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Yogic Principles for the Teacher

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Sri Aurobindo tells us that man is a transitional being; that is, he is evolving from the animal to the human, from the human to the spiritual, therefore there are various stages of his becoming what he is capable of becoming in a particular life—but we believe, that all can attain to the Calm or Peace of Inner Contentment which brings true happiness and which is the fundamental need, the basis of the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo.

It is this basis, this fundamental state of peace and equality that we are here concerned with. The Yoga one has to do oneself and according to one’s own inner need, but we can perhaps state here, according to our experience, the principles which alone open the way to the first liberation.

There are, in all, twelve principles of the Yoga—like the Mother’s symbol of the divine lotus, the petals open one by one towards the Light which gives birth, sustains and fulfils existence.

I suggest that the first six of these principles be practised in order to make ready the ground and bring about the flowering of the second six. The practice of the first six leads to the first liberation. The twelve principles would be:

1. Truthfulness
2. Right-Action
3. Purity
4. Remembrance
5. Gratitude
6. Humility
7. Perseverance
8. Faith
9. Aspiration
10. Devotion
11. Sincerity
12. Surrender

The practice of the second six would bring about the second liberation which establishes one of the inner Roads to the Truth-Consciousness. These inner Roads are the Four Great Paths of Yoga-Sadhana which in this Purna Yoga are traversed together, either one and all at the same time or in sequence according to the need and capacity of the sadhak. They are the four inner petals of the lotus of the Mother’s symbol which represent the four aspects of the Mother: imperial Maheshwari, formidable Mahakali, intoxicatingly sweet Mahalakshmi and perfect-working Mahasaraswati—the Roads of Knowledge, Power, Love and Works which must be traversed if one would enter into the Truth-Consciousness and live the Divine Life on this earth.

The Purpose of the Yoga-Sadhana presupposes that one understands the need for transformation. What would take perhaps many lives to accomplish is to be compressed into one. What would take centuries in the normal course of existence can be compressed into perhaps a few years by lending oneself to the necessary Yogic disciplines.

The purpose of man is to evolve beyond his animal origins, transcend the instincts of the beast and the ancient longings of his primitive ancestors. Today no one seriously denies the fact of evolution, nor that man has evolved from the animal. But it is perhaps not always so clearly understood that man’s evolution is now psychological and spiritual and that such inner transformation alone can bring about any further anatomical or physiological transformation necessary to the future destiny of the race.

Since Mind first awakened in animal nature, finding its natural habitat in man, Man has been aware of the possibility of transcending his animal nature. That which makes man different from the animal is the fact that his “eyes” are open, he is “free”, free to make the choice of returning to the animal from which he came or setting his feet upon the upward road of evolution and renouncing all that drags him back to his animal past with its urges, instincts, hungers and desires, so that he may truly enjoy the higher freedom of being liberated from their clamouring insistence and demand and come into the full heritage of his human dignity as an enlightened being.

Truthfulness

The attitude one has towards a certain principle of life depends upon one’s state of consciousness and the type of person one is. But this is only a generalization which may vary tremendously according to the incidents of experience which might easily happen quite contrary to one’s type and in spite of one’s state of consciousness—a kind of deus ex machina which intervenes and has nothing to do with the laws of astronomy or the principles of cosmic existence.

Truthfulness is a principle of individual, social, and moral life, which varies so greatly between one man and another that one often wonders if one is talking about the same thing or whether one is living in the same world.

However, we can see the principle of Truthfulness more clearly if we look to the very object of Truthfulness which is of course truth. Truth is the Divine and we only attain to it by union with the Divine.We aspire to truth through Truthfulness which means, at its highest conception, Truthfulness in all the parts of our being.

Sri Aurobindo makes a clear distinction between the three main parts of the being, i.e., Mental, Vital and Physical, and it is Truthfulness in all three that is required if we would practise the discipline of the Integral Yoga. Each of these three parts of the being has its own mind-centre which controls its various movements and it is through these mind-centres that we can knowledgeably insist on a more effective Truthfulness than the vague attitude towards Truthfulness of the average person.

