spiritual than the great seekers of old, the first mighty mystics, not superior in arts and crafts to the ancient artists and craftsmen; the old races that have disappeared showed as potent an intrinsic originality, invention, capacity of dealing with life and, if modern man in this respect has gone a little farther, not by any essential progress but in degree, scope, abundance, it is because he has inherited the achievements of his forerunners. Nothing warrants the idea that he will ever hew his way out of the half-knowledge half-ignorance which is the stamp of his kind, or, even if he develops a higher knowledge, that he can break out of the utmost boundary of the mental circle."
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: Man and the Evolution
So this is a much vaster argument against all those who claim that mankind has made progress. Even today we find Duryodhanas, Kansas among ourselves. Even if you say that there has been a great spiritual development then the argument is that the Rishis like Vishwamitra and Vashishta were greater mystics then today so where is the progress at all? So having sharpened this argument now let us see the true answer to this question.
First of all we must ask our question 'how shall we determine the yardstick of progress? When shall we say that now we have made a progress? One answer would be that we shall say that progress has been made when the mankind will not return back again on certain achievements such as goodness, saintliness, spread of luminosity, knowledge, good governance, good neighbourliness, harmony, unity; all these have been preached by all the great avatars that have come they established that for a short time but again it has returned back like the dog's tail. So we shall say that according to us progress will really mean a stage where once having achieved what was to be achieved in terms of unity and harmony what Ramrajya ultimately established or what Yudhishthira established after his conquests and has remained for some time, when this does not get reversed then we shall say now real progress has been achieved this will be our special yardstick. So far it has not happened therefore we say there is no progress. So this is one yardstick. Now the question is: is it a correct yardstick? I already defined it but does it mean what I am saying is justified? The answer is that although it is justified it needs to be qualified to some extent.
We must ask ourselves what is a human being basically and what do we expect of a human being in terms of progress? We shall find that the human being is basically a complex person, it has a physical body, it has vital energies and urges, it has got a mind and then it has got spirit, so man has four elements and when we say progress we should mean really progress in all the four directions, – physical direction, vital direction, mental direction and spiritual direction. At present I have defined progress only in one direction namely spiritual dimension. Namely in terms of unity, harmony, good sense, goodwill etc, – which is a moral and spiritual dimension. But what about the other dimensions? If certainly man gets into the spiritual dimension and manifests it fully then of course there is no doubt that we shall certainly certify that now progress has been registered but is that all that we should demand? Basically human being is to be defined as a rational being. The definition of man is that he is a rational being, not only rational being but a rational animal that is to say we do not rule out the animality in man. So we should expect first of all the development of man in terms of his animality and in terms of his rationality. If you find that progress has been made in these two directions then at least we should say that the basic progress has been made.
Now let us look at the whole history of the world from this point of view. Since man is complex all the four elements will manifest from time to time but the degree of development in one domain will differ from age to age. If you examine the whole history you will be able to find out that there is a pattern in the development of the history of mankind. Although all the four elements develop simultaneously but this development is at it were a zigzag development because man is complex, so you cannot say that only one thing is to be stressed first and other things to be stressed later on. All the four elements move in a zigzag manner but even there, there is a design. The predominance of development of bodily existence is first of all stressed in history. Since man is an animal basically so his animality has to be first of all securely established. If humanity can do that first you can say at least the first basic thing has been done. In history therefore in the beginning mankind was stressing basically this element, although other elements were also were present, – vital element, mental element, spiritual element, all elements are to be found right from the early history. Even the early history shows that man was religious. Some kind of religion was present; so a spiritual element was still present. Even at the early times you find that not only religious elements but even a great spirituality developed. If the Vedas were the great works of spiritual knowledge and wisdom then it is certainly true that in ancient times spiritual development took place in a very large scale on a very lofty level this is historical evidence. So spiritual development was also given a great place even in the early times but still history was interested first to establish the physical of man. So even when the physicality was being established other elements were not neglected they were also developed but they were developed for a time being in a insecure manner until the lower base is sufficiently secured even if you build on the higher planes something great it doesn't remain secure and that is the reason why great edifice of spiritual knowledge either went into oblivion or some kind of a incomprehension or even a loss. As Sri Krishna says himself that this great knowledge of Karma Yoga was given by me first to Vivasvan and then to Manu and then to Ishvaku and then it went on as a tradition and ultimately it got lost. Why did it get lost? The reason is that the intention of nature is not merely to develop spiritual knowledge but also to secure the development of the totality. And in the beginning the preponderant attention of nature is to establish the base. All the civilisations that you study in history were first concerned with the physical security of man. You may call him a barbarian and early history certainly shows a large scale barbarism. But what was the barbarian doing? The primitive man was trying to get food, clothing, shelter on a secure basis that was his fundamental concern, whether it is Egyptian civilisation or a Chinese civilisation or Persian civilisation or Babylonian civilisation or Indian civilisation of which we have got some kind of records. The earliest occupation of man was to establish physically the human being on the earth even for human survival was difficult in the beginning because so many jungles, so many beasts, so many animals, so many risks, so much of ignorance, obscurity, quarrels, battles. So the ancient history of civilisation is nothing but quarrels and battles of all various kinds resulting in what is called civilisation.
