Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I (2000, Super School Auroville) - Session vii (18 July 2000)

"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 forms, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is already a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness."

This is a very important sentence. We should read it twice, so the words begin to vibrate more concretely.

You remember the question Sri Aurobindo raised in the previous sentence—this is an answer. Sri Aurobindo says: "evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it." I spoke yesterday of explanation and I said that it usually takes two forms. In terms of causality or in terms of teleology. It comes from the Greek word "teleios" which means "purpose", ultimate goal, ultimate end, ultimate aim.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher said that to explain any event you should look for four things. I am now going to expound the whole theory in some detail. If you make a chair, the chair is a product. It is an effect, produced out of many antecedent things, many things that happened before. So the chair is a product or an effect. For any effect, according to Aristotle, there should be four causes. By a combination of four causes an effect is produced.

There must be, first of all, the material of the chair. If the chair is wooden, without wood you could not make a chair. So wood is the cause but the Material Cause of the chair. Then there must be an Efficient Cause. There must be a carpenter who makes efficient use of his labour, a skillful use of his labour. Unless he works on wood the chair would not be produced. So the labour that is used to make an effect is called Efficient Cause. There is a Formal Cause. Unless the carpenter has an idea of the kind of form the chair must have in his mind, he cannot shape the wood according to the chair's shape. Isn't it? It is called the formal cause. Every effect has a form and that form must be in the mind of the shaper, of the maker, that is called the formal cause. And then there is a Final Cause. The Final Cause is the purpose for which the chair is made. That is the telios. If you are making a chair there must be a purpose for which the chair is made. So that is the Final Cause. All the labour is taken for what purpose ultimately? To enable a person to sit comfortably. It is that which is the driving force of everything. If a carpenter brings wood, he gives a shape, he puts in his labour, for what: for the purpose of creating something which will be useful to individuals or to the users.

It is when you explain anything in terms of these four together, only then, he said, have you explained. If there is evolution you should ask these four questions. If anything emerges, Life in Matter or Mind in Life, you must ask these questions: what is the Material Cause, what is the Efficient Cause, then what is the Formal Cause and what is the Final Cause? Only when you give all the four answers can you say you have explained evolution?

If you can find out these four causes then you can say you have answered the question: what is evolution?

Now we go further is this particular line, Sri Aurobindo says:

"For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living forms, 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."

There are many new words and we need to investigate them to understand the argument fully. First of all there is the word Vedantic solution, which is a new word—Vedanta. What is Vedanta? And what is the Vedantic solution?

You have already heard from me a few talks on Veda. I have not yet taken you to Vedanta as I had intended at one time—I will fulfill this one day because I want to take you from Veda to Vedanta but I am waiting for a good moment. You know, when you are making an excursion if you go on only on one line, the journey becomes tedious, but if you have reached a certain point and say—let us now move in another way and take a winding path and see the beautiful forest on the left side, a beautiful lake on the right side, and later you come back on the main line of your development and you go further. I am doing something of that kind, because then your total understanding will be much vaster and you will appreciate things much better.

So after talking to you about the Veda I stopped a little and I branched out into so many things, a survey of the whole world, a world of knowledge, defining philosophy, science and art and so many things. And then we started this chapter on The Life Divine and now I come upon a very important word: Vedanta from which I can return to the earlier line of development from Veda to Vedanta. Still I won't take you to Vedanta just now; I will only give you an indication. There will be a time when I will give you six talks on the Vedanta because it is a very important subject, not only in India but in the whole world. Vedanta is one of the very powerful currents of thought. This entire book, The Live Divine is also called Vedanta, and I will tell you why. This subject is so important that at present I will only give a little introduction but I will prepare you for a time when we go into the details of Vedanta.

