A pilgrim of our times, earnest in his quest and scrupulous in his methods, burning with a single aspiration to search for truth and to consecrate himself to the tasks that would flow from that search for the fulfilment of himself and for the eventual fulfilment of the human journey, finds himself arrested by various forms of denial and scepticism that pronounce the message that the present organisation of consciousness is the last limit and that the only course of rationality or reasonableness is to limit himself to the boundaries of that organisation and be content with limited certainities and probabilities and ever crumbling ideals of tolerable existence for oneself and the world.
There is, indeed, a layer of human intellectuality which is tied to senses so exclusively that it finds its station and resting place in what these instruments perceive and cognise, and even if it reflects, it finds nothing more satisfying than the argument that senses are our sole means of knowledge and that nothing can be known and nothing can be valid if it does not refer back to its origin in sense experience.
Not long ago, materialism held the central filed of inquiry, and it had predominant influence over the seekers of knowledge and persuaded them to limit the aim of life to a feverish effort of the individual to snatch what he may from a transient existence or to dispassionate and objectless service of the race and of the individual, knowing well that the latter is a transient fiction of the nervous mentality and the former only a little more long lived collective form of the same nervous spasm of Matter.
It is true that materialism is no more being advanced so overwhelmingly, and it has been largely conceded that materialism cannot be defended as a metaphysical philosophy. This is because, in the first place, those who are inclined psychologically to favour materialism have largely come to the conclusion that no metaphysical philosophy, including materialism, is logically sustainable. It has also come to be recognised
increasingly that it is impossible to argue that just because physical senses are our instruments of knowledge, we must conclude that they are the only means of knowledge and that from the premise that matter is an object of cognition by physical senses, it cannot be argued that matter alone exists.
Nonetheless, materialistic bias has continued to preponderate in the field of philosophy, epistemology, science and philosophy of science. And this preponderance can be seen in the way in which concepts such as those of infinity, eternity, universality, essence, explanation, causality and others have come to be dealt with during the last hundred years. All these concepts have been scrutinised with the microscopic lends which permits only those deliverances which are ultimately warranted by physical senses.
At one time, the knowledge of the phenomena was sought to be understood in the light of noumena, but this is no more considered to be a necessary requirement of rational understanding. At one time, there seemed to be in the world an iron insistence on order, on a law basing the possibilities. But today even while granting some apparent operations of laws of nature, what is predominantly emphasised is the unaccountability and freak and fantasy and random action. It is increasingly being recognised that the theory of Mechanical Necessity by itself does not elucidate the free play of the endless unaccountable variations which are visible in the universe as also in the evolutionary processes. Perceiving, however, that there is a good deal of freak and fantasy combined with a good deal of order, there is a trend to explain the world by pointing to a self-organising dynamic Chance or to give up the idea altogether of explanation in terms of any universal law of causation. It has even been argued that one should not aim at explanation of the phenomena of the world, but one should remain content with their descriptions.
It is true that science still aims at explaining phenomena apart from describing them in terms of the how and the why. But considering that induction is a necessary method of science, and since the assumptions of induction in regard to the law of uniformity of nature and the law of causation now are seen to be inconsistent with the freak and fantasy
of the world-phenomena, various theories have been developed to explain induction empirically without the need to acknowledge non-empirical belief in the laws of universality and causality. As a result, philosophers of science have largely come to the conclusion that scientific knowledge is bound to remain subject to various shades of scepticism or fallibility.
It is against this background that science is being looked upon as a body of knowledge, the certainty of which can never be guaranteed, and which will constantly be subject to corrigibility and fallibility. It is being admitted that on account of fallibility of scientific knowledge, while the boundaries of knowledge can be indefinitely expanded in course of time, questions such as those of the origin of the universe, mysteries and wonders of the universe, the paradoxes of the universe as also questions pertaining to the aim of life and those relating to fulfilment of the individual and the collectivity need not be raised, even if raised cannot be answered. It is also acknowledged that this conclusion and consequent attitude may be found unsatisfactory, but it is argued that there are no ascertainable faculties other than those of physical senses and those of anthropological rationality by the help of which any higher knowledge can be attained.
Bertrand Russell, speaking on his own behalf as that of like-minded philosophers stated towards the end of his History of Western Philosophy, “They confess frankly that the human intellect is unable to find conclusive answers to many questions of profound importance to mankind, but they refuse to belief that there is some ‘higher’ way of knowing by which we can discover truths hidden from science and the intellect.”1
Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya in his book, Induction, Probability and Scepticism has stated:
“The real world and the objects in it are not revealed to us at once. We know them gradually, historically, and can never be cognitively sure of their absolute certainty. The knowing self and the known (and knowable) world are differently interlocked, inter-animated, and interactive, both biologically and epistemologically. In our knowledge of
1 History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, p.789.
the world we do not, rather cannot, stand totally apart from it. From the evolutionary point of view what is called survival value is in a way akin to truth value, truth of what our organism is informed about the world around us. Situated in the world, we have to know t. in spite of our ability to transcend our situation, in a limited way, we cannot totally get out of it. It is some what like our inability to jump out of our own skins and schemes. ”2
Science and philosophy of science have thus come to advise us to accept in all humility our limitations in respect of knowledge, in respect of truth and in respect of certainty. But is this the end of the journey? Human aspiration refuses to accept it, and a question is raised: Are there any avenues which we can justifiably pursue, such as those proposed by religion, occultism, rationalistic philosophy and spirituality and persuade science and philosophy of science to join what can become a combined or synthetic quest, not only for the purposes of expanding conquest of the realms of truth but also those of the realisation of the highest possible ideals of human welfare, human solidarity and human fulfilment?
In an important development in the recent march of science, the phenomenon of consciousness has begun to command increasing attention. As a matter of fact, as far back as the close of 19th century, the great Indian scientist, Jagdish Chandra Bose, had demonstrated the presence of consciousness in plants and even in animals. (?) But consequent upon the latest developments in Quantum Mechanics, such as Bell’s Theorem, scientists have begun to inquire into the mystery of consciousness.
Roger Penrose has in his celebrated book Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness, attempted to address the question of consciousness from a scientific standpoint. He has strongly contended that an essential ingredient is missing from the contemporary scientific picture. He acknowledges the precision and scope of physical laws but he complains that they contain no hint of any action that cannot be
2 Induction, Probability and Scepticism – Professor D.P. Chattopadhyaya, page xxxi.
simulated computationally. He points out that there are, however, reasons for believing that there is in them a hidden non-computational action that the functioning of our brains must somehow be taking advantage of. He further argues that questions should be asked as to why the scientists have failed to recognise the fact that a non-computational phenomena like consciousness should be inherent at least potentially in all material things. According to him, it is quite possible in physics, to have a fundamentally new property completely different from any contemplated hitherto, hidden, in the behaviour of ordinary matter.
David Bohm in his book, Wholeness And The Implicate Order, argues that the Quantum Theory presents a serious challenge to the mechanistic order. He points out that the key features of the quantum theory that challenge mechanism are:
These three key features of quantum theory, according to Bohm, clearly show the inadequacy of mechanistic notion. Thus, if all actions are in the form of discrete quanta, interactions between different entities (e.g. electrons) constitute a single structure of indivisible links, so that the entire universe has to be thought of as an unbroken whole. In this whole each element that we can abstract in though shows basic properties (wavelike and particle like, etc.) that depend on its overall environment, in a way that is much more
reminiscent of how the organs constituting living being are related, than it is of how parts of a machine interact.
Bohm discusses the relationship of matter and consciousness on the basis of some common ground and propounds an idea of a new world-view based on the concept of unbroken wholeness. He states:
“To obtain an understanding of the relationship of matter and consciousness has, however, thus far proved to be extremely difficult, and this difficulty has its root in the very great difference in their basic qualities as they present themselves in our experience. This difference has been expressed with particularly great clarity by Descartes, who described matter as ‘extended substance’ and consciousness as ‘thinking substance’. Evidently, by ‘extended substance’ Descartes meant something made up of distinct forms existing in space, in an order of extension and separation basically similar to the one that we have been calling explicate. By using the term ‘thinking substance’ in such sharp contrast to ‘extended substance’ he was clearly implying that the various distinct forms appearing in thought do not have their existence in such an order of extension and separation (i.e. some kind of space), but rather in a different order, in which extension and separations have no fundamental significance. The implicate order has just this latter quality, so in a certain sense Descartes was perhaps anticipating that consciousness has to be understood in terms of an order that is closer to the implicate than it is to the explicate.”
According to Bohm, matter as a whole can be understood in terms of the notion that the implicate order is the immediate and primary actuality (while the explicate order can be derived as a particular, distinct case of the implicate order). The question that arises here, he pointed out, is that whether or not the actual substance of consciousness can be understood in terms of the notion that the implicate order is also its primary and immediate actuality. He contends that if matter and consciousness could be understood in terms of the general notion of order, the way should opened for comprehending their relationship on the basis of some common grounds. He concludes that in this way one
could come to the term of a new notion of unbroken wholeness, in which consciousness is no longer to be fundamentally separated from matter.
With the increasing evidence of the presence of consciousness or of the possibility of presence of consciousness in the physical, we seem to have entered into a new phase of the development of scientific knowledge and of the philosophy of scientific knowledge. We seem to be arriving at a meeting point of matter and consciousness, of the physical and the supra-physical. But it would be premature to conclude that the identity of matter and consciousness and of the physical and the supra-physical has been proved, and that, therefore, we have arrived or that we are soon going to arrive at the synthesis of science and spirituality.
The presence and operation of consciousness in the physical world has been admitted by a number of philosophical systems, and these philosophical systems, even though they contain valuable insights, do not provide as yet any firm ground for verifiable knowledge. It has been found necessary, in order to know with greater certitude, to follow the curve of evolving consciousness until it arrives at a height and largeness of self-enlightenment in which highest subjective consciousness is discovered to be capable of the generation of objective universe.
But let us pause a little.
Science demands physical valid proof of facts for building up justified or justifiable beliefs regarding them. Consciousness, on the other hand, is intrinsically supra-physical, and spirituality is the domain of consciousness and of supra-physical facts. Even though a supra-physical fact may impinge on the physical world and produce physical results, the action of the supra-physical on the physical and its effect on our senses cannot be its invariable action and most normal character or process. Ordinarily, the supra-physical produces a direct effect or a tangible impression on our mind and our life-being, and can
only indirectly and through them, if at all, influence the physical world and physical life. If it objectivises itself, it does so to subtler senses in us and only derivatively to the outward physical sense. In examples of the faculty of second sight and also of those of psychic faculties, this is what happens. It is to those subtle faculties that one can gain various kinds of evidence of the existence of other planes of beings and communication with them. It is then that one becomes aware that our physical mind and our physical senses are not the whole of us or the best or greatest part of us; and one begins to realise that reality cannot be restricted to a sole field of narrowness of the physical world.
