Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Anilbaran Roy, Part 4

Dear Friends,

Apropos of the interviews of Anilbaran Roy (1890—1974) with Sri Aurobindo which were published in the online forum of Overman Foundation, we are publishing the conversations of Sri Aurobindo recorded by Anilbaran during his stay in Pondicherry from May to September 1926. The entire set of conversations—which was originally published in the Sri Aurobindo Circle from 1977 to 1986—has been divided into four parts—each part denoting the conversations of a particular month, that is, May-June, July, August and September.

We are thankful to Shri Debranjan Chatterjee, Librarian of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Library and Shri Raman Reddy of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives and Research Department for helping us to collect these conversations.

In the fourth and concluding part of the series, Sri Aurobindo’s conversations of September 1926 are published.

With warm regards,

Anurag Banerjee

Founder,

Overman Foundation.

                                                   *

anilbaran

1 September 1926 (Evening)   

Disciple: What is meant by the opening of the physical plane?

Sri Aurobindo: The consciousness in the physical plane is ignorant and involved and it has to open itself to the higher Truth and light. The vital and the mental also have to open — they also are ignorant and involved, but the physical is more so. On account of the half-light thrown by the mind, the physical being cannot be understood. When you have experience you will understand what physical being and physical consciousness is.

The opening of the physical plane does not mean that the whole physical nature has to be supramentalized — the physical being in the man is to be opened, thus making an opening in the physical nature for the supramental to come. That is the basis — unless the physical opens the supramental cannot be established. The supramental may come down to the mental and the vital — then one will be much above the ordinary level of humanity, still it will not be the thing.     

Disciple:  Will it withdraw, then?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, though it is not that nothing is done. It will be a help to the next attempt. If the physical can be opened, then it is something accomplished on the earth. The supramental is established above — it is to be brought down and established here.     

Disciple: Is the physical consciousness in man the same as the physical consciousness in a plant?   

Sri Aurobindo: No, the plant has not developed the physical mind as man; it is involved in the vital physical.   

Disciple: That of the animal?   

Sri Aurobindo: That is more near to man — it has a physical mind; the animal is in the physical plane though it has the play of the vital and the mental. The physical part of man is the animal man. In having the vital, he is superior to animals — he may be a devil but that is superior to animals.     

Disciple: Animals belong to the tamasic sarga [creation].     

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but so does the physical man also.     

Disciple: The vital being is higher than the tamasic sarga.     

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is rajasic.   

Disciple: What will be the effect on the physical vital, when the supramental comes down?   

Sri Aurobindo: You mean the vital physical? It is very difficult to say. Of course there will be full mastery over the nervous system as well as over disease and death — there may be many more things.

When the supramental is realized then we shall see its conditions and possibilities.

                                                             *   

Disciple: Do the gods help us even if we do not invoke their aid or worship them?   

Sri Aurobindo: The gods have their own work — helping the spiritual evolution, and man as a part of it is helped.     

Disciple: When we carry on sadhana, is it not a part of their work to help us?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, you can establish a relation with the gods by helping in the evolution. The help of man is required because on this earth it is through man that evolution is to be made.

There is a truth behind the relation between gods and men — but generally men confound the truth by their human ideas. Men think that they are the centre of the universe and everything else exists for their sake. That is a great mistake. Evolution is not only for men. Gods do not work to satisfy the needs and desires of men. So I spoke of the eternal laws of their work. 

Disciple: Are there physical gods?   

Sri Aurobindo: You mean gods in the physical plane? Yes, they are the cosmic forces. Thus, behind the fire, there is a divinity, that is not the spirit of fire.   

Disciple: What is the difference between divinity of fire and spirit of fire?   

Sri Aurobindo: Gods have their ganas — deputies through which they work. The spirit of fire is involved in the form of fire — it is a lower consciousness, a deputy so to speak of the divinity behind the principle of fire.   

Disciple: How narrow and limited is the material conception of the universe?   

Sri Aurobindo: Of course. The modern scientists now are coming to recognize something very subtle and mysterious but they cannot go very far.

                                                              *

Men understand the work of gods according to their own standards. From the supramental standpoint this human mentality — the needs and desires of men — appear very small and insignificant. This insignificance of the human standpoint is at the back of asceticism. These (ascetics) got glimpses of the nature of divine consciousness, but did not know how to bring that down to life, hence they forsook the life of the world.

It is very easy to become a sannyasi.

I entered the Brahman consciousness in three days, but for the supramental it took a decade. There are many forms of the Brahman consciousness — the śānti form, the ananda form. All the movements of the world appear to be mere names and forms — there is no movement of the vital, the mind is abolished and there is perfect peace and Ananda. One can remain eternally there without caring for anything else.

I came out as I got the command from above.

                                                             *

2 September 1926 (Evening)

(There was some talk about the influence of climate and place on man. X pointed out that some Bengali relatives domiciled in Assam have developed Mongolian features.)   

Sri Aurobindo: That is due to something in the subtle physical. The men who have lived and died there have left a sort of archetype which works on man living there.

                                                             *

Malaria began in Bengal, spread to Bihar and ever since it has been spreading. Exploitation caused poverty and poverty diminished the resisting power, hence the prevalence of these diseases.   

Disciple: In Kashmir there are places full of swamps, where the people are very poor, yet there is no malaria.   

Sri Aurobindo: Kashmir has a quite different climate which is not favourable to the growth of malaria.

                                                             *

The square is the geometrical symbol of the supramental.

