In the Light of ...|Aug 12, 2013 4:02 AM| by:

Old Spirituality and the New Way

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(This is a transcription of a talk given by Alok Pandey)

There is a poem by Sri Aurobindo – ‘One day’  (The Little More) – and it reminds me somehow of the great work done by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother –

One day, and all the half-dead is done,
One day, and all the unborn begun;
A little path and the great goal,
A touch that brings the divine whole.

Hill after hill was climbed and now,
Behold, the last tremendous brow
And the great rock that none has trod:
A step, and all is sky and God.

That step which Sri Aurobindo takes is the leap which bridges or links all the past efforts of humanity, spiritual and secular, with the present and carries it on to the future – all in one step, just like we have the story of Vamana Avatar who asks for three steps and in those three steps, he links the subconscient, the high heavens and, the earth. What is that step? For a long time, man’s spiritual aspiration was turned upwards away from the earth. And if we look at his life, it was like one who was thirsty, who was seeking for a little drop of bliss but could find it nowhere. Either the wells of life which could give the nectar of immortality had run dry or they had been poisoned or we had only imitation waters on earth. The earth was as if parched and thirsty. And a few great ones, luminous ones, turned inward and upward to find that high source that Ganges concealed in the upper hemisphere. The story of the Ganges is very illustrative. Ganges, before being born is hidden in the heart of Vishnu as unmanifest and on earth, all the creatures with their cacophony have managed to destroy all the beautiful notes. Everything is in disharmony and disarray and Narada prays to Shiva to set things right. Shiva says, ‘Okay, they can be set right, if someone could sing perfectly.’ Who else but Shiva? So, Shiva says, ‘Okay, I will sing and I will dance but there must be someone to listen.’ Gods need company. Who can listen? Who can be an audience to Shiva Himself? So Vishnu and Brahma are the audience and as Shiva sings and as Shiva dances, and as the harmonies of the higher spheres flow through His mouth, a great surge of purifying emotion comes up from the depths of Vishnu’s heart. Brahma, who is ever looking for new material for creation, immediately captures it: ‘There is something, which is manifested now, and I can use it for something beautiful on earth’ and He takes it in his kamandalu. But through a paradoxical turn of events, the straying sons of saagar, who are literally like wayward children, are burnt to ashes – the many elements of nature which have become wayward must be revived by the purifying water of the Ganges. Now, a whole lot of spiritual effort of mankind was to reach that point where they merge into the heart of Vishnu where the unmanifest Ganges was. If you bring the Ganges down when the earth is not ready, what is brought down is not the Ganges but some memory of it, some hope of it and this memory and hope sustain the ages. With each such memory, with each such glimpse, there was a renewed effort in the heart of the earth.

There’s a beautiful poem called ‘Meditations of Mandavya’ by Sri Aurobindo where he says:

I will not faint, O God. There is this thirst,
And thirst supposes water somewhere. Yes,
But in this life we may not ever find;
Old nature sits a phantom by the way,
Old passions may forbid, old doubts return.
Then are there other lives here or beyond
To satisfy us. I will persist, O Lord.

These people came and gave a glimpse. There is a Beauty, there is a Splendour; they also gave a path to contact it. But to walk this path, man is not ready, man was never ready. There is a touching anecdote when the Mother asked Sri Aurobindo whether the earth and man were ready for the Supermind and Sri Aurobindo answered: ‘If you wait for man to be ready, man will never be ready. We have to make him ready’.

Anyhow, a few pilgrim feet trod the great path one day with the staff of faith, and an odd one here or there managed to reach and merge. For the rest, there was religion, philosophy, agnosticism and skepticism, schools and sects of Yoga. Religions were formed. Some made a philosophy out of it. Even now, people try — there are books written on Supermind and Overmind without the least idea even about their own minds. It’s not to say that this was not necessary. This glimpse, this memory had a great work to do. None of these paths were or are easy but as Sri Aurobindo once said, is any Yoga easy? There’s nothing like ‘Yoga made easy’ as ‘French without tears’. It’s alright to speak about these paths. Everybody is a pundit, we have all read books in tradition, and even I have had a fascinating encounter with a young 21 year old boy, who said ‘I know what kundalini is and it’s three and half feet like a serpent which comes up and touches.’ – book knowledge, all available now in the common market. That kind of a realization and experience is very easy to have but really to experience, the One Self everywhere, one without a second, these are very great truths. We talk about them so casually and so lightly. One experience of it can shatter the nerves. We know the story of someone as strong as Vivekananda who had that touch from Sri Ramakrishna directly and he saw the world float and vanish before his eyes and he couldn’t sustain it!