In India, after the Vedas—I told you that there are four Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda—after these four compositions were ready several developments took place in India where this knowledge which was contained in the Veda got veiled, obscured, even misunderstood. Over years and centuries the knowledge of the Veda got obscured. Then there came about a period when a number of investigators arose. Just as in the Vedic period there were hundreds of seekers, similarly in this period also, hundreds of years after the Veda, a large number of seekers again arose in India. And they tried to recover what was in the Veda. Not only did they recover, but in respect of the knowledge which was contained to the Veda, they brought that knowledge into a final form. The form in which they expressed their findings and the sharpness which came out as the result of it, was so great that those who read the compositions now, say it is a culmination of the Veda.

Culmination is a word which, in Sanskrit, is called anta. When you reach the end, it is called anta. (The word end is similar to the word anta, because there may be a connection between Sanskrit and English.)

As it was supposed to be the end, the culmination, of the Veda therefore, they called it Veda anta, and combined together: Vedanta. Vedanta is nothing but the end of the Veda. This Vedanta consists of a number of small compositions which are called Upanishads. There are about two hundred of them, but at least twelve are regarded as the principal ones. In the course of our studies we shall study at least one or two of them, so that you have a firsthand knowledge of it. They are short so it won't take too long.

They are called Upanishads because… the word Upanishad is constituted by three words: upa, ni, sad. Sad means to sit. (There is also a connection between the word sit and sad. Even the word assied in French, is very much connected with the word sad. Because if you see the spelling of the word assied you will see that at the end there is d, although silent in the pronunciation.) So sad is to sit, ni is close—to sit close—and upa means near. When you sit near and close, and you hear from the teacher, by sitting very near to him, it is called Upanishad. All that was told by the teacher to the students when he sat close and very near, whatever was composed in that content, is therefore called Upanishad. That which has been communicated to the student, when the student sat very close and near the teacher. The word also has a very inner meaning. It is when you sit very close and near the teacher that you can communicate best what is secret knowledge. Whenever you want to say something very deep, very subtle—you will see that you may read a hundred books, but if you visit a teacher and sit with him, what he can give you in five or ten minutes of talking will be incomparable. There are certain things that you cannot communicate by writing, by giving discourses from a high platform. You can explain certain things only when you almost whisper them into the ears of the pupil. When you sit very near and you explain. That is why in India a great value was given to this tradition or situation where students can sit near the teacher, they may sit even in silence. It is said that the teacher communicates best when he speaks least, when he hardly speaks and yet a few words uttered are sufficient.

Ekam eva addvitiyam is a Sanskrit word. The teacher simply tells you ekam eva addvitiyam: "One without a second". He does not explain what it is. Mother said: Super School, Last School, After School, No School. These are like Upanishadic words. You have to find out what they mean afterwards, you may contemplate on and on and on and try to understand. Similarly, this is one of the famous sentences of the Upanishads: "Ekam eva addvitiyam", "One without a second". There is only one reality. All this is One, there is no second reality. This is what it means. This is one of the greatest sentences of the Upanishads. There is only One without a second.

We shall come back to this sentence again, but now I introduce two other words. These two other words are Nyaya and Sankhya. These are two Sanskrit words, but in fact Vedanta is a Sanskrit word, Upanishad is a Sanskrit word, Nyayais a Sanskrit word, Sankhya is a Sanskrit word; you cannot escape Sanskrit at all when you come to philosophy. So we should be ready to receive Sanskrit words and try to understand them.

Actually, there is a rule in Greek philosophy: anybody who wants to study Greek philosophy has to study Greek. If you want to study German philosophy you should learn German. Even today these rules apply in all outside universities. Similarly, there is no rule, but there ought to be a rule, if you want to study Indian thought, Indian philosophy, then you should learn Sanskrit, because for five thousand years this philosophy has been written in Sanskrit. As against only a thousand years, during which this philosophy has been written partly in Sanskrit and partly in so many different languages. Consider the value of five thousand years and one thousand years. So, if a philosophy has been written in Sanskrit for so many years and if you want to really go into the heart of it, Sanskrit is inevitable.