The double triangle represents the three planes in the higher nature and three planes in the lower nature. The supramental is at the centre.

The colour of the physical plane is red, of the vital plane purple and green, of the mental plane yellow, of the higher spiritual planes white and golden and blue.

The white light is essential purity, golden light is truth; blue represents spiritual ananda and also something else.

Disciple: What is the colour of the psychic being?

Sri Aurobindo: It has no colour.

                                                              *

3 September 1926 (Evening)

(X raised the topic of table-tapping. Sri Aurobindo said that generally no spirit comes from the outside. The will of the medium and the men participating creates a force which makes those manifestations. The answers are from the minds of the men — they may come from the subconscious mind or from the subliminal which knows many more things than men are aware of. The concentration of the men produces an atmosphere, a change in the (universal?) consciousness — which calls forth the manifestations.

Sometimes small spirits of the lower vital plane and the physical plane may take part in it and help in the manifestations simply for the sake of amusement.

Genuine cases of intervention are very rare. Dead persons can communicate with the living if they feel interested and are sufficiently near.

                                                              *

Sri Aurobindo described the experiments made by Mirra [the Mother] in these matters. She, simply by the exertion of her will could create such a force as would make a table to jump across a room and come to her bed where she was lying.

                                                               *

The idea that all sorts of departed persons are hanging about for centuries and respond to the table-rappers is ridiculously absurd.

                                                             *

Persons when dying may create thought-forms which appear before distant relatives. Dying persons may leave behind influences which may be taken up by vital beings and worked — this explains the genuine cases of oppression by the ghosts of departed persons.

Devils may appear in human bodies which they take possession of at the time of birth.

                                                              *

4 September 1926 (Evening)   

Disciple: As regards the table-moving experiments by Mirra — was that done by will-force?

Sri Aurobindo: No, it is not the force of will which moves the table — some vital dynamic force is called forth, which compels the movement of the table.   

Disciple: Moves the table?   

Sri Aurobindo: No, compels the table to move.   

Disciple: Is it done by suggestion?

Sri Aurobindo: No, suggestion is something mental. Those who have the power, by their concentration create an atmosphere in which the force is manifested; the force acts directly on the material body, similarly as electricity acts. There are men, who without the medium of an atmosphere can directly cause the force to act on matter.

Disciple: What is done in Mesmerism?  

Sri Aurobindo: In Mesmerism the action is not on a material body but on a human being with a mind and acts through the mind. Some force in the vital physical being of the performer acts on the physical mind of the subject; this in its turn acts on the material body.   

Disciple: Is the force used, something created or is it only some force utilized?

Sri Aurobindo: How can a force be created? It is a force of nature, as electricity is a force and it is simply utilized.

Disciple: It has been seen that when a flower vase is moved from one place to another, in the transit it remains invisible, nothing appears on snapshot photo. Does the thing disappear temporarily and appear again in a new place?   

Sri Aurobindo: It is difficult to say what actually happens, but such disappearance is quite possible. The being which moves it may take the thing into its own atmosphere —its own plane — and it thus disappears and is then again brought forth. Material bodies are only gross formations of subtle physical forces. Even in the material plane there are various degrees of subtlety — but this line may be crossed and the thing may take another form in a higher plane — thus it is said that in the physical world there are seven planes and ordinarily we are cognizant of the 7th plane — the gross material. The different manifestations in different planes are continuous.   

Disciple: Is the human body sevenfold?   

Sri Aurobindo: At least there are five gradations of the physical body and three of them can be easily known — e.g. the material physical, the vital physical, the mental physical; but the supramental physical and the Ananda physical are very difficult to know.

Thus when one can break the material barrier, the first thing he knows is the vital physical body. The vital physical is outside the material body — in the material body it acts through the nervous system. Thus, when there is disease in the body, it is first the vital physical that is attacked and afterwards it is manifested in the physical body. One can see any disease at it touches the vital physical and it can be thrown away, then there will be no disease of the body. At one time I used to get fever. I threw it away from the material body; then I felt fever not in the body, but around me in the vital physical; then I threw it away even from there.     

Disciple: What is meant by having the inner eye opened by which these different bodies are distinguished?   

Sri Aurobindo: That is only a way of speaking — one becomes conscious of the different bodies.     

Disciple: That is, one knows the different bodies?   

Sri Aurobindo: One becomes conscious; knowledge is not the same thing as consciousness — it is the result of consciousness. Thus, without knowing the physical body one is conscious of it — one has the sense, one feels — that is as much as we can say.    

Disciple: When one has great sensibility, one is agitated by touches from the external — is it a weakness?

Sri Aurobindo: All agitation is weakness. But as one’s consciousness is awakened, he becomes sensitive. Those who are stolid have no such sensibility. But to have sensibility without disturbance or agitation is real awakening.

                                                              *  

Disciple: What is the life of atoms?   

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by the life of atoms?   

Disciple: There is the activity of the electrons, chemical affinities, and so forth.   

Sri Aurobindo: These are mechanical. We do not see in the atoms anything which we call life. But there is a sort of life and even consciousness in atoms that is very involved and mechanical, not at all individualized. One cannot ordinarily perceive these signs in atoms. But the life and consciousness that is there is outside the atom hovering about it. The universal being supports the atom with some form of consciousness and life and anyone who can enter into this universal being and consciousness can feel the life that is in atoms. Thus when a blow is struck on a table, the vibrations are purely mechanical but outside the table there is a consciousness, which disturbed by the vibrations gives response. Even metals have some sort of life. J. C. Bose left the metals and began investigating with plants because that was easier — if he had continued his experiments with the metals, he could have found many characteristics of life and consciousness there.

