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Purani A. B.

Evening Talks
with Sri Aurobindo

Contents

Chronologic List of the Talks

To the Reader

Names of participants in the Evening Talks

Introduction (identical in all three parts)

I. History of Evening Talks

II. Guru Griha Vasa

III. Evening Sittings

PART 1

Chapter II. My Meeting with the Master and Interviews

1. My First Meeting in 1918

II. Second meeting in 1921

11/12.1920 09.08.1923 01.01.1924 03.08.1924
11/12.1920 28.09.1923 03.01.1924 (02) 04.08.1924
09.04.1923 23.12.1923 10.01.1924 17.08.1924
11.04.1923 27.12.1923 16.01.1924 05.01.1925
28.04.1923 03.01.1924 09.02.1924 12.07.1925
08.08.1923     21.09.1925

Chapter III. On Books and Letters

12.09.1923 22.06.1926 06.04.1943 15.09.1925
09.02.1924 15.01.1939 08.04.1943 04.10.1925
24.04.1924 16.05.1940 05.05.1943 07.10.1925
12.06.1924 18.01.1939 11.05.1943 09.10.1925
23.08.1925 06.02.1939 20.08.1943 12.10.1925
04.12.1925 27.02.1939 20.11.1943 21.10.1925
14.04.1926 27.02.1939 25.09.1923 02.11.1925
22.05.1926 20.12.1939 10.10.1923 26.12.1925
19.03.1926 26.08.1940 20.11.1923 22.02.1926
11.06.1926 04.09.1940 08.01.1924 23.03.1926
31.08.1926 14.12.1940 10.01.1924 21.08.1926
25.12.1939 10.03.1943 10.07.1924 27.01.1939
26.12.1939 25.03.1943 25.11.1924 1942
17.09.1940 27.03.1943 21.01.1925  

Chapter IV. On Medicine

11.11.1923 11.10.1925 20.12.1938 25.12.1939
05.07.1924 14.10.1925 21.12.1938 19.07.1943
19.09.1926 05.12.1925 25.12.1938 20.03.1943
20.09.1925 30.01.1926 30.12.1938  
26.09.1925 04.02.1926 10.01.1939  

Chapter V. On Art

26.01.1927 22.06.1924 11.01.1939  
28.01.1926 31.12.1938 12.05.1940  
31.03.1926 24.01.1939 14.01.1941  

Part 1. Chapter VI. On Poetry

22.05.1925 09.01.1939 18.01.1940 27.01.1940
12.10.1926 06.01.1940 18.01.1940 26.09.1943
12.12.1938 07.01.1940 19.01.1940 28.09.1943
03.01.1939 17.01.1940 19.01.1940 01.1939

Part 1. Chapter VII. On Beauty

12.08.1926 12.10.1942 24.01.1939 (02) 27.08.1926

 

PART 2

Chapter II. Congress - Polities

07.03.1924 31.05.1924 03.07.1924 23.10.1925
08.03.1924 07.06.1924 04.07.1924 07.04.1926
11.03.1924 17.06.1924 15.07.1924 29.06.1926
14.03.1924 19.06.1924 02.08.1924 04.08.1926
08.04.1924 22.06.1924 (02) 02.08.1924 (02) 08.09.1926
09.04.1924 30.06.1924 12.09.1924  

Chapter III. Non-Violence

28.03.1923 23.07.1923 10.05.1924 20.05.1924
18.04.1923 23.07.1923 (02) 17.05.1924 02.06.1924

Chapter IV. Sadhana

09.04.1923 (02) 26.02.1924 18.08.1926 26.09.1926
13.04.1923 16.10.1925 06.09.1926 02.10.1926
29.05.1923 02.03.1926 09.09.1926  
11.11.1923 (02) 09.04.1926 10.09.1926  
31.01.1924 18.05.1926 20.09.1926  

Chapter V. Vedic Interpretation

1923 08.07.1924    

Chapter VI. Education

05.1923 26.08.1926    

Chapter VII. Miracles

26.03.1924 06.10.1925 18.06.1926 10.08.1926
24.04.1924 (02) 04.06.1926 28.06.1926 03.09.1926
21.09.1925 (02) 08.06.1926 30.07.1926 04.09.1926

Chapter VIII. Psychology

10.07.1923 19.10.1925 02.07.1926 14.08.1926
01.06.1924 04-05.1926 09.07.1926 28.09.1926
04.08.1924 (02) 29.05.1926 10.07.1926 03.10.1926
30.08.1925 22.06.1926 (02) 06.08.1926  
18.10.1925 25.06.1926 13.08.1926  

Chapter IX. Movements

30.04.1923 05.04.1924 12.03.1926  
30.05.1923 06.03.1926 06.05.1926  

Chapter X. Gods

04.04.1924 01.06.1926 17.08.1926 09.11.1926
05.1924 15.06.1926 22.08.1926  
09.12.1925 26.06.1926 24.08.1926  
12.01.1926 13.07.1926 06.11.1926  

Chapter XI. 15-th August 1923 - 1026

15.08.1923 15.08.1924 15.08.1925 15.08.1926
15.08.1923 (02) 15.08.1924 (02) 15.08.1925 (02)  

Chapter XII. Miscellaneous

06.10.1925 (02) 10.10.1925 05.11.1925  
07.10.1925 (02) 24.10.1925 08.08.1926  

 

PART 3

 

10.12.1938 13.01.1939 06.05.1939 23.06.1940
11.12.1938 14.01.1939 16.05.1939 25.06.1940
13.12.1938 15.01.1939 (02) 20-27.05.1939 27.06.1940
14.12.1938 16.01.1939 19-20.11.1939 21.07.1940
15.12.1938 17.01.1939 21.11.1939 03.08.1940
18.12.1938 19.01.1939 14.12.1939 18.08.1940
22.12.1938 20.01.1939 15.12.1939 15.09.1940
23.12.1938 21.01.1939 30.12.1939 28.11.1940
26.12.1938 22.01.1939 04.01.1940 29.11.1940
27.12.1938 23.01.1939 05.01.1940 31.12.1940
28.12.1938 24.01.1939 (03) 08.01.1940 04.01.1941
29.12.1938 26.01.1939 10.01.1940 14.01.1941 (02)
01.01.1939 28.01.1939 23.02.1940 24.01.1941
02.01.1939 29.01.1939 03.1940 1941 or 1942
03.01.1939 (02) 03.02.1939 25.04.1940 12.03.1943
04.01.1939 05.02.1939 20.05.1940 26.03.1943
05.01.1939 07.02.1939 22.05.1940 16.04.1943
06.01.1939 09.02.1939 23.05.1940 17.04.1943
07.01.1939 21.02.1939 15.06.1940 18.04.1943
08.01.1939 24.02.1939 17-18.06.1940 19.04.1943
10.01.1939 (02) 25.02.1939 16.06.1940 07.08.1943
12.01.1939 12.03.1939 22.06.1940 04.10.1943

Chronologic List of the Talks

1920 November
December
??   ??
1923   ??
  March 28
  April 09   09   11   13   18   28   30
  May ??   29   30
  July 10   23   23
  August 08   09   15   15
  September 12   25   28
  October 10
  November 11   11   20
  December 23   27
1924 January 01   03   03   08   10   10   16   31
  February 09   09   26
  March 07   08   11   14   26
  April 04   05   08   09   24   24
  May ??   10   17   20   31
  June 01   02   07   12   17   19   22   22   30
  July 03   04   05   08   10   15
  August 02   02   03   04   04   15   15   17
  September 12
  November 25
1925 January 05   21
  May 22
  July 12
  August 15   15   23   30
  September 15   20   21   21   26
  October 04   06   06   07   07   09   10   11   12   14   16   18   19   21   23   24
  November 02   05
  December 04   05   09   26
1926 January 12   28   30
  February 04   22
  March 02   06   12   19   23   31
  April 07   09   14
  May 04   06   18   22   29
  June 01   04   08   11   15   18   22   22   25   26   28   29
  July 02   09   10   13   30
  August 04   06   08   10   12   13   14   15   17   18   21   22   24   26   27   31
  September 03   04   06   08   09   10   19   20   26   28
  October 02   03   12
  November 06   09
1927 January 26
1938 December 10   11   12   13   14   15   18   20   21   22   23   25   26   27   28   29   30   31
1939 January ??   01   02   03   03   04   05   06   07   08   09   10   10   11   12   13   14   15   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   24   24   26   27   28   29
  February 03   05   06   07   09   21   24   25   27   27
  March 12
  May 06   16   20-27
  November 19   21
  December 14   15   20   25   25   26   30
1940 January 04   05   06   07   08   10   17   18   18   19   19   27
  February 23
  March ??
  April 25
  May 12   16   20   22   23
  June 15   16   17   22   23   25   27
  July 21
  August 03   18   26
  September 04   15   17
  November 28   29
  December 14   31
1941 January 04   14   14   24
1942   ??   ??
  October 12
1943 March 10   12   20   25   26   27
  April 06   08   16   17   18   19
  May 05   11
  July 19
  August 07   20
  September 26   28
  October 04
  November 20

To the Reader

The reader is requested to note that Sri Aurobindo is not responsible for these records as he had no opportunity to see them. So, it is not as if Sri Aurobindo said exactly these things but that I remember him to have said them. All I can say is that I have tried to be as faithful in recording them as I was humanly capable. That does not minimize my personal responsibility which I fully accept.

Names of participants in the Evening Talks

From 1923 – 1926

1. Barindra Kumar Ghose
2. Nolini Kanto Gupta
3. Bijoy Kumar Nag
4. Suresh Chakravarty – “Moni”
5. K. Amrita
6. B. P. Varma – “Satyen”
7. Tirupati
8. K. Rajangam
9. Khitish Chandra Dutt
10. A. B. Purani
11. Pavitra – P. B. St. Hilaire
12. Champaklal
13. Punamchand, and
14. Kanai

Occasional participants:
1. S. Doraiswamy Aiyar
2. Rojoni Kanta Palit
3. Anil Baran Roy
4. V. Chandra Shekhar
5. Kodanda Ram Aiyar
6. Purushottam Patel
7. Naren Das Gupta
8. Sris Goswami

From 1938 – 1950

1. Nirod Baran
2. Champaklal
3. Satyendra Thakore
4. Mulshanker
5. A. B. Purani
6. Becharlal

Occasional participants:
1. Dr. Manilal Parikh
2. Dr. Srinivas Rao
3. Dr. Savoor

Introduction

I. History of Evening Talks

The question which Arjuna asks Sri Krishna in the Gita [2nd Chap.] occurs pertinently to many about all spiritual personalities: “What is the language of one whose understanding is poised? How does he speak, how sit, how walk?” Men want to know the outer signs of the inner attainment,— the way in which a spiritual person differs outwardly from other men. But all the tests which the Gita enumerates are inner and therefore invisible to the outer view. It is true also that the inner or the spiritual is the essential and the outer derives its value and form from the inner. But the transformation about which Sri Aurobindo writes in his books has to take place in nature. So, all the parts of nature — including the physical and the external — are to be transformed. In his own case the very physical became the transparent mould of the Spirit as a result of his intense Sadhana. This is borne out by the impression created on the minds of sensitive outsiders like Sj. K. M. Munshi who was deeply impressed by his radiating presence when he met him after nearly forty years.

The Evening-Talks collected here may afford to the outside world a glimpse of its richness, its many-sidedness, its uniqueness. One can also form some notion of Sri Aurobindo’s personality from the books in which the height, the universal sweep and clear vision of his integral ideal and thought can be seen. His writings are, in a sense, the best representative of his mental personality. The versatile nature of his genius, the penetrating power of his intellect, his extraordinary power of expression, his intense sincerity, his utter singleness of purpose — all these can be easily felt by any earnest student of his works. He may discover even in the realm of mind that Sri Aurobindo brings the unlimited into the limited. Another side of his dynamic personality is represented by the Ashram as an institution. But the outer, if one may use the phrase, the human side of his personality, is unknown to the outside world because from 1910 to 1950 — a span of forty years — he had led a life of outer retirement. No doubt, many knew about his staying at Pondicherry and practicing some kind of very special yoga to the mystery of which they had no access. To some, perhaps, he was living a life of enviable solitude enjoying the luxury of spiritual endeavour. Many regretted his retirement as a great loss to the world because they could not see any external activity on his part which could be regarded as “public”, “altruistic” or “beneficial.” Even some of his admirers thought that he was after some kind of personal salvation which would have very little significance for mankind in general. His outward non-participation in public life was construed by many as lack of love for humanity.

But those who knew him during the days of the national awakening — from 1900 to 1910 — could not have these doubts. And even these initial misunderstandings and false notions of others began to evaporate with the growth of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram from 1927 onwards. The large number of books published by the Ashram also tended to remove the idea of the other-worldliness of his yoga and the absence of any good by it to mankind.

This period of outer retirement was one of intense Sadhana and of intellectual activity — it was also one during which he acted on external events,— though he was not dedicated outwardly to a public cause. About his own retirement he writes. But this did not mean, as most people supposed, that he [Sri Aurobindo] had retired into some height of spiritual experience devoid of any further interest in the world or in life. It could not mean that, for the very principle of his yoga is not only to realize the Divine and attain to a complete spiritual consciousness, but also to take all life and all world-activity into the scope of this Spiritual Consciousness and action and to base life on the Spirit and give it a spiritual meaning. In his retirement Sri Aurobindo kept a close watch on all that was happening in the world and in India and actively intervened, whenever necessary, but solely with a spiritual Force and silent spiritual action; for it is part of the experience of those who have advanced in yoga that, besides the ordinary forces and activities of the mind and life and body in Matter, there are other forces and powers that can and do act from behind and from above; there is also a spiritual dynamic Power which can be possessed by those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness,— though all do not care to possess, or possessing, to use it, and this Power is greater than any other and more effective. It was this force which Sri Aurobindo used at first only in a limited field of personal work, but afterwards, in a constant action upon the world {{0}}forces.[[Sri Aurobindo and his Ashram]]

Twice he found it necessary to go out of his way to make public pronouncements on important world-issues, which shows distinctly that renunciation of life is not a part of his yoga. “The first was in relation to the second world-war. At the beginning he did not actively concern himself with it, but when it appeared as if Hitler would crush all the forces opposed to him and Nazism dominate the world, he began to {{0}}intervene.”[[Sri Aurobindo and his Ashram]]

The second was with regard to Sir Stafford Cripps’ proposal for the transfer of power to India.

Over and above Sadhana, writing-work and rendering spiritual help to the world during his apparent retirement there were plenty of other activities of which the outside world has no knowledge. Many prominent as well as less known persons sought and obtained interviews with him during these years. Thus, among the well-known persons may be mentioned C. R. Das, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sarala Devi, Dr. Munje, Khasirao Jadhava, Tagore Sylvain Levy. The great national poet of Tamilnad, S. Subramanya Bharati, was in contact with Sri Aurobindo for some years during his stay at Pondicherry; so was V. V. S. Aiyar. The famous V. Ramaswamy Aiyangar — Va. Ra. of Tamil literature — stayed with Sri Aurobindo for nearly three years and was influenced by him. Some of these facts have been already mentioned in “A Life of Sri Aurobindo.”

Jung has admitted that there is an element of mystery, something that baffles the reason, in human personality. One finds that the greater the personality the greater is the complexity. And this is especially so with regard to spiritual personalities, what the Gita calls “Vibhutis” and “Avatars.”

Sri Aurobindo has explained the mystery of personality in some of his writings. Ordinarily by a personality we mean something which can be described as “a pattern of being marked out by a settled combination of fixed qualities, a determined character.” In one view personality is regarded as a fixed structure of recognizable qualities expressing a power of being; another idea regards “personality as a flux of self-expressive or sensitive and responsive being.” “But flux of nature and fixity of nature — which some call character — are two aspects of being, neither of which, nor indeed both together, can be a definition of personality.” Besides this flux and this fixity there is also a third and occult element, the Person behind of whom the personality is a self-expression; the Person puts forward the personality as his role, character, persona, in the present act of his long drama of manifested existence. But the Person is larger than his personality, and it may happen that this inner largeness overflows into the surface formation; the result is a self-expression of being which can no longer be described by fixed qualities, normalities of mood, exact lineaments, or marked out structural {{0}}limits.[[The Life Divine, P. 833]]

The gospel of the Supermind which Sri Aurobindo brought to man envisages a new level of consciousness beyond Mind. When this level is attained it imposes a complete and radical reintegration of the human personality. Sri Aurobindo was not merely the exponent but the embodiment of the new, dynamic truth of the Supermind. While exploring and sounding the tremendous possibilities of human personality in his intense spiritual sadhana, he has shown us that practically there are no limits to its expansion and ascent. It can reach in its growth what appears to man at present as a “divine” status. It goes without saying that this attainment is not an easy task; there are conditions to be fulfilled for the transformation from the human to the divine.

The Gita in its chapters on the Vibhuti and the Avatar takes in general the same position. It shows that the present formula of our nature, and therefore the mental personality of man, is not final. A Vibhuti embodies in a human manifestation a certain divine quality and thus demonstrates the possibility of over coming the limits of ordinary human personality. The Vibhuti,— the embodiment of a divine quality or power,— and the Avatar — the divine incarnation — are not to be looked upon as supraphysical miracles thrown at humanity without regard to the process of evolution; they are, in fact, indications of human possibility, a sign that points to the goal of evolution.

In his Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo says about the Avatar: “He may on the other hand descend as an incarnation of divine life, the divine personality and power in its characteristic action, for a mission ostensibly social, ethical and political, as is represented in the story of Rama and Krishna; but always then his descent becomes in the soul of the race a permanent power for the inner and Spiritual {{0}}rebirth.”[[Essays on the Gita, P. 258]]

“He comes as the divine power and love which calls men to itself, so that they may take refuge in that and no longer in the insufficiency of their human wills and the strife of their human fear, wrath and passion, and liberated from all the unquiet and suffering may live in the calm and bliss of the {{0}}Divine.”[[Essays on the Gita, p. 258]]

“The Avatar comes to reveal the divine nature in men above their lower nature and to show what are the divine works, free, unegoistic, disinterested, impersonal, universal, full of the divine light, the divine power and the divine loves. He comes as a divine personality, which shall fill the consciousness of the human being, to replace the limited egoistic personality, so that it shall be liberated out of ego into infinity and universality, out of birth into {{0}}immortality,”[[Essays on the Gita, p. 258]]

It is clear that Sri Aurobindo interpreted the traditional idea of the Vibhuti and the Avatar in terms of the evolutionary possibilities of man. But more directly he has worked out the idea of the “gnostic individual” in his masterpiece The Life Divine. He says: “A Supramental gnostic individual will be a Spiritual Person, but not a personality, in the sense of a pattern of being marked out by a settled combination of fixed qualities, a determined character; he cannot be that since he is a conscious expression of the Universal and the Transcendent.” Describing the gnostic individual he says: “we feel ourselves in the presence of a light of consciousness, a potency, a sea of energy, can distinguish and describe its free waves of action and quality, but not fix itself; and yet there is an impression of Personality the presence of a powerful being, a strong, high or beautiful recognizable Someone, a Person, not a limited creature of Nature but a Self or Soul a {{0}}Purusha.”[[The Life Divine, p. 883]]

One feels that he was describing the feeling of some of us — his disciples — with regard to him in his inimitable way.

This transformation of the human personality into the Divine — perhaps even the mere connection of the human with the Divine — is probably regarded as a chimera by the modern mind. To the modern mind it would appear as the apotheosis of a human personality which is against its idea of equality of men. Its difficulty is partly due to the notion that the Divine is unlimited and illimitable while a “personality”, however high and grand, seems to demand imposition, or assumption, of limitation. In this connection Sri Aurobindo said during an Evening Talk: “No human manifestation can be illimitable and unlimited but the manifestation in the limited should reflect the unlimited, the Transcendent Beyond.” [28.04.1923]

This possibility of the human touching and manifesting the Divine has been realized during the course of human history whenever a great spiritual Light has appeared on earth. One of the purposes of this book is to show how Sri Aurobindo himself reflected the unlimited Beyond in his own self.

Greatness is magnetic and in a sense contagious. Whenever manifested, greatness is claimed by humanity as something that reveals the possibility of the race. The highest quality of greatness is not merely to attract us but to inspire us to follow it and rise to our own highest spiritual stature. To the majority of men Truth remains abstract, impersonal and far unless it is seen and felt concretely in a human personality. A man never knows a truth actively except through a person and by embodying it in his personality. Some glimpse of the Truth-Consciousness which Sri Aurobindo embodied may be caught in these Evening Talks.

II. Guru Griha Vasa

Guru griha vasa — “staying in the home of the Guru” — is a very old Indian ideal maintained by seekers through the ages. The Aranyakas — “the ancient teachings in the forest groves” — are perhaps the oldest records of the institution. It was not for “education” in the modern sense of the term that men went to live with the Guru; for the Guru is not a “teacher”. The Guru is one who is “enlightened,” who is a seer, a Rishi, one who has the vision of and has lived the Truth. He has, thus, the knowledge of the goal of human life and has learnt true values in life by living the truth. He can impart both these to the willing seeker. In ancient times seekers went to the Guru with many questions, difficulties and doubts but also with earnestness. Their questions were preliminary to the quest.

The Master the Guru, set at rest the puzzled human mind by his illuminating answers, perhaps even more by his silent consciousness, so that it might be able to pursue unhampered the path of realization of the Truth. Those ancient discourses answer the mind of man today even across the ages. They have rightly acquired — as everything of the past does — a certain sanctity. But sometimes that very reverence prevents men from properly evaluating, and living in, the present. This happens when the mind instead of seeking the Spirit looks at the form. For instance, it is not necessary for such discourses that they take place in forest groves in order to be highly spiritual. Wherever the Master is, there is Light And Gura griha — the house of the Master — can be his private dwelling place. So much was this feeling a part of Sri Aurobindo’s nature and so particular was he to maintain the personal character of his work that during the first few years — after 1923 — he did not like his house to be called an “Ashram”, as the word had acquired the sense of a public institution to the modern mind. But there was no doubt that the flower of Divinity had blossomed in him; and disciples, likes bees seeking honey, came to him. It is no exaggeration to say that these Evening-Talks were to the small company of disciples what the Aranyakas were to the ancient seekers. Seeking the Light, they came to the dwelling place of their Guru, the greatest seer of the age, and found it their spiritual home — the home of their parents, for, the Mother, his companion in the great mission, had come. And these spiritual parents bestowed upon the disciples freely of their Light, their consciousness, their power and their grace. The modern reader may find that the form of these discourses differs from those of the past but it was bound to be so for the simple reason that the times have changed and the problems that puzzle the modern mind are so different. Even though the disciples may be very imperfect representations of what he aimed at in them, still they are his creations. It is in order to repay, in however infinitesimal a degree, the debt which we owe to him that the effort is made to partake of the joy of his company — the Evening-Talks — with a larger public.

III. Evening Sittings

Sri Aurobindo was never a social man in the current sense of the term and definitely he was not a man of the crowd. This was due to his grave temperament, not to any feeling of superiority or to repulsion for men. At Baroda there was an Officer’s Club which was patronized by the Maharajah and though Sri Aurobindo enrolled himself as a member he hardly went to the Club even on special occasions. He rather liked a small congenial circle of friends and spent most of his evenings with them whenever he was free and not occupied with his studies of other works. After Baroda when he went to Calcutta there was hardly any time in the storm and stress of revolutionary politics to permit him to lead a “social life.” What little time he could spare from his incessant activities was spent in the house of Raja Subodh Malick or at the Grey Street house. In the Karmayogin office he used to sit after the office hours till late chatting with a few persons or trying automatic writing. Strange dictations used to be received sometimes: one of them was the following: “Moni [Suresh Chakarvarty] will bomb Sir Edward Grey when he will come as the Viceroy of India.” In later years at Pondicherry there used to be a joke that Sir Edward took such a fright at the prospect of Moni’s bombing him that he never came to India!

After Sri Aurobindo had come to Pondicherry from Chandranagore he entered upon an intense period of spiritual sadhana and for a few months he refused to receive anyone. After a time he used to sit down to talk in the evening and on some days tried automatic writing. Yogic Sadhana — a small book — was the result. In 1913 Sri Aurobindo removed to Rue Francois Martin No. 41 where he used to receive persons at fixed times. This was generally in the morning between 9 and 10. 30.

But, over and above newcomers, some local people and the few inmates of the house used to have informal talk with Sri Aurobindo in the evening. In the beginning the inmates used to go out for playing football, and during their absence known local individuals would come in and wait for Sri Aurobindo. Afterwards regular meditation began at about 4. p. m. in which practically all the inmates participated. After the meditation all of the members and those who were permitted shared in the evening sitting. This was a very informal gathering depending entirely upon Sri Aurobindo’s leisure.

When Sri Aurobindo and the Mother removed to No. 9 Rue de la Marine in 1922 the same routine of informal evening sittings after meditation continued. I came to Pondicherry for Sadhana in the beginning of 1923. I kept notes of the important talks I had with the four or five disciples who were already there. Besides, I used to take detailed notes of the evening-talks which we all had with the Master. They were not intended by him to be noted down. I took them down because of the importance I felt about everything connected with him, no matter how insignificant to the outer view. I also felt that everything he did would acquire for those who would come to know his mission a very great significance.

As years passed the evening sittings went on changing their time and often those disciples who came from outside for a temporary stay for Sadhana were allowed to join them. And, as the number of Sadhaks practicing the yoga increased, the evening sittings also became more full, the small verandah upstairs in the main building was found insufficient. Members of the household would gather every day at the fixed time with some sense of expectancy and start chatting in low tones. Sri Aurobindo used to come last and it was after his coming that the session would really commence.

He came dressed as usual in Dhoti, part of which was used by him to cover the upper part of his body. Very rarely he came out with Chaddar or Shawl and then it was “in deference to the climate” as he sometimes put it. At times for minutes he would be gazing at the sky from a small opening at the top of the grass-curtains that covered the verandah of the upstairs in No. 9 Rue de la Marine. How much were these sittings dependent on him may be gathered from the fact that there were days when more than three-fourths of the time passed in complete silence without any outer suggestion from him, or there was only an abrupt “Yes” or “No” to all attempts at drawing him out in conversation. And even when he participated in the talk one always felt that his voice was that of one who does not let his whole being flow into his words; there was a reserve and what was left unsaid was perhaps more than what was spoken. What was spoken was what he felt necessary to speak.

Very often some news-item in the daily newspaper, town-gossip, or some interesting letter received either by him or by a disciple, or a question from one of the gathering, occasionally some remark or query from himself would set the ball rolling for the talk. The whole thing was so informal that one could never predict the turn the conversation would take. The whole house therefore was in a mood to enjoy the freshness and the delight of meeting the unexpected. There were peals of laughter and light talk, jokes and criticism which might be called personal,—there was seriousness and earnestness in abundance.

These sittings, in fact, furnished Sri Aurobindo with an occasion to admit and feel the outer atmosphere and that of the group living with him. It brought to him the much — needed direct contact of the mental and vital make-up of the disciples, enabling him to act on the atmosphere in general and to the individual in particular. He could thus help to remould their mental make-up by removing the limitations of their minds and opinions, and correct temperamental tendencies and formations. Thus, these sittings contributed at least partly to the creation of an atmosphere amenable to the working of the Higher Consciousness. Far more important than the actual talk and its content was the personal contact, the influence of the Master, and the divine atmosphere he emanated; for through his outer personality it was the Divine Consciousness that he allowed to act. All along behind the outer manifestation that appeared human, there was the influence and presence of the Divine.

What was talked in the small group informally was not intended by Sri Aurobindo to be the independent expression of his views on the subjects, events or the persons discussed. Very often what he said was in answer to the spiritual need of the individual or of the collective atmosphere. It was like a spiritual remedy meant to produce certain spiritual results, not a philosophical or metaphysical pronouncement on questions, events or movements. The net result of some talks very often was to point out to the disciple the inherent incapacity of the human intellect and its secondary place in the search for the ultimate Reality.

But there were occasions when he did give his independently personal views on some problems, on events and other subjects. Even then it was never an authoritarian pronouncement. Most often it appeared to be a logically worked out and almost inevitable conclusion expressed quite impersonally though with firm and sincere conviction. This impersonality was such a prominent trait of his personality! Even in such matters as dispatching a letter or a telegram it would not be a command from him to a disciple to carry out the task. Most often during his usual passage to the dining room he would stop on the way, drop in on the company of four or five disciples and, holding out the letter or the telegram, would say in the most amiable and yet the most impersonal way: “I suppose this has to be sent.” And it would be for some one in the group instantly to volunteer and take it. The expression very often he used was “It was done”, “It happened” not “I did.”

There were two places where these sittings took place. At the third place there was no sitting but informal talk to a small number of disciples who were attending him after the accident in November 1938.

From 1918 to 1922 we gathered at No: 41 Rue Francois Martin, called the Guest House, upstairs, on a broad verandah into which four rooms opened and whose main piece of furniture was a small table 3’ x 1.5’, covered with a blue cotton cloth. That is where Sri Aurobindo used to sit in a hard wooden chair behind the table with a few chairs in front for the visitors or for the disciples.

From 1922 to 1926 No. 9 Rue de la Marine, where he and the Mother had shifted, was the place where the sittings were held. There, also upstairs, was a less broad verandah than at the Guest House, a little bigger table in front of the central door out of three, and a broad Japanese chair — the table covered with a better cloth than the one in the Guest House, a small flower vase, an ash — tray, a block calendar indicating the date and an ordinary time-piece, a number of chairs in front in a line. The evening sittings used to be after meditation at 4 or 4:30 p.m. After November 24, 1926, the sitting began to get later and later, till the limit of 1 o’clock at night was reached. Then the curtain fell. Sri Aurobindo retired completely after December 1926 and the evening sittings came to a close.

*

Then, on November 23, 1938 I got up at 2 o’clock to prepare hot water for the Mother’s early bath because the 24th was Darshan day. Between 2.20 and 2.30 the Mother rang the bell. I ran up the staircase to be told about an accident that had happened to Sri Aurobindo’s foot and to be asked to fetch the doctor. This accident brought about a change in his complete retirement, and rendered him available to those who had to attend on him. This opened out a long period of 12 years during which his retirement was modified owing to circumstances, inner and outer, that made it possible for him to have direct physical contacts with the world outside.

The long period of the second world war with all its vicissitudes passed through these years. It was a priceless experience to see how he devoted his energies to the task of saving humanity from the threatened reign of Nazism. It was a practical lesson of solid work done for humanity without any thought of return or reward, without even letting humanity know what he was doing for it! Thus he lived the Divine and showed us how the Divine cares for the world, how he comes down and works for man. I shall never forget how he who was at one time — in his own words — “not merely a non-co-operator but an enemy of British Imperialism” bestowed such anxious care on the health of Churchill, listening carefully to the health bulletins!

It was the work of the Divine, it was the Divine’s work for the world.

There were no formal evening sittings during these years but what appeared to me important in the talks was recorded and has been incorporated in this book.

Part 1. Chapter 2
My meeting with the Master
at Pondicherry and Interview

1. My First Meeting in 1918

I went out from Pondicherry in 1947 when India was on the eve of securing her partitioned freedom. On my return-journey in the month of July 1947, I became conscious of the fact that it was my return to a place where I had passed nearly twenty-five years at a stretch. The memory of my first visit in 1918 awoke in me all the old impressions vividly. I saw then that even at that early period Sri Aurobindo had been for me the embodiment of the Supreme Consciousness. I began to search mentally for the exact time-moment when I had come to know him. Travelling far into the past I found it was in 1914 when I read a notice in the Bombay Chronicle about the publication of a monthly magazine — the Arya — from Pondicherry by Sri Aurobindo. I hastened to register my name in advance. In those days of political storms, to avoid the suspicion of the college authorities and the police, I had ordered the magazine to be delivered to an address outside the college. Sri Aurobindo then appeared to me to be the personification of the ideal of the life divine which he so ably put before humanity in the Arya.

But the question: “why did I order the Arya?” remained. On trying to find an answer I found that I had known him before the appearance of the Arya.

The Congress broke up at Surat in 1907. Sri Aurobindo had played a prominent part in that historical session. From Surat he came to Baroda, and at Vankaner Theatre and at Prof, Manik Rao’s old gymnasium in Dandia Bazar he delivered several speeches which not only took the audience by storm but changed entirely the course of many lives. I also heard him without understanding everything that was spoken. But ever since I had seen him I had got the constant feeling that he was one known to me, and so my mind could not fix the exact time moment when I knew him. It is certain that the connection seemed to begin with the great tidal wave of the national movement in the political life of India; but I think it was only the apparent beginning. The years between 1903 to 1910 were those of unprecedented awakening and revolution. The generations that followed also witnessed two or three powerful floods of the national movement. But the very first onrush of the newly awakened national consciousness of India was unique. That tidal wave in its initial onrush defined the goal of India’s political ideal — an independent republic. Alternating movement of ebb and flow in the national movement followed till in 1947 the goal was reached. The lives of leaders and workers, who rode, willingly and with delight on the dangerous crest of the tidal wave, underwent great transformations. Our small group in Gujarat got its goal fixed — the winning of undiluted freedom for India.

All the energies of the leaders were taken up by the freedom movement. Only a few among them attempted to see beyond the horizon of political freedom some ideal of human perfection; for, after all, freedom is not the ultimate goal but a condition for the expression of the cultural Spirit of India. In Swami Shraddhananda, Pandit Madanmohan Malavia, Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi — to name some leaders — we see the double aspect of the inspiration. Among all the visions of perfection of the human Spirit on earth, I found the synthetic and integral vision of Sri Aurobindo the most rational and the most satisfying. It meets the need of the individual and collective life of man today. It is the international form of the fundamental elements of Indian culture. It is, as Dr. S. K. Maitra says, the message which holds out hope in a world of despair.

This aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s vision attracted me as much as the natural affinity which I had felt on seeing him. I found on making a serious study of the Arya that it led me to very rational conclusions with regard to the solutions of the deepest problems of life. I opened correspondence with him and in 1916, with his permission, began to translate the Arya into Gujarat.

But, though I had seen him from a distance and felt an unaccountable familiarity with him, still I had not yet met him personally. When the question of putting into execution the revolutionary plan, which Sri Aurobindo had given to my brother — the late C. B. Purani — at Baroda in 1907, arose I thought it better to obtain Sri Aurobindo’s consent to it. Barindra, his brother, had given the formula for preparing bombs to my brother, and I was also very impatient to begin the work. But still we thought it necessary to consult the great leader who had given us the inspiration, as the lives of many young men were involved in the plan.

I had an introduction to Sj. V. V. S. Aiyar who was then staying at Pondicherry. It was in December 1918 that I reached Pondicherry. I did not stay long with Mr. Aiyar. I took up my bundle of books — mainly the Arya — and went to No. 41 Rue Francois Martin, the Arya office, which was also Sri Aurobindo’s residence. The house looked a little queer,— on the right side as one entered were a few plantain trees and by their side a heap of broken tiles. On the left at the edge of the open courtyard four doors giving entrance to four rooms were seen. The verandah outside was wide. It was about 8 in the morning. The time for meeting Sri Aurobindo was fixed at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I waited all the time in the house, occasionally chatting with the two inmates who were there.

*

Sri Aurobindo was sitting in a wooden chair behind a small table covered with an indigo-blue cloth in the verandah upstairs when I went up to meet him. I felt a spiritual light surrounding his face. His look was penetrating. He had known me by my correspondence. I reminded him about my brother having met him at Baroda; he had not forgotten him. Then I informed him that our group was now ready to start revolutionary activity. It had taken us about eleven years to get organised.

Sri Aurobindo remained silent for some time. Then he put me questions about my Sadhana — spiritual practice. I described my efforts and added: “Sadhana is all right, but it is difficult to concentrate on it so long as India is not free.”

“Perhaps it may not be necessary to resort to revolutionary activity to free India,” he said.

“But without that how is the British Government to go from India?” I asked him.

“That is another question; but if India can be free without revolutionary activity, why should you execute the plan? It is better to concentrate on yoga — the spiritual practice,” he replied.

“But India is a land that has Sadhana in its blood. When India is free, I believe, thousands will devote themselves to yoga. But in the world of today who will listen to the truth from, or spirituality of, slaves?” I asked him.

He replied: “India has already decided to win freedom and so there will certainly be found leaders and men to work for that goal. But all are not called to yoga. So, when you have the call, is it not better to concentrate upon it? If you want to carry out the revolutionary programme you are free to do it, but I cannot give my consent to it.”

“But it was you who gave us the inspiration and the start for revolutionary activity. Why do you now refuse to give your consent to its execution?” I asked.

“Because I have done the work and I know its difficulties. Young men come forward to join the movement, driven by idealism and enthusiasm. But these elements do not last long. It becomes very difficult to observe and extract discipline. Small groups begin to form within the organisation, rivalries grow between groups and even between individuals. There is competition for leadership. The agents of the Government generally manage to join these organisations from the very beginning. And so the organisations are unable to act effectively. Sometimes they sink so low as to quarrel even for money,” he said calmly.

“But even supposing that I grant Sadhana to be of greater importance, and even intellectually understand that I should concentrate upon it. — my difficulty is that I feel intensely that I must do something for the freedom of India. I have been unable to sleep soundly for the last two years and a half. I can remain quiet if I make a very strong effort. But the concentration of my whole being turns towards India’s freedom. It is difficult for me to sleep till that is secured”.

Sri Aurobindo remained silent for two or three minutes. It was a long pause. Then he said: “Suppose an assurance is given to you that India will be free?”

“Who can give such an assurance?” I could feel the echo of doubt and challenge in my own question.

Again he remained silent for three or four minutes. Then he looked at me and added: “Suppose I give you the assurance?”

I paused for a moment, considered the question with myself and said: “If you give the assurance, I can accept it.”

“Then I give you the assurance that India will be free,” he said in a serious tone.

My work was over — the purpose of my visit to Pondicherry was served. My personal question and the problem of our group was solved! I then conveyed to him the message of Sj. K. G. Deshpande from Baroda. I told him that financial help could be arranged from Baroda, if necessary, to which he replied, “At present what is required comes from Bengal, especially from Chandernagore. So there is no need.”

When the talk turned to Prof. D. L. Purohit of Baroda Sri Aurobindo recounted the incident of his visit to Pondicherry where he had come to inquire into the relation between the Church and the State. He had paid a courtesy call on Sri Aurobindo as he had known him at Baroda. This had resulted in his resignation from Baroda State service on account of the pressure of the British Residency. I conveyed to Sri Aurobindo the good news that after his resignation Mr. Purohit had started practice as a lawyer and had been quite successful, earning more than the pay he had been getting as a professor.

It was time for me to leave. The question of Indian freedom again arose in my mind, and at the time of taking leave, after I had got up to depart, I could not repress the question — it was a question of very life for me: “Are you quite sure that India will be free?”

1 did not, at that time, realise the full import of my query. I wanted a guarantee, and though the assurance had been given my doubts had not completely disappeared.

Sri Aurobindo became very serious. The yogi in him came forward, his gaze was fixed at the sky that could be seen beyond the window. Then he looked at me and putting his fist on the table he said: “You can take it from me, it is as certain as the rising, of the sun tomorrow. The decree has already gone forth it may not be long in coming.”

I bowed down to him. That day I was able to sleep soundly in the train after more than two years. And in my mind was fixed for ever the picture of that scene: two of us standing near the small table, my earnest question, that upward gaze, and that quiet and firm voice with power in it to shake the world, that firm fist planted on the table,— the symbol of self-confidence of the divine Truth. There may be rank Kaliyuga, the Iron Age, in the whole world but it is the great good fortune of India that she has sons who know the Truth and have the unshakable faith in it, and can risk their lives for its sake. In this significant fact is contained the divine destiny of India and of the world.

*

After meeting Sri Aurobindo I was quite relieved of the great strain that was upon me. Now that I felt Indian freedom to be a certainty, I could participate in public movements with equanimity and with a truer spiritual attitude. I got some experiences also which confirmed my faith in Sri Aurobindo’s path. I got the confident faith in a divine Power that is beyond time and space and that can and does work in the world. I came to know that any man with a sincere aspiration for it can come in contact with that Power.

There were people who thought that Sri Aurobindo had retired from life, that he did not take any interest in the world and its affairs. These ideas never troubled me. On the contrary, 1 felt that his work was of tremendous significance for humanity and its future. In fact, the dynamic aspect of his spirituality, his insistence on life as a field for the manifestation of the Spirit, and his great synthesis added to the attraction I had already felt. To me he appeared as the spiritual Sun in modern times shedding his light on mankind from the height of his consciousness, and Pondicherry where he lived was a place of pilgrimage.

II. Second meeting in 1921

The second time I met Sri Aurobindo was in 1921, when there was a greater familiarity. Having come for a short stay, I remained eleven days on Sri Aurobindo’s asking me to prolong my stay. During my journey from Madras to Pondicherry I was enchanted by the natural scenery — the vast stretches of green paddy fields. But Pondicherry as a city was lethargic, with a colonial atmosphere — an exhibition of the worst elements of European and Indian culture. The market was dirty and stinking and the people had no idea of sanitation. The sea-beach was made filthy by them. Smuggling was the main business.

*

But the greatest surprise of my visit in 1921 was the “darshan” of Sri Aurobindo. During the interval of two years his body had undergone a transformation which could only be described as miraculous. In 1918 the colour of the body was like that of an ordinary Bengali — rather dark — though there was a lustre on the face and the gaze was penetrating. On going upstairs to see him (in the same house) I found his cheeks wore an apple-pink colour and the whole body glowed with a soft creamy white light. So great and unexpected was the change that I could not help exclaiming:

“What has happened to you?”

Instead of giving a direct reply he parried the question, as I had grown a beard: “And what has happened to you?”

But afterwards in the course of talk he explained to me that when the Higher Consciousness, after descending to the mental level, comes down to the vital and even below the vital, then a transformation takes place in the nervous and even in the physical being. He asked me to join the meditation in the afternoon and also the evening sittings.

This time I saw the Mother for the first time. She was standing near the staircase when Sri Aurobindo was going upstairs after lunch. Such unearthly beauty I had never seen — she appeared to be about 20 whereas she was more than 37 years old.

I found the atmosphere of the Ashram tense. The Mother and Datta, i.e. Miss Hodgson, had come to stay in No. 41 Rue Francois Martin. The house had undergone a great change. There was a clean garden in the open courtyard, every room had simple and decent furniture,— a mat, a chair and a small table. There was an air of tidiness and order. This was, no doubt, the effect of Mother’s presence. But yet the atmosphere was tense because Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were engaged in fighting with forces of the vital plane.

*

Only a few days before my arrival a dismissed cook had managed to get stones hurled into Sri Aurobindo’s house through the agency of a Mohammedan occultist. This was the topic of excited talk when I was at Pondicherry. Upendranath Banerjee, who hardly believed in the possibility of such occult phenomena, had gone to the terrace with a lantern and a lathi to find the culprit. I heard the whole story from Upen himself. The stone-falling ended when the Mother took the matter in hand and removed the servant-boy, who was the medium, to another {{0}}house.[[The account of this is already given in the Life of Sri Aurobindo by Purani.]]

*

The Prabartak Sangh was started at Chandernagore by Motilal Roy and others under the inspiration of Sri Aurobindo. In the Yoga of Sri Aurobindo life is accepted as the field for the manifestation of the Divine. Its main aim is not liberation merely but the manifestation of divine perfection. In his vision not only the individual but the collectivity also is a term of the Divine. Acceptance of life includes the collective life.

There is a deeper reason for accepting life. In his vision of the Reality Sri Aurobindo shows the rationality and the inevitability of an ascent by man to a higher consciousness than Mind. This ascent to the Higher Consciousness must lead to its descent in man. If the new element, the Supermind, is to become a permanent part of the earth-consciousness, then not only should it descent into the lowest plane of physical consciousness — the subconscient — but it must become a part of the collective consciousness on earth.

