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 third part of the series, Sri Aurobindo’s conversations of August 1926 are published.
With warm regards,
1 August 1926 (Evening)
X had come from Bengal and there was some talk about the situation in Bengal. It was remarked that the attempt to placate the Mahomedans was a false diplomacy. Instead of trying to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity directly, if the Hindus had devoted themselves to national work, the Mahomedans would have gradually come of themselves. In Egypt and Turkey the Mahomedans combined with the Christians and placed country before religion. This attempt to patch up with a unity has given too much importance to the Muslims and that has been the root of all these troubles.
Disciple: But no importance was given to the Muslim during the Swadeshi movement — why then was there trouble?
Sri Aurobindo: The trouble was not at all widespread and was easily checked. Thousands of Mahomedans fled before a determined band of twenty Hindu youths — and this led to the establishment of numerous societies.
Disciple: There is very little of religion in the Mahomedans and whatever there is, is Hinduised.
Sri Aurobindo: What do you think of converting all Mahomedans to Hinduism as a remedy of these troubles?
Disciple: I would take it as a big joke.
Sri Aurobindo: What of the idea of converting all America to Hinduism? (laughter)
2 August 1926 (Evening)
Sri Aurobindo was highly pleased with my article, “Rajniti ke Dharma” (“The Ideal of the Politician”), appearing in the Atmashakti. I had told him that my writings were often formed above my mind, without any effort of mind and at the time of writing came quite spontaneously from above. Sri Aurobindo remarked that probably this was one of that kind of writing.
X read a letter from Y, who complained that he was being troubled by desires and felt inclined to do philanthropic work and so forth; he could not keep himself composed under the circumstances and was thinking of going to a favourable atmosphere where it would be possible for him to go on with his sadhana. Sri Aurobindo instructed to reply to him as follows:
He should practise inner quiet and try to establish calm in his inner being. In his external activities, behind his work there should be a will to succeed in the work in hand, with a dependence on the higher power; but he should not be upset even if he fails to achieve his object. As regards the change of place, it is of little avail; if inner quiet is not established, wherever he may go, he will have to meet with troubles.
Another letter was read from Z who was not being able to secure any suitable service anywhere and his present service was precarious. Sri Aurobindo said that if he felt it necessary to secure some service, he should find some persons who might support him, otherwise there was very little chance of success through mere applications.
Sri Aurobindo dictated the following answer to a prepaid telegram: “Concentrate inner change, purify vital.”
Then Sri Aurobindo asked me whether I was intending to answer the critic of my review of Nolini Babu’s Madhuchhandar. When I explained what I proposed to write, Sri Aurobindo said, “Some direct answer should be given”, and then gave the following hints:
No fanciful meaning was sought to be given to the words Agni and Yajna. Sri Aurobindo accepts the current etymological meaning of the words. But these things are symbols, they stand for an inner meaning and Sri Aurobindo wanted to indicate the inner meaning. Agni means fire and the god of fire — but what do these stand for? In the inner soul of man there is an aspiration towards the Eternal, the supreme Godhead and the flame of Agni represents this inner aspiration.
So with Yajna — its etymological meaning of sacrifice is not discarded. But the real sacrifice is not in the external ceremonial rites — the real sacrifice is something inner; when the sadhaka offers his whole being up to the highest power, that is what is the real sacrifice and the external Yajna is only a very expressive symbol of that inner sacrifice. There are other meanings of Yajna in the Vedas, as battle or journey; all these meanings are meant to represent symbolically the inner self-giving, the battle against the lower nature, the upward journey of the soul; all these being the inner meaning behind the external rite of sacrifice. Nolini Babu makes out this as would have been amply clear if the critic had taken the trouble of reading his book.
The etymological and grammatical meaning is not so difficult to find, but the inner meaning, the spiritual significance behind these etymological meanings is difficult to find. The Vedic Rishis themselves found some words in which etymology expresses the two meanings — the outer and the inner. Thus the word go means cow as well as jyoti or light. But it is well nigh impossible to find out the inner meaning everywhere if we depend on the etymological and grammatical implications of the words.
Then again we must be able to appreciate the central thought, the outlook of the Vedic Rishis which found expression through the mantras, and it is wholly impossible to grasp the central thought by mere grammatical researches. The Vedic Rishis reached the truths through spiritual vision and the core of their teachings can only be revealed to such spiritual insight.
The critic has indicated that the proper way of studying the Vedas is to study all the different commentators, compare their expositions, and then come to a conclusion. This method is hopeless — it will only result in a combination of the blunders made in the past. It will be an abuse of the nirukta [Etymological interpretation] Mere scholarship is not sufficient for the interpretation of these ancient scriptures — what is wanted is mental tact and intuition, which most scholars and pundits badly lack.
This is only a negative answer to the critic (who is not himself worth answering) and it is not possible to fully explain the main principles and methods of interpretation followed by Sri Aurobindo; we hope to deal with these things more fully in future.
The first translation that Sri Aurobindo made of the Vedas and the translations given by Nolini are not meant for pundits — they are only intended to bring forward and emphasize the inner meaning and significance of the Vedic mantras and rites. The recent translations which are being prepared by Sri Aurobindo will literally follow the etymological sense, yet express the inner meaning contained in them. Such a translation requires a master mind and is not very easy of achievement.
Disciple: What was the utility of the external rites of Vedic sacrifice — they were certainly practised at that time.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, they were practised. But the external rites were only religious —there being nothing spiritual in them.
Disciple: I cannot clearly understand this distinction between religious and spiritual.
Sri Aurobindo: When the inner meaning of these rites is not lost sight of, then they are a help to spiritual uplift. But when the meaning is lost, it becomes only religion.
Disciple: It comes to this that religion is that which has no meaning behind it (Laughter).
Sri Aurobindo: Religion is generally so meaningless. Either the rites are quite meaningless or the meaning that was behind them has been lost. Those who want to progress spiritually should rather stand back from these rites, though there is no necessity of complaining against these rites.
Disciple: If these rites are impediments, why should we not complain against them?
Sri Aurobindo: Because you have nothing to replace them. They create a sort of religious atmosphere — an atmosphere of bhakti, the sense of a higher power, a higher life, and so forth, which may be taken advantage of by some, though generally this is not done — religion being only a sort of vital enjoyment and calls forth the vital forces. If you abolish these religious rites, you create a dry atmosphere, the lower religious instincts cannot have any play. These religions serve many human purposes — national, social and so forth.
Disciple: They are often a source of consolation.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but there is consolation from Truth, and there is consolation from falsehood.
Disciple: Still it is consolation. (Laughter)
Then Sri Aurobindo referred to X’s statement that according to the Christians, there is innate inferiority and imperfection in man.
Disciple: Yes, there are some Christian teachers who say that it is a great temptation to be free from temptation. Virtue consists in being sorely tried by temptation and yet in resisting it.
Sri Aurobindo: But if a man is above temptation, if the temptation cause no response in him?
Disciple: A wall is like that.
Disciple: Gita speaks of bearing the impact of temptation.
Sri Aurobindo: But that is at a certain stage. There is the prayer in St. Paul — make us as perfect as the father in Heaven and so forth.
Disciple: St. Paul is regarded as being much above the other preachers of Christianity.
Sri Aurobindo: Again and again, attempts have been made in the past to revive the true meaning behind religious forms, but all such attempts have been frustrated by the inrush of the vital forces, which have brought down religion to the level of vital satisfaction, depriving it of all spiritual power. Then there is the dogmatic element in all religions which, however, is not so strong in Hinduism, which is more fundamentally tolerant than any other religion in the world.
The worship of Kali or recitation of the name “Kali” does not necessarily invoke the highest divine power. Often vital devils are called forth through these worships of the forms of the divine power. Italians bandits before going to commit dacoities used to worship Virgin Mary; the dacoits of Bengal similarly worship Kali. But if done in the right spirit, the right power may come.
Disciple: I had a picture of Kali in my room, which seemed to call me to the sacrifice of the non-co-operation movement and I had to respond to that call. I felt that I was working as an instrument in the hands of a higher power.
Sri Aurobindo: That is quite plain — there was an opening in you and the Shakti behind the movement made an instrument of you.
Disciple: Was that Shakti an individualized being?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, all Shakti is individualized being. What kind of Shakti it is depends upon the nature of the movement.
Disciple: And also on the nature of the leader of the movement.
Sri Aurobindo: All the forces — good or evil — that are working are all ultimately used by the higher power for the achievement of its purpose in the world. But that is a different standpoint.
3 August 1926 (Evening)
Sri Aurobindo (addressing me): You asked about the use of religion (I had asked about the national value of religious festivals). Religion is as much useful and in the same manner as any other form of culture; e.g., art, science, ethics, etc. All these help the development of man; they prepare the materials which will enrich his higher spiritual life. But religion does this more consciously; religion creates the sense of a higher life, creates an atmosphere of faith and bhakti and these can be of great use for the spiritual uplift of the individual or the race. But as the other departments of culture, aesthetics, morals, science can be abused, so religion also can be abused and in fact is very often abused. And as it is said, when the best thing degenerates it becomes the worst corruption — so it is with religion; when its great possibilities are abused it leads to the worst evils.
Thus the celebration of the birthday of Krishna — if one can take it in the right attitude it can be made of powerful spiritual significance. Then, when large numbers of people combine together in faith, a very favourable atmosphere is created for the development of bhakti.
Disciple: What is the definition of religion?
Sri Aurobindo: It is not possible to define these things. Religion is religion. Like art it can be known and felt but any attempt to define it is bound to lead to mistakes and misunderstandings. Definitions are only of some use in science. Why do you want a definition of religion?
Disciple: So that we may distinguish it from other human activities.
Sri Aurobindo: But it will be useless to attempt a definition of religion.
Disciple: We can at least give some description. Thus in religion we seek the help of some supernatural power.
Sri Aurobindo: Supernatural? Rather, super-physical.
Disciple: I mean some power from above the human plane.
Sri Aurobindo: The power worshipped may be below the human plane, e.g., snakes.
Disciple: It is said that religion is philosophy made practical.
Disciple: Philosophy is based on reason, religion is based on faith.
Sri Aurobindo: Philosophy is not always based on reason.
Disciple: Faith is the essential element in religion.
Sri Aurobindo: But there may be faith in other things — I may have a faith in a certain person, certain business and so forth.
Disciple: In religion we consciously try to raise our life to a higher spiritual level.
Sri Aurobindo: The same may be done in aesthetics, morals etc.— they may be conscious attempts to reach a higher spiritual life.
Disciple: But that is how you yourself distinguished religion from other forms of human culture — religion is a conscious striving after a higher spiritual life.
Sri Aurobindo: In religion there need not be any aspiration for a higher life, e.g., when persons worship gods for riches, victory in battle and so forth.
Disciple: Then how do you distinguish religion from other forms of culture?
Sri Aurobindo: All culture may be conscious striving after a higher spiritual life — in religion it is professedly so.
Disciple: How does culture help in spiritual life?
Sri Aurobindo: Culture helps the development of man; it is essential if man is to live the highest form of mental life, but it has no essential relation to spiritual life. The spiritual life is something inner — when it is developed it uses the outer cultures for higher purposes by changing them and uplifting them into something higher.
Disciple: Does culture mean growth?
Sri Aurobindo: No, it is a cultivation of the mental powers.
Disciple: Is aesthetic mental?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, though it has its origin in the vital.
X referred to various prophesies that there would be a great war in 1927 which would end in 1931.
Sri Aurobindo explained that when something is decided in the higher plane, the decision may be communicated to men who are fit to receive it. Thus when living in Alipur Jail he himself got definite prophecy about the war of 1914. Mirra [the Mother] received such a prophecy about the Chinese revolution. Then he referred to a vision he saw at the time of the last European war. Two eagles were trying to go through a mountain pass and a strong gale was blowing against them and above that scene he saw the words 1931. This was not a definite prophecy as before but Sri Aurobindo interpreted it in this manner: the two eagles obviously referred to Austria and Germany and the whole scene represented a cataclysm of which obviously the European war was the beginning; it would end in 1931 by the dissolution of the British empire and the eventual liberation of India. This was not a definite prophecy but only Sri Aurobindo’s interpretation of the vision he saw.
Religion seeks to raise the other departments of culture to a higher level — thus the fine arts are turned to a religious use as in devotional pictures and songs. The social relations are given a new meaning — thus God is approached as a father, a lover, a friend, a master and so forth.
Ramakrishna advised a woman, who was very fond of her nephew, to regard the child as Balgopal. In similar manner, patriotism etc. can be given a religious significance.
Disciple: Considering the political situations in the world, what are the chances of a war in the near future?
Sri Aurobindo: No one can say what may happen any moment. The memory of the last war is still too fresh and that is preventing another war. Also, the powers are not certain as to who will be the ally of whom in the next war.
4 August 1926 (Evening)
Sri Aurobindo (addressing me): Have you found out a definition of religion?
Disciple: It is hopeless. Religion is too complex a phenomenon to be defined. The Bengali equivalent of religion — dharma — is still more complex.
Sri Aurobindo: Dharma is not religion though it has become customary to translate religion by dharma. Dharma is law — it includes the social and moral laws; also the law of one’s own being, one’s own nature is said to be dharma — svadharma.
Disciple: In Gita’s dharmasamsthāpanāya, dharma does not mean religion.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it does not. Again there is, satyadharma, brāhmana dharma and so forth.
Disciple: Every man has a nature peculiar to his own. In ancient times men were classified according to their nature into four classes and types. But is it not more correct to say that everyone in his individual way may develop all these characteristics of the four types? Every individual has infinite possibilities.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but all the possibilities, being infinite, cannot manifest all at once; thus different men may show different characteristics. An individual may have different formulations of his nature at different times. The fourfold classification in ancient times was not something absolutely correct — no classification or definition can be so — but that was of practical use. What is there of the Brahmin or the Kshatriya in Muthu?
The ancient classification soon degenerated. Who would observe men and place them under proper classes? Gradually, the classes came to be determined by birth. The Brahmins were most enlightened and spiritual, but their sons and descendants did not necessarily develop the same attributes. So the classes became more conventional than real, though those who were born in a particular class were helped by the tradition and the atmosphere of the family to develop the peculiar characteristics of the class. Then there was the caste distinction — classification not according to characteristics of nature, but according to occupation. This sort of an economic division was useful to society. But now-a-days the classification has become quite meaningless. There is no rule that everyone should take up the occupation or the profession of the family.
Disciple: If this is meaningless, why is it allowed to be continued? (Laughter)
Disciple: Many meaningless things have continued existence.
Disciple: Who were the Kshatriyas of Bengal?
Sri Aurobindo: At what time? Before the advent of Buddhism, there were the four ancient classes in Bengal, though there were some offshoots. Then with the rise of Buddhism, the whole structure collapsed and there was great confusion. When Hinduism came back there were only two castes in Bengal, Brahmins and Shudras — as there is the twofold classification in South India between Brahmins and non-Brahmins. Anyone who was not a Brahmin was called a Shudra. Even the Kayasthas were called Shudras.
Disciple: The agriculturists, carpenters, etc., now assert that they were not Shudras.
Sri Aurobindo: It is true, they were not Shudras. Shudras were the servile class.
Disciple: The European idea is that everyone should be given the fullest chance to develop the possibilities in his nature.
Sri Aurobindo: That is the ideal of democracy, but in practice that is nowhere found. What is called a democracy is only a covering up of the inequalities that really exist. The Indian idea was hierarchy as distinguished from democracy.
Disciple: What is the distinction?
Sri Aurobindo: The Hindu recognize different orders — different stages of development; thus there were higher and lower orders and society was organized accordingly.
Disciple: In mediaeval Europe also there was this sort of hierarchy.
Disciple: And that was a failure.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is the vicious circle in which humanity is moving. At first a certain class develops high mental and spiritual characteristics and they occupy the highest place in society. Then that culture gradually spreads downwards — and as it descends, it depreciates. There comes a stage where there is a sort of levelling; at this stage rises the cry of democracy, there is confusion and then society goes back to hierarchy and starts again.
Disciple: What is more congenial to the progress of humanity — hierarchy or democracy?
Sri Aurobindo: Again, what do you mean by progress? Up to this time humanity does not seem to have made any progress — it is moving in a blind circle.