Men are individuals in comparison with the lower beings — atoms and material bodies. But they may also be said to be not yet fully individualized. When the group soul will be fully developed then only men will become real individuals.

                                                             *

Disciple: A material body like an iron-rod under some experiments shows that the particles there try to keep the body intact.   

Sri Aurobindo: That is certainly a sign of life — tendency to self-preservation and conservation. Then the phenomena of fatigue also are phenomena of life.

                                                              *

6 September 1926 (Evening)   

Disciple: In spiritual sadhana what should be the ideal relation of a disciple to his Guru?   

Sri Aurobindo: The disciple must determine himself — no general standard can be fixed for all. It is only the mind which seeks such ideals and standards, — it will deduce rules and make the whole thing artificial.   

Disciple: Of all the disciples of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda derived the greatest benefit from his Guru. Was it due to the greatness of his ādhāra or to the fullness of his surrender?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by greatest benefit? Vivekananda was certainly the most powerful and he was great in action. But how can we judge the amount of benefit which other disciples derived? As regards capacity and surrender, surrender is a part of the capacity of the disciple.   

Disciple: Has the Guru preference for particular disciples?

Sri Aurobindo: What the Guru gives is something impersonal and there is no such preference in the divine power. The human personality of the Guru makes mistakes — it represents something higher than itself. They may have some vital and mental preference, but what they give is not determined by that. Of course when ordinary human beings become Gurus they may have preference.   

Disciple: Cannot there be ahaituki bhakti [motiveless devotion]?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by ahaituki [motiveless]? The divine power does not do anything in caprice or arbitrarily — there is reason for everything it does but it is not human reason.     

Disciple: What then is the significance of divine grace?   

Sri Aurobindo: This only means that if one has defects, yet if there be some right aspiration in him, the higher power will descend on him. The divine power overcomes adverse circumstances and apparent improbabilities. Thus, there is this much truth in “divine grace” that it supplies an infinite basis for faith. If one can fulfil certain conditions and open himself up to the higher power then in spite of defects and difficulties the power may descend.   

Disciple: Does not the power help us to fulfil the conditions?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, otherwise it will not be possible.   

Disciple: Thus ultimately everything depends upon the grace of God.   

Sri Aurobindo: That is from a very high standpoint. But in our present circumstances we have to see the arrangement of forces and accept the conditions. Man has a part to play.

                                                              *   

Disciple: You once said that in order to command money by Yogic force two conditions are required: first, non-attachment, second — bojhāpadā [mutual understanding] with the money forces. What is meant by bojhāpadā?   

Sri Aurobindo: Non-attachment is necessary for two reasons; first, by attachment you fall into a state where the hostile forces have power and when they know that you are going to exceed them they will check you; secondly, by attachment you may surrender yourselves to the evil forces which command money. The world is now under the domination of these forces — they have money in their control and they give money only to those who accept their conditions.

Then you must be able to make the right use of money, otherwise you forfeit your claim to get money. Chaotic use of money is very bad. Your expenditure must be orderly — you must have reason for spending every pice.

Then you have to deal with the forces which act in relation with money. There are two methods. Some persons rely wholly on God to meet their needs. But in our Yoga we do not leave the matter to God. We have to deal with the forces of nature, even with the most material things. We must not submit to the hostile forces which prevent us from getting money. There are the Luxmi [sic] force and the Mammon force. We resolutely fight the Mammon force until we establish harmony with the Luxmi force. We should want money only for the work we have to do — to meet the divine needs.     

Disciple: Before we have the higher power, should we deal with the hostile forces by the strength of our will?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the right sort of will, free from desire or attachment.

                                                             *

The money force has a twofold movement — of gathering and throwing away; those who can keep this rhythm have plenty of money, e.g., the big industrial magnates. Mere hoarding is an obstacle.

                                                             *

It [money] is a vital force which enables men to command success. Some persons possess this in a marked degree.

                                                              *

(Sri Aurobindo remarked that if he had not taken up Yoga, then by this time he might have been the Principal of the Baroda College and written some poetry.)  

Disciple: What would have then happened to the energy you possess?

Sri Aurobindo: This energy was not in me then; I got all my present energy from Yoga. Even the energy I put forth into political work was derived from Yoga.   

Disciple: But the possibilities were there before.   

Sri Aurobindo: A seed has the possibilities of growing into a tree, but can it become a tree unless it gets suitable soil and surroundings?

(In this connection Sri Aurobindo distinguished between success in outer life and success in inner development of the soul. So far as development is concerned failure is often better than success.)   

Disciple: How?   

Sri Aurobindo: Success has ruined the chances of development of many.

                                                             *

7 September 1926 (Evening)

(Sri Aurobindo was surprised to hear that Sir Oliver Lodge, on account of his views about the spirit world, had been asked to resign his membership of a science association.)

Sri Aurobindo: Oliver Lodge has brought the scientific mind into these questions and thus his conclusions and results are often wrong and incorrect.

                                                             *

The French have a logical mind, the English are most illogical; hence it is that English poetry is more powerful than the French, while in prose the English cannot compare with the French. The Germans are more imaginative than the French.

Disciple: The English have more practical commonsense than the French.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in practical commonsense the English are superior to most people. The French have an intellectual commonsense.   

Disciple: What is a logical mind? What is logic?   