I asked him many questions about the organisation of a collective life based on spiritual aspiration.

*

On the last day of my stay of eleven days I met Sri Aurobindo between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. The main topic was Sadhana.

When I got up to take leave I asked him: “What are you waiting for?” I put the question because it was clear to me that he had been constantly living in the Higher Consciousness. “It is true,” he said, “that the Divine Consciousness has descended but it has not yet descended into the physical being. So long as that is not done the work cannot be said to be accomplished.”

I bowed down to him. When I got up to look at his face, I found he had already gone to the entrance of his room and, through the one door, I saw him turning his face towards me with a smile. I felt a great elation when I boarded the train: for, here was a guide who had already attained the Divine Consciousness, was conscious about it and yet whose detachment and discrimination were so perfect, whose sincerity so profound, that he knew what had still to be attained and could go on unobtrussively doing his hard work for mankind. External forms had a secondary place in his scale of values. In an effort so great is embodied some divine inspiration; to be called to such an ideal was itself the greatest good fortune.

*

The freedom of India, about which he had assured me, came, and I was fortunate to live to see it arrive on his own auspicious birthday, the 15th of August 1947. I had been out and now it was to Pondicherry that I was returning.

I had lived there for nearly a generation but had never felt the Pondicherry Ashram as something fixed and unchanging. I realised this most strongly on the day I was returning to it. Pondicherry has always been to me the symbol of a great experiment, of a divine ideal. It is marching every hour towards the ultimate goal of man’s upward ascent to the Divine. Not a city but a spiritual laboratory, a collective being with a daily changing horizon yet pursuing a fixed distant objective, a place fixed to the outer view but constantly moving — Pondicherry to me is always like the Arab’s tent.

11/12.1920

Interview with a Disciple

Disciple: What would be the nature of the spiritual commune?

Sri Aurobindo: It would be composed of those who intend to do Sadhana.

Disciple: Would it be established on economics as the central basis?

Sri Aurobindo: No, it would not be based merely on economics.

Disciple: Who would be admitted into the commune and what would be the method of selection?

Sri Aurobindo: Those who have taken to Sadhana; they are already united though unconsciously.

Disciple: Would it be necessary for members to have some intellectual work in the commune?

Sri Aurobindo: There must be three to four hours’ intellectual work everyday. The members must be able to follow what the Yoga is and its processes.

Disciple: What would be the place of personal demand in such a commune?

Sri Aurobindo: Personal demand must not remain; everything would be intended for all. But before one joins it one must make sure of his spiritual aspiration.

Disciple: Will the collective organisation be economically self-sufficient?

Sri Aurobindo: No. It will have to produce more things because all its needs cannot be supplied by itself. It will have, therefore to keep connection with the capitalist world. Agriculture is the mainstay. The community must try to stand on its own feet for food.

11/12.1920

Interview with Sarala Devi Chowdhurani

Sarala Devi came to Pondicherry to meet Sri Aurobindo. It was evident she wanted to ascertain his future programme and his views on current politics. She met him for two days. As she came up to meet him at the fixed time, 4-30 p. m. Sri Aurobindo got up from his chair to greet her. Both greeted each other with folded hands. After formal exchanges Sarala Devi began

Sarala Devi: Is it true that you are against the non-cooperation movement?

Sri Aurobindo: I am not against it; the train has arrived, it must be allowed to run its own course. The only thing I feel is that there is great need of solidifying the national will for freedom into stern action.

Sarala Devi: Non-cooperation has declared war against imperialism.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it has. but I am afraid it is done without proper ammunition, and mobilisation and organisation of the available forces.

Sarala Devi: Why don’t you come out and try to run your own train?

Sri Aurobindo: I must first prepare the rails and lay them down, then only can I get the train to arrive.

Sarala Devi: But you must do something, should you not?

Sri Aurobindo: As for myself, I have a personal programme. But if I was in politics, even then I would have taken another stand. I would first be sure of ray ground before I fought the government.

Sarala Devi: Don’t you think that sufficient work has been done in the country to start the fight?

Sri Aurobindo: Until now only waves of emotion and a certain all round awakening have come. But the force which could stand the strain when the government would put forth its force in full vigour is still not there.

What is needed is more organisation of the national will. It is no use emotional waves rising and spreading, then going down. Our leaders need not go on lecturing. What we should do is to organise local committees of action throughout the country to carry out any mandate of the central organisation. These local leaders must stay among the people.

Sarala Devi: But I find many people ridicule non-cooperation. Rabi Babu [Rabindranath Tagore] is choked by it. What is your frank personal opinion?

Sri Aurobindo: We have qualified sympathy with the movement; sympathy is there because we have the same objective; it is qualified because we feel that the basis is not sound. The Punjab martial-law and atrocities, the Khilafat are there, and non-cooperation is based on those wrongs. The students from Madras came here the other day and told me they wanted to non-cooperate because the government was unjust. Asked whether they would put up with a just British government they could not reply.

India must want freedom because of herself, because of her own Spirit. I would very much like India to find her own Swaraj and then, like Ireland, to work out her salvation even with violence — preferably without violence. Our basis must be broader than that of mere opposition to the British government. All the time our eyes are turned to the British and their actions. We must look to ourselves irrespectively of them and having found our own nationhood make it free.

09.04.1923

A visitor from Madras to Pondicherry came in connection with non-cooperation work and met Sri Aurobindo.

Question: Dr. Bhagwandas and some others are trying to spiritualise politics — particularly the western institutions in our politics, and there is the village organisation work also. What is your opinion in this matter?

Sri Aurobindo: These are two things which must be kept apart. There are first those who want to work for political freedom and they fix that as their final goal. Secondly, there are those who want to organise the future life of the community in India.

These two require different kinds of organisations and they must be allowed to work with the utmost rapidity. It goes without saying that without organisation there can be no success in any work. But the political worker’s path is straight. He need not go in for constructive work. He has to organise in the village something like the Peasant organisations and associations in Ireland. When they are sufficiently well-organised then they can throw their weight into politics. The second path is much harder and longer and the worker’s method also will be different. If he succeeds he is one of those who win the highest victory.

Of late, in some quarters, too much weight is being put upon village-work. I know in India it is a very very important work to do. But I do not like people trying to picture future India as a mass of villages only. The village has a lot of life-problems and the villagers must be rescued from their living death. But they cannot be leaders of thought.

Question:Don’t you think that some kind of political organisation and work is necessary in the villages and that the village also can be a centre of culture and creative activity?

Sri Aurobindo: Organisation and work in villages are certainly necessary, but I doubt very much whether the village could be a creative centre. At least in the past it was not, so far as we can see. In the past there were village communities but they do not seem to have been creative. The reason is that the man in the village has his view of life bound up with a small portion of land and things so that he cannot easily breathe that liberal and free air which is necessary for great creation. That is why leaders always came from the cities even in ancient times. I do no think that the villages in India, or anywhere in the world, are able to rule even in democracy. For creation a certain leisure and mental development are wanted.

Question:Do you think that in Russia what they have attempted is real democracy?

Sri Aurobindo: In Europe they have always tried for democracy. Real democracy has always failed, and failed because it is against human nature. There are certain men who are bound to govern. One must be prepared to face facts. Even in the democracies those men manage to rule and one knows too well the villagers do not. Only, those people govern in their name, and it sometimes makes them more free and reckless. In Russia — one does not know the exact situation — the attempt was for creating real rule of the people, i.e. of the village. You see in what it has ended? It has established again an oligarchy of the Lenin-party. One may even ask: What has Russia created? It has tried to destroy capital and thus tried to destroy and perhaps succeeded in destroying city life. It is trying mechanically to equalise men. But it is not a success. The Western social life rests on interests and rights. It depends upon the vitalistic existence of men which is largely governed by his rational mind helped by scientific inventions. Reason gives man the rigid methods of classification and mental construction and theory to justify his interests and rights, and science gives him the required efficiency, force and power. Thus he is sure of his goal. But one may say that, though organised and effective, European life is not organic. The view that it takes of man is a very imperfect view, and the ideal it sets before man an incomplete ideal. That is why you find there class-war and struggle for rights governed by the rational intellect. Europeanal life is very powerful because it can put the whole force of its life at once in operation by a coordination of all its members. In old times the ideal was different. They — the ancients — based their society on the structure of religion. I do not mean narrow religion but the highest law of our being. The whole social fabric was built up to fulfil that purpose. There was no talk in those days of individual liberty in the present sense of the term. But there was absolute communal liberty. Every community was completely free to develop its own religion,— the law of its being. Even the selection of the line was a matter of free choice for the individual.

I do not believe that because a man is governed by another man, or one class by another class, there is always oppression: for instance, the Brahmins never ruled but they were never oppressed by others rather they oppressed other people. The government becomes useless and bad when one class or one nation keeps another down and governs it for its own benefit and does not allow the class or nation to follow its own Dharma,— the law of its being.

In ancient times each community had its own Dharma and within itself it was independent. Every village, every city had its own organisation quite free from all political control and within that every individual was free — free to change and take up another line for his development. But all this was not put into a definite political unit. There were, of course attempts at that kind of expression of life but they were only partially successful. The whole community in India was a very big one and the community — culture based on Dharma was not thrown into a kind of organisation which would resist external aggression; and ultimately we were brought to the present stage.

Now the problem is how to organise the future life of the country. I myself am a communist in a certain sense but I cannot agree with the Russian method. One may ask: after all what has Russia created? Even among our present workers in India there is a lack of that definite idea as to what they are about and what kind of thing they want. That is the reason why men like Dr. Bhagwandas propose some mental constructions like asking men to go in for politics after 50 years age and so on. That does not seem to me to be the correct method, and I believe whoever pursues it will encounter complete failure.

Question:Anything would be better than the present condition.

Sri Aurobindo: That is of course the common ground of agreement.

11.04.1923

An interview with a Sadhak

Sri Aurobindo today met X from Madras. X asked him to give him the Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: This is a very difficult path and therefore demands complete surrender and one-pointed concentration. One must be after the Truth alone. One has to be prepared to leave ideals of altruism, patriotism and even the aspiration for personal liberation and follow the Yoga for the sake of the Divine alone. Aspiration must be firm but it must not be only an intellectual aspiration, it must be of the inmost soul. It, then, means a call from Above. One has to take an irrevocable decision before he begins the Yoga. Such a decision may take time to arrive but it is better to wait till then.

Disciple: I have decided to take up the yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: There are so many difficulties in this path — this Yoga is not meant for all. At one time I had the idea that this yoga is for humanity, but now the idea is changed. This Yoga is for the Divine, for God. Man has first to attain the Truth-Consciousness and leave the salvation of mankind to that consciousness. This does not mean that one has to abandon Life in this Yoga. My mission in life is to bring down the Supermind into Mind, Life and Body. Formerly I did not care if the sadhaka accepted other influences, but now I have decided to take only those who will admit the influence of this Yoga exclusively.

Disciple: What should be the Sadhaka’s attitude with regard to physical illness?

Sri Aurobindo: He must first of all remain completely detached in the vital being and in the mind. The illness is the result of the working of the forces of Nature. He must use his will to reject the illness and one’s will must be used as a representative of the Divine Will. When the Divine Will descends into the Adhara then it works no longer indirectly through the Sadhak’s will but directly and removes the illness. When the psychic being awakens then it is able to perceive the influence of the disease even before it enters the body. Not only does one perceive it, but one knows which organ is going to be attacked and one can keep off the attack with the help of the Higher Power.

28.04.1923

A Sadhak’s interview:

Sri Aurobindo generally used to see his disciples and visitors from outside, who came with the express purpose of seeing him, between 9 and 11 in the morning. He used to glance at the daily paper — The Hindu — and then grant interviews. These were very informal and often intimate in the sense that the disciple would relate his experiences and difficulties, and visitors from outside generally sought his advice on spiritual matters or individual guidance in some public activity. One such interview is given here to illustrate how he dealt with the questions of Sadhana,— spiritual practice.

Disciple: I have, at present a very strong impulse to realise the infinite Transcendent Shakti. I want to know whether it is safer to leave the Sadhana to the Universal or to the Divine?

Sri Aurobindo: The Transcendent and the Universal Powers are not always exclusive of each other; they are almost mutual: when the Transcendent is realised in Mind it is the Universal. One has to have that realisation also.

Disciple: What is the distinction between the two?

Sri Aurobindo: The Universal is full of all sorts of things,— true as well as false, good as well as bad, both divine and undivine. One has to get the knowledge and distinguish between them. It is not safe to open oneself to the Universal before one has the power of discrimination, because all kinds of ideas, forces, impulses, even Rakshasic and Paishachic rush into him. There are schools of Yoga that consider this conditions as “freedom” or Mukti and they also take pleasure in the Universal manifestation, as they call it. But that is not perfection. Perfection only comes when the Transcendental Power manifests itself in human life, when the Infinite manifests itself in the finite.

Disciple: Cannot those who attain the Universal manifest perfection?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally, these are men who want to escape into the Universal — that is, into the Infinite,— Sat-chid-ananda,— on the mental plane. The Universal, as I told you, is full of all kinds of things, good and bad. The Sadhaks, who enter into it and look upon it as their goal, accept whatever comes from it and, sometimes, behave in life with supreme indifference to morality. But their being is not transformed. Among our known Sadhaks — K opened himself to the Universal, could not distinguish, or rather refused to distinguish and at the end went mad. Or take the case of L, an outsider, who was trying to remain in the Universal consciousness with the vital being full of all kinds of impurities. That is not perfection.

When the Divine Power — the Supramental Shakti — works She establishes harmony between the various instruments of nature and also harmony in the whole of our life. R and people like him feel that such a harmonization of the being is a limitation. But it is not a limitation — because that action is in keeping with the truth of our being and our becoming.

Disciple: Is the Transcendent Power the same as the Supramental Power?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, when that Power awakens, one knows not only the truth of being but also that of manifestation. There is inherent harmony on that plane between Truth knowledge and Truth-action.

Disciple: Manifestation may mean limitation; is that so?

Sri Aurobindo: No human manifestation can be illimitable or unlimited. But the manifestation in the limited should reflect the Transcendent Power. Human manifestation has a truth behind it and the Supermind shows the truth to be manifested. It is, really speaking, the clue to perfection.

Disciple: I feel a sense of pressure when the Power descends, particularly in the head.

Sri Aurobindo: One must get rid of the sense of pressure. The head indicates the seat of mind and gradually the Power should be made to descent below. When it descends below then it is not felt as pressure but as power which nothing can destroy. The whole being, down to the cells of body, has to be prepared to receive the Power when it descends.

08.08.1923

Interview with V:

V: I am going back to my place and will try to practise the yoga there. I want to know whether I ought to cut myself away from all public activity.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no general rule that all who practise yoga should give up all external work. Do you think that the work would stop if you gave it up?

V: There are one or two friends and co-workers to whom I can entrust the work; but even then it would require two or three hours of my attention.

Sri Aurobindo: Well, there are two or three considerations. First of all the necessity of giving up work depends on the demand from within. In the process of Sadhana there comes a stage when even two hours’ attention is felt as a disturbance; then that work has to be given up. Or, if one finds that it is not the work that one has to do, then one has to give it up. So long as such an intense state of Sadhana does not come there is no harm in continuing the work.

V: I have started an organisation for the spread of our literature in my part of the country. What is your advice with regard to it?

Sri Aurobindo: I am neither for it nor against it in the intellectual sense. In this yoga, external action is not to be abandoned. Sometimes action has to be done.

But ordinarily, we have not to do philanthropic work from the same motives. Philanthropy has an egoistic motive, however high it may be. We have to look beyond. For instance, we need not start schools for the Depressed Classes in order to serve humanity. We have to work as a sacrifice to God and we have therefore to go beyond mental ideals and constructions. When men begin work with these mental or ethical motives, they find them to be true and therefore they are not willing to leave them behind and go beyond. We have to take up the work from the yogic point of view. For example, it is necessary to spread our literature because it spreads the new thought. Some men may receive it correctly and some incorrectly. A movement is set up in the universal mental plane. So also in social work the whole frame is shaken by the new thought and inasmuch as it moves men out of the old groove it is useful. But we have to act from the inner motives.

09.08.1923

Interview with G:

G: How to do action without desire? How can one be free from action and egoism?

Sri Aurobindo: The word “egoism” is used in a very limited sense in English,— it means anything for the self. That which is not done for the self is regarded as unegoistic. But that is not so in yoga. One can do all unselfish actions and have full egoism in him. He will have the egoism of the doer. “Nishkam Karma” means first desirelessness. You have to first establish that condition in which good or bad desires are absent. You must realise that it is the power of God — his Shakti — that does the work in reality. All work, good and bad, in you and in the world is her work.

G: If a man takes up that attitude he may go on indiscriminately doing good or bad actions and say that God is doing them.

Sri Aurobindo: He may say so but he will get the return in proportion to the sense of egoism he puts into it.

G: What about the actions done in the past?

Sri Aurobindo: They are also in the hands of the Shakti — the divine Power. She knows what fruit to give and what not. When that kind of desirelessness is established you have to go on offering all your actions as a sacrifice to God. You must realise that it is the Shakti that does the work in yourself and She offers the same as a sacrifice to the Lord. The more desirelessness in the action, the purer the offering.

The action and the fruit of action both belong to God,— not to us. There should be no insistence on the fruit of good or unselfish action. When this is done then everything becomes easy.

G: How will a man act when he has no impulse of desire?

Sri Aurobindo: When you have realised desirelessness then there will be no impulse of either good or bad desire in yourself. Then there will be an impulsion from the Shakti — the divine Power — and She takes up the work. Slowly the whole of your being opens and everything comes from Above. We merely become the instrument.

G: But how to distinguish between the work that the Shakti impels and that which is prompted by our lower self?

Sri Aurobindo: In order to distinguish the work intended by the Shakti and that dictated by the lower nature you have to be very careful. You must develop the power of looking within. When you look within you must first realise yourself as the Purusha — that is to say, the being quite separate from the movements of Prakriti, nature, going on in the Prana [the vital parts], the Chitta, the Mind etc. Any movement that arises there [in Prakriti] has to be rejected and anything that comes from Above has to be accepted. Not only must you separate yourself, but the Purusha must become the calm and passive witness. Thus there will be a portion in yourself which will be quiet, unaffected by anything in Prakriti. The calm of the Drashta — witness — then extends to the nature and then nature remains quite unmoved by any disturbance. You can not merely remain unmoved but also, as Anumanta, give the sanction to certain movements of nature and withhold others.

G: Is this the Yoga? No Asanas, no Pranayama!

Sri Aurobindo: It is not so simple as it appears. If there is sincerity in the offering then the help comes from Above. You must also have persistence.

G: It might require the learning which, I am afraid, I have not got.

Sri Aurobindo: Learning is not indispensable. The yoga is done by the Shakti only. You do not know it because you are not aware of the higher movement. You have only to keep the attitude described and be sincere in the offering.

28.09.1923

Instruction about Sadhana to a disciple:

Disciple: What is the nature of realisation in this yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: In this yoga we want to bring down the Truth-consciousness into the whole being — no part being left out. This can be done by the Higher Power itself. What you have to do is to open yourself to it.

Disciple: As the Higher Power is there why does it not work in all men — consciously?

Sri Aurobindo: Because man, at present, is shut up in his mental being, his vital nature and physical consciousness and their limitations. You have to open yourself. By an opening I mean an aspiration in the heart for the coming down of the Power that is above, and a will in the Mind, or above the Mind, open to it.

The first thing this working of the Higher Power does is to establish Shanti — peace — in all the parts of the being and an opening above. This peace is not mere mental Shanti, it is full of power and, whatever action takes place in it, Samata, equality, is its basis and the Shanti and Samata are never disturbed. What comes from Above is peace, power and joy. It also brings about changes in various parts of our nature so that they can bear the pressure of the Higher Power.

Knowledge also progressively develops showing all in our being that is to be thrown out and what is to be retained. In fact, knowledge and guidance both come and you have constantly to consent to the guidance. The progress may be more in one direction than in another. But it is the Higher Power that works. The rest is a matter of experience and the movement of the Shakti.

23.12.1923

Interview with a Sadhak — R., a professor:

Sri Aurobindo: What is your idea of yoga?

Sadhaka: I have come to learn that from you.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not possible. How can you undertake to go in for it if you have no idea about it.

Sadhaka: I need the peace of mind which would be the first result of this yoga. Secondly, I want to know what I should do in my life. I have read Yoga and its Objects and I would like to attain the ideal set forth in it.

Sri Aurobindo: The peace, of course, is the first condition of any yoga and it must not be only mental peace. It must be deeper still, it must pervade all the parts of the being and it must descend from Above.

What is your idea of kartavyaṃ karma?

Sadhaka: It is “my duty” in life.

Sri Aurobindo: kartavyaṃ karma does not mean duty. Duty is a western notion. It is a wrong interpretation of the text of the Gita. It means: that which should be done, that which is ordained.

It is possible to know the kartavyaṃ karma in that sense, if one can rise to something beyond Mind. You spoke of Yoga and its Objects. It was written at a time when my Sadhana had not reached its perfection. It marks a certain stage of my development. But it is not complete. I am not following the idea that is in it.

At present what I am doing is the Supramental yoga. Man, as constituted at present, is a very imperfect manifestation of the Divine — he is very crude. It is so because man is living in an envelope of ignorance — in Mind, Life and Body — so that he is not conscious of the Reality that is beyond Mind. The Supramental Power is above the Mind. What I am trying to do at present is to call down the higher Power to govern Mind, Life and Body. The object of this yoga is not the service of humanity, or the ordinary perfection of man but the evolution of the Supramental Power in the cyclic evolution of the Spirit in the material universe. What one has to do is to rend the veil — the thick veil — that divides the Mind from the Supermind. That work a man cannot do by himself.

Sadhaka: Then where is the place for the use of will?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, your will has a place. It is used first of all to remove the lower movements, e.g. desires and thoughts etc. Secondly, it can will for the working of the higher Power by putting a stop to the actions that belong to Mind, Life and Body — i.e. of the ignorant Nature. The first result would be a calm much deeper than the mental calm.

Sadhaka: What about the work for humanity?

Sri Aurobindo: We are not concerned with that at all primarily. What one puts forth generally outside in the form of action is what one internally is. Our first aim is not to work for humanity in the current sense of the term, but to found life on a Higher Consciousness than the present ignorant and limited consciousness of mind, Life and Body. At present, man — I mean the average man — is physical and vital in his nature, using Mind for satisfying his vital being. We want to leave Mind — and intellect — behind and find a Higher Consciousness. One may call it Nirvana, Passive Brahman, Sachchidananda or Higher Power or by any name.

So, our first task is to find God and base life on that Consciousness. In that process what is necessary for humanity will naturally be done. But that is not our direct aim. Ours is a tremendous task. It is an adventure in which one must be prepared to leave behind his desires and passions, intellectual preferences and mental constructions in order to enable the Higher Power to do its work. You have to see whether you can give your consent to the radical transformation that is inevitable.

Sadhaka: Yes, I am prepared for the gamble.

Sri Aurobindo: It is only one minute back that I told you about the Supramental yoga and how is it that you have come to a decision? You do not know the hazard. The acceptance of this yoga means a great and decisive step in one’s life and you have to give consent to the working of the Higher Power in order to be able to go through. There should be nothing in the mental or the vital being which would come in the way of the higher working.

Sadhaka: I have been trying to prepare myself for the last three years. I wanted to come here three years ago. But I did not consider myself fit for this yoga at that time. So far as I can see, I have no mental idea left except the freedom of my country. There was a time when I would have postponed the spiritual life for India’s freedom.

Sri Aurobindo: You need not do it now; it is a thing guaranteed. But you cannot make even that a condition for entering this yoga. It is a high adventure, as I told you. It is not like the other yogic systems where you get some touch of the Higher Reality and leave the rest untransformed. My yoga makes demands that have to be met,— it is a radical transition from the present state of human consciousness. We accept life but that does not mean that in this yoga there is no renunciation. It only means we do not annul any of the faculties of the human being. What we put forth is not something mental, vital or physical but that which comes from the Supramental.

Sadhaka: I would do as you suggest; but at present I do not know any working higher than the Mind. What is to be done till then?

Sri Aurobindo: You have to make a choice: the individual is absolutely free in this yoga. I cannot crush your individuality. I mean, I can, but it is not allowed in this yoga. So, the working of the Higher Power depends upon the choice you make.

Sadhaka: But you are there to protect us.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I can protect you if you have the absolute faith and make the right choice. If you make the wrong choice I cannot protect you. You must know that this is not a simple affair at all. It is not a revolt against the British Government which any one can easily do. It is, in fact, a revolt against the whole universal Nature and so one must think deeply before enrolling oneself with me.

There will be tremendous forces that will attack you and you have constantly to go on making the right choice and giving consent to the working of the Higher Truth and thereby prove your strength.

If you begin this yoga the first result is likely to be a feverish internal commotion, aśānti, rather than śānti, peace, that you are in search of. And when you come to the material plane,— there especially, the odds are almost insurmountable.

I have made my watchword: Victory or Death.

Sadhaka: What is the meaning of coming to the physical and material plane? Does it mean that when the Supermind comes down to the material plane then the difficulties are very great?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. There even I do not know the result. An indication I have received from within saying that it is going to be. Yet I myself do not know the end of my adventure. Very few in the past have followed this yoga and none has conquered the material plane. That is why it is an adventure into the Unknown. One must have faith and make the right choice.

*

In the evening Sri Aurobindo referred to this new Sadhaka, saying:

His vital being has some strength and also there is a certain psychic capacity in him. But his intellect is not fine and subtle and elastic. He has perhaps intellectual vanity and sense of self-sufficiency which may be a great obstacle in his yoga. He was asked to practise the preliminary step of separating Purusha and Prakriti — the witness self and the active nature.

27.12.1923

The same Sadhaka again had an interview with Sri Aurobindo before his departure.

Sri Aurobindo: Have you something to say to me?

Sadhaka: I have begun to practise the yoga in the way you have asked me to. I find it very congenial and profitable.

Sri Aurobindo: You have to continue it. What you know generally as your self is only the surface being and its superficial workings. What man thinks to be “himself” is only a movement in nature,— a movement in the universal mind, universal life and universal Matter. What you have to do is to separate, or rather detach, yourself from the movements of Nature. You will then find that you are not only watching the universal action of Nature but consenting to it.

The movement of watching that is going on in you is not the separation of the true Purusha, but the Mental Purusha. As the Purusha you can not only watch as the sākṣī — witness — but act as the giver of sanction — anumantā. You can stop the movement of Nature that is going on in you.

Sadhaka: Yes. I found I could control my thought or imagination by sheer force of will.

Sri Aurobindo: You have not to suppress the natural movement. That would only mean that it would remain there, or would go deeper in Prakriti — nature — and then rear its head again at some convenient opportunity. What you have to do is to reject the movement, to cast it out of your nature. You can do that by detaching yourself more and more from all movements.

Sadhaka: Where is the seat of the Purusha?

Sri Aurobindo: Above the head is the true seat of the Purusha.

Sadhaka: Should I try to locate the psychological functions in different centres of the body?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, yoga means growing more and more conscious. Even the movement of the subliminal self must be felt and experienced. The centre of vision — and will — is between the eye-brows. The centre of the psychic being is in the heart — not in the emotional being but behind it. The vital being is centred in the navel.

All this is not the real Soul,— it is nature. The Soul is deeper within. The direct method of the Supramental yoga would be to know the subliminal or the psychic being and open it to the Higher Power. But it is a drastic method, and if the Adhar is not pure then it would lead to a mixture of Truth and falsehood, of what comes from Above and what comes from below, and such a state is dangerous in certain cases. You need not take up that method but this preparatory practice which is regarded as very high in other yogas. It is really the first essential step in the Supramental yoga.

When you separate the Purusha from Prakriti you experience a certain calm. That calm is the Purusha consciousness watching the action of Prakriti — nature. It is what is called the Silent Witness. That calm deepens as you detach yourself more and more from Prakriti. You also feel that it is wide, that it is the Lord. It can stop any movement of nature though its will may not be all at once effective; after a time it must prevail. In order to find this Purusha consciousness you have to reject everything in the lower nature, i.e., desires, feelings and mental ideas.

Sadhaka: Should not we have the desire to practise the yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: No.

Sadhaka: Then how can we practise the yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: You must have the will for it: will and desire are two distinct things. You have to distinguish between true and false movements in the nature and give your consent to the true ones.

Sadhaka: We must use our Buddhi — intellect — for distinguishing the true from the false.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not by Buddhi or understanding that you perceive these things,— it is by an inner perception or vision. It is not the intellect but something higher that sees. It is the Higher Mind in which that inner perception, intuition etc. takes place.

All true knowledge is by identity, not at all by the intellectual reason. You may put the knowledge into an intellectual form by the Buddhi or intellect, but the knowledge is essentially by identity. You know anger by being one with it, though you can detach yourself and see it as something happening in you. All knowledge is like that.

The discrimination therefore is not rational but automatic by an inner perception. There is also a faculty called revelation which represents the Truth in terms of figures; there is also inspiration which is heard as a voice either in the mind or in the heart. Even this is a very hard practice. One has to be on guard against the lower movements like self-sufficiency, vanity etc., and reject them.

Sadhaka: I want to know what should be the way of my family life. Should I observe Brahmacharya, celibacy?

Sri Aurobindo: We do not make rules in this yoga. Of course, if you followed the direct Supramental yoga then it would be compulsory. But even in a preparatory yoga it is better if you can observe Brahmacharya. You have to grow from humanity into something higher and so you must get away from the animal level. In the Supramental yoga no lower movements should be indulged in from the lower poise.

Sadhaka: So it is better to observe Brahmacharya?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if you can observe it it is better, though one does not make a hard and fast rule about it. There are three things in the vital nature which are very great obstacles in the yoga — there are many others besides but they are of minor importance. 1. Lust. 2, Pride and Vanity — that “I am a great Sadhak” etc. 3. Ambition for success or greed for money.

Sadhaka: I want to know how I am to receive spiritual help from you?

Sri Aurobindo: That depends upon your faith and sincerity.

Sadhaka: But suppose I am not here and stay at my place and find some difficulty, then how should I receive your help?

Sri Aurobindo: You must detach yourself from the obstacle and watch it and then you have to call down the help from Above. You can always receive my help if once the relation is established. Man is not confined to the physical body. The real Soul has almost nothing to do with the physical man. It is not necessary for me to give my thought to you, the subliminal self can give the necessary help even without the thought — mind knowing anything about it.

Sadhaka: So I can go to my place now?

Sri Aurobindo: Keep writing about your experiences and your progress.

03.01.1924

Raghunath P. Thakar, a Brahmin from Virpur near Rajkot, came to see Sri Aurobindo. He had been to some saint at Rupal [near Kalol], had practised Rajayoga, also some Hathayoga and met Nathuram Sharma in Kathiawad. [The appointment was given on the 3rd January 1924.]

Sri Aurobindo: What is the aim of the yoga you want to practise; that is to say, what do you expect from this yoga?

Raghunath: Vṛtti nirodha — “the control of the waves and vibrations of consciousness” and to be one with God.

Sri Aurobindo: That is the aim of Rajayoga and you should go to a Rajayogi Guru.

Raghunath: I have come to take up any path that you may point out. I always had the idea that I should get something from you. I am ready to do what you tell me.

Sri Aurobindo: Your vital and physical systems are very weak and this yoga makes very strong demands. In this yoga we do not run away from the difficulties. So all of them are concentrated against the sadhaka. Therefore, one must be very strong to fight out the forces successfully.

Raghunath: I would do what you ask me to do.

Sri Aurobindo: I will consider the matter and let you know.

In the meantime it was brought to Sri Aurobindo’s notice that this man had tried to practise Hathayoga without a Guru and had begun with Khechari Mudra, Tratak and Uddiyan accompanied by Kapal Bhati Pranayama and ended by being sick. Raghunath was all along thinking that Sri Aurobindo was a great Hathayogi, because he meditated with open eyes and was able to do Uthapana, levitation.

Disciple: Raghunath says that he has made up his mind.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but I have not made up my mind.

Disciple: In Khechari Mudra the lower connecting link of the tongue is to be cut.

Sri Aurobindo: I think Keshavananda at Chandod also had his tongue freed by cutting it for Khechari.

Disciple: What is, after all, the result of Khechari Mudra?

Sri Aurobindo: I believe it leads to a kind of trance which may give a certain Ananda.

Disciple: The idea seems to be to invert the freed tongue so as to close the passage of breathing. The two nostrils are called the Ida and Pingala currents of Prana. The third is Sushumna on the crown of the head. When these two are stopped, by inverting the tongue and blocking the passage of breathing, then Sushumna begins to function. The theory is that Nectar-Amrita — is dropping from the Sushumna even now but as the tongue dose not taste it man does not enjoy the nectar. There is also a tradition that in Khechari Mudra one is able to fly.

Sri Aurobindo: It only gives a kind of trance and a consequent Ananda: I do not know what else it does.

Disciple: And about Tratak?

Sri Aurobindo: It only clears the sight and ultimately helps in opening the subtle sight between the eye-brows I don’t think there is any other use of it.

On the 6th January Sri Aurobindo gave his final decision about Raghunath P. Thakar.

Sri Aurobindo: He has his own ideas and if he wants to practise Rajayoga he must go to a Rajayogi Guru. For this yoga his mind must undergo a radical change. My giving him the yoga at present is out of the question. If he wants to prepare himself he can practise the separation of Purusha and Prakriti.

01.01.1924

Two Tamil brothers, the elder of whom was a pleader, wanted to meet Sri Aurobindo this morning.

They claimed to be guided here by the spirit of their eldest brother, Jagan Nathan, who had died at Rangoon on 1st December 1918. They brought with them three notebooks containing his communications and some automatic writings. The younger brother was the medium.

Sri Aurobindo glanced over the pages of the book and said:

Sri Aurobindo: Some of the answers are meaningless. The definition of «genius» dose not make any sense.

This man must first of all ascertain whether it is his brother who is communicating with him. And secondly, how close he know that what the spirit writes or says, is under my inspiration?

Generally what happens in such cases is that the spirit tells just the thing that is present in the subconscious part of the medium; the spirit that communicates knows it and gives it out; or if someone present at the planchette has some thought in his subconscious or conscious being the spirit gives it out.

Of course, spirits can act on their own through mediums, or those who have passed away or those who are living can communicate through them. But in that case the medium must be very powerful and pure.

The brothers wanted to meet Sri Aurobindo. On being requested by the disciple Sri Aurobindo said:

Sri Aurobindo: If they come to me because of the spirit’s guidance then it is not sufficient preparation for the yoga.

The report was that they had seen Sri Aurobindo in a dream asking them to come to him, in addition to the guidance of the spirit of their dead brother.

The two brothers were disappointed when they could not meet Sri Aurobindo. It was conveyed to them that the demand for the yoga should not depend upon a planchette communication, it must come from a deeper source. And they must leave the judgment about their fitness for yoga to Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo sent the following instructions to them:

Sri Aurobindo: The younger brother who has allowed himself to be mediumised should be told that it is very dangerous for him to meddle with this spirit-world without proper knowledge. It is especially dangerous for people who are themselves not strong.

He should, after giving up this practice, make his mind strong by the Karmayoga. It will require him to give up his desires and his ego. He can do his actions in the spirit of devotion, offering them all as a sacrifice to God. He can thus practise dedication of all his actions to God and try to see Him in all men and in all happenings. That would be his meditation.

At present he cannot take up this yoga because this is a yoga of self-surrender in which he has to open himself to a higher Power. But as he has already opened himself to other spirits such a passive state would not be good for him. All sorts of spirits would come and try to take possession of his being. So it is not safe for him to take up this yoga, apart from other considerations.

03.01.1924

[Second Interview]

Amritlal Sheth of Saurashtra saw Sri Aurobindo this morning for a few minutes.

Amrilal: I want to know how I can keep down weaknesses of my own nature. If the remedy requires me to give up the work that I am doing, I am afraid, my nature would not allow it. I am painfully conscious of my own shortcomings.

Sri Aurobindo: Weaknesses are natural to man; in fact, I have never met a person who was perfect.

Amrilal: I feel elated when people honour me.

Sri Aurobindo: If people honour you it is none of your concern to accept the honour. You have to become indifferent to it and go on doing your work.

Amrilal: What is the way to remove these weaknesses?

Sri Aurobindo: One way is to keep them down by a sort of mental control or by making your will strong. Of course, you can’t get rid of them in that way. But you can keep them down so that they may not trouble you.

My way of dealing with them is quite different. What one speaks of as check or control is always a moral control. All such solutions are mental while I would deal with them spiritually. That method is quite different.

Visitors from Kakinada Congress

Some visitors from the Cocanada Congress came to Pondicherry and according to the French law they were asked by the C.I.D. police, usually watching the Ashram gate, to declare themselves. The crowd was large and, being fresh from the Congress, not in a mood to submit to the demand of the French law. So it moved towards the sea, and one or two Sadhaks also along with it. The French Police in uniform approached there visitors and asked them to go to the Police Station for declaration.

There was argument and some scuffle and the visitors wanted to take the matter to the court. This would cast reflection on the Ashram as the visitors had come to it and also as some Sadhaks were moving with them. Since this affected the Ashram, the information was conveyed to Sri Aurobindo. At first he sent word that “no case should be proceeded with, and things must be settled with the Police Commissioner”.

But the visitors — some of them at any rate — wanted to make a case. This information was also sent to Sri Aurobindo. Generally he did not come out between 1 and 4.30 p.m. But as the matter was urgent he came down at 3 o’clock and said:

“What is all this trouble about? I have been staying here so long and I have my own status with the French Government. They have not only given me protection but treated me with great courtesy. If the visitors want to make a case it is their own look — out, but I do not want to make any case. Our business is with the officials and not with the policeman. If we have to say anything we must go and inform the officer and not talk to the policeman. It is absurd for me to think of going to the court. I am not only a non-co-operator, I am an enemy of the British-Empire. If the visitors, who are non-co-operators, want to make a case it is their business.”

He then instructed two disciples to go to the Police Commissioner and inquire about the matter and make the position of the Ashram clear by saying:

“We do not invite visitors; so it is the affair of the Police to deal with them. But none of the inmates of the Ashram should be treated in the same manner.”

Next day he explained:

“It is an attempt, once more, to break through the quiet atmosphere which I have succeeded in creating here with great difficulty. The forces have been trying to create the old political situation. When I first came here it was a very difficult situation. Now our connection with the French Government is purely formal, almost mechanical.

These visitors bring so many things with them and they may cast things on people here. I do not mean it is their fault. But one must keep them separate.”

10.01.1924

A young man from Tinnavelly, knowing Sanskrit, came this morning and wanted to see Sri Aurobindo. He said he had received inspiration from Para Shakti to go to Sri Aurobindo who is Bhagawan. He was directly going up the staircase without asking anyone when he was stopped. It seemed that he had been fasting for some days; he brought fruits to offer to Sri Aurobindo.

Disciple: Like the other man, shall I send this one to Raman Maharshi?

Sri Aurobindo: He won’t, probably, go, because the Para Shakti has not asked him to go there. Very inconvenient Para Shakti! She has asked him to come here!

There are only two ways. One is to send him to X [one of the disciples].

Disciple: I have hardly finished with Y.

Sri Aurobindo: (to another disciple) But when he turns up tomorrow what are you going to tell him?

Disciple: I will tell him it is impossible to see you.

Sri Aurobindo: What has he come for?

Disciple: He says he has come for Maha Mantra. I asked him if he was ready to do anything you ask him to do. He said “Yes”. Then I told him you might ask him to go back. He said he would if you asked him to. He can talk in Sanskrit.

Sri Aurobindo: That means he wants to see me! I have no time to listen to his Sanskrit.

16.01.1924

The man who came with the inspiration from Para Shakti was finally seen by Sri Aurobindo who found that his physical and vital beings were weak and his mind lacked discretion. He therefore decided to send him back.

These — the physical, the vital and the mental — parts are the basis; unless the ground is there no structure can be raised on it, he said.

*

A wire was sent in reply to Krishnashashi asking him not to come to Pondicherry. [Krishnashashi, a Sadhaka from Chittagong, had become deranged in mind]. Another wire, was sent to a disciple at Calcutta to stop Krishnashashi from proceeding to Pondicherry.

*

The contents of a letter from a pleader of Wardha — one Mr. Rajwade — were read out to Sri Aurobindo. It showed signs of increasing mental disorder. He wanted to become a yogi, a writer, and then an M.A. and L.L.M., if possible! He wanted to borrow Rs. 3000 if Sri Aurobindo promised him that he would finish the course.

Sri Aurobindo: Which course? You mean the course to madness? He wants me to finish his course?

Disciple: It is very strange that there is a tendency to draw mad people here at present.

Disciple: That Para-Shakti-man has been giving away his clothes one by one every day to somebody!

Sri Aurobindo: I hope he won’t turn up tomorrow without anything on! (laughter)

Disciple: It would be a sight for the Gods!

Disciple: First of all, it would be a sight for you! (laughter). Madness has certainly some attraction for Sadhana. I counted eight mad men with X of Bengal.

Sri Aurobindo: I must say I have not yet advanced to the stage of having so many! (laughter)

Disciple: There is a proposal that where there is a centre of Sadhana there ought to be, side by side, an asylum — I mean a lunatic asylum! (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: It is not a bad idea. You can entrust it to our X.

Disciple: I am afraid somebody may be required to take charge of me! (laughter)

The topic then changed. After some time —

Sri Aurobindo: Have you seen the papers today? Dr. P. C. Ray has conclusively proved that the Charkba is economically paying.

Disciple: Is it so because the report says that the Germans have taken to it?

Sri Aurobindo: No, no. He has proved that with the Charkha a man can earn four rupees per year or perhaps per month, I don’t remember! (laughter)

Disciple: Even the most trusted workers in Khadi have had to admit that the Charkha cannot stand as an independent industry from the economic point of view.

Sri Aurobindo: It seems to me the height of unpracticality.

Disciple: The Modern Review and other papers have been complaining that fine-silk-weaving and gold-lace work and other fine handicrafts are being starved because of insistence on Khadi, while foreign-made imitation Khadi is coming to India unchecked! The artisans of Pattan, Surat, Paithan etc. are without a market for their fine products!

Sri Aurobindo: The way they are proceeding they might completely destroy even the little of the fine artistic value that is left in the country.

Disciple: The other movement to prevent milk from the villages being sold to the dairy is also very unjust to the villager. It hits him economically because the dairies pay a higher price for the milk. It is very unfair to ask the villager not to sell his milk and get a higher price.

Sri Aurobindo: The standpoint of these workers seems to be that as we are poor, let us become poorer still and die.

The talk then turned to a shooting tragedy at Calcutta. A young Bengali shot Mr. Day, mistaking him for Mr. Taggart, the Chief of Police in Bengal.

Disciple: It would have been better if the young man had killed himself immediately after the shooting so that he would at least have had the satisfaction of thinking that he had killed Taggart! Now, perhaps, he will be transported for life and he knows that he has not killed Taggart.

Sri Aurobindo: According to the law he must be hanged. Then he will be greatly disappointed in heaven, if he does not find Taggart there! (laughter)

Disciple: He will have to come back to take Taggart with him to heaven.

Sri Aurobindo: By that time Taggart may go even otherwise.

09.02.1924

Mahatma Gandhi had an interview with Dilip Kumar Roy at Poona. The main subject discussed was “art”. During the talk Mahatmaji said he was himself an artist, that “asceticism was the highest art”. He expressed the view that he had kept the Ashram walls bare of any paintings because he believed that walls were meant for protection and not for painting. He maintained that no art could be greater than Nature’s,— Life is the greatest art, etc.