It is, however, argued that the supra-physical experience is essentially subjective, and that subjective experiences or subtle-sense images can easily be deceptive, since we have no recognised method or standard of verification. But the counter-argument is that error is not the prerogative of the inner subjective experience alone; it is also a part of the knowledge that can be gained by physical senses, and even of the objective methods and standards. And just as in the physical domain, methods of scrutinising physical experiences have been worked out, and valid means of clarifications have been greatly standardised so that barren scepticism is no more defensible in regard to physical experiences, even so, in the occult sciences or in the yogic sciences, true standards and valid means of verification have been developed. Supra-physical experiences, when rightly interrogated and tested by their own characteristic appropriate standards of verification, are found to be valid and the testimony of these experiences is confirmed again and again even in the physical and objective filed. But it should be admitted that there is a too great a tendency to admit the extraordinary and miraculous or supernatural at its face value, and there is, therefore, a reason to be more scrupulous and stringent in applying appropriate valid means of verification.
The richness and complexities of Vedic system of yoga cannot be adequately captured within a brief compass that we have in our scope. But from whatever we have said so far we may be able to gather that,
(1) The Veda is humanity’s earliest composition available, which may enable us to discern a well developed yogashastra which consists of a systematic body of the
knowledge of the truths, principles, powers and processes that govern realization or yoga-siddhi, the perfection that comes from the practice of yoga;
(2) This shastra is illustrated in the examples of hundreds of Rishis, ― not only those who have composed the hymns of the Veda, but also those forefathers like Angirasas, Ribhus and others whose yogic achievements have been variously described;
(3) This shastra is not only a record of the subjective experiences of the composers or others, but owing to the fact the symbols and figures which have been used by these Rishis are fixed and shared by the composers and their disciples, the objective veracity of contents of knowledge that have been expressed in these compositions can be studied and can be objectively determined;
(4) The quest contained in this yoga-shastra is undogmatic and open ended, so that the yogic system presented in the Veda (yoga) can be continued to be developed in the light of new enquiries and new methods of quest and verification.
One of the important features of the Vedic pursuit is marked by intense goodwill and concern for universal welfare, spread of universal goodwill and openness to thoughts of goodwill that may come from all directions. The following verses from Rigveda, Mandala I, sukta 89, bring out the emphasis that is laid in the Veda on universality, goodwill, well-being, selflessness and all-round good health: “May thoughts of goodwill come to us from all directions, without any obstruction or restraint, leading us to higher ideals, so that we may be recipients of divine protection without any hindrance, day to day, for our well deserved growth”. (I.89.1)
“May Indra, with the opulent power of divine hearing, be propitious to us. May the omniscient be propitious to us. May Garuda with his irresistible weapons, be propitious to us. May Brahaspati be auspicious to us.” (I.89.6)
“O Gods, may we hear with ears what is auspicious; may we see with eyes what is auspicious, O gods worthy of worship. May we sing songs of gratitude with all our bodies endowed with firm faculties and live full span of our life devoted to the divine welfare.” (I.89.8)
“Hundred autumns are assigned to us by the divine in this fleeting existence of bodies, subject to old age and decay. May we have no affliction or infirmities in the midst of our life-span.” (I.89.9)
There are, in the Yajurveda, six verses which are devoted to a prayer for the mind mind to be filled with Good Will. They are as follows :
“The mind, irrespective of whether one is awake or asleep, travels to far distant corners; this far distant-moving mind is a light of lights.
May that mind of mind be filled with Good Will.”
“It is by virtue of this mind that the enlightened ones, endowed with deep insight and operative skills, perform actions as a sacrifice; the mind is extraordinary, highly dynamic and effective, hidden with creative powers.
May that mind of mind be filled with Good Will.”
“The mind represents insight and awareness, patience, light and nectar of the Immortality within the human beings; without mind no action or sacrifice can be performed.
May that mind of mind be filled with Good Will.”
“The mind, when seized by immortality, penetrates all the past, the present and the future; the mind itself extends into all actions of sacrifice that is performed by seven sacrifices (of seven planes).
May that mind of mind be filled with Good Will.”
“The mind is the receptive plane of words of knowledge, prayers of worship and offerings of sacrifice; they are located in it just as spokes are contained in the centre of the wheel of a chariot; all the stuff of consciousness of all the beings is inter-locked in it.
May that mind of mind be filled with Good Will.”
“As an expert charioteer mobilizes the horses with the reins, so does the mind mobilize human beings. It is the most dynamic and fast moving (director) located in the heart.
May that mind of mind be filled with Good Will.”
Among the four Vedas, Samaveda occupies a special place. According to Yaska, Sama has three alternative meanings:
1) Union of heaven, life-breath and song;
2) Union of knowledge and works;
3) Union of divine power and individual soul.
The mantras of Samaveda are recited as songs, and some of the best prayers of the Veda are to be found in the Mahanamni Archika, which occurs between the first and the second parts of the Samaveda. It consists of only ten verses, and these prayers can be seen to be the kernel of the bhakti yoga of the Veda. The truth of the yogic relationship of prayer to the bhakti yoga is not easily grasped, and, considered as a form of external worship and even as a form of ceremonial worship, it is considered to be a part of religionism rather than as a part of yoga, the distinguishing feature of which is a process of psychological methods of inner change of consciousness leading up to the total transformation of consciousness in which the individual stands united with the universal and transcendental Divine, which leads to a further step of the rain of the divine consciousness on the psychological and even physical instruments and limbs of the individual in their action of transformation. It is true that as long as the divine consciousness is only an idea of the godhead to which one renders reverence or homage, there is not yet the beginning of yoga. The beginning is marked by a seeking after the Divine, a longing after some kind of touch, closeness or possession. It is only at that stage that there comes about inner adoration of the Divine, an inner worship; one begins to make oneself a temple of the Divine; one’s thoughts and feelings become a constant prayer of aspiration and seeking, and the whole life becomes a means of service and worship of the divine. It is as this change or this new soul-tendency grows that the movement of devotion becomes a yoga, bhakti yoga, a growing contact and union, and with this change, even the outward worship will increasingly become only a physical expression or outflowing of the inner devotion and adoration; that outward worship will be the wave of the soul throwing itself out in speech and symbolic act. The real distinguishing mark of the bhakti yoga can be seen when adoration brings with it an increasing consecration of the being to the Divine
who is adored, and this consecration must be a process of self-purification directed towards a growth towards the divine contact or for the entrance of the Divine into the temple of the inner being in order that the divine consciousness and divine being is revealed in the shrine of the heart. The process of purification may be only ethical, but at the point where yoga begins to appear in its true spirit and form, purification begins to be a process of throwing away, catharsis, of all that conflicts with what is conceived to be the Divine in himself or the Divine in ourselves. One ceases to have in the outer act an imitation of the Divine, one begins to grow into the likeness of the Divine in our nature. Bhakti yoga culminates in a sort of liberation by likeness to the Divine, a liberation from our lower nature and a change into the divine nature.
It is in the context of this profoundity of bhakti yoga that the place and significance of prayer needs to be underlined. There may be in the ordinary religious approach to the divine consciousness by prayer many crudities such as that illustrated by the attitude which imagines the Divine as if capable of being propitiated, bribed, flattered into acquiescence or indulgence by praise, entreaty and gifts and has often little regard to the spirit in which the divine is approached. In the bhakti yoga proper, prayer is only a particular form given to the upward will and aspiration and to the faith which does not rest in the state of belief but which is a dynamic force by which what is held in belief is irresistibly worked out as to be transformed into knowledge, into living experience and realization. When a prayer expresses the will and aspiration to come into a living experience of the touch with the divine will, one enters into the yoga of realization. One begins to understand that the divine will is universal will, and it cannot be deflected by egoistic propitiation and entreaty; one begins to understand that the divine is not only universal but also transcendent who expresses himself in the universal order with omniscience, where his larger knowledge must foresee the thing to be done, needing no direction or stimulation by the human thought; one begins to learn that the individual’s desires are not and cannot be in any world order the true determining factor. But the divine fore-knowledge does not bind the omniscience and omnipotence of the divine consciousness and in the working of the universe, the law of divine action is not a mechanical law and that there is in that working a constant interaction of powers and
forces, working from above and working from below, and through that interaction and, in the interaction between the human will and the divine will, Divine Events are created, and the world which was closed earlier is opened up by the transforming will in human consciousness and its offering and consecration; one then realizes that the world is not a mechanical working out of a vision but a spiritual unfoldment that permits new creation by virtue of the consecration of the individual will in order to become a vehicle of the divine’s will, on the one hand, and the divine’s omnipotent will that sanctions the occurrence of the creative action that brings about the transformation of all that continues to occur, and new events are shaped which were willed by the divine omnipotent will but which were by the same will were to be shaped by the human will, aspiration and dynamic faith. What is important in the bhakti yoga is not the anthropomorphic approach to God that aims at flattering the divine for egoistic satisfaction but the development of the relationship between the human aspiration and the Divine Will. Prayer helps to prepare a conscious relationship between the human will and the divine consciousness. It is the contact of human life with God and this contact of human life with God and this contact results in constant interchange with cosmic gods. The essence of the prayer consists of its power to build up higher and higher forms of relationship until one reaches the highest motiveless devotion, which is that of divine love, pure and simple, without any other demand or longing. The demand of the prayer is, in ultimate analysis, the demand for the closest union with the divine. As the Bhakti yoga rises higher, the one thing one asked for is the divine love, the one thing feared is the loss of love, the one sorrow is a sorrow of separation of love; for all other things either do not exist for the worshiper and lover or come in only as incidents or as results and not as objects or conditions of love. The greatest boon of yogic prayer is eternity and intensity of the divine love.
In the few examples which are taken from Samaveda, and various motives of prayers are discovered, but they express the intense need of the Rishis in their upward aspiration and effort to unite with the divine consciousness:
O Refulgent Lord, Thou art that Indra.
O Lord, Thou art the Increasing Sun!
O Lord! Thou art those very Gods!
