Sri Gopal Bhattacharjee
A FRAGRANT FLOWER OF CAMBRIDGE
Sri Aurobindo – His Contribution to Humanity
Lecture delivered on 27th April 1991 at Cambridge University
© Sri Aurobindo Society (U. K.)
Booklet No.2. Second Edition. January 1993. Title: A Fragrant Flower of Cambridge (Sri Aurobindo – His Contribution to Humanity) (Lecture delivered on 27th April 1991 at Cambridge University) Author: Shri Copalttacharjee © Sri Aurobindo Society (U. K.) No matter appearing in this booklet may be translated or reproduced without the written permission of the author or Sri Aurobindo Society (U.K.) Published by Sri Aurobindo Society (U.K.) Printed by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, Pondicherty – 605 002, India
"And Matter shall reveal the Spirit's face"
It is a very proud moment for me today, to stand before this august assembly at King's College, Cambridge, which served as the alma mater of my master, Sri Aurobindo, who spent the most impressionable years of his life in this venerable Centre of learning. There are many institutions in England which have played an important role in the development and growth of the Indian mind during the last two centuries. Oxford and Cambridge, in particular, occupy an outstanding position in this regard.
I think it will not be remiss if, before dwelling on the subject in hand, I revert briefly to my Master's own experience of University life. In a lecture delivered at the Baroda College, where he served as a professor, he recalls with great pleasure: "I think there is no student of Oxford or Cambridge who does not look back in after days on the few years of his undergraduate life. He goes up from the restricted life of his home and school and finds himself in surroundings which, with astonishing rapidity, expand his intellect, strengthen his character, develop his social faculties, force out all his abilities and turn him in three years from a boy into a man."
Today, an inscrutable wind blows across the world. All that seemed certain once, now rests on the shadowy back of doubt. All that was considered stable is now perceived to be in a state of constant flux. Under the present circumstances, in the context of all the major events of our civilisation, past and present, I feel it would not be an exaggeration if I said that Sri Aurobindo embodied within himself the highest aspirations and hopes of a humanity that is emerging from an old order which is now crumbling and moving towards a resplendent future that is to be born. We do not belong to past dawns but to the noons of the future!
The theme for our discussion today is: Sri Aurobindo – His Contribution to Humanity. I must however hasten to add that Sri Aurobindo represents a truth which is too vast for the human mind to comprehend. He has himself written of this in no uncertain terms and I quote: "My life has never been on the surface for man to see." In the words of The Mother who was the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo: "What Sri Aurobindo represents in the history of the earth's spiritual progress is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a mighty action straight from the Supreme."
I shall therefore make a modest attempt at highlighting the cardinal principles upon which rests his contributions to Humanity.
All the tablets of history bear testimony to the fact that whenever man forgot the real meaning and purpose of his life and felt lost in the spiritual darkness of his being a mighty soul, manifesting the power of God, has descended upon earth to help in the advancement of human consciousness in consonance with the Divine telos or evolutionary aim in nature. At present mankind is undergoing a similar evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny. "Humanity has arrived at a certain stage of general tension – tension in effort, tension in action, tension in every day life – and an over–activity so excessive, a restlessness so widespread that the whole human race seems to have reached a point where either one has to break through a resistance and rise into a new consciousness or fall back into an abyss of obscurity and inertia."
There is therefore hardly a clear appreciation of the fact that the root–cause of these inordinate tensions everywhere lies in the inner consciousness of modem man. All the cacophonous upheavals in the political, economic, social, moral and religious spheres are only symptomatic of a total spiritual bankruptcy from which modern man suffers at the very core of his being.
What then is Sri Aurobindo's solution to this problem? He points out that what man faces today is not just a social, political, economic, ecological or a nuclear crisis but an evolutionary crisis. The highest power of consciousness at present available to man, namely the mental consciousness, seems totally incapable of solving these problems. The very accumulation of these intransigent problems is an indication that the time has come for man to transcend the limitations of his mental consciousness. In Sri Aurobindo's view: "Man is a transitional being; he is not final. The step from man to superman is the most approaching achievement of earth's evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of Nature's process."