Disciple: Did you read Gandhiji’s view on art?

Sri Aurobindo: No. I did not. What does he say?

Disciple: He has said to Dilip that asceticism is the greatest art and no art can be greater than Nature’s.

Disciple: He has looked at the sky studded with stars in the silent night and finds no art greater than that.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is an old idea,— I believe Tolstoian — that Nature’s is the greatest art

Disciple: He may be feeling some scruples about his qualification in the matter of art, for he says, “My friends smile when I say that I am an artist.” He maintains that Khadi is artistic.

Sri Aurobindo: It would be quite another thing if he said, “Khadi can be made artistic”. As it is, no one can say it is artistic.

Disciple: Why not? Sometimes it is compared to pearl-white in its colour. There is the stamp of the individual on it — while mill-made cloth is mechanically uniform.

Sri Aurobindo: But nobody says that mill-made cloth is artistic.

Disciple: Khadi is an emblem of purity!

Sri Aurobindo: It is always a sign of a weak mind when one tries to combine things that rationally cannot be put together such as purity, swaraj, politics, religion etc. with Khadi! Nobody objects to Khadi being used on its own merits. Why not use it as such? Why put music, religion, swaraj etc. into it?

Disciple: In the days of Khilafat — agitation they used to say: “Swaraj is Khilafat” [meaning thereby the identification of Khilafat agitation with the fight for swaraj]; “Khilafat is cow” because the cow, the emblem of Hinduism, should be protected by the Muslims!); and we used to say “Yes, Swaraj is a cow”! (laughter).

03.08.1924

An interview concerning instructions for Sadhana to a disciple:

Disciple: What is the distinction between pure mind and vital mind?

Sri Aurobindo: Pure mind simply judges or watches, arranges and accepts the Truth, while vital or dynamic mind acts. Pure mind does not act in that way.

Disciple: Why is the presence of the higher Power not felt in the vital being?

Sri Aurobindo: Because the physico-vital is not yet completely taken possession of by the higher Power. The physico-vital is a very thick layer and when you work it out once, it again covers up the vital being and, for the time being, tries to appear as the whole movement in the vital.

Disciple: How to know whether a movement takes place in the vital mind or in the physical mind?

Sri Aurobindo: You can always know it by this test: if it goes on repeating almost mechanically one and the same thing without creating any new movement, then it is in the physical mind.

If the movement is rooted in the physical mind the best thing is not to give it any importance. The physical is very obstinate; whereas a movement that takes place in the vital or the mental is very subtle and creates new forms. These difficulties persist to the very end. You must clearly distinguish between various movements in the lower being. We do not want to leave out in our yoga the common and even the petty things.

04.08.1924

Morning talk on Sadhana:

Disciple: What is the distinction between the vital mind and the mental will?

Sri Aurobindo: The vital mind is an impulse first and thought afterwards. It is, you can say, force first and thought afterwards. For instance, desire — if deprived of the personal element — is an impulse or force going out or trying to realise itself.

While mental will is the will connected with thought. It is primarily a thought-force. Every thought has its will. Even in the Supermind there is a distinction: there is sometimes a force that tries to realise itself while there is at times a knowledge that tries to be effective, though primarily it is knowledge and secondarily force. In the highest Supermind the two are one: Truth and Force, knowledge and will — both are simultaneous and effective.

The Sadhaka must make the calm and equality absolutely secure so that whatever may happen the inner detachment and equality cannot be broken.

17.08.1924

Haribhai Amin was asked by me about his conversation with Mahatma Gandhi concerning Sri Aurobindo and the Pondicherry Ashram.

Haribhai: I went to see him at Poona but I did not talk to him then about Pondicherry. But when he was staying at Juhu I went to see him and then he asked me if I had visited Pondicherry. I said: “Yes”.

Gandhi: Have you taken the yoga from Sri Aurobindo?

Haribhai: Yes.

Gandhi: Has your whole family taken the yoga?

Haribhai: No. But I have taken the yoga, and Kashibhai is staying there, his son Mahesh has taken the yoga and Bhaktiben has been given instructions for Bhakti yoga

Gandhi: What is the method of yoga? How do you meditate? Do you meditate on an image or do you practise Pranayama, Dhyan and Dharana?

Haribhai: It is meditation but it is by quite a different method.

Gandhi: How many persons are staying with Sri Aurobindo?

Haribhai: About twenty.

Gandhi: Are they from different parts of India?

Haribhai: Yes, some from Bengal, some from the Panjab, some from Behar, Madras and Gujarat.

Gandhi: How many are from Gujarat?

Haribhai: About five.

Gandhi: Who are they?

Haribhai: One is Purani, then Kashibhai, Mr. and Mrs. Punamchand and Champaklal.

Gandhi: When is Sri Aurobindo thinking of coming out?

Haribhai: I do not know that, but it may take two or three years to complete his Sadhana.

Gandhi: But first it was said that he would come out in 1920, then it was 1922 and now you say two or three years more!

Haribhai: I do not know. But I think it may take two or three years. Why do you not go to Pondicherry and see Sri Aurobindo?

Gandhi: I had sent Devadas there and after hearing from him I have no desire to see him. Devadas put certain question to him.

*

Sri Aurobindo was asked about these questions of Devadas.

Sri Aurobindo: All that I remember is that he asked my views about non-violence. I told him: Suppose there is an invasion of India by the Afghans, how are you going to meet it with non-violence? That is all I remember. I do not think he put me any other question.

05.01.1925

Lala Lajpat Rai came with Dr. Nihalchand, Krishna Das, and Purushottamdas Tandon to meet Sri Aurobindo. Lajpat Rai and Sri Aurobindo met privately for about forty-five minutes; the rest of the company waited outside. From their faces when they came out it seemed both of them had agreed on many points. Sri Aurobindo then met the other members of party. He turned to Purushottamadas Tandon.

Sri Aurobindo: How are things getting on at Allahabad?

P. T.: We are trying to carry out Mahatmaji’s programme.

Lajpat Rai: Are you really trying to carry it out? (turning to Sri Aurobindo) they are trying to capture local bodies.

P. T.: I am not in favour of that programme, because it will lead in the end to lust for power and then personal differences and jealousies would also creep in. We cannot, in that case, justify the high hopes which people have about our work.

Lajpat Rai: They expect you to usher in the golden age.

Sri Aurobindo: But why do you give them such high hopes?

Lajpat Rai: In the democratic age you have to.

Sri Aurobindo: Why?

Lajpat Rai: If you want to get into the governing bodies you must make big promises; that is the nature of democracy.

Sri Aurobindo: Then, why democracy at all? The lust for power will always be there. You can’t get over it by shutting out all positions of power; our workers must get accustomed to it. They must learn to hold the positions for the nation. This difficulty would be infinitely greater when you get Swaraj. These things are there even in Europe. The Europeans are just the same as we are. Only, they have got discipline — which we lack — and a keen sense of national honour which we have not got.

P. T.: The Europeans are superior to us in this respect.

Sri Aurobindo: You can’t prevent such weaknesses. What you have to do is to bring about that discipline and that sense of national honour in our people. By the way, how do you like the Charkha programme?

P. T.: I like it very much and I am trying to carry it out in U.P.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t understand how it is going to bring Swaraj.

P.T.: In the absence of a better programme, it disciplines the people and makes them do something for the nation. It brings to the front the idea of common action for a definite end.

Sri Aurobindo: The Charkha has its own importance, but it cannot bring Swaraj.

P. T.: It may if one realises the Bhava — the feeling — that is behind spinning.

Sri Aurobindo: I am afraid, you can’t get that Bhava — feeling — from me. You can only get the work of Charkha with a sentry over me! (laughter)

Disciple: But why only Charkha? Why not the oil-mill? It is also common action.

P. T.: Yes, I know that India lost her independence even when there was the Charkha, the spinning-wheel. But as there is no other programme we are following it.

Sri Aurobindo: What we require is not an outward action merely — like spinning — but discipline and a sense of national honour.

Lajpat Rai: Yes, what we lack is the sense of a common interest in the midst of conflicting interests.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite so.

The meeting ended.

12.07.1925

Interview with V:

Sri Aurobindo: What about your Sadhana.

V: It is going on well.

Sri Aurobindo: “Well,” means?

V: It is at present duller than it was before my physical illness.

Sri Aurobindo: What is the kind of experience you are getting?

V: At first the Power was working on the mental plane. Now it is working on the vital and even below the vital plane.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know that it is working on the vital plane?

V: When the mind becomes peaceful I am able to see desires and impulses etc. in the vital.

Sri Aurobindo: When you have got the peace what things do you perceive coming into you?

V: There are thoughts that continue to come even when there is peace. Sometimes the mind gets identified with them and moves with them. Sometimes it is able to remain separate.

Sri Aurobindo: Have you experienced the separate existence of the vital being?

V: Yes, I have.

Sri Aurobindo: How did you know that it was the vital being?

V: Because I am able to see desires and impulses that come in it.

Sri Aurobindo: That you can see even with the mind; have you experienced the existence of the vital being separate from the mind?

V: Yes, Seven or eight times I had the experience of a separate vital body [sheath] of my own. And I felt its existence quite separate from the mind. Sometimes that vital body used to go out also.

Sri Aurobindo: How far has the peace descended in you?

V: It has descended down to the navel.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you not feel it descending further down?

V: Sometimes it descends down to the toes of the feet, (after a pause) How should I proceed now in my Sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo: You have to do two things during your stay here:

1. The peace that you feel in the mind must be constant and permanent and you should feel yourself separate from all the thoughts, ideas and suggestions that may pass through your mind. That is to say, you should have the constant experience of the Purusha Consciousness. This basis of peace must be there whether you are meditating or not.

2. You should have an aspiration to separate your vital being and have its experience as a separate entity, so that the vital would be able to see the effect of other universal [vital] forces upon its own self. These are the two things you must try to establish during your stay here.

V: Do you find in me some progress?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. there is.

V: How far has purification taken place?

Sri Aurobindo: There is not one meaning of the word “purity”. It depends upon how you understand the word. But what I call essential purity can be attained by making the basis of peace firm and establishing the whole consciousness in the Purusha firmly. When one is firmly established in the Purusha consciousness then one has also got a basis for purity because the Purusha is “ever-pure”, Nitya Suddha; he does not require purity, he is inherently pure. Afterwards the purity that remains to be established is that of Prakriti. Once one is established in the Purusha consciousness the Prakriti — nature — automatically begins to get purified.

21.09.1925.Morning

Interview:

Narmadashanker B. Vyas, a native of Lunavada, came here some days back and wanted to take up Yoga from Sri Aurobindo. He refused to give him the Yoga saying: —

“He has some demand, but I would not give him this Yoga”.

A photo was taken and shown to Sri Aurobindo. It made a favourable impression and he found that the psychic being could open — though he found (on reading the photograph) that there was hardly any development of the mental being and the physical being was too weak for this Yoga. He saw him seven days later and told him that he could not give this Yoga to him:

“This is a very difficult Yoga and it makes no less demands on the Sadhaka than the old methods. Everything is to be given up to the Power that is above the Mind. This Yoga accepts life but that does not mean that it accepts the ignorance of life”.

The second time he was permitted to see Sri Aurobindo on the. 21st.

Sri Aurobindo: I can’t give my Yoga as I do not find the necessary capacity in your nature. But, if you like, I can give you something that may prepare you for this Yoga.

Vyas: Very well.

Sri Aurobindo: Did you follow any religious practice in your life?

Vyas: I did only Gayatri Japa for some years when I was young.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you know the meaning of the Gayatri Mantra?

Vyas: It is a great Shakti — power — but I do not know the meaning.

Sri Aurobindo: It means: “We choose the Supreme Light of the divine Sun; we aspire that it may impel our minds.”

The Sun is the symbol of the divine Light that is coming down and Gayatri gives expression to the aspiration asking that divine Light to come down and give impulsion to all the activities of the mind.

In this Yoga, also, we want to bring down that divine Sun to govern not only the mind but the vital and the physical being also. It is very difficult effort. All cannot bear the Light of the Sun when it comes down. Gayatri chooses the Divine Light of the Truth asking it to come down and govern the mind. It is the capacity to bear the Light that constitutes the fitness for this Yoga.

You can meditate on this Mantra, keeping in mind the meaning, and you can aspire also to become fit for this Yoga. When you are able to fix your mind you may remember any one of the forms of the Godhead. You can pray to your Ishta-Devata that he may make you fit for this Yoga and that it may come and work in you.

Really speaking, this Yoga is not done by the power of man: it is done by the Divine Power and so She can bring about every change in the capacity of the Sadhaka.

You should direct the aspiration towards the Supreme. When you have succeeded in doing it, you should watch all your inner activities and see what they are. Whatever you find there you must calm down. This calm you must go on deepening, so much so that you should feel quiet, wide, large in consciousness. If you can establish this calm you will be able to do this Yoga.

The calm must become deep and so settled that even while doing ordinary work you should feel it within yourself and see the activity as something quite separate from yourself.

You should have a fixed time for meditation and must be regular in doing it. You can write about your experience from time to time.

Part 1. Chapter III
On Books and Letters

A Note:

After 1910 when Sri Aurobindo was engrossed in Sadhana he read very few books. But he was in contact with the world through papers and magazines. Besides, the disciples that were living in the Ashram from 1923 used to read books and they brought some of the ideas and opinions from the books to Sri Aurobindo’s notice in the evening talks. Here it may be necessary only to state that the initiative in these talks was very often taken by the disciples and that these talks arc not complete reviews of the books mentioned. They will be found interesting as revealing a particular side of Sri Aurobindo’s personality,— one in which he was speaking freely to disciples with whom he was familiar.

12.09.1923

Disciple: The “Utkal Star” has written an article on the 15th of August and the writer points out the absence of Islamic culture in the grand synthesis you have made. I believe the Modern Review also pointed out the same.

Sri Aurobindo: The Mahomedan or Islamic culture hardly gave anything to the world which may be said to be of fundamental importance and typically its own. Islamic culture was mainly borrowed from others. Their mathematics and astronomy and other subjects were derived from India and Greece. It is true they gave some of these things a new turn. But they have not created much. Their philosophy and their religion are very simple and what they call Sufism is largely the result of gnostics who lived in Persia and it is the logical outcome of that school of thought largely touched by Vedanta.

I have, however, mentioned that Islamic culture contributed the Indo-saracenic architecture to Indian culture. I do not think it has done anything more in India of cultural value. It gave some new forms to art and poetry. Its political institutions were always semi-barbaric.

09.02.1924

Gospel of Swadeshi by D. B. Kalelkar

“Avatar of Swadeshi” and Kalelkar’s interpretation of Swadeshi were the subject of talk.

Sri Aurobindo: According to his view, even this “gospel of swadeshi” is needless. Everybody must produce what he wants and, at the most, inform his neighbour; even that a man who observes strict swadeshi would not and should not do!

D.: I had once a chance of asking Mahatmaji about his using the railway, press, motor car, telegraph:“How does it all fit in with your opposition to machinery?”

Sri Aurobindo: What did he say?

D.: He said, “I am using the machine to fight the machine, as we remove a thorn with a thorn.”

Sri Aurobindo: I see; so do the peace-makers say; they make war in order to end war! (laughter)

24.04.1924

Eyeless Sight by Dr. Joules Romain

Dr. Joules Romain demonstrated in Paris that a person with his eyes closed with dough of flour was able to see without using the organ of sight. The book affirms four centres of vision in the body over and above the eyes.

1. The forehead and nose for seeing colours.

2. Breast.

3. Back of the head.

4. Finger tips.

It appears from the description that the man does not see at once but begins to see after a time. Colour is seen invariably by the nose and by the cheek. Before the sight begins the man sees colours and lights. For small objects he sees the thing dancing and then the sight settles down to the object.

Sri Aurobindo came out with a cutting from a paper about Eyeless Sight. Two articles had been written on the subject. In the first one the writer, as Sri Aurobindo put it, “was wisely foolish.” He characterised the phenomenon as an illusion or due to self-hypnotism etc. The second article, Sri Aurobindo said, was better. He continued:

The corpuscles in the cells about which he speaks are not the centres of sight. They are general centres of sense-functions and can be used for any purpose of sense-perception. All the senses are everywhere. The ancients knew this truth. One can see from everywhere in the body. In the normal human being the different senses become organised: for example, the eye for seeing. But all the cells are capable of being conscious.

Disciple: But to what is due the phenomenon demonstrated by Dr. Joules Romain?

Sri Aurobindo: In his case it seems to be either a psychic or a psycho-physical phenomenon; because, in the first place, you have to meditate and, secondly, the doctor maintains that sight is all round.

Disciple: But he demands that the coat and the shirt must be removed and that the body must be naked to the waist. This eyeless sight, he says, can see in the dark but not in the light.

Sri Aurobindo: All these ideas are due to Sanskars — fixed impressions. For instance, you are not able to see with the other parts of the face except the eyes because it is a Sanskara.

Disciple: But his experiment failed in the presence of scientists. And Dr. Romain explained it by saying that the atmosphere there was hostile to his work. He succeeded when he tried again at the house of Anatole France.

Sri Aurobindo: That evidently shows that the power working is either psychic or psycho-physical. This phenomenon is quite possible. In her childhood the Mother was able to see even in the dark and she had developed the power of sight everywhere. She is, even now, able to see from behind and this general sight works more accurately than the physical eyes. It works best when the eyes are closed.

Disciple: I saw Prof. B. from behind my body when he was going away. This power, I then felt, could be developed. Is this psychic sight?

Sri Aurobindo: The psychic vision is between the eye-brows, in front, above the head. In fact not only are all the senses everywhere in the body, but they are even outside the body. You can feel the touch of two different persons and, remaining at a great distance, know how they must be feeling it.

Disciple: Would all these powers come automatically after transformation, or are they to be developed by the Sadhak.

Sri Aurobindo: Everything is there, but you have to organise these things. In my case I have to develop each of them. The Power is there and is working but the physical has not the faith and so it has got to work out.

Disciple: Can it be said that this way of developing each power is part of the general fight with the physical obstacles?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: Is it not dangerous for small adhars to try to concentrate on these powers, because they may be swallowed by them?

Sri Aurobindo: It may be. I can never understand that stupid fear of acquiring Siddhis — occult powers — which our people are having. Why should every one be spiritual? Those who want to attain power must do that. I mean if that is the only thing they can do in this life let them do it. He was telling me the same thing this morning. For instance, if a man is capable of writing good poetry why should he be expected to do all things in life? Let one thing be well done. That way the soul develops.

Disciple: But suppose some hostile power gets hold of him?

Sri Aurobindo: That does not matter; one has to take one’s chance, risk is always there. The soul develops by undertaking adventures and even stumbling often. Before that you can’t hope to win the crown. It is good to have a certain protection in the beginning and to progress on the spiritual side. But one has to take the risk, reject the lower path and take to the higher truth. Besides, all these things are necessary for the divine manifestation.

Disciple: Are these things really necessary?

Sri Aurobindo: They are. In society, in politics, in fact in every field progress is like that. That is why a moderate policy is foolish. They believe that by gradually going on they will reach the goal, but that is never the case. You go on to a certain extent and then something comes up and envelops the being. The whole of what you have done is broken up and you have to begin over again.

Disciple: But the physical is simply idiotic.

Another disciple: Because it is so, the work becomes interesting.

Sri Aurobindo: Interesting! The vital, you may say, is interesting. But the physical is most idiotically stupid. It is full of Tamas; it wants to go on in its own slow process.

Disciple: The new scientific discoveries which the Westerners are stumbling upon are bound to change their mentality.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course; after the discovery of radium and the theory of light science has taken a higher step. Now it can hardly be called materialistic.

Disciple: The phenomenon of eyeless sight reminds me of the case of a man who emitted “blue light”. The scientists were puzzled and thought that they were hypnotised to see the light. Then they exposed photographic plates and found that the light was being emitted.

Sri Aurobindo: (smiling) All these phenomena — eyeless sight, light-emission or miraculous cures — are psychic and it is absurd to try to explain them away and more absurd to doubt them.

Disciple: There was the reported case of a missionary who cured a blind man, and also miraculous cures are reported from St. Xavier’s tomb at Goa.

Sri Aurobindo: Those kinds of phenomena are very common even today. In France at Notre Dame, at Lourdes lame people are cured. Only, the power that is working there acts very irregularly, some get absolutely cured, while some are not affected. But all those who want to see and be convinced can see them. A friend of the Mother — a lady — was so cured. This working is due to the presence of some psychic power. There are no limits to its capacities. There are authentic cases of men effecting such cures without themselves being conscious of the psychic force working through them.

Disciple: Ramakrishna felt the blows given to a bullock and there were marks of the stripes on his body. Is this action due to the kind of extended sense of which Dr. Joules speaks?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. That kind of story is current about many yogis. It is, of course, due to the psychic sense — which is not limited to the physical body — but the intensity of it is due to something else.

12.06.1924

There was talk about a poem written by Mrs. Maud Sharma, wife of Thakur Dutt Sharma. It was a poem on a “chair”.

Sri Aurobindo: Some of the phrases she used are rather remarkable. There is some poetic capacity in her.

Disciple: Did you read Harin Chattopadhyaya’s “faints Series” recently published?

Sri Aurobindo: I read his Pundalik and Mird Bai. The form of drama does not suit him. It is most undramatic. He should not go in for it.

*

There was a letter from G. V. Subba Rao containing his correspondence with Gandhiji, V. Hanumantha Rao of Nellore and also his letter to Drummond. In the first letter Mahatmaji said that he had respect for Sri Aurobindo’s intellect and that he was open to light from any quarter about Truth and non-violence.

In the second letter he wrote to Subba Rao that Devadas had seen Sri Aurobindo and that he would follow his own light.

He also mentioned in this letter that he knew about Sri Aurobindo from Devadas and C. R. Das.

23.08.1925

“Joan of Arc” by George Bernard Shaw.

Sri Aurobindo: These men, Chesterton and G. B. S., try to be clever at any cost. It seems that G. B. S. wants to put in here the idea of evolution.

After three days

Sri Aurobindo: I have finished reading Joan of Arc. It is no-drama at all. Joan talks like a pushing impertinent peasant girl and Charles VII talks like a school urchin and all the rest talk like London shop-boys except when they talk about high subjects, and then they talk Shaw. There was a certain poetry in Joan’s speech, action, etc. But here the whole thing is knocked out and instead you have vulgar modern prose.

In order to write about that age you ought to know about the Roman Catholic Church, feudalism etc. Bernard Shaw has his own views about them and instead of giving a picture of those times he has given his own opinion on them.

04.12.1925

There was an article in the “Sabarmati” by Kishorlal Mashruwala stating: “However great a yogi may be he ought not to say anything against morality”.

Sri Aurobindo: What does he mean by “morality”? So long as you need to be virtuous you have not attained the pure spiritual height where you have not to think whether the action is moral or not. These people hastily conclude that when you ask them to rise above morality, you are asking them to sink below good and evil. That is not at all the case.

Disciple: They believe that a man can advance only by morality i.e. by remaining moral.

Sri Aurobindo: Nobody denies that. By morality you become more human, but you do not go beyond humanity. Morality has done much good to man, maybe; it has also done much harm.

The question is whether you can rise to something above man by morality. That sort of mental limitation is not conducive to the growth into the Spirit.

Disciple: But they always confuse morality with spirituality.

Sri Aurobindo: Like the Christians to whom there is no difference between morality and spirituality. For instance, take this fast now announced. It is a Christian idea of atonement for sin. All those other reasons which are given make it rather ridiculous.

Indian culture knew the value of morality, and also its limitations. The Upanishads and the Gita are loud with and full of the idea of going beyond morality. For instance, when the Upanishad says: “he does not need to think whether what he is doing is good or bad” — Sadhu, Asadhu. Such a man attains a consciousness in which there is no need to think about morality because the action proceeds from the Truth.

*

There was talk about Emile Coué — “Marvel of Coueism —”

Sri Aurobindo: It is so easy to make money in life and yet we don’t get any money.

This remark was the result of his perception that the whole institution of Couèism was being commercialised.

Disciple: Then that means we don’t know how to make money.

Sri Aurobindo: I know how to make money; only, as Couè would say, I have not the “imagination” or as I would say, I have not the “will” to do it. I know the easy methods but I prefer to take the more difficult path. That was the main objection of X to myself. He always said that I was unpractical because I used to upset all his plans that were most likely to succeed.

14.04.1926

Cosmic Consciousness by Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke (Madras 1923).

Précis of the general points discussed.

“There are three forms or grades of consciousness:

1. Simple consciousness which is possessed by the upper half of the animal kingdom. A dog is conscious of things around him.

2. Self-consciousness. Man is conscious of himself as a distinct entity apart from all the rest of the universe..... It is as good as certain that no animal can realise himself in that way.

Man can say: “I know it is true” — and also “I know that I know it is true”. Language is the objective side of the phenomenon of which self-consciousness is the subjective.

3. Cosmic consciousness, etc.”

Sri Aurobindo: I know the Western people won’t leave aside reason in their dealing with the material sciences, but when they come to Yoga or Spiritual experiences they do not seem to keep their heads; they are like children in these things.

For instance, take Dr. Bucke’s case. It is evident there has been some experience. It must be the case with many other people in Europe. Immediately they break a little out of their brain-mind they begin to generalise without waiting to see quietly what the experiences is about. They do not allow the experience to get settled. If Dr. Bucke had waited and tried to see how what he calls “cosmic consciousness” comes, what are the conditions of its experience, and what it really is, then he would have found that his generalisation that “the cosmic consciousness must come all of a sudden” is not correct.

Then again it is not necessary that it must come to everyone in that form: “a column of fire”!

If he had waited he would have found that his experience had two elements, the mental and the psychic, to which the vision of fire was due. I do not think that Christ had the same experience or even Edward Carpenter.

When I first got the cosmic consciousness — I call it the passive Brahman — I did not fall into unconsciousness of common things; I was fully conscious on the physical plane. It was at Baroda and it did not go away soon, it did not last only a few moments as Bucke lays down. It lasted for months...I could see the Higher Consciousness above the mind and I saw that it was that which was reflected in the mind. The world and all people appeared as in a cinema; all these things appeared very small.

What Bucke and some of the other people get is some sense of the Infinite on the mental plane and they begin to think that it is everything.

His whole book is a generalisation from one experience which lasted only a few seconds. One ought not to rush into print with so little.

The division of consciousness into three forms or types is all right in a rough way. But his statement that man has self-consciousness while the animal has no is not quite true. And his argument is: because animals have no articulate speech and because they don’t know that they exist, therefore they are not self-conscious. He admits that animals have reasoning power. But it is not true that they have no language. They have some sort of intoned sounds which are like the language of the pigmies and also they have a power of wonderful telepathic communication of impulse. So, having no articulate language does not imply absence of self-consciousness. Of course, the animals have no intellectual ideas to convey. But they have self-consciousness.

The cosmic consciousness, as he describes it, seems to be the coming down of Light with the intuitive mind. But that is not the whole level of the Higher Consciousness above the mind. There are other truths which are as real as those of which Dr. Bucke speaks.

He got into that higher state and was evidently in exaltation; there must have been some play of the intuitive mind, and the intellect working at great speed. He himself admits that the experience can last for some hours. What he ought to have done is to say to himself: “Let me see whether it can be made normal.” It is no use having the cosmic consciousness for a few moments in one’s life. And Bucke says that the whole of humanity is going to get it.

If humanity is going to have it, it must be a normal cosmic consciousness. In some cases the experience comes back by itself. One must wait and ask for it and see what it is. In other cases one has to work it out and see whether it can become normal. But these people are soon satisfied.

22.05.1926

Ectoplasme et Clairvoyance by Dr. Gustave Geley.

Sri Aurobindo brought the book out from his room and putting it on the table started speaking.

Sri Aurobindo: I tried to read the book. But then I found that it was not necessary to read the whole because I have been able to form an idea about it from the illustrations.

The illustrations are of the lowest vital plane as is evident from the forms which they have thrown out and also from the faces of the mediums. They are most diabolical, what the Christians call “devilish”.

Disciple: But the book is given the appearance of a scientific work.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not a scientific work. These people, who meddle in these fields of consciousness of which they know nothing, claim to be experts! These forms are created by using the vital force of the mediums themselves. I do not know to what degrading influences these poor mediums are subjecting themselves!

Europe is meddling in these things without knowing what they are. That is the result of a sceptical denial of any higher possibility of spiritual and divine life on the one hand, and a spirit of mere curiosity on the other. If Europe wants something genuine in the spiritual life, it is absolutely necessary for it to throw away all this rubbish.

Disciple: Is it because of its dangers?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the vital is always a very dangerous plane to open oneself to. It is that which leads one to side-tracks in spiritual endeavour — Sadhana. Besides, as the writer himself admits, the evidence does not prove anything beyond the fact that supraphysical planes exist. These vital beings can take the substance from the vital plane and also gather stuff from the minds of those present and create a form. It does not prove that they are the persons they claim to be. Not that disembodied spirits don’t exist, but this way it can’t be proved.

Disciple: Cannot a Yogi do something in this field?

Sri Aurobindo: You can only meddle in this field when you have got some higher power and some real knowledge. Otherwise, you get to it by the wrong end: to get to the vital by the wrong end is the most dangerous thing.

No! If Europe follows this line, it will create a black bar across any descent of the higher Light.

Disciple: Would these phenomena occur if a Yogi — a true Yogi — was present?

Sri Aurobindo: Let anyone who has the true Light be present in these seances and you will see that none of these phenomena will take place. These forces would simply run away.

Scepticism and agnosticism are better than these things. Though they are negative and in opposition they have something which can be turned into a substance of Light. But these forces are positively perverse and in opposition,— they are against the Truth.

No opening must be given to these forces. There is an imposition of ignorance and scepticism which has been introduced or interposed so that the hostile vital world may not break the barrier easily, except in stray cases.

Disciple: But why is there no spiritual opening in Europe? and why do those who are spiritual there not protest against this?

Sri Aurobindo: Why should they?

Disciple: Could one say that there is no spirituality in Europe?

Sri Aurobindo: You mean no spiritual endeavour? It will come in time. In that case these vital forces have to work through the usual psychological opening which the normal man gives: they have to work through desires, impulses etc. But this kind of work in the occult is an effort on the part of the lower vital forces to break the barrier and gain possession of the physical plane. If they could succeed they would retard the whole course of evolution and the destiny of the race. Therefore, throwing the doors of consciousness open to them, as these people do, is the most dangerous thing. Of course, at a certain point, the higher Power would certainly intervene and throw them away.

Disciple: The book claims to reveal the future by showing the forms of what is going to happen.

Sri Aurobindo: The sight, the subtle sight, of forms of the future is not knowledge. It is a limited development which allows one to have some knowledge. But the higher knowledge is different,— in the vital and the mental the knowledge attained is not the same.

Disciple: The kind of spiritism gives one the knowledge of the future; and that attracts men.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not necessary to know the future. It is better that I should have the spiritual consciousness than know the future.

Disciple: Could one apply the method of science to this field?

Sri Aurobindo: The scientific method is fruitless as applied to these occult subjects or even to life. Dr. J. C. Bose has shown that there is a nervous response in the plants. But nervous response is not vital force. It does not prove the existence of vital force. Vital force is like a pianist who is invisible. You can only see the mechanism of the piano and the playing but not the player.

Also you should not apply the standards which are valid in a higher field to a field of action below. You falsify the knowledge if you do that. It is like trying to prove the existence of God or of the Spirit, by physical means. One can’t prove it because it is not a physical thing.

This book only says, “There are some things supra-physical”. That is all right. But it does not prove what the author claims.

Disciple: There are some in India who want to try this spiritism here.

Sri Aurobindo: It would only result in bringing those lower forces here. Europe at least is protected by a certain stolidity of mind. The Europeans can develop clairvoyance — it is already there. One can develop such faculties without calling in the aid of these perverse spirits. What is needed is a change in the angle of vision towards spiritualism. Real spiritualism is not ideas about the Spirit or mentalised spiritual knowledge. Also men must lessen their curiosity in these subjects.

Disciple: In explaining life or personality modern science tries to explain everything by the external, i.e., by heredity, by the gland, the nerve etc.

Sri Aurobindo: In these psychological fields I must study myself and find out the truth. But if science says that everything is glands and nerves etc. then I have to do nothing. I admit glands may have something to say in the matter of life or personality but I say it is very minute. About reaction in the physical my experience is that one has to make the cells conscious,— they again forget and become unconscious, one has to make them conscious time and again.

19.03.1926

There was a discussion about Osserwiceki’s book dealing with clairvoyance, telekinesis, seeing different colours, ectoplasmic substance etc.

Sri Aurobindo: Is he conscious of how and what he is doing, that is the question. If he is not conscious then the action must be mediumistic.

Disciple: How is he able to move an object while remaining at a distance? And how is he able to leave his physical body and with his vital body make himself felt somewhere else?

Sri Aurobindo: Tremendous vital force is necessary to move an object at a distance.

The Mother had such an experience in Algeria when she was there. She left her body and made herself felt to her friends in Paris where she signed her name and even moved an object. At another time she moved up and down a train in her vital being and saw everything.

The Slavs as a race are psychically more sensitive but generally they do not control these occult forces. The Jews, having a long-standing tradition about these powers, seem to know the way of mastering them.

Théon, the Mother’s first teacher, had great powers and knew how to use them. Sometimes these powers are gifts.

When one leaves the physical being and goes into the vital world he must know how to protect himself or someone must protect him.

Disciple: Do not space and time exist on the vital plane?

Sri Aurobindo: The vital plane has its own time and space. There is a relation between the physical and the vital planes. There is an Infinite with extension and an Infinite without extension. One creates space and time and the other is caitanya ghana,— condensed or self-gathered Infinite.

Disciple: Can an injury in the vital transfer itself to the physical?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, an injury to the vital easily goes through to the physical.

Disciple: Can the vital being get fatigued?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally the vital being does not get fatigued, if you can draw the force from the Universal vital or from Above.

Disciple: They say that certain substances like incense, and certain sounds like that of a conch, and objects like a sword can prevent the Asuric forces from acting.

Sri Aurobindo: All these are not effective in themselves, but they produce an influence by the power you put into them. In the case of incense, by the power of Agni a psychic influence is produced which these vital beings do not like, but a powerful Asura would not be influenced by sound.

11.06.1926

On Einstein’s Theory

Disciple: According to Einstein’s theory, although there is a formed independent Reality, it is quite different from what we know about it. Observed Matter and the laws of the physical sciences exist only by our mind. It is all a working in a circle. Our mind defines Matter in order to deal with what exists; it observes conservation of Matter, but that is because the mind is such that in order to observe Reality it must posit conservation first. Time and Space also, in the new Physics, seem to be our mind’s formations of something which is not divisible or separable into time and space.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by mind? You try to appropriate mind to yourself. But really there is no my mind or your mind — but mind or rather movement of mind. Mind is universal, even the animal has got it. We can only speak of human mind which is a particular organisation of the general principle of Mind. One can speak of one’s own mind for the sake of convenience, i.e. for practical purposes.

Disciple: What then, makes the difference between individuals?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no fundamental difference. The difference is in detail, in the development, evolution and organisation offerees. For instance, I have, by virtue of my past evolution, developed and organised certain forces in me, but the principle is the same.

The human mind in dealing with the universe has to deal with certain relations of objects and rely upon the senses and other instruments and therefore it cannot be sure of what it receives of the universe and the truth of the reality that corresponds to it. This is so because, first of all, the instruments, that is, the senses are imperfect. Even his reason and the will to know do not give man the knowledge of the Truth; Reason is mainly useful for practical purposes because it enables man to deal with universal facts as they are organised now. That was the view which Bergson took: “Reason”, he said, “is an instrument of action, not of knowledge.” It is organised knowledge directed to action. When you have taken up a position intuitively, reason comes in afterwards and supplies you with the chain of justification.

Take for consideration a law: what do you mean by a law? It means that under certain conditions the same movement of forces always recurs. It depends on the human mind,— the condition of mental consciousness. But suppose the consciousness changes, then the law also is bound to change and it would be seen from quite a different position. So, all the laws are relative. That seems to be the truth, from our point of view, behind Einstein’s theory.

All these ideas about the universe are based on the assumption that the Infinite can organise a universe only on these particular lines with which mankind is at present familiar. But that is purely an assumption.

Disciple: There is a new standpoint reached by Einstein’s theory that the laws of the physical universe are related to the law of numbers and as this law seems absolute to our mind, the laws of the physical world are also absolute. They cannot be otherwise. If the law of number is different in another universe, or on another plane, then the laws of that world would be different.

It was thought once that laws are restrictions placed by Nature upon infinite possibilities; e.g. a stone has to fall down in a straight line only, it could not take any other course. But now it is seen that this idea of restriction is an imposition from our mind. There is no such thing.

Sri Aurobindo: If your mind is in search of the Absolute then it is a vain search. First of all, it is a question whether there is any reality corresponding to what the mere mind formulates as the Absolute.

Secondly, even if such an Absolute or Reality exists it is doubtful how you are going to reach it.

Thirdly, even if you could realise it, I don’t think it would matter very much.

There are, beyond mind, three Absolutes — the Ananda, the Chit — Tapas, that is, the Consciousness and Power aspect, and the Sat [the Being]. These three really are Absolute, Infinite and One.

But when you begin to deal with the movements of Ananda, movements of consciousness and force in manifestation [here] then you have to distinguish and differentiate between high and low, true and false movements.

Now with regard to the law of numbers it merely states the organisation of the physical part of the universe and even there it gives knowledge of only a part. But, there is not merely the quantitative law of formation, but also a qualitative law which is more important than the quantitative. These laws of Nature you call absolute. But suppose I bring the yogic force into play and am able to overcome the law of gravitation, that is, bring about levitation, then is it not breaking the absolute law?

Disciple: But then another force, quite different from the purely physical, enters into play. If the laws of the physical are not dependable then what is the use of this mental knowledge?

Sri Aurobindo: It is very useful. It is even necessary. It enables man to deal with physical facts and establishes his control over physical phenomena.

Disciple: But that control is not perfect. Another question is: Whether the scientists would come to believe or accept that the whole truth cannot be attained by mind, or would they turn sceptics like the positivists? Could they come to believe in the possibility of higher Knowledge by mysticism?

Sri Aurobindo: Never mind what they accept or don’t accept, but the control which science gives is a real control. The knowledge science gives, as I said, is not only useful but is even necessary. The main concern of the scientist is with physical phenomena,— he observes them, he studies the conditions, makes experiments and then deduces the laws.

Disciple: Can one study the planes of consciousness in the scientific way?

Sri Aurobindo: I already spoke one day about occultism which deals with the knowledge of the forces of those planes and the way of mastering them.

Even in yoga we have to do the same. We have to find out the right Dharma, the right way of functioning, of movement of forces. Not merely the law which is mechanical, but the Dharma of the movement of forces. An ordinary law merely means an equilibrium established by Nature; it means a balance of forces. It is merely a groove in which Nature is accustomed to work in order to produce certain results. But, if you change the consciousness, then the groove also is bound to change. For instance, I observe the forces on the vital plane, I see what they are, and what they intend. If they are hostile they attack me. Then I have to find out how they shall not attack me.

I put forth some force and see how they react; I have also to see how they would react if I put forth the force in a different way.

Even in knowing physical phenomena, the Yogi’s way of knowing is different from that of the scientist. For instance, when I light a match I do not know the chemical composition of the match, and how it burns when struck. But I feel and know beforehand whether it will light or not, or whether it will do the work intended of it, and that is enough for me. I know it because I am in contact with the force that is in it, the Sat and the Chit in movement there.

The Yogi’s way of dealing with these physical forces is also different from that of the scientist. Take, for instance, the fire that broke out in Tokyo. What the scientist would do is to multiply means and organise devices to prevent and put out the fire. What the Yogi would do in the same case is that he would feel the Spirit of fire approaching and, putting forth his force, he would be able to prevent the fire from breaking out in his vicinity.

These dealings are with quite different orders of facts.

Disciple: There are some people who claim, or pretend, to know the result of a lottery. Cagliostro was such a person, and tradition says that his claim was valid. Is it done by the same way of knowing as in the case of the match box?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: But I know of cases where the man used to put somebody into a clairvoyant state by hypnotism and then know the number that was going to succeed in a speculation. But whenever he had a desire to gain for himself he always failed.

Sri Aurobindo: That was bound to influence the working of forces, because he was not passive. If you remain passive, supposing that you are open to the plane in question, you could get the right number. It is not a moral question, it is a question of disturbing the proper working of a process.

Disciple: Some of the great Yogis while dealing with these lower forces feel that they have come down from their spiritual height and have lost some ground. Why do they feel like that?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally the Yogis of the traditional school wanted to get away from Nature into a kind of Absolute, cither of Sat or of Chit or of Ananda. So long as they remained in that experience they felt they were in a high spiritual condition. But they hardly cared to organise anything on the lower planes. So whenever they had to deal with the forces of Nature they had to come down and meet them on the same level. As they came down they felt they had lost their high spiritual condition.

Disciple: It was probably because of this that they were against the use of spiritual power.

Sri Aurobindo: In your Yoga there are two movements of Nature: one is the movement of light and knowledge and the other is the movement of force or will. Generally, it is the movement of knowledge that comes first and is more perfect than the movement of force and action. In the beginning these two movements are separate, and in fact, the will is more effective when the knowledge is shut out.

Disciple: How is it possible for knowledge to be ineffective or less effective?

Sri Aurobindo: I may have the correct knowledge that an accident will happen, but I may not have the power to prevent it from happening.

As one develops the yogic life these two movements approach each other and in the Supermind they are two aspects of the same Truth. The light of knowledge carries in it effective power and the will becomes more and more enlightened in its action. That is why we speak of more and more luminous action and more and more effective knowledge.

Disciple: Why do the lower forces attack the Yogi?

Sri Aurobindo: In order to bring him down to the lower level, so as to prevent him from ascending to the higher levels of consciousness and organising anything there. When I go up in consciousness and try to organise something above, these forces come and attack me and I have to come down and meet them. There is some kind of organisation of the higher Power here in the lower nature with which I have to meet them. For instance, it is possible to prevent people from getting ill, and this organisation is workable in practice and sufficient for us to go on with. But it is not what has got to be done, it is not the highest nor the perfect movement.

It is well known that once you come down in consciousness you find it difficult to go up again. There are two ways of meeting these attacks of the lower forces: (1) either you have to remain perfectly calm and allow the higher Power to protect you if it likes, or, (2) you have to come down and fight them with your forces.

Disciple: Is it not true that generally knowledge comes to the Sadhaka before power?

Sri Aurobindo: No, not necessarily.

Disciple: Even the forces and their attacks are, perhaps, like the working of the left hand of God; it helps the Yogi to rise higher. With one hand He holds him up and with the other gives him a slap.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is so. Even what are called hostile forces have to be known and seen as the working of God. If you see what is pushing them from behind you find it is not the hostile force but the divine Power.

But it is very dangerous to accept everything as the working of the Divine, saying, “All is the working of God”, like K who says evil and good are both equal. Everything is, in the last analysis, the working of the Divine, but you have not therefore to accept everything. It may not matter very much so long as you are on the mental plane, but on the vital plane if you accept everything as the working of the Divine you are sure to fall. It is a very dangerous movement because the Sadhaka may justify the play of lower impulses in him on the ground that they have a purpose to serve.

When one knows the hostile forces also as the working of the Divine, the left hand of God, then the movement of exhaustion of these forces is very quick.

Disciple: Was the principle of Vama Marga of Tantra similar to this idea of conquering hostile forces by taking them as the movement of the Divine?

Sri Aurobindo: I have no direct knowledge of the Tantric Sadhana. But most probably the Tantrics tried to apply the truth that they saw on some other plane to the physical plane and in doing so nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand fell.

