In his little book The Mother Sri Aurobindo writes:
‘There are Presences indispensable for the supramental realisation — most of all one who is her Personality of that mysterious and powerful ecstasy and Ananda which flows from a supreme divine Love, the Ananda that alone can heal the gulf between the highest heights of the supramental spirit and the lowest abysses of Matter, the Ananda that holds the key of a wonderful divinest Life and even now supports from its secrecies the work of all the other Powers of the universe.’
The Mother was asked the question: What is this Personality and when will it manifest? She answered:
‘She has come, bringing with her a splendour of power and love, an intensity of divine joy heretofore unknown to the Earth. The physical atmosphere has been completely changed by her descent, permeated with new and marvellous possibilities.
‘But if she is ever to reside and act here, she has to find at least a minimal receptivity, yet possessing at the same time a body strong enough and poised enough to bear unwaveringly the intensity of the Ananda she brings.
‘Thus far, she has not found what is needed.
‘At times, finding the world unready to receive her, she contemplates withdrawing. But how cruel a loss this would be! It is true that at present, her presence is more rhetorical than factual, since so far she has had no chance to manifest.
‘Yet even so, she is a powerful instrument in the Work, for of all the Mother’s aspects, she holds the greatest power to transform the body. Indeed, those cells which can vibrate at the touch of the divine Joy, receive it and bear it, are cells reborn, on their way to becoming immortal. But the vibrations of divine Bliss and of pleasure cannot cohabit in the same vital and physical house.’ [25 August 1954]
The determinative phrase is, “she holds the greatest power to transform the body.” But there is the old problem to be tackled: “Thus far, she has not found what is needed.” That is the regretful fate of affairs, rather alarming. We are not “ready”, things are “not ready”, as Sri Aurobindo would say. Yet it is she who must come down; that is the imperative. For her authority and action things must be harmoniously ready.
For that Personality, for her to come and operate the Mother stipulates the condition: “She has to find at least a minimal receptivity, … a body strong enough and poised enough to bear unwaveringly the intensity of the Ananda she brings.”
But how is that going to be? How? That is the epochal question, standing there since began the urging aspiring collective life of man. Though the question is epochal, extremely important, it is being asked with a certain intensity of conviction only today.
In the cosmic manifestation there are working four Powers of the Divine Mother, which Sri Aurobindo names as Wisdom, Strength, Harmony, and Perfection, id est, Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati.
In the cosmic functioning these powers were established, according to the Rig Veda, in the Sacrifice of the Purusha, by performing the Purusha-Yajña, the ancient efficacious Sarvāhuta Yajña, with which came into working the necessary fourfold order of the organised collective society. The Purusha Sūkta since such ages triumphantly chants of it.
That is the birth of the Fourfold Order of Society, Chāturvarņa, held perfectly valid by none other than the Teacher of the Gita himself, he proclaiming that it is he who established it and it is he who reinvigorates it whenever there is its decline.
The Four Powers described by Sri Aurobindo in The Mother restate it as the Powers of the transcendental Consciousness-Force working in the cosmic manifestation. In The Synthesis of Yoga he speaks of the Soul-Force and the Fourfold Personality.
Now that order has reached a stage when the higher powers of the Divine Mother can come into operation. In fact, that is the desideratum for further collective growth and progress in the possibilities of the spirit in its blazing incandescence.
‘Only when the Four have founded their harmony and freedom of movement in the transformed mind and life and body, can those other rarer Powers manifest in the earth movement and the supramental action becomes possible.’ [The Mother]
“Only when the Four have founded their harmony …” — but that is a big decisive statement. The challenging question is, how is that going to happen? How is that harmony going to be founded? Ever since the founding of this necessary fourfold order, in the Sarvāhuta Yajña, carried out by the Gods, the Sādhyās and the Rig Vedic Rishis, it has remained the same, unadvanced, lacking the desired harmony in the four parts of the being, in both individual and the universal.
Society has run through varied spiraling cycles of development, zigzagging through time, but always these have been exclusive, have been based on one or the other type dominating, without participation of all of them together in their mutuality. That has also caused severe and sad unfortunate damage to man’s truest sense of living in its integrality.
This fourfold order is not specific to any particular country or to any particular epoch of time, not at all, never can it be; it has been universally there, even as it exists today also, everywhere, in every organisation, even at the nucleic level, down in the cell of the body itself. It is a time-independent cosmic manifestation deriving its existence from some high truth-idealtruth-reality in the transcendent. It is a major step in psycho-spiritual working.
“Only when the Four have founded their harmony”, — that is the essential. But can they by themselves found the necessary collective harmony, they working together in the scheme of things? Can they create, can they establish it by themselves?
The immediate answer could be “No”. But let us look into these aspects in some detail.
