In the Light of ...|Feb 21, 2013 4:10 AM| by:

Spiritual Life in Mother’s Light

In the spiritual life, even more than in other fields since the possibilities and the pitfalls are greater here, a proper assessment of oneself is salutary and helpful. Two generations ago Tagore said that although India was lying in the dust the very dust in which she lay was holy. Obviously it was in his mind that this dust had been trod by the feet of Rishis and Saints and Avatars. Sri Aurobindo’s comment is reported to have been that whatever might be the case the dust could not be the proper thing for a man to lie in and that man had not been created to adopt a prone posture. Indeed, if the Rishis and Saints and Avatars are our models, then even while we may be prepared to “take the dust of their feet”, as we in India call the act of pranam to the Guru, we have normally to be as they were – with our heads and feet in the right places, the former in the free-flowing air, the latter on the firm-fixed earth.

There is a true humility and a false one. The false is likely not only to make a virtue of disgrace but also to stand in the way of aspiration as though a limit were set forever to man’s development. The true humility takes at once a realistic and an idealistic view of the limited state in which man at present is. It indulges in no anthropocentric vision of the universe, which would constitute his present state itself the highest possible point of God’s manifestation; and yet there is a hopeful mood, an evolutionary vision, refusing the rule of “Thus far and no further.” The only proviso preventing the forward-looking humility from turning into a pride of progressivism is that one should know oneself as facing always an endless Ahead of unachieved spirituality. This sense of an Infinite always in front is the Mother’s definition of true humility: one feels that at each stage one falls short of the Supreme…

For the Divine is no fixed paradise
But truth beyond great truth…

…as an ashram poet has sung. And the Mother said that she had met only one complete exemplar of such humility:
Sri Aurobindo.

The Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo may be expected to create in a more or less degree, the Aurobindonian stance in its practitioners. One is never allowed to remain entrenched in this or that high experience. A pressure is put to grow on every side and dare fresh flights into the Unknown. In other spiritual paths one is content to be a Jnani (Knower), a Bhakta (Devotee) or a Karmayogi (Doer of Divine Works). Here one is called upon to be all of them together – and something enormously extra. No wonder Sri Aurobindo once said that where the other Yogas terminate we make our beginning. The release of the individual consciousness into Eternity, Infinity, Divinity, is the basis for us of the release of Eternity, Infinity, Divinity into all the parts of our being for a total transformation of mind, life-force and body. Eternity, Infinity, Divinity themselves are to us more than they have been to spiritual seekers so far. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have been bent on bringing into action a power of these Ultimates more radically effective in earth-existence than ever before. As a result the practitioners of the Integral Yoga have had experiences which have scarcely been tabulated in earlier spiritual histories. But they are urged to halt nowhere. Many of them, if permitted to go into the common world with whatever they have realised along the lines of Jnana, Bhakti or Karmayoga, could easily set up as Masters and shine out. In the Ashram they remain almost unmarked – and, instead of being complimented upon their triumphs, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have gone on asking from them still higher and deeper and wider explorations of the Spirit.

Aware of the tremendous demand behind their summons, we often felt ourselves falling short. In view of that demand, even the simplest summons could at times prove too difficult to answer immediately. To give an example in a vein which both Sri Aurobindo with his abundant humour and the Mother with her quick wit would have enjoyed. I may say that to the Mother’s simple-sounding New-Year’s Message of 1964 – “Are you ready?” – Only one sadhak could answer “Yes” but in a sense never expected by the Mother. The sadhak was Narayana Reddy.

Occasionally the call was all too evidently towards an achievement unheard-of. Thus we were adjured in 1968 : “Remain young.” When an old sadhak was told this, he exclaimed with a sad face: “The first problem with me is just to remain.” Age so obsesses us with its traditional associations of something physical which is irreversible that we miss the deeper meaning the Mother infused into the word “young”. What she meant by asking us to remain young comes out in the sentence following this command: “Never stop striving towards perfection.” Old age, according to her, arrives when we sit back either content that we have done enough or too tired to attempt anything more. As long as we are prepared to launch on a new adventure of the soul or body, there is no onset of age in the consciousness. And the youth that is in the consciousness shows itself soon in the outer self. A glow is on the face, a suppleness in the limbs, an energy in the movements. The idea of the impossible recedes – and even vanishes the moment we fulfil the prime condition of the Aurobindonian Yoga: dependence on the Divine Grace. All feeling of inadequacy, incompetence and inability arises from the failure of our personal being to do the needful. This feeling is ultimately a sign of the ego: we have depended on our bounded individuality in the belief that it can accomplish things by its own strength, and when this strength has proved insufficient we are plunged in despair and stand impotent. We fail to look beyond the ego and to put ourselves in the hands of the Divine Grace whose possibilities are boundless.