Disciple: It is not that the movement of meeting the lower forces with one’s own power is comparatively inferior?

The higher movement would be that the Truth must act direct from Above. Is it not true that the Power becomes more and more impersonal?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no question of Personal or Impersonal in the action of the Truth. It may act through the individual, that is, use him as the channel. Then it may seem Personal. It may even seem to work for what to others would appear personal ends, or for the benefit of an individual. It does not matter so long as it is the Truth that acts.

31.08.1926

Disciple: A difficulty is with regard to time and space: they are always taken together as if they were inseparable, but space is reversible for man while time is not.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not?

Disciple: One can go back in space but one can’t go back in time, physically.

Sri Aurobindo: Because time is not a physical entity, it is supra-physical. It is made of subtle elements and so you can go back only in the subtle way.

Disciple: Space is three-dimensional. The question is: cannot time have two dimensions, since time for us is in a line?

Sri Aurobindo: Time represents itself to us as movement or rather succession; it is dynamic.

Disciple: Can it have two dimensions?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by that?

Disciple: It is very difficult to imagine two dimensions of time.

Sri Aurobindo: You can say that on a plane higher than the mind time becomes static,— that the past, present and future appear in a line (without a break) and are static.

Disciple: What is Time?

Sri Aurobindo: 8:30 p.m. (laughter); I have never bothered myself with these mental definitions. What difference is it going to make to you if you know the definition?

Disciple: But space is something material.

Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be material?

Disciple: Only matter occupies space, consciousness cannot occupy space.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? How is it that you occupy space? You have a consciousness!

Disciple: But such things like mind etc. do not occupy space.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know? And what is space?

Disciple: Space is the point of intersection of two points.

Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be always material? When you feel angry, for instance, you also get a disturbance in the physical nerves. It occupies space.

Disciple: But that is not my consciousness; it is only the reaction of anger, not myself.

Sri Aurobindo: That is because it does not suit your argument! How do you know what is your consciousness? What do you understand by consciousness?

Disciple: “I think” “I feel” — that is consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not your consciousness,— that is the result of your consciousness. Do you think consciousness is a mere abstraction so that it exists nowhere?

In a way, you can say that everything exists in consciousness, even space etc. In fact, everything exists in consciousness and it exists nowhere outside of it. Then you come to Shankara’s position: everything, therefore, is Maya — illusion. That is the most logical conclusion unless you admit, like the materialists, that everything comes from matter.

Disciple: Well, the conventional idea is that.

Sri Aurobindo: What have you to do with conventions? You have to see the Truth, never mind what people believe. You will find that thought, feeling, etc. take place in a certain space which, of course, is not physical space. It is something like the ether which pervades everything.

The question may be asked: how far does space extend? You go from earth to the interstellar region, and then? Do you think there is no other kind of space? To my mind space is an extension of consciousness.

Disciple: But extension is a property of Matter.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that when I get the experience of wide, extended consciousness, my consciousness becomes material?

Disciple: No. But Matter has extension.

Sri Aurobindo: That is what your mind tells you!

Disciple: That is what we see.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you see? Only through your mind, is it not? You can only say that these things — like Matter etc. — represent themselves in this way to the human mind. And what is time, when you come to deal with subtler things? It is not a mere abstraction; it is a force, you can say it is the action of a force. It acts and produces effects by itself without any other factor.

Time, you can say, is consciousness in action working in Eternity and space is consciousness as being in self-extension.

Disciple: Why are the hostile vital powers mistaken for gods?

Sri Aurobindo: They represent themselves so to the vital being and it is easy to mistake them for true gods, because the vital being in man lends itself easily to such deceptions. The second reason is that they satisfy, or promise to satisfy, desires of the vital being of man, or if there is vanity they pander to it.

Disciple: In that case it seems that many of the gods worshipped by men are vital gods.

Sri Aurobindo: I think so; many of the people who get possessed by Kali and such other gods are only possessed by these vital beings and much of the worship offered to them in the temples goes to these vital beings.

Disciple: Then it is dangerous to worship these gods.

Sri Aurobindo: If you mean spiritually dangerous, yes.

Disciple: Do the true gods also harm men?

Sri Aurobindo: Not knowingly. That is to say, they have no hiṃsā-vṛtti — harming impulse. But if a man goes and butts against the gods then he knocks his head. But no god harms intentionally. It is you who go to get your head broken. It is your folly and stupidity which is responsible for the knocks.

Disciple: The gods do not care whether man is killed or not.

Sri Aurobindo: Not in the human, sentimental way. They go on doing their work and if man becomes happy or unhappy, or rich, or poor — they do not care. Do you think that if the Gods were running after human happiness there would be so much misery left in the world? The gods are merciful because the Divine is merciful.

Disciple: It seems that the Devil is powerful in life.

Sri Aurobindo: You think the gods are weaker than the devils and they can’t destroy the devils? They are merciful and good because God is merciful and good but it does not mean they have no power. They simply go on doing their work with their eyes on the Eternal Law of Truth. To them it is that which matters and nothing else.

Disciple: Are they very busy?

Sri Aurobindo: Not “busy” in the human sense. They are eternally engaged in doing their work,— but not busy.

25.12.1939 (Evening)

Disciple: According to Einstein there is no gravitation.

That is to say, there is no force of attraction exerted between objects. He says that what we call gravitation is due to curvature of space.

Sri Aurobindo: What is all that?

Disciple: He says that Euclidian geometry is not applicable to the material world. That is to say, space is not flat, a three-dimensional analogue of a two-dimensional flat surface. Euclidian figures like the square and solids and straight lines are abstract, not real or actual. He also says that material space is “boundless but not infinite”.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know? Perhaps it is not space that is limited but over capacity to measure space that is limited. Besides, how can you say that space is limited to Matter? There is a non-material space beyond this material universe. A being can leave behind our material space.

Disciple: Einstein began his contribution by proving that simultaneity of events, constancy of mass and length etc. are all relative and not absolute. If the same length is measured from a body moving with great velocity at a distance the length would change. Besides, he showed that in a system of reference if the whole frame of reference moves uniformly then no measurement within the system can give you the proof of the uniform motion.

He has also shown that time is an indispensable factor in the measurement of dimensions of an object.

Sri Aurobindo: Time is not an indispensable factor of dimension. Movement is absolutely necessary to feel time. When an object is stationary the consideration of time does not enter in measuring the dimensions unless you move it to some other point. Really speaking, one has to know space as the extension of being and time as an extension of energy.

Disciple: According to science everything is moving. Earth is going round the Sun and revolving on its axis. If we tap on the same place twice Einstein would say we have not tapped on the same place, for the earth has moved 18 miles per second in the meantime.

Sri Aurobindo: But the taps do not change the dimensions of the board! only, you can say that a consideration of time is necessary to complete your measurements of space.

Disciple: Einstein has introduced a fourth dimension of time, in addition to length, breadth, and height; their combination he calls the time-space continuum. It can be conceived as a cylinder over which a spiral is wound.

Sri Aurobindo: It is only a phrase! Time cannot be relegated to the position of a mere dimension of space, it is independent in its nature; Time and space may be called the fundamental dual dimensions of the Brahman.

Disciple: Ouspensky has an idea in his Tertium Organum that our three-dimensional world is a projection from a subtler fourth-dimension which is suprasensual but real. He means to say that to each solid form we see here there corresponds a subtler form of it which is in the fourth dimension.

Sri Aurobindo: That is perfectly true, the cube would not be held together and therefore would not be a solid if something in the subtle dimension did not maintain it. Only, it is not visible to the physical eye but can be seen with the subtle eye.

Disciple: Sir Arthur Eddington in his Gifford Lectures (1934) says that science began with the aim of reducing the complexity of the material world to a great simplicity. But now, it seems, science has not been able to keep its promise and no model of the material universe is possible. A good deal of mathematics and specialisation is necessary now to understand what science says about the material world. Eddington says that the table on which he is writing is not merely a piece of wood. Scientifically speaking, it is a conglomeration of electrical particles, called Electrons, moving at a very great velocity, and even though the particles are moving, his hands can rest on the surface and not go through.

He has also argued against the scientists who insist that the so-called objective view is the only view that is permissible or intended. The rainbow is not intended only to give man the knowledge, or experience, of the difference in the wave-lengths of light. The poet is equally entitled to his experience when he says, “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky”.

So also a “ripple” in water is not meant only to give man the knowledge of the pressure of the air, and the force of surface — tension.

Sri Aurobindo: Validity of human knowledge is not dependent on physical science alone. Physical science is only one side, of knowledge. The poet’s and the mystic’s and the artist’s experience have equal validity.

Disciple: Eddington argues that even in so-called objective scientific knowledge it is mind that is asked to judge ultimately. 8 x 4 is 32 and not 23, why?

Sri Aurobindo: It is by an intuition and repetition of experience and not merely by reason that man finds that one is right and the other wrong.

Now even the scientists have been forced to admit that their conclusions are not all based on reason. Their formulas have become like magic formulas.

Disciple: They say that they can demonstrate their conclusions.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, demonstration to the mind again.

26.12.1939

Disciple: N. was puzzled about time and space because it is not clear whether time and space are properties on matter.

Sri Aurobindo: Time and space can’t be properties of matter, at least time is not material. Space and time are the extensions of the Brahman. For instance, you feel when you go deep in meditation that there is an inner space,— cidakasa, which extends to infinity, and our material space is only a result of it. So time also is extension of Brahman in movement.

You can see that time and space both are not the same for man every time. When your mind travels from Calcutta to London it is not in the material space and not in the time that you feel with the outer mind. It is in the mind itself that you move.

Space also is a movement of the Brahman inasmuch as it is an extension, but there is a difference as far as time is concerned.

Disciple: We are conscious of the movement of Brahman as time because we live from moment to moment and We can feel time only by events. So also the world is an extension.

Sri Aurobindo: In that way everything is an extension — expression, projection, manifestation,— of the Brahman. It is only a way of saying.

Disciple: Some say that time does not exist at all.

Sri Aurobindo: Who says it? It depends upon the point of view and state of consciousness from which you say it; i.e. whether one says it only intellectually, or from an experience.

Disciple: Time may not exist in a consciousness where the universe does not exist.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite so.

Disciple: The scientists define gravitation as only a curvature of space — and, as we know matter only by weight, matter is a curvature of space.

Sri Aurobindo: But what about matter being the same as energy?

Disciple: Einstein admits their identity and says that energy has weight.

How can energy have weight?

If you wound your watch and unwound it — there would be a difference in the weight? (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: But what you have to ask is: “what is Energy?”

17.09.1940

Disciple: According to science there is no empty space anywhere, that is to say, there is no emptiness in space. There are two schools of physicists: Some believe that there is what they call “cosmic dust” in all space. Others say that the ray of light being material can pass through nothing — there is no necessity to imagine anything between.

Sri Aurobindo: “Nothing” means what? Does it mean non-existence, or nothing that we can, or do, sense? If you say it is non-existence then nothing can pass through it, you empty a tube or a vessel of the air or gas it contains and say it is a vacuum. But how do you know there is nothing in it?

Disciple: If there was anything in it, there would be resistance.

Sri Aurobindo: Why should you assume that everything must offer resistance? If “nothing” means non-existence then if anything enters non-existence it becomes non-existence. If you enter non-existence you cease to be. A ray can arrive only at nowhere through nothing.

Disciple: That may be occult knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not merely occult knowledge but occult knowledge and common sense.

Disciple: What is space?

Sri Aurobindo: The question remains: either it is a conception or any entity. If it is a conception only, then your observations can also be only conceptions, that is to say, they happen in you only. Then you come to Mayavada: nothing but yon exist.

Disciple: The latest idea is that space is curved.

Sri Aurobindo: What is the meaning of space being curved? Einstein speaks of curvature of space round the Sun and when a body gets near it it goes down the curve. But the question is: what is that curve and in what does it exist?

For instance, some say the universe is expanding. In what? There must be something in which it is expanding. And why is a ray of light deflected in the sun’s neighbourhood? You say: because there is a curve. But why is there a curve? And in what is that curve?

And then, what is expanding? It it Matter? You will say: No. Then Energy? You say: yes. But the energy is expanding into what? you say space is bent: the question is: is matter bent or space?

Disciple: The amount of Matter in the universe is limited — it is finite.

Matter has weight and the weight of all matter is known.

Sri Aurobindo: But what is matter? Is it a wave or a particle?

Disciple: According to the quantum theory it is a particle which is matter and energy at the same time.

Sri Aurobindo: If you say that matter is finite then there must be some medium which supports matter and which is infinite. You say matter has weight,— what is weight?

Disciple: Some of the scientists say that the sun is losing weight at a certain rate and the time when it will be exhausted is calculated!

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know that the sun is not renewing its weight?

Disciple: What else can science do? It must take the data and make a hypothesis.

Sri Aurobindo: In the real science:

i. You must have the right data.

ii. Then you should draw the right inference. The difficulty is that you can never be sure of having all the data for any phenomenon.

Disciple: There are so many calculations: earth’s age, the rate of the expanding universe, the sun’s birth, the age of the sun etc.

Sri Aurobindo: I sympathise with Shaw who says: “they don’t know what it really is.” Something escapes from like the fish from the fisherman’s net.

22.06.1926

Patanjali’s Raja Yoga

There are many persons who believe that “Yoga” means the Raja-Yoga of Patanjali. His sutras are well known. It is a scientific method which resorts to:

1. Physico-vital processes depending on Pranayama and Asanas taken from Hatha Yoga.

2. Psycho-vital and psycho-mental processes in a gradually rising series: patyahara, dhyāna, dhāraṇā. and samādhi. Even though the Gita gave currency to quite a different idea of Yoga and even of Samadhi, the popular mind in India has believed that Yoga means Raja-Yoga, in most cases at least. It is apparent that Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga is quite different from the Raja-Yoga of Patanjali. It does not take the mental consciousness and its condition as the constant point of reference; for, its aim is not to secure a mental state which might reflect the Infinite but to rise above the mind. Besides, it adds the process of Descent of the Supramental consciousness, into human nature which necessitates a complete transformation of the ignorant human nature into the divine: it transforms the áparā prakṛti into the parā.

Sri Aurobindo: The aim of Patanjali was to rise to a higher consciousness. He proposed to do it by replacing the general Rajasic movements of nature by the Sattwic There was no idea of practising morality in it, or of ethics. Besides, Yama and Niyama were never the aim of his efforts; the aim was to rise above the ordinary consciousness and even his idea of Samyama and Nigraha was not dictated by morality. He, wanted to gather power for a spiritual purpose and so he discouraged the spending away of forces in the ordinary way.

15.01.1939

Dr. R. came today and in course of his talk he said: “Medicines, after all, are not of much value. It is something else that effects the cure”. (Then Dr. R. went away)

Sri Aurobindo: A doctor known to the Mother used to say that it is the doctor that heals, not the medicines. It is chiefly the healing power that works; if it is there then medicines lend their properties to the healing power.

Disciple: The ancients perhaps recognised it as the vital force.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Even now in some French Universities like Montpèlier, I hear, they admit the working of this vital force. They seem to have preserved the old tradition coming down from their contact with Spain; Spain got it from Asia when it came under the Arab influence.

Disciple: The same theory may come back to us now.

Sri Aurobindo: At one time the physical sciences claimed to explain everything. But now they seem to realise that science cannot explain everything. So, they turn round and say: “It is not our business to explain.”

Disciple: They have come to admit that the law of causation which had no exception is, now, not without exception. In certain cases the cause cannot be determined because in trying to determine the cause one would be obliged to meddle with the process. This is called indeterminism.

Sri Aurobindo: They can also say that God’s thoughts are indeterminable!

Disciple: There are some scientists who are trying to prove the existence of spiritual and supra-physical truths by science.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a futile effort. You cannot found metaphysics on science. The whole basis of your thought will tumble every time science changes.

Disciple: Can it not be said that there is something in philosophy which corresponds to the truth of science?

Sri Aurobindo: No; all you can say is that certain conclusions of metaphysics agree and correspond to certain conclusions of science.

Disciple: The continental scientists have refused to build a philosophy of science. They say that it is not their business to explain, but to lay bare the process. Eddington in his Gifford Lectures (1934) said that ultimately it is the human mind, the subjective element, which accepts one conclusion out of a number of possible conclusions. Scientific conclusion does not always depend upon objective reality but upon subjective interpretation. For example, 8 x 2 is equal to 16 and not 61 — it is the mind that accepts this truth.

Sri Aurobindo: In this case it is the accumulated experience or, you may say, invariable experience, that gives the sense of certainty.

Disciple: Scientists study the rainbow and find that it is caused by the difference in the wavelengths of light and they might say that is the reality of the rainbow. But when the poet exclaims: “My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky” we have no right to say that the knowledge or experience of the scientist is right and that of the poet wrong.

Sri Aurobindo: In fact, the rainbow exists for neither. Only the scientist gets excited over the process, while the poet is excited over the result of the process.

Disciple: Did you read Spengler’s Decline of the West?

Sri Aurobindo: I have not read the book. What does he say?

Disciple: It is a very encyclopaedic work. But there emerge a few main ideas: e.g. Spengler says that Time is not a neutral entity, it has got a direction, a tendency; — something like a tension. It tends to produce certain events. It points to a destiny, to something towards which the sum of forces seems to lead inevitably.

On the data of human history he believes that there have been cycles in the life of the human race when cultures have arisen, reached a zenith and then declined. From a study of these it is possible to predict the decline of human cultures. European culture at present is full of these symptoms of decline and therefore it is bound to decline. The signs of this decline are the rise of big cities, impoverishment of the countryside, capitalism etc.

He says that to classify history as Primitive, Mediaeval and Modern is not correct. We must study universal history and that too impersonally. The mathematical discoveries that are seen in a particular culture are organically connected with that culture. The Greeks, for instance, could never have arrived at the conception of the “series” — regularly increasing or decreasing numbers leading to infinite number. The “series — idea” is only possible in modern culture.

He even maintains that even if you grant that Napoleon’s rise could have been prevented by some causes, still the results that came as a consequence of Napoleon’s career would have followed inevitably because they were destined.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t quite understand. Big cities have always existed. And even granting that there is destiny, why could it not be changed? He says about Napoleon that the results of his rise would have followed inevitably. It is a very debatable proposition I believe the results would have materially varied. If Napoleon had not come at that time the European powers would have crushed the French Democracy. Napoleon stabilised the revolution, so that the world got he ideal of democracy. But if he had not been there it would have been delayed by two or three centuries, perhaps.

As to destiny, what do you mean by destiny? It is a word and men are easily deceived by words. Is destiny a working of inert, blind, material forces? In that case, there is no room for choice, you have to end by accepting Shankara’s Mayavada, or else rank materialism.

But if you mean by destiny that there is a will at work in the universe then a choice in action becomes possible.

And when he speaks of cycles there is some truth in the idea, but it is not possible to make a rigid rule about the recurrence of the cycles. These cycles are plastic and need not be all of the same duration. In the Aryan Path Mr. Morris has written an article full of study of facts and historical data in which he tries to show that human history has always run in a cycle of five hundred years. He even believes that there are Mahatmas who manage this world.

I believe the extension of mathematical numbers to infinity was well known in India long long ago.

(After a long pause) No! In a philosopher it is not the process of reasoning that is important; for he blinds himself to everything else in order to arrive at his conclusion. Therefore, what you have to do is to take his conclusions and in considering them you should accept the essentials and not the words, or the unessentials. For instance, there is some truth in Spengler’s idea of destiny, as also in his idea of cycles of human history. All the rest of what he says is not material to us.

What is destiny? Evidently, it can’t be the will of the individual. Then you have to accept that it is the working out of a cosmic will. Then the question is whether the cosmic will is free or is bound? If it is free it is no longer a blind determinism and even when you find there is no “progress”, yet that will is working itself out in evolution.

If on the other hand you accept that the cosmic will is bound then the question is “bound by whom?” and “by what?”

About the idea of the cycle: it means that there is a curve in the movement of Nature that seems to repeat itself. But that too is not to be taken too rigidly. It is something that answers the need of evolution and can vary.

Disciple: Probably something in the man’s mind has already accepted the conclusions unknown to the man and it is by his reasoning that he sets them out.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, perhaps something unknown to the surface-consciousness. There, again, the human ego comes in. It is so limited that it thinks that the contribution it brings to human thought is the only truth, and all others that differ or conflict with it are false.

We can turn round and say that he was destined to think as he thought and thus make his contribution to human progress. But it is easy to see that the process of evolution is universal and that human evolution cannot be bound down to a set of ideas of philosophy or rules of practice. No epoch, no individual, no group has the monopoly of truth. It is the same with the religions also.

Disciple: I don’t think such a wide view is possible unless man reaches the universal mind.

Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. One can see that much while remaining human.

Disciple: Wells speaks of something similar, I believe, when he presses that all knowledge must now become “human”.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a different matter. He means “internationalism”. All sciences are international and most of the literature now a days tends to be international. But what does Spengler say about the future after the decline of Europe?

Disciple: He dismisses China and India as countries whose cultures are useless now.

Sri Aurobindo: Then you have the Arabs!

Disciple: Not even the Arabs because they have already declined and are effete.

Sri Aurobindo: Then your only hope is Africa! The Abyssinians! (laughter)

Disciple: I think it is in the Americans and the Africans!! (laughter)

Disciple: No, the Americans are gone with the Europeans! So we have only the Africans to save us!

Disciple: It is very curious that Spengler misses the fact that there can be national resurgence and reawakening.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, take, for instance, China. China has cities from most ancient times. It is a peculiar race always disturbed and always the same! If you study Chinese history one thousand years back, you will find they were in disturbance and yet they had their culture. The Tartar king who tried to destroy their culture by burning their books did not succeed. I would not be surprised if, after the present turmoil, two thousand years hence you find them what they are today. That is the character of the race.

When you follow the course of history you may find that there is a certain destiny which represents the sum of physical forces; that is one destiny. And you find that when that tends to go round and round in an infinite circuit then there is a tendency which seems inevitable in movement.

But the question is: are physical forces the only determinants of destiny? Or, is there anything else? Is there something more than the physical that can intervene and influence the course of the movement?

We find that there have been such inrushes of forces in history and the action of such an inrush has been to change the destiny indicated by the physical forces; it has even changed the course of human history. As an example, take the rise of the Arabs; a small uncivilized race, living in an and desert, suddenly rises up and in fifty years spreads from Spain to Asia and completely changes the course of history. That is an inrush of forces.

Disciple: There are thinkers — among them Shaw and Emerson — who believe that man has not made substantial progress in his powers of reasoning since the Greeks.

Sri Aurobindo: It is quite true. Of course, you have today a vaster field and more ample material than the Greeks had: but in the handling of it the present-day mind is not superior to the Greek mind in its handling of its limited material.

Disciple: Writing about Plato, Emerson says that he is the epitome of the European mind for the last 2000 years.

Sri Aurobindo: It is true; — the European mind got everything and owes everything to the Greeks. Every branch of knowledge in which human curiosity could be interested has been given to Europe by the Greeks.

The Roman could fight and legislate, he could keep the states together, but he made the Greek think for him. Of course, the Greeks also could fight but not always so well. The Roman thinkers, Cicero, Seneca, Horace, all owe their philosophy to the Greeks.

That, again, is another illustration of what I was speaking of as the inrush of forces. Consider a small race like the Greeks living on the small projecting tongue of land: this race was able to build up a culture that has given everything essential to your modern European culture and that in a span of 200 to 300 years only!

Disciple: And the number of artists they produced was remarkable.

Sri Aurobindo: They had the sense of beauty The one thing that modern Europe has not assimilated from the Greeks is the sense of beauty. One can’t say the modern European culture is beautiful.

The same can be said of ancient India, it had beauty, much of which it has since lost. And now we are fast losing more and more of it under the European influence.

It is true that the Greeks did not create everything, they received many elements from Egypt, Crete and Asia.

And the set-back to the human mind in Europe is amazing. As I said, no one set of ideas can monopolise Truth. From that point of view all these efforts of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin to confine the human mind in a narrow circle of ideas are so absurd!

We had thought, during the last years of the 19th century, that the human mind had reached a certain level of intelligence and that it would have to be satisfied before any idea could find acceptance. But it seems one can’t rely on it. We find Nazi-ideas being accepted; fifty years back it would have been impossible to predict their acceptance. Then again, the intellectuals have gone down almost without fighting. The ease with which even the best intellectuals accept psycho-analysis and Freud’s ideas is surprising.

Disciple: Some of the intellectuals even preach the Nazi gospel. If psycho-analysis is a science many who believe in it do not see that the subconscient or the inconscient has no scientific foundation. Now they seem to believe anything that is uncommon.

Sri Aurobindo: These Nazi-ideas are infra-rational; they are not at all rational. That is why they call them inspirations, and they turn everything into falsehood. The infra-rational also has a truth; you can’t know the world unless you know the infra-rational, it is necessary for perfect understanding.

Disciple: You mean by the infra-rational all that man has inherited from the animal?

Sri Aurobindo: Man has been abusing the animal for nothing. The infra-rational is not merely the animal,— the Pashu, it includes the Rakshasa and the Asura, the Titan.

Man has been always speaking of the animal in a superior way. But take for instance, the dog. Faithfulness and love are quite universal among dogs. But even when those qualities are found in some men you can’t say the same of mankind.

Disciple: A friend told me that he was surprised to find that the cow in India is so mild and docile. In England, it seems, it attacks men.

Sri Aurobindo: Most animals kill only for food, there are very few animals that are ferocious. There was a variety of maneless lions in America that would have been friendly to man. Of course, it wanted to live and therefore used to kill animals. But the Americans have been killing it,— they have nearly exterminated it.

In Africa they had to legislate to prevent extermination of some animals. So, you can’t say that man kills when he is compelled.

This is not to say that man has not made progress. It is true that the philosopher of today is not superior to Plato but there are many who can philosophise today. Also there are many more today who can understand philosophy than in the times of Plato.

16.05.1940

Sri Aurobindo: Even after the war is finished the Germans might present a difficulty of making it last. They easily allow their instincts to express themselves.

Disciple: Spengler even maintains that instinct is superior to culture and civilization. When a culture culminates in a civilization, its decline is begun. In the last phase of a civilization the village will be depopulated, all men will be drawn to the cities; all the cities over the world will be similar; life will be organised on mechanical principles, money will rule supreme. Then the instinct of man will assert itself and culture will start again.

Sri Aurobindo: He does not believe in human progress, then?

Disciple: No. He only seems to believe in the repetition of the same cycle.

Sri Aurobindo: Then ft is a futile repetition of the same cycle!

Disciple: He says as much.

Sri Aurobindo: Then it comes to the failure of the race; that there is no higher possibility for mankind. But then, how does he explain the rise of man? If man has come from the lower condition of life to his present state it is necessary that either he must make the progress necessary, or he must be replaced by a higher species than man.

18.01.1939

Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley.

A long quotation from Ends and Means was read out to Sri Aurobindo. He did not seem impressed. Then the following passage was read:

“More books have been written about Napoleon than about any other human being. The fact is deeply and alarmingly significant. Duces and Fuehrers will cease to plague the world only when the majority of its inhabitants regard such adventurers with the same disgust as they now bestow on swindlers and pimps. So long as men worship Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them {{0}}miserable.”[[P. 99]]

Sri Aurobindo: That is mere moralising. If Napoleon and Caesar are not to be admired then it means that human capacity and attainment are not to be admired. They are not to be admired because they were successful; plenty of successful people are not admired. Caesar is admired because it was he who founded the greatness of imperial Rome which is one of the greatest periods of human civilization; and Napoleon because he was a great organiser who stabilised the Revolution. He organised France and through France Europe. Are not his immense powers and abilities great?

Disciple: I suppose men admire them because they find in them the realisation of their own potential greatness.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course. Huxley speaks of Caesar and Napoleon as if they were the first dictators the world had ever seen. In fact, dictatorship is as old as the world. Whenever the times have required him the dictator has come in answer to the necessity. When there is a confusion and muddle in the affairs of men or nations the dictator has come, set things right and pulled out the race from it. He will have to take all the dictators in one line for condemnation, e.g., Kemal (a different type from Hitler), Pilsudski, Stalin and the kings of the Balkan states. Even Mahatma Gandhi is a type of dictator.

A portion from the book in which Huxley blames the Jacobins was read

Sri Aurobindo: He finds fault with the Jacobins, but I think Laski is right in saying that they saved the Republic. If the Jacobins had not taken power into their hands the result would have been that the Germans would have marched to Paris and restored the monarchy. It is because of the Jacobins that the Bourbons even when they came back had to accept the constitution. All the kings in Europe were obliged, more or less, to accept the principle of democracy and become constitutional monarchs.

It is true that in Napoleon’s time the Assembly was only a shadow, but the full republic, though delayed for a time, was already established, because politics is only a show at the top. The real changes that matter are the changes that come into society. From that point of view, the social changes introduced by Napoleon have continued to this day without any material alteration. The equality of all men before the law was realised then for the first time. His Code bridged the gulf between the extremely poor and the rich. It is now very natural, but it was revolutionary when it was introduced. It may not be democracy governed by the mass, but it is democracy governed by the middleclass,— the bourgeoisie...

The portion containing Huxley’s ideas about “War” was noticed

Sri Aurobindo: Huxley writes as if the alternative was between war — that is, military violence — and a nonviolent peaceful development. But things are never like that; they do not move in a perfect way in life. If Napoleon had not come the republic would have been nipped in the bud and there would have been a set-back to democracy. The Cosmic Spirit is not so foolish as to allow that. Carlyle puts the situation more realistically when he says that the condition was, “I kill you, or you kill me”. So, it is better that I kill you rather than get killed by you!

All this criticism by the intellectuals does not take into consideration the immense complexity of the problem.

Disciple: He says that war is avoidable.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no objection to that, but how is war to be avoided? How can you prevent war when the other fellow wants to fight? You can prevent it by becoming stronger than he, or by a combination that is stronger than he, or you change his heart, as Gandhiji says, by passive resistance or Satyagraha.

And even there Gandhiji has been forced to admit that none of his followers knows the science of passive resistance. In fact, he says, he is the only person who knows all about Satyagraha. It is not very promising for Satyagraha, considering that it is intended to be a general solution for all men. What some people have done at some places in India is not Satyagraha but Duragraha.

Disciple: One day you spoke of the inrush of forces during periods of human history for example, the Greek and the Arab period. Can we similarly speak not of an inrush of forces that influences the outward life and events but of a descent of some higher Force in case of men like Christ and Buddha?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is a descent of a higher Force which at first works in one man, then in a group of men and then extends its influence to mankind. In the case of Mahomed,— and that is another dictator! — the descent corresponded with the extension in outer life. But the descent may be only an inner descent in the beginning and may only gradually spread to other men.

There also what happens is that forces in life, at first, resist any such movement of descent. When they find that they can’t resist then they accept the new element and, in accepting, turn it into something else than what it was intended to be! For example, you find that Christianity was at first opposed, and when it was afterwards accepted it became an oppressive religion. Why? Because, it was the lower forces of nature that came in with the acceptance. It means there must have been something in the very beginning, that gave an opening. I believe many of the Christian martyrs did not suffer in the genuine Christian spirit. Most of them were full of the spirit of revenge. So, in the beginning there was passive resistance but when Christianity came to power it turned oppressive. Thus, by accepting Christianity the lower forces occupied the place of genuine spiritual force of Christ.

They had thought, “Let us establish a new religion and the thing will be done.” But the problem is not so simple.

There is a spiritual solution which I propose; but it aims at changing the whole basis of human nature. It is not a question of carrying on a movement nor is it a question of a few years. It cannot be done unless you establish spirituality as the basis of life. It is clear that Mind has not been able to change human nature radically. You can go on changing human institutions infinitely and yet the imperfection will break through all your institutions.

Disciple: Huxley suggests that you must have “non-attached men” who must “practise virtue disinterestedly”.

Sri Aurobindo: No doubt, no doubt; but how are you going to get them? And when you have got them how are the “attached” people to accept the leadership of the “non-attached”? How is the non-attached person to make his decisions accepted and carried out by the “attached”?

Disciple: Many people in the past have tried to do the same thing, have not they?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, they have. But, as I said, it has always got mixed with the powers of falsehood. That is why I want to try, if possible, to embody a power, which I call the Truth-Consciousness that will not admit of any mixture or compromise with the powers of falsehood. By the Truth-Consciousness I mean the dynamic Divine Consciousness. That power must be brought to govern the minutest detail of life and action. The question is to bring it down and establish it in men and the second question is to keep it pure. For, we have seen all along the past there is the gravitational pull of the lower forces. It must be a power that can not only resist but overcome that downward pull. If such a power can be established in a group, then, though it may not change the entire humanity at once, still it will act as a potent force for turning human nature towards it.

It was because of the difficulty of changing human nature, which Vivekananda calls the “dog’s tail”, that the ascetic path advocated flying away from Nature as the only remedy. Those people could not think it possible to change human nature, so they said, “Drop it.”

One can see how necessary it is to keep the power pure once it is established even in case of ordinary movements like Communism in Russia. There were about one and a half million men in the whole of Russia who believed in Communism. Under Lenin they refused to allow any compromise with Capitalism. It is they who were the back-bone of the Revolution.

06.02.1939

Lajpat Rai’s letter to G. D. Birla

Note: There are four main points brought out here from the letter:

1. The question: why act? — what is the meaning of action?

2. How can a perfect all-merciful, all-powerful God create such a world full of misery, suffering, poverty?

3. There is no use praying to God because prayers are only for consoling ourselves.

4. I act simply because I can’t help doing actions.

Lajpat Rai now seems to accept the “illusion” theory as the explanation while he combated it for the whole of his life. He was a prominent leader of the Arya-Samaj, and a monotheist.

Disciple: What is the explanation of Lajpat Rai’s attitude?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally it is tāmasika vairāgya if it is due to a sense of failure in life. Most people get this kind of Vairagya — world-repulsion — when they act for “success” and fail. Failure and frustration lead to what is called śmaśāna vairāgya — feeling of renunciation that comes to one in a cemetery — a temporary state of world-disgust.

But in his case, perhaps, it is Sattwic disgust. To the mind at this stage everything seems impermanent, fleeting and the old motives of action are no longer sufficient. It may be the result of his spiritual development through his actions in life. It is mind turning to know things. Gautama Buddha saw human suffering and he asked: “Why this suffering?” and then “How to get out of it?” That is sāttvika vairāgya. Pure sāttvika vairāgya — disgust is when one gets the perception of the littleness of everything personal,— actions, thoughts etc., and when one sees the vast world, eternal time and infinite space spread out before oneself and feels all human action as if it were nought.

The same truth is behind the proverb: “It will be the same a hundred years hence”; and it is true so far as the personal aspect of action is concerned.

Disciple: Can it be said that personal actions and other personal things have an importance in so far as through them an impersonal consciousness, or a divine purpose, works itself out?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes; in the impersonal aspect even a small personal action may have a significance. Personal actions have an importance in the evolution of the individual. But it is difficult to persuade the ordinary men to take this view.

Disciple: Lajpat Rai, who has been known as an Arya Samajist and therefore a theist, seems to doubt even the existence of God in this letter.

Sri Aurobindo: That does not matter. It only means he wants to understand the way of God’s working, the nature of this world etc.

27.02.1939

Disciple: Promode Sen in his biography mentions that you knew Hebrew. There are other points in the book also which require clarification.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not say that I know Amhari and other African languages? (laughter)

Disciple: There are people who believe that you know twenty-eight languages.

Sri Aurobindo: You have not perhaps read the account of the miracles I am supposed to have worked in Motilal Mehta’s book! One of them impressed me so much that I was never able to forget it. It happened when I was staying in Rue St. Louis. The British Government sent the police to arrest me. It seems I was standing at the top of the staircase when they came. They climbed up the staircase but immediately afterwards they found themselves at the bottom! They repeated the performance several times and finding themselves at the bottom of the staircase every time they left me in utter disgust and went away, (laughter)

Disciple: There are many people who believe that you are not staying on the ground.

Sri Aurobindo: Then where I am staying?

Disciple: They believe you always remain one or two feet above the ground. They even think that you live in an underground cellar. Perhaps, it is in this way that legends gathers round great names.

Disciple: M. used to describe the visit of a Calcutta Marwari who came to Pondicherry on business. He came to Rue de la Marine house and met M. He asked him: “Where is Sri Aurobindo? I want to see him”. M. replied: “You can’t see him”.

Then with an air of inviting confidence he asked M. “Does he fly away?” (laughter)

27.02.1939 (continued)

“The Vishnu Purana” and Puranas in general

Disciple: Are the incidents related in the Purana about Krishna’s life psychic representations created by the poet, or do they correspond to facts that had occurred in his life on earth?

Sri Aurobindo: From the reading itself of the Puranas you can know whether the killing of the Asura is a physical fact or not. You can’t take them literally,— in the physical sense. There is a mixture of facts, tradition, psychic experience as well as history.

The poet is not writing history, he is writing only poetry: he may have got it from the psychic intuitive plane or from his imagination, from the psycho-mental plane or from any other.

What on earth does it matter whether Krishna lived on the physical plane or not? If his experience is real on the psychic and spiritual plane, it is all that matters. As long as you find Krishna as a divine Power on the psychic and spiritual plane his life on the physical plane does not matter. He is true, he is real. The physical is only a shadow of the psychic.

Disciple: I find the Vishnu Purana very fine.

Sri Aurobindo: In the Vishnu Purana all the aspects of a Purana are nicely described. It is one of the Puranas I have gone through carefully. I wonder how it has escaped the general notice: it is magnificent poetry.

There is a very fine and humourous passage in which a disciple asks the Guru whether the king is riding the elephant, or the elephant the king?

Disciple: The king must be Ram Murthy if the elephant was on him! Besides this may be the theory of relativity in embryo.

Sri Aurobindo: The method of reply adopted by the Guru is original. He jumps upon the shoulders of the disciple and then asks him whether he is on the disciple’s back or the disciple is on his back?

There is a very fine description of Jada Bharata.

Disciple: Did Jada Bharata exist?

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t know, but he appears very real in the Purana. It is also the most anti-Buddhist Purana I believe.

Disciple: Then it must have been composed very late!

Disciple: Buddha lived about 500 B. C. Is it true?

Sri Aurobindo: This Purana is not so early as that. All the Puranas, in fact, are post-Buddhistic. They are a part of the Brahmanic revival which came as a reaction against Buddhism in the Gupta period.

Disciple: They are supposed to have been written in or about the 3rd or 4th century A. D.

Sri Aurobindo: Most probably. In the Vishnu Purana Buddha is regarded as an Avatar of Vishnu who came to deceive the Asuras! He is not referred to by name but is called “Maya Moha” This Purana is a fine work.

20.12.1939

Disciple: Did you read Maitra’s article?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. He seems to be confused: he has over-stressed the ethical and tried to explain the spiritual idea from the ethical standpoint. The Gita’s idea of doing work without desire is too subtle for the modern mind and so he has made it “duty for duty’s sake”. The Europeans do not make any distinction between the true self and separative ego; for them it is one. Take the case of doing work without desire for the fruit. Now, if there is a separative Self then, from the rational point of view, why should not one expect the fruit of his action?

Disciple: Perhaps, it is due to the influence of Christianity in which the idea of serving the poor finds a place.

Sri Aurobindo: But the Christian idea of service from disinterestedness is quite different from that of duty for duty’s sake which is a rational standpoint Christian service is done as God’s will,— that is a religious law. When reason got the upper hand over religion it began to question the foundation of religion and then the rationalists advocated the doing of duty for the sake of society, as a social demand. The rationalists have fragmentary ideas about these things. It has become difficult now to study philosophy — there are so many new ones, like the poets!

26.08.1940

Charu Chandra Dutt wrote a review of the “Life Divine” in the Vishva Bharati. When it was read out to Sri Aurobindo he said:

He may continue it, it may be for some people an introduction to “Life Divine”.

But you may draw his attention to the following points.

i. He states: “there can be no escape for the Spirit embodied in matter except through an integral yoga”.

If we accept that position then the goal set forth by the Adwititwadins becomes impossible of realisation. What I say is not that it is impossible but that such an escape could not have been the object for which the world was created.

ii. He says that I derived my technique from Shanker.

That is not true. I have not read much of philosophy. It is like those who say that I am influenced by Hegel. Some even say that I am influenced by Nietzsche because I quoted his sentence: “You can become yourself by exceeding yourself”.

The only two books that have influenced me are the Gita and the Upanishads. What I wrote was the work of intuition and inspiration working on the basis of my spiritual experience. I have no other technique like the modern philosopher whose philosophy I consider only intellectual and therefore of secondary value. Experience and formulation of experience I consider as the true aim of philosophy. The rest is merely intellectual work and may be interesting but nothing more.

04.09.1940

Disciple: In a textbook of the Hindu University for the B.A. degree there is selection from Tagore in which he states that: Kalidas was very much touched by the immorality of his age and he deplores it in the “Raghu vansha

Sri Aurobindo: That is a new discovery — if he says so.

Disciple: Kalidas we know as one who is not particular about morality. His Malvikagnimitra depicts the king Agnimitra falling in love with a dancing girl who turns out to be a princess. So also, in his other poems like Rati Vilap he mentions women in the state of drunkenness and is not shocked.

Sri Aurobindo: He is one who is attracted by beauty, even when he is attracted by a thought or philosophy it is the beauty of the thought that appeals to him.

Disciple: Tagore has said in reviewing “Shakuntala” that the love which Dushyanta felt for Shakuntala at the first sight was only passion, a result of mere physical, at most vital, attraction. But when he meets her again after separation in the Marichi Ashram his love has become purified and there was no element of passion in it.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not at all true; all that one can put from one’s own imagination. But Dushyanta is not shown outgrowing his vital passion in Shakuntala, he was made to forget it by the power of the curse. That does not mean that his attraction has lessened.

Disciple: I am reminded of the controversy about the date of Kalidas’s works. Bankim took part in it. The question was whether “Raghuvansha” was written first or “Kumar Sambhava”.

Bankim decided that “Raghuvansha” must have been a later composition. In support of his contention he referred to two slokas: One in Rati Vilap (Kumar Sambhava) and the other in Aja Vilap in Raghuvansha. He argued that in the former the expression of grief was that of a young man, while the latter shows a more mature temperament.

Sri Aurobindo: It does not follow at all, because the subject — matter is different. In the one the physical bereavement is to be described according to the nature of Rati. A poet uses expressions suitable to the occasion and the character.

In fact, Kumar Sambhava seems later than Raghuvansha, though Raghu is more brilliant; Kumar is more deep and mature. If you grant the common belief that Kalidasa wrote only the first 8 cantos of the Kumar then it does not seem logical that a man like Kalidasa would complete Raghu leaving Kumar unfinished.

14.12.1940

A. wrote an article in the Calcutta Review about “The Advaita in the Gita”.

Sri Aurobindo: He finds the idea of transformation of nature in the Gita and also other things contained in The Life Divine. I don’t see all that in the Gita myself.

Disciple: A’s contention is that there are hints and suggestions in the Gita that can mean transformation. For instance, it says that one must become the instrument in the hands of the Divine. Then it says: put a madbhavamagata — “those who strive become pure and attain to my nature of becoming”. Also: nistraigunyo bhava — “becomes free from the three modes.”

Sri Aurobindo: There is no transformation there. The supramental transformation is not at all hinted at in the Gita. The Gita lays stress on certain broad lines of the integral supramental yoga: For instance:

1. Acceptance of life and action.

2. Clarification of the nature of the Transcendent Divine.

3. The Divine Personality and its Transcendence.

4. Existence of two Natures — parā and aparā.

Disciple: It speaks of the Para Prakriti and says that advanced souls attain to the Para Prakriti.

Sri Aurobindo: The Para Prakriti there is used in general terms.

