Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I (Super School Auroville) - Session xi (28 August 2000)

I have received a question. The question assumes that all that we have been talking about so far is fine.

Question: Let us say that the Divine life on the earth is rationally justified. Fine. That is what we have been trying to do. But now the question is how to go about it? What are the practical means of doing it? Granted that we are convinced rationally that God exists, how to realise Him practically? How to touch Him, how to unite oneself with Him?

I am very happy with the question because it is a logical question that should arise once we arrive at the conclusion of the first chapter of The Life Divine. How to do it? By doing it! That is the first answer: By doing it. And if you agree we shall take up this question next. I want to read with you the first chapter of The Synthesis of Yoga because that is an answer to the question "How to do it? How to arrive at the union with the Divine?" So this is the program I put forward before you. In fact these two books should be read simultaneously like the two wings of a bird. We fly with the help of these two wings, on the one The Life Divine and on the other The Synthesis of Yoga. This would be our method throughout. Throughout these ten years that you have set apart, we shall fly in this way. We shall sometimes refer to this book and sometimes to that book.

In my personal case this question came to me after finishing the whole of The Life Divine. Because my mind was greatly trained by Bertrand Russell, I was in a state of scepticism. What Sri Aurobindo says here at the end of this chapter was really the state of my mind. I made a great attempt to close the questions which I found to be insoluble. I made a great effort to see that these questions did not arise, by saying that: "We acknowledge these questions exist but since they cannot be answered, let us close the chapter. They cannot be answered. Let us now turn to immediate questions." And one of the immediate questions that was in my mind at that time was the poverty of India. In fact many people in India, if you ask them the question "What is the most important question of India?" They will say poverty of India. And what is the best work we can do? It is to remove the poverty of India. Many young people in India have this program for their life. They love their country very much, they want to do something very important for the country and they want to devote themselves to the removal of poverty.

If I had not read The Life Divine I would now be engaged in that task but without success. Because I now know that you cannot eradicate the poverty of India or of the world for that matter? Because poverty is not only a phenomenon in India, it is a universal phenomenon. Even in America there are people who are very poor. Russians are very poor. In every country there are pockets of poverty.

I refer very often to a very fine sentence of U Thant. It is a Burmese name, he was a Burmese. In 1967, when he made this statement he was the Secretary General of the United Nation Organisation (UNO). That is to say one of the top men of UNO. And he made a very important statement. And when this statement was shown to the Mother she was very pleased with it. She wrote a letter to him in answer to this statement. It is a very important statement.

"That a fraction of the amounts that are going to be spent in 1967 on arms could finance economic, social, national and world programmes to an extent so far unimaginable is a notion within the grasp of the man in the street. Men, if they unite, are now capable of foreseeing and, of a certain point, determining the future of human development. This, however, is possible if we stop fearing and harassing one another and if together we accept, welcome and prepare the changes that must inevitably take place. If this means a change in human nature, well, it is high time we worked for it; what must surely change is certain political attitudes and habits man has."

So if the question is only of feeding people, which is of course a very important problem, then the one solution is to stop armaments. You decide that you are not going to use armaments at all. Then all that money is available and you feed the people. No poverty. It is an easy solution. Why is it not such an easy thing to do? It means that poverty is not the basic problem. Poverty can be resolved if something else is done, namely to prevent people from manufacturing armaments. And how do you do it? By what alchemy, what medicine can you prevent people from producing armaments? So he himself says: "If this means a change in human nature, well, it is high time we worked for it" That is why Mother wrote an answer to that letter and said: "Appreciating what you have said. The real problem is not poverty; the real problem is a change of consciousness. If you turn the minds of people away from armaments then a lot of money is already available. The world is producing enough food today to feed the whole population of the world very easily. So the question is: "How to change the consciousness?" This is the problem. And this is the problem Sri Aurobindo answers in The Synthesis of Yoga.