We may, finally refer to the important verses, which appear at the close of the Rig veda, since they bring out the futuristic vision of humanity and harmony, which can come about by intense aspiration for collective yoga that aims at highest welfare and solidarity of people. These verses express exhortation of Rishis for building up the future divine man. Be, first, the mental being, and manifest, then, the divine being, - so is the message of the Veda, - manurbhav, janayä daivyam janam.
“Join together, speak one word, let your minds arrive at one knowledge even as the ancient gods arriving at one knowledge partake each of his own portion.
Common mantra have all these, a common gathering to union, and one mind common to all, they are together in one knowledge; I pronounce for you a common mantra, do sacrifice for you with a common offering.
One and common be your aspiration, united your hearts, common to you be your mind, - so that close companionship may be yours.” (X.191.2,3,4)
There is in science insistence on the definition of knowledge, which includes an indispensable element, viz., its public character. It is true that it is much easier to satisfy the criterion of public character, where the data of our physical world are concerned, since most of the human beings can verify them through the physical organism, the operations of which are quite commonly and readily obtained. In regard to supra-physical experiences and supra-physical realities, where supra-physical senses or faculties are required for purposes of testing and for public shareability, the situation is more difficult. But if a serious study is made, and if it is admitted that all truth, supra-physical or physical must be founded not on mental beliefs alone, but on experience, and that in each
case experience must be of the kind, physical, subliminal or spiritual, which is appropriate to the order of the truths into which we are empowered to enter, and further, that their validity and significance must be scrutinised according to their own laws and by a consciousness which can enter into them an not according to the law of another domain or by a consciousness which is capable only of truths of another order, then, we find in the yogic sciences sure grounds for enlarging our sphere of knowledge and even of satisfying the criterion of public shareability, provided we mean by public that public which has at its command those senses and faculties which are appropriate for the knowledge of the supra-physical.
This is where one finds an indispensable role of yogic knowledge and yogic methods of knowledge through which that knowledge can be verified. It is through the yogic experience that three important supra-physical experiences and realisations are attained, and they are attained with certainty that obtains in the identity of the subject and the object.
The first of these experiences is that of Cosmic Consciousness. The second is the experience of the Transcendental Consciousness in which the experience of a transcendental reality comes to be known indubitably. And there is a third experience in which even that transcendental experience is further transcended to such an extent that if the transcendental experience is described as the experience of the Pure Being, then this latter experience of a further transcendental experience can be described as the experience of the Non-Being, something that one learns of it through the Upanishads or from the Nirvanic experience of the Buddha.
But even then, there is a problem. There is a claim that in the transcendental experience, the Cosmic Consciousness is sublated. If so, how is one to judge the validity of Cosmic Consciousness in terms of knowledge and certainty? Moreover, the experience of the Non-Being claims that it sublates the experience of the Being. What then is the validity of
the experience of the Being in terms of knowledge and certainty? One is obliged to move forward in one’s quest, and this is the challenge that the advocates of yoga and yogic knowledge have to meet.
The solution can come about only if Cosmic Consciousness, Consciousness of the Being and the Consciousness of the Non-Being stand together simultaneously and integrated. Such an integral experience has, of course, been affirmed in the synthesis of yoga that can be discerned in the Vedas and the Upanishads, and it has been reiterated also in the later spiritual experience and spiritual philosophy, where the Supreme Reality is described as at once dynamic and static and yet transcendental of both dynamism and staticity. It is the experience of what the Vedas call Rita-Chit, and what, in our own times has been called in the synthesis of yoga of Sri Aurobindo as the supramental consciousness.
The supramental consciousness carries with it the self-awareness of the Infinite and the Eternal and the power of self-determination inherent in that self-awareness. Its mode of knowledge is knowledge by identity, which admits among its powers capability of differentiation as an expression of unity. It is claimed that, as the Mother has affirmed, in the supramental consciousness one can walk as one can in the physical world and arrive at the certainty, both subjective and objective, much more vividly than of the certainty of the subjective experience of walking in the physical world and of the objective reality of the physical world in which one happens to walk. In that consciousness not only does one find the presence of Consciousness in Matter but also identity of Consciousness and Matter in an underlying certainty of unity of Spirit and Matter.
In the supramental consciousness, therefore, one can be said to have reached a true synthesis of the loftiest yogic experiences. But even though one who lives in supramental consciousness the certainty of untiy and identity of the spirit and matter is self-evident, and even though this experience is shareable by all those who are capable of entering into the supramental consciousness, and therefore, its validity has as much certainty as any
shareable experience can possess, -- even then one cannot be said to have arrived at a satisfying and totally convincing conclusion.
Something more is needed.
The nature of the Spirit is so remote from the nature of Matter, and in the evolutionary profess, the manifestation of spiritual or even of supramental consciousness in physical life seems to be so much dependent on the apparatus of the human body with its imperative dependence on the working of nerves and circulation of blood and respiration that, coupled with the phenomenon of death, one is not able to convince that layer of our scientific consciousness which demands, quite justifiably, the proof of the primacy of consciousness which is claimed by spirituality and supramentality and refute the contention that consciousness is an epiphenomenona of Matter.
This can happy only if physical senses themselves can undergo a spiritual transformation and if matter itself, as we find it operating in the human body, undergoes such a transformation that it could be seen, even physically made tangible to the physical senses, as new matter, something that could be seen as a real fabrication derived from the old matter and capable of manifesting such sensitivity which escapes the limitations of our ordinary physical bodily functioning. Only if this happens, science, as distinguished from scientists (many of whom may even at an earlier stages of the newer and newer developments of science and spirituality) can be convinced of the yogic knowledge and claims relevant to the synthesis of yoga, and the demonstration of the synthesis of science and spirituality, synthesis of matter and spirit under the sovereign mastery of the spirit.
This is the work to be accomplished.
In this connection, let us refer to a long passage from one of the conversations of the Mother with Satprem on this very subject as we find it in Volume-3 of The Mother’s Agenda, which can be regarded as an authentic laboratory journal of the latest developments of the synthesis of yoga:
“…I thought for a time, a very long time, that if Science went to its furthest possible limits (if this is conceivable), it would join up with true Knowledge. In the study of the composition of matter, for example – by pressing the investigation further and further on – a point would be reached where the two would meet. But when I had that experience of passing from eternal Truth-Consciousness to the consciousness of the Individualised world, well … it appeared impossible to me. And if you ask me now, I think that this possibility of Science pushed to its extreme limits joining up with truth Knowledge, and this impossibility of any true conscious connection with the material world are both incorrect. There is something else.
And more and more these days, I find myself facing the whole problem as if I had never seen it before.
Both paths may be leading towards a third point, and that third point is what I am at present … not exactly studying; I am rather in quest of it – the point where the two paths merge into a third that would be the TRUE thing.”
“… These positions – the spiritual and the ‘materialist’ (if you can all it that) positions – which consider themselves exclusive (exclusive and unique and so each one denies the other’s value in the name of Truth) are inadequate, not only because neither one will accept the other, but because even accepting and uniting them both won’t solve the problem. Something is still to be discovered, which will probably open the door to total Knowledge.”
“… For a very long time it had seemed to me that a perfect union between the scientific approach pushed to its extreme and the spiritual approach pushed to its extreme, to its utmost realisation, a merging of the two would naturally lead to the Truth we seek, the total Truth. But with the two experiences I have had, the experience of the outer life (with universalisation, impersonalisation – all the yogic experiences you can have in a material body) and the experience of total and perfect union with the Origin … now that I’ve had
those two experiences and something has happened – something I can’t yet describe – I know that knowing and uniting the two approaches is not enough; they open out on a third thing, and that third thing is what is … in the making. The third thing is what can lead to the Realisation, to the Truth we seek.”
Yoga, as distinguished from religion, does not suffer from the limitations of dogma, and it is, therefore, a field of research in which the gains of the past have been continuously sought to be examined, repeated, confirmed and enlarged in a spirit of fresh inquiry, critical review and questioning in the interests of pruning the obsolete, expansion by fresh experience, experiment and enrichment, as also development of new objectives and new methods.
Yoga has been a global phenomenon, and it has developed since early times which were marked by the development of experiences and doctrines related to mysteries, particularly in Egypt, India, Chaldea, Greece and Persia. Great religions and systems of occultism, in the East as also in the West, have influenced or been influenced by what is in India called Yoga but which has been practised and developed in one form or another in different parts of the world. Wherever Yoga has been practised and developed, the essential spirit is marked by the effort, -- or more properly speaking, -- methodised effort to break the limits of the normal boundaries of the organisation of human consciousness so as to attain, stabilise and develop new faculties such as those of intuition, revelation, inspiration and states of abiding silence and peace as also dynamism of actions and emotions that manifest knowledge and various forms of creativity.
Yoga has at its heights discovered and affirmed relationships of individual consciousness, when it is liberated from the limitations of the ego, with universal consciousness and transcendental consciousness. Yoga has been, by virtue of its methods, described as a methodical process of acceleration of human consciousness into higher and even supreme states of consciousness. As Swami Vivekananda has aid, Yoga may be regarded as a
means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life over a few years or even a few months of bodily existence.
Considering that Yoga is a methodised effort, it needs to be noted that Yogic methods have something of the same relation to the customary psychological workings of man as has the scientific handling of the natural forces of electricity or of steam to the normal operations of steam and of electricity. As in science, so in Yoga, methods are formed upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant result. In the Raja Yoga, for instance, the methods and results indicate the perception and experience that our psychological elements, combinations, functions, forces can be separated or dissolved and they can also be a new-combined and set to novel and impossible workings. It is further seen that by means of methods of Raja Yoga, our psychological elements can be transformed and resolved into a new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. In the system of Hatha Yoga, it is seen that the vital forces and functiongs can be mastered and their operations can be changed or suspended with results that would otherwise be impossible and that seem miraculous to those who have not seized the rationale of their processes. In other systems of Yoga, such as Bhakti Yoga, Jïäna Yoga and Karma Yoga, which are intuitive and less mechanical, we find that they too start from the use of some principal faculty in us by ways and for ends not contemplated in its everyday’s spontaneous working. All Yogic methods are essentially special psychological processes founded on a fixed truth of Nature and developing out of normal functions, powers and results which were always hidden but which in her ordinary movements do not easily or do not often manifest. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, Yoga is, “a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and the union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos.”