Disciple: Yes. I don’t find the transformation in the Gita. The exposition of the levels of consciousness beyond mind, their functions, a clear, rational statement of intuitive consciousness, inspiration, revelation, and the ascent of the consciousness through the Overmind to the supermind — these things are quite new and not found even in the Upanishads.

Sri Aurobindo: I think so; the Gita only opens out the way to our yoga and philosophy. Among the Upanishads only the Taittiriya has some general idea of the higher terms. The Veda treats symbolically the same subject.

Disciple: Suppose there is transformation in the Gita, one can ask what kind of transformation it is,— spiritual, psychic or Supramental?

Sri Aurobindo: It does not speak of transformation; it speaks of the necessity of action from a spiritual consciousness — according to it all action must proceed from a certain spiritual consciousness.

As the result of that action some change may come about in the nature which might amount to what may be called transformation. But in the Gita the instruments of action remain human throughout (the Buddhi etc.). In does not speak of the intuitive consciousness.

In our ancient works there is no conception about the evolutionary nature of the world, or rather, they do not have the vision of humanity as an evolutionary expression of the Divine in which new levels of consciousness gradually open up, or are bound to open up. There is no clear idea of the new type of being that would evolve out of man.

If all that is contained in The Life Divine is found entirely in the old systems then it contradicts the claim that this yoga is new, or at any rate, different from the traditional methods. Perhaps A. was trying to synthesise the Gita and The Life Divine, (laughter).

10.03.1943

Yogi Aurobindo Ghose: A biography in Marathi by P. B. Kulkarni with an introduction by Mr. K. G. Deshpande. Published at Bombay 1935.

Note: When Mr. Kulkarni thought of writing a biography he wrote to me asking for my help. I sought permission of Sri Aurobindo. He declined to comply with my request, writing: “I don’t want to be murdered by my own disciples in cold print!” That was why I did not help him. But Sri Aurobindo could not prevent others from attempting his biography.

When the book was published, I, who had a very keen and lifelong interest in determining the authenticity of the external events of his life, went through the book,— as I went through almost all biographies of his — and then took the controversial points to him. I reproduce here his general observations on the book and in a separate note I enumerate the details that require correction.

Chapter I

“Every one makes all the forefathers of a great man very religious — minded, pious etc. It is not true in my case at any rate. My father was a tremendous atheist.”

Chapter II

“The general impression he creates is that I must have been a very serious prig, all along very pious and serious. I was nothing of the kind.”

“He also states I must have been attracted by the Fabian Society started by Bernard Shaw and others. I was not, and I had no leaning to the labour party which in fact was not yet born.”

Chapter III

“His treatment of my life in England is more conjectural than real. He is trying to give the picture of what a budding Yogi should be like. I was rather busy with myself and took interest in many things, whereas he tries to make out that I was interested in the Fabian Society and was very moral.”

Chapter IV

“There are inaccuracies such as his statement that I was introduced to the Gaekwad by Henry Cotton. It was not Henry Cotton but his brother, James Cotton, who knew my brother (and was being helped by him in his work) who introduced me to the Gaekwad because he took interest in us.”

Chapter V and VI

“About Swami Hamsa I don’t remember his name. It was in the Gaekwad’s palace that he gave two or three lectures. I was invited. But it is not true that I went and saw him. At that time I was not interested in Yoga. I did not ask him about Pranayama. I learnt about Pranayama from the engineer Deodhar who was a disciple of Brahmananda”.

“I do not remember any yogic cure by Brahmananda; at any rate, I did not take any servant with me”.

“I first knew about yogic cure from a Naga Sadhu or Naga Sannyasi. Barin had mountain fever when he was wandering in the Amarkantak hills. The Sannyasi took a cup of water, cut it into four by making two crosses with a knife and asked Barin to drink it, saying, «He won’t have fever tomorrow.» And the fever left him”.

“He creates an impression that I was seeking satsang, holy company, during my stay in Baroda. It is not true. It is true I was reading books, but on all subjects, not only religious books. I gave money to one Bengali Sannyasi who was quarrelling with everyone and who used to hate Brahmananda. His boast was that he killed Brahmananda!”

Note: In the Introduction by Sj. K. G. Deshpande, who was Sri Aurobindo’s contemporary at Cambridge and later on joined Sri Aurobindo in 1898 in the Baroda State service, there are some corrections to be made. He was the editor of the English section of the Induprakash and it was he who persuaded Sri Aurobindo on his return to India in 1893 to write a series of articles on Indian politics under the heading “New lamps for old” which made a great stire in the Congress of those days.

1. Sri Aurobindo did not attend any Grammar school at Manchester — as is stated in the introduction.

2. He mentions that Shivram Pant Falke taught him Marathi and Bengali. He did not learn these languages from Mr. Falke.

3. It is asserted that one “Bhasker Shashtri Joshi gave him lessons in Sanskrit and Gujerati.” He did not learn Sanskrit from any one at Baroda. He read the Mahabharata by himself and also read works of Kalidasa and one drama of Bhavabhuti as well as the Ramayana.

4. It is stated that his patriotism got the religious colour by his contact with one Swami Hamsa. Swami Hamsa had nothing to do with his nationalism. He was a Hatha Yogi and Sri Aurobindo attended his lecture in the palace on invitation. He did not meet him at his place.

5. Mohanpuri did not give him daivī upāsanā — i.e introduction to spiritual life. It was for a purely political purpose that Sri Aurobindo took a Shakti Mantra from him. He performed certain Yajna — sacrifice — for the same purpose. But it was not yoga.

6. Bhavani Mandir: There is a similarity to the Ananda Math in that both envisage spiritual life and politics together. The temple of Bhavani was to be there for initiating men for complete consecration to the service of Mother India. It was for preparing political Sannyasins. But this scheme did not get materialised. Sri Aurobindo took to politics and Barin to revolution. The latter tried to find a place in the Vindhya mountains for the Bhavani Mandir. But he came back with mountain fever.

Norton’s eloquent advocacy in the court, or the government’s repression, had nothing to do with the failure of the scheme. In fact it was never tried.

7. He states that Sri Aurobindo resigned from the National College because of the differences with the members of the committee.

It is true he had his differences, but he never spoke about them. He sent in his resignation when the first trial was launched against him. But on his acquittal they reappointed him. When he was again tried in the Alipore Bomb case, they accepted his resignation.

So, the committee members had no open difference with him, there was no clash. They wanted to make the National College a place of learning, Sri Aurobindo wanted to make it a centre of life.

These very inaccuracies of the introduction have been dwelt upon by Mr. Kulkarni in his book, so no separate list is being given for the mistakes in the latter.

One may only add that Sri Aurobindo did not meet Madhavdasji of Malsar; at least, he did not remember having met him.

25.03.1943

Swami {{0}}Jnanananda’s[[Swami Jnanananda was originally the son of a Zamindar in Andhra. After Sannyas he went to North India and has become a scientist since. He went to Prague and Liverpool and was in the National physical laboratory, Delhi.]]  book contains the following points.

1. The material world is made to answer, or suit, our senses.

2. There is a higher world of the super-ego where things are quite differently arranged.

3. One has to break through these two to reach the Absolute.

4. He believes in bringing down the Absolute into Life.

After hearing these points Sri Aurobindo said:

“It is quite interesting. I don’t know whether you can explain Raja Yoga as he does.

“But what is his Super-ego? I don’t know. Sometimes it seems what I call the subliminal self, and sometimes the psychic being. It may be something like the Over-soul.”

27.03.1943

Talk resumed.

Disciple: Jnanananda says that the sense-world is created by the sense-ego. The so-called real world is created by the Super-ego. This Super-ego has a personality which has to be dissolved.

Sri Aurobindo: So, it is not the cosmic consciousness or the Purusha or the Over-soul.

Disciple: Then there is the Absolute. One has to break through the sense-world, the real world, and then one can enter into the Absolute; then into the Absolute Divine.

Sri Aurobindo: How is this to be done?

Disciple: In one of the four ways: Raja, Jnana, Karma and Shakti. One has to see this sense-world and the superego-world in the light of the Absolute Divine.

Disciple: He believes this is the spontaneous Puma Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: But he does not indicate how the Absolute Divine is to act at all in life unless he discovers something like the Supermind.

At any rate, it is an original book, quite interesting — the man has intelligence above the average.

Disciple: But there are people who having intelligence steal passages from your writings and I know the case of a Swami who is famous throughout India and the world who has plagiarized passages from your books.

Sri Aurobindo: (with a smile) The unconscious might have played a part; (laughter) or, he might turn round and say that it was taken by me from him! (laughter) or, that it was independently written! (laughter)

06.04.1943

Collected Poems by Gerald Manley Hopkins.

A review of his poems appeared in a Christian monthly magazine, New Review. The reviewer there writes that Gerald Hopkins had tried a kind of quantitative verse in English. Bridges has written notes on the 2nd edition of these poems.

Sri Aurobindo: The poem on “Mary” is very fine. Hopkins nearly becomes a great poet in his sonnets. He is not a mystic poet but a religious one. In all Catholic poets there is a note of acute suffering which he also shares. Christina Rossetti is better in that respect.

It is not that his subject is always great, but the force which he brings into his poems. In one he simply says in effect “O God, I grant that you are just, but I don’t understand why I should be made to suffer while others who do not care for any higher values of life get all the good things of life”.

There is no sign of quantitative verse, he depends on “accent” for his verse.

08.04.1943

Poetry of the Invisible by Mehdi Imam

Sri Aurobindo: His idea that the beings of the subtle worlds are mere creations of human imagination, or of the human soul, would only mean that they have no independent existence, which is not quite true.

I believe he has been influenced by Sufism. But his general thesis is quite tenable: that is to say, right up to the beginning of the modernist period the poets, at least most of them,— seem to have some perception or experience of other subtler worlds. They admit the existence of those worlds in some way. They sometimes even assert that this world is an illusion.

Only, his estimate of Bridges is one-sided. Probably, he wrote it at a time when Bridges was the craze, or when the Testament of Beauty was enthusiastically welcomed. I never thought much of his poetry, even in those early days, from what I saw of quotations from him. He is never rhythmical except when he rhymes. In his blank verse he is intolerable. Even the quotations given in this book are prosaic. Hardy is very good at times, at others he slips into want of rhythm.

Mehdi Imam’s interpretation of Shelley and other poets as having the experience of cosmic unity or unity with the Spirit is not quite true. With Shelley it is sublimated eroticism. Shelley used to fall in love with almost every woman thinking her to be an angel and ended by finding her to be a devil.

He goes too far in his theory when he asserts that the “mists” of which Tennyson speaks in his Morte d’Arthur is the “ectoplasm”.

05.05.1943

The talk began with a reference to an article on Kathopanishad by Dr. S. K. Maitra. The opposition between “Shreyas” and “preyas” has been interpreted by him as an opposition between “Existence” and “Value.”

Sri Aurobindo: What is a value? He has not defined it. I do not know what he means by saying: “God or the ultimate Reality is the highest value”.

He almost seems to imply that there is no “being” in God, only value.

Disciple: He also speaks of the opposition between the first two and the last two lines of Yama’s speech — “One cannot attain the Permanent — Dhruva — by means which are transient.” And then he speaks of his having attained the Eternal — Nityam — by means of things impermanent.

Sri Aurobindo: His interpretation seems a little far-fetched. It is the Fire that makes the attainment of the Eternal possible. The first two lines only mean that “if you are attached to the ephemeral you can’t attain the Eternal.” The last two lines means that “if one can offer the impermanent things into the Fire then it can make one attain the Eternal.”

11.05.1943

Bharati Sarabhai’s poetical work The People’s well was received. Sri Aurobindo saw the book and found:

the English good and the diction poetic — but poetry mostly lacking.

She is not clear about what she wants to say. India seems to be the old woman in the poem and the idea is that she has something very precious which nobody knows about and which she may discover some day.

20.08.1943

“MAYAVADA” — An article by Prof. Malkani

Note: Malkani’s contention seemed to be: —

1. That Sri Aurobindo had tried to answer Shankara in some of the chapters in The Life Divine.

2. That Mayavada is true if one grants its premises etc.

Sri Aurobindo: I am not answering Shankara’s Mayavada in particular in The Life Divine. I had to examine the stand taken up by all those thinkers who consider the world an illusion for various reasons. I have examined their grounds.

As to Mayavada being true, each philosophy is true on its own basis. So is Mayavada if you accept its premises. In my examination I was trying to see whether there was anything in any of the possible positions of Mayavada which would make it obligatory on the human mind to accept it. I find that there is no such obligation, at least I don’t find any on my mind. What I say amounts to that.

Besides, the position of Mayavada has been taken by many even in Europe, and the Christian religion took a similar position even before Shankara. It considers this world as almost unreal. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of the Spirit.” This world is a mistranslation of the world of the Spirit. They also make a distinction between Soul and Spirit. They maintain that this world is necessary for the Soul, but another world belongs to the Spirit.

Plotinus takes up a position in which the true world is not here but above.

Schopenhauer thinks this world a kind of delirium — which almost comes to the theory of illusion. There are others in the West who have taken a similar stand.

20.11.1943

Homage is Sri Aurobindo: By. Dr. K. S. Aiyangar.

The manuscript was submitted to Sri Aurobindo. The following corrections were suggested and they were carried out in the text by the author.

The items are given here as an illustration of Sri Aurobindo’s scrupulousness for exactness and detail.

i. “He ascribes certain writings of Shyam Sundar Chakravarty to me. He closely imitated my style.”.

ii. He makes me an apostle of non-violence. The quotation he gives from the statement in the court I don’t remember at all, because I made no statement.

iii. About a district political conference — which was broken up — and about a separate meeting held by the nationalists over which Sri Aurobindo presided — “I do not remember whether it was Midnapore or Hugli.” Then on 29-11-1943 Sri Aurobindo said: “There was a stormy meeting at Midnapore. It was the storm that preceded Nagpur and Surat. But there was no split at Hugli.”

iv. Regarding letters to Mrinalini Devi he said: “He has made so much rhetoric and lecturing out of them that they cease to be letters.”

v. “He mentions that I was ill in jail. I do not remember to have had any illness in jail, except perhaps eczema-trouble in the foot, due to dirty blankets and germ.”

vi “I did not take the B. A. degree; I only took double Tripos at Cambridge. It was not Oscar Browning as provost who spoke highly of me as a student. He was well known at Cambridge. He examined the Latin and Greek papers.”

vii. “I was not appointed in the Khasgi — private-Department at Baroda and I was not the private secretary though I acted as one in the absence of the secretary. It was only during the Kashmere-tour that I was the private secretary to the Maharaja. But I had several tussles with him and he did not want to repeat the experiment.”

viii “He states that I was invited to all the dinners and banquets — well, I never went to any State — dinner or banquet. Only I used to be called privately to dinner and I attended.”

25.09.1923

C.R. Das sent a wire to Sri Aurobindo asking for a message for the paper he was bringing out from Calcutta.

Sri Aurobindo dictated the reply as follows:

“Such a message at present would amount to a public announcement and I do not like to make any pronouncement at present. It must be done at the proper time, because it would set in motion forces in opposition. Besides, there are other papers that have demanded similar messages and I would not know how to refuse them if I make up my mind to send you one.

Again, if I put myself out like that, it would interfere with the silent support which I am giving you. I am acting in a particular way, and if I create directly a field then the two would mutually interfere. I do not at present want to act on the physical plane as it would evoke opposition”.

10.10.1923

The general rule with Sri Aurobindo was that whoever wanted to meet him at Pondicherry should first write to him and only after securing his approval come here to see him. Mr. X. came unannounced and wanted to see Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo: This man is quite unfit for taking up this yoga. I am not going to see him as he has come down without previous information.

A letter then was sent by X. to Sri Aurobindo to which he replied as follows:

1. I do not see those who come without previous information or permission.

2. He is not fit to take up this yoga.

Disciple: He says that he has accepted you as his Guru.

Sri Aurobindo: It is very kind of him! (laughter)

Disciple: He says he is poor and has not come to oblige you.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a statement of facts.

Disciple: He says this yoga is for humanity and so he should be given a chance.

Sri Aurobindo: It may be for humanity but not for him. Besides, that is not the sense of the sentence. He may read “Yoga and its Objects” and follow the hints given there.

Disciple: He prays for your Karuna — grace.

Sri Aurobindo: It is only out of Karuna grace that I do not want to give him this yoga.

These people have a very crude notion of yoga. They think it is something like the Guru asking the disciple to repeat the name, or the Mantra, and then the Guru’s Kripa — compassion — will rain down in abundance upon them. All his pleading shows a want of balance and an emotional temperament. If he were in earnest he would have taken my refusal in another fashion. The old Bhakti yoga seems to have done so much harm. People think that yoga is very easy and simple.

Disciple: X is very sincere, I don’t think he knew about the rule of informing before coming here.

Sri Aurobindo: Sincerity is another matter; but there is no yogic demand in him. He merely got an idea in the mind and some emotion and has run down here.

20.11.1923

One Mr. K. had written some letters to Sri Aurobindo and asked for explanations of his experiences and wanted guidance.

After listening to his questions from the letter

Sri Aurobindo: Ah, I see; he is the same man, son of a pleader. No, he is impossible.

Disciple: There is one reply to all his questions.

Sri Aurobindo: What is it?

Disciple: God knows everything! (laughter)

Disciple: That is a reply to all questions past, present and future. He would no longer trouble you.

Sri Aurobindo: Then better take him over under you.

(After a little pause) He is quite unprepared. The descent, if it takes place, is more likely to smash him up.

Besides, he is wrong in thinking that attraction for woman is abnormal; it is quite normal. It is a sick mind that makes him think otherwise.

When I first saw him he was quite nervous. I could see the whole being coming and entering into me.

Disciple: He says he has lost his intellectual power and will and everything else. Something must descend, he says, from Above and raise him up from his present condition.

Sri Aurobindo: It is very funny; how people find a glimpse of the higher life and then go on jumping about.

Disciple: I think that before one man becomes divine, half the world will go mad. (laughter)

But some one must ask him to find a room for him.

Sri Aurobindo: I thought you wanted him to have a room for meditation; first handcuff him and then make him meditate!

Disciple: I am afraid he will first give a yell and then jump. (laughter)

Disciple: How is it that the higher Light misses its way in such cases?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not exactly missing its way. It is like a force working and if somebody by chance happens to get into the circuit and if there is something in him that is responsive then he gets a glimpse. But his other parts, being not prepared, do not understand it.

I found he had some psychic glimpses here and there, but he is thoroughly collapsed now.

Disciple: I expected a madder look in his face.

Sri Aurobindo: I found it in him at the first sight.

Disciple: Even now he has some kind of force.

Sri Aurobindo: You call it force? It is not force, it is some wild intensity of weakness.

08.01.1924

A letter from Krishna Shashi, who was mentally deranged, was read in which he gave various reasons why he should be permitted to come to Pondicherry. One was that he was becoming black in the colour of his body, but it was shining black! The Madrasi too has a dark complexion so he should stay at Pondicherry!

Sri Aurobindo: (after a hearty laugh): “Even in his madness he is always original! He never goes along the beaten track!”

About another man wanting to take up yoga he said: “He has some easy itching for yoga,— I mean restlessness, due to something central in him wanting it But there is something that may obstruct the yoga.”

10.01.1924

There was a article in the “Forward” on Mono Mohan Ghose’s death in which it was written that “He had left behind him Barindra Kumar and Sri Aurobindo”

Sri Aurobindo: (after a good laugh on hearing this): People do not understand “leaving behind” generally refers to children and not to brothers! These news papers write anything without proper inquiry. The age given to Monomohan is quite wrong. It is said to be the same as mine and in that case, naturally, we are twins! (laughter)

There was reading of a letter of condolence from one Bharati from Pudukotah on Monomohan’s death. The last sentence was: “Let him enjoy a long life in heaven at least.”

Sri Aurobindo: He seems to be very much afraid that he might be short-lived even there! (laughter) Do you know this man is writing my biography — “Aurobindo Vijayam” — without knowing anything about my life? (hearty laughter). I think the last sense will be one in which I shall be described as overcome by grief at Monomohan’s death!

10.07.1924

A letter from Taraknath Das describing certain of his experiences and asking certain questions was read. The questions were about:

1. Jada, Unmana, Chaitanya and Samadhi

2. About cosmic emotion

3. About soul-unity and its meaning.

4. About the attitude of the soul to Shakti’s work.

Sri Aurobindo: He has been progressing well and should be asked to continue till he has a glimpse of something higher than the mind.

He took up the question of Samadhi:

Sri Aurobindo: There are many ways of classification and there are no hard and fast rules. In the old way, they always classified Samadhi with regard to the Mind,— saying it Savikalpa and Nirvikalpa, or Sakalpa and Nirkalpa. All that is with reference to the Mind.

If he wants to know the meaning which Ramakrishna gave to those terms then he must find it out himself.

Disciple: Ramakrishna means by Jada the Nirvikalpa and by Chaitanya the experience of one’s being floating in the ocean like a fish or like a bird flying in the infinite sky.

Sri Aurobindo: That is, again, with reference to the Mind — and mental yoga. You can classify it in different ways. But generally the classifications based upon:

1. Mind, or

2. According to the plane — vital, physical or mental (on which it occurs), or

3. according to its reference to Jagrata, Swapna, and Sushupti state of consciousness (the waking, the dream state, and the state of condensed consciousness).

Disciple: What is the Sushupti condition?

Sri Aurobindo: It is a state of consciousness with reference to which your mind is not awake, your mind is Sushupta — asleep — and so you do not project yourself in the external or in the internal being. But what is Sushupta to one may be consciousness to another. A man may be quite conscious in Sushupti.

Disciple: How?

Sri Aurobindo: For instance, in the Supermind all things meet. These things, savikalpa etc., do not apply to the Supermind.

Disciple: In the old path they used Sushupta condition to go into the Superconscient stage, did they not?

Sri Aurobindo: That was the use of it. But then they recognised no intermediate gradations. From Mind they jumped to the Parabrahman; for them the Superconscient was the Brahman only. But the stages that you find in the Vedas and in the Upanishads after the Mind is left behind, all become lost.

Disciple: The classifications in the Upanishads confuse many people.

Sri Aurobindo: In the Upanishads it is quite different from abstract philosophy. There different men have given their own different experiences and you have to take them as experiences. For instance, I myself made different classifications of various movements and their mixture and also the mixtures of mixtures, their comparisons and subtler movements. But I have used them for my own guidance,— for personal knowledge and use. But I would not think of putting them in book-form.

These classifications are there as steps and as general guidance. Once you have the experience you can have your own classification for guidance. Of course, general things about the physical, the vital which everybody can experience and which are the same for all can be given in book-form; or when the higher experiences come, for instance, Intuition and revelation etc. then you can know them yourself.

Disciple: Once it seems the Mother came to Ramakrishna with a golden body, and told him to take it. But he said, “No, I don’t want it”, and then later he said: “Suppose I kept it, then all people would rush to me.”

Sri Aurobindo: Was he afraid of that? In Ramakrishna you find clear Intuition, and revelations of the higher order within a limited area,— they are not of the universal kind. In this yoga one has to go beyond conventional ideas and also to have a mind which is elastic.

In the jail I was proceeding by the old method and I found all the conventional ideas were broken. For eight or ten days all sorts of ideas,— of cruelty, hatred, and other disgusting thoughts came till the mind ceased to give any reaction to them and then all old ideas were broken. You can’t have the Higher Consciousness unless the mind is very elastic and open and receptive.

You have also to accept Asuric and Rakshasik things, get the knowledge,— know what they are,— and throw them away. Otherwise the ascent to the Supermind would be narrow and limited, not rich and varied and wide. But, of course, all cannot do that.

25.11.1924

D wrote a letter to M. a disciple, on 14-11-1924. It was meant to be read to Sri Aurobindo.

D had requested Sri Aurobindo to give his views on marriage, particularly as he intended taking up the yoga in future. He wanted to know what attitude a person intending to take up the highest spiritual life should adopt towards marriage. D. admitted that he felt sex-attraction and did not want to resort merely to repression.

Sri Aurobindo: It is rather a delicate matter to answer. Perhaps the following points may be offered to him.

1. What is ordinarily known as sex-attraction is mainly a pull on the vital and physical planes between man and woman. This attraction, generally, get mixed up with emotions and sentiments and is almost always mistaken for love, or psychic relation.

For those who want to give up life altogether — that is to say, for Sannyasins etc. — marriage in the ordinary sense is out of the question. Because marriage is the one thing that strongly fixes down a person to life. Woman by nature has the strongest tendency to sick to life. She, generally, pulls down the man and fixes him to life. This is especially intended by nature for the continuance of the race and life.

2. Secondly, there is a meeting together of the psychic of the man and of the woman,— a union of soul with soul. This, of course, is difficult to get.

The first point refers to the ordinary life in the vital and the physical planes.

In the higher life there are two types, two gradations, of meeting of man and woman. One is the psychic union, the other is the spiritual.

The man of high idealism — the poet, the artist, has a developed psychic being. In the ordinary man, it is not developed. For a psychically developed man to get a woman of the right type is rather difficult. But it such a union could come about it would be a great help to both of them.

Disciple: But his question would be how to find out the right sort of woman for marriage.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no hard and fast rule in these things. It is all to be found out by an inner perception. It is not a science, it is an art.

Even when the union of the psychic takes place between the two, the other parts, the mental, the vital and the physical of one may clash with that of the other and the gain of the psychic being may be spoiled by this disharmony. But if the psychic being dominates in both then these difficulties may slowly clear up. The spiritual relation between man and woman is the most difficult to achieve. The man seeking the higher divine life, the seeker after divine Consciousness and the Truth,— who is Purusha,— if he meets the woman of the right type, the woman who is his Shakti. — then his spiritual life, the life which he is to manifest, is enriched and becomes full. In this case also there is the psychic union between the two.

In the case of those who have the psychic union of the proper kind to start with, the spiritual relation may gradually develop and manifest itself.

In the spiritual union the woman who is the Shakti must be really a Power — that is to say, a powerful personality who can receive the help from the Purusha in the proper way. Each must be of real help to the other: this relation is the most difficult to attain. These difficulties come to the Sadhaka; to the Siddha. the perfected soul, there is no difficulty. He knows fully well what is to be manifested. If his Shakti is there he knows where she is and he will get her.

Disciple: Is the Shakti necessary for the Supramental Yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: The Shakti is not necessary for the yoga: without the Shakti full knowledge, consciousness, power and Ananda can be attained. But if these elements are to be brought to and manifested in life then the Shakti is necessary. If there is no Shakti then he cannot bring down the Knowledge, Power, Ananda etc. that are in him into life. He can, in that case, only prepare the way for the work to be done at a future time.

Disciple: Suppose a person aspiring for spiritual life marries, what would happen to him?

Sri Aurobindo: If such a man marries three things might happen:

1. If it is an ordinary marriage he may be pulled down to the lower level of consciousness, apart from the cares, anxieties and responsibilities he may be burdened with. In that case he may lose his aspiration for the higher life and may be completely changed on account of the woman’s influence on him

2. He may be spiritually ruined altogether by the marriage.

3. Or, if he gets the woman of the right type it may be a great help to him.

You can write to D. that Sri Aurobindo does not believe in marriage as it exists at present in society and as an institution. He does not ask a person to marry or not to marry; it is left entirely to the person concerned.

For a person who aspires for some kind of higher life it is common, especially for those who have a strong vital being, to have a tendency for vital enjoyment, and vital relation with a woman. Sri Aurobindo has no objection to this as an experience and perception. Only, in a Yogi’s life these have to be transformed into the movements of the Higher Nature.

21.01.1925

A letter from A was received. It wanted the following points to be answered:

i. The distinction between the Higher Knowledge and mental or intellectual knowledge.

ii. The distinction between mental will and the higher Tapas Shakti.

iii. Ramakrishna says that one who wants God must give up everything for him. Should he follow this idea?

Sri Aurobindo: As to the first point you write to him that it is the Higher Knowledge — its Jyoti — which illumines the mind. The distinction between mental will and the Higher Tapas-Shakti he cannot know at present as he has not been given the yoga which is practised here. For doing this yoga he has to decide finally what he intends to do when he goes out of jail. He may have to leave off his external activities. But that he must decide by referring to his inner being.

As to leaving everything for God I do not know what Ramakrishna may have meant. But I want him to understand that he ought not to decide by what Ramakrishna said, or what I say, but by what he feels within his own beings, in the inmost depth of his being.

What I feel is that A has mental ideas about spiritual things but does not seem to have turned his inner eye within himself. I do not want to call him away from the true demand of his inner being.

Disciple: A has been doing political work as you know. So, the question from him would be: What is the connection between yoga and the political work?

Sri Aurobindo: The present-day political activity is intensely Rajasic in its nature and its reconciliation with yoga is not easy. In fact, all those who took to this yoga had to give up political activity.

Disciple: Why should it be so? There is acceptance of life in this yoga, is there not?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there is no rejection of life; you can say, life is accepted in this yoga. But we regard the inner life as more important, the outer only as an expression, a form, of it.

Disciple: Can one not take up the outer action — say. political — in the yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: External action can also be taken up in this yoga but it must be in keeping with the inner life. The outside world regards all those who do this yoga here as “lost” to all work. But that is not the correct reading. It is not that we have no sympathy with the political aspirations of the country; only, we can’t go into them in the Rajasic way

We leave it to the Higher Power to do what She likes.

Disciple: But you yourself did political work.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I did it but it was done in the attitude I just now described i.e. by leaving the work in the hands of the Higher Power.

Disciple: Suppose India accepts the Truth which the yoga wants to bring down into life?

Sri Aurobindo: If the Truth which the yoga wants to achieve is attained and if India accepts it, then it will give quite a new turn to Indian politics — different from European politics. It would be a profound change.

But that is a question which A will have to decide afterwards. For the present, A must find out why he wants the yoga, whether he has a call — a true call. And the second question is whether he has the capacity. I do not know about his capacity but he requires, I believe, a long preparation.

15.09.1925

Some questions were put to Sri Aurobindo about a Sadhaka who wanted to give Sadhana — initiation into Yoga to others. Both the Sadhakas were at Chittagong.

In reply Sri Aurobindo said:

i. X was never a great Sadhaka and that he is not fit to give Sadhana.

ii. X had some possibilities which were destroyed because of his vanity. He thought that he was a great Sadhaka and tried to pose as such.

iii. X was self-willed and never used to pay attention to the instructions sent to him from Pondicherry. He had one idea in his mind: that everything that was coming to him was from Shakti or Kali, though he was repeatedly warned against it.

iv. He could not distinguish between what was true and what came to him from the vital and the lower world.

v. At present X is completely under the control of vital suggestions and hallucinations with the erotic impulse behind them and all his saying that he is down what I tell him and that “my concentration helps him” is false. It is the explanation given by those lower powers to justify their ways to him.

This Yoga is not a Tantric Yoga and so I can’t do anything about the process he follows. There are things in the vital world which are both true and false and the Sadhaka of this path has to distinguish between them. The Vital is a world full of lustre and colour and hallucination which try to ape the Supramental movements. As I said the other day, it cinematographs the higher movements. It is also full of power.

If he wants to do this Yoga he must begin again: make his mind and vital being calm, give up all the movements of the ego and aspire for the Truth and nothing but the Truth.

Instead of trying to push ahead in Sadhana, it is better to give time to the preparation for Yoga which is the preliminary purification of the Adhar — the nature — mould.

There was silence for some time

Then Sri Aurobindo resumed: It seems evident that X must have done some Sadhana in his previous life and must have acquired some powers then. He must have repressed his impulses and so they are having their satisfaction now.

Disciple: Was X brilliant before he began Yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: No. But after beginning it he showed mental capacity. Evidently, something opened up in him and his physical mind was not able to bear it. He might have been trying to set things right but when the uprush came he could not distinguish between the higher and the lower movements.

A letter from Y was read, containing “an analysis of Yoga”.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not all nonsense, though he has put the things pell-mell.

It is very difficult to practise this Yoga if the outer instruments are not prepared to express the inner being. There are people who get something in their psychic being and immediately it tries to force its way out. But the outer members are not able to bear it and the whole thing breaks up.

Disciple: What will become of Y in his next life,— will his madness follow him?

Sri Aurobindo: He will have to work it out. The madness is working out sufficiently rapidly, so that he may begin next time with a better instrument.

Disciple: Would it be better, if he stopped these things?

Sri Aurobindo: In most people it is not the central being that finds expression. It is some minor personality which serves for the temporary purposes of life. The true central being is always behind.

Disciple: Can the central being never come up without Yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: Very few can know and express their central being without Yoga.

The vital appears brilliant and imitates the rapidity of the higher movement and creates false reflections of the Truth and can try to mislead the Sadhaka.

Disciple: Can it imitate the calm of the Supermind?

Sri Aurobindo: Oh yes. There are Asuric forces that are very calm. Do you think that the Asura is a fool? Sometimes, Tapasya is his chief weapon. Hiranya Kashipu and Ravana were great Tapaswis. Doing good to humanity is one of the favourite weapons of the Asura. Of course, he seeks to do it in his own Asuric way. The Asuri Maya can take up any garb: even the pursuit of an ideal or sacrifice for some principle!

04.10.1925

A letter from X’s husband which raised certain general questions about the relation of man and woman in this yoga. He wants to exercise the conjugal right with his wife. Both have written to Sri Aurobindo, separately for guidance.

The husband’s argument:

“Sri Aurobindo’s yoga is not a yoga of renunciation and even if renunciation was to be carried out I shall carry it out gradually. I am not able to control myself. I want to know: What is the relation between man and woman in this yoga?”

Sri Aurobindo replied:

“This is not a yoga of renunciation in the sense that one has not to reject life or the world externally. But that does not mean that one has to give room to lower forces and allow them full play in their lower forms.

“This is a yoga of rising into the Divine Nature from the lower nature. What that higher Nature is you will understand afterwards. You have to Lecome fit for it. You can now see your lower nature; especially the vital play of Kama (lust) and Krodha (anger) etc. — is essentially the Dharma — the functioning — of the animal man. You have to rise into the Divine Nature by rejecting the lower nature. How can you get the Divine Nature unless you conquer the nature of the animal-man in you? The first step has been given to you: you must learn to separate yourself as the Purusha, and took unmoved at all the play of nature in you. You must externalise the play and see all its actions as outside yourself. You ought not to allow any mental justification for the play of the lower forces of the vital beings. The Shuddhi — purification — necessary in this yoga cannot be attained with the forces of lust and anger and there is no question of harbouring them.”

Then Sri Aurobindo continued:

In this matter, you must resort to simple thinking and simple action, leaving all mental complications and Shastric injunctions. You must not allow the intellect to play with them. Your ideas about Shastric injunctions are nothing else but justifications. Really it is the lower play of the vital being. In this rejection of the lower nature you ought to be ever alert — vigilant.

The ideal relation between man and woman in this yoga you cannot at present understand. You have, first, to make yourself fit for it. Your own ideas of married life and Shastra etc. are dangerous and if you follow these ideas there is every chance of your fall from the yoga. All of them are mental constructions. The first thing in a case where both man and woman are aspirants is to help each other in Sadhana, the spiritual effort. They must exchange their forces and help each other to rise into the Higher Consciousness.

Secondly, there is the question of love. What most people call “love” is a superficial thing and mostly bound up with the vital craving of lust. That has to be completely rejected.

There is a relation deeper than that: it is of the Soul. That relation comes from within by itself. It manifests itself in both as an ideal oneness — oneness in mind, oneness of the soul, oneness of self. That relation is Shanta, full of peace; wide, pure — pavitra. In it there is no trace of vital lust and physical craving. There is also possible a relation of Purusha and Shakti between man and woman. But that relation is not social, it is not ordinary. Because one is married to a certain woman it does not follow that his wife is necessarily his Shakti.

So long as these relations are not understood and experienced by you another possible relation is that of friends. That is to say, you ought to live with your wife just as you would with a friend who has the same aim of life, without any other relation than that of friendship.

You must remove the misunderstanding from your mind about your wife that she does not love you, etc. She has an aspiration for the yoga and therefore she wants to reject all the lower play of nature from herself and from you. You ought not to press her or induce her to fall from the path of yoga. If you can’t control yourself you should live separately and fight your nature.

You write about passivity and activity: you have to understand and know what they are. When one begins yoga, naturally, all the forces on the mental — and especially on the vital — plane, that are hostile to the Siddhi of this yoga, are bound to rise and one must be active in rejecting them — what the Gita calls apramatta — because the Purusha is not only sākṣī — the witness — but anumantā — one who gives consent. This activity of rejection must be always there. Even if you fall you must rise up again and again and fight.

Passivity merely means a calm inactive attitude of mind keeping it open to the higher influence and ready to accept the light, power, knowledge, Ananda that come from Above. It must be a prayerful mood so that the knowledge may come down. When the higher knowledge comes one ought not to allow the mind to get active with it, but must allow that knowledge to come more and more by keeping the mind passive.

Both passivity and activity are legitimate movements of this yoga in the beginning. The highest, the true passivity will, of course, come afterwards. If you remain passive now, you will open yourself to all sorts of influences and accept all kinds of suggestions, ideas etc. coming from outside — from the universal nature. You will mistake them for those coming from the higher Power.

07.10.1925

Two letters containing some questions about Sadhana — spiritual practice were received.

Sri Aurobindo: It is no use X trying to have the current of force at present. The Supramental yoga is out of his reach at present. He seems to be puzzled as to what is “life” and what is “action”. It does not mean only “marriage” and “earning”. He does not understand that Karma-yoga — yoga of action — does not require any vast field. It is not necessary to become a prime-minister or a millionaire to do Karma yoga.

He speaks of Raja yoga, but in Raja yoga also a certain purification of nature is required which is done by Yama and Niyama before the aspirant can succeed in meditation and attain Samadhi.

In this yoga also something similar is to be done, though in a different manner. He has, first, to try to understand his own nature and get rid of egoistic motives from his actions and of desires from the vital being. He must try to acquire Samata — equality and Sattwic balance. That is to say, he should reject lower motives and learn to act from higher motives and with a Sattwic temperament. All our actions proceed from a certain inner attitude and he has to see whether he can change the motive of desire for a higher one.

He can read the first few chapters of the Essays on the Gita and try to understand Karma yoga. Some sort of Karma yoga is the best preparation for this yoga. He cannot get the current of the higher Power now; he must make himself fit for the higher Power. The Real Shakti-Power cannot come unless the Adhar — the receptacle — is purified. She can force the way, but in that case there will be all confusion and Adhar may break.

09.10.1925

In a letter the question raised was: “Is not all action incompatible with Sri Aurobindo’s yoga”?

Sri Aurobindo: His idea that all action is incompatible with this yoga is not correct. Generally, it is found that all Rajasic activity does not go well with this yoga: for instance, political work.

The reasons for abstaining from political activity are:

1. Being Rajasic in its nature, it does not allow that quiet and knowledge on the basis of which the work should really proceed. All action requires a certain inner formation, an inner detached being. The formation of this inner being requires one to dive into the depth of the being, get the true Being and then prepare the true Being to come to the surface. It is then that one acquires a poise — an inner poise — and can act from there. Political work by Rajasic activity which draws the being outwards prevents this inner formation.

2. The political field, together with certain other fields, is the stronghold of the Asuric forces. They have their eye on this yoga, and they would try to hamper the Sadhana by every means. By taking to the political field you get into a plane where these forces hold the field. The possibility of attack in that field is much greater than in others. These Asuric forces try to lead away the Sadhaka from the path by increasing Kama and Krodha — desire and anger, and such other Rajasic impulses. They may throw him permanently into the sea of Rajasic activity.

He asks about the synthesis between Sadhana and action. In this yoga such a synthesis is not necessary in the beginning. The Sadhak — aspirant — in general, opens himself alternately to the higher Power and to the ordinary life. It goes on like that for a long time. Then comes a time when the two powers oppose each other and then the need for synthesis arises.

But if the difficulty is only intellectual then it need not be solved now. In this yoga intellect is not the chief instrument,— experience is primary. Of course, there is the intellectual side of yoga which the mind of the Sadhak must grasp as it would be helpful to him. But it is the experience which is the most important thing.

12.10.1925

In a letter from Allahabad a question was asked: “Do you find that you are more energetic after practising yoga than you were when you appeared for the I.C.S. examination?”

Sri Aurobindo, turning to a disciple, asked the same question in a general form.

Disciple: I find that my experience is, perhaps, not encouraging.

Sri Aurobindo: Does it mean that you are less energetic now than before you began Sadhana?

He turned to another disciple: “What do you say?”

Disciple: I find that it is not possible to put forth energy in the old way.

Sri Aurobindo: My experience is quite the reverse. I feel ten times more energetic than ever I was before yoga.

Disciple: Are there times in Sadhana when one finds the energy flagging?

Sri Aurobindo: That is due to Tamas — inertia. The question is not of Tamas, coming up. Even if Tamas came, why should the energy be absent?

Disciple: There are times when one can’t put forth energy as one used to do.

Sri Aurobindo: That may be temporary.

Disciple: Did you find in your case a steady increase of energy with the practice of yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: No, not steady. I was more energetic when I was working in politics than I had been before; when I took up yoga I was more energetic than I had been in politics.

Disciple: There are times when one cannot do work that is expected of one.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, one can’t do what others demand of one. The question is whether you have the energy, never mind in what way it is put forth. For instance, in that house just before I began the Arya there was a period of six months in which there was a continual spiritual experience and I could not do any writing at that time. But that does not mean I was less energetic.

I could not have written the 64 pages of the Arya before without flagging. I give another instance: now I do not find it possible to make speeches as before. If I am asked to make speeches I would find myself very unenergetic.

Disciple: But you are making a speech once in the year!

Sri Aurobindo: That is not a speech! And even that I am doing because X expects me to speak!

Disciple: So you are doing it under compulsion!

Sri Aurobindo: Almost! I would prefer to be silent!

Disciple: We know that; this time we have to thank Y.

Sri Aurobindo: O! I see, because he gave the points.

Disciple: I want to ask you one question: is instinct higher than Reason?

Sri Aurobindo: In what sense?

Disciple: In the sense that it is pure that is, unmixed, direct, and automatic.

Sri Aurobindo: It is true within certain limits. The animal instinct is limited to a particular purpose. It is something ingrained in the being, something that is handed down to a particular species.

Disciple: There is a report on the behaviour of rats, in an American publication. It describes how the rats attacked a hanging shelf full of eggs, formed a chain to drop them down and how they carried away all the eggs.

Sri Aurobindo: This may shock some people — but the ordinary idea about the animals is, of course, absurd. They are much nearer to man than is generally supposed.

Disciple: I was asking about this kind of instinct.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not “instinct” at all, it is intelligence.

Disciple: But the animals have no intelligence.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean? They have as much intelligence as men have. The behaviour and action of the rats just now described is a work of intelligence.

I told you, perhaps, how the other day I saw a spider. He wanted to balance his cobweb against some weight in order to support it. He put a blade first, but found it was not heavy enough. So he went down and brought a small piece of gravel and with it balanced the web. Now, you can’t call this instinct. It is intelligence. What we can say is that the animals have not got developed mind. We can call this intelligence vital intelligence or vital mind. It works very correctly within limits. But if you take the animal out of the field, in which its instinct is unerring, you will find that it stumbles even more than the rational mind.

The reason why the animal mind thinks correctly is that the animals have not got the struggle between the vital and the mental being as man has got.

21.10.1925

The talk turned on the content of a letter by a Sadhika — lady Sadhaka — who said in her letter that her husband was trying to justify the lower sexual impulse by quoting Shastra and also by saying that Sadhana ought to be done through Bhoga — enjoyment. He also complained that Sri Aurobindo’s yoga was more rigorous than even the path of Sannyas — renunciation. He argued: “What is the use of a relation between man and woman if there is no sexual enjoyment?”