Sri Aurobindo: A logical mind goes on thinking and reasoning consistently, having harmonious ideas — starting from premises and drawing rational conclusions.

Disciple: The Bengali mind is neither practical nor logical.

Disciple: The subtleties of Navya Nyāya were developed in Bengal.     

Sri Aurobindo: Of course the Bengalis have subtlety of mind, but that is not exactly what we mean by logical mind; it is the logic of the school — academical.     

Disciple: What are the characteristics of the Bengali mind?   

Sri Aurobindo: That is a very old question and I have answered it many times. The Bengali mind has a quick intuition but does not go very deep — it is subtle but has no depth of soul.     

Disciple: To what is this defect, this want of depth, due?   

Sri Aurobindo: It is some defect in the vital being of the Bengalis — depth requires a steadiness in the vital being, but the Bengalis have a mobile vital nature. Then depth depends on mahimā. Don’t ask me to define these things. Thus there is mahimā in Sanskrit poetry, though not in Bengali.   

Disciple: What are the characteristics of the Gujarati mind?   

Sri Aurobindo: It is still in formation and no fixed type has been reached. Thus the non-Brahmins and Brahmins have very different characteristics.   

Disciple: There are many heterogeneous elements in Gujarat.   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

The Mahratha mind is curious — we seldom see them smiling. They are very grave, serious, laborious, dogged, practical. But they have no turn for business.   

Disciple: Has not the ancient Vedic mind of India been preserved anywhere?   

Sri Aurobindo: Has the mind of the ancient Roman dramatists reappeared anywhere in modern Italy? The old types disappear giving rise to new race-types.   

Disciple: The English are said to have acquired the characteristics of the Romans.   

Sri Aurobindo: They have not the ancient Roman grandeur. They are more like the Carthagians.

                                                             *

8 September 1926 (Evening)  

Disciple: What are the possibilities of industrialism in India?   

Sri Aurobindo: About that you can say as much as I.   

Disciple: I don’t think so.   

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by industrialism?   

Disciple: I mean the system of large-scale production through big machineries.     

Sri Aurobindo: Big machineries are bound to come. Poverty of the people can be removed only by large-scale production.     

Disciple: The real question is how to prevent life being mechanized.    

Sri Aurobindo: That is a different question. But big machinery does not necessarily imply all the evils of industrialism.     

Disciple: Even in cottage industries men are mechanized to a certain extent. 

Disciple: Yes, but cottage industries leave the social life intact.   

Sri Aurobindo: Why should the present form of social life remain intact? New forms of social organization will rise with the advent of large-scale production. It is the tendency of Indians towards poverty which is really responsible for their cry against machinery.

Disciple: The problem is how to have big machinery, yet avoid all the evils arising from it.   

Sri Aurobindo: The evils are bound to disappear. The different ideas and schemes suggested in Europe show that people are trying to correct the defects. Unless one enters into it, how can the evils be overcome?   

Disciple: Will India have to pass through all the evils of industrialism?   

Sri Aurobindo: But why should India wait until other countries have solved the problems, so that they [Indians] might imitate afterwards?   

Disciple: How will India avoid those evils?   

Sri Aurobindo: Let them first acquire wealth — without wealth they cannot expect to make any progress.

                                                              *

(I referred to the new town built at Jamshedpur, which centres round the Tata Iron and Steel Works.)   

Sri Aurobindo: Probably they took the idea of town-planning from Patrick Geddes who himself derived his ideas from town-planning in ancient India. The difference is that they have substituted the machinery for the temple. In ancient India the temple and all the communal things were at the centre — and the whole town was so arranged as to have easy access to the centre.     

Disciple: Many villages seem to have been built according to that plan.   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that was the system everywhere. Also they had efficient systems of drainage of which relics can be seen even now.

                                                              *

(There was a reference to C. R. Das. He often acted from impulse — there was a vital rush in him. He was sentimental, and that is always a weakness in politics. He had defects and made mistakes but every politician makes mistakes and he would have gradually got over them.)   

Disciple: It would have been much better for him if he had remained here.     

Sri Aurobindo: I could have kept him. When he came here he offered to remain for a month. But he was not yet ready and so I did not take him. And people would not have allowed him to remain here. He would have brought here a world with him.   

Disciple: He was very much run down in health when he came here.     

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I put some force in him which kept him up. But from a distance I could not exert the same influence; other forces dragged him off and also he himself could not receive.

Then, he was not strong enough to combine the two things — politics and Yoga. Very few people can do that. When in politics, you can take the help of intuitions, work as if you were being led by God, even receive force from spiritual men and pursue conventional ways of sadhana. But when a political worker begins to practise Yoga, he disturbs the balance of forces which may bring illness and disaster.

I knew him before he joined politics. At that time he had a clear, lucid mind and intelligence. After entering into politics that part was put into the background and all sorts of influences and forces rushed in. Had he remained here and practised Yoga that part would have reasserted itself and developed.

                                                              *

9 September 1926 (Evening)   

Disciple: Can the attack of hostile forces be made use of by the sadhak for his progress?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean?   

Disciple: Let me put the question in another form. In our Yoga we have to discountenance the lower movements of nature as being obstacles to our sadhana but the Tantrics turn these obstacles to account and take their help to build up spiritual life.     

Sri Aurobindo: How?   

Disciple: That is my question.   

Sri Aurobindo: I have no objection to taking fish; even you can take wine if it suits you; but how can the sexual act be made a help to spiritual life?