The Mother's own commentary on this is equally succinct:
"There is an ascending evolution in nature which goes from the stone to the plant, from the plant to the animal, and from the animal to man. Because man is, for the moment, at the summit of the ascending evolution, he considers himself as the final stage in this ascension and believes there can be nothing on earth superior to him. In this he is mistaken. In his physical nature he is yet almost wholly an animal, a thinking and speaking animal, but still an animal in his material habits and instincts. Undoubtedly, nature cannot be satisfied with such an imperfect result; she tries to bring out a being who will be to man what man is to the animal, a being who will remain a man in its external form, and yet whose consciousness will rise far above the mental and its slavery to ignorance."
Sri Aurobindo, a Master patriot, who later became a Master Yogi, is a unique phenomenon in human history with a significance for the whole world. Although, at the beginning of his life, his main objective was to liberate India from the foreign yoke, his real work started when he wrote: "Trust the Divine power. She will free god–like elements in you and shape all into an expression of the Divine Nature."
Now, before we launch ourselves on a study of his action, contributions and discoveries, let us review a few events from his life which will enable us to realise that his physical existence upon earth was a continuous fulfilment of the Will of God.
Sri Aurobindo was born on the 15th of August 1872, in Calcutta, and this was the day ordained to be 75 years later the Independence day of India. Sri Aurobindo, a Bengali by birth, was educated from his seventh year to his twenty–first year in England; first at St. Paul's School, London, and then at King's College, Cambridge. He wielded the English language as if it were his mother tongue. He was a brilliant classical scholar who made his mark not only at Cambridge, but also in the open competition for the Indian Civil Services examination. It may be also added that he was highly proficient in French, Italian and German. Upon his return to India, in the year 1893, after deliberately absenting himself from the riding test for the ICS Examination, he joined the Baroda State service as a principal Secretary to the Maharaja of Baroda. Here he spent 13 years where he prepared himself silently for his future mission. During this period, he learnt his mother tongue Bengali, and achieved mastery over Sanskrit, as well as in several other Indian languages. Then, suddenly, he threw aside all the benefits of a secure and enviable position in the Baroda State service in response to the call of the Nation. His fiery articles and revolutionary activities soon projected him on to the national stage as the unquestioned leader of India's freedom struggle. In eight years he changed the fate of the Indian National Movement and was the first person who, in close cooperation with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, another staunch Nationalist, demanded Poorna Swaraj or complete Independence for his country and its people. His pen was mightier than the sword and it didn't come as a surprise when the British Government arrested him for sedition by implicating him in a false bomb conspiracy case. He was incarcerated in Alipore Central Jail of Calcutta which was the milieu for his major spiritual experiences. What the Government was thinking about him at that time is very clear from some words of Lord Minto, the then Viceroy of India, who wrote to Lord Morley, Secretary of State for India. The letter said: "Aurobindo Ghosh is the most dangerous man we have to deal with at present and he has great influence with the student class. I believe every effort has been made by his Indian friends to reclaim him and they tell me it is hopeless."
The famous Alipore trial of Sri Aurobindo created a sensation all over the country. The British Government, in order to nail him, brought an eminent public prosecutor from England, Mr. Norton, to ensure that Sri Aurobindo would be either hanged or imprisoned for life. It is very interesting to note that although Sri Aurobindo is today recognised the world over as a great philosopher and seer, in the year 1908 he was not known to the world as a great Yogi or visionary with his realisations of the Supermind and the Life Divine. On this momentous occasion, when he had gone through a period of one year's undertrial detention, barrister C.R. Das, the future leader of Bengal, appeared as his defence counsel and by a curious stroke of fate, which cannot but be explained as the Will of God, the judge at his trial was one Mr. Beechcroft whom Aurobindo had beaten to second place in Greek and Latin in the ICS examination. On the closing day of the cross–examination Beechcroft asked: "Mr. Das, do you have any other evidence to produce before the court or shall we close the proceedings of cross–examination?" C.R. Das, before a packed crowd in the Court room, told Judge Beechcroft in an emotion–choked voice: "My Lord, if the pronouncement of Freedom is a crime, Sri Aurobindo Ghose will admit his guilt. Therefore, my appeal to you. Sir, is this that a man like this who is being charged with the offences imputed to him stands not only before the Bar of this Court but stands before the Bar of the High Court of history for all time to come. Your honour, long after this controversy is hushed in silence, long after this agitation and turmoil have ceased, long after you and I are dead and gone, he will be looked upon as a poet of Nationalism, a prophet of Patriotism and a lover of Humanity. His words will be echoed and re–echoed not only in India but across distant lands and seas." Obviously these were not the words of C.R. Das but the voice of God. Sri Aurobindo was honourably acquitted.