But this question arose in my own life after reading the whole of The Life Divine. You are very fortunate that this question is arising after reading the very first chapter of The Life Divine. So that means, from an evolutionary point of view you are far ahead. Just after reading the first chapter this question comes up. We shall take up this question next time.

At the end of the chapter we were talking of the attempts on the part of many not to raise certain questions which are insoluble. Let us take only one question which has been declared insoluble. What is the place of man in the universe? This is one question which has been raised, but which has been declared to be insoluble logically, by logical thought. A number of rationalists, those who believe in logical thought and reason, have worked on this question. What is the place of man in the universe? What does it signify? What does it mean? Is he a worm like many worms in the world crawling upon the earth? Or is he something else? As I told you, while quoting Bertrand Russell ? I consider Bertrand Russell as one of the summits of human thought. There are many summits of human thought and Bertrand Russell represents one of them. If you want to climb a peak on a certain line and you reach the top, then on that line of thought he is the climax. There is another whose name is Bradley who is another climax, if you start from another point of view. There are many other such climaxes. In Indian philosophy we have Shankaracharya as one of the climaxes. On one line of development of thought he reached the climax. In fact there are two denials which are very powerful, two ways by which you can deny, and quite forcefully deny, the possibility of climbing to the Divine life.

I don't know if you have read a short play by The Mother which is called The Ascent to the Truth? A few aspirants, those who want to climb, meet and decide to climb. And then all, excepting the last two, stop at different stages. They feel they reach a climax, then they stop. Each of them represents a denial. "Oh! Now we have reached the climax, nothing further! No more!" Like the philanthropist who is one of the first to drop out. You know a philanthropist is one who wants to give, who wants to help, who wants to give money, who wants to give charity. He is the first one to drop out from the climbing. His aim is to remove poverty but he finds that if poverty is removed, what then will be his business afterwards. Because his own life is nothing but giving, giving for removing poverty, his life depends upon the perpetuity of poverty. Only if poverty remains, has he a business in the world. He can give only so long as people need him, need his help, but if they don't need his help he has no business, there is no work left. Mother has very humorously drawn his character, a philanthropist who drops out in the very first stage of climbing. And there are several others, an artist and lovers and aspirants of various kinds. It is a very interesting drama. It explains what Sri Aurobindo says here, attempts have been made to close the questions, not to raise those questions because they have been found to be insoluble, and to limit our efforts to the immediate problems. There is a very nice article by Jawaharlal Nehru, Philosophy of Life is the title. In his article he says: "Is the world real? Is the world an illusion? Does it have any purpose? What is the significance of man in the universe? These questions are very interesting but I don't have the time to deal with them." Why? Because immediate problems are very pressing. So he says: "I will not deal with those questions, it will take too long a time. I want to attend only to immediate problems." This is also one attitude. One way of closing those questions is not to raise those questions.

So there are many ways by which people have tried to close down those questions. But as Sri Aurobindo points out, such evasions are never permanent. Mankind returns to those questions again and again and with a greater force to find immediate solutions. As a result mysticism profits, and new religions arise, the old religions are replaced by new religions.

Why have these questions been declared insoluble? They have been declared insoluble because we rely only upon our present instruments of thought. And we refuse to believe that there are other means of knowledge. We think that reason is the only means by which knowledge can be attained.