In itself the sexual act is not bad as the moralists say — it is a movement of nature which has its purpose and is neither good nor bad. From the Yogic point of view the sexual force is the greatest force in the world and if properly controlled it helps to recreate, regenerate the being. But as it is indulged in the ordinary way it is a great obstacle for two reasons: first it involves a great loss of vital force — it is a movement towards death, though this is compensated by the creation of new life. That it is a movement towards death is proved by the exhaustion felt after the act; many people feel even a disgust.     

Disciple: But statistics have been collected to show that married people live longer than bachelors.     

Sri Aurobindo: That is a fallacy. Thus someone says that he has lived a hundred years without smoking, another will say that he has lived up to that age with smoking.

Secondly, the excitement and the act destroys the psychic possibilities of the man. He is separated or dissociated from the higher centres and goes downward. People say that they take the attitude of Shakti taking the bhoga [enjoyment] through them — but that is only a mere saying. I have never seen any man rising by such acts. People indulge in lower movements, yield to the hostile forces and at the same time pose as Yogis. Even the Vedantic attitude is often made an excuse for yielding to the hostile forces — thus they say, the action of nature, of hostile forces, all that is maya, illusion; there is no virtue or sin, no good or evil and then give themselves up to lower vital forces.  

Disciple: The lower movements of nature themselves are not hostile forces.   

Sri Aurobindo: But they offer an opening to the hostile forces and these forces use those lower movements for their own purpose.   

Disciple: As regards the degrading effects of the sexual act, does marriage and legal intercourse make any difference?     

Sri Aurobindo: Absolutely none. These moral injunctions are for the maintenance of society, for the welfare of the children born; but so far as Yogic life is concerned sexual act with one’s own wife is as much harmful as that with any other woman…

Disciple: My original question was whether the attack of hostile forces can be utilized by the sadhak?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, by conquering it. The sadhak acquires knowledge of the action of the hostile forces, also of the defects in his nature which invite the attacks.

Disciple: Is there anything more than the knowledge acquired?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, new openings may occur to the higher power, strength increases, and so forth.     

Disciple: Can the hostile force be changed and transformed by conquest into something good and helpful?   

Sri Aurobindo: A force of nature can be so transformed, but how can you change the force of a hostile being? Of course the hostile beings have certain forces of nature in their clutches — if you conquer the hostile beings, the nature-forces are liberated and help in fulfilling the lilā of God. Thus anger is nature-force in the clutches of the hostile powers — if it can be freed from their influence it can be used for divine purposes.   

Disciple: How does anger act in a divine way?   

Sri Aurobindo: God does not hesitate to strike and smite. He often behaves in a manner which to the ordinary mind may appear to be cruel. But the attitude is quite different.

Thus in the Vedas the panis [The powers of darkness who steal the cows (symbols of Light in the Vedas)] steal the cows from heaven and conceal them in the caves; when they are conquered, the cows are released and rise heavenward.     

Disciple: Do the higher powers send hostile forces to the sadhak?   

Sri Aurobindo: The hostile forces are there — the higher power may use them for its own purpose. Of course everything comes from the supreme power, but that must not be understood in a crude way. The hostile powers may be used to test the capacity of the sadhak.

Disciple: The higher power may sometimes act as a hostile force — as when by the descent of the higher power the sadhak breaks down.     

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, by the descent of the power the unfit ādhāras [the containing system: mind-life-body] break down, while the fit ones make progress. There are certainly risks, but all great achievements involve dangers and risks. When you are not fit and prepared, yet insistently call to God “come down”, “come down” the power will come down and then the ādhāra may collapse.     

Disciple: Is the power of the hostile attack always proportionate to the resisting power of the sadhak?   

Sri Aurobindo: Not always, otherwise why so many failures and defeats?   

Disciple: The Guru supplies the deficiency.   

Disciple: Does the Guru ever ward off the attack without any effort on the part of the sadhak?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes; there is no general rule — in some cases the Guru does the whole thing, sometimes the sadhak, sometimes both of them contribute.

“Guru helps” — means that the higher power helps, Guru is only made an instrument.

                                                             *

10 September 1926 (Evening)

(X referred to the symbolism in Tantra. There are different charkas or centres which open one after another. There is no general rule as to which will open first. The heart is the psychic and if that opens first, it is a very good opening.)   

Disciple: It is said that in Vamana avatar, God asked three steps from Bali. Does that signify that the three worlds — the physical, the vital and the mental — are in the possession of the Asuras and God demands that these should be liberated and come within the direct dominion of God?

Sri Aurobindo: I suppose so. But as yet the liberation remains unaccomplished.

                                                              *  

Disciple: When the mind changes and is transformed by the higher power, what are the changes that occur in the mind?   

Sri Aurobindo: Which part of the mind? The thinking mind?   

Disciple: Yes.   

Sri Aurobindo: The reasoning and the fanciful constructions of the mind cease, there remains only a play of intuition.   

Disciple: Does not reason remain at all?   

Sri Aurobindo: When the whole mind is intuitivized, it knows directly and therefore need not reason. I see X before me — why should I argue whether he is there or not?   

Disciple: Reason may not be required for acquiring Truth, but for practical application of Truth, reasoning may be necessary.   

Sri Aurobindo: Do you think that Truth is not practical? Truth is not something abstract. As long as the mind reasons there is the possibility of error.   

Disciple: As regards mental constructions — are they always incorrect? May not they be inspired by Truth?   

Sri Aurobindo: Mind may build on its intuitions but there is every likelihood of its committing mistakes and errors.