Sri Aurobindo: Tell her that the true relation between man and woman cannot be understood by them. They must advance a great deal before they can understand it. It is no use trying to understand it intellectually.

She must go on with her own Sadhana without caring to lift her husband. If he has something genuine in him he will come up. Everything depends upon him so far as he is concerned. He has something in him which is turned to yoga but his vital being requires great purification. He has been given quite elementary practice — abhyāsa. He is asked to watch his nature as the Purusha — the witness — and to reject the play of the lower nature. He can also seek help from above.

The element in his vital nature trying to justify the lower impulses by reasons and arguments is very dangerous.

02.11.1925

A letter from a gentleman putting questions about the jīvātman and the paramātman and their relation and also about the experience of the Supermind.

Sri Aurobindo: (with a smile): You can ask him to read all the issues of the Arya where he will find solutions of all his questions.

Disciple: But he may say he does not know English!

Sri Aurobindo: Then he can wait till he has learnt it! (laughter)

There was talk about the translation in Marathi of Yoga and its Objects. Sri Aurobindo was told some details about it.

Sri Aurobindo: I have no objection to my books being translated if they are written by people who know how to write.

Disciple: Unfortunately your books are like no man’s land. This writer believes the refrain or burden of the book to be “Yoga is for humanity”.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I think many people would be sorely disappointed if they came to know that I had already outgrown that “humanity-stage”. It is one of the great illusions.

Disciple: But, then, would nothing be done for humanity?

Disciple: He says it is a big illusion, don’t you see?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is one of the most powerful Sattwic illusions which people have. It has a very great hold.

Disciple: Do you mean to say that nothing can be done for humanity?

Sri Aurobindo: Why should anything be done?

Disciple: (to another) Do you feel left out as one of humanity? (laughter)

Disciple: You are not outside the pale of humanity!

Sri Aurobindo: It is not the question whether one can do anything for humanity. The question is whether anything can be done? The difficulty is that people expect humanity to change by some sort of miracle into something which is not humanity.

Disciple: Not by a miracle.

Sri Aurobindo: Wouldn’t you think it a miracle if all the 1500 or more millions of people that are living on the earth could be changed into something that is superhumanity?

Disciple: It would be a miracle, if it could be done.

Sri Aurobindo: Imagine the whole of humanity from Bernard Shaw to the maid servant being changed into something which is not humanity.

Disciple: But, then, do you think that humanity is not moving at all and that there has been no evolution up till now?

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t say that. Humanity is moving itself. The only difficulty is that it has a tendency to come back to its starting point again and again! (laughter)

Disciple: Suppose this time we succeed in the yoga and the Supermind comes down into the physical, I do not expect it in one day but in course of time.

Sri Aurobindo: You mean Kalpas — cycles — afterwards? Even then, do you suppose that the whole human race will be transformed suddenly into the Supramental race?

Disciple: In that case nothing can be done for humanity. One can only write books for humanity.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t say that nothing is, or can be, done for humanity. What I say is that there is nothing radically altered, no fundamental change in humanity, in spite of all that has been done.

Time after time something comes down from Above, but again you find humanity the same as ever. Look at Christianity, all the millions in Europe who profess it. Do you think they believe in Christianity? Not even ten percent try to live out Christianity. That is the difficulty with humanity. Something comes down from Above. In order to make it available to the whole community you have to give it such a form as to make it suitable to all capacities and in that change the Truth gets mixed with their falsehood — so much so that it no longer remains what it was. Buddha came and tried and did not succeed, and I think any effort would not succeed.

Disciple: Anatole France seems to hold that humanity is what it is and is going to be what it is. Perfection may come to man but humanity will remain what it is. True perfection is possible but it would be in something that is different from man.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, you can give a religion or create a sect and be a prophet or something of the kind. But nothing will be really done.

Disciple: But when the Supermind comes down do you think that there would be no connection between man and superman?

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t say there would be no connection. There is no reason why there should be no relation.

Disciple: But we want also to change human nature.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but, as is now admitted, such a radical change cannot be done in the human being. We can also call man the “Mental being”, though it is a complement which the average man does not deserve as he is hardly a “mental being.” All the same we can say “human consciousness” or “the mental consciousness”. As a radical change in this mental consciousness cannot be brought about by the mind, we want to change it by something which is not mind, we call it Supermind. As man is removed from the animal, so would be the Superman from man.

Disciple: Would the Superman be as far from man as man from the monkey?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by “monkey”?

Disciple: The stage of consciousness before man evolved.

Sri Aurobindo: That does not seem to be the accepted theory now. They say that the monkey and ourselves are cousins. All the same I should like that man would be nearer to Superman than the animal is to man.

Disciple: It would mean that Supermind would work for humanity.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not exactly for humanity, it is for something which is more than humanity. It is bringing about a change from humanity to super-humanity. Of course, that change is to come in, and from, humanity, it is not to drop from heaven. But it would create something quite different from man.

Disciple: Would not such a change require a change in man’s physical form?

Sri Aurobindo: I can’t say. But I can say this that it would necessitate a change in the physical functions; they would have all to be transformed. Otherwise, this stupid body of man would be incapable of holding the Supramental Power.

Disciple: Yes, it is always constipated! (laughter)

Then the questions were raised: 1. The nature of the Supramentalised body. 2. The nature of the economic organisation in the life of Supermen. About the second question Sri Aurobindo made a humorous remark: “In the Supramental economic organisation you would not expect X to go and fish on the pier at Pondicherry.”

About the first he said. This question about the nature of the Supramental body was answered by Theon. He was in France at that time and he said the Supramental body would be a “body of light” — “crops glorieux.” He had a number of disciples some of whom where mathematicians and scientists. One of them brought the solution one day that the body of the Superman would be a sphere! Theon said: “It may be, but it would be very inconvenient if people want to kiss each other!” (laughter)

Disciple: Jokes apart, I want to know whether the human body would not cast its imperfection on the manifestation of the Spirit? Would not the Supermind require another form?

Sri Aurobindo: Another physical form may not be required. What I can say, at present, is that all the physical functions would have to be transformed. The present physical body is “stupid” compared to what is required of it for Supra-mentalisation.

26.12.1925

There was a letter from a Sadhaka at Chittagong describing his experience and asking for guidance.

Sri Aurobindo: You can write to him that the idea prevalent, but mistaken, at Chittagong is that yoga means seeing visions and that it is something mysterious and miraculous, or receiving suggestions. This is a great mistake. The aim of yoga is not seeing visions but to change the consciousness.

There are many kinds of visions. Some visions are only images, some are forms taken by our vital desires, or they are images of mental thoughts. Often they are our own creations; they do not correspond to any Truth. True visions are very rare and they can’t be completely understood unless one had the right discernment and great purity in the being. I would like all people interested in our yoga to understand this thing. Such visions as they have been seeing obviously show that they are creations of their vital desires that have taken form. Such visions have no value whatever from the point of view of Sadhana. In yoga one has to be prepared for dry work which is very necessary: the purification of the entire being and then discipline of self — mastery and self — control. He must reject those false visions. He must aspire for some more solid things.

There was reference made to Sri Aurobindo about the marriage of a girl who was the sister of a disciple.

Sri Aurobindo: It seems she wants to marry; in that case it is no use trying to restrain her artificially, or trying to foist Sadhana on her when she is not willing.

Let her choose out of the three proposals. About yoga, if she has a call — a deep call — it will last and assert itself. It can never be lost. On the contrary, an artificial demand for Sadhana created by external pressure may be very bad for her. It may not last and would easily give way before the demands of the ordinary life and its impulses.

There was nothing of general interest during the interval. Some events may be noted:

1. A false wire from Krishnashashi informing Sri Aurobindo that he was dead under the signature of “Jyoti,” was received. This was contradicted by Mohini from Chittagong.

2. A disciple from Madras sent a copy of the “Theosophist”. It contained lectures and the latest declaration by Mrs. Besant: Krishna Murty’s avatarhood and the descent of the world-teacher in him:

Disciple: Did you read the “Theosophist?”

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I made an unsuccessful effort. What she used to write before was readable and had some power. But this is rather hopeless.

Disciple: Did you read the book containing the account of so many past lives?

Sri Aurobindo: I know those visions. They are just what our Chittagong people are getting, they are full of imaginations. They are not visions that come to one, but those which one creates for one’s self by pressure. One man told me that I have to close my eyes and begin to imagine I am in another’s body and I shall be at once in that plane. I tried it once and saw it is very easy. You can construct the history of the world from the remotest past without much difficulty.

Disciple: Do these people do any Sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in their own way. But if a descent of a great Truth is to take place there must be a very solid preparation to hold it. That is a more important work than holding up somebody as the Avatar.

22.02.1926

A letter from Subhas Chandra Bose to Dilip Kumar Roy appeared in the “Pravartak” of Chandernagore. Subhash remarked in it that though he had great respect for Vivekananda he considers Sri Aurobindo — “gabhir” deeper than the former. In the letter he accepts Sri Aurobindo as a genius and a great Dhyani, but he thinks that too long remaining away from what is called “active life” tends to one-sided development and may help some few to become Supermen, but for the generality of men he would prefer the path of service and work.

This letter was read out by a disciple. Sri Aurobindo heard it and was glad that it was short.

Sri Aurobindo: I met X today and he told me that Madame Y who is a Theosophist and has some experiences in yoga on the mental level is coming to India from France. She has an idea of regenerating India by settling some spiritually-minded Europeans in India.

She has got an illusion of work and many Europeans have got the same. They think that they can do spiritual work, with their ideas they come to India and get lost in the ocean that is India and fail to achieve anything substantial. They don’t make any impression and even if something is done it is lost out of recognition after some time — you can’t recognise what it was.

He continued: For ordinary men work is, of course, necessary, but one who wants to do “divine work” must prepare himself. He must learn to be “an instrument” first. All these Europeans have to learn that the work they take up is only a preparation for the divine work. They must know that it is not any mentally constructed work to which they must obstinately stick, if they want to be the instruments of God.

For instance, all these tall ideas like Madame Y’s about regenerating India and taking up big schemes and being regarded as big workers and saviours have got a fascination. One who wants to do the divine work must learn to forget the difference between important and unimportant work,— small work and great work — till the work that is intended is found by him.

Disciple: She would profit spiritually only if she learnt from her work and her experience. India has got her own Dharma and work for her has to be done in keeping with her Dharma.

Sri Aurobindo: She has another mania: getting inspiration for her work. I explained to X that it is not inspiration that comes always. You can drag down what your mind has chosen; your desire or your own idea, your impulse or even your own mental preference can reflect itself like that, and appear to you as coming from Above. One who wants to do divine works must first attain to spiritual perfection. If one is sincere then generally he profits by such work. For instance, such a man will submit his inspiration to the test of hard physical experience. If it is found true there then it is true. But if the inspiration fails to come true in life then one can set himself on the right path if one is sincere. But what people generally do is that if the inspiration fails they get another and then another explaining each one away to themselves.

There are people who follow up their intuition or inspiration and turn out solid work like J. C. Bose.

Disciple: At the time of the non-cooperation Dr. P. C. Ray came forward enthusiastically and joined the movement. But J. C. Bose said that if he was to do service to India he could only do it through his scientific work.

Some medical students left their studies, went to work in the villages and came back within a short time shorn of all emotional enthusiasm.

Sri Aurobindo: What do they mean by village organisation? Have they any idea? They always cite the example of Russia, but they don’t know how the Russians worked.

If you want to work in the villages you must leave off all idea that it will be done very soon. It is a very laborious work. It can’t be done by lecturing. Political agitation has its own law — solid work has its own law. Our people mix up the two things. Political agitation requires you to put up a new idea before the public; then you go on hammering out that idea, wait till it catches the public’s imagination and gets connected with its vital interest. Then you wait for the psychological movement when you can get your objective. It is useful in a nation’s life.

But solid work is quite different. In Russia the workers settled in villages, some as doctors, some as teachers doing their work and trying to raise the life there, bringing new light and new awakening. It is to be done slowly. The idea that somehow it will get done in a year or two — like “Swaraj in one year” — is all egoistic ignorance. Solid work is to be done under the law of the physical plane. The Russians waited patiently for years together and then their organisation got slowly recognised by the Government and then after a long waiting came the Revolution.

How do you expect villagers to trust every young irresponsible man who claims to do good to them? If you go on working for years then you may get into their confidence and may be able to achieve something. All these ideas of theatrical success and lightning flash-like work are most impracticable. You have to stick on to your work through all difficulties. It requires patience.

Disciple: At Sajod, in Broach District of Gujarat, educated young men have gone and settled in the villages and after nearly 15 years they are able to inspire confidence in the villagers about their work.

Sri Aurobindo: That is the only way if one wants to work in the villages. Then only a new life can gradually grow in them. They can then combine into organised units.

23.03.1926

K wrote a letter to S containing an account of his Sadhana after receiving Sri Aurobindo’s last letter. In his letter to S he sent some questions to be answered by Sri Aurobindo to which no reply was sent for many days. Whenever Sri Aurobindo was reminded he said,

“I am not inclined to lecture on the psychic being.”

Today he inquired whether there were any important letters unanswered. He was told about K’s letter.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you want me to lecture on the psychic being?

Disciple: Some general hints may be given, if you like.

Then Sri Aurobindo dictated the following by way of reply:

Sri Aurobindo: Firstly, when the psychic awakens you grow conscious of your own soul, you know your true being. You no longer commit the mistake of identifying yourself with the mental or the vital being, you do not mistake them for the soul.

Secondly, when it is awakened, the psychic being gives the Sadhaka the true Bhakti, devotion, for God or for the Guru. That devotion is quite different from mental and vital devotion.

In the mind one may have admiration for the intellectual ideas of someone, or one may have mental appreciation for some great intellect. But if it is merely mental, it does not carry matters very far, it is not sufficient by itself. It does not open the whole of the inner being; it only establishes a mental contact. Of course, there is no harm in having that. When K came here he had that mental admiration for what I have written in the Arya. One can get something from that kind of mental contact, but it is not what one can get by being in relation with the psychic being. I do not, for a moment, want to suggest that there was no truth in his Bhakti, but there was much mixture in it and even what was mental and vital was very much exaggerated.

When he began the yoga he had certain capacities. Of course, he was not half as tall as he thought himself to be. But if he had not exaggerated his capacities he would have been, by this time, farther than he is today.

The vital devotion demands and demands. It imposes its own conditions. It says to God: “You are so great, therefore I worship you; and now satisfy this desire and that condition of mine; make me great; make me a great Sadhaka, a great Yogin,” etc. It does not use this language of course, but that is what is behind it. It assumes many justifying forms and comes to the Sadhaka in various ways.

The unillumined Mind also surrenders to the Truth but it makes its own conditions. It says to the Truth: “Satisfy my judgment and my opinions.” It demands that the truth should cast itself in mental forms. The vital being insists that the truth should throw itself into its own movement of force. The vital being pulls at the higher Power; it pulls at the vital being of the Guru. Both the mind and the vital beings have got an arriere pensee — a mental reservation in their surrender.

But the psychic Bhakti is not like that. Because the soul is in connection with the Divinity behind, it is capable of true Bhakti. The psychic being has what is called ahaitukī bhaktí. Devotion without any motive. It does not make any demands, it makes on reservations in its surrender.

The psychic being knows how to obey the Truth in the right way. It can give itself up fully to God or to the Guru; and because it gives itself up truly it receives also truly.

When the psychic being comes to the surface it feels sad when the mental, or the vital being, is making a fool of itself. That sadness is purity offended. When the mind is playing its own game, or when the vital being is carried away by its impulses, it is the psychic being which says: “I do not want these things; what am I here for, after all? I am here for the Truth and not for these things,” Psychic sadness is again different from mental dissatisfaction or vital sadness or physical depression.

If the psychic being is strong it makes itself felt in the mental and the vital being, and forces them to change. But if it is weak, the mental and the vital parts take advantage of its sadness and use it even to their own advantage. A weak psychic being is often an affliction.

Take the case of X. He has a well-developed intellectual being, but his vital is often quite different in its character. At times the psychic being in his case used to force itself to the surface and throw everything into disorder. In Y’s case it was the vital being that dictated to the psychic being. To the protests of the psychic being the vital says: “yes, yes, what you say is all right, but I am also right and what I do is right and necessary.”

When the psychic being is weak it casts only an influence occasionally and then retires behind.

Disciple: But you said just now that the psychic being knows everything and is in communication with the Truth, then why should it be weak? Why can it not force the other parts of nature to obey it?

Sri Aurobindo: If the psychic being is not fully awake, it does not come to the surface. It is very much behind in most people, and when it cannot come fully to the surface I call it “weak,” not that the psychic being itself is weak. It has got everything in it, but when it can’t bring it forward it is called weak.

Disciple: Is the psychic being the same as what is called Atman — the Self?

Sri Aurobindo: The Atman generally means what you imply in English by the word “Spirit”. It is self-existent, conscious, the ānandamaya Being, the Purusha. The Atman is the same in all; it is that which is behind all the manifestation of Nature.

Disciple: Has it any features?

Sri Aurobindo: It has no features. The only thing that can be said about it is: Sat, Chit, Anand.

Disciple: Does it indicate the passive or the active state of the Being?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally it is used to imply the passive state, but sometimes it is used for both. The psychic being is not the same as the Atman. It is what corresponds to the European idea of “Soul”. The Western occultists recognise, at least they used to recognise, three things: 1. Spirit, 2. Soul, 3. Body. The Spirit corresponds to the Atman, and the Soul to the psychic being. It is the Purushta hṛdaye guhāyām, “the Soul in the cave of the heart”.

Disciple: Is the “angustha mātraḥ puruṣaḥ”, spoken of in the Upanishad the same as the psychic being?

Sri Aurobindo: It may be. I think the psychic being was meant by the phrase, “īśvaraḥ sarvabhūtānāṃ hṛddeśe” the Lord seated in the heart of creatures.

Disciple: Is not the psychic being the direct portion of the Divine here? If so, is it the same as the Jiva?

Sri Aurobindo: The Jiva is something more than the psychic being. The psychic being is behind the heart; while the Jiva is high above, connected with the Central Being. It is that which on every level of consciousness becomes the Purusha, the Prakriti and the personalities of Nature. The psychic being, one may say, is the Soul-personality. The psychic being most purely reflects the Divine in the lower triplicity of mind, life and body. There are four higher levels: Sat, Chit, Ananda and Vijnana; they are in Knowledge while below in the three levels — mind, life and body — there is a mixture of Ignorance and knowledge. The psychic being is behind these three — mind, life and body; it is most open to the higher Truth; that is why it is indispensable for the manifestation of the Divine.

The psychic being alone can open itself completely to the Truth. This is so because the movements of the lower parts — mind, life and body — are full of defects, errors and mixtures and, however sincere they may be and however they may try to transform themselves into the movements of the Truth, they cannot do it unless the psychic being comes to their help. Of course, these lower parts have their own sincerity.

When the psychic being awakens it becomes easy for the Sadhaka to distinguish from within between truth and falsehood, and also to throw out from the nature any wrong movement.

You may write to K one more point: The psychic being refuses to be deceived by appearances. It is not carried away by falsehood. It refuses to be depressed by falsehood, nor does it exaggerate the Truth of what it sees. For example, even if everybody in the world around says: “There is no God”, the psychic being refuses to believe it. It only says: “I know and also, I know because I feel.”

As I said, the psychic being is behind the emotional being in the heart, and when it is awakened it throws out the dross from the emotional being and makes it free from sentimentalism and the lower play of vital emotions. But that is not the dryness of the mind, nor the exaggeration of the vital feelings, it gives the just touch to each emotion.

Disciple: Could one say that in the planes of consciousness above the mind all is the same — the psychic being and the Atman etc.?

Sri Aurobindo: If you mean: “Everything is One” then it merely comes to the old Adwaitavada of Shankaracharya. Really speaking, it is not a matter for the mind to decide. It is a matter of experience. In a certain experience you find that “All is One” and Shankara is true. But there are other experiences in which the Vishishtadwaita and even the Dwaita — the dualistic idea — finds justification. Mind only cuts, differentiates, analyses, represents. You can’t push these questions too far with the mind, otherwise you bring in the old quarrel of the philosophers. You can’t say: “It is that”, or “It must be like this”, or “It can’t be anything else;” for, It may be all these things at the same time. You can’t approach the highest with thought and express it in speech. Of course, you can express it, but then you diminish it also.

True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become; that is to say, you have the knowledge because you are That. That is the reason why I insist on the attainment of the Supermind as the condition for the experience of the highest Truth because the mind cannot really know it. In the Supermind thoughts convey different aspects of the same Truth,— so different, indeed, that the first aspect is the diametrically opposite of the last — and they are all thrown into the One.

If you have the knowledge by identity you can easily get at my thoughts and my meaning. But I find that the same thing spoken to all carries a different meaning to each.

The subject was continued at lunch-time

Sri Aurobindo: In the letter you can explain to K what the psychic feelings are. They are not the same as what ordinary men experience as sentiments and feelings. For example, the ordinary sentimental pity is not the same as what is called “psychic compassion”. The latter is a much deeper compassion than pity. So also psychic love is not the same as what generally passes for love. There is an unselfishness in psychic love; it is always free from all demands — it has no vital claims. Even psychic unselfishness is not the same as the ordinary unselfishness. There is an unselfishness which plays on the surface and shows itself off. It becomes philanthropy — paropkara. But the psychic counterpart of it sees the need of the other person and just satisfies it.

Lastly, lest he should think that the psychic being is something weak and inert let him understand that the presiding Deity — the adhiṣṭhātrḯ devátā — of the psychic plane is Agni, Fire. It is the Divine Fire of aspirations When the psychic being is awakened the God of the plane is also awakened. And even if the whole being is impure it is this Agni — Fire — which intervenes, removes the obstacles in the way and consumes all the impurities of the being.

21.08.1926

There was a letter from a political prisoner who argued with a Sadhaka here about “work” and Sadhana. He pleaded that work should be done as Sadhana and that one could get perfection through work. He quoted the Gita: “yogaḥ karmasu kauśalam”.

Sri Aurobindo: So he thinks that “Kaushalam” in Karma — “Cleverness or efficiency in doing action” — is yoga; does he? In that case any clever man, say, an expert financier, must be a yogi!

We also thought once when we were doing work that perfection would one day come through “action” and we found that it was not possible. We had to give up action in that sense. It does not mean that we give up all action. All of us are doing something or the other here. We have to do action as a sort of exercise — not for its own sake, but as a help to the inner growth.

Disciple: What are the limits of such work?

Sri Aurobindo: The limit is that the work ought not to be allowed to interfere with your yoga. Suppose you take up a work which leaves no time for Sadhana you can’t take it up. That is to say, a work which demands all your attention and energy which you have to do as a “Kartavya” — “something that should be done” — that work cannot be undertaken by you.

Then there are works that have got a different Dharma; for example, politics. It is on a different plane and you can’t do it successfully with this yoga.

In this yoga you have to be prepared to cut yourself away from what you consider “your” work and “your” creation, when necessary; you have to be merciless in throwing old things away. That is really the meaning of “Nishkama Karma” — that you must have no attachment to anything.

Disciple: Does not a stage come when it becomes necessary to give up all action?

Sri Aurobindo: You cannot make a general rule like that. Some may have to give up all action temporarily,— but for others it may not be necessary at all. I, myself, have been doing work constantly through the Arya and other things. And I stopped the Arya when I found that I had to put myself out to much,— so to say, externalise too much. The second reason was that I required to be drawn within myself in order to develop certain experiences, so that the energy might be used for inward work. In a certain sense I can say that I never stopped doing work — even political work.

Disciple: In a sense! In what sense? I want to have some idea about it.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not so difficult as you think; one can put out his force to support certain movements and oppose others.

Disciple: Is that work confined to India?

Sri Aurobindo: It was confined to India in the beginning but now it is not confined to India.

At first I was not very successful,— very often it seemed to produce no result at all and I found that the work was done afterwards in quite another way than what I had expected or insisted. The same result came but it arrived in another way. The reason, probably, was that I used to put too much vital force with the Power. Of course,— the vital is quite essential, but now it is pure and subtle vital force.

Disciple: You did it for what purpose — as something necessary, or as an exercise?

Sri Aurobindo: It was shown as something that was to be done. It was not from the Supermind, of course. If it was from there then the full knowledge would be there from the beginning. I did not know what was going to happen. I simply was shown the thing that was to be done and did it.

Disciple: How did you come to know that a certain thing is to be done?

Sri Aurobindo: Through the Higher Mind.

Disciple: Are there movements or persons, through whom you are working in Indian politics?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. At one time it was X; even I worked through Y for a short time.

Disciple: Did you work upon the course of events of the (first) world-war?

Sri Aurobindo: It was so difficult to have sympathy with either side. But it would have been a great disaster if Germany had won.

Disciple: How? Indians wished Germany to win.

Sri Aurobindo: It was merely due to their hatred of the British. When the Germans were marching upon Paris I felt something saying, “They must not take Paris.” And as I was consulting a map I almost felt the place where they would be stopped.

It is curious that several things that my mind was hammering at got done after I had dropped the idea altogether. At one time I had an idea that France must get back Alsace-Lorraine. It was almost an obsession with me and when I had ceased to think about it, the thing got done.

Disciple: Can it be due to the element of desire in the working?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. You must have desire. There is no question of “success” also. There is a certain possibility and you have to make an attempt to work it out disinterestedly like a yogi.

Disciple: What about Russia? It seems to have gone the wrong way.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you mean? It has gone the way that was intended. There is nothing good or bad, or moral or immoral. The question is: “Was it intended?” It may be accompanied by so many results good, bad and indifferent. The question is: “What is intended by the Above?”

The experience of humanity would have remained incomplete without the experiment in Russia. Now they have got the form. It depends upon the Russians what they will do with it.

I find it always difficult to work in Indian politics. The difficulty is that the vessels don’t hold the Power, they are so weak. If the amount of force that is spent on India were spent on a European nation you would find it full of creative activities of various kinds. But here, in India, it is like sending a current of electricity through a sleeping man. He suddenly starts up, begins jerking and throwing his arms and feet about and then drops down again. He is not fully awake.

Disciple: What is it due to?

Sri Aurobindo: Due to tremendous Tamas. Don’t you feel it all around, that Tamas? It is that which frustrates all efforts.

Disciple: What has brought it about?

Sri Aurobindo: It is the result of various causes. It was already settling — I mean, the forces of disintegration and inertia before the British came. And after their coming the whole Tamas has settled like a solid block. There must be some awakening before something substantial can be done. Otherwise, India has got very good men; you had Tilak, Das, Vivekananda — none of them an ordinary man and yet you see the Tamas there.

Disciple: Is there any truth in the idea that every great Vibhuti who brings anything new into manifestation builds, first of all, what is called Yogapitha — “a seat of yoga”! Each man who goes by his path reaches that “yogapitha” and each Sadhaka has his place there. When once such a Pitha — pedestal — is made then anyone who comes afterwards finds it very easy to reach it because there is a passage already made.

Sri Aurobindo: I can tell you I am building nothing over there. I do not know what is to come. If there is anything in the Supramental I don’t know it. You are not always allowed to know it. It is a plane where you find “what is” — there is no necessity to build or construct any thing there.

I know some people make such constructions as the Yoga-pitha and so on. One can always find these things, because many things from the mental plane are always trying to realise themselves here. These constructions are generally on the mental plane and they may even have some truth behind them — not in the forms and constructions themselves. But even where there is some truth behind them it gets mixed up with many other things which sometimes falsifies the truth behind it.

Disciple: Perhaps all sorts of vital forces come and take advantage of it.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It is for this reason that I am not for rushing to work at once. Such a thing would not be the expression of the Truth. We have to wait till the Truth through us finds its own expression. I myself got the idea of the Supramental after ten years of Sadhana. The Supramental does not come in the beginning but at the end. It is a progressive Truth.

Disciple: Do you remember a vision Vibhuti Babu once had?

Sri Aurobindo: No.

Disciple: He saw a yogapuri — a city of yoga — in which there were different circles of Sadhaks round a Guru in the centre of each group. Vibhuti wanted to join the circle but he was not allowed because he had not the “password”. There were watchmen also.

Sri Aurobindo: It looks more of the vital plane than anything else. There are people who get symbolic vision and when they see the work not accomplished they generally see it as an unfinished building, or a building where workmen are still working. That does not correspond to any building in the Supramental. That is only a symbolic way of representing the yoga and its condition and even at that it is not exact but gives only a general idea.

Do you refer to Chandernagore when you speak about the “vital forces”?

Disciple: Yes.

Sri Aurobindo: At the time I had some construction in my mind. Of course, there was something behind it which I knew to be true. Even then I was not sure that it would work out successfully. Any way, I wanted to give it a trial and gave that idea to Motilal. Then he took up the idea and, as you know, he took it up with all his vital being and in that egoistic way. So the vital forces found their chance. They tried to take possession of the work and of the workers.

It is after several such lessons that I had to give up the idea of rushing into work. This yoga is not a cut-out system. It is a growth by experience.

Disciple: Did you ever put your power against it?

Sri Aurobindo: No. I did nothing of the kind. The only thing I did was to put the force so that those who were worth anything should be drawn out of it. I have forgotten all about it. In fact, I have long ago put away Chandernagore from my atmosphere. There was nothing of the Supramental there.

27.01.1939

This evening a very feeling letter written by Vivekananda in 1900 from California to Miss. Josephine Macleod was read to Sri Aurobindo. The relevant points in it are here reproduced.

Alameda, California 18th April 1900

After all, Joe, I am only a boy who used to listen with rapt wonderment to the wonderful words of Ramakrishna under the banyan at Dakshineshwar. That is my true nature, doing good and so forth are all super-impositions. Now I again hear the voice; the same old voice thrilling my soul. Bonds are breaking, love dying, work becoming tasteless — the glamour is off life.

Yes, I come, Nirvana is before me, I feel it at times, the same infinite ocean of peace, without a ripple, a breath.

Since the beginning of this year, I have not dictated anything in India. You know that..

I am drifting again in the warm heart of the river, I dare not make a splash with my hand or feet for fear of breaking the wonderful stillness, stillness that makes you feel sure it (the world) is an illusion.

Behind my work was ambition, behind my love was personality, behind my purity was fear, behind my guidance the thirst of power. Now they are vanishing and I drift. I come, Mother....a spectator, no more an actor ..............things are seen and felt like shadows.

Vivekananda

Disciple: The question is: Is Vivekananda expressing only a passing mood because of his innate preference for Vairagya or was ambition really an element mixed up in his work. I always felt that there was a double strain in his nature,— he was drawn between work and Sadhana.

Disciple: It is quite understandable that he observed some ambition lurking in his work. I do not think it is only a passing mood. Simultaneously with the Higher Consciousness one can see these things in one’s nature.

Sri Aurobindo: These things, like ambition etc., are not easily removed. They remain in the nature and are difficult to get rid of. Even when the Higher Consciousness comes they can continue with the lower nature.

Disciple: But he says in his writings and speeches that he was conscious of a Higher Power driving him into activity.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite possible; he was conscious of such a Power driving him in spite of his weakness, but that does not mean that his own ambition did not mix with the working of the Power.

Disciple: But later on in his letter he speaks of being freed after death or “freed in the body”. That implies that he did not attain liberation till then.

Sri Aurobindo: There are two kinds of liberation: one is when you drop the body, that is to say, you may have attained liberation in consciousness yet something in the nature continues in the old bondage and that ignorance is usually supported by the body-consciousness. When the body drops the man becomes entirely free or liberated. Another kind of liberation is what is called “JivanMukti”; one realises the liberation even while remaining in the body.

Disciple: But I believe there is a distinction between “Videha Mukti” and “Jivan Mukti”.

Sri Aurobindo: No. “Jivan Mukti” is the same as “Videha Mukti”. The example of Janaka is usually quoted and the current idea is that “Jivan Mukti” is more difficult to attain than the liberation that is attained either by renunciation or by giving up the body.

Disciple: Souls like Vivekananda come down for a specific work in this world and after doing their work they again ascend to their high status. Is this true?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. There is a plane of liberation from which beings can come down here and perhaps that is what Ramakrishna meant by saying there are “NityaMukta” souls — souls who are eternally liberated,— who can go up and down the ladder of existence.

Disciple: Can they not evolve further on their own plane?

Sri Aurobindo: No.

Disciple: So there is no evolution on the other planes?

Sri Aurobindo: No. On the other planes there are only types and they cannot evolve. If they want to evolve to a condition higher than theirs they must take birth here on earth — that is to say, take a human body. Even the gods are compelled to take human birth if they want to evolve.

Disciple: Why should the gods want to evolve? They must be feeling quite happy in their own state.

Sri Aurobindo: They may get tired of their happiness, and may want something higher, for example, they may want Nirvana.

Disciple: But then they may get tired of Nirvana! (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: There is no one in Nirvana to get tired! A was asking me the same question: “who has the experience of Nirvana?” If there is no “being” in that state the answer is: “nobody” has it. Something in you drops off and Nirvana takes its place. In fact, there is no “getting” but blotting out of “what one is”. A was probably thinking that he would be sitting With his mental personality somewhere looking at Nirvana and saying: “Ah! this is Nirvana!” The reply is: so long as “you” are there, no Nirvana can be. One has to get rid of all attachments and all personalities before Nirvana can come and that is extremely difficult for one attached to his mental personality like A.

Disciple: If Nirvana is such a negative state, what is the difference between one who has it and one who has not?

Disciple: From the point of view of Nirvana there is no difference.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. You find the difference because it is “you” who get blotted out in Nirvana and not anybody else. (After a pause)

This letter makes at least something precise about Vivekananda’s experience because what he speaks of here is the condition of Nirvana accompanied by a sense of illusion of the world.

Disciple: This division of consciousness into two, one feeling fundamentally free and the other imperfect or impure is a very common experience.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not only common, it is the ordinary experience and in order that one may be able to act without ambition one should be able to take action lightly. That is to say, one should not be perturbed if it is done or not done. It is something like the Gita’s “inaction in action” and yet one must act, as the Gita says.

The test is that even if the work taken away or destroyed it must make no difference to the condition of consciousness.

Disciple: Nirvana is a fundamental spiritual experience, is it not?

Sri Aurobindo: Nirvana, as I know it, is a necessary experience in order to get rid of the nature-personality which is subject to ignorance. You cease to be the small individual ego in a vast world. You throw away that and become the One in Nirvana. Nirvana is a passage, for passing into a condition in which your true individuality can be attained. That true individuality is not a small, narrow and limited self contained in the world, but is vast and infinite and can contain the world within it self; you can remain in the world and yet be above it, so to say. To get rid of the separative personality in nature Nirvana is a powerful experience.

Disciple: Does one realise oneself as an individual, that is to say, as the true Jiva after Nirvana?

Sri Aurobindo: One realises oneself as the One in all, and also the One as many and yet that One is also He.

Disciple: That is what you have called “multiple unity”.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: In our yoga we accept life as real.

Sri Aurobindo: That is to say, you have to give life a place in the Reality.

Disciple: And we are supposed or expected to do everything for you and the divine Mother. But in our nature we are full of ego and ignorance. So our surrender is also full of ego.

Sri Aurobindo: But you are supposed to make the surrender without the ego-sense. The law is that you should get rid of attachment and desire in your surrender.

Disciple: But there are people who want to force their attitude and ideas on others.

Sri Aurobindo: These are the people who have the idea of “our work”, “our Ashram”. That is a form of ego and that must go.

Disciple: They even want others to accept you as the Guru and Avatar by physical force, (laughter)

You know what happened to Y who is a friend of X when he came here.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, and Y could contact the Consciousness only when he had gone from here.

The kind of thing is a great difficulty. There are some people here who, I believe, can’t help propagandising. When R came here he was able to feel something behind all the activity and he was progressing in his own way quite well. But one lecture from Y and the whole thing was upset.

Disciple: I suppose this sort of thing disturbs your work very much.

Sri Aurobindo: Oh, always. Instead of allowing the man to proceed on his own lines there is an effort to force things and viewpoints to which he is not accustomed. It always interferes with the work.

Disciple: Most probably, the man revolts and turns against the yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: Either he shuts himself, or gets quite false ideas about yoga.

Disciple: Something should be done, I think, to stop V from carrying on propaganda.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you think he can be stopped? (laughter) I have tried and found that nothing makes any impression, (laughter)

Disciple: He is giving lectures.

Sri Aurobindo: I thought he was already a kind of Guru, (laughter)

Disciple: He explains everything on the blackboard.

Sri Aurobindo: What! Explaining the Brahman on the blackboard! (laughter)

Disciple: One day while V was on gate-duty X told him that the Mother’s instruction to all Sadhakas on gateduty is that they should not sit in the chair or read or write while on duty.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it was true. We know N and others used to continue sitting in the chairs and reply to visitor.

Disciple: When X had given the instructions he asked V why he was not carrying them out. V said: “That is my difficulty.” (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: If you tell these people to go somewhere else and start an Ashram of their own, they won’t do that.

Disciple: But when I put the question of difficulty to you it referred to my inner difficulties,— these were not meant, I am afraid.

Disciple: I was only recounting my difficulty in making the surrender.

Sri Aurobindo: And I was recounting mine! (laughter)

Disciple: It is very difficult for a man like me to accept what these people want one to accept. I can accept you as the guide and Guru. But I must have my spiritual experience to believe things.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not always necessary to have the experience in order to believe. There are many people who believe on faith before they realise. But the difficulty comes when you want to force your faith on others. One can say: “I believe that so and so is an Avatar.” But one can’t say: “If you don’t believe in him I will beat you.” (laughter) Then there are others who want to go into the yoga with their families. There are husbands who get angry with their wives because they can’t take to yoga with them, (laughter)

Disciple: They want to go to heaven with their family like Yudhishthira.

Sri Aurobindo: Going to heaven with the family may be possible, but not into yoga. In the pursuit of a religious life you can have “Budo, Budi” — “old man and old dame”, as D. L. Rai says.

Disciple: Yes. Then the atmosphere becomes harmonious at home.

Sri Aurobindo: Then there are some who tell a new comer, when he is refused admission, to stick on!

Disciple: Yes. X gives his own instance and says it was a case of test. Test of faith! “If you have faith you will be admitted.”

Sri Aurobindo: In most cases the people who persist are not those who have a real call for the yoga from something deep in them. In most cases it is obstinacy. I particularly remember one case in which obstinacy was wonderful. There are others in whom the desire to come and remain here is a mere surface movement, while in others it is there because they are lunatics or eccentrics. Even if you tell them to seek another Guru they won’t listen to you! (A pause)

Disciple: But this letter of Vivekananda is a very sincere letter. It is easy to understand his difficulty.

One cannot have freedom from ambition and other weaknesses unless one has the dynamic presence of the Divine all the time, or readily available whenever needed.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. That is one way; or, as I said, if you can establish peace, equality and calm right up to your physical consciousness, so that nothing in you stirs whatever happens then you can be free from ambition.

These things, as I said, are very difficult to get rid of. When I had the Nirvana experience at Baroda I thought at that time that I had no ambition left — at least personal ambition — in the work that I was doing for the country. Then I used to here a voice within me telling me all about my inner movement. When I reached Calcutta [1908] I heard this voice pointing out things within me which showed that there was personal ambition of which I was till then quite unconscious. So these things can hide for a very long time.

It is like the contest for Congress Presidentship in which both sides maintain that it is not ambition that is moving them, but the sense of duty, call of the cause, principles etc.! (laughter)

1942

Some Questions

Q: What exactly is meant by dissolution — Pralaya?

Sri Aurobindo: In the Puranic sense everything comes out of the Brahman and is withdrawn into it. And the popular idea is that it will be projected in the same way as before.

Q: If dissolution is a fact, what is the relation between it and the new creation which follows? Tantra believes that after Maha Pralaya, the great dissolution, the new creation builds itself upon the Sanskaras — impressions and moulds of the past.

Whether we believe in the scientific theory of material evolution, or in the material spiritual theory, as soon as we take matter as the basis or one of the bases we come to believe in a beginning and it seems to me that it is impossible to avoid this conclusion of the mind. It seems the ancients answered this demand of the mind by dissolution — creation theory. Even if there be no absolute beginning there must be some satisfying knowledge which reveals the secret of creation. The theory which calls the manifestation God’s play or Lila seems to answer only one side of the question. It explains the purpose; but what about the process? Perhaps the mind may not demand a clear cut answer if it once has the experience that everything is a play of the spirit. Is that so? or, is there an answer to this? What is the cycle and a Yuga?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no time at which it becomes this world. These are mental questions and solutions will be mental and many — each equally true.

Power of creation is eternal in Divine and so there is no point of time at which it acts. It is more rational to grant that it is eternal and.always active.

Whether it will put out the same form, or some other form — it depends. It can be the same, in which case it will come into being at a higher stage of evolution opening up new possibilities and powers for mankind. It may not be mere repetition of this material formation.

Or it can be quite another formation. “Why this Lila?” you can ask. The questioner seems to think that on the higher level there will be a mental answer to this mental question. That is not true.

And this idea that matter is something different from the Spirit is also not true. It is One thing. Even science now finds it so. It is the One Spirit. You can say: in Matter the condensation of consciousness takes place. At each stage of manifestation there is a different vibration giving rise to different elements Man is not a pure mental consciousness. He is a product of evolution from Matter to Life, from Life, to Mind.

Part 1. Chapter IV. On Medicine

11.11.1923

A telegram from a mentally deranged Sadhaka became the topic of this evening. The Sadhaka in question wanted to die. The suggestion of death, it was thought, was due to some hereditary poison in the blood. These kinds of poisons often attack the brain.

Sri Aurobindo: It is these people who also get a sense of “sin” and the tendency to repent and humble themselves before others. Also they have very big ideas about themselves. They think they are very important in the universal scheme. (A pause)

This yoga, to be done well, requires perfect balance. Therefore, those who have merely a general call for yoga should not go in for it; because it opens a possibility for the Higher Consciousness to work as well as a possibility for the powers of the vital world to come and take possession. If a man has not got the perfect balance, it becomes easier for these powers to take possession of him. Sometimes the man who has no faith in things invisible is much better off than the man who has faith in them, or the man who has a tendency towards occultism. He is generally free — comparatively free — from attacks from the subtle planes because he is not open to them and so does not accept them, while the man who believes in them gives them a chance. In this yoga you must have a “sane” mind.

Disciple: The general idea is that unless one has got a “screw loose” in his brain one would not come for yoga, (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: How do you mean? If a screw is loose then the machine is not doing its work at all!

Disciple: The idea seems to be “the more loose screws” the better chance for yoga, (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: You mean myself? (laughter)

Disciple: I did not mean that. But does it mean that a sane man is more fit for yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: A perfect yoga requires perfect balance.

Disciple: I am afraid, the sane men generally are matter-of-fact.

Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. What do you mean by “sane”?

Disciple: Sane does not mean “dull”.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course not; when I speak of want of balance in these people, I do not mean they are “insane”. It only means that their development is not proportionate, it is lopsided or there is a twist somewhere in their nature which prevents the harmonious development of all the parts.

An interval of silence

That was the thing that saved me all through, I mean the perfect balance. First of all I believed that nothing was impossible, and at the same time I could question everything. If I had believed in everything that came I would have been like Bijoy Krishna Goswami.

Disciple: What is “perfect balance”?

Sri Aurobindo: A perfect yogi can have strong imagination and equally strong reason. Imagination can believe in everything while reason works out the logical steps. Even in the case of scientists you find they have a very strong imagination.

Disciple: It is not exactly imagination perhaps?

Sri Aurobindo: Imagination is the power of conceiving things beyond the ordinary experience of life.

Disciple: Does it correspond to Truth? or is there a higher faculty of which imagination is the representative in the mind?