The history of Yoga, both in the East and in the West, has been tied up with history of religion, occultism and philosophy. In India, however, this history has a distinguishing feature on account of the fact that of religion came to recognise that Yoga can be developed independent of religion, both in thrust of its quest as also in methodology, so
that the same can be perfected without recourse to the means and instruments which are normally employed in religion. We also find that the records of Yoga which lie hidden in the vast corpus of the Vedic Samhitas contain a rich treasure of Yogic knowledge, and basing ourselves on the Vedic texts we can build an authentic account of the historical development of Yoga beginning with the Vedic times and leading up to the present day. An effort to build up a possible authentic account of Yoga as it developed in India falls outside the scope of our present endeavour here, but the pattern that we can discern in the development of the Indian systems of Yoga manifests a harmonised complexity and totality at a very early stage which was marked by the experimentation carried out by the Vedic Rishis. This complexity and totality appears to break apart into various channels of special effort and tendency, which tend to unite once more in a larger and more puissant synthesis. The synthesis in the Veda, which was repeated in the synthesis of Yoga of the Upanishads and again in that of the Gita, has left such an indelible stress in favour of the theme of synthesis that even in later stages, specialised schools of Yoga as they developed and came to be divided and variously formulated, carried still with them some inner stress for synthesis. Nonetheless, Yoga has come to be more and more specialised in narrower channels of effort, and despite the undeniable stress on synthesis, there have been not only claims and counterclaims among these specialised systems of Yoga but even exclusive affirmations and denials among them. It is against this background that during the last 150 years, Yoga in India has attempted to rediscover itself and to bring to the surface the profoundest reason of its being. It has also attempted to arrive at new developments of Yogic knowledge and new applications of the recovered as also new gains of knowledge to develop a larger synthesis.
An astonishing fact is that right at the early stage of development of India Yoga, there were extraordinary explorations of consciousness. Vedic Rishis had attained, as the Vedic Samhitas testify, loftiest domains and powers of consciousness. And even though there must have been specialised efforts in the pre-Vedic era, the Yoga that we find in the Veda is the synthesis of Yoga. For this reason, Veda is variously known as the Book of knowledge, Book of works and Book of prayers. Describing the attainment of these Vedic Rishis, Sri Aurobindo states as follows:
“They may not have yoked the lightning to their chariots, nor weighed sun and star, nor materialised all the destructive forces in Nature to aid them in massacre and domination, but they had measured and fathomed all the heaves and earths within us, they had cast their plummet into the inconscient and the subconscient and the superconscient; they had read the riddle of death and found the secret of immortality; they had sough for and discovered the One and known and worshipped Him in the glories of His light and purity and wisdom and power.”
Ishopanishad describes in the following verses the loftiest experiences of consciousness, where the individual, universal and the transcendental unite:
“But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.
He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he had the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?”
Describing the journey of Yoga of Ayasya, the Rigveda speaks of the seven-headed Though by which the lost sun of Truth is recovered. Again, it is this yogic journey that ends in the discovery of the fourth world, turiyam svid, the world of the supermidn spoken of in the Veda as the world of the Truth, Right and Vast, -- satyam, ritam, brihat. Describing the process of Yoga in its essential characteristic, the Rigveda states:
“The held the truth, they enriched its thought; then indeed, aspiring souls (aryah), they, holding it in thought, bore it diffused in all their being.”
We also find in the Veda a description of the culminating experience of immortality in the following words:
“They who entered into all things that bear right fruit formed a path towards the immortality; earth stood wide for them by the greatness and by the Great Ones, the Mother Aditi with her sons came (or, manifested herself) for the upholding.”
In one of the most illuminating passages of the Ishopanishad, we have a brief description of the passage of the yogic process from where the face of the Truth is covered to the point where the supreme light and knowledge are realised:
“The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do though remove, O Fosterer, for the law of the Truth, for sigh.
O Fosterer, O sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illumining Sun, O power of the Father of creatures, marshal thy rays, draw together thy light; the Lustre which is thy most blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold, The Purusha there and there, He am I.”
It is significant that the yogic process, which began its development with the Veda, culminated in the first cycle in the Upanishads, which are called Vedanta, giving us the indication as to how and when the true soul of India was born. The description that we find in a few pages of the Upanishads restore for us the picture of that extraordinary stir and movement of spiritual inquiry and passion for the highest knowledge. It is in these Vedas and Upanishads that we find not only the sufficient fountainhead of Indian philosophy and religion, but of all Indian art, poetry and literature. It is there that we find the soul, the temperament, and the ideal mind which later ripened into what we now call Indian genius of spirituality, intellectuality, askesis and vitality.
The development of the science of Yoga can be seen to have reached a new stage of synthesis when we come to the Bhagavadgita. The Bhagavadgita, which is known as the Yoga Shastra, provide us profound secrets of knowledge and application of knowledge by means of which human consciousness can be transformed into Divine consciousness. The first secret, guhyam rahasyam, is to find out how the field of circumstances in which one is placed can be apprehended or comprehended and mastered. This secret is the
knowledge of the distinction between the field of circumstances and the knower of the field, kshetra and kshetrajna. There is behind and above the field of circumstances the secret consciousness that can be experienced as a silent witness, purusha or as a transcendental immobility, Brahman or as the controlling and ruling giver of sanction and master, anumanta and ishwara. One of these experiences or all of them together can provide a sure basis of freedom from the tangles of the problems that the field of circumstances and the battle of life present to us by means of an interplay of the three gunas of Nature, sattwa, rajas and tama. But at this level of experience, although there is here freedom from action and its problems, one does not yet have the key to the freedom of action, freedom in action and freedom to disentangle the knots from the problems and their gripping difficulties. For that we need to have a deeper secret, guhyataram rahasyam, the secret of the origin of Nature in a higher Nature, the origin of apara prakriti in the para prakriti, where is also to be found the origin of multiple individualities which are the centres of the Supreme Self, Purushottama, who at once reconciles and synthesises the status of Purusha, Brahman and Ishwara. And the knowledge of this higher Nature not liberates us from the tangle of Nature, but gives us also the capacity to harmonise various threads of Nature which would even allow the transmission of the dynamic and creative action that would resolve the knots and problems of all our activities of life. This is the knowledge by which the cognitive, affective and conative powers of our psychology can be perfected, and synthesis of karmayoga, jïänayoga and bhaktiyoga can be effected. But there is still a culmination of this deeper secret; there is still the deepest secret, guhyatamam rahasyam. This secret is that of the possibility of the transmutation of lower nature by higher nature, of the attainment of sadharmyam, where human law of action is substituted by the divine law of action. And the secret method is to move at a stage where all that one is or one has is reposed unconditionally in the hands and in the being of the Supreme, as a result of which all that flows through the individuality is the incorruptible breath of the Supreme which unites the Truth, Beauty and Goodness and constantly creates conditions suitable for the unity and harmony of the people, lokasangraha.
The subsequent history of Yoga is an account of specialised schools of Yoga, each one of which is distinguished by a specific goal, a specific instrument of human psychology that is utilised for its perfection, and a specific purpose of concentration. These systems of Yoga provided intensive fields of experimentation, each one realising in greater subtlety of realisation as also enrichment of the common goal of Yoga. In a later development in the Yoga of Tantra, we find another basis of a synthesis in which the aspect of shakti is prominently utilised for the attainment of a large and integral realisation of the Supreme Reality. In our own times, we find Sri Rama Krishna Paramhamsa providing us a synthesis of Yoga by his colossal spiritual capacity, and in the words of Sri Aurobindo:
“… first driving straight to the divine realisation, taking, as it were, the kingdom of heaven by violence, and then seizing upon one Yogic method after another and extracting the substance out of it with an incredible rapidity, always to return to the heart of the whole matter, the realisation and possession of God by the power of love, by the extension of inborn spirituality into various experience and by the spontaneous play of an intuitive knowledge.”
We have also in the works of Swami Vivekananda inspiring accounts of various systems of Yoga in large catholic and synthetic terms. In Sri Aurobindo, we have still a new synthesis which is affected by negating the forms and outsides of the yogic disciplines and seizing rather on some central principle, common to all which includes and utilises in the right place and proportion their particular principles, and some central dynamic force which is the common secret of the divergent methods and capable of organising a natural selection and combination of their varied energies and different utilities. Describing this process of synthesis and its aim, Sri Aurobindo states:
“The lower Nature, that which we know and are and must remain so long as the faith in us is not changed, acts through limitation and division, is of the nature of Ignorance and culminates in the life of the ego; but the higher Nature, that to which we aspire, acts by unification and transcendence of limitation, is of the nature of Knowledge and culminates in the life divine. The passage from the lower to the higher is the aim of Yoga; and this
passage may effect itself by the rejection of the lower and escape into the higher, -- the ordinary viewpoint, -- or by the transformation of the lower and its elevation to the higher Nature. It is this, rather, that must be the aim of an integral Yoga.
… The whole life is the Yoga of Nature. The Yoga that we seek must also be an integral action of Nature, and the whole difference between the Yogin and the natural man will be this, that the Yogin seeks to substitute in himself for the integral action of the lower Nature working in and by ego and division the integral action of the higher Nature working in by God and unity. If indeed our aim be only an escape from the world to God, synthesis is unnecessary and a waste of time; for then our sole practical aim must be to find out one path out of the thousand that lead to God, one shortest possible of short cuts, and not to linger exploring different paths that end in the same goal. But if our aim be a transformation of our integral being into the terms of God existence, it is then that a synthesis becomes necessary. ”
An important presupposition of Yoga consists of the understanding of what is technically called in the Indian systems, ignorance, avidya. This concept is difficult to grasp, but the essential characteristic is marked by exclusive concentration of consciousness on a limited field and identification of the being or purusha with that limited field, which is an expression of prakriti or Nature, the executive force of threefold gunas – sattwa, rajas and tama intertwined with the sense of ego. This ignorance, as analysed by Sri Aurobindo, is sevenfold; original ignorance, cosmic ignorance, egoistic ignorance, temporal ignorance, constitutional ignorance and practical ignorance. If this ignorance is to be removed, the means should consist of reversing the exclusive concentration of consciousness. Essentiality of the process of Yoga lies in effecting this reversal. All the various methods of Yoga are basically methods by which our outward consciousness is reversed in such a way that inner consciousness, and inmost consciousness and loftiest consciousness becomes the object of our consciousness. Sri Aurobindo speaks of sevenfold knowledge in which one can approach the Absolute as the source of all circumstances and relations, possess the world in ourselves in utmost wideness and in a
conscient dependence in its source, and by so taking it raises up and realises the absolute values that converse in the Absolute.