Surely, personal effort cannot be given up in the early stages, but such effort must have as its goal a state of effortlessness in which the Divine Grace takes up our labour and acts through our being. To reach that state there have to be practised a constant equanimity in the face of people and circumstances and a constant dedication of ourselves and our work to the Supreme Lord, the Eternal Mother. Essentially these steps involve the abolition of the separative ego by leading towards the Atman, the Silent Universal Self one in all, and towards the Chaitya Purusha, Antaratman, the Inmost Soul, the entity called by Sri Aurobindo the “Psychic Being”, who is the true individual in the evolutionary process from birth to birth and whose pseudo-form in the surface of our consciousness is the ego. Here some words of the Mother on the ego’s abolition will be in place, differentiating as they do the static abolition from the dynamic.

At one of the sessions in the Prosperity Room before the evening’s Soup Distribution sessions which included about two dozen sadhaks sitting in a semi-circle in front of the Mother, the Mother said in effect: “No matter how liberated one may be by withdrawing from the play of one’s nature, the ego will persist in the play unless one gives oneself in utter love to a Being other than oneself to a Divine Person.”

This statement may be elaborated and set forth step by step as follows. Even when the Atman is realised in a universal poise free from the mental-vital-physical nature and there is no sense left of the ego in the inner consciousness, the ego still keeps colouring one’s thoughts and impulses and activities. To erase that colour there must be in the wake of the realisation of the static Atman a silence imposed by it on all the parts and then the emergence of the Psychic Being. Only when the Psychic Being with its intense movement of love for the Personal Divine takes charge of one the dynamic freedom from the ego occurs. Even if the Atman is not realised, the Psychic Being in full play in the mental-vital-physical nature can remove the twisting and turning ego by its spontaneous self-surrender to the Supreme. Lord, the Eternal Mother. And this self-surrender will be most genuine, complete and effective – that is, most eradicative of the ego – if one’s Yoga depends on a condition which has been stressed in Indian spirituality from ancient times: the presence of a God-realised Master, the human-divine Guru. If the outer self is deeply attuned to the spiritual call, the Guru may not be indispensable. But, by and large, the ego does not wholly disappear unless the aspirant, guided by his Psychic Being, puts, himself devotedly in the hands of the Guru. The Guru serves as an absolute check, leaving little room for the myriad self deception for the sake of self-convenience to which man’s nature is prone. One is now enfolded completely by the Other and the ego is afforded no chance to play about. Through this concrete and quite often very discomfiting Other, facing even one’s most external form of mind and life-force, one gets intensely into relation with the egoless Lord of the universe, the creative Mother-Power of Grace – and that Perfect Divine Person starts permeating one’s human personality in every part. Then one is cleared of egoism with the greatest assurance.

The practical upshot for us of such a view was the necessity of giving ourselves entirely to the guidance of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. As the twofold incarnation of the Supramental Ishwara-Shakti, they could carry us most swiftly forward. On so complex a path as the Integral Yoga we could hardly have advanced without their light and love. And, suiting the path’s complexity, they were beings of an immense versatility. Combined with towering spiritual attainment. Sri Aurobindo brought a rare genius in political thought, philosophical ideation, poetic expression, literary criticism, while the Mother stood as a most gifted painter and musician no less than as an expert on all life-problems and a supreme organiser. In addition, there was a warmth of heart and a charm of mind, a temperament lavishly jocular in Sri Aurobindo and delightfully ironic in the Mother. To be led by such Guruship meant extreme pleasure side by side with enormous profit. Even now, when they are no longer in material shape before us, the spiritual life for us should not change: it cannot be more pleasurable and profitable than by a continuation of the same disciple-teacher relationship. For, indeed they have assured us of their nearness to us in a subtle-physical form until, their mighty work is accomplished. To concentrate on them as we knew them and open ourselves to their ever-flowing Grace by an adoring devotion is the best mode of progress.

Let us, however, not forget that in their eyes the inner progress has little value if the outer self does not reveal it by an increasing refinement and wideness, harmony and efficiency. In the absence of these outer qualities, we may even question a phrase like “inner progress”. In a letter to my friend Nagin Doshi – as true a sadhaka as one could wish – Sri Aurobindo has actually said: “Obviously, the outer life must be a true example of the inner, not a mere empty mould or form. But if the other life is unyogic, that means that the inner is still unchanged in some, even in a great, perhaps the greater part of itself (14-2-1936).

To render the outer life Yogic, it is not enough to refrain from being mean, inconsiderate, nasty. Surely, the Integral Yogi is expected to be courteous and compassionate, understanding and generous, above gossip and backbiting, mindful of others’ needs and not selfishly assertive or scheming, careful to control that fluctuation of inner and outer temper commonly defended as “mood”. But he is expected also to face correctly the unyogic conduct of his fellows. Where a direct confrontation is necessary, he should have the courage to stand up to them and not run away to avoid unpleasantness – and yet there has to be a coolness, a calmness in the courage and not any stress to bring about a confrontation just for one’s own benefit. All victories in Yoga are essentially victories over oneself rather than over others – and through these victories the Divine’s outflow into the world. What I mean may be summed up in what I once heard the Mother say to a Swiss sadhika. I was standing behind the latter, waiting for her to finish her pranam to the Mother.

Almost every morning she had a tale of troubles to tell. She was in charge of some girls in an Ashram house and the neighbours of her establishment seemed to be a constant bother.