Now what is the meaning of civilisation? The word civilisation comes from the word civil. A stage where civil life gets secured is called civilisation and what is civil life? Civil life is the life in which law and order, some kind of physical facilities so that physical life is not derooted and some kind of modicum comfort. If any historical epoch establishes this much we can say it is a civilisation so earliest civilisations tried to establish the physical as yet not fully but greatly. So you might say that the history of mankind at least shows that civil life began to be developed and even if one civilisation broke down it was not so difficult to build up another civilisation much more quickly than the first civilisation. The speed with which the new civilisation developed even after the breakage gives you a measure of progress so you can say 'yes' mankind made this much progress. In recent times for example after the great Second World War there was devastation, Germany particularly was devastated, Japan was devastated and yet within a short time they have been built up. That shows that humankind has now a possibility and a capacity by which the quickness with which a civilisation can be built up that capacity man possesses today. So let us say that there is one progress on that one line mankind has achieved. Then the next step of human civilisation was marked by establishment of vital energy. Now what is vital interested in? When can you say the vital being is sufficiently developed, sufficiently established in the world? The main urges of the vital being are acquisition, possession, influencing, enjoyment, aggrandisement, domination, – these are the basic urges of the vital. So human history has to give sufficient space where these urges are allowed to manifest; before they are established they should be allowed to manifest that is why a large chunk of history was spent in allowing these urges to manifest. One of the great examples of this vital urge is Genghis Khan. When human civilisation was sufficiently quiet and quite developed and there was prosperity physically there was sufficient base suddenly this great man strode on the earth and devastated it. Devastated for what reason? Just for the sake of the manifestation of the vital energy, domination, acquisition; I must possess not this much land but more land, I must be the greatest, the established things should be all thrown out because I want a new energy, new development, new creativity. Genghis Khan is only one example but a number of them arose in history. So you might say that the second level of human history was spent in allowing this kind of tendency to come out to have its own experience and to learn from it. One of the last one was Hitler in this direction. For no reason he wanted Germany to expand. No reason means he had his own reasons but from a rational point of view we find there was no point. He wanted Poland, he wanted some other neighbouring lands and then he began to dream of the whole world to be Germanised. What for? From a certain point you can say there was no reason for it but it is this desire to expand. So what was in Hitler was you might say one of the last vestiges of the vital stage of human history. But prior to Hitler there were many others even much more dangerous, much greater. Sri Aurobindo calls Hitler only a dwarf Napoleon. He was basically a dwarf compared to Napoleon. Napoleon also had a big hunger, big appetite; he ran over the whole of Europe and conquered land after land. That is why when we read history we only find that great people come on the scene and they begin to quarrel, they begin to fight, they begin to have wars. So history is nothing but a history of wars and our children complain what is there to study in history. It is nothing but history of wars constantly people come and quarrel and then they become victorious and again defeated this is all; even the story of Mahabharata is what? The story for domination, the story of conquests, the means by which you can influence a large number of people is what Duryodhana wanted. So a large chunk of human history was the manifestation of vital energy. And if you study even much more deeply and much more carefully you will find that even there, there were certain subtle designs because vital has many aspects. I told you just now about acquisition, possession, domination and enjoyment and so on, so some wanted only domination, some wanted enjoyment, some wanted acquisition, some wanted possession, some wanted just to enjoy the quarrel for the sake of quarrel. So there was a long period given to mankind to work out this vital and to learn out of it and then ask oneself, 'so what if I do all this? And today's mankind is asking this question and even children ask this question so what if you conquer this or conquer that? This is a learning from human history and today humanity has learnt: what is war and why should there be war. Even the questioning of war at one time there was no questioning, people thought that war is a normal way of life. There should be wars but today we ask the question 'why should there be wars at all? So you might say that mankind has progressed from that point to this point.