Disciple: There is a goal of humanity, and through all these failures, humanity is moving towards that goal.
Sri Aurobindo: The goal is something on high, and humanity is continually making circles in a lower plane. Man must transcend humanity and become superman if this vicious circle is to be escaped. Up to this time all attempts in this direction have failed —only a few individuals have been able to reach some sort of a higher life.
Disciple: The Theosophists believe that no soul from the animal world is now being allowed to enter into humanity. First the present human race must attain divine height, then will begin another march of humanity from the lowest scale. The lowest class of souls from the moon will be the highest class on the earth and lead the human race.
Sri Aurobindo: I believe Big Boy is going to be a man in his next life. He has no mind to wait. I do not believe that in the moon there lives a higher race — but the different planets may be inhabited by different orders of being.
Sri Aurobindo: Dharma is only one of the four — dharma, artha, kāma, moksa; here, dharma is moral ethical laws; kāma is enjoyment, the hedonistic aspect of life; artha is the economic aspect of life; moksa refers to higher life.
Religion = dharma; religiosity = dhārmikatā; spirituality = adhyātmikatā.
Sri Aurobindo: I am not for samadhi which wants to leave this life and enter into a higher consciousness — my object is to transform this life with the help of the higher Truth.
Disciple: You accepted samadhi as one of vijñāna-catustaya.
Sri Aurobindo: That was quite different — that Samadhi meant the whole inward life, the entering into different planes of consciousness.
5 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: You said yesterday that there might be life in other planets but not in the moon. How do you say that — from any experience?
Sri Aurobindo: No, I have no experience of any life there — my memory does not go so far back. I say that as it seems possible and reasonable to me. The moon is not a planet — it is only a planet of the earth and thus the analogy of the other planets does not apply to the moon.
Disciple: Can there be life where the conditions are not the same as on the earth?
Sri Aurobindo: Why not? The conditions of terrestrial life may not be the same as those of life in any other planet. Thus, there may be a sort of organization of life which can stand extreme heat.
Disciple: During the middle of the last century it was discovered that the star Sirius is a double star. The larger star is of ordinary density — about 12 times that of water; the smaller star is of density 50,000 times greater than that of water. The two stars revolve round the centre of gravity of the system. If human beings like ourselves were on the smaller star, the force of gravity would have not only pulled them to the ground but flattened them. The human mind cannot form any idea about a thing which is 50,000 times denser than water.
Sri Aurobindo: That is a very common fallacy that nothing can be true unless it agrees with human conditions and can be conceived by the human mind.
Disciple: What about space and time — are they only forms of the mind or have they any real existence?
Sri Aurobindo: That is a very old question discussed in all philosophy, but no final conclusion has yet been arrived at. But what does it matter whether they are absolutely real or not as long as we have to deal with them actually?
Disciple: We cannot think of anything except in the terms of space — thus our talk of different planes has reference to space.
Sri Aurobindo: It need not have that reference — that is only a way of saying things.
Disciple: All life has forms.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but the form need not be physical — thus the movement of consciousness has no form.
Disciple: Movement of consciousness is only a figurative way of speaking —movement always implies space.
Sri Aurobindo: That is because our language is of the physical plane. In referring to supraphysical phenomena we have to use a physical language; that does not imply that the things referred to are physical.
Disciple: The mental beings and the vital beings have mental and vital forms.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but they are not bound by the forms as physical beings are —they can easily change the forms. Beings only assume forms when they want to become something.
Disciple: Hegel says Being is equivalent to Non-Being; hence it must be Becoming.
Sri Aurobindo: How does Hegel know that? Has he any experience of Being? How is Being equivalent to Non-Being?
Disciple: Being is mere existence.
Sri Aurobindo: Again you say “mere”. The etymological meaning of ‘mere’ refers to something which is not mixed with anything else. Being is very true and existent — it is only free from the lower forms. One must have experience to understand the reality of Being. Thus the Buddhists say Nirvana or Non-Existence is the only thing real, all else being illusion.
Thus philosophy is only a part of phrases and mental ideas — a mental gymnastics, without any reference to experience. Spiritual knowledge is as much impossible without experience as scientific knowledge.
Indian philosophy also is similarly mental and intellectual. But there is this difference that Indian philosophy takes some of the experienced truths stated in the Upanishads and tries to establish them by ratiocination, by the exercise of reason. The Upanishads are not philosophy — they only present truths in various aspects as they have been directly experienced by spiritual seers. If we regard the Upanishads as philosophy they will appear as very crude and confused.
Shankara might have had some experience of the Brahman himself, but his philosophy is only an attempt to establish that truth by the help of reasoning and arguments.
Disciple: As regards the distinction between our experiences in the physical plane and the vital plane — how to distinguish them? Thus, how are we to distinguish between physical desires and vital desires?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by a physical desire? All desires are vital.
Disciple: Take the distinction of European psychology between sensations and feelings on the one hand and emotions on the other. All emotions are preceded by some sort of thinking — some process of thought.
Sri Aurobindo: How is it so?
Disciple: Thus, take fear. We cannot have fear unless we have some idea of the object of fear.
Sri Aurobindo: On the other hand fear seems to rise from something vague and unknown.
Disciple: Very well, take some other case — as that of anger. We must think of some wrong done to us by something before we can have anger.
Disciple: We rise some morning with a bad temper though we do not know anything about the cause.
Disciple: Is that anger?
Sri Aurobindo: Why not?
Sri Aurobindo: The Brahman is beyond space — but if we try to think of it, we must think of something infinite which implies space.
6 August 1926 (Evening)
(I referred to the distinction between elementary feelings and emotions, the latter involving processes of thought.)
Sri Aurobindo: Your distinction is at least 50 years old psychology. New psychology does not make such distinction between feelings and emotions.
Disciple: I do not say that there is any absolute distinction between the two — I only refer to a practical distinction, a distinction which we perceive; thus there are emotions which arise only when we contemplate some ideas and ideals.
Sri Aurobindo: What are these emotions?
Disciple: Take, patriotism. It cannot arise unless our mind is sufficiently developed to consider the interests of the country.
Sri Aurobindo: I do not admit that — even dogs have some sort of patriotism. In the case of men all sorts of ideas are added to this feeling. In most cases patriotism is nothing but a satisfaction of the enlarged ego.
Disciple: The Gita says, “Dhyāyato visayān pumsah sangastesupajāyate”— we think of some objects, we get attached to them and then arise the different passions — thus, here it is clearly laid down that passions arise from thinking and contemplation.
Sri Aurobindo: The Gita speaks of a certain kind of passions, it does not say that this is the only way by which emotions and feelings arise. Then dhyāyato means not thinking but running after; when the mind runs after something, it gets attached to it.
Disciple: I can raise feelings simply by thinking; thus by thinking of a dead relative or friend I can raise the feeling of grief.
Sri Aurobindo: There was a time when by thinking of an illness I could produce that illness in my body. That does not mean that thinking produces that illness. Our feelings are associated with certain ideas and by bringing those ideas we can recall those feelings. That is the difference between animals and men — they have the same vital feelings, but man imposes his mind of these feelings and tries to raise them up to the mental plane.
Disciple: I raised the question in order to understand the relation between the different planes — the mental, the vital, the physical.
Sri Aurobindo: But why do you raise that question in that way? All the emotions belong to the vital. I make a distinction between the vital proper and the mental vital. The vital proper is concerned directly with life — all the feelings there centre round desire which is a means of effectuating life — desire for possession, ambition, lust and all the six passions — sad-ripu. Then these vital feelings may be raised to the mental plane and there associated with other emotions of the heart; here may also appear psychic feelings; thus lust here turns into what we ordinarily call love.
Disciple: What is the physical?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you understand by the physical?
Disciple: By the physical we mean material objects without life and mind.
Sri Aurobindo: The human body is material — but there is life and mind involved in it. If one can properly observe, he will find a sort of life and mind in the cells of the body — the life is not organized life as we generally see, nor the mind similar to what we ordinarily call mind. In the physical plane all action is mechanical. Even if the life and the mind depart, it may continue its habituated action.
We speak of the physical mind, the mind which sees only the physical or material aspect of things — it does not see the life or mind beyond it.
Disciple: That is the ordinary mind.
Sri Aurobindo: Most mind is nothing more than that.
Those who want to raise themselves must first know the truth — the true nature of their being. But the mind cannot do that — it cannot raise the subconscious into the conscious — it cannot discern the different forces that are at play. Hence, light is to be sought from above and, with the help of that, all the processes of our being are to be observed and placed in their proper place. Thus, analyzing the vital feelings we shall find what they really mean, what is the truth behind each and we can deal with those feelings and processes according to that truth.
Disciple: Is the transformation of our being performed by the light of the Truth?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but the light of Truth is accompanied by power in the Supramental, while in the mind the light is not always accompanied with the power; simply knowing by the mind does not help us to transform our being; hence, it is that the silent will is to be exerted, so that the necessary change may be accomplished.
Disciple: How is it that though the mind has the knowledge, yet the necessary change cannot be accomplished?
Sri Aurobindo: Because the mind has not sufficient power over the vital. Will is mostly vital and if the vital does not take interest in what the mind says, nothing can be accomplished. In most cases of discipline of sadhana the vital is lulled to sleep or allows the mind to have its own way to a certain point; at any moment the vital may rush in and upset the whole or may secretly guide the mind, though the person may not be aware of it.
Disciple: Thus, until we can effect the desired change we must keep the vital under check by the mental control.
Sri Aurobindo: I do not believe in such control — it only mutilates the vital functions; thus those who suppress the vital impulses — the sex impulse for instance — either destroy the higher possibilities of the impulse or allow it to run in a narrow channel, where they indulge in it too freely thinking it to be quite moral. Hence it is that I do not believe in morality, though, of course, I do not preach what you call immoral.
Disciple: Then, how are we to deal with these impulses?
Sri Aurobindo: Whatever be the proper way of dealing with them, the forcible suppression is certainly not the way.
Disciple: You are preaching most dangerous doctrines.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, you ought not to have come here if you were afraid of dangers — this place is too full of them.
Disciple: You must release the mental control sometime — otherwise how will you see the things in their true light?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in order to have freedom and mastery over a thing, you must have full knowledge about the thing. The sex-impulse in man is connected with many other things, then it has its function — all these have to be found out and assigned their proper place in life.
At a certain period of my life I thought that I had acquired complete mental control over the vital.
In order to be able to rise to a higher life we must be in search of truths; for this we must have on the one hand a solvent critical reason, almost cynical, which will not be satisfied with the appearance of things, and must reject falsities; on the other hand, there must be a receptive attitude, an opening for the true light from above.
There is evolution in Nature — from the physical to the vital, from the vital to the mental — but in Yoga the process of evolution is quite different; it is a conscious process, the whole being is consciously transformed with the help of the higher light and power of the supramental from above. There is the latent supramental everywhere in Nature.
Disciple: What is the latent supramental?
Sri Aurobindo: It is behind the mind, the vital, the physical — behind everything. From this latent supramental, truths are coming into the mind — the mind confuses these truths in its own way and produces something quite different. So there are true impulses coming from the supramental into the vital, but these are mixed up with all sorts of impurities in the vital. Hence it is that at one time, I did not reject the ideas and thoughts that used to rise in my mind; I sought to find out the truth that was hidden within those suggestions and ideas. In the same manner, I try to find out the real truth even in nonsensical questions.
Disciple: Then there is nothing nonsensical.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, except the forms given by the mind.
Disciple: The latent supramental helps the process of evolution.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that makes evolution possible, makes existence possible.
7 August 1926 (Evening)
(Reference was made to the national union suggested by Motilal and Abul Kalam as a practical method for dealing with communal troubles.)
Sri Aurobindo: What they propose to do, I do not understand.
Disciple: Perhaps they think that politics is at the root of this trouble — the communal passions are being fanned by selfish politicians. The national union proposes to deal with this side of the question.
Sri Aurobindo: But the root is the fanatical mentality, politics only serves as watering.
Disciple: The Mahomedans are now suffering great hardship in Pabna.
Sri Aurobindo: How?
Disciple: More than a thousand Mahomedans have been arrested; many villages are without any male inhabitants — they having fled from the police, leaving their home, their women and children behind. Cultivation is suffering, business is greatly hampered. In some places the people are made to pay for the punitive police imposed upon them by the Government.
Disciple: These sufferings will make the Mahomedans more vindictive.
Disciple: But unless they undergo some suffering, they will continue rowdyism.
(Reference was made to the ultimatum given by the Government to the Nizam of Hyderabad.)
Sri Aurobindo: The Nizam is half-mad — he has been openly aggressive, asserting his independent sovereignty. The British Government were fully informed about what was going on in the state, but they waited for a proper occasion to take steps. Now, many complaints have accumulated and they are taking action. Holker was similarly mad to give excuses to the British Government to turn against him.
Disciple: Can the British Government get accurate information of what is going on in the different states?
Sri Aurobindo: They have an efficient system of espionage which has not yet been surpassed. Of course, they often get wrong information, but they also get at the truth. Thus they know everything about the secret societies.
Disciple: What do you think of the Pan-Asiatic movement in Japan? Will it be able to do something?
Sri Aurobindo: That depends upon the persons who are behind the movement. The present does not seem an opportune time for such a movement. The Japanese people are under the thumb of the police. The Government there cannot now afford to offend the English or the Americans.
Disciple: What is their difficulty?
Sri Aurobindo: Japan is isolated. It is the only Asiatic power and it cannot stand against any European combination. America is not over-friendly to Japan. The Japanese are too diplomatic to run risks; they feel their way before they proceed to do anything. When they find all the circumstances in their favour, and there is every chance of success, only then they take any action. If necessary, they can wait for half-a-century to get such a favourable occasion.
Disciple: What are the characteristics of Indian politicians?
Sri Aurobindo: They never do a thing at the right time and whatever they do, they do badly. (Laughter). They have no touch with reality — they see what the English people are doing in England and try to apply that to this country, though that may be quite unsuitable here. They take all political cants and catch-phrases and they adopt them in their talk, not in work. They have too much mental activity — have all sorts of ideas and forms in their brain, which have very little practical value.
Disciple: Why is this so?
Sri Aurobindo: That is all due to Mayavada — our men have become too subtle in their minds and all our politicians are drawn from that class. Then the system of education is greatly responsible for this state of things.
Disciple: Is the system in England different from that introduced in India?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, they want only clerks and the education is intended for nothing else. But the difficulties and troubles experienced by our politicians serve as a sort of training for them.
There are many men in India who can be good administrators; but politics is a different thing.
Disciple: Macaulay said there never perhaps existed such a nation as the Bengalees who are naturally fitted for a foreign yoke.
Sri Aurobindo: The Bengalees were certainly bad at that time, though Macaulay was used to rhetorics. But the Bengalees are not worse than other subject-races — thus the Greeks under a foreign rule were not better than the Bengalees.
Disciple: Gokhale said that the greatest sacrifice our country demands of us is that we must submit to a foreign rule.
Sri Aurobindo: He was quite capable of saying such things — he was of a mean sort without any greatness or nobility in him.
Disciple: He had great talents.
Sri Aurobindo: What talents? He could only make good speeches and was a political economist.
Disciple: What about Lajpat Rai?
Sri Aurobindo: He is a well-meaning man but has no driving power.
Sri Aurobindo: Politics, as I was saying, is a very dirty affair — it is like marriage, an unfortunate necessity.
Disciple: He (referring to me) does not seem to swallow it.
Sri Aurobindo: It is for that reason that I am giving him long doses.
Disciple: Tilak used to say like that — he said he would have preferred to be a professor of Mathematics, but he was compelled to take to politics as there was no one else doing it.
Sri Aurobindo: Tilak was cut out for politics. What he said about not liking politics came from his mind, but his vital being required politics. I myself could have said with more truth than Tilak that I unwillingly took to politics; I would have preferred not to be a professor but to devote myself to poetry and intellectual pursuits. But even in my case that would not have been wholly true — for my vital being took interest in politics which gives vital enjoyment and satisfaction.
8 August 1926 (Evening)
(There was some talk about the incorrigible dirty habits of the Pariahs. Even conversion to Christianity has not in any way improved their habits and morals.)