So one day we should study Sanskrit also, but in the meantime we can learn at least a few words in Sanskrit. We have a big programme of ten years for which you are already booked. In ten years we will do quite a lot. We begin with these small words, Nyaya, Sankhya, Upanishad, Vedanta, but they are very important words.

Nyaya actually means justice. The word justice is very much connected with the word judgment. Justice is contained in judgment. When you make a judgment there must be justice in it. That is to say whatever you say must be true. Judgment by its very nature must be true. It is because sometimes people misuse judgment that there may be a wrong judgment. This flower is red—is a judgment. This flower and this redness, both are attributed to each other. It is a judgment.

How to make a true judgment is a long study. We had said at one time that logic is a study of the conditions in which thought is true, thought is valid. Logic is a study of those judgments which express true thoughts, valid thoughts. We have spoken of the law of identity, the law of contradiction, the law of excluded middle, and law of sufficient reason.

Nyaya basically means justice. Justice concerns itself with judgment. Judgment is concerned with logic, and logic itself is a wide subject in which you study the conditions in which thought is valid and the conditions in which the judgment which contains thought is expressed. The study of this, which is a very vast study, is called in India Nyaya. It is a very big school of thought. There is a long, long history of this tradition, of Nyaya. Just as Nyaya is one of the systems of Indian philosophy; similarly there are five other systems. Apart from Nyaya, there are five other systems in the same category. And one of the other five is called Sankhya. And the third among these three is Vedanta. Now at least you know three schools of Indian philosophy which are all derived from the Veda. Nyaya, Sankhya and Vedanta. There are three others, but I will not burden you with their names because all these names become difficult when you don't know Sanskrit. At present I will deal only with these three names, because they are connected with the sentence we have to understand.

Sri Aurobindo speaks here of the Vedantic solution. This Vedantic solution is best understood when you understand something of Nyaya and something of Sankhya.

Both these theories of Nyaya and Sankhya pertain to the idea of the Cause. You remember, we are concerning ourselves with the question of explanation and Cause is a concept which is directly connected with explanation. You remember Sri Aurobindo says "evolution is merely a word, it only states the phenomenon without explaining it." So we are trying to understand the word. Therefore we went into the question of causal explanation and teleological explanation. And today, we went into a greater depth by referring to Aristotle who spoke of Material cause, Formal cause, Efficient cause and the Final cause. Nyaya speaks of the same subject, Sankhya speaks also of the same subject and Vedanta also speaks of the same subject. Unless we have a comprehensive idea, this sentence will not be properly understood. That is the reason why I am taking you on an excursion into Indian philosophy.

The question is: when anything is produced how do you explain why it is produced, how it is produced? According to Samkhya the effect is produced from the cause because effect was already present in the cause. It is a very simple statement. Nothing can be produced out of nothing. This is the negative way of stating it. If something is produced, it can't have been produced out of nothing. If Life is produced out of Matter then Life must be present in Matter. The effect must be present in the cause. This is the theory of Sankhya. If anybody asks a question: what is the cause, why has it come about, what is the effect? Then you must give such an answer, if it is to be satisfying, it will show that the effect was present in the cause. Why is it that you cannot produce oil out of stone but you can produce oil out of groundnut, out of the peanuts? Why, because oil is present in the peanut, if it was not there it could not have come out. It must be present, the effect must be present in the cause. So if Life comes out of Matter then Life must be present in Matter. If it was not there how could you have brought it out? If Mind has come out of Life, Mind must be present in Life otherwise how could it come out? This is the theory of Sankhya.

There is an opposite theory of Nyaya which says that the effect is not present in the cause. It is just the opposite of the Sankhya theory. If it was present already, it would be manifested. It would be there already. If it is already there it must be visible. If the threads of cotton are a cause of the cloth then why don't we wear only the threads, because the cloth is already present. If Samkhya theory was right, then we would all be wearing threads not clothes because the cloth would be already present. This is the argument of Nyaya.