Most of the difficulty of acquiring an integral Truthfulness lies in the mixture of the mental and the emotional processes, the emotional and the physical ones; the mixing agent usually being attachment, hunger, desire, fear.

Right-Action

Ordinarily, people think that right-action would mean to act in the right way. And, no doubt, that would be the correct interpretation to put on the term, on the ordinary level of consciousness. But for one entering the Path of Sadhana, there is a more significant interpretation, a more demanding construction which we have to put upon the term right action, and that is—for whom and for what purpose do we act? Is it for ourself, for someone we love or someone we fear? Is it for gain, for profit or to please? Is it for the nation, the earth, or humanity? In sadhana, none of these would be right unless it was first for the Divine. Right-Action is that which leads one to a higher state of consciousness, leading one to an ultimate union with the Divine. Any action which tends to aid progress towards that end can legitimately be called “right”; any quality contributing towards such a movement can be called “good”, any movement which furthers the evolution of the being can be called “progressive”.

That is the first consideration; the second would be to understand the meaning of the term “right-action” in regard to one’s svadharma and svabhava.

Right-action in relation to self-law—one’s own law of action, according to the dynamic control or the inner governance of the Spirit or the Divine within one, to act according to the true purpose of one’s existence and in consonance with the true purpose for which one was born into this particular life.Right-action is in relation to self-being—one’s own true lines of heredity and nature.

While man lives in ignorance it is necessary to have laws: a law of love, a law of justice, a law of truth. These laws have to be imposed on us so long as there is in our being an opposition to oneness with others, the imperfection and conflict of our nature, the force of separateness and division.

To reach right-action some have to pass from the state of consciousness which is the ordinary action of impulse into a contemplative state of non-action; but if they would follow the law of progress and evolution they too must, eventually, put into action the ideal and the knowledge of introspection. Love and devotion can only be utterly expressed and thereby fulfilled by action and knowledge.

The ideal, unexpressed in action, remains merely a chimera, a subjective formula. Wisdom, not acted upon, becomes as still-born as a hardboiled egg, it will never manifest life.An ideal has to be lived if it is to fulfil itself, and to fulfil ourselves is the ever-constant pressure of the soul.That is right-action which ever points the way to a wider and higher fulfilment of our being, towards the perfection of unity, a unity in which the individual finds himself one with God, the universe and all men.

Right-action depends upon right-attitude, which is made up of right-thinking and right-feeling. We can choose the thoughts we want, accept the thoughts beneficial to our purpose and reject those which would be detrimental to the work we propose. By virtue of our will-power, we do have a say in the choice of our feelings, we can accept and allow those feelings which would help and enthuse our purpose and refuse those which would weaken our resolve or lead us away from the fulfilment of our ideal. And if our attitude is further strengthened by an exclusive dedication, a devotion to the work for the sake of its perfection with no thought for self, no ulterior motive, we enter into a `joy’ of right-action which liberates us from the insecurity and anxiety of the world, a joy that surpasses all acquisitive pleasure; a joy of action that only wants to give, for the delight of giving and of ultimate fulfilment.

Purity

Purity depends upon the state of the consciousness. In the divine consciousness all is purity, in the ignorance everything is stained or coloured with impurity. Perhaps the first urge primitive man has towards purity is the cleanliness of his body, but this would be precisely at a time when he sets his first step on the road to civilization. The more he becomes civilized, the greater the need seems to be for keeping the body clean. As an animal there was no question of such a need, because his actions blended harmoniously with the animal cycles of Nature which responded automatically on impulse to Nature’s needs.

But civilization demands a departure from the automatic safeguards of Nature, and there ensues a disharmony during the transitional period of man climbing out of the slough of the animal integument towards the illumined body of the divine being. This disharmony, the pull of the lower animal and the attraction of the higher, is the fundamental cause of our impurity, in the mental and vital as well as the physical.

If one is to be free from this mixture, this impurity, one has either to have the right education at a young age when the education of the vital is not left to its own undisciplined impulse nor mixed in a confused competition with the mind. Mental education must be understood to be helpful to, but not subservient to, vital demands, and the difference between feeling and thought should be demonstrated at an early age or at a later age. One has to initiate an imposed discipline, a yoga of tapasya and purification which may take anything from ten to thirty years to accomplish, or even many lives.

