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 III - Part 1:

In Chapter III, Sri Aurobindo discusses the spiritual or ascetic approach to Reality vis-à-vis the materialistic approach. To the materialist, only that is ‘real’ which is perceptible and tangible to the senses, anything else is a chimera. Any spiritual or mystical experience is considered to be a fantasy, an aberration, a hallucination or a delusion (even Jesus & Ramakrishna were labeled often either as ‘epileptic’ or as ‘schizophrenic’!).

The spiritual seeker or mystic has a different approach. In the first place, the spiritual approach was pursued only when an oversaturated and satiated materialistic culture proved otherwise inadequate to give a sense of fulfillment to life. As a result the seer was more interested to unravel that aspect of Reality which could not be grasped through ordinary sensory perception or ratiocination. In the process, he stumbled upon vast, impersonal, supraphysical and supra-rational realms of consciousness. Even a little exposure to those states was more fulfilling than any peak of sensory experience or logical pursuit in the material world. Even if that spiritual experience was symbolized by a vast silence, it was not an ‘empty’ experience.

 

Rather that ‘silence’ was accompanied by peace, meaningfulness and power! It was an overpowering, overwhelming experience that surpassed not only sensory perception but also cognitive limits.

 

However, the material world proved to be a distraction to the spiritual seeker. For an exclusive pursuit of the suprasensible Reality, he renounced the material world and preferred the seclusion of the hermitage, the ashram, the forest, the Himalayan retreats. Sri Aurobindo epitomizes the existential quest of the ascetic in one of his most moving poems, 'The Rishi' :

 

....Beauty ceased my heart to please,

Brightness in vain.

Recalled the vision of the light that glows

Suns behind:

I hated the rich fragrance of the rose;

Weary and blind,

I tired of the suns and stars; then came

With broken mind

To heal me of the rash devouring flame,

The dull disease,

And sojourned with this mountains summit bleak,

These frozen seas.

King, the blind dazzling snows have made me meek,

Cooled my unease.

Pride could not follow, nor the restless will

Come and go;

My mind within grew holy, calm and still Like the snow.....

..............

The many’s voices fill the listening ear,

Distract the head :

The One is silence, on the snows we hear

Silence tread. (Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, Pg. 299-300)

The lure of ascetism is a great adventure, a jump into the unknown void, a call of the wilderness. Naturally, the ‘refusal’ of the ascetic to accept material life is more powerful, enduring and stubborn then the ‘refusal’ of the materialist to accept spirituality, more so, because Materialism carries its own in-built limitations. But that makes the materialist easier to move towards spirituality whereas the ascetic finds it more difficult to move towards accepting material reality. For Sri Aurobindo's vision of matter-spirit unity, both the movements are needed.

In the West, the triumph of materialism overshadowed spirituality. However in India, spirituality blossomed at the cost of bankruptcy of material life. In fact, Sri Aurobindo traces the degradation of contemporary Indian life and society to the fact that the best brains, lured with the call of ascetism, forsook society to plunge into the blissful or featureless Absolute or nihilistic Nirvana with one agenda - liberation in birthlessness. One aspired not to be reborn again into a material life: '.. all voices.. joined in one great consensus that not in this world of the dualities can there be our kingdom of heaven but beyond … And through many centuries a great army of shining witnesses, saints and teachers, names sacred to Indian memory and dominant in Indian imagination, have borne always the same witness and swelled always the some lofty and distant appeal, - renunciation the sole path of knowledge, acceptance of the physical life the act of the ignorant, cessation from birth the right use of human birth, the call of the spirit, the recoil from Matter' ( The Life Divine p.g.28-p.g.29)

Sri Aurobindo does not denounce the ascetic spirit- He emphases that it corresponds to a truth of existence and brings a state of conscious realisation which stands at the summit of human endeavor. It is a peak experience, a meta-quest, and is an indispensable element to prove that an animal humanity is not the last word – ‘purity’ is not a chimera but a living reality. It is an affirmation that the intellect and vital nature of man can free themselves from what Sri Aurobindo terms as 'insistent animalism'. Only Sri Aurobindo cautions: ‘We seek indeed a larger and completer affirmation. We perceive that in the Indian ascetic ideal the great Vedantic formula, ‘One without a second’, has not been read sufficiently in the light of that other formula equality imperative, “All this is the Brahman” ….. Its meaning in Matter has not been so well understood as its truth in the Spirit. The reality which the Sannyasin seeks has been grasped in its full height, but not, as by the ancient Vedantins, in its full extent and comprehensiveness.’

In fact, in the poem 'The Rishi', the ascetic who withdraws from material life to seek Truth, finally points out that not an abandonment but an fulfillment of earthly life is the gateway to Reality . In a moving dialogue with ‘King Manu’ the representative inquisitive human mind, the Rishi explains how he strove to seek God (Manu in Sanskrit is derived from ‘Mind’. The Mind or Mental consciousness is the leader in our terrestrial world, as it is till now the crowning achievement in evolution. As such, the inquisitive human mind is represented as a king who is in the forefront of the evolutionary march. He seeks an existential answer from the seer - the Rishi who is in touch with perennial wisdom):

My winged soul went up above the stars

            Questing for God.