Upon his release, he addressed a vast gathering at Uttar–para where he described the nature of his spiritual experience in jail. It may be summarised as a realisation of the omnipresence of God.
The Nation rejoiced at having found back its leader. The–future Nobel prize winner and literary genius Rabindranath Tagore made famous later by his Gitanjali wrote:
O Aurobindo, bows to thee!
O friend, my country's friend,
O voice incarnate free,
Of India's soul..."
Under a Divine Command from within, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from politics when he was assured by the same Command that the Independence of India was certain and that his work lay somewhere else – a mission for the whole of humanity. In the year 1910 he came from Calcutta to Pondicherry, a coastal town in South India, which was then under French rule, fur concentrated attainment and manifestation of the Supermind. He lived in Pondicherry for forty years of which twenty–four years were spent in near–seclusion. He remained in his room without coming out, not meeting anyone with the exception of The Mother and his personal attendants. He remained totally engrossed in his work which was to manifest the Supramental Force upon earth. I will later explain what Supermind connotes and how it operates. In 1950, at the age of 78, on the 5th of December, Sri Aurobindo left his physical body as a strategic move in order to work more effectively from the occult planes to hasten the Supramental Manifestation upon earth. The physical body, after he had withdrawn from it, remained a–glow, surcharged with a concentration of light, defying decomposition for more than 100 hours in a tropical climate, which was a bewilderment to medical science and a reversal of nature's laws. Well–known French and Indian doctors were unable to certify it as a dead body until, on the 5th day, the Supramental Light withdrew. The Mother later told a disciple that this light was the first visible proof of the Supramental Descent and as a result, in spite of all the established opposing forces, this Supramental Force would progressively be able to express unity in diversity instead of division and limitation, truth instead of falsehood, freedom instead of tyranny, goodwill instead of jealousy, love instead of hatred and immortality instead of death.
To grasp what Sri Aurobindo stands for, we must first understand the significance of a few words like Spirit, Yoga, Evolution and Supermind, which recur constantly in all his works spanning 30 volumes with each volume containing on an average 500 foolscap sheets.
Some of his major works include The Life Divine, The Synthesis of Yoga, The Ideal of Human Unity, The Human Cycle, The Foundations of Indian Culture, The Secret of the Veda and his magnum opus in poetry, Savitri. I shall now dwell a little while on Savitri.
In Savitri he recaptures the fundamentals of all religions, philosophies and yogic practices. He describes the cosmogony of the universe; from bhū – earth – to bhavah, svar, mahas, sat, cit, and ānanda — the seven planes of existence, the various grades of consciousness. He describes them in vivid detail and unveils the occult geography of the universe. That is perhaps the largest part of the epic.
And then he narrates how man has grown up from the pure physical, concerned with his creature comforts, the tamasic man, the rajasic or vital man and from the rajasic man into the sattwic or mental man. He discusses the various gradations of the mind, why life is maimed, why death enters at all into the cosmic scheme, why if ānanda, bliss, is the base, ānanda the sustenance and ānanda the goal, we feel so much of suffering and pain? He also discusses the problem of free–will and determinism.
Coming back to Sri Aurobindo's cardinal concepts we find that, in his dictionary, spiritual does not mean merely cultural or moral, but in his own words: "Spirituality in its essence is an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a Spirit, Self, Soul, which is other than our mind, life and body, an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with a greater reality, beyond and pervading the universe, which inhabits also our own being."
The word Yoga has the same root as the English word "yoke". Yoga is a disciplined process of inner development which attempts to yoke the individual soul with the more–than–human, the divine, the perfect. Yoga does not mean, as is popularly understood, extraordinary physical postures and breathing exercises. Yoga is the cover term for a range of mainly psychological disciplines used in India tor bringing about a change in human consciousness.
Unlike most philosophic schools and Yogic disciplines in India and the West which have counselled the escape and release of the individual soul from the Empire of Ignorance, dismissing terrestrial existence as radically opposed to the incommunicable stillness of the Spirit, Sri Aurobindo's Yoga takes the body, the life energies and the mind to be the instruments of the soul and seeks to–perfect them. The Yoga of Sri Aurobindo does not lead to dissolution but gives man a new birth, and enables him to play his part in the cosmic evolution as a channel of the Divine's Will in the becoming. Thus, in Sri Aurobindo's words: "The ascent to the divine life is the human journey, the Work of works, the acceptable Sacrifice. This alone is man's real business in the world and the justification of his existence. Without it he would be only an insect crawling among other ephemeral insects on a speck of surface mud and water which has managed to form itself amid the appalling immensities of the physical universe."