Sri Aurobindo: There you have some experience of the untouchables you want to raise. If they are given help and decent surroundings, it will take at least 15 generations to raise them.
(I related my experience about the Chotta Nagpur Hindus — how the conversion to Christianity has improved their habits, made them neat and clean and decent-looking men.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is all polish and nothing more. These Hindus are the worst sort of aborigines.
(X referred to the battle habits of the Bhils.)
Sri Aurobindo: They had come into contact with Rajput culture.
(There was some talk how these Pariahs often worship all sorts of Gods —Mahomedan, Hindu and Christian.)
Sri Aurobindo: There you see a synthesis of religion!
Disciple: Do those who practise the supramental Yoga help in any way the spiritual life of other people?
Sri Aurobindo: Of humanity, you mean?
Sri Aurobindo: Humanity has yet no spiritual life.
Disciple: But they may be brought towards spirituality.
Sri Aurobindo: Of course it we can succeed in bringing down the supramental, we shall bring down a new principle which will help to raise humanity. A spiritual atmosphere is created by our sadhana which may draw in people towards spirituality.
Disciple: The people who are fit?
Sri Aurobindo: Oh no, fit persons are not always drawn to this life.
People in such distant places as America are getting ideas of our new Yoga.
Disciple: In reference to the awakening of the Hindus you said that a spiritual movement was necessary.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but the present Hindu Sangathan movement is not spiritual; it aims at preserving Hindu culture which is at present beset with great dangers; behind the forms it still contains the ancient truth and there is no reason why this should be driven from its one stronghold. There is the whole of Africa and the whole of Western Asia to be taken into their fold by the Mahomedans. Why should Abdur Rahim and others be allowed to destroy Hindu culture? Then there is the European mentality which has made great inroads in Hinduism. During the Swadeshi movement attempts were made to fight this European mentality and to revive Indian mentality, of course with new forms.
Disciple: Which is the greater danger?
Sri Aurobindo: Mahomedanism is certainly more dangerous than Christianity.
Disciple: But they are in a minority — how can they harm the Hindus?
Sri Aurobindo: The Christians were in minority when they overran Euope.
Disciple: But they brought light with them.
Sri Aurobindo: The Greeks had more light than the Christians who converted them; at that time there was Gnosticism in Greece, and they were developing agnosticism and so forth. The Christians brought darkness rather than light. Afterwards the Arabs brought life to Europe.
That has always been the case with aggressive religions — they tend to overrun the earth. Hinduism on the other hand is passive and therein lies its danger.
Disciple: How can this passivity of the Hindus be cured?
Sri Aurobindo: By movement and activity.
Disciple: What sort of movement?
Sri Aurobindo: Any movement. Of course the Hindu Sangathan movement we can help by exerting Yogic force and that is far superior to the method of platform speeches and newspaper articles.
Disciple: Is spiritual movement necessary for the awakening of the Hindus and not for others?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, different peoples have different characteristics.
Disciple: What is this spiritual movement required for the Hindus and how is that going to be brought about?
Sri Aurobindo: Have you read the history of India? Take the case of Shivaji in Maharashtra, of Pratapaditya in Bengal. During the Swadeshi movement all the leaders were influenced by some Guru or spiritual men. We were influenced more by Ramakrishna and Vivekananda than by Dadabhai Navroji [Naoroji] and others.
Disciple: There is a marked difference between the national workers of the Swadeshi period and those at the present time. The former workers drew their inspiration from the Gita; the present workers have discarded the Gita, they laugh at spirituality, they draw their inspiration from Bolshevists or similar other European movements.
Sri Aurobindo: That is the reason why they have degenerated and cannot do anything. They only take the forms adopted in the previous movement without realizing the changed circumstances and fresh requirements of the time.
Disciple: Most of our workers and leaders at the present time are without any spiritual life.
Sri Aurobindo: I cannot say anything about individuals. But the central thing in Hinduism is spirituality and there cannot be any big movement without any spirituality behind it.
The idea of establishing hospital for the people did not come from Christian missionaries. They themselves got it from the Buddhists.
9 August 1926 (Evening)
(X referred to a theory that after death man becomes a being of the vital world.)
Sri Aurobindo: He does not become a being of the vital plane, but on his way to his place of rest he passes through the vital plane of consciousness or what you call the vital world.
Disciple: Does he at that time come to know everything about the vital world?
Sri Aurobindo: No.
(There was some talk on the Greek and Egyptian theories about the experiences after death. The ancient Greeks believed that after death men to a lower world and move there as shadows. This theory was subsequently modified.
The Egyptians thought that after death man remains in a vital body and they preserved the physical body hoping that the departed man might again return and enter into that body.
The pyramids of the Egyptians were connected with their religion, their occultism, and their theory of what happens after death.
X mentioned how future events are prophesied by an investigation into the structure of the pyramids. Thus the beginning of the great war in 1914 was accurately prophesied. In the same manner it has been prophesied that a war will break out in 1927 which will end in 1931.)
10 August 1926 (Evening)
(I read a letter from Satyendra Mitra who is at present in Mandalay Jail. He had distinguished between Jnanayoga and Karmayoga and hinted that Karmayoga was better than Jnanayoga.)
Sri Aurobindo: My yoga is not merely Jnanayoga — it contains also the other elements. Neither is it true that there cannot be any work in the beginning of this yoga. Action is compatible with the first stage of this yoga; but the purpose of this action is to come in contact with the light above. Instead of acting in the way as men ordinarily do, one seeks to dwell in the higher consciousness and executes with faith (śraddhā) and concentrated will (nisthā) any action for which the call will come from within — this is possible in the first stage of the yoga. After that, in the intermediate stage, a special stress has to be laid on the inner change. At this stage, it is not advisable to undertake any action that may hamper the inward-oriented sadhana. It is not possible to effectuate the inner transformation while being engaged in any activity that demands the total absorption of the mind and the heart. Political activity is not compatible with this stage and this is so because of two reasons. Firstly, it will not do to engage in political activity half-heartedly; those who have been acting for the liberation of India have perforce to pour all their heart and mind in that activity; in that case, how can they concentrate on sadhana? Secondly, political activity belongs to the lower plane of consciousness; in this field, one has to act remaining in contact with forces which do not allow the sadhak to rise upward; they keep him tied down below.
As a result of the practice of yoga, when the inner change has been effected, when the sadhak has been established in the higher consciousness and the higher light, then, there is no harm in doing any action from there. But this action does not take the form of a blind stumbling as do the actions of the lower life. The yogi turns his transformed nature into an instrument of the divine Shakti, and the divine will gets infallibly effectuated through him. Behind this action reign an immutable peace, a true vision and a divine delight.
There is a great and profound purpose behind this yoga. It is not solely for India, it is for the whole world — although, India may be its starting-point. But, it is no use speaking of that now, the world is not yet ready for that.
(Satyen had written: “At times the futility of worldly life strikes my mind very much.”)
Sri Aurobindo: In our yoga the worldly life is not considered to be vain; only that must be lived as a help to the growth of the spirit. Satyen must look into himself and find out the nature and cause of his virāga or dissatisfaction with life. He should understand what is the call in him. If he feels called towards political work or any other kind of work let him do it heart and soul. If he feels a call towards spiritual life, let him describe the nature of his call and I can help him. If he feels both these calls — call to political life as well as to spirituality — it is quite possible to combine the two in Karmayoga and I can give him necessary instructions. He must find for himself the nature of his objection —the cause of his dissatisfaction with vyavahārik jīvan (worldly life). Is it due only to confinement and forced idleness or is it due to any deeper need in his nature? Let him look into his mind carefully and try to answer these questions. It is no use talking of spiritual life unless one is really ready for it and feels a real call towards it.
Disciple: What about your making a greater India? (I had referred to this in my last letter to Satyen.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is Anilbaran’s contribution.
Disciple: I only quoted that from Nolini Kanta.
Disciple: You said that yourself 7 years ago.
Sri Aurobindo: But why should you look backward rather than looking forward? Who has “made” India that I should “make” it greater? People do not make a country — all their thoughts and acts are only processes in the making of the country. We are only trying to bring the Truth down. If the truth makes a greater India, that will be not our making. The Truth is higher than us — we are only instruments in its hands.
11 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: Are the hostile forces in any way afraid of men?
Sri Aurobindo: Why should they be afraid? They can act on men only when men consent to their action.
(I referred to the Baidya Brahmin Society in Bengal which is trying to prove that the Vaidyas are really Brahmins.)
Sri Aurobindo: This is not a new attempt.
Disciple: But at this time when the caste-system is crumbling down, it is strange that people should carry on such a movement.
Sri Aurobindo: Why not? In ancient times they labelled down, now they are labelling up.
Disciple: Whither is the caste-system tending?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you think?
Disciple: I have no idea. It is apparent that the caste-system has become meaningless and it cannot last long. The whole thing may come down in a crash, though I have no idea as to the new forms that will rise.
Disciple: First break down the present forms, then you will think of new forms.
Sri Aurobindo: Mere inter-dining and so forth cannot affect the caste-system. Unless there is inter-marriage, caste-system cannot be said to have disappeared.
Disciple: There are some who think even now that the Brahmins will lead and bring necessary reforms to society.
Disciple: That is true. Rammohan Ray, Vidyasagar, they were all Brahmins.
Sri Aurobindo: Which class of Brahmin will lead, you say? The Pundits?
Disciple: In reference to the recent resolutions regarding outraged women passed by the Brahmin Sabha, some newspapers commented that the Brahmins were taking the lead.
Sri Aurobindo: That is not leading, but limping.
(Y referred to a recent inter-caste marriage effected by the Prabartak Sangha. I said that I was much impressed by the Sangha when I visited it once for a few hours.)
Disciple: All persons are so impressed.
Sri Aurobindo: Pearson was not well impressed — he said that the whole thing was commercialized.
Disciple: You referred to the making of greater India when the Truth comes down.
Sri Aurobindo: That was not my saying but of X or Y.
Disciple: In that connection you said that India would be the starting-point. Are you sure of that?
Sri Aurobindo: Well, I do not make any prophecy. The conditions are favourable here — spiritualism is embedded in the race and there is every likelihood that India will be the starting-point. But if India neglects this chance, if she follows X to the legislative council or the Sharmas, the Devasharmas (referring obviously to the Brahmin Pundits), then India’s chance will be lost and some other country may take it up. But our ambition is that the Truth will be brought down by us and thus we shall be the starting-point.
Disciple: Is the present time favourable for the coming down of the Truth?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, very favourable; though at the same time there are very unfavourable conditions and it is always so. When the Truth seeks to come down, the hostile forces also become very active.
Disciple: What are the favourable and the unfavourable conditions?
Sri Aurobindo: There is a searching everywhere — not in any particular department, but everywhere the old order is changing and people are looking for something newer and better. At such critical periods the Truth tends to come down, or rather these periods are created by the coming Truth itself — it is only a way of saying that the conditions are favourable.
Different peoples in different ways have premonitions of the coming Truth. Thus the Theosophists speak of a coming World-Teacher, though they give a very crude form, a very distorted interpretation.
Disciple: What are the unfavourable conditions?
Sri Aurobindo: The vital forces have become very active throughout the world. In the past they have again and again frustrated the coming of the Truth, as was the case with Christianity. The acceptance of the Truth always involves great difficulties. If you accept the vital forces you can easily convert the whole world — but no so with the Truth.
Disciple: You spoke of vital forces being specially active in India.
Sri Aurobindo: In what connection?
Disciple: Speaking of Indian art, music, theatres, politics.
Sri Aurobindo: That was in a different connection. So far as the coming down of the Truth is concerned, the vital forces are active over the whole earth.
There are no hostile forces in the supramental plane.
12 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: You did not finish the subject of caste-system yesterday.
Sri Aurobindo: X finished the caste-system; he said, it could not last.
Disciple: Yes, I am sure it cannot last — but how is it going to end?
Disciple: How do forms persist even when they have become meaningless?
Sri Aurobindo: It is the samskāra of the Hindus. There is something in the brain which pricks — the caste-system is associated with religion. The Brahmin Sabha holds fastly to it. The caste-system has been discarded in every other respect except in the matter of marriage. People take no account of caste until they come to marriage, when they keep strictly to the caste. Are you ready to marry the daughter of Chelu (a pariah servant)?
Sri Aurobindo: There is the secret of the caste-system. People seek to marry within their own class — having the same customs and manners, same degree of culture and development.
Disciple: There is caste even among the Europeans.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but there it is quite different; there are clearly defined classes and people marry within the same class. But here, what is the difference between a Brahmin, a Vaidya, a Kayestha? Of course, the pariahs form a distinct class.
The original purpose of the caste-system has been lost. In ancient times there was the distinction of caste with a clear purpose. It was sought to develop different types and marriage within the same caste was intended to help this system. The Brahmins sought to develop certain intellectual powers, to make their minds subtle for the consideration of higher things. The Kshatriyas sought to develop character which was all important for the functions of that class. The Vaishyas also sought to develop a particular kind of intellectual powers which could be of help to them in the matter of business.
This fourfold distinction could not be adhered to when there occurred the mixture of races. Gradually the whole thing has become meaningless and the classification into castes serves no purpose — still the religious samskāra acts against its abolition. It is said that instead of abolishing the caste the proper course would be to restore it to reality. But that is not possible. There are Vaidyas who show natural fitness for Shastras, there are Brahmins who show no aptitude for Brahmins. The ancestors of Bepin Chandra Pal, I heard, were wine-sellers.
Disciple: Brajendranath Seal is a barber by caste.
Sri Aurobindo: Thus if we have to go back to reality, Seal must give up philosophy and take to shaving.
(There was some talk about the ugly appearance of Dr. Brajendranath Seal. X suggested that perhaps his appearance was a contribution of his caste.)
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the caste leaves a certain stamp. But individuals differ in their capacities and they need not be confined to their caste-stamp.
Disciple: Brajendranath is said to have a versatile genius.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he has great powers of the brain and we must recognize whatever talents a man may possess — different men may possess great merits in their own way.
Disciple: Is the physical appearance of a child contributed wholly by his parents?
Sri Aurobindo: No, there are many other elements which enter into the making of a body.
Disciple: The child himself contributes something.
Sri Aurobindo: That is from another point of view — the fact of reincarnating — the soul makes its own body.
Disciple: Has beauty any connection with personal evolution?
Sri Aurobindo: No.
Disciple: Beauty implies harmony and this is a sign of the development of the soul.
Sri Aurobindo: Physical beauty is the result of some vital glow — it has no connection with spiritual development. Psychic beauty is not of the body — it is something subtle, independent of the physical formation. Excessive beauty is always dangerous as it is the result of something in the vital.
Disciple: Different people have different standards of beauty — thus a Japanese and an European will not agree as to the beauty of a woman.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the aesthetic sense belongs to the mental plane — the vital mental.
Disciple: There may be difference in tastes — but there is some general, absolute standard of beauty.
Sri Aurobindo: How is that?
Disciple: Take the rose — it will be regarded as beautiful by everybody.
Sri Aurobindo: A cat does not regard the rose as beautiful.
Disciple: I am speaking of human beings.
Disciple: All human beings do not appreciate the beauty of the rose.
Disciple: Some culture is required to appreciate beauty.
Sri Aurobindo: Thus the sense of beauty depends upon the cultivation of the mind. People have formed some ideas and notions of beauty and they appreciate things according to those ideals.
Disciple: Whatever Nature does is beautiful — it is only in the creations of men that we see ugly things.
Sri Aurobindo: That is not true. There are many ugly things in Nature, e.g., the insect world. People regard the physical world with a certain attitude of mind which makes natural things appear beautiful; when they consider the creations of men they adopt a different attitude.
Disciple: Is there any beauty actually in Nature? Is it not wholly a creation of our own mind? The beauty we see in Nature is mostly a play of light and the difference in light lies only in the difference in the vibrations. Only when the mind interprets the vibrations, then we have the sensations of light and colour.
Sri Aurobindo: But that applies to the whole Nature — that is what we mean by Nature; not things as they are, but things as they appear to us constitute the natural world to us. Thus X is to me what I create him to be in my mind — a seeker after Truth; but what the real X is that I do not know.
Disciple: Is there nothing objective?
Sri Aurobindo: That is the objective world — the world as it appears to our mind.