Third is the development of the mind. If mankind has made a progress in the field of the mind then we might say in a certain sense that mankind has really made a progress because man is fundamentally distinguished from the others by his rationality, by his mentality. So let us look at history now from the point of view of mental development. As far as mental development is concerned one of the best examples is the Greek civilisation – the Greek culture; one of the earliest developments in human history is illustrated in Greek history. India also is a very great example in this respect. China also is a very great example in this respect. These three particularly as far as mental development of early history is concerned we can examine them and see what they did, what they achieved. In India intellectuality was given a tremendous place. Even if you read Mahabharata there may be dispute as to who wrote Mahabharata whether there was only one writer who wrote Mahabharata and all that but the fact is that we have got this big book before us whoever might have written. There are one lakh of verses there to produce this gigantic work of one lakh verses is a tremendous intellectual field by any standard, it is a tremendous feat because it contains as it is: what is not in Mahabharata is not anywhere else and all that is there is in Mahabharata; this is what been said and not absolutely without basis. Every possible subject is discussed in Mahabharata. Not only discussed cursorily but in detail. Even Bhagavad Gita which is a part of the Mahabharata you can see that it is a detailed exposition of what is karma, what is not karma; what is gyana what is not gyana, what is bhakti, what is the highest achievement and you might even say profusely discussed in the battle field and the best way to discuss such a long question at such length whether it happened or not it's a different question but the fact is that we have this Bhagavad Gita in our hands which is sufficiently long and sufficient detailed and the production of this book, this episode is a tremendous achievement from the intellectual point of view. Apart from spiritual point of view, intellectually even it's a tremendous feat to produce seven hundred verses and to put into them so many subjects and with so much of clarity, so much of precision that even today when we try to understand we take so much time to understand it. But there is only one episode but look at the dialogue that we have of Vidura. 'Vidura Niti' of how to govern it's a great long discussion on how to govern. Even in the dialogue between Bhishma and Yudhishtara how to govern the state, even when he was on the death bed he discusses how to govern the state properly and everywhere the question is why it should be done? How it should be done? In what proper manner it should be done? It is like a Shastra. A scientific inquiry into every possible subject is given in Mahabharata. So Mahabharata itself is a great example of robust intellectuality. And not merely that Mahabharata is only one example, what about Ramayana and then what about shastras of various kinds which developed. There are six Vedangas. First of all after the Veda there are six Vedangas then there are four Upavedas. This is in early times and all of them are so well defined and so intellectually chiselled, it's an amazing treat. And then if you look into the development of mathematics, astronomy, astrology, medicine and all kinds of sciences. It is said that India has sixty-four sciences and sixty-four arts. This is ancient India. In other words human history emphasised the development of the mind, very intensively.
Now go to Greece there also there was a tremendous emphasis on aesthetics, – science and art of beauty. That is why art, sculpture particularly in Greece even today we regard Greek sculpture as something supreme that developed before the fourth century BC. Development of philosophy, Socrates and Plato, it is said that Plato wrote so greatly that the entire history of western philosophy is footnotes to Plato. So how much he wrote, if you look at the dialogues of Plato, and the intellectual heights, supreme heights of intellectuality you find in Plato. China invented so many things in its earliest times. In fact most of the inventions of ancient times came to us from China all over the world. In other words, even when physical was being developed, vital was being developed, mind was not left behind. Human history ensured that even mental development was greatly developed. In the field of spirituality we saw that the people who wrote Upanishad and Veda must have been spiritually very great. But the attention of history was not on spirituality, it was not on intellectuality, it was largely on the physical and the vital. Unless they are sufficiently developed, greatly cultivated, greatly established the other edifices cannot remain for long therefore they collapse. So why do they collapse? The answer is they collapsed because the attention of history is first to build up the physical and the vital. That is why intellectuality and spirituality that were being developed from time to time collapsed from time to time. So when we examine human history we should ask this question at least physical and vital were sufficiently established, if intellectuality was developed was intellectuality sufficiently developed and if it collapsed it was only because not widely distributed; the answer is that even though intellectuality and spirituality developed in earlier times they remained within small grooves of people. Even in the times of the Vedic Rishis it is not as if all the people living in Vedic times came to know what is in the Veda. In fact only a small group of people became Rishis but large numbers of people were savages. If you see Ramayana, Vishwamitra comes to Dashrath saying: we are doing yagyas, sacrifices according to Vedic rites but we are being disturbed by huge monsters and we want to be protected. So even while there were Rishis like Vishwamitra the vital and physical beings represented by rakshasas were very heavy and they were ready to destroy and they were not sufficiently conquered. So history's attention was to conquer them. That is why Rama and Lakshman had to go in their youth to destroy those rakshasas. That means that the large population was ignorant, did not participate in the heights of the Vedic spirituality. If you go to Greek history it was mainly Athens. One city in which the glory of Greece developed to great pinnacles but the other states did not partake in it. They were overrun afterwards by the Romans who were savages. So intellectual development of Greece was submerged, why? Because the vital powers still had their own history to make and they were allowed large rooms and that great civilisation was allowed to break down. So from the point of view of development of intellect you might say that there was a breakdown but from the point of view of the development of the vital which had to be given a large room that was secured. Human history is therefore a kind of a zigzag in which different powers are allowed to develop even to reach climax but the attention was on a different plane which had to be given a larger room, larger place. So in the first place physical was given a large place then vital was given a large place then came the age of the intellect.
