YOGA, RELIGION AND MORALITY
While stressing the imperative need of Yogic education and of a radical change in the aims, methods and structure of education in the light of Yoga, it is necessary to point out that by Yoga — which is only one of the systems of Yoga — and that Yoga does not mean either religion or morality.
Yoga is not a body of beliefs, dogmas or revelations which are to be believed in without verification. Yoga is an advancing Science, with its spirit of research, with its methods of experimentation and methods of verification and advance of knowledge.
The knowledge that Yoga delivers at a certain stage is surpassable by a further research and experimentation; the spirit that Yoga demands is that of an absolute impartiality and a complete freedom from 'all prejudgments and preconceptions; its zeal is the zeal for the Truth and Truth alone; its criterion of Truth is verifiability in abiding experience, and even, finally, a physical change and transformation.
In all the above respects, Yoga is quite distinct from Morality and Religion.
Morality is a part of the ordinary life. The ordinary life consists of seeking satisfaction and the development of the body, life and mind without any reference to their
original source or self. Morality is that part of the ordinary life which seeks to regulate and guide the various physical, vital, mental or rational thought or by some intuitive insight obtained at the level of the highest practical or pure Reason. But the standards of conduct erected by moral consciousness, even the so-called universal principles of the categorical imperative, cannot be determined with certainty, and these in the present application by a bewildered and imperfect humanity come easily to be conflicting principles. Justice often demands what love abhors, and in fact man's absolute justice easily turns out to be in practice a sovereign injustice. Morality is always in a state of disequilibrium.
Religion is an endeavour of man to turn away from the earth towards the Divine; but this seeking is still of the mind or of the lower ignorant consciousness, as yet without knowledge and led by the dogmatic tenets and rules of sect or creed which claims to have found the way out of the bounds of the earth-consciousness into some beatific Beyond. The religious life may be a first approach to yoga, but it is not indispensable. Religion is very often only a revolving about in a round of rites, ceremonies and practices or set ideas and forms without any issue.
Sometimes, the absoluteness of the moral values is sought to be derived from some religious sanction. Thus religions have attempted to erect a system and declare God's law through the mouth of the Avatar or Prophet. Such systems have proved more dynamic and powerful than the dry ethical idea. But quite often these systems conflict with what reason supports or they are so ingrained in certain religious dogmas that they cannot have any appeal to those who do not accept those dogmas, and, besides, there is too a conflict among the dogmas. Or, else, they are so rigidly framed that they
prove unworkable and are, therefore, rejected by Nature. Or, sometimes, they are turned into a system of compromises and become obsolete in the march of Time.
The truth is that neither morality nor religion represents the highest status of man's consciousness. They may prepare, but they are only stations on an evolutionary journey. Both of them are a seeking. Morality is a seeking for a guiding principle of conduct; but this seeking is mental, and, when it goes beyond that, it no more remains morality. Religion is a seeking for the Divine, but the method of seeking is one of dogma, ritual, and ceremony, and an involvement in a fabric of moral, social and cultural institutions all determined and permeated wholly or partly by the dogmatic tenets and rules of the sect or creed. It is an ignorant and a mental way of seeking. When it goes beyond, and liberates itself from dogma, ritual and ceremony and rules, it ceases to be religion in the strict sense of the word. Beyond morality, beyond religion, is the path of Yoga.
Yoga proceeds directly by a change of consciousness, a change from the ordinary consciousness, ignorant and separated from its true self and from God, to a greater consciousness in which one finds one's true being and comes first into a direct and living contact by experience and then into a union with the Divine. For the yogin, this change of consciousness is the one thing he seeks and nothing else matters, no belief, no dogma, no rituals, no ceremonies.
Both morality and religion in their deepest core touch Yoga or spirituality, and both may prepare the change of consciousness; but the element of Yoga does not constitute the differentia by which we can define morality or religion. Yoga not only aims at the total change of
consciousness, but even its method is that of a gradual and increasing change of consciousness by an entry into a domain higher than the body-life-mind complex. In other words, Yoga is an exploration of consciousness through consciousness.