Disciple: Is there nothing outside the impressions of the mind?
Sri Aurobindo: Of course, there is the world outside my mind — but everything is within the consciousness of God; there is nothing but impressions.
The real beauty is something above the mind — it is in the Ananda plane. In everything there is the essence, then there is the guna of the thing and there is the expression — the knowledge of the adaptation of the essence and the guna to the expression gives rise to a satisfaction, a delight which is the real element of beauty.
We are living here apart from society. If we assume social relations, then the caste-system and other Sanskaras will overtake us.
Disciple: At a certain stage of his sadhana, Ramakrishna became exceedingly beautiful.
Sri Aurobindo: A light came out of his body, he had to wear a thick coat in order to hide that; but that was not physical beauty.
Disciple: Ramakrishna, according to the description of his followers, was of beautiful physical appearance.
Sri Aurobindo: You cannot depend upon the description of followers.
Disciple: He had a fair complexion.
Sri Aurobindo: Do you call that beauty?
13 August 1926 (Evening)
(X wanted to know the different characteristics of the different parts of the mental, the vital and the physical.)
Sri Aurobindo: They are all connected constituting one whole, but for the purpose of analysis they may be mentioned separately.
The mind proper is concerned with reasoning, creations of mental forms, the activity of the will (dynamic mind). This is called Buddhi (intelligence and will), for distinction from the other part of mind which is generally called Manas.
The emotions and the sensations belong to the vital part of mind, which I call the mental vital, others call simply the vital. These are the things of the vital plane which pressing upon the mind produce mental forms there. These mental forms (presentiments about coming events belong to this plane) are not created by the mind itself.
The physical part of mind consists in its mechanical action. Thus when there is neither the vital urge, nor any (creative) activity of mind proper, the physical part continues its movement mechanically.
Disciple: What is the supramental part of the mind?
Sri Aurobindo: Intuition.
The central characteristic of the vital is desire. In the vital proper the life-force seeks to realize itself, to possess materials and to put its stamp upon them, but in its crude form this vital urge appears as lust, ambition, desire for possession, for money, for enjoyment of all kinds.
The mind in the vital is the mental activity which accompanies the vital desires, knows them and expresses them in mental forms and speech. Thus, when Mussolini says, “Italy must have a place under the sun”, it is not the result of thinking or reasoning; the desire rises from the vital being, though it may be sought to be supported by the reasoning of the Buddhi.
The physical part of the vital is that which is necessary to realize the vital impulses in the actual world. There may be the urge, but the physical part may not be equal to the task. There are many poets who cannot express themselves well as the vital physical in them is not strong. The physical vital wants to move in grooves and fixed forms, e.g., habits and instincts.
Disciple: What is the supramental in the vital?
Sri Aurobindo: Vital institutions. There are persons (even not Yogis) who, without reasoning or thinking, at once find out the right act to be done, the right course to be followed. Aesthetics and art belong to this plane.
The mind in the physical is very small, it does not go very far, but it is the thin end which is necessary for the work of the mental and the physical. When I have a pen in my hand and a paper before me, without knowing, without thinking about anything I may write some word or name on the paper — this is an action of the physical mind.
The vital part of the physical is very important — it gives health and strength to the body. This works through the nervous system. It knows what is beneficial or what is injurious to the system. If left to itself, it would have been the safest guide as regards health. But in civilized persons it is seldom left unimpaired — the activity of the mind has created great confusion.
Disciple: What is the supramental part of the physical?
Sri Aurobindo: That is at present very involved. Still there are persons who have a sort of physical intuition; thus catching hold of a thing they can at once say its weight.
All these processes in man are mixed up with one another; there is a sort of continuity from the one end to the other. But for the purpose of analysis, they may thus be distinguished.
Disciple: What is signified by the term Chitta?
Sri Aurobindo: The term is used in various senses. It properly means the basic consciousness — as there is the cit above, so there is the citta below — there is cit-ākāśa and there is citta-ākāśa.
Disciple: Does this twelvefold classification (the mental, the vital, the physical, each consisting of four parts — supramental, mental, vital, physical) correspond to the twelve signs of the Zodiac?
Sri Aurobindo: I do not know whether there is any such correspondence.
The vital desires are regardless of consequences — they will demand satisfaction, even if it leads to destruction.
Disciple: These movements — the mental, the vital, the physical — do they exist in the universal?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, otherwise they would not have appeared in the human being.
Disciple: Then there may be some correspondence with the twelve signs of the Zodiac described by the astrologer.
Sri Aurobindo: That is not impossible.
Disciple: How does the mind act in the animal?
Sri Aurobindo: The activities of the animal are wholly determined by the vital impulses — the mind only records the activities.
Disciple: Where is the place of memory?
Sri Aurobindo: All the planes, the mental, the vital, the physical have memory.
(Sri Aurobindo related a story how a French maid-servant, when she was suffering from a certain illness, mechanically reproduced whole passages from Hebrew books, though she knew nothing of Hebrew. Her master used to read Hebrew books loudly; the servant when moving about in the course of her domestic work had unconsciously registered the whole thing in her subliminal mind.)
(X referred to the action of certain poisons which acted instantaneously.)
Sri Aurobindo: These poisons attack directly the life principle itself.
Disciple: What is the difference between the vital mind and the dynamic mind?
Sri Aurobindo: The vital mind is the desire-mind. It desires by the vital urge without any thought or reasoning, though it may be sought to justify or support it by the help of reasoning. The dynamic mind on the other hand is the will; the mind proper decides some course of action by reasoning and seeks to effectuate it.
14 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: Is there any relation between the aesthetic being and the psychic being?
Sri Aurobindo: There is a sense of beauty in the aesthetic being, there is a sense of beauty in the psychic being — beyond that, there is no necessary relation between the two.
The aesthetic being belongs to the vital; it sees beauty of life, of form, of expression; the psychic being sees the charm of the soul.
Disciple: Is the psychic beauty in the form, the colour, the smell, say, of a flower?
Sri Aurobindo: Psychic beauty does not consist in form, smell or colour like aesthetic beauty, it is something quite apart from these, but may be conveyed through these.
All flowers have not psychic beauty. Thus the rose is strongly vital; there is psychic beauty in jasmine; the lotus is greatly psychic, it is a mystic flower.
Disciple: The lotus is a very delicate flower.
Sri Aurobindo: But the psychic beauty does not consist in the delicacy — it has an indescribable charm which is felt as psychic.
Disciple: There are paintings which possess psychic beauty.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, as that picture of Nandalal depicting a cow lost in the wood.
Disciple: You remarked sometime ago that the Maya-Mriga of Abanindranath Tagore possesses psychic beauty.
Sri Aurobindo: May be, but Abanindra generally draws vital pictures.
Sri Aurobindo: There may be beauty in ideas; thus when we find any good passage in a writing we exclaim, “how nice!” Again, a face may show beauty of intelligence. In Indian art there is the beauty of spiritual conception.
Disciple: Can a person appreciate psychic beauty unless the psychic being is developed in him?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by the psychic being developed? There is the psychic being in everybody.
Disciple: I mean, where it is not strong.
Sri Aurobindo: The psychic being may not be strong enough to impress itself upon the mind or the vital being, but yet it may have psychic feelings. There are many persons with psychic feelings which have no influence on their life and character.
Disciple: How do things of beauty help the spiritual development of men?
Sri Aurobindo: What again do you mean by spiritual development? When there is opening to the influence of the spirit, there occurs spiritual transformation. Cultivation of the sense of beauty brings a refinement which makes spiritual transformation easier, where there is the necessary opening. There is the aspect of beauty in God and it is easy to approach Him through beauty; this is ignored by persons like your Mahatma Gandhi.
Disciple: The psychic beauty in a flower — is it an expression of a psychic being behind?
Sri Aurobindo: It is an expression of the soul of the flower.
Disciple: The soul of the flower!
Sri Aurobindo: I knew, you would be astounded. (Laughter)
Disciple: Then there are flowers which are superior to men!
Sri Aurobindo: There are animals who are more psychic than many men. Even in the love-making of cats there may be something psychic; Big boy (Sri Aurobindo’s cat), when it makes love to one cat is vital, to another it is psychic.
Disciple: Then, how is it that man is said to be the highest creature in the order of evolution?
Sri Aurobindo: Because man has developed a mind. Everywhere else the evolution goes on unconsciously; in man it is conscious. But on account of his mind man is also worse than any other thing. He can be more devilish than any other creature.
It is only the egoism of man which makes him think that he is the most mysterious creature living on earth.
There is no great difference in the formation of bodies between man and animals —there are very small changes in detail, but they are very important.
Disciple: You once said that a superman would always look like a man of 18 years of age.
Sri Aurobindo: A superman will give no impression of his age — he will be beyond age.
Disciple: Is it possible for a superman to grow a tooth which has fallen?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes; in old age all the fallen teeth begin to rise again. As a superman can live as long as he likes, he can have new teeth.
(There was some talk about Yogis who live for hundreds of years.)
Disciple: But in genuine cases, the Yogis do not say anything about their age.
Disciple: How can the truth be ascertained then?
Sri Aurobindo: From casual remarks. Thus a disciple of Brahmananda came to know from a casual remark of his that he must have lived for several centuries.
15 August 1926
Today is Sri Aurobindo’s birthday. He completes his fifty-fourth year, having been born in 1872. It has been a long custom to celebrate this event of his physical birth. Formerly the celebration was in a vital manner. From 1923 it is being observed as it should be in keeping with the truth it symbolizes.
The whole house was thoroughly cleaned and whitewashed; today it is bedecked with fresh leaves and flowers. All the attached houses have been cleaned and washed and everybody puts up a smart appearance. There have been some new-comers. A special attempt — a joint attempt — is to be made today to bring down the Truth. Individually this day is for stock-taking in sadhana, laying out a programme for the future. This day is to be a landmark, a turning-point as Sri Aurobindo fully explained in the afternoon.
Sri Aurobindo came out at about 11 a.m. and one by one the sadhaks went up (there were only two pairs — husband and wife), and offered their pranams and asked his blessing. When I went up I saw Sri Aurobindo — an embodiment of the Truth he is trying to bring down for us. To me it seemed that his appearance was that of barābhaya [bestower of boon and protection]. I worshipped his feet with a few roses and placed a small sum of money (Rs. 5) at his feet. He touched my head. I sat down at his feet, meditated for a minute and then said, “Many kinds of hostile forces are trying to distract me. May I be able to surrender myself completely to you.” He blessed me with a nod of his head, then with the palm of his hand pressed on my head; I felt as if I had got the truth, my whole being became filled with hope and faith, with force and light. I came down after touching his feet and getting his touch again.
Then I went up to Mirra [the Mother] and for the first time entered into Sri Aurobindo’s room, his place of sadhana and rest. I went through the same ceremony before Mirra — but sitting at her feet I meditated for a longer time, about 5 minutes.
From the morning a great calm has descended on me. I can easily surrender myself and open myself to the Higher Truth. This has been a day of consecration for me. I have got my programme of sadhana. Henceforth, I am to give up the ordinary human standpoint and live from the standpoint of the higher light.
The vital forces are trying to seduce me — they seem to say, “Follow us and we give you intense enjoyment.” With the help of the blessings of Gurudev, I expect to know their tricks and withdraw my consent from their play.
At 5 p.m. Sri Aurobindo again came out and sat on his chair; Mirra also came with him and sat by his left side beneath the chair. We were altogether 20 sadhaks present including several ladies. Sri Aurobindo spoke for half an hour about the significance of the 15th August; the speech has been fully recorded by Purani. Then there was group meditation for about half an hour after which Sri Aurobindo and Mirra went inside.
During the course of the meditation, I felt a fundamental calm — the mechanical and habitual thoughts, which disturb me at other times, could not enter into my mind and I intimately felt the light above and a flaming aspiration towards it. It was such a delightful experience that I felt shocked when the group was dissolved abruptly.
Sitting silently in my place, I drew up the following programme for my future sadhana.
The fundamental principle to be followed in life is to give up the ordinary way of living from the standpoint of the ordinary human being. I have to take my stand on the higher Truth and shape my life according to the light received from above.
As to the mind: The mechanical and habitual thoughts are to be discarded or thrown outside. The action of the Buddhi to go on — to receive and interpret the light from above and regulate the acts of life accordingly.
As to the vital: Give up all acts which involve a violent interchange with the vital forces. Observe the play of the vital impulses and the vital forces. See that the lower movement “is coming from below and then withdraw your consent from it and wait keeping yourself open to the higher power to work. It knows better than you what is your need and how to eliminate and transform your nature.”
Cease to act from desire: See your needs with the help of the higher light and exert your will to fulfil them, always depending on, and leaving the consequences to, the higher power.
As to the physical: Try to keep the body in health and fit to carry out any work that may be required of it.
Establish the higher calm throughout the ādhāra and for this stand on the Purusha-Prakriti attitude of the Gita.
Take Sri Aurobindo as the representative of the higher Truth, the higher power and surrender yourself wholly to him as to the higher Truth.
Have a constant aspiration towards the higher Truth.
Go on with zeal and resolution but be not impatient or hasty.
15 August 1926 (Evening)
(In the evening Sri Aurobindo came out at 7.45 p.m. The following is the substance of some of the talks.
X raised the question whether this year Sri Aurobindo was more sure than before about the success of the attempt at divine life.)
Sri Aurobindo: I am both sure and not sure. I am sure morally, I am not sure practically. Morally sure because the Truth is coming more and more. Practically not sure because the material world is still unrepentent.
Disciple: What do you mean by “unrepentent”?
Sri Aurobindo: The material world does not believe in the possibility of divine life. The European mentality is a great obstacle, though there are other obstacles.
Disciple: Is that obstacle insuperable?
Sri Aurobindo: If it does not change but continues to remain as it is, it will be an insuperable obstacle.
Disciple: How can the change be brought about?
Sri Aurobindo: You will not understand if I say.
Disciple: We shall try — let us hear the answer.
Sri Aurobindo: It will begin to change when it has open connection with the world of Gods.
Disciple: We do not understand unless you explain every word.
Sri Aurobindo: So I said.
In Europe those who have not the European mentality, go to the opposite extreme; instead of opening themselves to the Gods, they resort to the vital forces.
Disciple: What is exactly meant by saying that European science is materialistic?
Sri Aurobindo: That is what I have been so long explaining. They regard matter as wholly inconscient or without consciousness of any kind and they do not believe that matter can be made to become conscious. They do not believe that the laws of matter can be changed. They accept the miracles that have been accomplished but they do not believe that miracles may happen in the future. Matter by itself could never have changed. It is the vital and the mental principle pressing from above which has made possible life and mind in the material world. Now, it is the turn of the supramental pressing from above and transforming the very nature of matter.
Disciple: If the laws of matter are changed, will not matter cease to be matter?
Sri Aurobindo: Why?
Disciple: Because, the laws define the nature of matter.
Sri Aurobindo: The laws are only statements of the habits of things, and a thing may change its habits without ceasing to be itself. If you change your habits, you will still be X.
Disciple: Can a few persons by their sadhana change the laws of the material world?
Sri Aurobindo: We do not mean that the whole universe is going to be changed. Only the capacities of matter can be proved in certain cases.
When I speak of the resistance of the material world, I do not mean the external material world, but the subtle material world. The cells of the material body possess a consciousness. That consciousness has to open itself to the higher Truth before the real transformation can take place. It is the material mind which does not believe in divine possibilities and does not care for it.
Disciple: What is the difference between the physical and the material?
Sri Aurobindo: As I explained before, in the physical plane there is the mental, the vital and the material. (To Y) Do you remember what I said about the physical mind?
Disciple: It is the mind which presses upon the material plane and organizes it.
Sri Aurobindo: No, it is not that. It is the end which comes into contact with the physical world and sees only the physical aspects of things and nothing beyond it; it takes matter as being simply matter and nothing more — it does not see the consciousness inherent in matter. It depends on the material structure of the body and is confined to it, to the material brain.
Similarly, the vital in the physical plane is the life which is bound with matter, with the nervous system; it cannot exist apart from a material body. But the vital proper is quite independent of matter, it is a universal force. There is force in matter, but that force is not life-force. The real life-force is something quite apart from the material world, it exists for its own sake and its possibilities are not bound down by material conditions. When Napoleon said that there was nothing impossible, the term “impossible” was to be erased from the dictionary, it was the vital which was speaking through Napoleon; to the vital nothing seems impossible.