Now look at the history of our modern times. Since the time of renaissance, renaissance is supposed to be starting in 1492 that is the date of renaissance's commencement. From 1492 to the present day now you can see the age of intellectuality. By 1492 physical and vital beings were sufficiently developed. It didn't mean therefore that they had reached their climax and there was no further clamour of the physical and the vital. But they were sufficiently developed so as to give a larger room for the intellectual development of mankind. Within the last five hundred years it's an unprecedented story of intellectual development even though in ancient times intellect was developed and I gave you examples of it. But never was intellectual development was made so widespread the sharing of intellectual development as today during the last five hundred years. Larger sections of people are becoming more and more intellectual. They are sharing the philosophic culture, the artistic culture and all fields of morality and aesthetics. All these elements are greatly developed and shared, an important point is sharing. A historical development is to be judged by the height that you reach and by the largeness of sharing that you can make. In the past stages of history there was a pinnacle achieved from time to time but because it was not shared by a large number of people there was a possibility of attack and destruction. Now during the last five hundred years even though wars took place, even though vital was still allowed to play a great role, there was a sufficient stability of civilisation. As to allow the development of intellect in a number of subjects, the multiplicity of enquiry that you find during the last five hundred years in Europe was incredible. The subjects that were inquired the methods of enquiry particularly the method of induction, experimentations that have been done, discoveries that have been made the inventions that have been made so that during the last five hundred years we have surpassed the pinnacles of the past in various domains of intellectual development. Today's astronomy in the last five hundred years has surpassed all astronomical developments of the past. So even if we had reached great heights in the past today's heights are much greater and widespread development. In the past the development was not wide spread. Educational systems of the past restricted access to education it was difficult to get education in most of the times of history. It is during the last five hundred years that education is made very wide spread. We speak of education for all we want everyone to be educated.
Now even in the field of intellect there are three domains, – the physical intellect, the vital intellect and the pure intellect and therefore within the last five hundred years all the three one after the other have been developed and very largely. It is not that at the same time other domains are not developing but the special place was given to the development of intellect. It is true that some of the intellectual heights which were reached earlier may have been very much greater than even now, it's quite possible. In certain intellectual developments the peaks which were reached were greater. For example, it can be said intellectuality that you find in Mahabharata even now remains unsurpassed in some respects. The conclusions which were reached in some of the domains of philosophy even now remain unsurpassed but this is compensated by subtlety. In any domain there are three aspects to be seen: the height that you reach, the subtlety that you reach, complexity and profundity that you reach. All the three aspects have to be seen for fullness. You should have all the three. Your height should be the highest, subtlety must be the subtlest, and complexity and profundities must be the deepest. When you can combine all the three then you can say now this is perfected and you'll see that when these three things are achieved then there is no collapse, no return again. Until you reach these three perfections because you have not reached perfection there is a possibility of a collapse. During these last five hundred years therefore intellect not only developed in the sense of physical intellect, that is why physics is a science of physical intellect. Vital intellect – the development of all the arts and applications, technologies, this is vital intellect and the pure intellect is in the field of philosophy, pure speculation, pure thought. In all the three respects not only that but it went one step farther. Intellect came to recognise the necessity of conceiving ideals which was always the case, intellect always but how to apply ideals on a large scale in a society that the whole society shares those ideals with. This new idea sprang up in the West on a very large scale. Take for example in France; it's not only France even America but it specially crystallised in France. In France the great thinkers found out three great ideals for the intellect. The ideals of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity and said that if you want a rational life in the world, reasonable life, a good life in the world then people should have freedom of thought and expression. There should be equality because the wide gulfs that exist today between the rich and the poor should be reduced or eliminated and there should be a feeling of brotherliness among people. Now having conceived these ideals the whole of France went into a great revolution and said in the whole of France we want Freedom, Equality, Fraternity. Not only that but Napoleon who came forward at the end of the French revolution he carried these three ideas all over Europe. One of the great results of the Napoleonic wars was that these three ideals went round the whole of Europe. So although the French Revolution failed in France, but these three ideals went round and it inspired the revolutions in the other countries in the same way. And even today, even if you read our Indian Constitution which was framed in 1950, you will find the very Preamble speaks of Justice,Freedom, Equality, Fraternity even today. So the effect is so widespread that those ideals are now getting more and more established. But even that is now found that you may put the ideals, you may even share the ideals, you may try to implement them but today's history has now shown that they are not implementable except in very minor degree therefore a new realisation is coming up on mankind – how to implement these three great ideals. How to bring about a situation where there is sufficient room and it was found that unless you have peace in the world and a durable peace you cannot really establish the kingdom of liberty, equality, fraternity. Now you judge history from this point of view: has mankind made a progress in securing an institution which never existed in the whole world history which is in charge of world peace; an institution which is in charge of world peace so that if any war arises anywhere this institution is a powerful United Nations Organisation. As Sri Aurobindo said the establishment of UNO is a momentous development of human history. Never in the history of the world was it conceived that all the nations of the world must unite together and must create machinery by which war wherever it arises should be immediately quelled. Immediately forces should start to bring about peace. So you might say that humanity in spite of all these falls and rises and so on and why they came about we understand. Ultimately it has reached a point where three things have become irreversible. One a movement towards the gathering of all the people of the world. In the past there were attempts but institutions never came into existence where this can be secured where it becomes irresistible, irreversible. In early times we had Augustus Caesar in the Roman Empire. Who brought under the Roman Empire the largest tracts of the lands of the world to make one empire where people could come together to make one empire so that some kind of unity of people was secured and very powerfully he did it but it collapsed because there was something wrong which was not stabilising. In other words the efforts of Augustus Caesar were good, great, heroic but they were not sufficient; for example he tried to establish the Roman Empire and imposed upon it one language, saying that uniformity will bring about unity. It did not work so one lesson had to be learnt that if you try to bring people of the world together under the force of one language it won't work. He also tried to bring the whole world by means of domination, by power, central power, centralisation. Rule of one language and rule of centralisation. It didn't work. By centralisation what happens is that a small centre develops in the centre which becomes all powerful. What is developing all over is neglected. And revolts begin to start all over and their own needs, local needs, local aspirations are neglected. It is not an ideal solution. You must find a means by which the unity of people does not crush decentralising forces of the world.