So, there are paths and paths and there are books on those paths and there are followers upon the path. How far we go, how deep we go, we all know in the sincerity of our own hearts. On the path, the struggle was between the downward pull, the lower nature and the upward attraction. The method used: reject the lower for the sake of the higher. This rejection was either an inner process by progressive detachment or by an external method, wearing the garb of the sanyasi, walking like an ascetic, away from the world, so that slowly the hold of the lower is left and one can take a leap into the higher. This was the method used for going into those higher regions where the Ganga resided in the kamandalu of Brahma and be drowned there in that beautiful oasis or ocean. Sri Aurobindo could see that if this is all, then earth would remain forever thirsty. If this is all, renounce all hope for earth. If this is all, mankind will always remain imperfect and earth always feel a conflict, a battle with the forces of night. He saw that. So what was his labour?

Very often, the question is asked, ‘What has Sri Aurobindo done for the common man and the masses?’ We don’t have to open many an anathashram (Orphanages) and things like that. He has made everyone sanath (empowered with the eternal Presence). His labour was like Bhagirath, to constantly bring Ganges down upon earth, night after night, day after day, moment by moment, to bring that light, to bring those waters concealed in the higher hemisphere. The Upanishad speaks about that glorious womb of all things, ‘mathrishiva’, that which holds all the waters, the waters of life. But what we find here is not that original water, we find some imitation. But who could hold those waters when they come down? Bhagirath was lucky, fortunate for he had a Shiva by his side and Shiva said ‘Okay, I will offer my kesh, the matted lock of hairs, symbolic of the world forces that reside in the cloud-net of the luminous tapaswi’s head. Let Ganges come and settle there and then flow down upon earth’. Sri Aurobindo had to be Shiva and also Himself. What He offered was His body. There’s a beautiful line in Savitri:

It is finished, the dread mysterious sacrifice,
Offered by God’s martyred body for the world;

So, He offered His own body much as it is said in the Purusha Sukta that it is by the sacrifice of the purusha that this creation came into being. We may say that the same purusha, the One Golden Being, came down to once again re-enact the sacrifice for a greater and truer creation. We all know that in 1950 the Supramental light consciousness descended and it broke through the physical body of the embodied Divine, the Avatara. The physical body held it for almost 111 hours. A link was formed and then it began to flow. The body broke in the process. But the debt was paid, the debt the Eternal owes to humankind, by the twin efforts, by the readiness, the preparation, the descent of the Ganges, the supramental Ganges, the golden Ganges upon earth.

Hereon, the whole method of approach to spirituality changes. The very goal changes. We don’t have to do that kind of labour; to go up and contact some region of Ganges in that domain, to take that kind of arduous adventurous journey, to cut through the forest and climb Mount Everest and from there try to have a vision of Shiva and take a dip in the Mansarovar and then come back and say, ‘Yes, I had a dip, there is Mansarovar out there.’ That light, that consciousness which was accessible with great difficulty to one in a million, in a thousand years, is accessible and available to this earth. It sounds fantastic. That’s why man does not believe in it.

When the Ganges is not here, it is elsewhere, we either worship a picture of the Ganges or recite Ganga Mahatmya or take the deep inner effort of leaving the lower and going into the higher. Now, Ganges has come, and gradually by the side of the Ganges, seeds of new creation will spring up. Colonies will be built around it like the Indo-Gangetic plain. The water of the Ganges makes those plains fertile. We have to plough the soil. Not just an inward labour, an outward labour too, a much greater labour. We have to take the ploughshare and start ploughing the soil of body, mind, life and heart. Sri Aurobindo in one of the evening conversations, says very beautifully that in this Yoga it is necessary to have a strong foundation in the mind, body and life and then He speaks about the two kinds of temperament. He says, the Indian temperament, psychically is very open, the inner being is ready, but the physical mind is not trained to such an extent. Of course this is not about the Vedic age when an equal importance was given to the outer as to the inner life. In more recent times, subsequent to India’s fall into the trap of Mayavada, the outer consciousness has been neglected near totally. But in the West, the outer mind, the physical mind, the dynamic mind – that is ready. These two types of labour must come together in one body, one being. That’s why Sri Aurobindo says you cannot neglect in this Yoga, nature, the outer personality. It’s important to work upon these parts and work we must and work we should and work we will. If we do not, we will be compelled to work. On the one hand, we may look at the problems and say, ‘This Supramental descent seems to have increased the problems’. On the other hand, we can look at it as children who are oblivious to the existence of problems. Science is a wonderful way to develop the physical mind which is necessary for the work. Politics is a way to develop the pragmatic mind, the dynamic mind. Art is a beautiful way to develop the aesthetic parts, all these things, even physical culture. You come to the Ashram and you say, ‘Ah, I have a place where I can now sit and meditate’. Try, you will be confronted with a hundred and one problems. All kinds of issues will come up. Why? Because we have to get our nature ready.