Remembrance

Some people say: “We start the day by trying to remember the Divine and we are full of good intentions and only too willing to carry them out—then why do we lose touch so soon and easily forget all about our good intentions?”

Forgetfulness is due to a division in the nature: the being is not wholly consecrated to the Divine. The Mother has said that in all intellectual pursuits or physical activities our one motto should be: “Remember and Offer.” Perhaps the whole secret lies in this very spirit of offering, of dedication and service. As much as one offers oneself to the Divine, in that measure one remembers the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo has said: “Always behave as if the Mother was looking at you; because she is, indeed, always present.” The crux of the whole matter lies in the attitude with which we do the work, the attitude with which we think and feel. If the consciousness is divided in purpose, the first difficulty is already established. It is of course this division of the parts of the being which brings about conflict and disharmony—an economic wastage of energy to say the least of it.

Man must have a central purpose for his thinking and action; in the ordinarily successful man of the world this central purpose is the `ego-self’. He arranges and organises all his attributes around this focal point and so brings about a measure of concentration which becomes effective for his purpose.

Gratitude

Gratitude is a Power. It is the source of all true action offered to the Divine, the well of our accumulated love for the Divine, the very altar upon which we lay our prayers and offerings and, when utterly sincere, it is the speediest path of communication and the most open way towards union with the Presence, the quickest means of invoking the Divine in the heart centre.

It is the true opening prayer of the Bhakti which stems from a constant Vyakulata, that quality of eagerness and yearning which grows with perseverance into that other necessary quality of the vital will—Utsaha, the will to find union with God at all cost. It is the true state of receptivity for intuitive Knowledge—the aspiration of the Raja-Yogi.

It is the attitude to work of the Karma-Yogi. It is that dynamic affirmation of action when the time for action is at hand as it is the true depth of silence, when it is the time for contemplation, concentration or meditation. Gratitude is a state of consciousness wherein one is aware of one’s relationship with God or the Divine Presence. Apart from the tremendous sense of satisfaction and well-being, there is the great depth of Peace together with the overwhelming bliss of privilege. Privilege of being allowed to take part in this terrestrial hour in the bloom of its manifestation. Privilege of being allowed to witness the marvel of the divine drama, the miracle and wonder of each dawn of a new creative force and power that sustains all life in its infinite possibilities. Privilege of being allowed to be part of the awareness of this unfolding Splendour.

One’s insignificance bows down in worship to That which makes all possible, to That which was and is and ever will be. To That which was before Time and is of Time and yet is beyond all Time. To That which creates all, fosters all, manifests all and brings all to fruition. To That we bow down.

In Gratitude we remember the Divine, so our work and our action are an offering; a giving of ourselves to the best of our ability. So all our actions are positive towards good and so we succeed and continue in a state of Grace.

Humility

There is no apology, no pleading or supplication in the Humility before God; rather does it spring from Gratitude. Humility cannot be acquired but only aspired for. One grows into Humility, or it settles in the being as an experience which may first come and go for years and then at last agrees to stay as a “guest” and finally becomes an accepted part of the consciousness. To see oneself in relation to the rest of creation, to see oneself in relation to the whole manifestation of Nature; to see and feel oneself in relation to the earth and the sea and the sky and the whole universe is to know something of one’s measure before God.

When man forgets God, he becomes absorbed by the external life around him. The physical and vital life movements make demands upon him. He then knows and understands himself only through contact with these universal movements acting on his physical and vital being; he is concerned only with this aspect of consciousness and reacts consciously only to these movements and their forces.

To forget the Divine is to be divided in purpose; it is due to a division in the nature. One part of the nature is not in agreement with the other. If one is aware of this division which creates a disharmony, then something can be done about it. But the average man is not at all aware of such partitioning in his nature; at each moment he thinks he is what he is at that moment, not what he can become. The true self may look always towards perfection, but the egocentric self is absorbed in and by the immediate life-movements of the moment; carried away on the flood of universal forces, it has very little to say which way it should go. It is swept on through life in the habitual stream of “quiet” unconsciousness, contented to remain in its own ignorance, “happy” to remain part of the amorphous whole that has not to make any effort of its own. It is satisfied to continue to die rather than enter upon any adventure to “live”.