They were reported by her to be harassing her daily, with either hurtful words or obstructive acts or else a succession of pin-pricks subtly causing inconvenience. The Mother used to hear the complaints patiently. She had faith in the Swiss sadhika’s sincerity and devotion; so she would soothe her and suggest various ways of avoiding conflict. One day, however, she came out with a master-formula: “La vraie attitude est toujours plus forte que toutes les personnes et toutes les circonstances” (The right attitude is always stronger than any person and any circumstances”). I have never forgotten this advice. It has been elaborated by the Mother in her “Notes on the Way” of September 10, 1969. But what I overheard dates back much earlier and it has proved an immense help – along with that other master formula of the Mother’s: “Remember and offer”.

In fact, the two go together. The latter tells us never to let the sense of the Divine disappear from our consciousness and to make at all times a gesture of surrender to the Supreme Presence – surrender of our own selves, our thoughts and impulses, the work in hand, the environmental set-up of fellow-creatures and situation-complexes. In this manner our inner life goes on being not only intensified, deepened and heightened but also widened to cover the world which is the Divine’s field of action. Again, the widening extends not merely to the subtle psychological ambiance of a consciousness in relation with other consciousness: it extends as well to all one’s material acts and to all the physical facts of interaction with material agents. Hence the whole outer life on both the psychological and the physical planes is brought within the practice and process of the inner Yoga. And such encompassment by the gesture of offering involves at every moment the taking of the right attitude: an attempt to detach the ego from the problem, an equanimity towards all behaviour and each turn of event, a poise of general goodwill, a passing of the situation from one’s hands to the hands of the Divine, an appeal to the Highest to make one as well as others its instrument and to dispose of the problem according to the Will of Its Wisdom.

Mentioning a poise of general goodwill and the Will of the Divine’s Wisdom, I am led to the memory of a strange incident in my own inner life. A situation had arisen in which I had felt extremely harassed by a certain person. I did not know what step to take. I went to the Samadhi and sent up my prayer to the Mother to guide me. I fervently asked her: “What should I do to check this harassment? I would like to follow your will and your way.” Suddenly there was an exquisite explosion, as it were, in the occult heart-centre in the middle of the chest and, through the opening made there, an intense love flowed out towards the person who had been considered an enemy. Here then was the Mother’s unexpected answer to my appeal. This was the Mother’s mode or dealing with the hatred, I had felt to be pouring against me. The psychic being had come forward to solve the problem. It spontaneously saw the Divine within everyone and strove to pierce to that reality behind all masks and to dissolve the obstacles of the outer consciousness of both myself and the other party. The great saying of Buddha occurred to me: “Hatred does not cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.”

When I met the person whose behaviour had affected me as harassment I said quite simply : “When I looked into myself I could find nothing except love for you.” The effect was magical. Gone was all that had seemed hostile. A new turn of conduct was immediately apparent. The wide warmth that had issued from my soul was no mere word-woven sentiment: it was an elemental force of luminous sweetness and could immediately kindle light and a love where it touched.

I do not say that a complete lasting change can always be established. One may fall back into the old consciousness and the problem can recur. But the golden key was disclosed to me in that surprising moment. If we could command this key at all times, it would solve every deadlock. This key, I may add, is also a pointer towards understanding one of the most valued phenomena in our life with the Mother: her smile.

The Mother’s smile was at once what I may term a revelation of rapture and an enigma of ecstasy. It was always like a door of heaven opening, but often one was at a loss to know why the door opened. And, when it did not, many thought she wished to show displeasure. Sri Aurobindo explained more than once that she could have a reason quite other than displeasure for not smiling: she might be absorbed in some inner work on the sadhak. Conversely, she might smile without wanting to register full approval: she could act as a soother to some silly sense of hurt. But one thing I found invariable: whenever the deep heart in a child of hers opened in her presence, there was a wide smile from her side. And this smile had a special expression as of complete acceptance of that child and of ever deeper entry into his being. Sometimes, looking at the Mother on the one hand and at the sadhak on the other, one could perceive unmistakably the psychic-spiritual communion and interchange.

I have seen this phenomenon again and again in a certain period of my friend Nirodbaran’s sadhana. Both Champaklal and I used to recognise and watch the delightful drama of the inner contact gleaming through the outer meeting. The Mother was all smiles. Champaklal whispered to me on one occasion: “What has happened in Nirod is a clear example of what is called reversal of consciousness”‘. The phrase employed means in general a sudden shift of an individual’s habitual poise from the outer to the inner being and it signifies in particular, as it did in Nirod’s case, such a shift from the mental-vital-physical complex to the true soul.

The sudden shift in one’s being may not invariably be permanent from the start, there may be an unshifting once more for a while; but after it has come the Yogic destiny is sealed and sooner or later one is bound to grow a predominantly psychic personality. The development will be sooner rather than later if one is vigilant enough to erase the lingering discords and fumbles of the ego and attend faithfully to the infallible tone of Krishna’s flute-call from within.


(K.D.Sethna (Amal Kiran) is a well-known poet and the editor of monthly Mother India. He has written large number of books and articles on a wide range of topics).

(Source: ‘Our Light and Delight’)