Then the material in the physical is the pure material part of it which is the basis of the rest.
Disciple: The vital plane, the vital being, the vital Prakriti — these are the three things and they all have to open themselves to the higher power?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by the vital being? If by it you mean the vital Purusha — it is there supporting the universal vital Prakriti. Apart from the Purusha, there is a vital personality — which may be the combination of many personalities — and this personality is to be changed. This personality is under the influence of the various forces coming from the universal vital Prakriti; it has to be opened to the higher power and thus transformed.
16 August 1926 (Evening)
(Sri Aurobindo referred to a newspaper report that a boy, 6 years old, in Punjab described in detail the incidents of his past birth and his statements after verification have been found to be true.)
Disciple: Taking the case to be genuine, what is the explanation?
Sri Aurobindo: The only explanation which seems probable to me is that some vital being is strongly associated with the boy and it is that being which is enabling him to recall and describe his past births.
Disciple: How could the vital being retain its association even after the death of the person?
Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps the person after death did not go beyond the vital plane; he did not go to the place of his rest as he had very little experience to assimilate.
(X referred to a case of a child dying and very soon afterwards taking birth again in the womb of its mother.)
Sri Aurobindo: As the child died early and had little experience to assimilate it was quite possible for it to come back very soon. There are various things which pull a person to take birth. But men do not leave one body and at once take birth into another; it is possible only in the case of insects.
At the place of rest the departed soul does not only assimilate the experiences of its immediate previous birth; all the experiences of all its past births together determine the kind of birth it is next going to take.
Disciple: As regards the theory of Karma, are all our sufferings determined by our past actions?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by your question? In a sense everything in our life is determined by our past.
Disciple: I refer to the ordinary view of karmabhoga that if a man causes some suffering or loss to somebody, he will himself have to undergo similar suffering or loss.
Sri Aurobindo: You have eaten many fishes — will you have to become a fish and be eaten by the fish you are?
Disciple: The popular view is something like that.
Sri Aurobindo: That is popular nonsense.
(Some stories were told how persons are supposed to get reward and punishment appropriate to their past acts.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is the Theosophist view. The idea of reward and punishment is human nonsense. What happens is that whenever any act is done, some energy is thrown out and there is a reaction on the doer. If a person does his works in the proper attitude —without attachment, as described in the Gita — allowing Nature to do her work without allowing oneself to be identified with that, then there is no reaction.
It is the works done from the vital plane from desire which recoil on the doer. If one wants to develop his ethical being, he must follow the ethical laws and similarly with other beings. There is no question of reward and punishment. The soul gathers experience through all sorts of conditions of life. It is not only the “sinful” that suffer, but the fools also, however innocent, suffer. One must be able to take into account the forces that are at work and learn to shape his life accordingly. When he cannot adjust himself to these forces, he suffers and these sufferings constitute the experience of the soul in its upward path.
(There was some talk about the sufferings of death.)
Disciple: J. C. Bose has said that the moment of death is pleasurable.
Sri Aurobindo: In most cases death follows a protracted disease and that disease is of course painful. But if the passing of the soul is considered, that is certainly peaceful; as a matter of fact, sometime before death the soul gets detached from the body and there is an atmosphere of calm and peace.
Disciple: The vital being gets detached from the body.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, you may say the vital-physical being gets detached.
(There was some talk of the necessity of a Guru for the sadhak.)
Sri Aurobindo: Though generally a touch from the Guru is necessary, it is not indispensable. In my case there was no touch from a Guru. I got an inner touch and practised Yoga. At a certain stage, when I could not proceed any further, Lele gave me some help. When I came to Pondicherry I got from within a programme of my sadhana. I did it myself but I could not make any progress as to how to help others. Then came Mirra; I found it out with her help.
Disciple: May I ask one audacious question?
Sri Aurobindo: What is it?
Disciple: What is Mirra’s contribution to this Yoga?
Sri Aurobindo: You can ask that question but I am not going to answer it as you will not be able to understand.
Sri Aurobindo: The impersonal attitude is not sufficient.
Disciple: The impersonal attitude does not help?
Sri Aurobindo: There, you rush to draw a conclusion. The impersonal attitude is helpful, but it is not all. It gives the necessary calm, equality, universality, infinity. It ensures safety as compared with the life in the mental plane. But the results of the impersonal attitude are limited.
17 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: Yesterday you were speaking about the insufficiency of the impersonal attitude.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I finished that subject.
Disciple: You said something about the mind in this respect, which I could not catch.
(No one could remember that, so the subject was allowed to lapse. Sri Aurobindo only remarked that with the impersonal attitude, the mind as well as any other part cannot have perfect transformation, though they may be spiritualized to a certain extent.)
Disciple: You spoke of opening a direct connection with the gods — how can that be done?
Sri Aurobindo: I knew you would ask that question. (Laughter)
Disciple: Give us some idea.
Sri Aurobindo: It is quite futile to answer this question — it will not help you.
(Somebody remarked. “Knock at the gates and they will be opened.”)
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, knock.
Disciple: But where to knock?
Sri Aurobindo: Knock everywhere.
Disciple: He wants the key.
Sri Aurobindo: The key is on the other side.
I can point out to you one method — just find out your own highest divine self which is quite apart from and above your ego. Those who have not got rid of egoism cannot approach the gods. There are gods who, when worshipped, fulfil the egoistic desires of men, but these gods are not the true gods, they belong to the vital plane.
Disciple: Asuras also, when worshipped, give us wealth, success, prosperity and so forth.
Sri Aurobindo: No, Asuras only use you, exploit you for their purposes and then throw you away.
Disciple: Do the vital gods help us to rise to the higher truth?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but their help is always conditional — you must fulfil certain conditions, before you can expect their help. Then, they will seek to prevent you when you try to overpass them.
Disciple: Do the gods obstruct us in our upward path?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, otherwise what is the significance of Indra sending his apsarās to seduce the sadhaks?
Disciple: That is all fable.
Sri Aurobindo: There appears your European mentality. The forms given may be fables — certainly it never happened that Indra sent his apsarās to seduce Viswamitra. But the significance is quite true.
Disciple: Where is the plane where the true gods live?
Sri Aurobindo: They live in the supramental plane as also in the higher planes.
Disciple: Beyond the supramental?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, do you think that the supramental is the highest plane?
X referred to the Christian theory that below the Trinity and above man there are seven gods who help to raise men.
Disciple: What are these gods?
Disciple: They represent the higher self of man.
Sri Aurobindo: But the self of man is not good.
Disciple: Perhaps the seven gods refer to the seven lights contained within the white light.
Sri Aurobindo: But the seven lights are only those which we can see. There are other lights. Why should there be only seven gods?
Disciple: There may be ultra-violet gods. (Laughter)
Sri Aurobindo: Do you think it ridiculous that there may be ultra-violet gods?
The colour of Sri Krishna is conceived to be blue. The blue light is the base-light on which the higher golden rays play.
Disciple: What is Krishna as he is conceived by the Vaishnavas?
Sri Aurobindo: You must be clear as to what you mean by Krishna.
Disciple: I refer to Krishna as he is conceived by the Vaishnavas. They say that Krishna belongs to the Ananda plane.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the Vaishnava Krishna is of the Ananda plane.
Disciple: Why do the gods seek the worship of men?
Sri Aurobindo: They do not seek it. If you ask the gods what do they think of their worshippers, they will say that these men are all bores. But when men seek their help by fulfilling the necessary conditions they have to help them — that is a necessary arrangement. All these gods are manifestations of the Supreme Being and they help men to rise at certain stages.
Disciple: What is the harm if people seek the help of the vital gods when they are in a lower stage of development?
Sri Aurobindo: They mistake the Asuras for the gods.
Disciple: What is the conception of the gods as they are worshipped by Hindus?
Sri Aurobindo: The gods worshipped by the Hindus are quite significant. They represent different aspects of the supreme Divine Being. But this inner significance is often lost sight of.
Disciple: The Asuras also are manifestations of God.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but that is from another standpoint. By opposition they help man in his upward evolution. This is the standpoint from which God is known integrally —samagram; vāsudevah sarvam [“The Divine Being is all.” The Gita, VII, 19.]
Disciple: You spoke of the change of the laws of the material world. We can understand that the living cells of the body are susceptible of change. But can the laws of chemistry and physics be changed? For example, can the law of gravitation be changed?
Sri Aurobindo: You can change the conditions and then the operation will change. Take a concrete example, the physical body. External forces cause pain in the body. But conditions in the body can be so changed that those very external forces will cause pleasure instead of pain.
We have not in mind the change of the whole material world. But in certain cases, the conditions can be so changed as to open up new possibilities in material phenomena.
(There was some talk about life in physical atoms.)
Sri Aurobindo: Do you believe that there is life in a watch?
Disciple: The children believe that.
Sri Aurobindo: I agree with the children. It is well known that watches behave differently with different persons. They even respond to the thought and will in man.
Disciple: Watches have life!
Sri Aurobindo: I knew you would be astounded.
Disciple: Motor cars have been said to have life.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, and railway engines.
Disciple: It was observed that railway engines when given rest can develop greater speed.
Sri Aurobindo: That is well known.
Disciple: That is only a case of fatigue which is seen in material bodies.
Disciple: But is not fatigue a sign of life?
Disciple: It is only a characteristic of matter. Had there been life, there would have been a feeling and a consciousness of fatigue.
Disciple: There you go further and demand mind and consciousness in material bodies.
Sri Aurobindo: If you go deep you will find that the fatigue shown by material bodies is a sign of life in them. That life may not have ordinary vital and mental characteristics. These ideas of the vital and the mental prevent us from seeing the life that is characteristic of material bodies. There is nothing purely material — there is life everywhere. Material atoms have choice and will peculiar to themselves.
18 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: You said that there would be a hierarchy among supermen. What are the minimum qualifications for being a superman?
Sri Aurobindo: That is a difficult question to answer.
Disciple: Is there anybody here who has attained the minimum?
Sri Aurobindo: No.
There are three stages for becoming a superman. Firstly, all the parts of the being from the mental to the physical and even to the most material must be opened to the higher Truth; secondly, the consciousness must be normally seated on the supramental plane; thirdly, all the activities of the mental, the vital and the physical must be fully organized by the higher power. All these need not be one after the other — they help each other but all these must be accomplished before one can be a superman, and there you have the minimum.
Disciple: What is the maximum?
Sri Aurobindo: There is no maximum.
Disciple: When the parts become open, does the struggle with the hostile forces become stronger?
Sri Aurobindo: That depends on the work done before.
Disciple: The work that is done before the opening — is that conscious?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean? All opening is conscious — as there is progressive consciousness there is opening.
Disciple: What kind of work is done before conscious opening?
Sri Aurobindo: There is the work of the intuitive mind. Intuitions may be of great help in ordinary life, but they are all mental movements. They are glorified guesses — the guesses may be all right, but still they are nothing more than guesses.
Then there may be a partial opening and the mind may be partly supramentalized. When the opening is full there appears the modified supermind.
Disciple: What is meant by modified supermind?
Sri Aurobindo: The supramental as it comes down and modifies the mental movements, it itself gets modified — thus it appears differently in different persons.
In the Arya I wrote fully about the Intuitive Supermind, the Representative Supermind and the Imperative Supermind.
Disciple: You said yesterday that watches have life. We did not quite understand it.
Sri Aurobindo: They respond to your suggestions.
Disciple: What kind of suggestions — mental?
Sri Aurobindo: Your suggestions must be of the right kind and strong enough.
Disciple: What sort of response to they make?
Sri Aurobindo: Of course, they would not jump up if you ask them.
Disciple: Will they go faster or slower?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes; and they may stop or start according to your suggestion.
Disciple: If the watch is out of repair, will it start if I give the suggestion?
Sri Aurobindo: No, there must be the mechanical basis.
Disciple: Can fire be lighted by the exertion of will power?
Sri Aurobindo: That is a different matter.
Disciple: Will the trigger of a gun go off if we can give the proper suggestion?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It may take some time before the response comes, but if it is strong enough there will be a response.
Disciple: When there are a few supermen on the earth, what will be their relation to the rest of humanity?
Sri Aurobindo: That is a ticklish question.
Disciple: Will they have a different language?
Disciple: Why a different language? They can convey greater force through ordinary words.
Sri Aurobindo: Even poets do that.
Disciple: Our language is mental — the superman cannot have a mere mental language.
Sri Aurobindo: Language is not mental — it is half mental.
Words were not at first associated with ideas. Sounds were the expressions of certain sensations produced in men by external objects. These sounds conveyed the impressions of those sensations and that did not depend on sounds of words but rather on the accent, the intonation which expressed the sensation. Gradually as the mind was developed, these primary intonations developed into a language.
Disciple: It is said that there was an original language, common to all men, which in course of time was differentiated into different languages.
Sri Aurobindo: Originally a word expressed many things. When men separated from each other, different groups retained different words and different senses of words. Thus the Greeks retained some words which were forgotten by the Indians and vice versa. Thus arose the different languages.
Disciple: How does the general mentality of the race, the human race, help or hinder the sadhana of a few individuals?
Sri Aurobindo: The ideas of the race are in the universal mind and they flow into the minds of the sadhaks and thus disturb them. It is for this reason that sadhaks want to remain separated from other men — so that they may have an atmosphere of their own. Thus we have thrown a wall around us so that the external atmosphere may not stifle our sadhana.
Disciple: Has nearness in space an effect on the atmosphere?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if you converse all day long with rickshawallas, you will certainly be affected by their attitude and thoughts.
First the mind has to be opened. The mechanical play of thought is to cease and the whole mind intuitivized.
19 August 1926 (No conversation because of rains.)
20 August 1926 (Evening)
(While taking my bath in the sea in the morning, I had experienced some difficulty when swimming through the irregular waves. Sri Aurobindo said you should give up such adventures in the future. The sea there is not safe; there is a belief current here that every year the sea there takes the soul of a human life. There is an undercurrent at that place which, if you fall into it, will carry you miles away into the sea.
X who had accompanied me to the sea humorously remarked how he was afraid that if I was drowned, Sri Aurobindo would rebuke him. (Laughter))
Sri Aurobindo: That was your only fear! You feel responsible to me, but if A gets drowned I shall be responsible to the whole nation.
(In the course of the conversation that followed Sri Aurobindo casually remarked that the purpose of bath can be well served under the tap. What is the pleasure of taking bath in water full of night-soil?)
Disciple: There are two ways of opening ourselves to the higher power — through the mental and through the psychic. Do these respectively correspond with the purusa and the prakrti?
Sri Aurobindo: It cannot be looked upon in that way. When one approaches the higher truth through the mind, the approach is roundabout, in circles — through mental thinking. But when the psychic opens, the aspiration goes up straight. These two sides cannot be distinguished as purusa and prakrti sides, but the fact is that men generally go through the mental, and women through the psychic.
A distinction can be made in this manner that the mental opening represents the consciousness side and the psychic opening represents the Ananda side.
Disciple: Can one be a superman unless the psychic being in him is opened?
Sri Aurobindo: No.
Those in whom the mind is developed and strong find it at first difficult to open the psychic — as the tendency of the mind is to externalize.
(A cyclonic gale began to blow and disturb the conversation.)
Disciple: Are there beings who enjoy these gales and storms?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes. There are spirits of fire, of storm and so forth.
Disciple: Can’t these gales be stopped?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if you can exert sufficient force. You just try and I shall support you. (Laughter)
Disciple: Is it not more difficult to control the universal forces than to control beings?
Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be more difficult?
Disciple: A being is something individualized.
Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be more difficult to control forces? If you can throw sufficient force yourself you can control the universal forces. What is most difficult to control is the material part of the universal play of forces.
Disciple: Are the forces of Nature controlled and organized by psychic forces behind?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by psychic forces? That is only a manner of describing.
Disciple: I mean conscious forces which control the material forces of Nature.
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by material forces?
Disciple: Electricity, for example.
Sri Aurobindo: What is electricity?
Disciple: The energy which produces the phenomena known as electric.