There is a tendency to claim that the truths of Yoga were all discovered and perfected in the remote past and that what we need today is simply to recover them and apply them in the present conditions of the world. But a close study of the history of Yoga will show that the truths or even a Truth, one and eternal, cannot be shut up in a single trenchant formula, and it is not likely to be found in its entirety or in all its bearings in any record of knowledge. Even though the Vedic knowledge was lofty and manifested some of the pinnacles of the knowledge of the transcendental, universal and the individual consciousness, the later developments brought out subtleties, intensities, complexities and new applications. Upanishads, although embedded in the Vedas, expressed the Vedic knowledge in a language less symbolic and in terms more precise but also discovered and applied certain secrets such as those of the psychic entity described as angushthamatra and its relationship with purusha-consciousness in different grades, physical, vital and mental nature (annamaya, pranamaya, and manomaya), and presented a synthesis that laid a special stress on knowledge. Upanishads have, therefore, been rightly called Vedanta, not only in the sense of the chronological end of the Vedic texts but also in the sense of a meaningful culmination of the Vedic quest in the field of knowledge (jïäna). Again, although the knowledge contained in the Bhagavadgita has been declared to be reinstatement of the Veda and the Upanishad, the richness of the synthesis of knowledge, action and devotion presented in it bring out a new synthesis. Even the specialised systems of Yoga bring out new insights and new applications. The Yoga of Tantra presents a new synthesis with a new objective and new methodology. Sri Chaitanya adds a new dimension in the Vedantic Yoga by virtue of the manifestation of a new secret of the profundities and the intensities of human love turned to the Supreme. Buddhistic Yoga and Yogic disciplines practised by the Jainas have also brought out truths and powers which can be considered to be novel. Even in the traditions of Buddhistic and Jaina Yogas there have been both specialisations and syntheses.
Christian systems of Yoga, Islamic systems of Yoga and Persian systems of Yoga, which have had long history of development outside India have added to the universal fund of Yogic knowledge, and the Synthesis of Yoga that we find in Sri Ramakrishna contains several novel elements of practice and result that are derived from the truths of the Yoga of Christianity, Islam and others. When we come to Sri Aurobindo and to the Mother, we find a new object and a new methodology and a fresh synthesis and a fresh experiment. All this shows that Yoga is not a closed book and that Yoga admits, like any science, fresh explorations and developments of new knowledge and new applications. This character of Yoga was known and affirmed quite clearly in the Vedic corpus of Yogic knowledge. In a Vedic Sukta, the Rishi speaks of Yoga as a constant ascent indicating the possibilities of higher and higher levels within the supramental realm:
brahmäëas tvä çatakrata
ud vamçam iva yemire.
yat sänoh sänum äruhad
bhüri aspañta kartvam
“The priests of the word climb thee like a ladder, O hundred-powered. As one ascends from peak to peak, there is made clear the much that has still to be done.”
The claims of Yoga are not limited to epistemological certainty of knowledge but also they extend to the questions of the highest welfare of the individual and of the collectivity, and if we take the question of evolution of consciousness, Yoga is also concerned with the processes of that evolution and with the acceleration and fulfilment of that evolution.
In this connection, one of the greatest contributions of the Indian science of Yoga is that of the discovery of the state of the human soul’s bondage, and that of the fashioning of the various methods which would ensure liberation and its other consequences relating to perfection.
Every human being is required to deal with a given environment and a certain set of circumstances, and at a certain stage, a conscious feeling begins to grow that there is something in the human personality which needs to be distinguished from the environment and circumstances in an effort either to escape from the burden of life and its responsibilities or to refashion the inner psychological complexities of the being so as to control, master and perfect the outer life and the world. This feeling is, in the beginning, evanescent or temporary; but in due course, it grows, under various pressures of experience, and one begins to suspect one’s ignorance and one’s state of bondage, accompanied with a growing aspiration to remove ignorance and to attain to liberation and perfection.
It has been rightly observed that a special characteristic of ignorance is that it does not suspect itself. To discover that one is ignorant is itself a sign of a certain growth of knowledge. It is only at that stage that one begins to ask some of the deepest questions about the riddle of the world and the intricacies of varieties of relationships in which one is entangled in one’s commerce with the outer world.
At a further stage, one is led to inquire into the questions as to whether sorrow and suffering, disabilities and death, dualities and incapacities can truly and effectively be removed altogether. The question, “What am I?” assumes then a great prominence, and one is led to the quest of the most Ultimate or of Something in which all afflictions and incapacities can be extinguished permanently.
A special feature of Indian philosophy is that it measures its own relevance in terms of the answers it provides to existential questions relating to bondage and the quest for liberation. And, while the Indian philosophical inquiry is pure, impartial and thorough-
going, the ultimate test that it imposes upon itself is not merely that of logical consistency and comprehensiveness but also of its ability to show the way to liberation from delusion and sorrow and even to a total collective welfare by attainment of states and powers of perfection.
All Yogic disciplines maintain that the state of bondage is marked by an identification of the experiencing consciousness with the instruments and objects that constitute for the experiencing consciousness its world of experience. Different systems of Yoga use different terms for the experiencing consciousness and for the experienced world. According to one system, the experiencing consciousness is called Purusha and the experienced world is called Prakriti, and it is maintained that the identification of Purusha with Prakriti constitutes the state of bondage; according to another system, the individual soul, which is called Jiva, when identified with the mind, is said to be in the state of bondage. According to a third system, the individual soul or jiva is nothing but a temporary conglomeration of perceptions and impressions, which by repetitive actions creates an apparent sense of self or ego-sense, which identifies itself with the experienced world, which, in turn, is also a conglomeration of perceptions and impressions; there is yet another view according to which the individual soul, which is in some way dependent on the supreme Reality, and which, when instead of dwelling in that Reality, identifies itself with the instruments of experience and objects of the experienced world, gets into the state of bondage.
Among these and similar views, what is commonly emphasised is that there are two elements in the psychology of bondage, which are central experiences of bondage. These are: desires and ego-sense. All systems of Yoga are fundamentally different ways by which desire and ego-sense can be eliminated. Again, all yogic systems agree that the state of liberation is attained when desire and ego-sense are annihilated or extinguished.
All yogic systems consider the state of bondage to be the result of Ignorance, which causes the confusion between the real and the unreal, superimposition of the unreal on the real, or superimposition of the not-self on the self, or else perception of fleeting impressions which are extinguishable but are not yet extinguished. The question as to how ignorance can be removed, has been answered by different systems of Yoga, although they have some common elements.
According to Raja Yoga, ignorance can be eliminated by means of cessation of modifications path of consciousness as a result of disciplined pursuit of an eightfold path consisting of processes of purification, self-control and concentration leading up to Samadhi in which the mind is completely stiled. According to Jïäna Yoga, the intellect should be so trained that it can distinguish between the unreal and the real, and with the help of the intellectual conviction of this distinction, one should follow up a line of concentration, so that one disassociates from identification with the unreal and arrives at identification with the Real. According to Bhakti Yoga, the individual needs to turn the entire complex of the emotional being in spirit of worship, adoration, service and love for the supreme Reality; and, by constant indwelling in the supreme Reality or rather in the supreme Person, one gets disassociated from everything else with which one was earlier identified. According to Karma Yoga, the discipline consists of a gradual elimination of desire and egoism, -- which are normally intertwined strongly with action, -- by means of a gradual process in which one disassociates oneself from the fruits of action and later on disassociates oneself from the sense of doership of action, and finally one becomes a mere vehicle of action proceeding from the Supreme Reality. In the Yogic system of Jainism, the discipline consists of disassociating Jiva from matter by means of gradual or rapid exhaustion of action, karma, with the help of various practices that underline rigorous practice of truthfulness, non-violence, continence, non-covetousness and burning away of all attachments to possession. In the Yoga of Buddhism, the process of yoga consists of the eightfold path, namely, right beliefs, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right mode of livelihood, right effort, right mindedness and right rapture. There are also many other systems of Yoga which emphasise disciplines of the body, or of life-force and mind or else they combine various systems of Yoga in some kind of
synthesis. There are, of course, claims and counterclaims, in regard to the superiority of one system over the other, but as state above, they all agree that the state of liberation is impossible without the elimination of desire and ego-sense.
The state of the liberated soul has been variously described. But there are two important characteristics of this state which are commonly to be found among these descriptions. First, the state of liberation is a state of recovery, -- recovery of a state which was always in a state of freedom. It is said that it is the state of the Purusha or Brahman which is for ever free. Secondly, it is a state beyond the mind-consciousness, which could be defined as consciousness that is discursive, successive, and centred on apprehensive as opposed to a comprehensive point of view. If this state of liberation is that of consciousness or knowledge or bliss or all of them together, they are other than what they are at the mental level. It is fundamentally a state of stillness or peace that transcends the state of understanding or of resignation or surrender, or of all of them together, and if there is any movement or dynamism or action it is a movement of the soul’s relationship of unity and harmony of all things in transcendence or with the transcendental and universal Reality or Being. In that state of freedom, the soul may merge into the infinite of Being or choose to dwell in union with the Supreme Being, and in that case, at the fall of the body, all connection with Nature or Prakriti is cut off without any possibility of return. However, as long as the bodily life continues, the psychology of a liberated soul is so poised that the inner freedom is not lost even when outer activities of Prakriti of the body, life and mind, continue by the momentum of the past. At the same time, even in the outer Prakriti, the root of desire and egoism are annihilated, and the activities of the gunas, as understood in the terminology of Samkhya, are harmonised in such a way that the sattwa predominates and rajas and tamas are subordinated, and all the three gunas reflect or carry out, in spite of their inherent limitations, something of the state of the liberated soul.
Among the numerous experiences which have been described in respect of the state of liberation, there are three experiences which are frequently mentioned, and each one of them appears to the experiencer to be so overwhelming that it excludes the other two, or even if admitted, they appear to be sublated.