In the yogic consciousness and in the knowledge and the effectivity that it delivers, there is the fulfilment of the highest element that morality and religion in their deepest core seek for but fail to realise. Yoga replaces the moral law by a progressive law of self-perfection spontaneously expressing itself through the individual nature. No more in this operation is the imposition of a rule or an imperative on the individual nature; the spiritual law that Yoga presents respects the individual nature, modifies it and perfects it, and in this sense it is unique for each individual and can be known and made operative only by a change of consciousness and by an entry into the real self. In its progressive movement, it may, if necessary, permit a short or a long period of governance by a moral law, but always as a provisional device and ever looking for going beyond into a plane of a spontaneous expression of the Right and the Good. To the yogic consciousness, moral virtue is not valuable in itself, but as an expression of a complex of certain qualities which are for the time being necessary and useful for a given individual in an upward journey. Again, for the yogic consciousness, what is commonly called a vice has, too, behind it, a complex of certain qualities which have some utility in the economy of Nature, and can therefore be converted by placing them in their right place, into a complement to what lies in the consciousness behind the commonly called virtues.
Yoga is not confined merely to the aspect of conduct; the conduct dealt with by morality is only a minor aspect of the totality of works, inner no less than outer. Yogic consciousness
includes all these works and strives by the method of a progressive change of consciousness for the perfect expression of all the aspects of the works and in this striving it realises also the unity of works with the highest knowledge and deepest Love.
Religion too is an attempt to include all aspects of works and to arrive at some sort of unity of works with knowledge and love; but once again, its method is mechanical, mental, moral and dogmatic and, instead of arriving at a comprehension of all the values, it ends only in a system of compromises. The progressive law of yogic development may permit, if necessary, a short or a long period of governance of the individual or of the race by religion, but only as a provisional device: what it always makes for is a passage beyond into the plane of a comprehensive consciousness where the distinctive religious methods disappear or cease to have any fundamental or useful meaning. To the yogic consciousness, religion is not valuable as a form, but only in so far as it may aid the too ignorant consciousness of man to turn towards something that is deeper and higher and, even there, it stresses the necessity for every man to have his own distinctive religion. And again, for the yogic consciousness, what is commonly called agnosticism, scepticism, atheism, positivism or free thinking, has behind it a concern and a demand for a direct knowledge, which, if rightly understood, recognised, respected and fulfilled, would become a powerful complement to what lies in consciousness behind the commonly accepted religious qualities of faith and unquestioning acceptance of dogmatic teachings and injunctions. But as we speak today of the need of yogic education, it is felt that this is because the time of religionism is now overpassed, and what is now demanded is a direct development of yogic consciousness without any resort to any compromises that result from yielding to the methods of religion.
Yoga looks always behind the form to the essence and to the living consciousness; and in doing so, it brings to the surface that which lies behind, and its action is therefore of a new creation. Yoga transcends the forms and methods of morality and religion and creates and recreates its own living and progressively perfecting forms. As Sri Aurobindo wrote in one of his letters: "Yoga takes the stand that it is only by a change of consciousness that the true basis of life can be discovered; from within outward is indeed the rule. But within does not mean some quarter inch behind the surface. One must go deep and find the soul, the self, the Divine Reality within us and only then can life become a true expression of what we can be instead of a blind and always repeated confused blur of the inadequate and imperfect thing we were. The choice is between remaining in the old jumble and groping about in the hope of stumbling on some discovery or standing back and seeking the Light within till we discover and can build the Godhead within and without us."
Yogic methods are distinctive and must not be confused with either morality or religion. A mere learning about Yoga is not Yoga, and even the most catholic book cannot be a substitute for the direct yogic practice of an inner change of consciousness by which one can perceive and realise the inner and higher Self and transform the workings of the outer instruments of Nature. Nor can Yoga be practiced in a casual way or only as a part-time pre-occupation. Yoga, to be properly practiced, must be taken as a sovereign and central occupation and must govern and permeate every aspect of life and every pursuit of knowledge and activity.
An education that aims at leading the students to the great portals of the infinitude of Knowledge, Action and Love, and of self-perfection which result from a disciplined yogic effort, must be as radical and uncompromising as Yoga itself.
It is recognised that to realise such a radical education is extremely difficult; but it is equally necessary to recognise that if we are serious about the solution of our educational problems, there is no other way.