Now today if you look at the United Nations Organisation it has been able to achieve two things. One is bringing all the people together, every year conferences are held, the General Assembly of the United Nations meets, all the nations meet together, in which even the smallest state is given as much right of vote as the highest. Even there, there is some defect because of veto power, of five powers, even that is a defect which is coming as a struggle. That is why the United Nations is not so stable. It may also collapse one day because of this reason. You must ultimately create a situation where every decentralised power which has its own life gets support then only it will not collapse. The second point in the United Nations is that there is a great cry for peace. The forces of war exist in the world, threats of war exist even after the United Nations came into existence, hundreds of wars have taken place in the world but the cry for peace is now preponderant. It has been able to quell World War, the third could not start for many reasons, there was a possibility of a threat of the third world war has still not receded but we can say at least for fifty-five years we have been able to thwart the actualisation of the threat of the third world war and this is largely due to the existence of the United Nations Organisation. So the forces of peace, the forces of unity, which does not disturb fundamentally the decentralisation and variation in the world this is one of the great achievements of human history you might say ultimately after so many years of travail we have been able to create this organisation and as a result of United Nations Organisation we are now in a position to create other bodies like UNESCO, it also stands for education of the people in the terms of peace on a wide scale for the whole world. Never in the history of the world did you have an organisation, a universal organisation pleading for education for all in the lessons of peace and international understanding. To construct such an organisation there was a need to have behind it the history of a long period of trouble, labour, pain, all kinds of efforts of mankind for thousands of years to be able to arrive at this point today which is still fragile. You can't say now there will be no recurrence, there would be no fall; there could be but we can understand from this whole history that history does not want easy solutions, temporary solutions. If anything is constructed which is not stable, which is not wide spread, which is not shared – it breaks because it wants something that is really formidable, something that will not reverse.
Sri Aurobindo has spoken of the law of evolution. The law of evolution is the following, – in the first place there is a foundation on which evolutionary journey can be built. Our foundation is the foundation of Matter. The whole evolutionary process is meant for creating, you might say, a divine temple. What is the whole world ultimately trying to achieve? It is to create a physical temple in which divine consciousness can vibrate fully; in other words to create the kingdom of God on the earth. What is God? He is Sachchidananda, so that Truth and Consciousness and Knowledge and Delight these three things should vibrate fully and irresistibly but on the physical plane, stabilised. This is the aim of the whole human history and we have to ask the question how far this temple is built. And then measure the progress of man. So first of all the physical foundation itself has to be secured. When the foundation is sufficiently secured then the forms of the foundation become multiplied, this is the Law of Evolution. Whenever you establish, this will happen even in our small endeavours, you first of all build a factory in the beginning there will be only one central office afterwards when you develop it further then small centres of official organs will begin to grow. So this is the second principle, first foundation then multiplication of forms and multiplication of different kinds of forms. This is the second stage of development. When this sufficiently arises then there is a movement of ascent, ascent means a new principle is introduced and the effort moves forward to sustain the ascent. So there is an ascending movement. First was only foundational movement, horizontal movement then the multiplication of it, the third is ascent you now try to develop a new principle. As in human history, first when the physical foundation was established, the second was the development towards the vital, it was an ascent towards vital development. Then what happens is that once you reach the higher level sufficiently then there is a principle of integration. Whatever is achieved at a higher level you bring back on the lower level? In the first place there was only physical existence, then came the vital existence in a very powerful way then the physical existence was vitalised. In the first place there was only physical foundation then there was an ascent towards the vital, the third stage was vitalising physical. While you try to vitalise the physical it may seem from the external point of view as if you are moving downwards. So if you are not trying to understand the inner meaning you might say now there is a fall. Earlier movement was towards heightening towards the vital now comes the movement which is downward but downward for what purpose? Not to retain the physical foundation as it was before but to vitalise it. But from an outside point of view it may look as if it is collapsing. There is a downward movement. After integration once again there is a further development of the vital principle in different forms, newer forms of vital existence come into being. When they are sufficiently multiplied, not only multiplied but when they are subtilized, when they are greatly deepened they become more complex then again there is an ascent, ascent to a higher principle. Now after vital the higher principle is the mental. In the mental when you reach first of all there is a great ascent to the mind. After the mind achieves a great deal of ascent then it begins to descend to mentalise the physical, to mentalise the vital and then again to bring all the riches of vitalised mind and vitalised physical and mentalised physical up to the higher level. This is where we are today in history.