There are Sanskrit words used for these two theories. The theory of Sankhya is called satkaryavada. In Sanskrit vada means theory, karya means effect and sat means existence. Satkaryavada means a theory according to which effect exists in the cause. Therefore the theory of Sankhya is called the theory of satkaryavada.

The Nyaya theory is called asatkaryavada. According to which the effect does not exist in the cause. Vedantic theory examines both these theories and prefers satkaryavada. After examining the two, it shows its agreement with Sankhya. But it also goes one step further. It says effect is not only in the cause but effect is basically, essentially, identical with the cause, and the difference between cause and effect is only in the form. This is the Vedantic theory.

We were asking the question: What is the explanation of Evolution? If Life evolves out of Matter and if Mind evolves out of Life and if you ask the question of explanation, not only stating but explaining: why should Life evolve out of Matter and why should Mind evolve out of Life? Then Sri Aurobindo makes two statements. This explanation can be there only in terms of the Vedanta which says two things, namely that not only is the effect in the cause but also that effect itself IS the cause the difference being only of a form.

We read now the sentence of Sri Aurobindo:

"For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living forms, 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."

You can see how lucid and straightforward this statement is.

We shall now repeat from the beginning of the paragraph:

"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 forms, 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."

That is to say basically all this here is consciousness, there is nothing in the world excepting One: Eka eva advitiyam. There is only One. Reality is only One and that reality is Consciousness. And this Consciousness when it is veiled we call Life. This Life when it is veiled we call Matter. It is for this reason that when the veil is taken out, what was there is manifested. When you say that Matter gives rise to Life it means that when the veil of Matter is removed, it manifests itself as Life and when the veil of Life is removed, it manifests itself as Consciousness.

But now, we can ask this question: Maybe our Mind which is Consciousness is also a veil? If you remove that veil then there will be a manifestation of—if Consciousness is the reality—it will be full Consciousness. Our present Mind is a veiled Consciousness, partly veiled, not fully conscious. We need to sleep, we need to go to unconsciousness from time to time, we forget things, we acquire knowledge with a great labour. Therefore, although we are conscious, we don't have that Consciousness. It is still veiled. Therefore it can be argued that out of the Mind a Supermind can be evolved. Therefore, Sri Aurobindo says: "And then there seems to be little objection to a further 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." Therefore, we can predict that out of Mind will evolve highest states of Consciousness which are beyond Mind. This is the full argument.

We have now, in a brief compass, the statement of the theory of evolution, which simply says, Life evolves out of matter and Mind evolves out of life. Then there is a question of explanation of that fact. And Sri Aurobindo says, that explanation can come about only if we admit that Life is in Matter and that Mind is in Life, and go further, that Life is itself a veiled Consciousness. And as Life is veiled Matter; therefore Matter is a doubly veiled consciousness, you might say. Matter is nothing but what we ourselves become in our sleep. When we go to sleep, then we become almost like Matter—except that Matter does not breathe and we breathe at least during our sleep, but as far Consciousness is concerned we are like a log, therefore we say "I slept like a log", when all Consciousness is withdrawn completely. It is doubly veiled—you don't even remember that you are breathing. And then Sri Aurobindo says, if this is so, then Mind itself may be a veil, a veil of higher level of consciousness. Therefore we can predict that out of Mind will evolve higher levels of consciousness. If this is so, we can now ask, why is it that man is constantly seeking for God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. The answer is that this Mind is a veiled Consciousness and there is an effort to break that veil. Mind is an obstruction and there is inwardly a big Consciousness working behind and that big consciousness wants to break this veil.

It is for this reason that we are aspiring. Aspiration is nothing but an urge to break the veil and to uncover what is inside. Therefore it comes out whenever there is the thinning down of our veil. Whenever! The urge to manifest what is inside moves out, manifests, particularly when you are in a great difficulty, when you don't find any means of solution this urge manifests very powerfully. You want to break down the obstruction.