The mental transformation is a gradual process. First the reasoning and constructions are silenced. Then the mind becomes intuitivized. Then one feels that there is something above which is much more than intuition; intuition gradually goes downwards and the higher Truth takes the place of intuition. You find it difficult to understand how all reasoning and constructions will cease; that can be understood when you know what is intuition.   

Disciple: Mental reasoning and constructions are obstacles to the coming of the Truth?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if you go on eternally with these things, the Truth will not come.   

Disciple: Then we must correct these things before the Truth can come down?   

Sri Aurobindo: You cannot do that — it is only the Truth which can change the nature and activities of the mind. You can only be quiet there so that the Truth may come down and take up the transformation.     

Disciple: If the mind is silenced will the Truth come down?   

Sri Aurobindo: If you do nothing else, by merely silencing the mind you will have only a silent mind and nothing else.

Disciple: When a developed mind opens to the Truth and when an undeveloped mind opens to the Truth — which will be the richer?   

Sri Aurobindo: At first you have to see whether the undeveloped mind can open itself to the higher Truth; generally it cannot. Then, it may have a narrow opening and the results will be limited. The higher Truth may afterwards develop the mind. But if the mind is developed, there is already rich material upon which the Truth may work. But the too much developed mind is also an obstacle — it has its fixed habits, a fixed groove to which it sticks tenaciously.

With the coming of the Truth, mind may suddenly develop new powers, e.g. painting, poetry and so forth.     

Disciple: Does not that presuppose that the preparation was there in the man beforehand?   

Sri Aurobindo: When was he prepared?   

Disciple: Say, in his past life.   

Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that if a man suddenly begins to understand the Chinese language, that means that he was a Chinese in his past birth?

                                                              *   

Disciple: When the higher Truth descend it brings both Knowledge and Power as well as śānti [spiritual peace]. What are the manifestation of Power?   

Sri Aurobindo: Power manifests in so many ways — it transforms the whole being in the end.     

Disciple: But in the beginning, how does it manifest? How are our ordinary activities affected?      

Sri Aurobindo: They begin to be transformed.   

Disciple: Is the Power felt in the body?  

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but that at first comes through the mind. Power may be manifested in writing articles or learning the violin, though I am quite sure that in the case of X the power is not acting in the violin.

It is very difficult to learn the violin. It requires at least 15 years’ practice before anyone can hope to produce something on the violin. (To X): Why have you chosen the violin? Is it because you want to do the most difficult thing first?

                                                               *

(I referred to a dream — how Sri Aurobindo came to our house and I had to open myself wholly to him. He pointed out the defects and blemishes in me and remarked that those had to be corrected.)   

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know that that was a dream?   

Disciple: Was that true?

(X described another dream of his.)   

Sri Aurobindo: I am sure there was no truth in it.

                                                             *

11 September 1926 (Evening)

 (X referred to the use of drugs by some Yogis.)   

Sri Aurobindo: This has been greatly abused. The drugs give artificial stimulation which makes possible certain experiences, but these experiences do not bring any permanent change; on the other hand, the normal condition becomes more dull. Merely the throwing out of the consciousness from the body is not at all difficult but it brings no improvement. Those who are conscious of and can control such going out of the consciousness can make proper use of artificial drugs.

(X referred to certain drugs in America which, when taken, are supposed to give clairvoyance.)   

Sri Aurobindo: I do not know of such drugs but that is quite possible, though this is not the proper method. Salvation achieved through the use of drugs is not worth having. The ancients found out some such drug in the soma plant.   

Disciple: What happens when a person becomes unconscious under chloroform?   

Sri Aurobindo: The vital consciousness is thrown out of the body.   

Disciple: What happens to the mind?   

Sri Aurobindo: That, of course, goes with the vital consciousness.     

Disciple: There remains certainly a connection with the body, by which the consciousness returns to the body.     

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.  

Disciple: The medical explanation is that the nervous centres are disconnected.    

Sri Aurobindo: That is the result of the going out of the vital consciousness.   

Disciple: How high must a person rise in sadhana before he becomes free from the attack of illness?   

Sri Aurobindo: Rather you should say how low the power is brought down. When the Supramental comes down to the physical, it becomes quite safe from illness. Before that illness is to be warded off by the vital and the mental powers.     

Disciple: How is that done?   

Sri Aurobindo: By a sort of vital and mental control. Even those who are not Yogis may have such powers.     

Disciple: Is it a suggestion of the mind?   

Sri Aurobindo: No, it is a mental and vital control which some persons can find out. Again, Yogis who practise Pranayama are not attacked with illness. When I practised Pranayama at Baroda I had excellent health and powers. But when I came to Calcutta and political work did not leave me any time for regular practice of Pranayama, I was attacked with malarial fever which almost carried me off. These are the consequences of Pranayama or control — whenever these protections are withdrawn, the forces of illness rush up in a sort of revenge.   

Disciple: What is the proper attitude to be taken in cases of illness? (I myself had cold at the time.)   

Disciple: In cases of cold? (Laughter)   

Sri Aurobindo: You should expose yourself by…[1](Laughter)   

Disciple: He wants to know the proper attitude.   

Sri Aurobindo: The proper attitude is to localize the illness or the pain in the body and dissociate yourself from it, and then use the mental and vital will to throw it away. In all cases, such dissociation is the proper attitude — the attitude that the illness is in the body, but not in you.   

Disciple: How can one be safe from accidents?   