The first of these experiences is that of the soul as Purusha in a state of silent witness that stands unaffected by the determinations which were earlier imposed upon it by the power and action of Prakriti. The second experience is that of an overwhelming awakening to Reality when the thought is stilled, when the mind withdraws from its constructions, and when one passes into a pure Selfhood void of all sense of individuality, empty of all cosmic contents. If the spiritualised mind then looks at the individual and cosmos, they appear to it to be an illusion, a scheme of names and figures and movements falsely imposed on the sole reality of the Self-Existent, or even the sense of Self becomes inadequate, both knowledge and ignorance disappear into sheer consciousness and consciousness is plunged into a trance of pure superconscient existence. Or even existence ends by becoming too limiting a name for that which abides solely for ever; there is only a timeless Eternal, a spaceless Infinite, the utterness of the Absolute, a nameless peace and overwhelming single objectless Ecstasy. The third experience is that of the omnipresent Divine Person, Lord of a real Universe and the Lord of the supreme Shakti, of which the individual soul is a centre without circumference or a portion or a child that lives by mutuality with all and in utter ecstasy of union with the Lord and His Shakti.
There is also, it is claimed, an experience where all the above three experiences are transcended into something that can be described as Shunya, the Nihil, which is also sometimes described as the Permanent. Again, there is an affirmation of a supramental and integral experience in which all these experiences are held simultaneously and where the Supreme is realised, as in the Gita, as Purushottama in his Absoluteness and Integrality uniting within Himself both the kshara and akshara purusha, the static and the dynamic purusha. This experience answers to the great pronouncements of the
Upanishads where the Supreme is described at once as Brahman or Atman, Purusha and Ishwara.
As the Ishopanishad declares:
“That moves and That moves not; That is far and same is near, That is within all this and That also is outside all this.
But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self shrinks not thereafter from aught.
He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness.”3
There appears to be in the Indian tradition a distinction between liberation and perfection, although these two terms are often understood to be interchangeable. Nonetheless, when we study the Vedic and Upanishadic concept of immortality, Gita’s concept of sadharmya in connection with the perfection of Karmayoga, and the Tantric view of siddhis including those of mental, vital and physical being, we are obliged to bring out the full value of the idea of perfection as distinguished from that of liberation.
The Vedic Yoga may be looked upon as an earliest synthesis of the psychological being of man in its highest flights and widest rangings of divine knowledge, power, joy, life and glory with the cosmic existence of the gods, pursued behind the symbols of the material universe into those superior planes which are hidden from the physical sense of the material mentality. The crown of this synthesis was in the experience of the Vedic Rishis something divine, transcendent and blissful in whose unity the increasing soul of man and the eternal divine fullness of the cosmic godheads meet perfectly and fulfil themselves.
3 Ishopanishad, 5,6,7.
This experience culminates in the ascent to the plane of Truth-consciousness (rita-chit) and its descent into the lower planes of the mental, vital and physical consciousness in the human body up to a point where the physical consciousness becomes so vast that the truth-consciousness can dwell in it. The Vedic Rishis have called that state to be the state of immortality. Parashara speaks of the path which leads to immortality as stated earlier in the following words: “They who entered into all things that bear ripe fruit formed a path towards immortality; earth stood wide for them by the greatness and by the Great Ones, the Mother Aditi with her sons came (or manifested herself) for the upholdings.”
Commenting on this, Sri Aurobindo states:
“That is to say, the physical being visited by the greatness of the infinite planes above and by the power of the great godheads who reigned on those planes breaks its limit, opens out to the Light and is upheld in its new wideness by the infinite Consciousness, Mother Aditi and her sons, the divine Power of the supreme Deva. This is the Vedic immortality.”
The Upanishads also speak of immortality, and as we study these great books of the profound masters of the spiritual knowledge, we find that, starting from the crowning experiences of liberation and perfection of the Vedic seers, they arrive at a high and profound synthesis of spiritual knowledge; they draw together into a great harmony all that had been seen and experienced by the inspired and liberated knowers of the Eternal throughout a great and fruitful period of spiritual seeking.
The Gita starts from the synthesis of the Upanishads and, on that basis, builds another harmony of the three great means and powers, love, knowledge and works, through which the soul of man can directly approach and cast itself into the eternal. It even goes farther and through its injunction to surrender totally to the Divine, it opens up the door by which the spirit can take up the individual into universal Power of higher Nature, Para Prakriti. In effect, this would be the method by which the concept of salokyamukti and sayujyamukti is further extended into sadharmyamukti, the liberation and perfection of
the lower nature of life, body and mind by infusion into it of the divine nature, the Para Prakriti – which is evidently the divine Aditi of the Veda. The Tantric Yoga has developed methods for a richer spiritual conquest that would enable the seeker to embrace the whole of Lie in his divine scope as the cosmic Play of the Divine. In other words, it grasps that idea of the divine perfectibility of man, which was possessed by the Vedic Rishis.
In the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo a new dimension is added to conceptions of bondage, liberation and perfection. It founds itself on a conception of the spiritual being as an omnipresent existence, the fullness of which comes not essentially by a transcendence to other worlds or a cosmic self-extinction, but by a growth out of what we know are phenomenally into the consciousness of the omnipresent reality which we always are in the essence of our being. To open oneself to the supracosmic Divine is an essential condition of the integral perfection; but to unite oneself with the universal Divine is another essential condition. Here the Integral Yoga coincides with the Yoga of knowledge, works, and devotion. Since human life is accepted as a self-expression of the realised Divine in man, the Integral Yoga insists on action of the entire divine nature in life. It is here that by a new effort of research and development of new yogic methods, as also by bringing all the relevant materials from the synthetic yogas of the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavadgita and Tantra, that the aim of the supramental manifestation on earth is sought to be realised.
Sri Aurobindo equates the Vedic truth-consciousness with the supermind, with the Gita’s concept of para prakriti and with the supreme Shakti of Tantra, and builds up a path to the ascent to the supermind and of the descent of the supermind right up to the mental, vital and physical parts of the being, the climax of which is reached when the supermind is made to permeate the cells of the body so that the perfection which is attained would result in the transmutation of the human species for the evolution of a new species on the earth.
Three elements, -- a union with the supreme divine, unity with the universal Self, and a supramental life – action from this transcendent origin and through this universality but still with the individual as the soul-channel and natural instrument, -- constitute the essence of the integral divine perfection of the human being. In the Integral Yoga, what is called moksha or liberation from the ego and the will of desire is an essential step, but this liberation is enriched by the synthesis of knowledge, devotion and action, and one is prepared for development of perfection of the instruments of prakriti. Mukti, and in this case jivanmukti, liberation from Nature in a quiescent bliss of the supreme is the first form of release. A farther liberation from Nature into a divine quality and spiritual power of world experience fills the supreme calm with supreme kinetic nature, which can be termed as a state of integral liberation, becomes the true foundation of farther consequences which constitute the six-fold perfection.
The first element of perfection is that of perfect quality and perfect action of equality.
The second element of perfection is attained by raising all the active parts of the human nature to that of higher condition of working pitch of the power and capacity on which they become capable of being divinised into true sensational being and translate them by a luminous and harmonising conversion into a unity of the truth, power and delight of a living existence.
The next element of perfection is that of the Gnostic perfection in the physical body.
And the fifth element is arrived at when this perfection is that of the Gnostic perfection in the physical body.
And the fifth element is arrived at when this perfection is pushed to its highest conclusion which, according to Sri Aurobindo, brings in spiritualising and illuminations of the whole physical consciousness and divinising of the law of the body.
The sixth element is that of the perfect action and enjoyment of being on the supramental Gnostic basis. And this integrality of perfection cannot remain confined to the individual, but would extend progressively to the collective divine life on the earth. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:
“The divinising of the normal material life of man and of his great secular attempt of mental and moral self-culture in the individual and the race by this integralisation of widely perfect spiritual existence would thus be the crown alike of our individual and of our common effort.”
A central issue that is directly relevant to the development of synthesis of Yoga that we find in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is that of evolution. It is true that the process of evolution was detected in ancient times. Both in India and in Greece, there were important ideas of evolution. In the aghamarshana mantra, nasadiya sukta and purusha sukta of the Veda, as also in the literature of Brahmanas and Upanishads, evolutionary movement can be read, and at a deeper level, we can detect the process of involution preceding the process of evolution. The Samkhya philosophy also describes a process of evolution in which the relationship between purusha and prakriti has been set. The modern theory of evolution, which is centred on the evolution of physical forms, brings out the phenomenon of the evolution of Life in Matter and of Mind in Lie, yet it cannot be said that this theory was not anticipated by the Indian theory of spiritual evolution. All Indian systems of Yoga recognised the evolution of soul, whether it was recognised as a permanent entity or as a temporary formation having the power of duration until it merges in the Supreme Reality or it is dissolved into a state of Nirvana. The Indian theory of evolution of the soul recognises a process of gradual growth on advancement in which the evolutionary movement is measured by the soul’s occupation of physical forms, starting from rudimentary organism and rising into more and more advanced physical forms. Indian theories of evolution, therefore, conceive of rebirth as a necessary process of soul-evolution, the culminating heights of which are comprehended in terms of
liberation and perfection. These culminating heights, according to Indian theories of Yoga, can be attained only by resorting to the processes of Yoga, which can themselves be regarded as deliberate technologies based on the truths of the inner and psychological processes of evolution.
The evolutionary process lays a great stress on the design and meaning of mental life in the physical body, and it can be said that Indian Yoga assigns a great importance to the development of the mind and its mastery over life-force and the body. The Upanishad speaks of the mental being as the leader of life-force and the body, -- manomaya a pranasariraneta. This importance is underlined not only in the ancient systems of Yoga where human life was not declared to be meaningless, but even in the later specialised systems of Yoga where human life, its meaning and its purpose came to be gradually denied. In fact, a stage was reached in the development of Indian Yoga, when specialised methods came to be so acute that in the search of the spirit, the bodily life came to be neglected or pronounced to be meaningless. Renunciation of life came gradually to be regarded as a necessary condition for the attainment of spiritual realisation and spiritual fulfilment. Yogic systems came to be so formulated and practised that they became exclusive and life-negating. Even when they developed methods and forms of Yogic practices with some kind of a synthetic spirit, they lacked integrality and that kind of synthesis by means of which Yoga and life can properly be synthesised.
Fortunately, recent developments of Yoga in India, the emphasis on dynamism in life has become quite prominent. In the latest developments, in the Philosophy and Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, we find an integral theory of evolution as also integral philosophy of a new synthesis of Yoga by means of which all life is accepted for its radical and integral transformation.