Another seminal concept is Evolution. Evolution, as it is widely understood, is a biological concept used in the West to explain the gradual emergence of more and more complex forms, an emergence beginning with uni–cellular organisms and culminating in man. It was Sri Aurobindo's distinctive contribution when he was able to show that Yoga and Evolution are but two perspectives of a single process.
Sri Aurobindo has himself explained that the concept of Supermind was not entirely his new discovery. As early as in the Vedas of India there was the vision of it as Satyam Ritam Brihat – the True, the Right, the Vast – and it was symbolised as the Sun of Knowledge shining in the highest heaven. But either it was experienced in a deep trance from which its whole impact could not be transmitted or was seized as a pale reflection on the several grades between it and the mental level – gradations of consciousness distinguished by Sri Aurobindo upwards as Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuition, Overmind and finally Supermind. On each of these levels the Spirit has an organised existence in which it is self–revealed, each carries something of which our universe seems a half–lit image–echo, but the spirit's self–revelation differs in intensity from grade to grade. In the Overmind it is so intense that most Yogis and Mystics have hardly looked further, they have believed the ultimate Omniscience and Omnipotence to be here, and yet this greatness has not the secret of the total transformation. No more than grand hints and glimmerings of the Supermind have been caught up to now. If there had been a clear and concrete seizure of it, its precise potentialities in reference to the evolutionary process would have been gauged. The realisation of the Supermind's significance and intention, by a wide–awake union with its TruthConsciousness, is Sri Aurobindo's contribution to spiritual experience. The systematic detailed exposition of them is his contribution to philosophy. And the direct application of them to the problems of individual and collective living in his Ashram at Pondicherry is his contribution to practical world–work. We see here an exploration of the Divine inseparably linked with worldly life, irrespective of caste, colour, creed, nation and race.
These three contributions render Sri Aurobindo the most important influence for humanity's future. The spiritual India of history is reaching its climax and giving modern times a stimulus of the profoundest creativity.
It must be stressed however that Sri Aurobindo's evolution and Darwinism are not the same thing. Darwin's theory of Natural Selection is a biological process, whereas Sri Aurobindo's evolution relates to the growth of consciousness. Further, it has nothing to do with Hegel's metaphysical theory of evolution. An unwarranted comparison between Bergson and Sri Aurobindo is also often made. Again Sri Aurobindo's Superman, is often mistakenly identified with Nietzsche's Superman. These somewhat hasty misconceptions based on semantics need to be eschewed.
It is the uniqueness of Sri Aurobindo that his theory of evolution not only synthesises the best in the Eastern and Western systems but also opens up new vistas and uncharted horizons.
Sri Aurobindo was proud of India and proud of Asia, but from the beginning he had also cultivated a global outlook, and his concern ultimately was with the future health of the human race itself. His dispassionate global view helped him to appreciate the admirable traits in other nations and peoples – England's practical intelligence, France's clear logical brain, Germany's speculative genius, Russia's emotional force, America's commercial energy – but he also thought that the West's mastery of the arts of material life was certainly not enough. Asia's awakening was necessary to restore the balance; "Asia is the custodian of the world's peace of mind, the physician of the maladies which Europe generates," he said. And in Asia, India has the lead role to play.
The classless society prophesied by Marx and Engels cannot materialise because democracy, socialism and communism haven't been able in actual practice to end the human tendency to egoistic separativity, assertiveness and rivalry and their attendant evils of exploitation in economic life, corruption, violence and liquidation in political life. It is only when the spiritual revolution resulting in the cracking of the human ego comes about that the godheads of the soul – justice, liberty, equality, brotherhood — will be realised on a permanent basis in a "Kingdom of Heaven" as was dreamt of by Christianity and the Hinduism of old. That would be the Gnostic society of the future.
"Prophets of a new humanity have followed one another, religions, spiritual or social, have been created, their beginnings were at times full of promise: but, as humanity was not transformed at heart, the old errors arising from human nature itself have reappeared gradually and after a time it was found that one was left almost at the same spot from where one had started with so much hope and enthusiasm."