There is no doubt that man learns Humility only through experience. Being preoccupied only with the externals, he is conscious only of his external nature; he is preoccupied only with his vital and physical self. His mental, psychic and spiritual consciousness is left void of activity, empty of expression; this creates a top-heavy state of being which brings about, eventually, dissatisfaction, dullness, depression—the unhappiness of a living death upheld by the behaviour pattern of habit that lends itself to bowing to forces over which it has no control.

There comes a time when the true Self asserts itself against this condition. When the ego-self has had enough, is satiated with this negative experience, it bows down before the weight of its adversity—then comes the possibility of a moment of true Humility, of acknowledgement of defeat, of surrender to a higher Power when the true self can come forward to lead the being to a wider plane of consciousness where all the parts of the being can cooperate in a synthesis of endeavour towards the Harmony of Life and Truth and Bliss.

Perseverance

Perseverance is more than the dictionary meaning, “to continue striving” or to go on steadfastly, it is to look ever towards New Horizons of consciousness, New Dawns of becoming because we are transitional beings evolving from animal to divine, from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness into light. This is the Goal which makes perseverance always possible: the belief that man is upon earth for a purpose greater than he apprehends with the senses, greater than mere mind can comprehend, greater than the religions have understood and taught—that he is upon earth to manifest, through his evolving consciousness, the ever-expanding Play of the Divine—that God may be manifest in life, and life become divinised through the self-perfecting consciousness of man.

Perhaps behind the seriousness of the perseverance experienced by the sadhak is the subliminal awareness that those who choose the Divine are chosen by the Divine, something of the nature of the Calvinistic doctrine—”the perseverance of saints”—that those who are effectually called by God cannot fall away so as to be finally lost.

Perseverance in Yoga naturally implies the experience of Utsaha, the zeal to overcome preference, transcend sorrow, sublimate desire, conquer death, to liberate oneself from the maya of appearances, to fulfil the law of our being in a world made ready for the Delight of an expanding Perfection of the manifesting Divine. Perseverance has also inherent within its meaning the divine oestrus goading man on to heights as yet undreamed of.

Faith

The word “faith” comes from the Middle English word “faith” yet it is synonymous with the Latin word fidere meaning to trust. If we keep to the simplicity of this meaning without all its religious implications—that is, the trust, say, of a little child, a little child before it has evolved a thinking mind, before it needs to dissimulate, before it has come to the age of disenchantment then perhaps we are somewhat near that trust which knows itself to be divine. It is psychic knowledge of the soul within, before it becomes overclouded by the mind, the mind with all its analyses and doubts, the mind that has an arrogance because it has not met intelligence and wisdom in experience yet to be.

True faith is what men call faith without the expectancy. It is the knowledge or experience of the psychic being direct in its relationship with Truth and Truth’s authority, which takes no cognisance of mind or intellect.

By faith man can achieve the impossible because it links itself with the divine creativity. The question was put to the Mother, “can mere faith create all, conquer all?” The Mother’s answer was, “Yes, but it must be an integral faith and it must be absolute… If you can create in yourself an integral force of this kind in all your being, then nothing can resist it…There is, for instance, now abroad the beginning of a knowledge among scientists that death is not a necessity. But the whole of humanity believes firmly in death; it is, one might say, a general human suggestion based on a long unchanging experience. If this belief could be cast out first from the conscious mind, then from the vital nature and the subconscious physical layers, death would no longer be inevitable.”

Aspiration

Aspiration is a dynamic force; it is the longing of the pure scientist for the truth. It is the constant search for beauty in the artist. It is the desire for perfection in the artisan. It is the yearning for the divine Beloved of the bhakta. It is a force that once put into action overcomes all obstacles to accomplish its object. It is a force that concentrates on the work to be done, not the person who does the work. The Mother says: “Let the sun of aspiration dissolve the clouds of egoism.”

Aspiration is not an overt faculty. It is not a quality of the consciousness that one can put one’s finger on. You can probably see the difference in the life of an individual with it and one without but this you could not prove to the pragmatist. Dialectical materialism would find it difficult to include it in its vocabulary because it does not breathe the same air, and it uses no propaganda to proclaim its place in the world. One might desire and hope for many things, many achievements even many ideals—but aspiration is part of an inner development, leading one progressively on to a union with the Divine Light.