The earliest formulation of the Fourfold Order or Chāturvarņa is in the Rig Veda’s Purusha Sūkta [Mandala X Hymn 90] which opens with the following tremendous verse, full of power and knowledge and imagery which is amazingly modern too, its diction kindling every thought and feeling and action:
Purusha the Cosmic Being has a thousand heads, and he has a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet to walk; he has chosen this Bhūmi the Earth for his growth, for increase, to extend himself, to widen; while doing so, he stands apart by the width of ten fingers, far seeming yet close to this chosen place.
One at once sees that its swift poetic rhythm is coming from the Overmind source, from the world of the esoteric cosmic Gods, the cosmic Truth-Gods. And this is lyrically enchanting, this is inspiring, this is honey-dripping,this is sun-bright, with the symbolism that is so rich and living and ageless. It is perfect knowledge with perfect utterance, in richness of their contents. Its language is the Overmind language and its contents are Overmind contents, full of Overmind knowledge, that is, the expression of multiplicity of the One, however, without the total experience of oneness, each an independent individuality.
The powerful “a thousand”, — a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, a thousand feet to walk — conveys all this. But this “thousand” without the knowledge of its unity turns out to be in Ignorance, Overmind marking the beginning of this Ignorance. The separation of one from the other gets hardened as this “thousand” plunges deeper down. The needed harmonisation not only becomes less possible; it can turn into ugly clashes and unresolvable conflicts. This is what one witnesses, for instance, in religion quarrelling with religion with no holds barred.
Which means that this Fourfold Order, this Chāturvarņa, being a cosmic or Overmind functioning, can have a permanent lack of harmony of unity, of truth-oneness, of unity. These Four Powers in the Overmind, and they under its sway, may therefore not always work together. The condition that “Only when the Four have founded their harmony” would not get fulfilled here, and that Personality of Ananda may opt to stay away. That then becomes a serious matter, of grave and earnest concern.
Which again means that the founding of the harmony has to be seen elsewhere, certainly not in the realm of the Overmind, but somewhere beyond it. It can be only with the power of the Supermind itself that it can be. It is Supermind who will make possible the Personality of Ananda to live here in its dynamism.
However, though this Chāturvarņa works in the Ignorance, it has yet a functional role to carry out, and that must be accepted in its limited yet good trades. Let us see it in another perspective.
Vivekananda brings out the yogic aspect of the Chāturvarņa in a beautiful manner, in a forceful manner indeed. When he speaks of Jñāna Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga he is also suggesting the methods available for the Divine’s realisation for the corresponding type or quality or the soul’s cast playing its part in this present mode of manifestation.
That is the marvellous truth of Chāturvarņa, founded in the Sacrifice of the Purusha. These four are the Yogas, the methods of practice, for the four types of the soul, the fourfold soul-qualities, swabhāva, — Jñāna for the Brahmin, Rāja for the Kshatriya, Bhakti for the Vaishya, and Karma for the Shudra. Each one of them being a process for the realisation of the self, there is nothing inferior or superior of one over the other.
The Vedic Purusha Sūkta thus becomes very meaningful because of the fundamentals it provides to us in its suggestive-intuitive but spiritually loaded language in the context of the collective working of a society or an organisation. Appearance of the four aspects is only the beginning in the organised process of cosmic manifestation, and only when these four have founded their harmony and freedom can other aspects, the higher powers of the manifesting spirit descend into it.
The Sacrifice of the Purusha is a Vedic image. It is the Being who is projecting himself in the cosmic and the Individual plays of manifestation. What is understood in it is that he is doing it by the power of his own Purushahood, with Consciousness-Force inherently present in the Truth-Existent, in the uncleavable oneness of Presence-and-Power, the Presence acting because of his self-potency, of the full executive Power resting in him, by resort to his own nature, prakŗtiṃ svām, as the Gita would say.
Sri Aurobindo views this Holocaust of the Divine Soul not in terms of the Being but in terms of the Consciousness-Force, the creation of the worlds and beings being the task of the Divine Shakti, the responsible executrix She, the Mother of all that is here and that shall be here, in this universe and other universes.
‘Our life is a holocaust of the Supreme. ||26.15||
The great World-Mother by her sacrifice
Has made her soul the body of our state;
Accepting sorrow and unconsciousness
Divinity’s lapse from its own splendours wove
The many-patterned ground of all we are. ||26.16||
Sri Aurobindo’s emphasis is, “…this is the great sacrifice called sometimes the sacrifice of the Purusha, but much more deeply the holocaust of Prakriti, the sacrifice of the Divine Mother.” Sacrifice means, she has left her heavenhood behind.
She has left her royalty, she has left her aishwarya, her opulent vaibhava, her glory, her majesty, and accepted the conditions of Ignorance. The higher or transcendental Nature, Parā Prakriti is operating in the field of unyielding Ignorance, Aparā Prakriti, Consciousness-Force in the lower Nature under the governance of the Inconscient Self and the Somnambulist Force.