We must clearly recognise the fact that Sri Aurobindo does not intend to "give his sanction to a new edition of the old fiasco" – an inner development, with the outer nature still remaining the same: the Supramental consciousness alone has the power to deal victoriously with both the inner and the outer problems of human existence.
This is the message for humanity from Sri Aurobindo.
But some people of the positivistic school argue that the Supermind is not something that is going to be accessible to us in the near future, at least not in our lifetime. Its coming is still in the distant future, and how distant we do not know for certain. But in the meanwhile we have urgent problems confronting us on all sides. There are hunger, poverty, lack of housing and medical care. Children are dying in hundreds of thousands every year for want of nutritiously adequate food. Then there are the terrors of a nuclear holocaust, of population explosion, of pollution and ecological disaster, etc. etc.; the list is endless. Would it not be unwise to busy ourselves at this juncture with something as vague and distant as the Supramental consciousness when we are threatened by so many of these problems?
This has been explained by Shri Nolini Kanta Gupta, an exponent of Sri Aurobindo's teaching. He points out that men have attempted social, political, economic and moral reforms from time immemorial. It is not that reformers and do–gooders have appeared on earth for the first time now. Many of them did get busy with the task of getting something done in the physical and material world. But they found that achieving something in the material world such as procuring food for each and every person, clothing and housing, is also an ideal. But the mystery is that it is not always the ideal nearest to the earth which is the easiest to achieve or the first thing to be done. Do we not see before our very eyes how some very simple innocent social and economic changes are difficult to carry out – they bring in their train, quite disproportionately, gestures and movements of violence and revolution. This is so because we seek to cure symptoms and not to touch the root causes of the disease. For even the most innocent–looking social, economic and political abuse has at its base far reaching attitudes and life–urges – even a spiritual outlook – that have to be sought out and tackled first. Even in mundane matters we do not dig deep enough or rise high enough. We must first realise that: "No material organisation is capable of bringing a solution to the miseries of man. Man must rise to a higher level of consciousness and get rid of his ignorance, limitation and selfishness in order to free himself from his sufferings."
It is said that a drop of practice is worth more than an ocean of theory. Has Sri Aurobindo remained only of academic interest to us or have his ideals been put into practice?
The task of implementing Sri Aurobindo's Vision was devolved upon the mother. She was born in Paris on 21st February, 1878, and came to Pondicherry on 29th March, 1914. There she recognised the Master at first sight.
In 1954, Pondicherry merged politically with India. On this occasion the Mother made an open declaration: "I am French by birth and early education, I am Indian by choice and predilection. In my consciousness there is no antagonism between the two, on the contrary they combine very well and complete one another. I know also that I can be of service to both equally, for my only aim in life is to give a concrete form to Sri Aurobindo's great teaching and in his teaching he reveals that all the Nations are essentially one and meant to express the Divine Unity upon earth through an organised and harmonious diversity." Thus it was She who gave a physical formulation to the ideals of my Master.
It may be asked by some of you what Sri Aurobindo did for Humanity. Many would feel that a person who was confined to his room for nearly 24 years could not have done anything tangible to alter the course of human history. But let me assure you to the contrary. Sri Aurobindo was not only keeping a close watch on all that was happening in the world and in India, but actively intervened whenever necessary, but solely with a spiritual force and silent spiritual action.
When the First World War broke out, Sri Aurobindo said that it would mark the end of colonialism and the reawakening of Asia which was for him a very important step forward. He pointed out that the German militarism was driven by the national ego and not the soul of Germany, and therefore it had to fail. That was a very bold statement at that time.
At about that time when a sadhak expressed fears about the freedom of India, Sri Aurobindo told him categorically that the Indian freedom was certain, that the instruments would be found, and that he himself was working on what India would do with her freedom.
During World War II, Sri Aurobindo sent his spiritual force to work upon Churchill who was then found to be a fit instrument of the Divine to counter the demoniacal forces led by Hitler who then represented the force of retardation and negation of the spiritual life and consciousness. The same man who had fought tooth and nail to lift the foreign yoke was now openly lending his support to the allied cause. He sent a special emissary to Delhi to direct the political leaders of the time to lend their unstinted cooperation and support to the war effort.
Churchill's ouster after the war to pave the way for India's freedom is clearly indicative of the fact that he was an instrument used for a specific purpose and discarded later when he opposed the Divine Will.