Sri Aurobindo: It ultimately becomes “inspiration”, when it ascends higher. The purer it becomes the nearer it gets to Truth. For instance, in the case of poets, generally it is the inspired imagination that works. What you meant to say about the scientist was perhaps “intuition” (Pause)

After a time

The capital period of my intellectual development was when I could see clearly that, what the intellect said might be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justified was true and its opposite also was true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it.

You see, Mind means infinite possibility. Reason or intelligence chooses one to the exclusion of all the other possibilities. And it is reason which gives value and selects. What it selects is like a law in science; you accept it because it explains most of the phenomena. In the mind we accept one possibility and suppress the others and so we see the ground for the view we hold and other grounds are suppressed. Or the intellect goes on in a futile round and justifies the choice which has already been made by some other part of the being.

The intellect is merely selective. I felt this very clearly for a long time. And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone. As you go higher up a wider movement develops which reconciles all contraries.

Then you see the Forces that are behind mental ideas. Of course, it is no use telling this to the ordinary man as he would be in a most hopeless confusion if he saw everything as mere possibilities. For instance, you would be absolutely confounded if I placed before you all the possibilities.

Disciple: When all intellectual operations appear merely as dealing with possibilities then what is to be selected and how is one to act?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no need to be puzzled. Simply look at them, watch them, see what they are and what is behind them.

For instance, I can laugh at Shankara’s Mayavada or Mahatma’s views; but I can see the truth that is behind them both. I know the place they occupy in the play of world-forces; for, it really comes to that.

Disciple: Can want of balance be overcome?

Sri Aurobindo: Everything can be done. You can do it within your limits; you can correct the exaggerations of the parts in you that are well-developed and develop those that are suppressed and bring about a balance in your being.

05.07.1924

There was an article in the Hindu against Dr. Abraham’s method of treatment.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no argument advanced against Abraham’s theory. I am sure his intuition is correct and it will be much more easily worked out by him when the science and experiment are settled so that anyone can do the things. But, generally, in a discovery a man works by an intuition and the man who first sees the thing can very easily work it out.

I am also pretty sure that the idea that diseases are due to electrical vibrations and that they can be cured by producing certain other more powerful vibrations also correct.

Apart from the psychic causes, in the pure physical body it works by vibrations. In yogic practice also an electrical phenomenon generally occurs And when the Power descends some sort of electrical vibrations take place in the physical system. It is by that movement that the diseases are cured — by that the harmony is again restored.

19.09.1926

There was a discussion between two disciples — one of them was a doctor. The doctor’s idea was that in Samadhi the physical mind is still, and if we look only to the physical body, then it seems that the venous blood collects in the brain and brings about a sort of anaesthesia of the brain. When the brain is thus completely quieted down then the mind — the mental consciousness — is released from the entanglement of body. It can then experience more freely the other levels of consciousness.

Disciple: What is the venous blood?

Disciple: Blood having more carbon-dioxide in it than the red blood.

Disciple: So the brain becomes full of carbon-dioxide in Samadhi, does it?

In between, a letter was read from a Sadhaka complaining about the bad condition of his Sadhana and asking permission to come to Pondicherry.

Sri Aurobindo: Tell him that all the Sadhakas get difficulties in Sadhana and periods of depression come to each one. That is no reason to run down here. Even those who are here get periods of depression. One should be able to go through such trials. Sadhana never moves in a line — there are always ups and downs. It is not a work of days and months but of years. These periods come generally when something new is going to begin in Sadhana, some opening to a new plane, or some such thing.

The reason why he is not getting knowledge, probably, is that his mind is active. So long as the mind is active higher Knowledge cannot come. He can get mental knowledge, of course.

Ask him to make his mind passive and open to the higher Knowledge. Let him stop the egoistic activity in his mind. When I ask him to be passive I do not mean that he should repress the thoughts that come to his mind; he should rather separate himself as the mental Purusha and watch the thoughts as happening in him, but not as his. He has to watch them and reject those that are to be rejected.

Disciple: Many people mistake passivity for inertia. I mistook it for a long time. I used to remain passive when I got an illness and then I found that I was consenting to it.

Sri Aurobindo: Real passivity is openness to the Higher Force; it is not inertia.

After a pause Sir Aurobindo turned to the doctor disciple

Do you know of a Japanese healer, Dr. Kobayeshi, a famous surgeon, who is a Yogi following the Amitabha Buddha school of Sadhana? During his medical practice he found that the method he was following was not correct. So he followed an inner process. He makes the patients sit in meditation with him and asks them to concentrate on the navel and to aspire that the Light may come down and set right the affected organ. By now he has cured thousands of patients; of course, his personal influence is indispensable in bringing down the Light.

He has cured tumours and many uterine complaints, he has even cured cancer. He is especially successful in curing diseases of women. His theory is that the disease is due to a passive congestion in the affected part. That is to say, the nerves there get congested and the vital force is not able to reach that part. What the Light does is that it brings about a subtle and quick vibration in the affected part, thereby restoring normal circulation. But whatever the theory, this is a method of curing diseases by pure, subtle force. Something from the occult plane comes down and removes the obstacle from the physical plane.

Disciple: It seems like the method of “auto-suggestion” given by Dr. Coué.

Sri Aurobindo: No, it is not Coué’s method. Coué gives the suggestion which works out in the patient; while this is a direct, occult method.

Disciple: Is his theory correct?

Sri Aurobindo: I can’t say. What I think is that some occult force comes down and works out the disease. But it is very difficult to say what exactly happens on the physical plane.

Probably, the Hatha Yogins used to do what this Japanese doctor is doing, with their knowledge of the “vital-physical” currents. For instance, they could set right all the disorders below the navel by controlling the Vyana — the vital current that works in the whole system. They would find out which Prana — vital current — is less, send the required current of vital energy which would work the disease out of the system.

(After a pause) I was thinking of the “carbon-dioxide” explanation of Samadhi. It may be perfectly true so for as a particular kind of concentration — Samadhi — is concerned. For example, there is a state in which a complete withdrawal into a certain aspect of the Infinite takes place. It is attained by stilling the mind — even the physical mind — altogether. But there are other kinds of concentrations — Samadhis — where that explanation would not apply at all. In such concentrations the mind is quite clear, in fact, ihe mind can be very active and there is no carbon-dioxide in the brain.

Disciple: What part does breathing exercise — Pranayama — play in bringing about the higher consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: It sets the Pranic vital-currents free and removes dullness of the brain so that the higher consciousness can come down. Pranayama — does not bring dullness in the brain. My own experience, on the contrary, is that brain becomes illumined. When I was practising Pranayama at Baroda, I used to do it for about five hours in the day,— three hours in the morning and two in the evening. I found that the mind began to work with great illumination and power. I used to write poetry in those days. Before the Pranayama practice, usually I wrote five to eight lines per day; and about two hundred lines in a month. After the practice I could write 200 lines within half an hour. That was not the only result. Formerly my memory was dull. But after this practice 1 found that when the inspiration came I could remember all the lines in their order and write them down correctly at any time. Along with this enhanced functioning I could see an electrical activity all round the brain, and I could feel that it was made up of a subtle substance. I could feel everything as the working of that substance. That was far from your carbon-dioxide!

Disciple: Did you find any change in mental activity when breathing completely stopped?

Sri Aurobindo: I do not know about complete stopping of the breath, but at the time of Pranayama the breath becomes something regular and rhythmic.

Disciple: How is it that Pranayama develops mental capacities? What part does it play in bringing about the higher consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: It is the Pranic vital-currents which sustain mental activity. When these currents are changed by Pranayama, they bring about a change in the brain. The cause of dullness of the brain is some obstruction in it which does not allow the higher thought to be communicated to it. When this obstruction is removed the higher mental being is able to communicate its action easily to the brain. When the higher consciousness is attained the brain does not become dull. My experience is that it becomes illumined.

All the exercises, like breathing-practices, are only devices which something that is behind them is using for manifesting itself.

On the physical plane also, it is nothing else but certain devices — a system of notation — that we employ. But we give too much importance to the form of the device, because we think the physical to be the most real. If we only knew that the entire physical world is made up of force and that it is nothing else but the working of a certain consciousness and power using certain devices then we would not be deceived.

Disciple: Is it true that when the Higher Consciousness comes the brain stops thinking?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean? The brain is not the seat of thinking! It is the mind that thinks, the brain only reacts to it. There is a parallelism between the movements of the brain and those of the higher mind. But the brain is only a communicating channel, it is only a support for the higher activity. If the mind is passive it receives things from above — from the Higher Mind — and passes them on to the brain.

Now, if the brain is dull, the mind cannot transmit its action correctly, it does it imperfectly. Sometimes — not always — the lapse in Sadhana also is due to the brain getting tired.

Disciple: Is it not always due to that?

Sri Aurobindo: No, in the bright period the Progress is maintained. But when the physical brain flags and refuses to support the effort of the will and mind, then you find a dull and Tamasic condition in Sadhana intervenes.

Disciple: What is sleep?

Sri Aurobindo: Sleep!

Disciple: Physiologically, the nerve-endings get disconnected with the consciousness, and as they are not obliged to do any work they recuperate themselves. All their normal functions are suspended during sleep, so they get rest. These are various theories of sleep in medical science.

Sri Aurobindo: I do not know what it is physiologically, but it is a condition of Tamasic withdrawal into the inner consciousness. It is likely that as the normal functions are suspended the nerves recoup themselves.

Disciple: Do you think that such a retirement into the inner consciousness is a necessary condition for maintaining the body?

Sri Aurobindo: No. It is merely a habit, if you like, a bad habit acquired by man when he was living with the animals, as one writer says.

Disciple: Can one get rid of the habit?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, of course. Even food is a habit. But that does not mean that you can stop it today. By habit it has become indispensable. If you stop it suddenly your body may break down. You would die if you had no other force which could replace the one you derived from sleep.

Disciple: What is the other thing that can replace sleep?

Sri Aurobindo: Ten minutes of Yogic sleep are equal to hours of ordinary sleep.

Disciple: When one sleeps one gets dreams also. Have these dreams anything to do with the brain?

Sri Aurobindo: Dreams have nothing to do with the brain. A dream is merely a confused transcript in sleep of something that happens behind. The thing gets confused because the controlling mind is not there. All sorts of things rush up from the passive memory, events of the day, impressions of the mind. If the mind remains conscious in dreams, you can know the working that takes place behind. Some dreams correctly represent what is taking place behind — such dreams are clear and cogent.

As I said about Samadhi, so also about dreams, it is very difficult to say what happens exactly on the physical plane. All things on the physical plane are merely devices — they are a system of notation,— just like the wireless or telegraphic notation. It is a convenient device for sending messages, but often we get too busy with the device and mistake it for the thing that it is behind the device.

And this applies to all scientific discoveries. For instance, when you say “hydrogen and oxygen in certain proportions form water”, the statement does not explain anything. It only state a fact. You do not know what water is. It only means there is something behind which manifests itself as water under those conditions.

It is the same with the theory of “electrons”. So far as the physical facts are concerned the theory may be perfectly true. But why should the blessed electrons, which are fundamentally the same substance, form totally different elements and compounds by the change of arrangement of the same number?

Disciple: Not only that, but the addition or subtraction of one electron changes radically the properties — that is, the nature — of the substance. And even with the same number of electrons a change in the arrangement alters radically the substance. So much so that one substance is a poison and the other is not.

Sri Aurobindo: So I say there is something behind the device which already pre-exists on some plane and it is that which adopts the device in order to manifest itself. But the device is not the reality. The power from behind can change the device. Of course, the power working from behind comes down on the physical plane through the device, and so people generally think that it is the device which is responsible for the manifestation.

As an instance of the change of device I told you about Agamya Guru Paramahamsa. He could stop his heart-beats and go on talking and working like other men. Now, ordinarily, when the heart stops the man dies, or gets into a cataleptic Samadhi. But in his case it was not so.

Disciple: How many hours do you sleep?

Sri Aurobindo: Five hours and more.

Disciple: Can you do without sleep?

Sri Aurobindo: I have not tried yet.

Disciple: But suppose you try?

Sri Aurobindo: I can’t say, I must try and see. Once I tried for two days with the result that on the third day I slept for nine hours.

Disciple: Is there no difference between your sleep and that of an ordinary person?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not all like ordinary sleep,— though it is that for the most part. The only time that I very nearly conquered sleep was in jail. I used to keep awake for two days and sleep on the third. I did it for ten days.

20.09.1925

A letter from Bhupal Chandra Bose; Sri Aurobindo’s father-in-law, relating the illness of another son-in-law of his. It is a case of tuberculosis.

Sri Aurobindo to X: You can write to him that I will do my best to help him, though under the circumstances it is difficult for me to do so. But a change of climate might help him.

Disciple: Dr. Matthews, a specialist in T.B., says that it is not medicine but social surroundings, the economic condition, that must change for a cure. Air, light, food, walking these are more important than medicine.

Sri Aurobindo: His ideas are quite sane. This disease starts generally when there is “psychic depression”.

Disciple: What is “psychic depression?”

Sri Aurobindo: It is the depression of the inner being, (laughter — as the question was evaded)

After a pause

There is something in us that takes the joy of life. I don’t mean the vital joy. Normally, it is a certain inner happiness,— you can’t really call it happiness,— it is a certain inner joy and well-being kept up by the psychic being. When that gets affected then there is psychic depression.

Disciple: How does that get affected?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, there are so many causes: some shock, some great sorrow, a weighing down by anxiety, over-work, care or trouble, or some affection of a vital organ of the physical system — any of these can bring about psychic depression.

Disciple: Can it be overcome?

Sri Aurobindo: All kinds of depression can be overcome.

Disciple: How can the psychic depression be overcome?

Sri Aurobindo: By supplying the psychic force, (laughter)

After a pause

This “psychic depression” comes in a very strange way. Suppose you keep an artist in very ugly surroundings, then his psychic being may get depressed.

Disciple: If it is a question of giving psychic force to the patient, then I believe it is comparatively easy work for you.

Sri Aurobindo: But I can’t be all the time putting force. The difficulty is that we are not known to each other. This case seems more hopeful than that of Y because here at least I can put the force. In the case of Y also we were not known to each other. But when I send the help I find there is something very thick in the atmosphere there and so a great pressure has to be put before it can be pierced through and the resistance overcome. Perhaps there is somebody in the family who resists. The third reason for the unsuccessful result is that the man is not accustomed to the kind of inner exercise involved in receiving psychic help.

Such cases at a distance are difficult. It is easier in the case of a person who is near or somebody who has faith, or psychic contact.

Disciple: By what other way can psychic depression be overcome?

Sri Aurobindo: There are many ways. If the man is vitally strong then his vital force can help remove the psychic depression. These forces in the inner being can always mutually react.

Disciple: What is the vital force?

Sri Aurobindo: It is the life-force in man; there is a certain energy you feel within you which meets the shocks of life. It is that which gives you capacity to overcome obstacles. It is very necessary for ordinary men. It can pull you through a prolonged illness. As the Upanishad says: “pranasyedam vase sarvam-tridive yat pratisthiatm” “Whatever there is in the world is subject to Prana,— the vital force.” Even mental activities are due to Prana, life-force. It is the life-force that keeps the world going.

Disciple: How to overcome vital depression?

Sri Aurobindo: By supplying the vital-force. (laughter)

After a pause

You have to draw the vital energy from the infinite ocean of universal vital force that is all around you.

Disciple: The next question is: “how to draw it?”

Sri Aurobindo: You have something more than your hands and feet, which from within you can lay hold on the vital energy.

Disciple: How to draw the vital force? I mean I don’t know how to draw it consciously.

Sri Aurobindo: What you can do unconsciously you can always teach yourself to do consciously.

There are two main ways: 1. Passive and 2. active. In the first you remain passive, waiting for the vital force to enter into you; then you find it rushes into you. In the other method you lay hold on the force and draw it in.

Disciple: Suppose a man is weak and you give him spiritual help; can it do harm to him?

Sri Aurobindo: No. Weakness does not matter. But if there is anything that obstructs the working of the Higher Power then it may harm him.

Disciple: How can the Higher Power harm a person?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not the Higher Power that harms; it is the fight that harms, because the struggle is made more acute on account of the hostile forces. It is always safer to avoid such conflicts. (After a pause) If I were to put force on Y probably the first result would be that he would be more mad, because those force that posses him now would naturally get angry. In the case of Z also the difficulty was that he was completely possessed by the hostile force.

26.09.1925

A telegram came from Calcutta containing discouraging news about the health of the patient. When the doctor said that he might be going through his last stages, Sri Aurobindo said:

After seeing the photograph I had little hope. In cases like this one there are two conditions necessary: 1 personal contact and readiness to receive the help; 2. the descent of the Higher Power which does not care for the circumstances. But conditions are not yet ready for such a descent.

Disciple (doctor): This is a preventable disease and can be easily prevented by improving the general condition of hygiene and sanitation.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is true; but our town — life with its crowding and the wear and tear of modern life hardly creates the vital and psychic atmosphere for a long span of lite or vital healthfullness.

Disciple: In some countries in Europe — specially Scotland — there are very efficient organisation. For example, in Edinburgh they supply sputum pots for every man in the family. It is then examined and those persons suspected of being affected are segregated, treated and cured. This sputum is again examined and when it is found to be normal then the people are allowed to go and live with the family.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, you can raise the standard of health and eliminate these diseases to a very great extent by these means.

Disciple: Cannot death be conquered by them?

Sri Aurobindo: Oh, no; death is far too ingenious for that. That is never the way to conquer death. Nature is not so mechanical, she is a conscious being. If you try to circumvent her in one way she circumvents you in another. All this sanitation and hygiene etc. of yours can deal with is the physical circumstances of health. But they cannot get at the vital forces which are behind and of which the physical circumstances are mere instruments. During the war there was a perfect organisation to prevent epidemics, and that succeeded well. But after the war they broke out with great force. All that is not conquering death.

Disciple: Swami Brahmananda of Chandod lived for more than 200 years.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. If you know Hatha Yoga you can keep the body safe against disease. You can also reduce the slow process of ageing by supplying the vital force. The difficulty is you can’t be always in Samadhi.

Disciple: Tibbati Baba says that man can conquer death by taking a certain medicine.

Sri Aurobindo: With apologies to our friend, the doctor, I must say it is more likely to kill you sooner.

Disciple: But he says also that it is very difficult for a man to take it — the condition is that he must observe Brahmacharya — celibacy.

Disciple: Yes, and there will be some other conditions also which it will be quite impossible to fulfils.

Disciple: He promised to give the medicine to X after some time.

Disciple: Why after some time?

Sri Aurobindo: But X died very young from the yogic point of view.

Disciple: Yes, he died before he could take the medicine. (laughter)

Disciple: Death so managed it that he could not get the medicine in time!

Disciple: Has anyone conquered death before in the past?

Sri Aurobindo: We have to find out,— we don’t know. The Mahatmas are said to have conquered death.

Disciple: They can be seen in Vaishakha Valley according to a recent publication of the Theosophists.

Disciple: Ashwatthama is said to be “immortal”.

Sri Aurobindo: And, it seems, he has been seen by some people in Gujarat — somewhere.

Disciple: It is near Surpan on the Narbada river.

Sri Aurobindo: He leaves footprints twice as big as those of our friend here.

Disciple: Formerly, according to an article by Mr. Hiren Dutt, there was nothing but gas on this earth.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes and the earth was volcanic and man could not live upon it.

Disciple: Then he became a bag — and remained in his kāraṇa śarīra — causal body — and from that condition he developed into something like a barrel without hands and feet.

Sri Aurobindo: But there are cycles of evolution, not one evolutionary movement.

Disciple: Yes, many cycles have taken place in this world-evolution and different races have their roots.

Sri Aurobindo: There are seven root races and other are sub-races; and, I believe, the sixth root race was being prepared in California, and then it has shifted perhaps to Australia.

Disciple: Their theory is that there was a great civilisation on the continent of Atlantis.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there is every possibility that it is true.

Disciple: What is the proof?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, it is so because, perhaps, the Master says. But apart from that, they take their stand on geology and the theory of evolution. Once there was an idea that civilisation is only three or four thousand years old. Now people are forced to change their ideas.

Disciple: But the details about the last civilisation and the Mahatmas — are they all true?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by “true”? On the vital plane there is nothing that you cannot see: you can recast the whole history of the world. It is not the mental plane — really speaking it is the mental-vital. I was in that condition for ten days and any number of things came at that time.

Disciple: You could have written them down.

Sri Aurobindo: If I had thought them worthwhile.

Disciple: But then how far is it all true?

Sri Aurobindo: There is always some truth at the bottom. For instance, there is every likelihood that the continent of Atlantis had a great civilisation. So also the idea of evolution is true as far as physical evolution is concerned. But the fourth and fifth root race and the other details which are given are not certain.

That is the difficulty: to isolate the true intuition from the mixture — mental as well as vital, It would be quite another matter if one could keep the mind completely passive. But, evidently, that is impossible. The mind enters so much and also the vital being — they are both great and active creators.

Disciple: But what you see on the vital plane — in that state — is it true?

Sri Aurobindo: Again, what do you mean by “true”? Something that you see is true somewhere — on some other plane,— some of those things are probabilities, some are only tendencies trying to realise themselves. But it may not be true for this earth-plane.

11.10.1925

The question this evening was whether Coué’s method could be used by a Sadhaka of this yoga and also what attitude one must keep when diseases came. In many families in India some kind of illness is a normal feature and one has to be always attending to the patient.

Disciple: Is there any objection to using Dr. Coué’s method for curing disease?

Sri Aurobindo: No, there is not the slightest objection to using it. Only, you must know that you can’t auto-suggest yourself into the Supermind, because that is not so easy. That is to say, that method won’t do for this yoga. If you constantly go on suggesting to yourself “I am pure” — you would not automatically become pure. There is the question of facing facts. You have to see what is impure in you, then call down the Higher Power and pray to Her to purify you.

In Coué’s method there is a sharp distinction between will and imagination. You must know what “will” is. Coué’s idea is not the same as our idea of “will”. “Will” is not mental effort, it is not the vital push which men use in general to satisfy their desires. It is not strong wishing either; “will” is not a struggling, striving and unquiet thing. It is calm. When it is calm it is really a call for the Higher Power to come down and act. There is a “will” which works by dominating over Nature. Another kind of “will” does not so much dominate as aspires in a prayerful mood for the Higher Power to come down. The highest will is the divine will. It is that which is indispensable to all success, it acts automatically.

Disciple: For the cure of the disease, by any method whatsoever, is not faith necessary?

Sri Aurobindo: Faith is necessary for any such cure, even in Coué’s method.

Disciple: How is Coué’s method useful for the Sadhaka of our yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: It may be used to a certain extent in the beginning but not to the end. His method is not universal. It does not succeed in all cases. In fact, it depends upon hypnotising the unconscious. But in some people’s case the unconscious refuses the suggestion, so it does not succeed.

In our yoga we have to grow more and more conscious, so that the subconscious also, in our case, becomes wide-awake. Besides, the aim of our yoga is not to find out the most efficient method of healing diseases so much as to change the entire consciousness — even the physical — in order that disease may not came at all. The entire being must be so transformed that disease becomes impossible.

The question of compatibility of yoga and action was raised.

Sri Aurobindo: Activity is not incompatible with our yoga. The action to be done should proceed on the basis of peace and knowledge. It must be deliberate and calm. One can take up action in which many men are not concerned — which depends upon one’s own self for its performance. For instance, intellectual work and physical work can be done in this yoga. There may come a time when all action has to be abandoned — such a stage has a temporary utility. In that period one has to do intensive concentrated Sadhana.

Secondly, when one rises to another plane of consciousness, one finds the whole viewpoint about things has completely changed. In that condition one cannot continue the same intellectual activity as before. One has to wait till the higher consciousness begins to act. Of course, when the entire being is transformed then one has to accept all the planes of life and manifest the higher consciousness in life.

There was mention of “rich development” of Sadhana

A well-trained intellect and a strong vital being are a great hindrance as well as a great help in this yoga. They are helpful because they render the being wide, and allow the higher activity easily. For instance, if the intellect is well-trained, accurate, and can arrange things, is plastic and elastic, then the Sadhaka can understand the working of the Higher Power, arrange his experience, discriminate and so on. But intellect can also be an obstacle because it tends to be an independent plane of consciousness. It may be unwilling to let go its control or hold. It may continue making efforts for the higher knowledge in which case the latter can never develop. It can hamper the progress by doubt, denial and refusal to give up its control. The same is the case with a strong vital being. If it is transparent and pure it is a very great help. But if there is something impure in it which refuses to give itself up to the Higher Power, obstinate and turned downwards, then it is a great hindrance.

Richness in Sadhana can be attained even without any previous preparation. There comes a time in Sadhana when the various parts of the being attain to their fulfilment from within — of course, this is true within certain limits.

A disciple mentioned the difficulty of the vital impulse to act.

Sri Aurobindo: The impulse to act is always there, especially if one has been doing action. It is a movement of the dynamic mind which wants to go on doing things. It goes on acting, planning, thinking even when one does not want to act. The dynamic mind wants to throw itself into action. From the point of view of yoga it is a waste of energy. What you have to do is to separate yourself from your nature and all its movements. You must be able to see them as things coming from the universal Prakriti — world-nature. You must externalise them all.

14.10.1925

A letter from Nirmal Chand about Jagatsingh’s illness. In reply the following points were mentioned:

1. Improvement in his cancer is encouraging. It shows his receptivity.

2. I had been working on those points where he finds improvement.

3. Where he has failed it is due not to his fault, because the Power that is coming down does not as yet dominate the most material plane.

If Jagatsingh can stand the fight for a long time there is no reason why he should not be cured. It is very difficult to say with certainty what the result would be in such a case, yet I have not given it up as a desperate one. The attitude of samata which he has taken up with regard to the result is absolutely necessary.

In the letter Jagatsingh wrote that the spiritual help was “undeserved.”

Sri Aurobindo: It is never undeserved. It has come to him because he is a good adhar. His psychic being seems to be of an unusually good order, and his other parts of nature are also strong.

Jagatsingh had expressed a desire to see Sri Aurobindo either psychically or physically

Sri Aurobindo: I do not know whether he has got the psychic sight. I mean whether he has developed it and is able to see visions etc. However I shall try. If he can maintain his fight he can see me here.

Moni Lahiri took up yoga and finds peace after he began Sadhana. He used to be very violent and angry.

Sri Aurobindo: That kind of mind takes a long time to come round. I do not think he would be able to complete his progress in this life. He seems to be a man who would take several lives before he could progress. Of course, nothing can be said with certainty because something may turn up and change the whole course of the being.

Disciple: What would such a radical change be due to?

Sri Aurobindo: It would be obviously due to something. It is something going on behind that is responsible for such a change and all the mental reasoning, causes, and other things, that appear with the change, are merely external covers, mere arrangements for working out the thing that is in the background.

Disciple: Is it not due to the Grace of God?

Sri Aurobindo: That is a way of explaining it, though, really speaking, it does not explain anything when you say, “It is divine Grace.”

Disciple: But is there no law governing the Grace?

Sri Aurobindo: You seem to be very constitutional. You must allow God some absolute power!

Disciple: I do, I have no objection to his having absolute power!

Disciple: A great concession to God!

Disciple: What I object to in God is that he is not definite. There must be certain conditions to deserve his Grace!

Sri Aurobindo: That is again merely a way of putting it. You may as well say in Jagatsingh’s case that he deserved it because he made himself fit for it by making mental and other effort.

Disciple: But there must be some reason.

Sri Aurobindo: God may have his own reasons, which are obviously not your mental reasons.

Disciple: But why can’t God be definite?

Sri Aurobindo: If he became definite then all the “maja” — fun — would go.

Disciple: Then you will make a law of it.

Disciple: But in this way God breaks his own laws!

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know that he breaks his own laws? That is why some religions say that there is nothing but “Grace”. God’s Grace is inexplicable. It eludes all mental analysis.

Disciple: In that case the Bhaktas — the devotees — have a very good chance.

Sri Aurobindo: Again you want to make another law! You can’t say that the devotees have more chance. All you can say is, “Such and such things happen.” God’s Grace is without any reason. There are no mental laws governing it. Even in yoga what his Grace does is much more than what can be done by personal effort.

Disciple: In Sadhana you go on trying and trying and the obstruction does not yield. Then suddenly you find the point of resistance is removed.

Sri Aurobindo That is what I say, In such cases the effort is nowhere.

Disciple: Then everything is due to Grace, we must say.

Sri Aurobindo: In a way, you can say that. It is again a way of putting it!

Disciple: In the case of men who undergo a sudden change in their life, I think the change is due to Grace. For example, there is the case of Lala Babu: he heard only one word and at once got Vairagya — disgust — for the world.

Sri Aurobindo: Vairagya many people get.

Disciple: With him it lasted.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it can easily last. That is not the question. Even in the case of persons, whose external life shows no sign that promises a change, that is, in the most unexpected cases also changes may come. In such cases, judging merely by the external life, you can’t say that there was nothing in the man that wanted to change. The question is not what the mind and other parts demand, but what the inner being demands. Many times it happens that the psychic being is covered up completely by some obstruction and then suddenly a blow is given which at once removes the obstacle.

Disciple: But the first awakening of the inner being is due to Grace, I believe?

Sri Aurobindo: All first awakening is an act of Grace. You are given a glimpse and then you have to work it out.

Disciple: Then there is no room for effort.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a way of putting it! You can say there is Grace and there is effort also, both are true and necessary. Grace is above; what the mind can do is to prepare itself and the rest of the being — the vital and the physical — for the Grace. The mind can even work out the impurities and in a way break the resistance.

Disciple: There may be no law governing Grace in the sense in which we understand it, but there must be some law though not a mental one?

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, there is a law. But in the beginning God respects the law of each plane even though He transcends it. When the human being is raised completely above the mind then he finds the new law. Then all constructions of the mind break down.

Theoretically, there is no reason why Supermind should not come down soon and why one should not get it in a series of flashes in six months. But in that way the object is not attained. The object is to see the world-forces, to meet them on their own plane and defeat them there. Practically, it means a fight with the world-forces.

Disciple: But suppose the world-forces do not want, the Supermind?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not what the world-forces want, but what you want that matters. Forces can only intensify the struggle. The world-forces never want to change their law. But if you and God want to change them then they can be changed. Your wanting to change them is necessary, but without God wanting it, it is not sufficient.

Disciple: If the world-forces do not want to change then how to change them?

Sri Aurobindo: You have to work on them, meet them and defeat them.

The talk turned to a Sadhaka whose mind was deranged.

Disciple: What is his madness due to?

Sri Aurobindo: Evidently, it is not want of intelligence that sent him mad. Even in the shattered intelligence in his present state you can see sparks of Truth coming out. Some of the things he said were quite true though he expressed them in a queer way. For instance, he said, “I keep all the experiences hanging till I reach the supermind”. That is quite truth. Something from behind was trying to express the truth. His external being always misapplies the truth he gets in this way. Here the truth is that the mind has to hold all opposite things in balance till the higher Light comes and reconciles them.

Disciple: If his intelligence was all right then where was the defect in him?

Sri Aurobindo: The defect was in the physical mind. There was also weakness in the physical nervous system. I cannot be sure whether that was due to something in the very material constitution of the body itself. The Power that he pulled into himself was too much for the physical mind and the nerves. His physical being also is very weak. When the higher Power descended upon it, it broke down.

Disciple: Could he have been saved if he had been here?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, that depends. But I could have attended to the situation myself and dealt at once without having to wait for letters. The atmosphere here also might have helped him. But I can’t say. It is only a probability, because the defect in his lower nature was there.

Disciple: There are cures of madness effected by Ojhas — certain people with occult knowledge. Are such cures final?

Sri Aurobindo: If the man has nothing in him which calls back the force that possessed, he may get well permanently. But if he has some part which feels empty without the possessing force then it may come back.

A letter from a lady disciple — Sadhika — stating that she gets Shanti — peace — but no new experience.

Sri Aurobindo: You can ask what kind of Shanti she is feeling. Is it a mental quiet or does the peace descend from above? It is the first thing that comes in this yoga. But there are various kinds of peace. There is a peace which descends with wideness. Ask her if: he feels that she is living in that peace and wideness.

If she does not, what she has to do is to go on deepening the peace. She must experience the peace more and more till it becomes constant and remains even while she is not sitting in meditation. All her work must proceed from that peace. If she can succeed in this she will be able to know how the thought comes into the mind and from where. She will also be able to see the movement in her vital being. She must slowly feel something in her that is detached from all these things.

Another lady disciple wrote how her husband after insisting on her taking up yoga had now turned round. He wanted to be flattered, and so misconstrued her silence as displeasure, her independent opinion as haughtiness and her strong determination to reject and throw away all vital enjoyment as an insult.

Sri Aurobindo: What is remarkable about her is her sharp and honest intelligence. You can tell her that the higher relation, if there was any, would unfold itself from above, and it can be known only then. What then happens can be left aside at present. She must neither accept nor reject her relation with her husband. She must remain firm in her resolve about the yoga and allow things to take their own course.

Disciple: I know of some cures effected by Pagala Kali Baba in Bengal. An iron ring is given to the patient to be worn always on the person. If he takes it off under any circumstances he again gets a relapse. There are other rules also, e.g., he must change his clothes after going to the lavatory. Are these men permanently cured?

Sri Aurobindo: They have a sort of protection, an armour or Kavacha, around them. But the defect in the nature of the person may remain underneath the Kavacha. You must know that these forces are very persistent and obstinate — being so is their common virtue!

05.12.1925

Mrs. X. wanted to have Sri Aurobindo’s guidance after the death of her husband. She also expressed a desire to see in the subtle her dead husband.

Sri Aurobindo: About her seeing her husband who is dead two things may be written to her. 1. It depends on a certain capacity in oneself to be able to see, which, everybody has not got. 2. If the departed soul has got the will he can manifest himself. But if he is not willing, it is not good to pull him back to that relation, as it may retard his movement in the other planes where he may have to remain for his development. It is not good to tie him down to earthly attachment. She writes about the Truth and its attainment. In case she wants it the demand for it must be independent of the depression through which she is passing. If there is a call deep within her then it will be answered.

Disciple: There is A — from Chittagong — who wants a reply to his letter. He is already having a “hut” there for his Sadhana.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t understand why a “hut” is necessary.

Disciple: It is the time — honoured custom for beginning spiritual life. You don’t seem to give any value to it.

Sri Aurobindo: Was it a custom to build a “hut” before you began Sadhana?

Disciple: No. They used to give up everything and retire to the forest.

Sri Aurobindo: And immediately build a hut?

Disciple: In the Ramayana there is a story of a king — I think Dhvaja — who went to the forest and remained in a hut.

Disciple: Yes, and his Guru — who was his wife in disguise — came there and convinced him that he had not give up the world! (laughter) Then they went back and lived happily ever afterwards.

Sri Aurobindo: That was all right in those days. But now people who think of building huts have more chance of going mad than they had in the old times.

Disciple: What is the cause of it? Why do people nowadays easily fall a prey to the forces that bring madness?

Sri Aurobindo: You had better read Vincent Smith; there you will find all the causes.

Disciple: You are not in a mood to reply. Would it be a very long reply?

Disciple: It would be a “voluminous” reply!

Disciple: I wanted to know not the ordinary causes but the subtle causes.

Sri Aurobindo: Maybe it is due to people leaving off eating bulls and calves, (laughter)

Disciple: Today all my questions seem ill-timed.

Sri Aurobindo: Why? You seem to despise all my solutions today! (laughter)

After a pause of a few minutes

Sri Aurobindo: Among other things the Vaishnavite Sadhana has contributed to this madness in yoga. They brought down the whole Sadhana into the emotional plane and they could not distinguish between the true emotional movement of the psychic and spiritual being and the vital and other lower parts which imitate it. It is that which gives room for all sorts of lower forces to enter.

This movement of restlessness and madness came to be accepted to such an extent that madness was almost regarded as another word for “yoga”. “Pagal kare dao” — “make me mad” — was the aspiration! Of course, I am not speaking of the old Vaishnavism but of the present-day forms.

Disciple: Even in Sri Chaitanya you see that weeping and dancing and even restlessness.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It had already begun in his time.

The second thing is that our physical mind is not well developed. Being a dependent nation we have no scope for large action and therefore the development of our physical minds is poor. There must be something positive in the physical mind, an element that grasps at the Reality. In its own nature, the physical mind refuses to believe anything else except Matter to be real. There is the extremist like X who used to switch off the electric light when he saw the Light descending in his inner being! Not that kind of thing, but some element of it is necessary so that the physical mind may question everything and accept only the Truth.

Some of these Sadhakas see all kinds of visions. At times they see a buffalo and think that they have attained Siddhi — perfection! It never even once occurs to them to put the question: “After all, what do these visions mean?” “What have I gained from them so far?” If you suggest these questions they brush them aside.

30.01.1926

A disciple got fever which was suspected to be malarial. So the methods of cure were discussed.

Disciple: There is a method of resorting to Anushthan. In some they strike the head with a stone block or turn the beard etc. Is there any truth in these?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? Anything — even a hammer — can cure if you have the faith.

Disciple: Is faith by itself sufficient?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes; even Coué’s method is a combination of faith and will.

Disciple: Has Anushthan by itself no value?

Sri Aurobindo: If you have no faith then certainly it has no value. If you have faith it may not be necessary. But if you have faith in Anushthan then it is necessary.

Disciple: But certain people cure by using a Mantra.

Sri Aurobindo: Mantra is something different from Anusthan. Generally, it is a vital force that is put in the Mantra, it is not psychic or spiritual in its nature.

Disciple: Are there no psychic or spiritual Mantras and do they not undergo change by being put to egoistic purposes?

Sri Aurobindo: The psychic is the psychic and remains the psychic,— it does its work. It does not fail, it does not try to play the God as the vital and other forces do.

Disciple: Is Coué’s method only an Anushthan?

Sri Aurobindo: As I told you before, it is the combination of will and faith. But that is not enough by itself. Repeating the same words [“Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better”] is of the nature of an Anushthan. But there is a third something, I can’t say what it is, which is necessary. That something automatically comes down when the conditions are ready.

I used to get fever and sometimes something would come down and reject it successfully, while at other times you have to go on working at one thing again and again. I have seen that the strongest faith does not succeed; you may have the strongest will and yet the cure may not be effected.

Not that faith is not necessary or the will is not useful. But they both require a third element on whose coming down — even if there is opposition — the thing gets done. Generally, the idea is that one succeeds when the circumstances are favourable and when there is no strong opposition. But that is not always true.

When the third element is there then the opposition even does not matter, the success invariably comes.

04.02.1926

The subject this evening was the ideal of a “perfect body” which would be “incorruptible”.

Sri Aurobindo: The ideal is all right. But the physical being is not at all satisfactory — and one can’t get over it by ignoring facts.

Disciple: Mahatma Gandhi in his autobiography refers to many experiments with the body. He holds that the world has to become fit to receive the truth.

Sri Aurobindo: That is true. His autobiography will be a classical book in a line with the confessions of Rousseau and St. Augustine. But the question is whether his ideal is the Truth. That is to say, we must know whether we are on the right path when we advocate an ethical solution as final.

Then there was a turn in the conversation. A disciple asked about occult phenomena.

Disciple: There are cases of removal of flower-vases and movements of tables during occult seances. Are these things done by the power of suggestion?

Sri Aurobindo: No. The power of suggestion is not the explanation

Disciple: The report is that there is a smoky path stretching from the medium to the object.

Sri Aurobindo: That is possible; there are various forms of Matter. What we know is the grossest form but there are other subtler ranges of Matter, and each form has its own properties. There are seven earths mentioned in Indian mythology; also according to the Veda there are three earths. Karta Virya, the King, is reported to have conquered fourteen earths!

Disciple: Are there other bodies than the physical?

Sri Aurobindo: There is in fact no gap in man’s sheaths. It is a gamut or scale ascending from the lowest to the highest plane; and the principle of each is repeated in all. Thus all is in each. Otherwise the world cannot go on. There are four other bodies different from the material physical body which we have.

Disciple: What happens when the man dies and his physical body disappears?

Sri Aurobindo: When a thing disappears it may go into the next plane which is not the gross material, but is physical all the same. So there is no question of de-materialisation.

Disciple: There is an idea of materialisation and de-materialisation in the case of occult phenomena. For instance, if a material object appears, and then disappears, What is the explanation?

Sri Aurobindo: But what is de-materialisation? In fact, we must ask: what is Matter? It is made of certain forces or a play of forces holding up, or maintaining, the physical form, is it not?

Disciple: In that case can we not speak of “life” of an atom?

Sri Aurobindo: The explanation can be that when an object is made to disappear in the fourth dimension of space then it is de-materialisation and when it is put out from the fourth dimension into our space then it is materialisation, because then the object appears to us.

Disciple: But nowadays the scientists speak of the selective power of the atom; then can we not speak of “life” of an atom?

Sri Aurobindo: Life in an atom. But these things one has to see with the inner eye.

Disciple: What is meant by seeing with the inner eye, and by bodies in the fourth dimension?

Sri Aurobindo: It is a way of saying; more easily you can feel it, that is, be conscious of it.

Disciple: Does one know them?

Sri Aurobindo: One feels them. Knowledge and consciousness are not the same thing. It is not formulated knowledge. It is rather a feeling.

Disciple: But one sees no sign of life in an atom.

Sri Aurobindo: J. C. Bose has shown there is what may be called “fatigue” in metals and plants, and metals are sensitive to poisons.

Disciple: There is the reported case of the breaking of an iron rod by some subtle or occult force.

Sri Aurobindo: That is Life-force: it acts on the life-force in the metal. But in the metal it is so mechanical and so different from what we ordinarily know as “life” that we can’t call it “life”.

Form is the most visible sign of life in the atom. So there is a tendency in the physical atom to throw away anything that would destroy the form: there is an effort to preserve the form.

Disciple: If we do not see any sign of life how can we say that there is life?

Sri Aurobindo: Life or life-consciousness is a relative term. Of course it is not like man’s life or even life in the vegetable kingdom.

Disciple: Then how to say that there is life or consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: You can only experience it. If you enter into the universal consciousness which is common to all things then you can feel the metal’s parsimonious and spare manifestation of life. In Matter itself and around it you can feel this life and enter into it by identification with the universal spirit. When a blow is given to the table you can feel that you are struck — of course, you can speak of it metaphorically, you can’t demonstrate it but you can identify your self with it.

Disciple: How can one begin to feel this identification?

Sri Aurobindo: The first thing one sees when one has broken the barrier is the vital-physical body. It is around the physical body and with the physical it forms as it were the “nervous envelope”. The force of a disease has to break through it to reach the body — except for the attacks on the most material parts.

You can then feel the disease coming and also feel in the nervous envelope the part of the body which it is going to, or intending to, attack because what is in the nervous envelope has a material counterpart in the body. Thus it is the vital-physical which is first attacked and then the force takes the form of a disease in the system.

I had myself the experience of fever all around the body.

Disciple: Should one be sensitive to these disturbances?

Sri Aurobindo: All disturbance and agitation is a sign of weakness. One must be stolid, and attend to the development of consciousness. No agitation — only feeling and knowledge.

Disciple: Is there continuity in Matter?

Disciple: And there is the same selection under the same conditions, so we can say that it is mechanical only and there is no “life”!

Sri Aurobindo: It has life — but it is life of quite another kind. There is consciousness in it also — but it is involved and works under mechanical laws and it is not individualised. In material objects there are physical forces trying to maintain the forms. But there is even some life-force gathered round the form by the universal consciousness which is behind it.

Perhaps it even gets experience but the experience is not recorded. There is no growth, because there is no individualisation. And even that idea — of individualiation — is relative. You can say, “It has a kind of individuality.” But relatively speaking it has none. Man is more individualised, though one can say he is not yet truly an individual, because the true individuality has not yet manifested.

