INSTITUTE FOR INTEGRAL YOGA PSYCHOLOGY

(a project of Mirravision Trust, Financed by Auroshakti Foundation)

 
Chapters
Chapter I
Chapter II - Part 1
Chapter II - Part 2
Chapter II - Part 3
Chapter II - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 1
Chapter III - Part 2
Chapter III - Part 3
Chapter III - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 5
Chapter III - Part 6
Chapter IV - Part 1
Chapter IV - Part 2
Chapter IV - Part 3
Chapter IV - Part 4
Chapter V-Part 1
Chapter V - Part 2
Chapter V - Part 3
Chapter V - Part 4
Chapter V - Part 5
Chapter VI - Part 1
Chapter VI - Part 2
Chapter VI - Part 3
Chapter VI - Part 4
Chapter VI - Part 5
Chapter VII - Part 1
Chapter VII - Part 2
Chapter VII - Part 3
Chapter VII - Part 4
Chapter VII - Part 5
Chapter VIII - Part 1
Chapter VIII - Part 2
Chapter VIII - Part 3
Chapter VIII - Part 4
Chapter IX - Part 1
Chapter IX - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 1
Chapter X - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 3
Chapter X - Part 4
Chapter X - Part 5
Chapter X - Part 6
Chapter XI - Part 1
Chapter XI - Part 2
Chapter XI - Part 3
Chapter XI - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 1
Chapter XII - Part 2
Chapter XII - Part 3
Chapter XII - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 5
Chapter XIII - Part 1
Chapter XIII - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 1
Chapter XIV - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 3
Chapter XIV - Part 4
Chapter XIV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 1
Chapter XV - Part 2
Chapter XV - Part 3
Chapter XV - Part 4
Chapter XV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 6
Chapter XV - Part 7
Chapter XV - Part 8
Chapter XV - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 1
Chapter XVI - Part 2
Chapter XVI - Part 3
Chapter XVI - Part 4
Chapter XVI - Part 5
Chapter XVI - Part 6
Chapter XVI - Part 7
Chapter XVI - Part 8
Chapter XVI - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 10
Chapter XVI - Part 11
Chapter XVI - Part 12
Chapter XVI - Part 13
Chapter XVII - Part 1
Chapter XVII - Part 2
Chapter XVII - Part 3
Chapter XVII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 1
Chapter XVIII - Part 2
Chapter XVIII - Part 3
Chapter XVIII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 5
Chapter XVIII - Part 6
Chapter XVIII - Part 7
Chapter XVIII - Part 8
Chapter XVIII - Part 9
Chapter XVIII - Part 10
Chapter XIX - Part 1
Chapter XIX - Part 2
Chapter XIX - Part 3
Chapter XIX - Part 4
Chapter XIX - Part 5
Chapter XIX - Part 6
 

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

 
Chapter IV - Part 3:

In Chapter IV, Sri Aurobindo not only reconciles ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ by extending the ego-bound individual consciousness to an ego-exceeding cosmic consciousness, he also reconciles different and apparently contradictory experiences in the realm of spirituality itself. He also gives us a seed-idea of how such reconciliation can be meaningful in practical terms in the field of psychology.

The Passive Brahman & the Active Brahman

In the cosmic consciousness, ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ become real and meaningful to each other so that ‘spirituality’ can blossom in ‘material life’ – in other words ‘Matter’ can reveal the ‘Spirit’s’ face. It is here that a strange dichotomy crops up. Regarding ‘Matter’, there is unanimity of scientific opinion about the general laws of physical sciences (scientists behave as if there is a ‘monism’ in matter itself). However, regarding the ‘Spirit’, there are very different opinions based on different experiences and realizations of different spiritual seekers. Spiritual seekers are NOT united in their understanding of spirituality and have not evolved ‘universal laws’ of spirituality while scientists at least share a modicum of commonality regarding scientific concepts.

 (Clinical psychologists cannot measure a true ‘inter-rater’ agreement in the realm of spirituality, which they can easily elicit in materialistic disciplines!)

It is therefore not surprising that there have been great spiritual stalwarts who have described the ‘Brahman’ or ‘Reality’ as a silent self, inactive, pure, self-existent, self-enjoying and detached from manifestation. There have been also equally great spiritual stalwarts who have understood ‘Reality’ or ‘Brahman’ as active, free, powerful and meaningful in manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo explains that the ‘passive’ and ‘active’ Brahmans are two poises of the same Reality and each is necessary to the other. The passivity or silence supports the activity or dynamism. He writes:

‘Here also harmony and not irreconcilable opposition must be the illuminative truth. The silent and the active Brahman are not different, opposite and irreconcilable entities, the one denying, the other affirming a cosmic illusion; they are one Brahman in two aspects, positive and negative, and each is necessary to the other. It is out of this silence that the Word expresses that which is self-hidden in the Silence. It is an eternal passivity which makes possible the perfect freedom and omnipotence of an eternal divine activity in innumerable cosmic systems. For the becomings of that activity derive their energies and their illimitable potency of variation and harmony from the impartial support of the immutable Being, its consent to this infinite fecundity of its own dynamic Nature.’

(Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Pg. 32 – 33)

Application in Life

The relation between the ‘silent’ and ‘active’ Brahman or that between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’ is something that needs to be established in the individual human schemata for a harmonious, integrated and healthy life. There is a wrong notion that ‘dynamism’ alone is an expression of power, activity and action. Yogic psychology describes dynamism as only one aspect of power. Power can also be represented along a static dimension. Moreover, it is this static power that supports and upholds the dynamic power of outer action. The perfect man can combine in himself the silence and the activity. It has been surmised that many of our physical and psychological maladies stem from an excessive dynamism without a base of static power. In fact the Type – A Behavior is a unique example where middle-aged successful executives with great drive, responsibility, heightened sense of time-urgency and dynamism are more prone to coronary heart disease. The interesting point is that the classical Type-A personality is marked by an intense psychological restlessness and inability to relax. In other words, the explicit dynamism that characterizes Type-A behavior is not complemented and balanced by an intrinsically static poise in character and action.  Thus the base of static power has to be established and consolidated in our consciousness to support the flow of dynamism in an integrated and healthy life.

(Please refer to the article ‘Time and Health’ in the Downloads section of this website which deals with the cultivation of an inner poise as part of personality development: this inner poise permits the balance between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’. This article gives in detail how the inner poise has to be established at different levels of consciousness; how these different experiences can be integrated; and how even this endeavor can be initiated in child development and educational programs as part of personality growth and development.)

Sri Aurobindo explains:

‘Man, too, becomes perfect only when he has found within himself that absolute calm and passivity of the Brahman and supports by it with the same divine tolerance and the same divine bliss a free and inexhaustible activity. Those who have thus possessed the Calm within can perceive always welling out from its silence the perennial supply of the energies that work in the universe. … The Silence does not reject the world; it sustains it. Or rather it supports with an equal impartiality the activity and the withdrawal from the activity and approves also the reconciliation by which the soul remains free and still even while it lends itself to all action.’

(Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Pg. 33)

Epilogue

Thus, the cultivation of ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’ in a single individual shifts the focus of psychology to a ‘self-growth’ discipline. The disparity between the poise of silence within and dynamic power and activity on the surface is the cause of many psychosomatic maladies. One who has achieved silence, peace and quietude within can afford to support the dynamic play of power, energy and action on the surface. A vigorously dynamic individual will have less chance of disharmony and illness if he is balanced and stabilized by a poise of silence within.

In a lighter vein, Sri Aurobindo makes fun of the ‘harmony’ and ‘stability’ generated by the ‘liberated’ seer:

Self

‘He said, “I am egoless, spiritual, free,”
Then swore because his dinner was not ready.
I asked him why. He said, “It is not me,
But the belly’s hungry god who gets unsteady.”
I asked him why. He said “It is his play.
I am unmoved within, desireless, pure.
I care not what may happen day by day.”
I questioned him, “Are you so very sure?”
He answered, “I can understand your doubt.
But to be free is all. It does not matter
How you may kick and howl and rage and shout,
Making a row over your daily platter.
To be aware of self is liberty.
Self I have got and, having self, am free.’ 

(Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, Pg. 162)

In this sonnet, Sri Aurobindo views the harmony between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’ achieved in the cosmic consciousness by a seer who has attained ‘liberation’ with a sense of humour.  Yet, the humour is not simple but somewhat sarcastic because the harmony at the level of the cosmic consciousness is still imperfect, and needs to be replicated both at a higher level of transcendental consciousness and at the level of earthly reality. He deliberately uses this sarcasm because many spiritual seekers seem to be satisfied with realization at the level of the cosmic consciousness and do not feel the necessity for further transcendence or return back to the earthly life. When we read this sonnet we feel that there is something missing in the very context of ‘liberation’. If we are searching for a spirituality that integrates earthly life, we are dissatisfied. If we are searching for an earthly life that supports spirituality, we are dissatisfied. In fact, the sarcasm in this sonnet has a heuristic value as it stimulates the reader to question the time-honoured concept of ‘liberation’. In Sri Aurobindo’s world-view, liberation per se is not the epitome of spiritual pursuit. He changed the password of spirituality from ‘liberation’ to ‘transformation’. In a transformed status, the ‘belly’s god’ might not feel the necessity to feel ‘hungry’!

In fact, this sonnet raises a very important existential issue. We need to establish the harmony between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’, ‘passive’ and ‘active’ Brahman if we want to establish perfection in earthly life and not in a faraway heaven. However, a seer seeking ‘liberation’ of the Self is actually seeking liberation from the imperfection of earthly life and he need not care for either the harmony or the disharmony in the world. Besides, the harmony between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’ cannot be attained unless one exceeds the ego-bound personality to come in contact with the cosmic consciousness. Even then, the realization of cosmic harmony does not automatically qualify for perfection in earthly life as this sonnet shows. An individual can of course succeed to replicate the cosmic harmony between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’ within oneself but that does not again suffice to generalize the harmony in the greater social life. In Sri Aurobindo’s scheme of things, such a harmony can be generalized if

(a)   The harmony between ‘silence’ and ‘dynamism’ is replicated simultaneously at the individual, cosmic and transcendental levels of Reality, and

(b)  The pursuit of ‘liberation’ is replaced by the urge for ‘transformation’ so that the higher Reality can manifest at the level of the lower reality.

 

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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