Sri Aurobindo: That is the standpoint of the scientist. We Yogis regard these things in a different way. They are all phenomena, manifestations of conscious forces behind. Thus electricity is a manifestation of Agni.
Disciple: Can these forces which manifest the phenomena of Nature be controlled by the exertion of Yogic powers?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, though there is a limit to the exertion of such powers.
Disciple: There is certainly a purpose behind all these movements of Nature.
Sri Aurobindo: What purpose?
Disciple: We may not know that purpose, but there must be some purpose. And that purpose sets the limit.
Sri Aurobindo: That is only attributing human ideas to the explanation of universal phenomena — and this is quite useless. A fire attacks this house, I exert a force and the fire diverts itself to another house. What purpose is there in all this?
Disciple: There is a belief that even a leaf does not fall unnoticed by God.
Disciple: That is true in a sense. All the things and events of the world are encompassed within the consciousness of God and it is certainly not impossible for God consciously to determine the smallest detail.
Sri Aurobindo: Thus, when I take three lumps of sugar instead of two for my tea, is it God that determines the choice with me? That is all nonsense — the ways of God are not like that. It is only when the human mind tries to understand things that they apply such mental ideas.
Disciple: Then what do you mean by saying that there is a limit to the influence one can exert on the universal forces?
Sri Aurobindo: The most material things are very difficult to manage. Thus it is easier to control the wind than to turn the water-tap by throwing your Yogic force upon the central part of the forces working behind these phenomena.
Sri Aurobindo: It is not very difficult to enter into the consciousness of the universal forces. It is only one step.
Disciple: One step from where?
Sri Aurobindo: From the mental consciousness. It is the mental consciousness which prevents us from entering into the consciousness of the forces which have a consciousness quite different from the mental.
Disciple: When a Yogi wants to control activities in the external world, he does not proceed to take account of the conditions and causes in detail as a scientist would do; he looks to the force behind the movement and acts upon the centre of the force.
21 August 1926 (Evening)
(I read a letter from X who is detained in Insein Jail. In connection with his reference to yogah karmasu kauśalam, Sri Aurobindo remarked: “He seems to think that kauśalam is the Yoga; in that case all clever men would be Yogis.”
Y put a long and elaborate question which turned upon the question whether Sri Aurobindo had built up a Yoga-Pitha in the higher plane and the supramental plane, as other Yogis are supposed to do in their own way, which has to be brought down to the lower plane — down to the material.)
Sri Aurobindo: No, I have built nothing there and do not know what is built in the supramental plane. The supramental plane is not a plane of constructions. That is a plane of “what is”; it is only on the mental plane that constructions are made. These mental constructions may have some truth behind them — though generally they have no such truth; even when there is some truth behind the constructions of the mind, the mind may mix up many vital and mental elements and the constructions become very imperfect expressions of the truth. Yet they are allowed to persist sometime in order to work out the possibilities; then those constructions are demolished and newer forms are developed.
It is for this reason that we do not rush to work; such mental constructions often hinder the expressions of Truth and we are waiting for the Truth to express itself. You perhaps refer to the work at Chandernagore.
Sri Aurobindo: I had some constructions in mind; I gave them to Z to be worked out by him. Even then I had nothing definite, I knew that the mental construction might not succeed, yet my idea was to see the possibilities. But Z put forth his vital elements into the plan and the vital forces at once proceeded to frustrate it, as they always have done in the past. They also caught hold of Z. I at first tried to withdraw Z from it but did not succeed. Now, I have put the whole thing outside my atmosphere and do not think about it. It will be known as Aurobindo Ghose’s first garbhaśrāva [delivery]. The only course now left is that those who are worth ought to come out of it.
Disciple: They at first sought to make it a place for Yogins, then it gradually turned into a Sangha.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I wanted that to consist of Yogins — it might be a Sangha, but a Sangha of Yogins.
Disciple: You say that Yogins can do some work as a sort of exercise — as a help to the growth of the Truth in them. What are the limits to such work for exercise?
Sri Aurobindo: The limit is that the work should not be allowed to interfere with Yoga. Suppose you take up a work which leaves no time for Yoga — how will you then carry on Yoga? A work which takes up all your attention and your energy cannot be undertaken by Yogins. Then there are works which have a quite different dharma; for example, political work, and that is incompatible with Yoga. Then you must not be attached to any work or mental construction. You must be prepared to give it up when necessary. You must be merciless in rejecting even your own creations. The idea of kartavyam [That which must be done] must not be allowed to interfere with your Yoga.
Disciple: Is it not necessary at a certain stage to give up all work?
Sri Aurobindo: There cannot be a general rule. One or two — some may have to withdraw from all work at a certain time, but this may not be necessary for all. I myself was doing work in the Arya. I gave it up when I found that I was not able to know something which I wanted to know — some things had to be worked out which needed all my energy. The whole responsibility was on me for finding out the path and I had to do it. I also found that I could not do anything definite through the Arya — I had to externalize much of my energy which could be better utilized for inward work.
Even then I was doing some work — even political work.
Disciple: Political work! In what sense?
Sri Aurobindo: That is not a sensible question.
Disciple: Let us have some idea.
Sri Aurobindo: I threw out some forces on the different movements. Some forces had to be helped, some had to be combated, and that work was not confined to India. I was not at first very successful. Often the force I threw achieved nothing or even produced results quite different from what I intended. The reason was that at that time I did not fully know the play of the vital forces. I used to put forth something vital from me and that used to confuse the whole thing. Gradually I corrected that; still there was some putting forth of the vital, but that was pure and subtle.
All this, however, was done not from the Supramental. I did not know what was going to happen — I simply knew what had to be done and did it. It would have been quite different in the Supramental where everything is known and decided.
Disciple: How do you come to know what has to be done?
Sri Aurobindo: That comes through the higher mind.
Disciple: Are you working through the Arya Samajists?
Sri Aurobindo: Arya Samajists! Yes, in a way…
Disciple: Did you exert any force during the European war?
Sri Aurobindo: No, neither of the sides had my sympathy. It would have been a greater disaster if Germany had won.
Sri Aurobindo: With all their music and philosophy the Germans are a barbaric race. When Germany was triumphantly marching towards Paris, I knew that Paris must be saved. At that time I consulted the map and almost saw the very place where the Germans would be stopped.
It is curious that often my mind hammered upon something that it must happen. Then when it goes out of my mind, that thing happens though often in an unexpected manner. Thus, at one time I thought that Alsace-Lorraine must go to France. Then it went out of my mind — and see how it has come about!
Disciple: Perhaps when there is desire behind, then your attempts to exert influence do not succeed.
Sri Aurobindo: It is not success that is always intended — attempts are to be made for working out possibilities. There is no cut and dried and exact program — it is all experience and growth.
Sri Aurobindo: I threw my force through X and Y. The political movements in India are such that it is not possible to do much through them. They cannot hold any force that is thrown upon them. The enormous tamas that has come upon India frustrates all attempts. The force is split up and disappears.
Disciple: Who has brought this tamas on India?
Sri Aurobindo: It has been the result of various vital movements. Disintegration had begun when the Europeans were coming to India. And when the British-rule became established the whole thing collapsed. If any force is thrown on a movement, there is some jerking, just like the shock of electricity on a lifeless thing — there is some temporary throwing about of hands and feet and then the whole movement comes to a standstill. There must be some awakening before anything effective can be accomplished.
Disciple: Have things come to the worst? Will it now begin to mend?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the worst stage has passed and the various movements are signs of awakening life.
Disciple: Is there a chance of India’s breaking up?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if there be four or five more Gandhis. (Laughter)
Disciple: Did you ever work through Gandhi?
Sri Aurobindo: I at first did not know what he was about. I thought that it was a resuscitation of the Swadeshi movement. Then gradually I came to know that there was nothing behind the movement and it was going to end in a fiasco. Gandhi was not meant for politics — he could not see the political needs of the situation. He only had some constructions in his mind and wanted to throw them into action.
Disciple: He at first did not take up the idea of Swaraj. His movement was for redressing the Khilafat and the Punjab wrongs.
Sri Aurobindo: Gandhi always had something behind what was superficially in his mind. What he says is not always what he means. He had for a long time an idea of fighting against the British rule.
He is not for great things. He can do things on a small scale and over a selected group of people he can exert tremendous personal influence. He ends often in a sort of compromise — as he did in South Africa. Nowhere has he achieved any great success.
Disciple: Perhaps he would have succeeded if he had started civil disobedience at Bardoli.
Sri Aurobindo: No, that would have ended in a miserable failure — there would have been huge massacres and the progress of India would have been checked for decades. There Gandhi got the right inspiration when he stopped that; he felt within himself that he was going beyond his depths.
Disciple: Then it was only a pretence that he stopped civil disobedience at Bardoli?
Sri Aurobindo: It was not a pretence — it was his mind which found out certain justifications, though there was something behind without his knowledge, which really stopped him.
(In reference to X’s question at the beginning, Sri Aurobindo said that he had constructed nothing in the Supramental — he himself got the idea of Supramental after ten years of Yoga. It has been a progressive Yoga. What is going on in the Supramental is not allowed to be known beforehand as the hostile forces may frustrate it.)
Disciple: It is not told to us, but you yourself know it.
Sri Aurobindo: Oh, no. I know nothing about that. I only see what has to be done and do it.
(There was reference to a vision seen by X — that there was a Yogic circle surrounded by sentinels. Sri Aurobindo and others were within the circle and no one was allowed to enter into it unless he had certain signs and marks. It was sought to smuggle X into the circle. It could be seen, however, that the building of the Yogic circle was not complete.)
Sri Aurobindo: It was a mere vital vision — an indication of what was going on in X himself. In all such visions, the building is seen to be unfinished and incomplete. Such visions do not give any definite or clear knowledge — they only give certain indications about what is going on.
Disciple: Going on where — in the Supramental?
Sri Aurobindo: Oh no; in the vital and the mental.
Sri Aurobindo: The creations are all in the lower planes — the Supramental is trying to construct something here below. Many things have to be broken down, many possibilities to be worked out — as is done in the life of the Yogins. The ultimate results are worked out progressively but not known beforehand, as the hostile forces might frustrate them. But in the Supramental, there is no hostile force.
22 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: Did you say yesterday that you are working through the Arya Samajists, that is by throwing Yogic force?
Sri Aurobindo: No, why should I help the Arya Samajist movement?
Disciple: As regards the announcement of the world-teacher by the Theosophists is there any truth in that?
Sri Aurobindo: What truth?
Disciple: Do they get any real indication of the Truth that is coming?
Sri Aurobindo: Falsehood may as well come and Z will be a fit receptacle for that.
Disciple: They say a new Truth is coming.
Sri Aurobindo: What truth? An Avatar.
Disciple: An Avatar comes with his own body.
Sri Aurobindo: He may as well use the body of someone else. Was Chaitanya an Avatar?
Disciple: Yes, we take him to be an Avatar.
Sri Aurobindo: Chaitanya’s body was occasionally taken hold of by an Avatar.
Disciple: Can Z play such a role?
Sri Aurobindo: Oh no, he is quite a commonplace sort of man and all their visions and glimpses are vital.
The Theosophists do not give any new truth; brotherhood and character and harmony — all these are very old truths.
Disciple: Have they got any glimpse of the Supramental Truth that is coming down?
Sri Aurobindo: The Supramental comes at the end of the Yoga, not at the beginning.
Disciple: You said one day that there are some people in America who have got a glimpse of the Supramental Truth.
Sri Aurobindo: I did not say that they have a glimpse of the Supramental; what they have is similar inner experience.
Disciple: Similar to what?
Sri Aurobindo: Similar to the experiences we have.
(Sri Aurobindo then talked of a Swedish lady in America who is a master of 11 languages and a great educationist. She has inner spiritual experiences — she has been feeling that she was losing herself too much in external work. She has now decided to retire from external work and devote herself to Yoga. She came to a man in America, who has started sacred schools throughout the country for preaching the ideas of the Arya. Sri Aurobindo has no idea about what sort of work that man is doing. Through this man that lady has approached Sri Aurobindo for guidance in her Yoga.)
Disciple: What are the spiritual possibilities of the American people?
Sri Aurobindo: They can give us money. (Laughter) There is nothing specially spiritual in them.
Disciple: They receive well Indian philosophy and spiritual preachers from India.
Sri Aurobindo: That is for intellectual satisfaction. Various preachers from India have made many disciples there and thus Indian philosophy can easily get a hearing.
But the American people are more receptive to new things than any other country in Europe, e.g. England.
(There was some talk about Americans who have adopted Hinduism.)
Disciple: What place do these converts occupy in Hindu society?
Sri Aurobindo: They have not entered Hindu society but have simply adopted Hinduism. Buddhism was adopted by the Chinese and the Japanese — did they enter the fold of Hindu society?
Disciple: In what does then the Hinduism of these new converts consist?
Sri Aurobindo: They believe in Vedanta, in Krishna, in the Hindu Gods and so forth.
Disciple: What is the difference between Arya Samajism and Hinduism?
Sri Aurobindo: Difference! The Arya Samajists are a sect of the Hindus. They accept the Vedas, but do not accept the Puranas.
Disciple: They have no caste system — there are frequent inter-marriages under the auspices of the Arya Samajists.
Disciple: The Hindu Sangathan movement is nowadays very popular.
Sri Aurobindo: I do not know what the Sangathanists are doing. Are they doing any work or simply talking?
Disciple: They are establishing Hindu Sabhas in different provinces and towns.
Sri Aurobindo: The Congress movement.
Disciple: What should be the lines the Sangathan should follow?
Sri Aurobindo: I am not prepared to answer this question… Sangathan is only a beginning… Sangathan means organization… The Hindus should be first self-conscious.
23 August 1926 (Evening)
Sri Aurobindo (To X): You asked about the forms of the gods. They have fixed forms which indeed express their nature. But one cannot see this form unless he has passed the limit of human consciousness. The forms in which gods appear to men have two elements — first, there is the reflection of their fixed form; the reflection may not be perfect and may vary according to the plane — mental or vital — where it is manifested; secondly, the mind, that is the consciousness of the bhakta may contribute something.
Those who approach through the impersonal attitude see God in the form of man — that is perhaps why God is called Purusha.
(Y referred to the Buddhistic mythology which Sri Aurobindo remarked was very fantastic; specially the Lamaist doctrines.
There was reference to cycles which exactly repeated themselves. Sri Aurobindo remarked that this cannot be true. When in Alipur Jail, he had visions about cycles and manvantaras, which at that time he regarded to be very important experiences. There he saw the cycles as not repeating themselves exactly but they were renewed on higher and higher planes. The principle he is more true.)
Disciple: Are there any worlds where there is no evolution?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes.
Disciple: What is the movement there?
Sri Aurobindo: Why should there be any movement?
Disciple: What sort of life is that?
Sri Aurobindo: Very happy life. It is only men who think that there cannot be happiness unless there be conflict and progress, smiles and tears.
(There was some humorous talk about the superstitious beliefs that ancestors are supported in heaven by the pindas [the symbolic food offered to one’s father and forefathers in funeral rites] offered by their descendants.)
Sri Aurobindo: The curious thing is how they jumble together inconsistent ideas. Thus this theory of pinda and pitrloka is quite inconsistent with the doctrine of rebirth in which also these people believe. The explanation is that the pinda belief is a relic of past superstitions which has persisted even after the doctrine of rebirth was found.
(There was some talk about superstitious beliefs. Y referred to a case where a marriage contracted between a rāksasa gana woman and a nara gana man resulted in the premature death of the latter.)
Sri Aurobindo: There is some truth in that. In the sexual act there is very great, rather the most violent interchange of vital forces — some persons draw away the whole vitality from others. The rāksasa gana etc. represent the vital beings.
Disciple: As there is some truth in astrology and horoscopes, is it not better that nations should govern their marriages by these instead of marrying freely?
Sri Aurobindo: The difficulty is that true interpreters will not be found. It ought to be investigated what truly is there behind these. But it is not an easy task. Thus life would be intolerable if we begin to interpret the truth behind all omens.
Disciple: Those who believe in omens invite dangers by their very beliefs.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the best thing is to throw away all these superstitions; go straight in your path and overcome difficulties as they arise.