According to Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), evolution presupposes an involutionary process. If Life evolves in Matter, and Mind in Life, it must be because Life is involved in Matter and Mind in Life. The material Inconscience is the involved Super-conscience. Evolution is fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. It is a phenomenon of an
evolutionary self-building of Spirit on a base of Matter, which is itself a formation of spiritual reality. There is first an involutionary foundation in which all that is to evolve is present, although not yet manifested or not yet organised. An original Inconscience without any previous deployment from consciousness cannot evolve consciousness. In the evolutionary process, there is a development of a triple character. An evolution of forms of Matter, more and more subtly and intricately organised so as to admit the action of a growing, a more and more complex and subtle and capable organisation of consciousness is the indispensable physical foundation. An upward evolutionary progress of the consciousness itself from grade to higher grade, an ascent, is the evident spiral line or emerging curve that, on this foundation, the evolution must describe. A taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade as it is reached and a transformation more or less complete so as to admit of a total changed working of the whole being and nature, an integration, must be also part of the process, if the evolution is to be effective.
The end of the evolutionary process would be to manifest the supramental consciousness-force in material body. Man is a transitional being, and the spiritual man is the sign of the new evolution. The intention of Nature in the evolution of the spiritual man is not merely to awaken him to the supreme Reality and release him from herself. There is a further intention – not only a revelation of the Spirit but a radical and integral transformation of Nature. The spiritual man has evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thenceforward be the leader of that nature. There is thus something that is not yet accomplished, and there becomes clear to view the much that has still to be done; `there is a height still to be reached, a wideness still to be covered by the eye of vision, the wing of the will, the self-affirmation of the Spirit in the material universe.’
Many questions arise, and they deserve to be examined.
It may be contended that the only statement of which we are certain is that there are events, but there is no warrant to admit that events have any internal or causal connections among themselves or any plan or design behind them. There is, in other
words, no teleology. It is, therefore, argued that every event is a `chance event’, and that the quest of man to seek any meaning or purpose or any teleological or evolutionary goal may have some emotional significance but none in terms of objective truth. But if we examine this view, we find that it leaves us with some dissatisfying paradoxes. If everything were a chance, we may ask, how did the sense of meaning and design arise at all? It may, of course, be answered that that also was a matter of chance. But that precisely is the paradox, namely, chance generating the sense of meaning and design. Again, if chance rules the world, then it is only a chance, and not a certainty, that the chance theory may be valid. In other words, the chance theory has no obligatory force. On the other hand, if there is a secret consciousness in or behind the apparently inconscient Energy in Matter, then the chance theory cannot hold its ground. In the same way, the materialistic position, too, cannot maintain its validity.
At the other extreme, it may be contended that if there is an ultimate Reality, which is infinite, perfect and absolute, then such a Reality cannot have any purpose in manifestation. It may, however, be conceded, as in the Indian theory of Lila, that the only purpose that the Absolute can have in manifestation would be the delight of manifestation itself. But it may be asked if the delight of manifestation or the delight of a game would not carry within itself an object to be accomplished in a part movement of the universal totality. Indeed, it may be conceded that a drama without denouement may be an artistic possibility, existing only for the pleasure of watching the characters and the pleasure in problems posed without a solution or with a forever suspended, dubious balance of solution; the drama of the earth’s evolution might conceivably be of that character, but an intended or inherently predetermined denouement is also and more convincingly possible. In that case, it may be said that Delight or Ananda is the secret principle of all being and support of all activity of being; but Ananda does not exclude a delight in the working out of a Truth inherent in being, immanent in the Force of Will of being, upheld in the hidden self-awareness of its consciousness-Force. There can then be no objection to the admission of a teleological factor, if the purpose is not a purpose in the human sense, -- the sense of the need to acquire what one does not possess, -- but in the sense of the intention to manifest fully all the possibilities inherent in the total movement.
It may be admitted that science affirms today an evolutionary terrestrial existence and that there are in recent trends of thinking bold and plausible speculations on evolution and the evolutionary future of man, particularly among philosophers. But it may be argued that the scientific theory of evolution can be challenged on the ground that it is insufficiently founded and that it is superfluous as an explanation of the process of terrestrial Nature. If the facts with which science deals are reliable, the generalisations it hazards are short-lived; it holds them for some decades or some centuries, then passes to another generalisation, another theory of things. No firm metaphysical building, it may be concluded, can be erected upon these shifting quicksands.
But Sri Aurobindo’s theory of spiritual evolution is not identical with the scientific theory of form-evolution and physical life-evolution. According to the theory of spiritual evolution, there are three stages in the process of becoming. An involution of the spirit in the inconscience is the beginning. An evolution in the ignorance with its play of possibilities of a partial developing knowledge is the middle. A consummation in a deployment of the spirit’s self-knowledge and self-power of its divine being and consciousness is the culmination. It is admitted that the two stages that have already occurred seem at first sight to deny the possibility of the later consummating stage of the cycle, but it is stressed that logically they imply its emergence. For, it is argued, if the inconscience has evolved consciousness, the partial consciousness already reached must surely evolve into complete consciousness. It is contended that it is a supramentalised, perfected and divinised life for which the earth-nature is secretly seeking, and that a progressive manifestation of this kind can only have for its secret of significance the revelation of Being in a perfection of Becoming.
Let us elucidate this view in fuller terms. An involution of the spiritual reality in the apparent inconscience of matter is the starting-point of evolution. Existence appears out from the inconscient in a first evolutionary form as substance of Matter created by an inconscient energy. Consciousness, involved and non-apparent in Matter, first emerges in the disguise of vital vibrations, animate but subconscient; then in imperfect formulations
of a conscient life, it strives towards self-finding through successive forms of that material substance, forms more and more adapted to its own complete expression. Consciousness in life, throwing off the primal insensibility of a material inanimation and nescience, labours to find itself more and more entirely in the Ignorance (a middle term between inconscience and plenary consciousness), which is its first inevitable formulation. But it achieves at first only a primary mental perception and a vital awareness of self and things, a life- perception which in its first forms depends on an internal sensation responsive to the contacts of the other life and of Matter. Consciousness labours to manifest, as best it can, through the inadequacy of sensation, its own inherent delight of being; but it can only formulate a partial pain and pleasure. But when we come to Man, we find that the energising consciousness appears as Mind more clearly aware of itself and things. This is still a partial and limited, not an integral power of itself; but a first conceptive potentiality and promise of integral emergence is visible. That integral emergence is the goal of evolving Nature.
The appearance of Man in the evolutionary movement is, according to this view, highly significant. It is true that Man’s first and primary business is to affirm himself in the universe. But his chief business is to evolve and finally to exceed himself. He has to enlarge his partial being into a complete being, his partial consciousness into an integral consciousness. He has to achieve mastery of his environment, but also world union and world harmony. He has to realise his individuality, but also to enlarge into a cosmic self and develop and fulfil a process of a transformation, a chastening and correction of all that is obscure, erroneous and ignorant in his mentality, an ultimate arrival at a free and wide harmony and luminousness of knowledge and will and feeling and action and character. This can only be accomplished by his growing into a larger being and a larger consciousness: self-evolution from what he partially and temporarily is in his actual and apparent nature to what he completely is in his secret self and spirit. This is the justification of his work and struggle upon the earth amidst the phenomena of the cosmos.
It has been affirmed that, in fact, life, mind and supermind are present in the atom, are at work there, but invisible, occult and latent in a subconscious or apparent unconscious action of energy. The electron and the atom are in this view eternal somnambulists. In the plant the outer form consciousness is still in a state of sleep, always on the point of waking, but never waking. Animal being is mentally aware of existence, its own and others, it has even a practical intelligence, founded on memory, association, stimulating need, observation, a power of device. The animal prepares human intelligence. But when we come to man, we see the whole thing becoming conscious. Man not only turns his gaze downward and around him, but also upward towards what is about him and inward towards what is occult within him. To climb to higher altitudes, to get a greater scope, to transform his lower nature, this is always a natural impulse of man as soon as he has made his place for himself in the physical and vital world of the earth and has a little leisure to consider his further possibilities. He is capable, unlike other terrestrial creatures, of becoming aware of what is deeper than mind, of the soul within him, and of what is above the mind, of supermind, of spirit, capable of opening to it, admitting it, rising towards it, taking hold of it. It is in his human nature, in all human nature, to exceed itself by conscious evolution, to climb beyond what he is. And where is the limit of effectuation in the evolutionary being’s self-becoming by self-exceeding?
A spiritual evolution, it is affirmed, is an evolution of consciousness in Matter, in a constant developing self-formulation till the form, even the physical body, can reveal the higher supramental knowledge and power and harmony is the keynote, the central significant motive of terrestrial existence.
The theory of spiritual evolution may accept the scientific account of physical evolution as a support or an element, but the support is not indispensable. What is common between the theory of spiritual evolution and scientific theory is the account of certain outward aspects of evolution, namely, that there is in the scale of terrestrial existence a development of forms, of bodies, a progressively complex and competent organisation of Matter, of Life in Matter, of consciousness in living Matter; in this scale the better organised the form, the move it is capable of housing a better organised, a more complex
and capable, a more developed or evolved Life and consciousness. In regard to these common aspects, there does not seem to be a basis for dispute, once the evolutionary hypothesis is put forward and the facts supporting it are marshalled. The dispute arises in regard to those aspects which are not indispensable for the theory of spiritual evolution, namely, the precise machinery by which the evolutionary process is effected or the exact genealogy or chronological succession of types of being, the evolved form, natural selection, the struggle for life and the survival of acquired characteristics. These may or may not be accepted. What is of primary consequence is the fact of a successive creation with a developing plan in it. Another conclusion is that there is a graduated necessary succession in the evolution; first the evolution of Matter, next the evolution of Life in Matter, then the evolution of Mind in living Matter, and in this last stage an animal evolution followed by a human evolution. In particular, the essential point in the theory of spiritual evolution is the fact of the evolution of consciousness, a progression of spiritual manifestation in material existence.
But even if all this is accepted, it may still be doubted that Man would evolve so unimaginably as to develop into a superman or supramental species. It may be argued that Man is a type among many types so constructed, and like others, so he, too, has his own native law, limits, special kind of existence, within whose limits he can extend and develop, but which he cannot transcend. To exceed himself, to grow into the superman, to put on the nature and capacities proper to the supermind, would be, it may be concluded, a contradiction of his self-law, impracticable and impossible.
In reply it has been conceded that each type or pattern of consciousness and being in the body, once established, has to be faithful to the law of being of that type, to its design and rule of nature. But he points out that it may very well be a part of the law of the human type to work for self-exceeding, and in its impulse towards self-exceeding, the means for a conscious transition has been provided along with the spiritual powers of man, and the possession of such a capacity may be a part of the plan on which the creative Energy has built him.