Sri Aurobindo had five dreams. His first dream related to the freedom of India. And yet this freedom was fissured. Sri Aurobindo explained why. He said that when he had initiated the movement for India's freedom, his consciousness was established at the Overmental level, and because of that the freedom was fissured, even though a way out had been offered with the Cripps mission. If Sri Aurobindo's consciousness had operated from the Supramental level, the freedom would have been whole. In his Independence–day message he says: "India is free but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom. But by whatever means, the division must and will go. For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and even frustrated. But that must not be."
Sri Aurobindo's second dream was the freedom of the Asian peoples. After 1947 we find that gradually colonies have broken down and Asia has earned her freedom. Today most of these countries are politically and economically free. Japan is one of the largest economic powers in the world. South Korea and some of its neighbouring countries have made giant leaps in economy.
India is still to take its economic leap. India's greatest problem – its enormous population – may well turn out to be its greatest asset. When that massive population gets down to work, when it begins to be productive, when it decides to build new things, that will mark India's resurgence as a mighty economic power. But more important will be its spiritual contribution for the rest of mankind.
The third dream of Sri Aurobindo was a compulsive movement towards world unity. In his scheme, world unity will not come in one single stroke. First there would be the formation of regional groups of countries co–operating with one another. These groups would then form the basis for the new world order. Don't we already find that his dream has at least in part been realised? Gorbachev's call for a united Europe and recent developments of a European Economic Community are illustrative of the fulfilment of Sri Aurobindo's dream.
His fourth dream was the re–emergence of India's spirituality. India would be the Guru of the world, the Mother said. Not necessarily in the form of saints going out of India to preach and establish Ashrams. More importantly Indian thought and philosophy is establishing itself in the world, primarily in the fields of science and psychology. It is establishing itself with the intelligentsia of the world, here, which is where it really counts.
The fifth dream was a new step in the evolution of human consciousness, a step beyond mind to the Truth–Mind. Here again we find philosophers and scientists responding first. Without exception every philosopher worth his name, every scientist worth his vision has proclaimed the possibility of a state beyond mind. Sir Arthur Eddington, Sir James Jeans, Erwin Schroedinger and a host of other illustrious men have all affirmed this.
Many yogis have confirmed that after 1956, the year of the Supramental Manifestation, there has been a major precipitation in their yoga. Obstinate problems that have been dogging yogis all over the world have suddenly vanished, common barriers in yoga have suddenly crumbled. We have to take their word for it as we may not have experienced these things.
All five of Sri Aurobindo's dreams are definitely in the process of realisation, precisely in the manner that he envisaged them.
Finally, what in essence is Sri Aurobindo's yoga and method of practice? To summarise in his own words: "The teaching of Sri Aurobindo starts from that of the ancient sages of India that behind the appearances of the universe there is the Reality of a Being and Consciousness, a Self of all things, one and eternal. All beings are united in that One Self and Spirit but divided by a certain separativity of consciousness, an ignorance of their true Self and Reality in the mind, life and body. It is possible by a certain psychological discipline to remove this veil of separative consciousness and become aware of the true Self, the Divinity within us and all.
"Sri Aurobindo's teaching states that this One Being and Consciousness is involved here in Matter. Evolution is the method by which it liberates itself; consciousness appears in what seems to be inconscient and once having appeared is self–impelled to grow higher and higher and at the same time to enlarge and develop towards a greater and greater perfection. Life is the first step of this release of consciousness; mind is the second; but the evolution does not finish with mind, it awaits a release into something greater, a consciousness which is spiritual and Supramental. The next step of the evolution must be towards the development of Supermind and Spirit as the dominant power in the conscious being. For only then will the involved Divinity in things release itself entirely and it becomes possible for life to manifest perfection.
"But while the former steps in evolution were taken by Nature without a conscious will in the plant and animal life, in man Nature becomes able to evolve by a conscious will in the instrument. It is not, however, by the mental will in man that this can be wholly done, for the mind goes only to a certain point and after that can only move in a circle. A conversion has to be made, a turning of the consciousness by which mind has to change into the higher principle. This method is to be found through the ancient psychological discipline and practice of Yoga. In the past, it has been attempted by a drawing away from the world and a disappearance into the height of the Self or Spirit. Sri Aurobindo teaches that a descent of the higher principle is possible which will not merely release the spiritual Self out of the world, but release it in the world, replace the mind's ignorance or its very limited knowledge by a Supramental Truth–Consciousness which will be a sufficient instrument of the inner Self and make it possible for the human being to find himself dynamically as well as inwardly and grow out of his still animal humanity into a diviner race. The psychological discipline of Yoga can be used to that end by opening all the parts of the being to a conversion or transformation through the descent and working of the higher still concealed Supramental principle.