Disciple: Can human beings attain to the status of gods?
Sri Aurobindo: The Puranas say so. It is said there that a man can be Indra… If it be supposed that a man has different beings, and his god-self is in the Supramental, then if one can bring down that god-self, he will become a god. The answer depends on whether man is god or not. According to a theory, a man has four beings; the highest is God, the lowest is man.
Disciple: What are the middle?
Sri Aurobindo: The mental and the vital.
Sri Aurobindo: The only objection to this theory of every man having a god-self is that then the world of gods would be too populous.
Disciple: You said that day that in the supramental plane there are only a few gods —the different personalities of God.
Sri Aurobindo: Oh, the personalities which rule the universe. That is different — I mean gods in a wider sense.
Disciple: Is there sex difference among gods?
Sri Aurobindo: Why not? What is sex here in the human plane — only a sort of difference, like positive and negative poles. Why should there not be such differences among the gods? What after all is the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti?
Disciple: Two aspects of God.
Sri Aurobindo: Similarly there may be two aspects among the gods.
24 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: What is the difference between the unity of India and the unity of Europe?
Sri Aurobindo: The two are quite different. Europe has no definite collective personality as India. The different countries of Europe have different natures — thus England and France have quite different characteristics.
Disciple: Is the difference between the different provinces of India the same as that between the different countries in Europe?
Sri Aurobindo: No. The different provinces in India are related to each other as Scotland, Wales and England are related. The unity of Europe is in formation, but the collective personality of India is already there. India has a super-personality which is evolving the differences in different provinces, while in Europe there are the different countries which are trying to evolve a collective personality.
Disciple: Has the super-personality of India been always there?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, so far as history goes. We do not know anything about the time when the Aryans had not come to India.
Disciple: What is the nature of this super-personality of India?
Sri Aurobindo: That I know as much as you know. You have to look to the characteristics of the Indian people in order to understand the nature of the super-personality.
Disciple: What is then this talk about Europe as a unity?
Sri Aurobindo: That refers to the common culture and the mentality which the Europeans have in common as distinguished from that in any other part of the earth.
Disciple: Some say that a nation cannot have unity unless there is a war with some other nation.
Sri Aurobindo: That is a vital way of achieving unity. Real unity does not come in that way.
(There was some talk about the unity of different peoples. The different parts of Japan are more united than the different parts of Great Britain. Germany and Austria would have been united but for the interference of France and other countries.)
Disciple: Can individuals uniting together evolve a collective personality?
Sri Aurobindo: That is like the question — whether eggs come first or the hens.
Disciple: But we know how eggs come out of hens and hens out of eggs.
Sri Aurobindo: Do we?
Disciple: A personality consists of two elements — a being and its nature.
Sri Aurobindo: Only two?
Disciple: What more?
Sri Aurobindo: There may be different personalities combining together to form a single personality. Many personalities have mixed together in India.
Disciple: Is the nature of the super-personality of India known as the śakti of India?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes.
The super-personality may be a power of God which manifests in the nature of the country. It creates a sort of a mandala, a circle, and all those who come under this circle have the same nature, same characteristics.
Disciple: Can this super-personality be called a god?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, though it may not belong to the supramental plane. It may be an emanation from one of these supramental gods.
Disciple: Are there gods beyond the supramental plane?
Sri Aurobindo: We need not trouble about them — it is trouble enough to know the supramental gods.
Disciple: Have the gods personality?
Sri Aurobindo: Certainly.
Disciple: What is the difference between the personality of a god and that of a human being?
Sri Aurobindo: As your personality differs from that of a lizard.
Disciple: Then we have chance of one day attaining to the status of gods.
Disciple: Are there forms in the world of gods?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is the source of all forms.
(X referred to the Buddhist idea of a formless or arūpa loka.)
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there may be a arūpa loka—if by loka you mean any extension of consciousness.
(There was some talk about mental abstraction.)
Sri Aurobindo: In mind, idea, beauty, etc. are mere abstractions. Thus to the mind the Supramental is some abstraction but in truth it is much more concrete than anything we can conceive.
Our idea of concreteness is something which is very palpable — thus a solid body to us is more concrete than air. When you go beyond the mind and really know the Supramental you find it to be infinitely more concrete than anything else — it is as hard as diamond, at the same time a most subtle fluid.
It is for this possibility of confusion that I wrote about ideas realities and powers, not as mere abstractions of the mind.
25 August 1926 (Evening)
(I referred to the conversation or speech of Dr. Seal on the ideals of Indian education.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is all academic.
(I referred to the distinction he has made between dharma and adhikāra, duties and rights.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is putting modern European ideas into ancient conceptions. The ancient Indians understood dharma in a spiritual sense.
(I referred to his statement that stress should not be made only on individual development but the social side also must be developed.)
Sri Aurobindo: But that certainly does not apply to the Indians. They neglected the individual development, laying stress on communal consciousness.
(With reference to the conflict that arose between different groups and communities, Sri Aurobindo remarked that groups following their own dharma could not lead to conflict.)
Disciple: What were the essential characteristics of ancient Indian education?
Sri Aurobindo: In India education was not the same through all times. In ancient times education turned upon spiritual development and the development of character. It centred round the Vedas. There was also the cultural side. The Guru was a spiritual man through whose personal influence the spiritual side of the students developed. In ancient Greece, stress was laid on the development of intelligence — especially with reference to the arts, and the aesthetics. They did not learn much, but the intelligence was made to grow by creating a suitable atmosphere for it.
In the classical period in India, education was very elaborate. You would be astonished to know what elaborate provisions were made for the education of women.
(Somebody remarked that 64 kalās or arts were cultivated.)
Disciple: When was that?
Sri Aurobindo: During the time of Kalidasa.
Then there were the universities of Nalanda and Takshila. They were like the medieval schools of Europe — the education centred round philosophy and discussion.
The ancient methods cannot all be revived. Thus, students were sent by the Guru to tend his cows — is that possible in modern times?
(There was some talk about the style of Brajendranath Seal — someone had compared that to Sri Aurobindo’s style.)
Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that my style is so dull and heavy?
(Reference was made how few people in India could understand and appreciate the Arya.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is due to two reasons. First, to understand the Arya requires a good knowledge of English and very few Indians can claim that. Secondly, one must know and feel interested in the subject.
Disciple: Those who are acquainted with the ideas in our sadhana can easily follow the Arya.
Sri Aurobindo: No. A good knowledge of English is required. People in America are reading the Arya and they do not find any extraordinary difficulty.
Disciple: After reading your writings, I cannot find interest in other writings, which seem to me to be dull.
Disciple: That is because his writings are very full of substance.
Sri Aurobindo: As a matter of fact I wrote the Arya not for anybody else but for myself. I wanted to express something that was in me.
Disciple: Your writings have exhausted all my intellectual curiosity.
Sri Aurobindo: That is because you have entered the Yoga.
(I referred to the style of Gandhi as being very good.)
Sri Aurobindo: I find it to be very bad. He seems to have no style at all.
Disciple: I found his writings to be very refreshing.
Sri Aurobindo: I find them to be very depressing, and that for two reasons: first, he exaggerates falsehood to such an extent as to appear like truth; secondly, he raises the mind to a high pitch and then lets it fall; he raises expectations and then falsifies them.
Disciple: He seems to think very clearly.
Sri Aurobindo: I wonder where you find clear thinking in him. He is most illogical whenever he tries to argue. Some of his writings are very forceful — but they were not his arguments; he wrote them under inspiration. The Europeans like his writings not because there is any style but they seem to see through it some force in the man.
Gandhi’s reasoning consists of premises and logical conclusions drawn from them but the whole thing contradicts truth and common sense. That sort of subtle logic appeals to a certain class of Indian minds.
Disciple: The little life that was in the non-co-operation movement — what was that due to?
Sri Aurobindo: Do you call that life? That was something like electric dancing.
Disciple: How could then so many men be attracted?
Sri Aurobindo: There was a simple appeal — Charkha, Swaraj within one year and so forth — immense concentration of force on a small point, which easily carried away people for the moment, though the enthusiasm could not last long. Life-movement is not like that — it is a free flow; there is some dynamic truth behind which brings real life and that creates its own organizations which are not merely mechanical and artificial. But Gandhi had no hold of such truth. He had certain ideas in his brain, he threw them with great force, he hammered on with them; there was a certain kind of vital force and it touched the vital part of men and created a temporary enthusiasm which could last for only two or three years. This is quite useful in revolution, but there must be some truth behind, otherwise no fruitful result can be achieved. Gandhi had no such truth.
Disciple: Das, Lajpat Rai and others at first resisted Gandhi, but somehow they afterwards surrendered.
Sri Aurobindo: Das knew, but everybody seemed to have lost his head at that time.
Brajendranath has absorbed many ideas — but does not seem to think things out. So his writings are more or less academic, divorced from the actualities of life.
26 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: Can the physical personality of a man be completely got over by Yoga?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by the physical personality? There is the external personality of man which is predominantly physical but there is also the vital and the mental. The external part of man is only that portion which has come out — there is much more behind. Some portion is very near the surface, ready for expression — other parts are more hidden and may not come out in this life. It is the object of Yoga to harmonize the different parts in the mental being, also in the vital being and in the physical and then the whole is to be given a harmonious expression, and for this the external personality has to be got over and changed. Some of the elements may remain but they are transformed.
Disciple: Which are the elements that remain?
Sri Aurobindo: That depends on individual cases — which elements are to be kept and transformed and which are to be rejected. There is no general rule.
In Yoga the external personality is so much changed as to appear as a quite different being. Thus when X is transformed by Yoga, those who have not seen him for 10 years, will find it difficult to recognize him.
Disciple: In the external personality there may be combined different personalities.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in the personality of man there may be mental elements, mental-vital elements (e.g. aesthetic taste) and physical elements. Man’s personality is mainly physical — the mental and the vital are there but involved in the physical.
Disciple: Are the different personalities a result of past life?
Sri Aurobindo: There are also other elements — personalities of past lives may be combined with what the man creates in the present life.
But it is difficult to distinguish and separate the personalities in men who are not well-developed. There all the elements are jumbled together, as when we say that a person has no individuality. I call these cases of single personality. But in developed men the personalities can be easily distinguished.
Disciple: Are the apparent contradictions in the character of men to be accounted for in this manner?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes.
Disciple: Let us take concrete examples. Robespierre at one time could not pass the sentence of death on a criminal.
Sri Aurobindo: That was in his young age and he got over that.
Disciple: In Das there were many personalities — the lawyer, the poet, the politician.
Sri Aurobindo: In your article you have said that Das’s speeches were not logical. But in previous days all his speeches were logical, like those of a lawyer. When he entered into politics, he gave up that habit and that was why he succeeded. The politician in Das was quite different from the lawyer.
Disciple: There have been persons whose private life was very loose, but in public life they were very successful.
Sri Aurobindo: What connection is there between morality and greatness? Most great men were immoral. Looseness in private morality arises from a strong vital being and that leads to success in great works.
Immorality consists in allowing the vital impulses to go out unchecked. That may arise from strength or from weakness. In the case of strength the vital impulses go out by the strength; in the case of weakness, they go out because they cannot be checked.
Self-control or tapasyā does not necessarily require a Yogi or a divine man. Asuras exercise control over their vital impulses — to conserve energy for greater enjoyment.
Those who do not give indulgence to their impulses through weakness or fear of society may be respectable, but I cannot call them pure.
The ordinary idea of morality is the observance of social laws. Thus when X cohabited with his pregnant wife, there was nothing immoral in it according to ordinary ideas, but I regard that as immoral.
Most saints have been sinners at the earlier part of their lives, e.g. Bilwamangal.
Disciple: There are exceptions.
Sri Aurobindo: No, the fact is that all do not confess their sins. Das was not moral, but he became great.
Disciple: In his late life he controlled himself.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he was always a very strong man.
27 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: You referred to beauty as a power in the higher plane whereas it is a mere abstraction in the mental plane.
Sri Aurobindo: Beauty is the power of God’s Ananda and it is a power in every plane.
Disciple: What do you mean by beauty as power?
Sri Aurobindo: But what is beauty? It is God Himself in His Ananda power seeking perfect expression in the world.
Disciple: What is bhakti? What is the place of beauty in it?
Sri Aurobindo: Bhakti contains many things else—e.g., love, faith.
Disciple: Must there be a sense of beauty in bhakti?
Sri Aurobindo: May or may not be. In India, beauty is regarded as a great power through which God can be approached easily. In Europe, beauty is regarded to be something immoral.
Disciple: Beauty is relation — it consists in harmony and proportion in the different elements. A simple thing without any relation cannot be beautiful.
Sri Aurobindo: That is how beauty expresses itself. The essence of beauty does not consist in harmonious form — the form is only a means to express beauty and then again this applies to beauty of form. There may be other kinds of beauty, e.g. beauty of thought, beauty of force, beauty of life.
Disciple: What is the distinction between beauty of life and beauty of form?
Sri Aurobindo: (Taking up a piece of wood) Here there is no life, but there is form. In beauty of life there is form, but there may be form without life.
Disciple: You spoke of art and aesthetics as belonging to the vital plane.
Sri Aurobindo: The first impulse comes from the vital but it can take elements from any other plane.
Disciple: A good artist does not work with the mind; he gets inspiration from a higher source.
Sri Aurobindo: The higher power acting on the vital creates an impulse and then it rises to the mental to find expression. There is always some play of the intellect. But the best kinds of poetry are produced through the intuitive mind.
The intuitive mind means many things — it implies the play of many forces.
In order to produce good art the physical instrument must be trained. Thus there are men who have great things above but they all become confused when they come to the physical plane.
Disciple: One must know the language before he can write poetry.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he must know the prosody.
Disciple: The training of the physical mind will also be done by the higher power.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but it is a great advantage if it is already trained.
Disciple: That also applies to the mental and the vital?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes.
Disciple: The physical instrument may have been trained in a previous birth?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is generally the case with poets and artists — the instruments are ready, yet they have to be trained.
Disciple: Good art implies limitation and restriction.
Sri Aurobindo: But all good artists break through conventions. They do not guide themselves by conventions; they adopt lines and forms as conditions but these conditions are very elastic. Thus different poets using different metres, make them produce different kinds of beauty — the beauty is not confined to the line and form, it is always something more. This is what makes it difficult for Europeans to appreciate Indian art. Their ideal is the Hellenic ideal — perfection of form.
Disciple: What is it in beauty that produces delight in us?
Sri Aurobindo: Beauty is God expressing himself and the delight is determined by two things: first, the power that is expressing itself; secondly, the manner of the expression — more perfect the expression, more beauty there is in it.
Disciple: Beauty is God himself!
Disciple: X is God himself.
Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that X is not beautiful? (Laughter)
Disciple: But when one appreciates beauty he is not conscious that it is an expression of God.
Sri Aurobindo: Men often appreciate ugly things. Again, when one runs after a beautiful girl, he does not think that he is running after God.
The appreciation of real beauty like everything else requires training.
Disciple: What are the causes of the deterioration of the aesthetic sense in India?
Sri Aurobindo: First, there is the decline in the vitality of the people; it began two or three centuries before. There were still some instincts for beauty. But everything collapsed with the European invasion — specially the influence of the English, the most inartistic people in the world. People began to imitate whatever the foreigners called good or what they thought that the foreigners called good. Thus Ravi Varma’s pictures are imitations and very bad imitations of European art.
Disciple: How are we to know that the ancient Indians were a very aesthetic people?
Sri Aurobindo: That we can know from the descriptions contained in ancient Indian literature. Then many things have still survived and also many customs which show the high aesthetic sense of the Indian people.
Disciple: When the higher power acts upon the vital being to change and purify it, does it act through the mind?
Sri Aurobindo: It acts through the mind as well as directly.
Disciple: Is the mind conscious of the changes that go on in the course of vital transformation?
Sri Aurobindo: The preparations go on behind, though the mind grows more and more conscious of the changes that take place in the vital.
28 August 1926 (Evening)
(There was some talk about miraculous powers. A certain person had some powers but he fell ill and lost them.)
Sri Aurobindo: That shows that the powers were derived from a vital source. These powers are often great obstacles to a Yogi. Then a Yogi cannot exert them at any time at will. Some force is gathered and then that goes forth in action. It produces exhaustion of power — as is implied by the old phrase tapah ksaya.