Sri Aurobindo: There may be awakened a sort of vital and bodily consciousness which will forewarn you against coming accidents. Those who practise Yoga may have a protection from the higher power but that does not remove the theoretical possibility of accidents. But when you have the Yogic body, the body itself will be able to throw off all attacks.

                                                             *

13 September 1926 (Evening)

(I referred to the statement made by Henry Ford about his belief in rebirth — how men progress by gaining experience life after life. Life, according to him, is a great field of experience.)

Disciple: How could he get these ideas?   

Sri Aurobindo: These ideas are greatly prevalent in Europe nowadays; the Theosophists have done much to spread these ideas in Europe.   

Disciple: Is not rebirth against the teachings of Christianity?   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, against the official teaching of Christianity. The Pope and the Church cling to certain ideas and dogmas and any opposition to these was severely punished. But in the Bible we have reference to rebirth. Thus John the Baptist speaks of coming again and again.   

Disciple: Was belief in rebirth a part of ancient Hinduism?   

Sri Aurobindo: I think so. Some scholars deny the existence of the doctrine in the Vedas. But there are passages in the Vedas which speak of rebirth.   

Disciple: The Buddhists believe in rebirth.   

Sri Aurobindo: By the time of Buddha the belief in rebirth was well-established in India.   

Disciple: In the Gita it is taken for granted.     

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.   

Disciple: Was this doctrine a part of the ancient faith of the Japanese?   

Sri Aurobindo: No, they got it from Buddhism. Japan’s ancient faith consisted of ancestor-worship. Ancestors were regarded to have eternal life in the other world.     

Disciple: The Hindus also give offerings to their ancestors.   

Sri Aurobindo: But it is quite different from the Japanese worship. They regard ancestors to be ever present around them and demanding their worship. They worshipped the ancestors; they regarded the Mikado as the representative of the goddess of the Sun on the earth and the Nation — these elements constituted Shintoism, the ancient faith of the Japanese.   

Disciple: The Japanese take death very easily.   

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, they believe that by death they become ancestors.    

Disciple: The Hindus have the worst fear about death — they shrink from death.    

Sri Aurobindo: Do they shrink from death more than the Europeans?

(There was some reference to the fear of death among European soldiers.) 

Sri Aurobindo: In this respect the Indian Sikhs are the best.

                                                             *

(X brought a letter regarding the sadhana of one Y.)   

Sri Aurobindo: The descriptions we have had of his sadhana are only movements in the vital plane. We need not bother about those letters.    

Disciple: They say that his sadhana has taken a new turn. (X read the letter.)   

Sri Aurobindo: We do not see what new turn he has taken. What is going on in him is all mere play of vital imagination — there is no indication of any higher possibilities in him. Even in the vital plane one can develop such powers as clairvoyance etc.; such possibilities also are not evident in Y. Even if these possibilities were in him that has got nothing to do with our Yoga. In our Yoga the mind must open to the higher Truth and it must be established in the mental plane at least. There are many sadhaks who have spiritual experiences in the mental plane and stop there. But we find no such possibilities in Y.

                                                              *

(Sri Aurobindo remarked how Europeans retain their energy even up to old age. One may remain young in mind even if the body grows old.)

Disciple: How can one keep himself young internally even when old in age?

Sri Aurobindo: One has to keep himself open to new ideas, new things — not moving in the old grooves.

                                                             *

25 September 1926 (Evening)

(Sri Aurobindo dictated the reply to Z’s letter: He has made the right decision in not coming here now. As regards Yoga, in this path the chief thing is to open the whole being to the higher Truth. The ordinary experiences in Yoga are formations of the mental, the vital or the physical consciousness. Afterwards there come reflections from the higher Truth. But the highest experience is of the Truth itself.

The mind must open itself to receive the higher Truth and shape itself accordingly.

In entering into this path the first condition to be fulfilled is an inner aspiration — an aspiration that the Truth will descend and shape you in its own power and light. Then there must be sincerity. You must give up all egoism — all material or spiritual ambition. You must will only to be the instrument of the higher Truth.

With this sincere aspiration wait and watch what happens within you and give occasional reports through letters and then further necessary instructions will be given.)

                                                             *   

Disciple: When a Yogi averts a destiny, e.g. when he saves a person from imminent death, is there any reaction?   

Sri Aurobindo: That depends on the power and the attitude of the Yogi. The hostile forces supporting the calamity, when thwarted, may attack the Yogi himself and unless he is watchful he may have to suffer. When an illness is thrown away from one person, it may attack another, unless the force is dissolved.

It is only when the hostile forces are opposed that there may be reaction; but when one’s force of Karma is averted then there is no reaction.

                                                             *

[Note: The conversation of 25 September 1926 is incomplete as the pages in the notebook of Anilbaran Roy containing its remaining portion are missing. There is also no further record of any more talks in his notebooks with the exception of six loose sheets containing an undated conversation on the psychic being. The earlier portion of this talk is missing as well; what is reproduced below is the later portion of the talks recorded in these sheets.]

Sri Aurobindo: Another thing is that you acquire the tact to distinguish the true psychic experiences. A real psychic experience often is a clue in sadhana. A genuine psychic experience is always real.

Again psychic feelings are not the same as what ordinary men experience as sentimental or other feelings. For example, ordinary sentimental pity is not the same as what may be called psychic compassion. Psychic compassion is much deeper than ordinary pity.