About the “holocaust of Prakriti”, Sri Aurobindo mentions both the impersonal and the personal aspects of the Sacrifice:
‘The Mother not only governs all from above but she descends into this lesser triple universe. Impersonally, all things here, even the movements of the Ignorance, are herself in veiled power and her creations in diminished substance, her Nature-body and Nature-force, and they exist because, moved by the mysterious fiat of the Supreme to work out something that was there in the possibilities of the Infinite, she has consented to the great sacrifice and has put on like a mask the soul and forms of the Ignorance.
‘But personally too she has stooped to descend here into the Darkness that she may lead it to the Light, into the Falsehood and Error that she may convert it to the Truth, into this Death that she may turn it to godlike Life, into this world-pain and its obstinate sorrow and suffering that she may end it in the transforming ecstasy of her sublime Ananda.’ [The Mother]
The Mother explains the Sacrifice of the Purusha as follows:
‘The Divine has sacrificed Himself in Matter to awaken consciousness in Matter, which had become inconscient. And it is this sacrifice, this giving of the Divine in Matter, that is to say, His dispersion in Matter, which justifies the sacrifice of Matter to the Divine and makes it obligatory; for it is one and the same reciprocal movement.
‘It is because the Divine has given Himself in Matter and scattered Himself everywhere in Matter to awaken it to the divine consciousness, that Matter is automatically under the obligation to give itself to the Divine.
‘It is a mutual and reciprocal sacrifice. And this is the great secret of the Gita: the affirmation of the divine Presence in the very heart of Matter.
‘And that is why, Matter must sacrifice itself to the Divine, automatically, even unconsciously—whether one wants it or not, this is what happens.’
At a deeper occult level, it is the impregnation of the material existence that is spoken of by it. God seems to become greater by the sacrifice, by relinquishment without ceding anything, by the fall to initiate from timelessness the works of Time.
We have the limitations of the Fourfold Order of the Society, of the ancient Chāturvarņa, and there is the indispensability of the Personality of Ananda entering into the cosmic working, for a fuller diviner manifestation of the powers of the Spirit. If the Sarvāhuta Yajña established the first, the Fourfold Order, Chāturvarņa, the other can happen only by doing another superior Yajña, the Divine or Divya Yoga-Yajña.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother saw it, recognised it, and were fully engaged with it. This Divya Yoga-Yajña has made a new and necessary opening. The first luminous step is to bring down the Supermind, in the wake of which can the Personality of that mysterious and powerful ecstasy and Ananda enter into earthly scheme. It is Supermind which will take care of the lack of harmony of the Fourfold Order of the Society, of the ancient Chāturvarņa. The exclusiveness of the Overmind formulations can be removed thus only, by the Supermind.
The Divya Yoga-Yajña of the Mother is towards it, it carried out in the Will and in the Sanction of the Supreme. Now it is another Yajña being kindled, the topaz fire rising to the sky and the fire of the sky leaping into it.
It is the Yajña of the Integral Yoga that is taking charge of “mind and life and body”; it is that which will work out whatever is necessary for it to happen. Enough Yoga-Tapasyā in its divine intensity has been done even as the Will of the Supreme is invoked. There is the response, and things are set on the move. The dynamic presence of that Personality is the bright glowing assurance for the divine life in a divine body.
About the Author: Born on 17 April 1931 Dr. RY Deshpande is a professor, philosopher, author, poet and inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. After graduating from Osmania University, Hyderabad, he joined the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai as a research physicist in 1955 and worked in this organization till 1957. In 1957 he joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai where he worked till 1981 and headed several Atomic Energy and Space Projects in Advance Technology with Dr. Raja Ramanna. Having received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1964, he worked at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California USA from 1964 to 1965. He has some fifty research papers published in national and international scientific journals. He was also an examiner for a number of Ph.D. theses in the field of Solid State Physics. In 1981 Deshpande joined Sri Aurobindo Ashram of Pondicherry. For thirty years, he taught physics and a few other subjects such as Astrophysics, Savitri, The Future Poetry, Science and Society at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education. For eight years he was the associate Editor of Mother India, a Monthly Review of Culture, published by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. During 2007-2008 Deshpande was the editor of a web-magazine titled Science-Culture-Integral Yoga founded in Los Angeles. His published works in prose and poetry include titles like Sri Aurobindo and the New Millennium, Vyasa’s Savitri, The Ancient Tale of Savitri, “Satyavan Must Die”, All Life is Yoga, Nagin-bhai Tells Me, The Rhododendron Valley, All is Dream-Blaze, Under the Raintree, Paging the Unknown, The Wager of Ambrosia, Savitri: Notes and Comments, Elements and Evolution, Sri Aurobindo’s Narad, The Birth of the Sun-God, Hymns to Becoming, These Mountains, The Secret Knowledge, Savitri Talks: The Symbol Dawn, Islam’s Contribution to Science, Big Science and India, Running Through Savitri, A Look at the Symbol Dawn: Observations-Comments-Discussions, Savitri: The Poetry of Immortality, and Sanatana Dharma: An Aurobindonian Perspective to name a few. He has also edited the following books: Nirodbaran: Poet and Sadhak, Amal Kiran: Poet and Critic and Perspectives of Savitri.