"This, however, cannot be done at once or in a short time or by any rapid or miraculous transformation. Many steps have to be taken by the seeker before the Supramental descent is possible. Man lives mostly in his surface mind, life and body, but there is an inner being within him with greater possibilities to which he has to awake – for it is only a very restricted influence from it that he receives now and that pushes him to a constant pursuit of a greater beauty, harmony, power and knowledge. The first process of Yoga is therefore to open the ranges of this inner being and to live from there outward, governing his outward life by an inner light and force. In doing so he discovers in himself his true soul which is not this outer mixture of mental, vital and physical elements but something of the Reality behind them, a spark from the one Divine Fire. He has to learn to live in his soul and purify and orientate by its drive towards the Truth the rest of the nature. There can follow afterwards an opening upward and descent of a higher principle of the Being. But even then it is not at once the full Supramental Light and Force for there are several ranges of consciousness between the ordinary human mind and the Supramental Truth–Consciousness. These intervening ranges have to be opened up and their power brought down into the mind, life and body. Only afterwards can the full power of the Truth–Consciousness work in the nature. The process of this self–discipline or sadhana is therefore long and difficult, but even a little of it is so much gained because it makes the ultimate release and perfection more possible.
"There are many things belonging to older systems that are necessary on the way – an opening of the mind to a greater wideness and to the sense of the Self and the Infinite, an emergence into what has been called the cosmic consciousness, mastery over the desires and passions; an outward asceticism is not essential, but the conquest of desire and attachment and a control over the body and its needs, greeds and instincts are indispensable. There is a combination of the principles of the old systems, the way of knowledge through the mind's discernment between Reality and the appearance, the heart's way of devotion, love and surrender and the way of works turning the will away from motives of self–interest to the Truth and the service of a greater Reality than the ego. For the whole being has to be trained so that it can respond and be transformed when it is possible for that greater Light and Force to work in the nature.
"In this discipline, the inspiration of the Master, and in the difficult stages, his control and his presence are indispensable – for it would be impossible otherwise to go through it without much stumbling and error which would prevent all chances of success. The Master is one who has risen to a higher consciousness and being and he is often regarded as its manifestation or representative. He not only helps by his teaching and still more by his influence and example but by a power to communicate his own experience to others."
This is Sri Aurobindo's Yoga and method of practice. It is not his object to develop a religion or to amalgamate the older religions or to found any new religion – for any of these things would lead away from his central purpose. The one aim of his Yoga is an inner self–development by which each one who follows it can in time discover the One Self in all and evolve a higher consciousness than the mental, a spiritual and Supramental consciousness which will transform and divinise human nature.
Finally, the world can ignore Sri Aurobindo at its own peril. He does not concern himself with those who do not take him seriously, for he had himself foreseen this possibility. In an illuminating passage, he says: "The way of Yoga followed here has a different purpose from others, – for its aim is not only to rise out of the ordinary ignorant world consciousness into the divine consciousness, but to bring the Supramental power of that divine consciousness down into the ignorance of mind, life and body, to transform them, to manifest the Divine here and create a Divine Life and Matter. This is an exceedingly difficult aim and difficult yoga; to many or most it will seem impossible. All the established forces of the ordinary ignorant world consciousness are opposed to it and deny it and try to prevent it, and the seeker will find his own mind, life and body full of the most obstinate impediments to its realisation. If you can accept the ideal wholeheartedly, face all the difficulties, leave the past and its ties behind you and be ready to give up everything and risk everything for the divine possibilities, then only can you hope to discover by experience the truth behind it." It is this same thought which bodies forth in mystical poetry in Sri Aurobindo's Savitri:
A few shall see what none yet understands
God shall grow up while the wise men talk and sleep
For man shall not know the coming till its hour
And belief shall be not till the work is done.
The world is preparing for a big change and the responsibility to bring this about lies with us. Whether we like it or not:
The frontiers of the ignorance shall recede,
More and more souls shall enter into light...
Nature shall live to manifest secret God,
The Spirit shall take up the human play,
This earthly life become the life divine.