Sri Aurobindo says: "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 this impulse 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."

According to the theory of evolution everything in the world is striving. This is the discovery of the theory of evolution: everything in the world is striving. The theory of evolution is not entirely new, in the Veda the theory of evolution is underlined, in the Upanishads the theory of evolution is underlined, in the Sankhya, in the Vedanta, the theory of evolution is underlined. In the West also, the theory of evolution was known and Anaximander, before Socrates, spoke of evolution. But it is only in recent times in the Nineteenth Century, Darwin worked very heavily, studiously, in detail and he put forward the theory that the whole world is a gradual movement of evolutionary force, there is a striving in everything—he has even given the name struggle for existence—everything in the world is struggling.

Take for example a small little worm, with very few senses except touch, it moves and crawls and only when touching an obstruction it finds there is something here and turns away. According to the theory of evolution the worm feels as if it were an urge to develop a capacity by which it can add to the sense of touch. There is a feeling that: "why should I be able to find out there is an obstruction only when I come near it and touch it? Is it not possible to have communication from the obstruction from far, even if I do not touched it as yet?" This is an urge as it were. Not that the worm knows this question and puts this question, it is a blind feeling, an urge, and then gradually it goes on making an effort, tremendous effort until by sharpening, sharpening the organs, the Eye is born. What we call eyes. If you look at the evolutionary movement, the eye is not the first to be found. Among many many creatures, worms and insects and so on, there is no eye. Gradually a remarkable thing such as an eye is produced; it is not an ordinary thing. If you examine how an eye is formed, it is a miracle you cannot ordinarily explain.

If you go to any medical man, for instance there is Alexis Carrel who wrote a book, Man the Unknown, a very interesting book. The man who is not known. Although we think we know man very well because we also are human beings, he points out how much we are ignorant of ourselves, and one of the things he remarks is, you do not know what the eye is. What a miracle the eye is, how the eye is formed. Out of the physical sense, physicality, the lens is formed—imagine, that it is purely material, pure matter, the coarse matter is rubbed to such an extent the lens is produced and connected with the retina. Now the connection of the retina and the lens and the capacity of the lens to capture light and images and the comprehension of the image, all is a miracle. Unless there is a consciousness behind, you cannot imagine this birth of an eye. Similarly, of all the senses, actually every sense is a miracle.

This struggle is a struggle for what? It is the striving. According to Darwin the struggle is to survive. You may agree or not agree with this theory as a whole but it is a fact that there is struggle, of that there is no question. And one of the aspects of the struggle is certainly a struggle to survive. It is as if the whole world is a kind of obstruction. How often do children feel they are not free? Parents are constantly saying, do this, don't do that, the whole world comes as a kind of an opposition. Every child strives to oppose it, so that the control goes away and one feels free. It is also a striving, striving to be free of control, from obstructions. And you want to be free because you want to be what you are. There is a struggle, struggle to survive, to be. So that you remain what you are or you become more and more. This is the discovery of Darwin.

But he does not explain why. Why should there be this striving? Who is striving? Darwin that question does not answer. Simply there is a striving. That is why Sri Aurobindo, who accepts the theory of evolution, goes into the depth of the whole process of evolution and then discovers that behind all the striving there is consciousness. And this Consciousness which has become veiled is sought to be broken. The consciousness which is veiled is constantly to be striven against, so that the veils can break and the full consciousness becomes manifest. But there are stages; it is not as it were in one go. The consciousness which is in us is so deep, so deep. Sri Aurobindo says it is not one inch deep. If it were one inch deep you could cross the one inch very easily. Consciousness, even in the human being, is very very deeply involved, veiled. It is a huge veil behind which our consciousness is resting in sleep. We need to make a tremendous effort to rend the veil and bring it out.

Now the argument begins to be very easy and simple.