Question: What do you mean by vitalising the physical?
Answer: Physical is normally inert. Whenever there is security in a society it gets satisfied and it does not want to move forward. The principle of inertia sets into it. This is you might say physical nature. Now when you want to vitalise the physical what you do is you goad it, you don't allow settling down into inertia. You infuse the physical existence with new dreams, new visions, new energies, new conquests, all kinds of novelties are introduced so the physical becomes vitalised. This happens even in a small household. Once the household becomes quite settled, routine sets in, daily everything the same things happens and suddenly you will find that children will begin to demand novelties, guests will come into your house they will bring new ideas, sometimes you might even say since these people have come my whole routine is ruined, my stability is gone, my old prosperity is gone but actually it is from evolution point of view if these forces had not come in you would have settled down into inertia, it would have collapsed in any case which we do not realise but inertia always brings about a collapse ultimately. This will also happen wherever new ideas are not allowed even in a household after some time with sufficient resistance to newness. Ultimately it collapses. That is why from evolution's point of view when new things come you must know how to receive the new things. It is true that new things always disturb you, they even ruin your present status and tranquillity but that is because we do not know how to receive the new things. This is what we have to learn from evolution so physical development is always followed whether you like it or not by the invasion of the vital. Even when you want to keep quiet you say now I am fully established my whole thing is wonderfully arranged, I don't want anything more now, you go on in your routine everything is arranged for, food is exactly at the right time, dresses are all made in the right time, the rooms are very well furnished and everything is routinised and everything goes clockwork and there is no problem. There is good understanding among every people because everybody shares the same comforts and everybody is happy but evolution does not want merely stabilisation of the physical. It wants stabilisation of the physical, vital, mental, spiritual. So unless you have completed the whole cycle this kind of collapse will always go on coming about. Now this being the pattern of history we have to judge whether we have made progress in one direction or not. If you only see from outside we say we build it gets collapsed, we build it gets collapsed, what is this return again and again to this regression but if we try to understand what is the aim of history, what are the conditions of permanence, real permanence, real permanence will not come to humanity – what is called the real Ram Rajya, the real Golden Age, the real Swarna Yuga, Satya Yuga; it will not come unless you establish physical, vital, mental, spiritual perfectly harmonised. The whole of human history is moving in that direction. Today we have reached a point where the mental, the intellectuality striving and found that intellectual ideals cannot be established unless you have peace and now it is realised that you cannot have peace unless people develop spirituality because peace is not a concept merely of sitting down together on a dining table and having a peaceful meal. Peace means something in which the roots of quarrels are eliminated, in which the forces of domination are eliminated, in which the forces of lower pleasures are eliminated then only peace will come otherwise even if you take a good meal together these forces will not be eliminated; so you'll always have this problem. The essential problem is that today all the great leaders realise that there is something deeper than the mind, there is something subtler than the mind. Take for example the idea of brotherhood. By some kind of law you can spread the idea of liberty, if somebody suppresses you, you can go to the court of law and say that my freedom is suppressed and the court may give you judgement by which your freedom is restored. But real freedom cannot come to you unless the tendency which exists in human beings to bully you is eliminated. How much freedom the court can ensure you if after going home, if there is some bully in your house that freedom will be immediately thrown out and for which you cannot go to the court of law again and say that he is scolding me all the time, all the time he is suppressing me, he is dominating over me, you cannot do that all the time. So unless that bully is transformed into your real brother, a real friend you cannot have liberty; same thing about equality. You can go to the court of law to enforce that well my property and his property is to be equally divided that court may do but if after that there is encroachment constantly going on, even in the small house even if you divide equally, even for a small space there are so many quarrels. Even if you bring a new piece of furniture the problem starts with how to arrange it, where to put it, where is the space for it, all kinds of problems arise and you cannot go to the court of law saying that now my equal rights have to be restored. It can only come about when there is an internal change in the consciousness of man. So the idea of brotherhood is very important, without it true equality and fraternity cannot be realised true liberty and equality cannot be realised without fraternity. It's a trinity all the three have to be realised simultaneously, it's not that one or the other. Today this realisation has become very acute in mankind and mankind is moving. That's why we say mankind of today is in search of a real remedy. Why do we now read the Bhagavad Gita today? Because it's spiritual message is relevant to us today, unless you live in the consciousness of immortality which Sri Krishna gives in the second chapter. Unless you know the ideas as how to do action and yet to be