"In a divine retreat from mortal thought,
In a prodigious gesture of soul-sight,
His being towered into pathless heights,
Naked of its vesture of humanity.
As thus it rose, to meet him bare and pure
A strong Descent leaped down...."
Savitri - Book One - Canto Five.
"India has always existed for humanity and not for herseff and it is for humanity and not for herself that she must be great."
Sri Aurobindo: 'Unarpara Speech'.
We are happy to publish our booklet No.2 of a talk given by Mr. Gopal Bhattacharjee, of which the subject is Sri Aurobindo's contribution to humanity.
From time immemorial in the field of spirituality and mysticism India has contributed immensely towards humanity and Sri Aurobindo's contribution towards it has been vast and expansive. It is beyond the understanding of our ordinary human intellect but Sadhaks (Seekers) who delved into it could give us some guidance and Mr. Gopal Bbattacharjee, a Sadhak, International Secretary, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry, has just done that in his lecture, titled "A Fragrant Flower of Cambridge - Sri Aurobindo - His Contribution to Humanity".
It was an historic occasion when Mr. Bhartacharjee spoke on that subject in Cambridge. It was historic because exactly one hundred years ago in 1891 Sri Aurobindo was a student in King's College, Cambridge, and until now it has not been possible by persons visiting here from Pondicherry to hold a meeting there to talk about Sri Aurobindo. It was a glorious spring afternoon, the 27th April, 1991, when Cambridge welcomed Mr. Bhattacharjee with a symphony of colour and sound and students from various colleges of the University of Cambridge and some faculty members assembled at Keynes Hall, King's College to hear him. Mr. Bhattachatjee was inspired and, in his usual extempore talk with extensive quotations from The Life Divine, Savitri and other works from Sri Aurobindo, made the occasion a memorable one. The audience was spellbound and some members commented after the meeting that they had never experienced a lecture like this before.
Because of the distortions in the recording of the speech and the limited time Mr. Bhattacharjee had at his disposal, he had to make certain changes here and there in the whole talk after we had prepared the typescript. We are fortunate enough to be given permission by Mr. Bhattacharjee to publish it in booklet form on behalf of the Sri Aurobindo Society (U.K.)
The members of the Sri Aurobindo Society (U.K.) have been trying to scale the heights of spiritual progress slowly but steadily with the great help of Mr Bhattacharjee. We are indebted to him for his unfailing love and affection in helping members of our society, individually and collectively, everytime he visits us in the U.K.
Our first public meeting celebrating the Mother's birth anniversary was a great success. Then in August 1987 in the presence of Mr. Bhattacharjee we celebrated Sri Aurobindo's birth anniversary at Conway Hall, London WC1, when nearly four hundred people attended the memorable meeting and it was reported in the local newspapers.
With the help of Mr. Bhattacharjee the Sri Aurobindo Society was estableshed in Germany in 1988. In 1989 when Mr. Bhattacharjee was invited by the Society in Germany to attend the birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo, nearly fivehundred German people assembled in Heidelberg to listen to him. The meeting was reported in local newspapers as well. There are many centres of the socity now operating in the United Germany.
During his current visit this year, after attending the meetings in the U.N.E.S.C.O. as a standing committee member in the N.G.O., Mr. Bhattacharjee toured extensively all over Germany. He also visited Poland where he was invited by Dr. Jasinsky, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Warsaw to enlighten them about Sn Aurobindo and he conducted a well-attended Press Conference there. In the U.K., besides having a very successful meeting in Cambridge, Mr. Bhatterjee gave a series of talks in our centre and also in Sheffield. The meetings we had were full of spiritual insight, grouth and progress. Those of us who were present felt how immensely helpful it would be if we could take even little of what we had heard and put it into practice in our day-to-day life.
It is hoped that this booklet will rouse more interest about Sri Aurobindo and his immense contribution to humanity.
Soumendu Kumar Datta, Chairman
Jaywant Khandke, General Secretary
SRI AUROBINDO SOCIETY (U.K.)
5 Fairfax Mansions,
Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage,
London NW3 6JY May 1991
We are very pleased with the response with which this publication was received internationally, and we hope it would do so in the future.
Soumendu Kumar Datta, Chairman
Jaywant Khandke, General Secretary
SRI AUROBINDO SOCIETY (U.K.)
5 Fairfax Mansions,
Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage,
London NW3 6JY