At one time I had told you to read Chapter 8 of The Life Divine? Methods of Vedantic Knowledge. We shall come to it too, but in that chapter Sri Aurobindo describes other means of knowledge. Means of knowledge which go beyond rational thought. These means of knowledge are all present in us. Every one of us has some kind of an element of these other means of knowledge. We use them from time to time without knowing we are using them. But we use them in a very poor fashion, in a very unorganised manner, in a sporadic manner. We use them, then we give them up, find other means, give them up too, go to other means. In a very sporadic manner we take up these new instruments of knowledge. And that is why rationalists do not get attracted to these means of knowledge. If you were able to use these means of knowledge in a systematic manner, in their fullness, then of course those who really want to enquire, those who are really seeking for knowledge they would accept it. But those who claim to have new means of knowledge, higher means of knowledge, are themselves crude, they are rough, they have not developed all these powers in their completeness. Unlike Sri Aurobindo who had developed all the powers in their perfection, like the flower of Supramental action. You have seen this flower. It is a round flower with various kinds of needles, needles of action coming out from all over, all-comprehensive. If there are some who have organised these powers in their fullness then of course it would be a different thing. But at present, this is not sufficiently known and those who are claiming on loud speakers have themselves not developed these powers. So they become suspect, they are doubted, and quite legitimately. Sri Aurobindo says: "Do not get discouraged merely by the claims of those who have not developed these powers of knowledge. The powers are like northern lights."

You know—northern lights, is an analogical argument Sri Aurobindo gives. If you go to the North Pole you find radiations of light sometimes suddenly coming. From time to time. You don't even know why they are coming out or from where they are coming. It takes time for us to see that behind these lights is a huge store of light ? the sun itself. It is from the sun-spots that there are radiations and sudden flashings of light. Similarly, when you go to the north of your own brain, north of your own regions of thought, to the highest tops, suddenly you find flashings of light coming out. This is an experience of many of us, even ordinarily. We are touched sometimes by those flashes of light, but we have not gone deeper to find out from where these flashes are coming from. If we can do so we shall find the source of that light, the Supramental Knowledge, the Sun of Supramental Light where everything is Chidgana. The consciousness is solid, perfect. So just as in the physical world, as you rise towards the northern skies you find flashes of light indicative that beyond these flashes is the real source of light, perfect source of light, similarly, when you rise in your consciousness and find there are flashes of light you should go inwards and see, at the highest levels, the Supramental Light.

You will observe that to read The Life Divine is an interdisciplinary adventure. You need to study so many subjects at the same time. You will not be able to understand this word used in the analogical argument referring to northern lights without a knowledge of astronomy.

In every analogical argument we have to find two words: as there, so here. Northern lights are compared with the higher light of illuminated intuition which is obstructed and therefore which manifests only from time to time. The northern lights are the sunlight which is obstructed, and therefore gets manifested only from time to time. Sri Aurobindo's argument is that even as it is a fact that we are able to display light from time to time, like flashes, it is a proof that there is a higher light which can burst out unobstructed at sometime. Therefore we need not fear to aspire. It is a very interesting analogy.

On one side you have the sun, on the other there is the Supramental Light. There it is the physical sun; here it is the Supramental consciousness, psychological light. So there physical light; here psychological light. This psychological light bursts out from time to time as flashes, occasional flashes, it is similar to the occasional lights which are seen on the North Pole or South Pole. Occasional displays. So our flashes, our temporary or sporadic flashes are compared to the northern lights and just as northern lights prove that they are sources of that light in the sun itself where there is plenary movement of light, constant movement of light, not sporadic. Our sporadic lights point to a source of light which is plenary, which is constant. Similarly the flashes of light, which we get from time to time, proves or point to a light, the Supramental Light, which is plenary, constant.

Sri Aurobindo wants to show that there is a Supreme Light which is constant, which is plenary. This is what he wants to prove by this analogical argument. How does he prove it? He points out that this light is not visible to us normally. What is visible to us is only sporadic bursts of light, but these sporadic bursts of light point to a source of light which is plenary. These sporadic lights which are called Northern lights prove the existence of the source of light which is plenary: the sunlight. So sunlight is compared to Supramental Light, just as sunlight is full light and plenary light, Supramental Light is also plenary light, constant light. These northern lights are compared to sporadic lights which happen to our consciousness, flashes of intuitions, expression of inspirations, revelations. But they are sporadic and not constant. That which is constant is the sunlight on one side and the Supramental Light on the other side. The two are comparable. On a lower level northern lights are comparable to our sporadic intuitions, revelations, and inspirations. So just as northern lights prove the existence of the sunlight, similarly our temporary, sporadic manifestations of intuitions prove that there are sources of these intuitions, revelations, inspirations in a superior source: the Supramental Light.