free from it, unless you attain to the real knowledge, – gyan, vigyan that is in the seventh chapter, unless you know how to surrender to the Divine, you cannot have Freedom, Equality and Fraternity. So the ideas are today and we are going back to understand these ideas, how to implement them because the real answer is given there which was achieved in earlier times which collapsed because it was not sufficiently widespread; therefore today we would like it to be widespread so that people share and then only this can be implemented and when you do this you will find that even the original spiritual teaching will become modified, will become enriched and that is the meaning of the development of spiritual consciousness. What was achieved in the Vedic times was what you might say was pinnacles, loftiest but thereafter what has happened in the history of spirituality is that there has been subtlety of spirituality, complexity of spirituality, profundities of spirituality; unless these are also developed the spiritual knowledge is not complete. The kind of devotion that we find in Sri Chaitanya is not in the Veda. The kind of love of the Radha and Krishna that you find connected with Sri Krishna is not in the Veda. The heights and the synthesis of knowledge that you find in the Upanishad is not Veda that is why Upanishads are called Vedanta. The climax and the culmination of the Veda is in the Upanishads. So it is not although the greatest heights are to be found in the Veda, all the subtleties are not in the Veda, all the complexities are not in the Veda, all the profundities are not in the Veda, you might say the seeds are there but they have not sprouted, they have not developed, they have not given the benefit of them. That is why even if you reach a great height, even in the field of spirituality it is not enough. Even when Dharma is established at one time, Dharma established at one stage of human history is not enough. You have to develop that dharma and establish a further development of dharma in the next age. Even that is not enough, a greater dharma has to come and that has to be developed. So when Sri Krishna says that I establish dharma we must understand the meaning of dharma. It is not that by dharma it is meant the same dharma which was proposed in the Veda was established by Rama. And what was dharma in Sri Rama's time was established by Sri Krishna that is not true. The very word Dharma means twofold, – there is sanatana dharma, the dharma which is eternal which is still not on the earth. The eternal dharma is in eternity but here in temporal time it is still nor translated so that sanatana dharma has to be understood in a sense as one that gradually gets developed in such a way that ultimately that image of sanatana dharma really gets fully manifested; till that time there is a developing dharma. So the very word Dharma is a developing dharma. So when Sri Krishna says:"I come yuge, yuge", I come from age to age and establish dharma. It is not as if it is the same dharma. The avataar comes one after the other but each one does not give the same dharma, Buddha does not give the same as Christ, Christ does not give the same thing as Krishna. In every age the dharma that is needed at that time, the translation of sanatan dharma applicable at that time is fully revealed by the Avatar and he establishes that, it collapses why? Because it is still not a translation of the perfect dharma because it is not there, there is a development and that dharma begins to fall, to regress because new problems arise in the meantime for which that dharma has no answer. The questions which were raised in the time of Rama were answered by Sri Rama through his own life, through his own example and for his age they were perfect answers they could be sustained but as the history developed further newer questions came for which the answers could not be found in the dharma established by Sri Rama. India's greatness is to recognise it very clearly and therefore to say the dharma established by Sri Rama had boundaries, had limitations and Sri Rama himself was Maryada Purushotama. The other dharma had to be established when Sri Krishna came; he gave another dharma which is in the Bhagavad Gita. And the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita and the teaching of Ramayana is not identical; there are wide differences. The kind of wideness you find in Bhagavad Gita, the problems of how to reconcile knowledge with action and with bhakti all that is not so amply given in the Ramayana as is given in the Bhagavad Gita. So there is a new dharma which comes with Sri Krishna and so on in every age and that is why he says: yada yada hi dharnasya glanir bhavati, he knows that dharma will go to doom again because the dharma that is given at this time is not that perfect dharma, not that ideal dharma. It is something which will answer the questions of the time then you have to develop it further and so on. Until a time comes therefore India recognises a time will come and that is marked by Kalki that concept is given in India that will be the beginning of Satya Yuga, where there is no possibility of collapse. So until we reach that point we shall see in the history of mankind this kind of recurrence of rise and fall, rise and fall but in every rise and fall there is a design. The physical becomes vital, the vital becomes mental, the physical becomes vitalised physical and vital ultimately becomes mentalised vital and then the mental begins to become spiritual, then the spiritual will become vitalised, mentalised, physicalised in every way. The ultimate perfection will come when all the four principles physical, vital, mental, spiritual are so developed, so perfectly harmonised that the whole edifice can stand without the necessity of a collapse.
If you examine from this point of view we can now say that there has been a real progress in mankind. So to conclude once again I will give you one passage from Sri Aurobindo.
Question: You spoke about the renaissance period. Are we in India also coming to that renaissance?