Mother used to talk about this double labour. She had said that when you go inwardly and you contact, you realise the Divine. But if you leave your nature just as it is, then what happens? Even if you call the greatest musician, if the instrument is not ready, if the strings are loose or tight, or there are no strings at all, and you want him play, he won’t be able to take out that beautiful music as it is available; but here, God’s music has to be played upon earth so nature cannot be ignored. This is a new kind of labour. The second labour is when the Ganges comes down – earlier it was leave the lower, enter into the higher but now, prepare the lower for the reception of the higher. No escape. Preparing the lower is a tough task. The mind has to become ready for luminous thoughts which are waiting to manifest.

We see world-over new ideas are springing up – where is the source of this? We are amazed that scientists are speaking a language which we heard only Yogis speak. It’s just few days ago, there was a newspaper report, that they have discovered a new particle, which makes it appear that levitation is possible. Now, we always knew that Yogis levitate but now levitation can become a universal phenomena scientifically; scientists are speaking the language of the gods.

And a third kind of labour is needed – the struggle between the past and the future. So beautifully, we have this prayer of the Mother, ‘Make of us the hero-warriors we aspire to become. May we fight successfully the great battle of the future to be born against the past that seeks to endure so that we may be ready for the new things that are waiting to manifest’. The Ganges is right there. We have to open ourselves and take a dip. But there is still the jungle-path. Even for that there is an easier way now. Don’t go through any kind of jungle; if you want to know where the source is, take the route of the Ganges, she will lead you. Even the inner journey has become a lot easier. She will lead us, the Ganges will lead us, one side to the mountains, other side to the vastness of the ocean. She is the path. But don’t look at others and compare their efforts to yours or judge if another can take a dip in the Ganges or not. The Mother welcomes all children. There is a line in Savitri where the poet says to this effect that the great Mother in Her love desires back even Her rebel sons, even those who have revolted from the law. The fallen angels, the purvadeva, even they She desires. Because Her love has come to liberate all the children, the wayward, the lost, the wicked, burnt to ashes. She has not come only for holy people. It’s very dangerous in times as these to try to be holy. It’s much better to know that Ganges liberates everyone. It does not ask before we set our feet into it, ‘Oh, tell me, are you holy of the holies?’ We dip into it. It welcomes, it takes and absorbs all the poison that we throw into it because it knows it can purify it. Yet, that does not mean that that’s the way we must treat our Ganges. If we can do a little bit of self-enabling sadhana as Sri Aurobindo puts it, ‘If we can avoid putting so much poison into the Mother’s heart, so much the better. Nevertheless, her touch will purify us’.

So what is the method Sri Aurobindo gives us for this Yoga? He says, ‘Open yourself to the Divine consciousness’. Very strange. Why isn’t he telling us that ‘Sit in this posture, pick up this mantra and concentrate on this symbol.’ He says the simplest way is to open to the Ganges, open yourself and allow, make room for her. If we have only a small space for her, the size of our palms or a closed fist, then Ganges doesn’t find enough place. When someone asked the Mother about the supramental She said something like this, that my children, you are so small, so small, like a small pinhead and you expect the supramental to come inside. It’s so vast. For a long time, may be for another thirty, forty, fifty years, earth will just be becoming vaster and vaster and vaster like the feet of the Vamana, the dwarf man of the Indian avatara, growing bigger and bigger and bigger. We are in so many cabins and every time a limit is broken, the outer being says, ‘Oh my God, what is this supermind doing? It is shattering my safe limits, my family, it is gone. I don’t have a family, I am homeless, alone’ while the soul rejoices and says ‘I have none by my side but a step and all is sky and God.’ That is what it is doing. All the limits that man knew – limits of science, limits of knowledge, limits of art, limits of culture – the rules of the game have been changed. No more do you have the Eastern and the Western. You have a new trend-fusion. All kinds of experiments are going on. And it’s very clear the way the supramental Ganges is purifying and working. It is the hour of the unexpected.

So, it’s a very different kind of labour, a labour which is at once inner and outer making the human vessel ready, the instrument ready for the great reception. The Supramental Force is here as the Mother says, ‘…. rejoice, it is an hour of celebration’. It’s not an hour for being morose and dull. It is an hour of celebration. She uses the word ‘rejoice’. The Force is here for with this Force is the certitude of victory. One thing is certain, more certain than tomorrow’s sun, that man cannot anymore spoil God’s plan. The supramental Ganges has come to quench the thirst of the ages. It has come to change us and it will change us despite ourselves. But so much better if we can prepare ourselves for the change by opening, by receptivity, by faith, by a certain amount of self-enabling sadhana, by a dependence on the Grace, by perhaps simply being full of gratitude and enthusiasm for the great work; just being happy that the Divine is here,

‘A prayer, a master act, a king idea
Can link man’s strength to a transcendent Force.
Then miracle is made the common rule.’ (Sri Aurobindo, Savitri)