Question: Could you give examples of what can qualify as an experience of intuition, inspiration and revelation? How do we differentiate between them?

What she is pointing out is that we have experiences of intuitions, inspirations and revelations. These three words are difficult words. They are distinguishable from what we call expressions of reason. You remember we had once made a diagram to show different levels of consciousness. Last time I compared reason with a carpet. Below the carpet and above the carpet. I said intuition is above the carpet, instinct is below the carpet. And the carpet itself is like the reason.

Beyond the reason, above the reason we have sometimes experiences which are sporadic, not constant. They come from time to time suddenly, they appear and then they close down. After sometime again they appear and then they close down. These are experiences which come in three forms: intuitions, revelations, inspirations.

I had explained to you these three words, once upon a time, when we were doing The Secret of the Veda. We had spoken of Ila, Saraswati and Sarama. This was when I had explained these three words in the Veda. Ila is the power of revelation. Saraswati is the power of inspiration. And Sarama is the power of intuition.

When you open your eyes all is revealed without effort. Similarly, there is an eye behind our eye, when you open it, everything is revealed.

Inspiration is very often experienced by us, not commonly, but sometimes in a brief intense state. A powerful word, as it were, comes out. It moves the people, illumines the people. Very often you take examples from poetry for inspiration. Often prophets make prophecies in a state of inspiration. They perceive the future as it were and make a prophecy, suddenly. Sometimes, as with Socrates, just before he was sentenced to death, he made a prophetic statement. In a certain state of intensity, the pressure of light manifesting itself in inspired words. Danton for example in one of his great speeches said: "Dare and dare again and still dare." Three words! "De l'audace encore de l'audace et toujours de l'audace." These three words that he spoke stirred the people. These are words of inspiration.

When you enter into the object and become the object, no more remain away from the object, become one with the object, identified, a spark takes place and the object is possessed. You become the object yourself and the object is known. This is intuitive knowledge.

So there are three powers, higher powers of consciousness, different from the powers of the reason. These three powers often manifest in our consciousness. They are like northern lights, they flicker from time to time, they do not remain plenary, not all the time. You don't remain in the state of plenary consciousness. You don't live in the sunlight all the time, you only get some flickering manifestations like sun-spots, radiating light from time to time. Similarly, intuition, inspiration, and revelation are lights which come to us from time to time. Sporadic lights like northern lights. But they point to a higher light, they are a promise as it were, that if you can have from time to time intuitions, inspirations and revelations then you can be sure that you can reach sometime ? you need not fear to aspire to something higher in which you can remain forever in that state of consciousness. It is that stationing of yourself in that higher light, that is the aim of Divine life. When Sri Aurobindo says that human life aspires for God, Light, Freedom and Immortality what he means is that you can permanently live in Supramental Light. Permanently. This possibility of permanent living in Supramental Light, this promise comes to us by the fact that sometimes you do get sporadic intuitions, revelations and inspirations. If it happens sometimes you can be sure, you can also have it, you can at least aspire to live in that Supreme Light forever.

Question: Kireetbhai, it seems you related revelation to seeing, inspiration to hearing, intuition is related to what?

Discovering. Suddenly. In the Veda we have said that Sarama discovers, goes ahead of Indra and discovers the stolen cows.

Now let us the last portion,

"And if there is any higher light of illumined intuition or self-revealing truth which is now in man either obstructed and inoperative or works with intermittent glancings as if from behind a veil or with occasional displays as of the northern lights in our material skies, then there also we need not fear to aspire. For it is likely that such is the next higher state of consciousness of which Mind is only a form and veil, and through the splendours of that light may lie the path of our progressive self-enlargement into whatever highest state is humanity's ultimate resting-place."