Answer: You are quite right in fact since the 19th century in India we have entered into that field, into the Age of Renaissance. It has still not fructified because of various reasons. If you look into the developments of India between the 19th and the early 20th century we had already made big inroads into the renaissance of India. In 1914 to 1921 Sri Aurobindo wrote a book called The Renaissance in India's, so that is a book I would like every Indian to read because it shows the awakening of India and how India can become reborn. Unfortunately there was a period when again we have lost the track and after fifty years of independence we again realise that we have lost something and all over India at least the thinking human beings of India are beginning to search as to where we got lost that's why this revival. At present there is so much of appetite arising in India to understand, to go back and Sri Aurobindo says that there are three tasks that modern India has to accomplish. First is to recover the ancient spiritual knowledge particularly of the Veda, Upanishads and the Gita. Why Gita is gripping us today is because we find that there is something which answers our questions of today, otherwise we won't read this book. These three great works of India you might say are immortal. Something that is supreme in spirituality and something that has a possibility of widening, of subtlising, of deepening is all present in the Veda, Upanishads and the Gita. Even that is not enough according to Sri Aurobindo, even if you recover this; this is only the first step. The second step will be that you allow this knowledge to spread in all the modern subjects which are now coming upon us. It is not enough that now India will remain India as it is. The whole world is now at our gates and they are being poured upon us whether we like it or not therefore with the strength of this knowledge we should enter into the immense field of inquiry which is wide spread all over the world, assimilate the waters of this knowledge which are coming upon us but these waters have to be purified, irrigated, refined, recovered so that this knowledge irrigates this new knowledge which is coming from outside. It will be a real synthesis of the old and the new. And the new thing that will come about will not merely be the Veda, Upanishad and the Gita it will be even much greater knowledge; such a great knowledge that the third task Sri Aurobindo says is that we have to change the whole society, social institutions, political institutions, economic institutions in such a way that the dream of mankind in the field of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity which can be realised only on the spiritual foundation, which India possesses and by the development of the spirituality with the new spirituality you will be able to realise those three ideals first in India because we have a ready possibility and that is why Sri Aurobindo says that the destiny of India is very great because we have all these possibilities, we are ready to assimilate, we are assimilating today even the language that we are speaking is a assimilated language and if you can recover this knowledge and develop fully then those ideals which can't be realised there because there they don't have this knowledge. Although now there is an opening, the West is turning to the East. When Vivekananda went to Chicago and gave his powerful message, since that time the West is awakened and it is turning to the East but our own response is much greater because even if they turn to India today, today's India is no example for the West. India will be an example if we can do all this work and show how truly Liberty, Equality and Fraternity can be realised by the alchemy of spiritual knowledge then we shall have fulfilled ourselves and we shall have served the world truly. Now this is the message of Sri Aurobindo that these three tasks we have to do. Now we are in the process of that great task. To the extent to which we become aware of this task and fulfil it through ourselves and through our children and the next generation; if we can do this task then we shall be able to go to that period where perhaps the collapse may not happen.
So let us read this particular passage.
It cannot truly be said that there has been no such thing as human progress since man’s appearance or even in his recent ascertainable history; for however great the ancients, however supreme some of their achievements and creations, however impressive their powers of spirituality, of intellect or of character, there has been in later developments an increasing subtlety, complexity, manifold development of knowledge and possibility in man’s achievements, in his politics, society, life, science, metaphysics, knowledge of all kinds, art, literature; even in his spiritual endeavour, less surprisingly lofty and less massive in power of spirituality than that of the ancients, there has been this increasing subtlety, plasticity, sounding of depths, extension of seeking. There have been falls from a high type of culture, a sharp temporary descent into a certain obscurantism, cessations of the spiritual urge, plunges into a barbaric natural materialism; but these are temporary phenomena, at worst a downward curve of the spiral of progress. This progress has not indeed carried the race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding, a transformation of the mental being. But that was not to be expected; for the action of evolutionary Nature in a type of being and consciousness is first to develop the type to its utmost capacity by just such a subtilisation and increasing complexity till it is ready for her bursting of the shell, the ripened decisive emergence, reversal, turning over of consciousness on itself that constitutes a new stage in the evolution. If it be supposed that her next step is the spiritual and supramental being, the stress of spirituality in the race may be taken as a sign that that is Nature’s intention, the sign too of the capacity of man to operate in himself or aid her to operate the transition. If the appearance in animal being of a type similar in some respects to the ape-kind but already from the beginning endowed with the elements of humanity was the method of the human evolution, the appearance in the human being of a spiritual type resembling mental-animal humanity but already with the stamp of the spiritual aspiration on it would be the obvious method of Nature for the evolutionary production of the spiritual and supramental being.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: Man and the Evolution
If you judge it from this point of view we must ask the question whether mankind today on a large scale has become capable of entering into the spiritual age, if the answer is 'yes' then the answer is that mankind has made a progress.