Devotion

The word devotion comes from the Latin word devovere, `de’ meaning `away’, and `vovere’ meaning `to vow’. It originally meant to vow away one’s possessions, one’s life, to dedicate by a vow or solemn act or to give up wholly one’s life, one’s mind to the worship of God.

Such a vow or dedication is not possible to the great majority of human beings because they want so many things. They have this hunger to possess, this fever of acquisition which prevents them from anything more than a casual act of generosity. They little know that this is the key to all their misery or puzzled unhappiness. This inability to give is the secret barrier that prevents them from receiving, and creates a sense of frustration and the vicious circle of more wanting. Psychologically, this wanting, this hunger for possessions is set up as a defense mechanism against the feeling of primordial insecurity. This need for assurance, this insecurity goes as soon as faith in God is established.

One of the greatest edicts Christ spoke was: “Give all to the poor, come and follow me.” It is both a promise and a challenge. It is a promise to be relieved of the “burden” of possessions and a challenge which echoes: “Shall a man not give all to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven?”

When is a man truly liberated? Only when he can say: “I want nothing but the Divine”, or when he can say: “I want nothing”. Perhaps this wanting nothing goes beyond communication on the higher levels of consciousness.

Sincerity

The word “sincerity”, like many abstract nouns, is used variously according to time, custom, usage and the state of consciousness of the author. The most fatuous use that has been made of this word is probably its usage at the end of letters. Without a second thought people have got into the formal habit of concluding their letters with “yours sincerely”, when actually they have been loading the letter with the clichés and platitudes expected of formal letter-writing. It is only very recently that the formal use of such phrases as “I beg to remain your most obedient servant” when really the writer has no intention whatsoever of being an obedient servant, has fallen out of our letter-writing phraseology.

There really can be no compromise with a word like “sincerity”. The very origin, in fact, precludes any half-measure with its meaning. The Latin word sincerus meaning “clean” derives from the combination of two words: sine and cera, meaning “without wax”. In early classical times when a plethora of sculptors competed to sell their statues in ancient Rome, there were those whose greed and impatience exceeded their art, so if a statue was at all chipped or damaged it was their practice to fill in the flaw with wax which, rubbed over with marble powder, would for a time escape detection; sine cera became a term, in the art world, for a genuine work of art—that which was pure, unmixed, unfeigned, unadulterated, free from pretence, the same in reality as in appearance. This became the meaning extended to other fields of work, thought, and human behaviour.

The Mother tells us that humility and sincerity are the best safeguards in Yoga sadhana.”Without them each step is a danger; with them the Victory is certain,” she says. By perfect sincerity we mean, says Sri Aurobindo, “that all our thoughts, feelings, sensations and actions should express nothing but the central truth of our being”. Sincerity is the key to the divine doors.

Surrender

Surrender, the last of the yogic principles for the teacher, is perhaps the most difficult to realise. However, it is not at all difficult if all that has gone before has been truly realised, each in itself, building up to a perfection of consciousness that wants the Divine and only the Divine.

Indeed, I believe surrender is only possible if one has sufficient faith to aspire with constancy. A constancy that leads to a natural devotion coupled with true sincerity. A sincerity born of a practice of the first six principles where gratitude and remembrance are a constant state, and truthfulness and right-action a natural way of life. All life then is a prayer towards perfection; all prayer a communication, a union with the Divine. Surrender means simply giving, giving of oneself. This is the supreme secret that man comes to know. But first he has to be before he can give. He cannot give what is not there. He has to be an individual. To individualise himself he has to organise himself around his central being. To bring together all the wayward and dispersed parts of his being and integrate them around the ego, preferably for a purpose or for an ideal which the true self or the psychic supports.

To be able to give oneself, consecrate oneself, surrender oneself, one obviously has first to be oneself and have the power to give that which is worthy of being given to the Divine.

By following these twelve yogic principles, a teacher becomes a yogi—a true teacher.

– Norman C. Dowsett