It has further been pointed out that there has been a tremendous human progress since man’s appearance or even in his recent ascertainable history. It may, however, be argued that this process has not carried the human race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding. In reply, it has been contended that that was not to be expected until a critical stage was reached and that it is only now that stage is being reached. The action of evolutionary nature in a type of being and consciousness is first to develop the type to its utmost capacity by subtilisation and increasing complexity till it is ready for her bursting the shell, the ripened decisive emergence, reversal turning over of consciousness on itself.
It has been pointed out that in the evolutionary process, at each stage of higher ascent from a lower stage, the higher does not abandon the lower, but its first occupation is to take up and assimilate the lower by intenser cultivation, sharpening, subtilising and sublimation. As man ascends from the animal, he looks downward from his plane of will and intelligence and enlarges, subtilises and elevates his use of those elements which are central to the animal – sensation, sense-emotion, vital desire and pleasure. He does not abandon the animal reactions and enjoyments, but more lucidly, finely and sensitively mentalises them. But as he develops further, he puts his lower being to a severer test, begins to demand from it on pain of rejection something like a transformation that is the mind’s way of preparing for spiritual life still beyond it. As there are several lower and higher elements in man, the process of assimilation and sublimation becomes long and complex, and there appears to be not a straight line of progression, but development in a cycle. In reality, when the process is examined more closely, it turns out to be a process of spiral progression, in which a cycle of development ends at a higher point than the point which was earlier reached before entering into a period of a downward curve. Looked at from this point of view, it may be conceded that what man has until now principally done is to act within the circle of nature, on a spiral of nature-movement, sometimes descending, sometimes ascending. But what he has achieved – and this is important from the point of view a preparation for a future secure ascent – is that he has sharpened, subtilised and made an increasingly complex and plastic use of his capacities. In that sense, it can be said that 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 and manifold development of knowledge and possibility in man’s achievements, in his politics, society, life, science, metaphysics, knowledge of all kinds, art and literature. Even in his spiritual endeavour, it has been urged, there has been this increasing subtlety, plasticity, sounding of depths and extension of seeking, even though the heights reached were less surprisingly lofty and less massive in power than those reached by the ancients. It is not surprising that 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. Considering the total spiral of progress, Sri Aurobindo views them as temporary phenomena, at worst a downward curve, preparing for higher curve. It is thus true that this progress has not carried the race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding or a transformation of the mental being; but this was not be expected. All that has developed so far can be regarded, it has been concluded, as a process of developing the human type to its utmost capacity, and it is only now that we are ready to feel that it has ripened to a point of a decisive emergence or mutation. And the present crisis of mankind is an indicator of the coming movement of that mutation.
It has been observed that the appearance of human mind and body on the earth marks a crucial step, a decisive change in the course and process of evolution. Up to the advent of man, evolution had been effected, not by the self-aware aspiration, intention, will or seeking of the living being, but subconsciously or subliminally or by the automatic operation of Nature. But in man the necessary change has been made. In him, the self-aware participating individual will has emerged, and the being has become awake and aware of himself. Man has seen that there can be a higher status of consciousness than his own; the aspiration to exceed himself is delivered and articulate within him. He becomes conscious of a soul, he comes to discover the self and spirit. Until his emergence, evolution was subconscious; with him a conscious evolution becomes conceivable and practicable.
It has been further pointed out that if we observe closely the operations of Nature, we find that in the previous stages of the evolution, nature’s first care and effort had to be
directed towards a change in the physical organisation. That change was a prerequisite of a change of consciousness. But in man a reversal is possible, indeed inevitable. It is through his consciousness, through its transmutation, and no longer through a new bodily organism as a first instrumentation, that the evolution can be effected. It may even be surmised that in the inner reality of things, a change of consciousness was always the major fact, that evolution has always had a spiritual significance and the physical change was only instrumental. This relation was concealed by the first abnormal balance of the two factors, the body of the external inconscience outweighing and obscuring in importance the spiritual element, the conscious being. But once the balance has been righted, it is no longer the change of body that must precede the change of consciousness; the consciousness itself by its mutation will necessitate and operate whatever mutation is needed for the body.
It may, however, be still argued that if an evolutionary culmination in the production of the spiritual and supramental being is intended and man is to be its medium, it will only be a few especially evolved human beings who will form the new type and move towards the new life; that once done the rest of humanity will sink back and remain quiescent in its normal status. In reply to this argument, it has been conceded that there is not the least probability or possibility of the whole human race rising en masse to the supramental level. What is suggested, it has been admitted, is nothing so revolutionary and astonishing, but only the capacity in the human mentality, when it has reached a certain level or a certain point of stress of the evolutionary impetus, to press towards a higher plane of consciousness and its embodiment in the being. It has further been explained that the being will necessarily undergo by this embodiment a change of the normal constitution of its nature, a change certainly of its mental and emotional and sensational constitution and also to a great extent of the body consciousness and the physical conditioning of our life and energies; but the change of consciousness will be the chief factor, the initial movement; the physical modification will be a subordinate factor, a consequence. As to whether humanity will sink back after the mutation of the human species, Sri Aurobindo suggests that the urge of man towards self-exceeding is not likely ever to die out totally in the race, and that the human, mental status will always be there,
not only as a degree in the scale, but also as an open step towards the spiritual and supramental status.
Man as he is, it has been affirmed, cannot be the last term of an evolution, if a spiritual unfolding on the earth is the hidden truth of the emergence of consciousness that has been taking place in Nature. He is, it is stressed, too imperfect an expression of the Spirit, Mind itself a too limited form and instrumentation. Man, the mental being, can only be a transitional being. If man is incapable of exceeding his mentality, it has been suggested, he must be surpassed, and Supermind and superman must manifest and take the lead of the creation. But if his mind is capable of opening to what exceeds it, then there is no reason why man himself should not arrive at Supermind and supermanhood or at least lend his mentality, life and body to an evolution of that greater term of the Spirit manifesting in Nature.
A distinctive feature of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution is that it is not speculative; its premises and conclusions are tested on the anvil of experimentation. `The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God?’ Indeed, Sri Aurobindo made an experiment upon his entire integral being, using it as an evolutional laboratory, so as to evolve and manifest higher and higher grades of consciousness reaching up to the supermind and to supramentalise the human body to the furthest extent possible. Even when he left his body, he assigned the task to his collaborator, whom he called The Mother (1878-1973), to continue the task of the supramentalisation and integral transformation.
Sri Aurobindo discovered in the ancient systems of Yoga some of the basic clues for the experiment. He did not, however, find in any one of them the secret that would enable him to eventually bring about the mutation of the human species. He and The Mother,
 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Centenary Edition, Vol. 18, pp.3-4
therefore, experimented, day after day, for years and decades, and they developed a synthesis of Yoga and laboured to perfect it.
The practical necessity of this experiment was not merely to advance knowledge; nor was this experiment directed towards seeking any personal gain, gratification or glory. But Sri Aurobindo and The Mother saw that the contemporary human crisis cannot truly be met without the evolutionary saltation or mutation. There are, according to them, only two alternatives before mankind today; either a revolutionary and evolutionary ascent towards the supramental manifestation on the earth or abyss.
An account of the momentous experiments undertaken by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother cannot truly be given; they can only be glimpsed from the records they have left. Sri Aurobindo’s The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, Letters on Yoga, The Mother, The Surpamental Manifestation upon Earth, and The Mother’s own account of the supramental action on the earth, recorded by Satprem (born 1924) and published in 13 volumes as l’Agenda de Mére, give us some indications of both the secret and the fulfilment of their momentous experiments.
Indeed, if the human body were a functioning of Matter, and if Matter were merely chemical and nothing more, then it is obvious that any divinisation or divine transformation of the body or of anything else would be nothing but an illusion, an imagination, a senseless and impossible chimera. But even if we suppose a soul or a conscious will at work in the body, it could not arrive at a divine transformation if there were no radical change in the bodily instrument itself and in the organisation of its material workings. As Sri Aurobindo points out, `A radical transformation of the functioning and, it may well be, of the structure and certainly of the too mechanical and material impulses and driving forces of the bodily system would be imperative… A total transformation of the body would demand a sufficient change of the most material part of the organism, its constitution, its processes and its set-up of nature.’ Sri Aurobindo conceives of the possibility where all the physical life and its necessary activities could be maintained and operated by higher agencies and grades of consciousness in a freer and
ampler way and by a less burdensome and restricting method. The evolutionary urge, he maintains, would proceed to a change of the organs themselves in their material working and use and diminish greatly the need of their use and even of their existence. According to Sri Aurobindo, this might well be a part of a supreme total transformation of the body, though this too might not be final. He admits that to envisage such changes is to look for ahead and minds attached to the present form of things may be unable to give credence to their possibility.
At the same time, Sri Aurobindo acknowledges that all does not have to be fundamentally changed; on the contrary, all that is still needed in the totality has to be preserved, but all has to be perfected. `The human body has’, says Sri Aurobindo, `in it parts and instruments that have been sufficiently evolved to serve the divine life; these have to survive in their form, though they must be still farther perfected, their limitations of range and use removed, their liability to defect and malady and impairment eliminated, their capacities of cognition and dynamic action carried beyond the present limits.’ On the other hand, new powers have also to be acquired by the body which our present humanity could not hope to realise, could not even dream of or could only imagine. In Sri Aurobindo’s own words:
`The body itself might acquire new means and ranges of communication with other bodies, new processes of acquiring knowledge, a new aesthesis, new potencies of manipulation of itself and objects. It might not be impossible for it to possess or disclose means native to its own constitution, substance or natural instrumentation for making the far near and annulling distance, cognising what is now beyond the body’s cognisance, acting where action is now out of its reach or its domain, developing subtleties and plasticities which could not be permitted under present conditions to the needed fixity of a material frame. These and other numerous potentialities might appear and the body become an instrument immeasurably superior to what we can now imagine as possible. There could be an evolution from a first apprehending truth-consciousness to the utmost heights of the ascending ranges of the supermind and it may pass the borders of the supermind proper itself where it begins to shadow out, develop, delineate expressive
forms of life touched by a supreme pure existence, consciousness and bliss which constitute the worlds of a highest truth of existence, dynamism of Tapas, glory and sweetness of bliss, the absolute essence and pitch of the all-creating Ananda. The transformation of the physical being might follow this incessant line of progression and the divine body reflect or reproduce here in a divine life on the earth something of this highest greatness and glory of the self-manifesting Spirit.’