Manu

Oh, didst thou meet Him then? In what bright field

            Upon thy road?

RISHI

I asked the heavenly wanderers as they wheeled

            For His abode.

 

MANU

Could glorious Saturn and his rings of hue

            Direct thy flight?

RISHI

Sun could not tell, nor any planet knew

            Its source of light,

Nor could I glean that knowledge though I paced

            The worlds beyond

And into outer nothingness have gazed.

            Time’s narrow sound

I crossed, the termless flood where on the Snake

            One slumbers throned,

Attempted. But the ages from Him break

            Blindly and Space

Forgets its origin. Then I returned

            Where luminous blaze

Deathless and ageless in their ease unearned

            The ethereal race.

 

MANU

Did the gods tell thee? Has Varuna seen

            The high God’s face?

RISHI

How shall they tell of Him who marvel at sin

            And smile at grief?

MANU

Did He not send His blissful Angels down

            For thy relief?

RISHI

The Angels know Him not, who fear His frown,

            Have fixed belief.

MANU

Is there no heaven of eternal light

            Where He is found?

RISHI

The heavens of the Three have beings bright

            Their portals round,

And I have journeyed to those regions blest,

            Those hills renowned.

In Vishnu’s house where wide Love builds his nest,

            My feet have stood.

MANU

Is he not That, the blue-winged Dove of peace,

            Father of Good?

RISHI

 Nor Brahma, though the suns and hills and seas

            Are called his brood.

MANU

Is God a dream then? Are the heavenly coasts

            Visions Vain?

RISHI

I came to Shiva’s roof; the flitting ghosts

            Compelled me in.

MANU

Is He then God whom the forsaken seek,

            Things of sin?

RISHI

He sat on being’s summit grand, a peak

            Immense of fire.

MANU

Knows He the secret of release from tears

            And from desire?

RISHI

His voice is the last murmur silence hears,

            Tranquil and dire.

MANU

The silence calls us then and shall enclose?

RISHI

Our true abode

Is here and in the pleasant house He chose

            To harbour God.

MANU

In vain thou hast traveled the unwonted stars

            And the void hast trod!

………………….

MANU

Is earth His seat? This body His poor hold

            Infirmly made?

RISHI

I flung off matter like a robe grown old;

            Matter was dead.

MANU

Sages have told of vital force behind:

It is God then?

RISHI

The vital spirits move but as a wind

            Within men.

MANU

Mind then is lord that like a sovereign sways

            Delight and pain?

RISHI

Mind is His wax to write and, written, rase

            Form and name.

MANU

Is thought not He who has immortal eyes

            Time cannot dim?

RISHI

Higher, O king, the still voice bade me rise

            Than thought’s clear dream.

Deep in the luminous secrecy, the mute

            Profound of things,

Where murmurs never sound of harp or lute

            And no voice sings,

Light is not, nor our darkness, nor these bright

            Thunderings,

In the deep steady voiceless core of white

            And burning bliss,

The sweet vast centre and the cave divine

            Called Paradise,

He dwells within us all who dwells not in

Aught that is.

 

MANU

Rishi, thy thoughts are like the blazing sun

            Eye cannot face.

How shall our souls on that bright awful One

            Hope even to gaze

Who lights the world from His eternity

            With a few rays?………

 

MANU

O Rishi, I have wide dominion,

            The earth obeys

And heaven obeys far beyond the sun

            Her golden gaze.

But Him I seek, the still and perfect One,-

            The Sun, not rays.

RISHI

Seek Him upon the earth. For thee He set

            In the huge press

Of many worlds to build a mighty state

            For man’s success,

Who seeks his goal. Perfect thy human might,

            Perfect the race.

For thou art He, O King. Only the night

            Is on thy soul

By thy own will. Remove it and recover

            The serene whole

Thou art indeed, then raise up man the lover

            To God the goal.

(Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, Pg. 300-304, 311, 312)

 

The Rishi, before his verdict to ‘PERFECT THE RACE’ has traversed many ranges of consciousness in his quest for God. Three major ranges that he has crossed are grouped in the extract of the poem quoted above:

  • BEYOND MANIFESTATION:He has traversed ‘Space and Time’, has experienced the Infinite beyond Space and Time but could not find the Truth that represents Reality.

  • AT THE APEX OF MANIFESTATION: He explored the planes of the gods – the divine powers, specially the abode of ‘Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva’, the triune principles of ‘creation-sustenance-destruction’ in the cosmos, but could not have an integrative experience.

  • WITHIN THE MANIFESTATION: He delved into the structure of the human being, exploring every plane – the plane of the body, the plane of the vital energy, the plane of the mind; but was left dissatisfied.

He finally found the essence of every form was equally and simultaneously representing the formless – the Infinite was represented and inherent in the Finite, Spirit was represented and implicit in Matter. The Reality was equally represented in the three poises: Transcendence (BEYOND MANIFESTATION), Cosmos (APEX OF MANIFESTATION), Individual (WITHIN THE MANIFESTATION). Hence, Matter could not be ignored and if the human race were not perfected, there would have been no meaning to the play that we call ‘existence’.

 

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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