Also psychic love is not the same as ordinary love or what generally passes as ‘love’. It is also much deeper and inward. Firstly, there is no selfishness in psychic love; secondly, it is always free from all demand; it has no vital claims in it. Again, psychic unselfishness is not the same as what is ordinarily understood as unselfishness. There is an unselfishness which plays and shows itself off. It is philanthropy etc. There is the psychic counter part of it. It is that which sees the need in the other person and just satisfies it.

Lastly, lest he [K] may think that the psychic being is something weak and inert, let him understand that the presiding deity — the adhisthātā-devatā of the psychic plane is Agni. It is the divine fire of aspiration. It is not something dead or inert. When the psychic being is awakened the God of the plane also is awakened. And even if the whole being is impure it is that (Agni) which intervenes and removes the obstacles standing in the way and consumes all the impurities of the being.   

Disciple: Is the psychic being the same as what is generally meant by the Atman?   

Sri Aurobindo: The Atman generally means what you imply in English by the word ‘spirit’. It is self-existent, caitanyamaya and ānandamaya being (purusa). It is the same in all. It is that which is behind all the manifestations of Nature.     

Disciple: It has no features, then?   

Sri Aurobindo: No features. The only thing that can be said about it is that it is sat, cit and ānanda.     

Disciple: Is it used to indicate the passive or the active state?   

Sri Aurobindo: Generally, it is meant to imply the passive state but sometimes it is used for both. But the psychic being is not the Atman. It is what corresponds to the European idea of the ‘soul’. The Western occultists recognize — at least they used to recognize — these things: the spirit, the soul and the body. The spirit corresponds to the Atman, the psychic being to the soul. It is the purusa hrdaye guhāyām [The Soul in the secret cave of the heart].  

Disciple: Is the … [some words are missing here] in the heart the same as the psychic being?   

Sri Aurobindo: It may be. I think they probably meant the psychic being by the phrase.   

Disciple: Iśvarah sarvabhūtānām hrddeśe [The Lord in the heart of all creatures, Gita, XIII, 61.]  — is the same as the psychic being?   

Sri Aurobindo: Ishwara in the heart is different from the psychic being.   

Disciple: Is not the psychic being the direct portion of the Divine? Is it the same as the Jiva?   

Sri Aurobindo: It is the direct portion of the Divine here. But the Jiva is something more than the psychic being. The psychic being is behind the heart, while the Jiva is high above connected with the central being. It is that which on every level becomes the Purusha, the Prakriti and the personalities of Nature. The psychic being, you may say, is the soul personality. The psychic being most purely reflects the Divine in the lower triplicity of the mind, life and body. There are the four higher levels of Sat, Chit, Ananda and the Vijnana. They are in Knowledge, while below we have three: mental, vital and physical being. Now, the psychic being is behind these three, and among these three it is the most divine and most open to the higher Truth. Also, that is why it is indispensable for the manifestation of the Divine. That alone can open itself completely to the Truth.

Because the movements of the three lower parts — mind, vitality, and body — are full of defects, errors and mixtures and however sincere they may be and howsoever they may try to transform themselves into the Truth, they cannot do it, unless the psychic being comes to their help. Of course, they have their own sincerity.

Also when the psychic being awakens it becomes easy to distinguish the mixture of truth and falsehood from within and also to throw out from inside any wrong movements.

                                                              *


[1] Note: Some of the words are missing here.

9 thoughts on “Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Anilbaran Roy, Part 4

  1. Dear Anurag, you have given me enough material to read and re read, ponder and practice…in fact you have given me confidence thro this medium.Grateful Thanks. dayanand

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Dear Anurag,

    What a rich repast you have laid out for us! Truly wonderful. Keep up the excellent work. My heartfelt congratulations!

    Arupda

  3. Your collections regarding the conversations with Sri Aurobindo are worth appreciating Mr Anurag.But could you please explain what do you mean by overman foundation ? May be you mean that somebody already established in overmind to be called as a overman and has become a founder too.
    Regards and thanks
    Sumitra Pattnaik

    1. Dear Sumitra Pattnaik,

      Let me first thank you for appreciating the collections that have been uploaded in the forum of Overman Foundation.

      Coming to your query: what you have assumed is utterly wrong. The term ‘Overman’ means an intermediary between the human and the Supramental Being. Probably you are aware that a man-human cannot directly become a man-divine. He has to pass through a number of stages to arrive at that point. One has to attain the intermediary state before becoming a “Superman”. This intermediary being is known as the ‘Overman’.

      Now, if an organization is named ‘Gnostic Centre’ does it mean that the said organization is the seat of the Supramental Consciousness and its founders have reached that consciousness? Or does ‘Sri Aurobindo’s Action’ mean whatever activities the organization does happens because of Sri Aurobindo’s action? I hope you know that answer is “No”. Similarly, by naming an organization after ‘Overman’ does not mean that its founder and its trustees have all reached the Overmental level and established themselves comfortably in that consciousness. It’s only a name chosen for our research centre for the attainment of specific purposes which are clearly mentioned in “Our Objectives” and “Our Aims”. Our motto is also clearly mentioned in the “About Overman Foundation” page. You are requested to kindly take the trouble and go through them.

      With warm regards,
      Anurag Banerjee

  4. Thank you for your immediate reply Mr Anurag.
    In my opinion if it can be the aim of the members or trustees how to justify the name there is nothing wrong in that.
    My intention is not to offend you or your members.
    The same is applicable for “Sri Aurobindo’s Action” too.
    I am extremely sorry if the interpretation is understood in a negative way.
    Anyway what you have done is a precious treasure for us.

    Regards

    Sumitra Pattnaik

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