These powers are abused when a vulgar use is made of them as for demonstration, gathering disciples, satisfaction of egoism (of the lower kind). The Yogi properly uses such powers when something has to be done, and he gets an intuition.
The vulgar use of these powers is undesirable only for this that it is an affair of the lower plane of consciousness and thus brings the Yogi downwards.
Disciple: Are these powers in the vital plane derived from evil forces?
Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily so, though that is in most cases.
Disciple: The tendency to acquire these powers is an obstacle to Yoga?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, when they are sought for their own sake, for the sake of vital satisfaction. But they may come in the course of unfolding the Yogic life.
(There was some talk about Ramkrishna [sic] giving the higher consciousness to a disciple by his touch.)
Sri Aurobindo: There is no use forcing things. Ramkrishna [sic] gave the Brahman consciousness to Hriday, but it did him no good and he had to take that back.
(There was some reference to Vivekananda’s giving a premature touch to a disciple.)
Sri Aurobindo: Vivekananda was never effective as a guru. He was too intellectual for that.
Disciple: He made Sister Nivedita a disciple.
Sri Aurobindo: He acted upon her mind — but a guru must act upon something more than the mind. Nivedita got intellectual ideas, her mind was Indianised, she got some spiritual glimpses.
When a Yogi takes disciples it involves a great exhaustion of his powers. It is for this that one should take disciples only after purna siddhi [complete realization]. The disciples create obstacles in the guru’s own course of sadhana, and he has to overcome these obstacles.
Disciple: Do not the disciples help the guru in some respects?
Sri Aurobindo: Disciples are not helpers. One is a helper from whom the Yogi gets something which he himself has not got.
The disciples help by creating obstacles which provide exercise for the powers of the guru.
Disciple: That is a negative help. Is there any positive help?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes there is positive as well as negative help. Thus where there is true aspiration in the disciple in our Yoga, that is a great help. We are all trying to bring down the supramental power — and that creates a surface…[sentence incomplete]
When the disciple is very receptive, the guru has not to spend much of his force — it is then a natural outflow of force from the guru, it is a part of his own movement. Otherwise the guru has to exert special force on the disciple and that involves much expenditure on the part of the guru
29 August 1926 (Evening)
(X referred to an article on birth control in which it has been said that the system is not suitable to India on account of the low vitality there. The idea is that birth control methods involve exhaustion of the vital force. Sri Aurobindo did not seem to accept this view.)
Sri Aurobindo: Scientists and medical men have devised methods by which birth control may be made effective without any injury. The objects are twofold: first, the prevention of too many children; secondly, keeping the woman is good health, so that the few children she gives birth to may be healthy.
Of course inner control is better. But can that be expected of the man?
Again there is the distinction made between generation and regeneration. But mere control of the outward act is not sufficient for regeneration. When the sexual impulse is there and it is indulged in imagination, the loss is the same as in the outward act. When the inner control extends also to the control of the mind, then there is real regeneration — the whole thing is taken up to build a new life. But mere restraint is not sufficient.
Disciple: Whenever any birth control method is adopted there is some mental interference that hampers the vital act, thereby causing loss of vitality.
Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be so? The sexual act is fully indulged in.
Disciple: I mean the very idea that conception is to be prevented interferes with the normal act.
Sri Aurobindo: Suppose one has in his mind the production of good children — does that interfere in any way with the act?
Disciple: Gandhi has quoted all the doctors who oppose this method.
Sri Aurobindo: But he has not quoted those who support it.
Disciple: One objection is that it will increase license.
Sri Aurobindo: That again is the moralist idea. There are the two extremes — one extreme is inner control, the other is free indulgence; mid-between comes the system of birth control.
(There was some reference to the knowledge about birth control in ancient India. There is a tendency in some persons to find the correspondence of all modern ideas and conceptions with things that were in ancient India.)
Sri Aurobindo: That is absurd. But there is no reason why the Indians should not speak about their ancient glory. That helps resilience. Mazzini praised the ancient greatness of his country; thereby he removed the depression and made the regeneration of Italy possible.
Disciple: Some person has said that the Indians had no knowledge about perception and conception.
Sri Aurobindo: In philosophy and psychology the ancient Indians knew far more than anybody else; they might have other methods of putting things — that is, they would describe the distinction between perception and conception by the distinction between manas and buddhi. These are elementary things and they went far beyond them.
There are the Indian Yogic systems by the side of which the modern experimental psychology is nothing in comparison.
Only in science — in physical science — they did not make much progress. It was because the humanity had not yet reached that point when these discoveries of science were possible.
Disciple: In medical science they made great progress.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in that they were the masters of all other people on the earth. They gave the fundamentals which the Greeks took up, and modern medical science has been based upon that.
Disciple: Nowadays there seems to be no advancement.
Sri Aurobindo: Attempts are being made in many places to advance the system. They are studying plants and their properties and so forth.
Disciple: The training the Kavirajas receive is very one-sided and thus they cannot make much progress.
Sri Aurobindo: It is a matter of tradition. Thus in the matter of examining the pulse there are many who are still great experts. Where the tradition is lost, of course there the art has deteriorated. The great inrush of European ideas and systems has swept away all sorts of traditions.
30 August 1926 (Evening)
Disciple: To-night Sri Krishna will be born.
Sri Aurobindo: He was born long ago.
Disciple: One year Janmastami [birthday of Krishna] fell on the 15th August.
Sri Aurobindo: 15th August is specially significant; that is the day of the ascension of the Virgin Mary — that implies that the physical nature is raised to divine nature.
Virgin Mary refers to Nature — Jesus is the divine soul born in man; thus he is both the son of God as well as the son of man. The Catholic priests know this inner significance but they do not express that.
Disciple: Do they not believe in the external Christ and his life?
Sri Aurobindo: Some believe, some do not.
There is a similar description in the Vedas.
(Sri Aurobindo compared some Homeric hymns with Vedic hymns — how cows were stolen by hostile forces and imprisoned in a mountain cave and how Indra with the help of other Gods released the cows who went up. The cows represent light — radiations from the supramental. Saramā is intuition. Mind takes the light and breaks it into parts and so forth.)
Disciple: What are the characteristics of the religious life in Bengal?
Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by your question?
Disciple: Bengal has more life than other provinces.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is an accepted fact. At different times different provinces had led, now it is the turn of Bengal.
Disciple: Is there any connection with the religious life of Bengal and the present show of activity?
Disciple: Are there any peculiarities of religion in Bengal?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there is the Shakti worship in Bengal and also Vaishnavism —these are in other parts also but Bengal gives peculiar prominence to these.
The Shakti form of Tantricism developed in Bengal. Bengal, Nepal and Tibet are the three places where Tantricism developed. Bengal is emotional. They have a mental intuition — not intuitive mind. As I explained in my famous letter there is a quickness in the Bengalis, but there is not sufficient thought behind it. The Vedantic thought had not much influence in Bengal. They are very emotional. They quickly go to activity, but have not the patience for sustained work.
There is Ramkrishna [sic] who had a very extraordinary play (activity) of the intuitive mind. Then there was great emotionalism in him and also a vital rapidity. He could have spiritual realization in three days, which others took years to accomplish. But he did not organize these realizations.
Disciple: Vaishnavism is nowadays very popular in Bengal.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is because the Bengalis are very emotional. But this emotionalism has a tendency to externalize — it does not much help in inner spiritual growth. It has thus great dangers, as it has its merits.
(I referred to a woman who had not taken food for a long time. Sri Aurobindo said that theoretically it is quite possible but it is not at all easy to accomplish. He referred to his own fasting experience. How he could draw sufficient energy through Yogic force but could not stop the waste of tissues. Though on the second occasion this waste was comparatively much less than on the first occasion.)
31 August 1926 (Evening)
(Phillip raised some abstract theories about time.)
Sri Aurobindo: I do not bother myself with those questions. Of what use are they?
Disciple: Are not vital and mental spaces quite different from physical space?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes.
Disciple: But are not these mere figures of speech — these phrases “field of consciousness”, “plane of consciousness”? Consciousness is not something extended.
Sri Aurobindo: Do you know what is consciousness? I find it to be widely extended. It is consciousness which knows the extension of matter. What is consciousness? When you feel anger — is it not extended in the body?
Disciple: Only the results of anger on the body are extended.
Sri Aurobindo: What is consciousness?
Disciple: I think, feel, will — that is what I know to be consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo: These are the results of consciousness. We say force of consciousness, movement of consciousness — the movement must be somewhere; thus consciousness is in space. It is only when you think of consciousness as a mere mental abstraction — then of course it cannot be said to be extended.
Disciple: Thus, by space we have to mean a field where there is movement of forces?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes — and these are different in mental, in vital, in the physical —different sorts of forces and movements, so different planes.
Disciple: Are these arranged one above the other in space?
Sri Aurobindo: Of course not in the physical manner — they are different kinds of forces and movements. In the human consciousness they are so arranged — the mental over the vital, the vital over the physical.
Disciple: Why is it that in the vital plane the evil powers are easily mistaken to be gods?
Sri Aurobindo: It is because men approach these with vital and mental desires, vanity, ambition — these forces disguised as gods promise their satisfaction. You hear of persons possessed by Kali — these are mostly evil forces. In many temples these evil forces are worshipped.
Disciple: Do the gods harm men?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but not intentionally. When men come into the way of the gods they get hurt — thus through their own fault. People blame the gods in the same manner as they complain of other human beings. But the gods have no sentimental relations with men and they do not deviate from their work to satisfy the needs of men — they do not serve human interests, but the interests of eternal truth. There are eternal laws which they follow.
Disciple: Are the gods very busy?
Sri Aurobindo: Not in the same sense as we are — but they have their work.
Had there been no such difficulties and obstacles the world would have been very dull and uniform.
Time is the force of consciousness in action. Space is the extension of consciousness in being.
 Madhuchhandar Mantramala, a book in Bengali written by Nolini Kanta Gupta containing his translation of and commentary on Rishi Madhuchhandas’ hymns in the Rig Veda.
 Note: Muthu was a pariah servant of Sri Aurobindo.
 Note: Big Boy was Sri Aurobindo’s pet cat.
 Note: Refer to Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Volume 27, p. 374.
 Note: See the Gita, II, 62. “In him whose mind dwells on the objects of sense with absorbing interest, attachment to them is formed.” Translation from The Message of the Gita, edited by Anilbaran.
 Note: In Anilbaran’s note this word is written as “life”. But, judging from Sri Aurobindo’s reply that follows, it should certainly be “light”.
 Note: The whole of this reply by Sri Aurobindo, with the exception of the first sentence, is written in Bengali in the notebook of Anilbaran. Two more sentences that follow this reply are written in Bengali as well. All these are reproduced here in English translation.
 Note: These two sentences are written mostly in Bengali. They are reproduced here in English translation.
 The world of the forefathers.
5 Replies to “Conversations with Sri Aurobindo recorded by Anilbaran Roy, Part 3”
Pronam. Keep continue.
Sri Aurobindo’s speech on l5th August 1926 as recorded by A.B. Purani
I shall say a few words today about the 15th of August. The question was one that was recently put to me and I gave a negative answer in order to remove certain mental and conventional notions on the matter.
I shall now speak about the positive side of the matter. If there were not that other side there would be no use in this celebration. I shall not refer to the personal aspect for very obvious reasons, but I shall say something in general with regard to what it can and ought to mean in regard to the Yoga, the common object we all have in view.
What that object—that Yoga—is, you know in principle. It is the bringing down of a Consciousness, a Power, a Light, a Reality that is other than the consciousness which satisfies the ordinary man upon earth—a Consciousness, a Power and Light of Truth, a Divine Reality which is destined to raise the earth-consciousness and transform everything here.
That cannot take place unless there is a decision from Above. But, also, it cannot be unless the earth-consciousness itself is in some part of it, in some of those who dwell here upon these lower planes, ready to receive. Once this Consciousness, the Power descends it is there for all times and everyday for those who are willing and fit to receive it.
But we have attached a special importance to this day and it is justified if we live in the light of the Truth it symbolises. For this day we can fix a mark in the stage in the individual and general progress. It is a day which ought to be a day of consecration, of self-examination and a preparation for future advance, if possible, for the reception of a special Power which would carry on the work of advance. This can only be done in each individually if he takes up the true attitude and lives on that day under the right conditions. That was what I meant when I spoke the other day. It is we who can make it a decisive day in this sense, and it is we who can help to fulfil it.
There must be a consecration from beforehand, and a looking inward on the past to see how far we have reached, what in us is ready, what in us has not yet changed and has yet to be changed, what stands behind waiting for a complete transformation; what still resists and what is still obscure. There must be the aspiration, a calling down of the Power to effect the change which we see to be necessary.
All this we cannot do if we throw ourselves out on this day, but only by an intense concentration so that the internal being is ready, and turned upwards to receive the Light. In proportion as we admit an externalising movement we disturb the higher working and waste the energy needed for the work of inner change. Whatever is done other than on ordinary days should be done either as a part of the movement itself, or as something which is held on the outskirts of the being and cannot disturb the inner movement. And all the customary circumstances of the day must be used for advance.
And if you came to me in the morning, it should not have been in fulfilment of a customary ceremony but with your souls and minds prepared to receive. If you listen to me now and if it is merely something that touches your mental interest and satisfies a mental interest I would rather remain silent. But if it touches somewhere the inner being, the soul, then only has this day a utility or a purpose. And the meditation too ought to be done under such conditions that even if nothing decisive descends there would be a certain infiltration the results of which would come afterwards.
That is the one meaning of the 15th of August from the point of view of our Yoga.
As to taking stock of the work, where you are and the work, how far it is done, etc., certain things ought to be remembered. You know them with the mind.
First, remember that what are the objects of other yogas are for us only the first stages, or first conditions. In the former ways of Yoga men were satisfied if they could feel the Brahmic Consciousness or the Cosmic Consciousness or some descent of Light and Power, some intimation of the Infinite. It was thought sufficient if the mind got certain spiritual experiences and underwent partial transformation and the vital being was in contact with it. They sought for a static condition and considered release as the final goal, the final aim.
To realise all this, to be open to the Infinite and Universal Power, to receive its intimations and to have experiences, to completely go beyond the ego, to realise the Universal Mind, Universal Soul, the Universal Spirit, that is only the first condition. We have to call down this greater Consciousness also into the vital and the physical beings, so that the supreme calm and universality will be there in all fullness from top to bottom. If this cannot be done then the first condition of transformation is not fulfilled.
The second thing we have to know and remember is that nothing is perfectly done unless all is perfectly done. It is not sufficient to open the mind and the vital being and leave the physical being to its obscurity.
So in the transformation also, the mind cannot be fully transformed unless the vital also is transformed. And if the vital being is not transformed nothing can be realized; because it is the vital being that realizes. And if the mind is only partially changed and if the vital being is open and also partially changed it is still not sufficient for our purpose. Because the whole range of the vital being cannot be changed unless the physical being also is opened and changed, for the divine vital cannot realize itself in an unfitting environmental life.
And it is not enough for the inner physical being to be changed if the external man is not transformed. In this process of Yoga there is a whole totality and each depends upon the other. Therefore to stop short may be a preparation for another life, but it is not the victory. All has to be changed before anything permanently can be changed.
The third thing to remember is that if all is to be changed and done then there must be complete surrender with no reservation in any part of the being, no compromise with old customary thoughts and human ways of doing things. Wherever anything is reserved, it means the Truth is not accepted and we shall commit, again, the old mistake of partial achievement and transformation. We should leave no field for the indulgence of ignorance. For us there can be no com¬promise between falsehood and Truth, between the Supreme and the lower nature.
It is by remembering these things that we have to take stock of our work. To see how much is to be done, not in any spirit of pessimism because the way is long and hard and cannot be done by a miracle. It can only be accomplished by a large and thorough movement. Each step you have to take as a mark, as an encouragement, for a step towards the Beyond; on one side no lack of resolution and zeal for the victory to be won, on the other no hasty impatience or depression, but the calm certainty for the Divine Will, the calm will that “It shall be done in us” and the aspiration that “It may be done for us so that it may be done for the world.”
Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, pp. 525-528, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, 2007.
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