20.12.1938

After his lunch at about 4-30 p.m. I was reading to him the memorial oration on X by a prominent public man. One after the other, beginning from the Governor, had praised him in the most superlative terms, e.g., “upright”, “honest”, “at great friend of the poor” etc., hearing which Sri Aurobindo exclaimed,

“Good Lord!” and burst into laughter and remarked: “X ought to be canonized: St. X. One can generalise the statement that all men are liars. Such is public life. When Y died, D and others who were life-long against him did the same thing.”

Then we began talking about Homeopathy, its difference from Allopathy, its doses etc., etc.

Sri Aurobindo remarked that Homeopathy is nearer to yoga and allopathy is more mechanical. Homeopathy deals with the physical personality, the symptoms put together making up the physical personality, while allopathy goes by diagnosis which does not consider the personality. The action of Homeopathy is more subtle and dynamic.

Then a disciple said that some yogis go to Samadhi as a release from bodily pain and suffering. But there are those who don’t do that and bear the pain.

16.10.1939

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Yogis can go into Samadhi and put and end to the sensations. But it is not necessary to have a disease in order to go into Samadhi. Besides, when one decides to bear it, it seems to me a way of accepting the disease. But I don’t understand the utility of going into Samadhi to escape from pain.

Ramakrishna once said to Keshav Chandra Sen, when the former was seriously ill, that his body was breaking up under the stress of his spiritual development. But there is no necessity of having a disease for the sake of spiritual development.

Disciple: If Ramakrishna had had the will he would have prevented the disease.

Sri Aurobindo: Oh yes. But he did not believe in such will, or prayer to the Divine to cure his disease.

Disciple: It is said that he got his cancer because of the sins of his disciples.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. He said so himself and, when he said that, it must be true. You know he is said to have given arguments for and against the view that the Guru has to take up many things of the disciples upon himself.

The Mother does that because she unites himself with the disciple; takes them up into herself. Of course, she at the same time stops also many things from happening in herself. A famous yogi told a disciple of his when he was becoming a Guru, “In addition to your own difficulties you are taking up those of others.” Of course, if one cuts the connection with the disciples then that can’t happen but that means no work and the Sadhakas are left to themselves without support.

This sort of interchange is very common. Wherever two persons meet, the interchange is going on. In that way one contracts a disease from another without any infection by germs. N. was conscious of what he was receiving from others and did not care to think about what he was passing to them. Not only that, he even thought he had power for good or for evil. Bad thoughts may affect others. That is why Buddha used to emphasise right thought etc. You find some people cannot do without meeting others. What is after all the passion of man and woman for each other? Nothing but this vital interchange, this drawing in of forces from each other. When a woman has a need of someone else, that means she is in need of a vital force from him. Woman and man running after each other means this interchange or drawing. Of course, it takes place unconsciously; even in ordinary life when a person does not like another he does not know the reason but it means that their vital beings don’t agree. You know the lines.

“I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,

The reason why I cannot tell.”

One may not know exactly if it is the incapacity of the vital or disagreement. You see people — men and women — quarreling violently with each other and yet they can’t do without each other; that is because each has a need of the vital force from the other. Of course the need has been imposed on the woman by man. Woman has almost always such a necessity. That is what is called being in love. In all societies they established the husband-and-wife relation so that this exchange and interchange may be limited to each other and an equation may be established.

Disciple: But if one draws more, then there is a risk.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course. If one receives more than what he gives then there may be bad consequences for the other. You know what Hindu Astrology says about “Rakshasa Yoga”; a husband who loses many wives one after another means that instead of supporting them he is eating them up.

Disciple: What are vampires?

Sri Aurobindo: Those who constantly draw from others’ vital beings without giving anything in return we call vampires.

Disciple: Are they so by nature or owing to some possession?

Sri Aurobindo: May be either. There are men vampires as there are women vampires. There is also the vital which is expansive in its nature. In such a case one has the need of pouring out the vital force. But there is again another kind of expansive vital which is the Hitlerian vital, catching hold of other people and keeping them under one’s grip.

Disciple: Is psychic love of that nature?

Sri Aurobindo: Of course not. The law of the psychic is to give without making any demand.

21.12.1938

Disciple: There was a time when barbers occupied a respectable place in medicine.

Sri Aurobindo: Why, during the middle ages, it seems, most of the surgeons were barbers. (After a pause) I understand there are Kavirajas — physicians who can, by examining the pulse, state the physical condition and the disease of the patient, is that true?

Disciple: No one has seen these claims demonstrated. I have heard of some remarkable Nadi — pulse — specialists who can even say what the patient had eaten a few days ago. (laughter) Can we accept these claims?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? How do you know they are not correct? Many sciences are built up by experience and intuition. They are handed down by tradition; for example, the Chinese method of treatment by finding and pricking the nerve-centres.

Disciple: It is said of Dhanavantari, the father of Ayurveda, that he came to know the medicinal properties of plants by intuition. He would, it seems, stand before a plant and question the plant and it would reveal its properties to him.

Sri Aurobindo: (smiling) He was the physician of the Gods and so nothing is unnatural for him. (laughter) (after a pause) Ayurveda is the first system of medicine; it originated in India. Medicine, mathematical notation and astrology all went from India to Arabia, and from there they travelled to Greece. There three humours of which Hippocrates and Galen speak are an Indian idea.

Disciple: At Calcutta and other places they are trying to start Ayurvedic schools. I think it is good. It will be a combination of Eastern and Western methods, especially of Western Anatomy and Surgery.

Sri Aurobindo: Why! Anatomy and Surgery were known to Indians. There were many surgical instruments in India. For an ancient system like the Ayurveda I doubt if the modern method of teaching would do. Modern methods make the whole subject too mental,— too intellectual, while the ancient systems were more intuitional. These subjects used to be handed down from Guru to disciple. The same is true about yoga. One can’t think of schools and colleges and studies about yoga. That would be an American idea. The centre of yoga teaching in America has been holding classes and giving lectures and courses.

Disciple: Perhaps Hatha-Yoga can be taught that way.

Sri Aurobindo: Even that would be only the external part.

25.12.1938

Doctor X insisted on removing the splints that were attached to Sri Aurobindo’s fractured thigh but all those who were in attendance could not assent to his proposal. At last the doctor departed leaving the question to be decided by Sri Aurobindo. When he was asked his opinion he said:

I do not want to take a risk. I have to be careful as I am not sure that some violent movement would not take place in sleep. And there are the adverse forces to be considered. The specialist says ten weeks, Dr. X says six; so we will take a via media that will satisfy both.

Disciple: Dr. X always emphasises that you are an extraordinary patient who can be trusted to follow directions.

Sri Aurobindo: In that case I have to take extraordinary care. (After an interval of silence during which the Mother came and departed for meditation, Sri Aurobindo himself continued); It seems the doctors are born to differ. Medical science has developed much knowledge but in application it is either an art or a fluke.

Disciple: Perhaps it has not attained exactness in its application because of individual variation.

Sri Aurobindo: They have not found any drug that can be called a specific for a particular disease,— I am thinking of Allopathy. I know nothing about Homeopathy. Even in theory, which they have developed remarkably, there is always a change. What they hold true today is discarded as invalid after ten years. A French doctor has proved with statistics that T.B. is not a contagious disease.

He says it is hereditary. I myself have not found it contagious. Or, take diet — they are changing their ideas constantly about it.

Disciple: Besides uncertainty of the medicine and treatment, there are doctors who are incapable and even unscrupulous. I think that the medical profession should be under State-control.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t believe in that. I like State-control less than a Medical Council’s control.

Disciple: Something like the action of the Country Council in London would be desirable. There a regular medical check-up is enjoined.

Sri Aurobindo: What about poor yogis who may not like being examined?

Disciple: The nationalisation of medical service is envisaged. Patients of a particular locality are placed under the charge of a doctor and it appears they can’t change the doctor without sufficient reason.

Sri Aurobindo: If the patient has no faith in the doctor, or if he does not like him?

Disciple: That is not a sufficient reason, for the council sees that all the doctors are well-trained.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? it is an excellent reason. Why should there be no choice? You may as well ask a patient to be under our doctor X and not go to Y. I have no faith in Government controls because I believe in a certain amount of freedom — freedom to find out things for oneself in one’s own way, even freedom to commit blunders. Nature leads us through various errors and mistakes. When Nature created the human being with all his. possibilities of errors and mistakes she knew very well what she was about. Freedom for experiment in human life is a great thing. Without the freedom to take risk and commit mistakes there can be no progress.

Disciple: But without sufficient growth of consciousness one may abuse the freedom.

Sri Aurobindo: One must take the risk. Growth of consciousness cannot come without freedom. You can, of course, have certain elementary laws, and develop sanitation, spread knowledge of health and hygiene among the people. The State can provide medical aid certainly, but when one goes beyond one’s province then the error comes in. To say that one can’t change one’s doctor, it seems to me, is a little too much. In Indian spirituality they have allowed all sorts of experiments including Varna Marga, and you see how wonderfully it has developed.

Mechanisation has begun from the pressure exerted by the developments of the physical sciences in which one can be exact, precise and where everything is mechanical. It is tried and found to be all right so far as physical things are concerned because, if you make a mistake there, Nature knocks you on the nose and you are compelled to see your error. But the moment you deal with Life and Mind, you cannot apply the same rules. If you apply them then you may go on committing mistakes and never know it. You fail to see this because of a fixed idea which tries to fit in everything according to its own conception.

Everything is moving towards that in Europe. The Totalitarian states do not believe in any individual variation and even other non-totalitarian States are obliged to follow them. They do it for the sake of efficiency. It is the efficiency of the States as an organisation, the machine, and not of the individual. The individual has no freedom. He does not grow. Organise by all means but there must be scope for freedom and plasticity.

Disciple: Bernard Shaw justified the Abyssinian conquest of Italy by saying that there was danger to human life while passing through the Dankal desert.

Sri Aurobindo: In that case, let him keep out of the desert. What business has he to go through the desert?

Disciple: The idea is that Italy will bring a new culture to Abyssinia,— roads and other features of modern civilisation.

Sri Aurobindo: You think the Abyssinians and Negroes have no art and no culture? Of course, if you walk into a Negro den they might kill you. But the same thing is being done in Germany! How many people in England are aesthetically developed? And about buildings and roads, looking at life in Port Said: could anyone say that the people there are more civilised than the Negroes? Have you read Phanindra Nath Bose’s book on the Santhals? He shows that the Santhals are not at all inferior to other classes of Indians in ethics. So also about the Arabian races, Mr. Blunt praises them very highly as a sympathetic and honest people. Do you think that the average man of today is far better than a Greek two thousand years ago, or to an Indian of those times? Look at the condition of Germany today. You can’t say that it is progressing.

I have come in contact with the Indian masses and found them better than the Europeans of the same class. They are superior to the European working-class. The latter may be more efficient but that is due to other reasons. The Governor here remarked during riots that the labourers are very docile and humble; only when they take to drink they become violent. The Irish doctor who was in our jail could not think how the young men who were so gentle and attractive could be revolutionaries. I found even the ordinary criminal quite human and better than his counterpart in Europe.

There will always remain different states of development of humanity. It is a fallacy to say that education will do everything. Our civilisation is not an unmixed good. You have only to look at civilised races in Europe.

What is the state of affairs in Nazi Germany? It is terrible, it is extremely difficult for an individual to assert himself. All are living in a state of tension. In that tension either the whole structure will break up with a crash, or all life will be crushed out of the people. In both cases the result is a disaster.

Society is after all reverting to the old system,— only in a different form. There is a revival of the old system of monarchy with an aristocracy and the mass. There is the Führer or the leader; that is to say, the king. You have thus the sovereign man, his party — the aristocracy, the chosen — and the general mass. The same is the case with Fascism and Communism. Only the Brahmin class — the intellectuals — have no place.

It is curious how a thing gets spoiled when it gets recognition. Democracy was something better when it was not called democracy. When the name is given the truth of it seems to go out.

Disciple: X used to be a great admirer of Socialism. He used to say it is heaven without a god.

Sri Aurobindo: Why could not he go there? If he had gone there he would have been suppressed. I had foreseen that socialism would take away all freedom of the individual.

Disciple: Is there any difference between Communism and Nazism?

Sri Aurobindo: Practically none. The Nazis call themselves National Socialists while the others are mere Socialists; in Communism it is a proletarian Government and there are no separate classes. The Nazis have kept the classes, only they are all bound to the State, everything is under State-control just as in Communism.

Disciple: But Communism began with a high ideal and it must be better than Fascism or Nazism.

Sri Aurobindo: In which way better? Formely people were unconscious, slaves, now under Communism they are conscious slaves. In the former regime they could resort to a strike when they were dissatisfied, now they can’t. The main question is whether the people have freedom or not. But they are bound to the State, the dictator and the party. They can’t even choose the dictator. And whoever differs from them is mercilessly suppressed. You know the way they are doing it.

Disciple: But with the abolition of class-distinction there is now perhaps a sense of equality among all — nobody is superior or inferior.

Sri Aurobindo: How? At first the leaders, the generals and others went to run the machines and industrial organisations in Russia. But they found it was not possible; then they had to bring in specialists and pay them highly. The condition of the working class in Russia is no better than that of the similar class in England or France. They, certainly, have done some good things with regard to women and children, or about medical help. But that is being done in many other countries like France and England.

Disciple: Why are people like Romain Rolland so enthusiastic about Russia?

Sri Aurobindo: Probably, because they are Socialists. But they are getting disillusioned. Plenty of French workers went to Russia and came back disappointed. The same thing had happened when democracy had come. People thought there would be plenty of liberty, but they found it was a delusion.

Disciple: But formerly they were serving the Emperor and now they serve their own people.

Sri Aurobindo: Certainly not,— where did you get the idea from? The Emperor had nothing to do with the Government. It was the capitalist class that ruled the country. The same is the case today whatever name one may give.

The whole thing — whatever its name — is a fraud. It is impossible to change humanity by political machinery — it can’t be done.

30.12.1938

The subject of the talk was Homeopathy.

Disciple: I am puzzled to think how such infinitesimal doses in dilution can act on the human system.

Sri Aurobindo: That is no puzzle to me. Sometimes the infinitesimal is more powerful than the mass; it approaches more and more the subtle state and from the physical goes into a dynamic or vital state and acts vitally.

*

In the evening a letter from a disciple describing vividly his being persecuted was read.

Disciple: Is it a case of possession?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, It is the possession of the nervous system and vital system and vital mind. It is not like insanity. It is very difficult to convince these people that their ideas of persecution are false. There are two types: one imagines all sorts of things,— 80 per cent cases are of this type; and the other twists everything.

My brother Manmohau had this persecution mania; he was always in fear of something terrible happening to him. He used to think that the British Government was going to arrest him!

Disciple: But he was a very successful professor; I heard that people used to listen to his lectures with rapt attention.

Sri Aurobindo: He was very painstaking; most of the professors don’t work hard. I saw that his books used to be interleaved and marked and full of notes. Then Sri Aurobindo, looking at X, said: “I was not so conscientious a professor.”

Disciple: But people who heard you in College and those who heard you afterwards in politics differ from you. They speak very highly of your lectures.

Sri Aurobindo: I never used to look at the notes and sometimes my explanations did not agree with them at all. I was professor of English and for some time of French. What was surprising to me was that the students used to take down everything verbatim and mug it up by heart. Such a thing would never have happened in England.

Disciple: But we did that in England!

Sri Aurobindo: Did what?

Disciple: Take notes and mug them up.

Sri Aurobindo: You can take notes and utilise them in your own way.

Disciple: No, that was not the case. We used to take down everything verbatim because the professors used to bring in many theorise and recent discoveries. Besides, each professor had his own fad.

Sri Aurobindo: It may be so in medicine, there is not much scope for original thinking. But in the arts it is not like that. You listen to the lectures, take notes if you like and then make what you can of them. There was always a demand for the student’s point of view.

The students at Baroda, besides taking my notes, used to get notes of other professors from Bombay, especially if he was an examiner.

Once I was giving a lecture on Southey’s Life of Nelson, and my lecture was not in agreement with the notes. So the students remarked that it was not at all like what was found in them. I replied that I had not read notes; in any case they were all rubbish I could never go into minute details. I read and left my mind to do what it could That is why I could never become a scholar. Up to the age of fifteen I was known as a very promising scholar at St. Paul’s. After fifteen I lost that reputation. The teachers used to say that I was lazy and was deteriorating.

Disciple: How was that?

Sri Aurobindo: Because I was reading novels and poetry. Only at the time of the examination I used to prepare a little, when, now and then, I used to write Greek and Latin verse my teachers used to lament that I was not utilising my remarkable gifts because of my laziness.

When I went for scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge, Oscar Browning remarked that he had not seen such remarkable papers before. So, you see, in spite of all laziness I was not deteriorating.

Disciple: Was there a prejudice against Indians at that time?

Sri Aurobindo: No. There was no distinction between an Englishman and an Indian. Only the lower class people used to shout “Blackie Blackie”. But it was just the beginning. It was brought by Anglo-Indians and Englishmen retiring from the colonies. It is a result of Democracy, I suppose. But among cultured Englishmen it was unknown and they treated us as equals.

But in France one never heard of such prejudices. Once some Paris hotel-manager, pressed by ten Americans, asked some Negroes to to leave the hotel. I don’t know if you have read the story in the papers. As soon as it came to the President’s notice, he sent an order that if the hotel proprietor did that his hotel license would be cancelled. They have Negro governors and officers, taxi-drivers etc. There was a Senegalese deputy who used to designate the governors. I wonder why they have never appointed any Indian deputy in Pondicherry. The English have a certain liberality and common sense.

Disciple: Liberality?

Sri Aurobindo: By liberality I don’t mean generosity but a sort of freedom of consciousness and a certain fairness. Because of these, along with their public spirit, there is not such confusion in public life in England as in France or in America. The English can vehemently criticise one another in the press — even personally — but that does not affect their private relationship. You have seen how Brailsford has attacked Chamberlain; but their friendship, or private relations, won’t be affected by that.

Disciple: That might be only for show.

Sri Aurobindo: No, it is quite genuine and there is a great freedom of speech in England.

Disciple: Vivekananda said that it is difficult to make friends with an Englishman, but once the friendship is made it lasts a life-time.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite true.

Disciple: Jean Herbert says that the Japanese are also like that. They are very polite and formal but once you can make friends they are a very good friends.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. The Japanese are very polite in their manners and conduct, but they don’t admit you to their private life. They have a wonderful power of self-control. They don’t lose their temper or quarrel with you; but if their honour is violated they may kill you. They can be bitter enemies. And where honour is concerned, if they do not kill you, they may kill themselves at your door. For instance, if a Japanese killed himself at an Englishman’s door it would be impossible for the latter to live there any more. Even in crime the Japanese have a strange sense of values If a robber entered a house and the house holder told him that he required some money, the robber would part with some of it; but if he said that he had a debt of honour to pay then the robber would leave all the money and go away. Imagine such a house-breaker in England or America! The Japanese also have a high sense of chivalry. In the Russo-Japanese war when the Russians were defeated the Mikado almost shed tears thinking of the Czar of Russia! That was his sense of Chivalry.

When a congregation of fifty thousand persons was caught in a fire due to an earthquake there was not a single cry, not a mutter. All men were standing up and chanting a Buddhist hymn. That is a heroic people with wonderful self-control.

Disciple: If they have such self-control they would be very good at yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: Ah, self-control alone is not enough for yoga. They are more an ethical race; their rules are extremely difficult to follow.

But these things perhaps belong to the past. It is a great pity that people who have carried such ideals into practice are losing them through contact with European civilisation. That is a great harm that European vulgarising has done to Japan. Now you find most people mercantile in their outlook and they will do anything for the sake of money.

Nakashima’s mother when she returned from America to Japan — as is the custom with the Japanese — was so horrified to see the present-day Japan that she went back to America! That the Japanese are not a spiritual race can be seen from the case of H, who was a great patriot and full of schemes for the future but at the same time did not like the modern trends of Japan. He used to say: “My psychic being has become a traitor.”

Disciple: Have you read Noguchi’s letter to Tagore defending Japan’s aggression?

Sri Aurobindo: No. But there are always two sides to a question. I don’t believe in such shouts against Imperialism. Conquests of that sort were, at one time, regarded as a normal activity of political life; now you do it under some pretensions and excuses. Almost every nation does it. What about China herself? She took Kashgar in the same way. The very name Kashgar shows that the Chinese have no business to be there. Apart from the new fashions of killing there is nothing wrong in war. It is the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy that cries out against it; the French don’t.

Disciple: It is said of the French that they don’t usually lose their head, but when they lose it they lose it well.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the Indian also was considered docile and mild like the elephant, but once he is off the line you better keep out of his way.

Now there is a new morality in the air. They talk of pacifism, anti-nationalism, anti-militarism etc. But it is talked by those who can’t do anything. In any case, it has to stand the test of time.

Disciple: J used to be wild when England began to shout against Italy’s war on Abyssinia. Of course, J does not defend Italy, but England should be the last nation to speak against it.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite so. England was the only country that defended air-bombing because the English wanted to kill the Pathans.

Disciple: Has European civilisation nothing good in it?

Sri Aurobindo: It has lowered the moral tone of humanity. Of course, it has brought hygiene, sanitation etc. Even nineteenth-century civilisation with its defects was better than this. Europe could not stand the last war.

The ancients tried to keep to their ideals and made an effort to raised them higher, while Europe lost all her ideals after the war. People have become cynical, selfish etc. What you hear of post-war England, post-war Germany, is not all wrong. Have you not heard Arjava (Chadwick) inveighing against post-war England? I suppose it is all due to commercialism.

10.01.1939

Disciple: My friend X has begun to give medicine to some of my patients.

Sri Aurobindo: So, you have your “Homeo-Allo” alliance or axis!

Talk on Homeopathy was going on when the Mother came.

Mother: Do you know about a school of Homeopathy in Switzerland which is very famous in Europe? It prepares medicines also. They have books in which symptoms are grouped together and remedies are indicated for a group of symptoms. It is a very convenient method; only, you have to have the book, or a good memory. But are you allowed to practise Homeopathy without licence?

Disciple: Oh, yes. No licence is required in India.

Disciple: But Dr. S was saying that using high potencies might harm, or even kill, the patient. It is dangerous if everybody begins to practice it, they say.

Disciple: In Bengal it is practised everywhere.

Sri Aurobindo: Is Unani medicine practised in India?

Disciple: Yes, in cities where there is a Mahomedan population, and in the Muslim States In Delhi there is the Tibbi College founded by Hakim Ajmal Khan. It seems it is the only school of Unani medicine in the whole of Asia. Students from Turkey, Egypt and Afghanistan used to come there to learn. Ajmal Khan was the direct descendant of the court Hakim to the Mogul Emperors. From where is their system derived?

Sri Aurobindo: It is from the Greek school. They use animal products and salts. Besides curing, which is common to all the systems, the Unani lays claim to rejuvenating the human organism. Many diseases which require an operation for their cure in Allopathy are cured by Unani and Ayurvedic medicines without an operation.

There were many specific cures known in India but I am afraid they are getting lost. I remember the case of Jyotindra Nath Bannerji who had a remedy for sterility from a Sannyasi and he used it with success. Many cases of barrenness for ten or fifteen years were cured within a short time. The directions for taking the medicine were very scrupulously to be observed. He knew also a remedy for hydrocele.

Mother: Do you know about Chinese medicine? Once they had a rule that you paid the doctor so long as you were well. AH payment stopped when one became ill, and if the patient died they used to put a mark on the doctor’s door to show that his patient had died.

But the Chinese method of pricking the nerve and curing the disease is very remarkable. The idea is that there is a point of the nerve where the attack of the disease is concentrated by the attacking force and if you prick the point, or, as they say, the Devil on the head, the disease is cured. They find out this nervous point from the indications that the patient gives, or sometimes they find out by themselves also.

Disciple: I do not think that any system of medicine can succeed in curing all diseases. I believe that only yogic power can cure all diseases.

Disciple: Even that is not unconditional; otherwise, it might be very nice. There are conditions to be fulfilled for the yogic power to succeed.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you expect that the yogic power, or consciousness will simply say “Let there be no disease”, and there will be no disease?

Disciple: Not that way. But cases of miraculous cures are known, that is, cures effected without any conditions.

Sri Aurobindo: That is another matter. Otherwise, the Yogi has to get up every morning and say, “Let everybody in the world be all right” and there would be no disease in the world! (laughter)

25.12.1939

Disciple: The Jain books speak of Trikal Jnana, practical omniscience. If one has this power one can know how a thing happened. One can know how the accident to you happened.

Sri Aurobindo: It is a question of changing the subconscient which holds everything in itself, all diseases, habits and everything else which we call “Nature”.

Disciple: But how could the accident happen?

Sri Aurobindo: It was because I was unguarded and something forced its way into the subconscient. There is a stage in Yogic advance when the least negligence would not do.

Disciple: But how can the knee-joint be cured by the higher Force?

Sri Aurobindo: The right kind of Force does not come down on the knee-joint. If it came it would be cured.

Disciple: You feel the dark forces?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: Do they try to prevent the recovery?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: There is a belief that the reactions of certain actions are unavoidable: that is to say, one has to bear the consequences in the physical, one can’t avoid them. I heard that the Mother told A that his incurable defect of the body could be cured by the descent of the Supramental Power. Is it possible?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, by the descent of the Supramental Power into A, not into anybody else.

Disciple: But in that case the Supramental descent can change stones and metals.

Sri Aurobindo: In stones and metals there is no mind which requires to be changed. It is not so difficult to effect a change in them. So if the Supermind descends into you it will do,— there is no need to solve all problems.

Disciple: But it must take place in you first and if it happens what changes will it bring about?

Sri Aurobindo: My work is to fix it in the earth-consciousness and its establishment in me would be a part of it. It would make its descent possible in others also.

Disciple: We hear that great Siddhas used to cure the sickness of others by mere touch, Ramakrishna gave even yogic experience by a touch.

Sri Aurobindo: There are different kinds of powers by which these things are done; they are miracles. But the power to perform miracles is not necessarily a sign of spirituality. In this yoga we leave things to the Divine; if these powers come as a part of the divine movement then they have a place.

Disciple: Are there not Karmas — actions — the results of which are unavoidable? Even Jain Tirthankars and Buddhas had to undergo the results of their actions done in the past. Can it be said in your case that the accident was the result of “Utkata-Karma?”

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t think so. For me it is a part of the fight against forces of ignorance and against hostile forces.

Disciple: Your foot slipped on the tiger-skin. Now, suppose you had beaten a tiger in your past life with a stick, then it may give you a fractured leg this time.

Sri Aurobindo: No. Then it would come and kill me this time. The Law of Karma is not mathematical or mechanical. The Law of Karma simply put is: when certain energies are put forward then certain results tend to be produced. Karma is not the fundamental law of consciousness. The basic law is spiritual. Karma is a secondary machinery to help the consciousness to grow by experience. The laws of being are primarily spiritual. It is quite possible to eliminate the Karmic force — it is not absolute. It is the mind that formulates these laws; and the mind always tries to put them as absolute.

Disciple: Can one say that the accident has done “good”?

Sri Aurobindo: I have advanced very much further after November last. I have found time to write some books; now I get more time to concentrate.

Disciple: Have the disciples made progress during this period?

Sri Aurobindo: Even D who formerly could not believe in the silent working of the Power now says that the stopping of Pranams has made the silent work more possible.

Disciple: D always wanted you to write books.

Sri Aurobindo: Not only that, he wanted me to write more poetry and more letters to him. (laughter)

19.07.1943

Disciple: A has written to some one in Bengal that the vital being in man is responsible for diseases and that the body has no part in it. What do you think of it?

Sri Aurobindo: You can say “matter” knows nothing about good and bad, or sick and healthy. But the human body, I mean the physical consciousness, is not “matter”. It is conscious, and therefore it can have its own responsibility with regard to diseases.

Disciple: It seems A’s standpoint referred to repentance and expiation. He wanted to say that to punish the body for the faults of the vital being or of the mind was to punish John for Jack.

Sri Aurobindo: One may differ on that point too. To consider as if the body, the vital and the mind were so cut off from each other as not to have any mutual reaction is not true So the physical can react on the vital being.

Disciple: But the physical being in us is not as conscious as the vital or the mental being.

Sri Aurobindo: The physical may be said to be more inconscient than the other parts, but that would not prevent it from exerting a very powerful influence on the other parts.

Besides, the decision to fast, or to do physical Tapasya, is taken by the vital and the mental being in man. It is not the, body that takes the decision.

Disciple: But in the psychological paths of yoga physical Tapasya is not regarded as necessary.

Sri Aurobindo: The reason why physical Tapasya, or mortification of the flesh, is not considered effective or is discouraged, is that by itself it is not sufficient to bring about a change in the vital or in the mind. You may do Tapasya all right and yet the vital may remain absolutely unchanged.

Such a change can be more easily brought about by the consciousness acting directly without resorting to physical means. Consciousness has a more direct means of bringing about the required change.

There is another reason for this discouragement: physical Tapasya, when properly done, brings about a great increase in energy, and then the result of it depends upon who takes hold of the energy. Generally it is seen that wrong forces take hold of this energy. In exceptional cases only can one go through without disaster.

The root of the whole trouble is in the subconscient, and so the difficulty arises from there.

But if the Tapasya is taken up by the consciousness — say, by some part of the consciousness like the vital, then it can effect the necessary change.

20.03.1943

A devotee who was suffering from cancer died. The talk refers to the subject.

Disciple: Do you think that R could have been cured? Most people believe that cancer is incurable.

Sri Aurobindo: It was possible in his case, at least; but something in him ceased to respond after the February-Darshan. The last three days his body did not respond either to the force put upon him, or to the medicine given.

Disciple: Could not the spiritual help be effective irrespective of his response?

Sri Aurobindo: In cases like this the entire collaboration of the person concerned is absolutely necessary.

Disciple: But if you know the force that is attacking?

Sri Aurobindo: To detect the force that is attacking is one thing and to drive it out is another. In these cases the mind plays a very great part. R had made up his mind that he would wait for the Darshan and die afterwards. Besides when he came here the disease was very much advanced.

Disciple: What are the conditions for success in such cases?

Sri Aurobindo: Either entire collaboration or complete passivity. These are the two conditions for a cure.

Disciple: Do you think Dr. A’s Homeopathic treatment could have prolonged his life?

Sri Aurobindo: He would have probably finished him earlier.

Part 1. Chapter V. On Art

26.01.1927

We were showing an art journal published from Andhra. On seeing some of the reproductions Sri Aurobindo made the following remarks: —

Sri Aurobindo: The further you go back in time greater the grandeur you meet in the conception. The nearer you come to our time the more the art becomes great in detail. Even up to the time of the Delvada Temples something of the old culture was living. One must bring the tide back.

Disciple: But why is it gone?

Sri Aurobindo: That is the law. You can’t have the creative spirit always at the height.

Disciple: What we require is the reawakening of the Spirit, it is not necessary to have the same or similar form or style.

Sri Aurobindo: In spirituality, in the arts, in poetry you find the same foundation in old times. You find a certain “calm strength” founded on the Spirit, and all expression proceeds on the basis of that “calm strength.” In modern art as soon as you begin to give place to, or substitute, vital fantasies and other elements instead of that “calm strength” you find that art deteriorates. It becomes an effort, a straining to express, it becomes artificial and even vulgar. In ancient times they expressed what they had and were. The Upanishads have not been rivalled since because of their “calm strength”.

In a way, the same thing applies to yoga also. For example, my objection to the whole old Vaishnavite method of Sadhana is that it gives too much of an opening to the demoralising spirit of the vital world.

Disciple: But is there no truth in the old Vaishnavite method?

Sri Aurobindo: Not that there is no truth in it; but it is lacking in that “calm strength” of the Spirit. For instance, why should a man put on a sari because he feels Radha-Bhava? Let him feel it and realise it within. But that way of bringing down a law of another plane to the plane where another law holds, and trying to impose it there, introduces a falsehood. That is to say, even the truth in it is turned into a falsehood.

28.01.1926

Disciple: Do you find signs of decadence in the art of painting?

Sri Aurobindo: I do not find any sign of decadence; only, in old times they had grandeur, as you come nearer to our times you find they do finer and more delicate work. For example, late Rajput painting; the fundamental spirit is the same in it. Formerly it was thought that there was a gulf between Ajanta and the Rajput School of painting, but the Nepalese, the Tibetan and Central Asian finds of painting prove the continuity of Indian art. Almost in every culture one sees that in earlier times there is grandeur of conception, while later on it becomes more conscious and vital,— detailed and delicate in expression.

After waiting for some time Sri Aurobindo resumed.

Sri Aurobindo: Did you refer to the dictionary to find out whether “Chaitya Purusha” can mean “the Psychic being”, “the Soul”?

Disciple (1): I did, but the word is not given there in that sense; it only carries the sense of Chaitya of the Buddhas and the Jainas.

Sri Aurobindo: That is quite another meaning. But what about this one?

Disciple: But you have yourself used it in the Arya at two places.

Sri Aurobindo: How is that? Where?

Disciple: In the Synthesis of Yoga, in the fourth chapter about the “Four Aids” you have mentioned there “Chaitya Guru”, the inner guide.

Disciple (1): In Vaishnavite literature it means the portion,— Amsha — of the Divine which guides a man. It is called Chaitya Guru.

Sri Aurobindo: I wanted to know if the word has a fixed connotation. If it has not, then one can use the word “Chaitya Purusha” for the “Psychic being”. It has the advantage of carrying both the functions of the Psychic being: it is the direct portion of the Divine in the human and it is also the being that is behind the Chitta.

Disciple (1): There is an idea of publishing some of your old writings.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the other day I was looking over the Karma Yogin series with an idea of correcting and it seemed to me as if somebody else had written the book!

Disciple (1): What do you mean by “somebody else”?

Disciple (2): Perhaps he means not his present self but some past personality which is now gone or absorbed.

Sri Aurobindo: It is always very disappointing to read one’s own writing. One feels how ignorant one was!

Disciple (1): But the writing can be recast, though it might mean a lot of labour.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that I have not written enough?

Disciple (1): Did you read the last issue of the Rupam? There O. C. Gangooly says that he has found the reason for the Mithuna — a pair of male and female — being kept in all the temples in {{0}}India[[Ref: Rupam, April-July 1925; “The Mithunar in Indian art” “Mithunai Vibhushayet” Agni Purana (Bibliotheca Indica)]].

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I saw the article. Did you read the quotation at the end?

Disciple (1): Yes, I read it, but it does not say why it is to be there.

Sri Aurobindo: I think he says at one place that it typifies the male and the female — the Purusha and the Prakritiaspect without which there is no creation.

But at one place he speaks of the Mithuna verging on the obscene. But I did not see anything of that sort in the illustrations.

Disciple: No, there are no such illustrations; but I think he has not given the worst ones. They are at Puri and Konarak they say.

Sri Aurobindo: Has anyone seen them? You know, Gangooly wanted me to recast the chapters on Architecture and {{0}}Sculpture[[From A Defence of Indian Culture — subsequently published under the title The Foundations of Indian Culture.]] cut out the strictures on William Archer and give the remainder serially in the Rupam.

Disciple: Why cut the strictures out?

Sri Aurobindo: Because, he said, Archer need not be answered. Of all the chapters on Indian art I think those on Architecture and Sculpture are the best. While writing the chapter on painting I was tried and besides I have a great natural predilection for the other two arts. Appreciation of painting I cultivated afterwards, I acquired it — I had not got it by nature as that of the other two arts. And, even then, in painting I have to get at the spirit and I can get at it — but I do not know about the technique. In architecture also I do not know the technical terms but yet I can seize on it.

Disciple: You have dwelt on sculpture, architecture and painting, but you have left music to sing itself.

Sri Aurobindo: You may as well ask me to write about trigonometry! (laughter) I can get at the spirit of the singer and catch the emotion; but in appreciating art that is not enough.

(After some time) In these matters of natural predilections, we have an element from our past lives; one always brings something from the past.

I got my true taste for painting in Alipore jail. I used to meditate there and I saw various pictures with colours during meditations and then the critical faculty also arose in me. What I mean is that I did not know intellectually about painting but I caught the Spirit of it.

31.03.1926

An album of Abanindranath Tagore came and was shown to Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo: Are these pictures of Abanindranath his latest ones? They have given me a peculiar impression.

Disciple: They are his paintings and portraits since 1923. Do you find that he has deteriorated?

Sri Aurobindo: No. But they all seem to be from the vital world. Of course, all Abanindranath’s paintings are from the vital world. But this time they appear to come from a peculiar layer of the vital plain. I felt something like that vaguely, so I asked the Mother and she pointed out that it was the colouring which was responsible for the feeling or impression.

Disciple: We have many paintings of Nandalal dealing with Puranic subjects. But I find one or two are failures.

Sri Aurobindo: In Nandalal’s paintings you find the background of a strong mental conception; while Abanindra — nath’s paintings are from the vital world.

I would like to see some of his earlier works. My idea is that in Abanindra’s case the inspiration from Ajanta is not so strong as that of the Moghul and Rajput schools.

Disciple: Of late he has been leaning more towards the Moghul school. Besides, he has been changing his technique so often that it is very difficult to say which style has really impressed him. His subjects may be such as to suggest Mahomedan influence.

Sri Aurobindo: I do not think that the impression is due to the subject at all. It is due to the peculiar layer of the vital plane to which the pictures belong. For instance, take his “Bride of Shiva”. It is an Indian — a Hindu — subject. But it is not the bride of Shiva at all in his painting. If at all it is Shiva’s bride, it is “the bride of Pashupati”: Shiva’s bride from the vital plane.

Disciple: Abanindranath very early began his work in the Kangra style. I mean his Krishna Lila paintings.

Sri Aurobindo: All arts in general and poetry and painting in particular belong to the vital plane.

Disciple: Does not poetry-like, that of Tagore — come from the mental plane?

Sri Aurobindo: No. It does not come from the mental plane; at best it is from the vital mind — or vital mental — that it comes.

22.06.1924

An article on Modern Indian Painting by O. C. Gangooly

Sri Aurobindo: It is very well written and is illuminating. But I don’t understand why he says that those who are not acquainted with Indian subjects would not understand Nandalal’s Shiva-paintings. He seems to suggest that knowledge of the Puranic tradition would help in appreciating his works. But one need not know all traditions to appreciate art.

Disciple: We do not have to know Christian traditions in order to appreciate European art. This article is perhaps in answer to adverse criticism by someone who said that there is no art in the new art-school in Bengal.

Sri Aurobindo: Nobody need answer ignorant criticism. In Europe itself there is a radical departure from Realism, and all bondage to tradition has disappeared.

31.12.1938

A few paintings of Picasso were shown to Sir Aurobindo. These were four or five only: a man and a woman; a human figure with a birdlike face and a tuft of hair; and a figure with three eyes, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: There is some power of expression in the picture of a man and a woman. The other looks like a Brahmin Pandit with a Tiki — tuft of hair — on the head. The face indicates the animal origin and its traces in him. One eye seems Prajna Chakra and the other some other centre.

When these artists want to convey something then arises the real difficulty for the onlooker. How on earth is one to make out what the artist means, even if he means to convey something? It is all right if you don’t want to convey anything but express and leave people to feel about it as they like. In that case one gets an impression and even though one can’t put it in terms of mind you can feel the thing, as with the two figures. But if you convey something and say like the Surrealist poets “Why should a work of art mean anything?” or “Why do you want to understand?” then it becomes difficult to accept it. Take the other picture of the Brahmin Pandit, as I call it. It would have been all right without the eyes. But the eyes, or what seems to be the eyes, at once challenge the mind to think what it means!

(Turning to a disciple) Did you see a Futuristic painting representing a man in different positions? The artist wanted to convey the idea of movement! It is most absurd. Each art has its own conditions and limitations and you have to work under those conditions and limitations.

Disciple: Elie Faure, the famous art critic, has an idea that France sacrificed her architectural continuity of five hundred years for securing the first place in painting in Europe.

Sri Aurobindo: It is true that France leads in art. What she initiates others follow. But architecture has stopped everywhere.

Disciple: Elie Faure says that the machine also is a piece of architecture.

Sri Aurobindo: How?

Disciple: Because it is made of parts and it fulfils certain functions.

Sri Aurobindo: Then, you are also a piece of architecture: everything in you is made of parts. The motor-car also is architecture!

Disciple (1): X finds these paintings very remarkable.

Disciple (2): Does he understand anything about them?

Disciple (1): The more ununderstandable the more remarkable they are I think.

24.01.1939

Disciple: I had occasion to write to O. C. Gangooly who advised me not to undertake any publication on art in India as it is bound to be a loss. One runs into debt, art is a forbidden fruit. People don’t understand it.

Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps people look at art with the same view as X looks at philosophy.

Disciple: Elie Faure says that the Greek arts — sculpture and painting — are the expression of passions and have no mystery about them.

Sri Aurobindo: What is he talking about? He seems to have a queer mind. Where is the expression of passions in Greek sculpture? On the contrary it is precisely their restraint that is very evident everywhere in this art. The Greek are well-known for restraint and control. Compared to other peoples’ art it is almost cold. It is its remarkable beauty that saves them from coldness. This applies to the period from Phidias to Praxiteles. Only when you come to the Laocoon that you find the expression of strong feeling or passion.

Disciple: Perhaps because of the satyrs he says so.

Sri Aurobindo: That is quite another matter, they are symbolic.

Disciple: He also argues, rather queerly, that the poisoning of Socrates, the banishment of Themistocles and the killing of other great men were an expression of unrestrained passion. Greek life was far from settled at that time.

Sri Aurobindo: What has that to do with the arts?

Disciple: He means to say that the Greek mind that found expression in the arts was such a mind.

Sri Aurobindo: On the other hand it is a sign of their control, because they checked their leaders from committing excesses. When two leaders became powerful in combination they ostracised one.

11.01.1939

A book on Modern German Art (Pelican Series) was shown to Sri Aurobindo — particularly the illustrations.

Sri Aurobindo: As for the “Parents” it does not do much credit to the artist. I do not understand why he should draw the portraits of two old ugly people unless he wants to do it from a sense of filial duty.

Disciple: Perhaps he wanted to indicate his origin.

Sri Aurobindo: You mean that his parent’s portrait explains his art! (laughter)

There was an illustration of a “Watched Girl”

Sri Aurobindo: The picture shows the effect of being watched! And that other illustration, the “Gold Fish,” is good as decoration but as painting, no!

Disciple: It looked at first sight to me a curtain or an embroidered piece of, cloth for a door or a window curtain.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is very good as a decorative design. In pictures like “Early Hours” you find the idea but it could be less violent and less ugly in execution. (After some time) One can’t blame Hitler for suppressing these paintings. Germany has lost much. It is surprising how this ugliness is spreading everywhere. Is the art of Bengal also like this?

Disciple: Perhaps the art in Bengal is not so bad as the poetry — except that of Tagore.

Sri Aurobindo: Bad in what way?

Disciple: They are trying to be Eliotian (imitators of T. S. Eliot). Good poetry is not being read. X’s book came out and was very well reviewed and yet the book is not selling.

Sri Aurobindo: So they don’t read poetry in India as they don’t in England. Nowadays, at least for the last 20 years and more, the field has been captured by fiction — novels, short — stories etc.

Disciple: Is it possible to write spiritual stories, I mean stories with a spiritual content?

Sri Aurobindo: Many occult stories, have been written but I do not know of any spiritual stories. They say Marie Corelli used to have that background in her stories though she is not comparable to Lytton in literary merit.

She was very popular but nobody reads her stories now. There was one Victoria Cross who used to write erotic novels and she thought there were only two figures in literature: Victoria Cross and Shakespeare! (laughter)

Disciple: Is it possible to write a spiritual story? We know it is possible to write a story with a deep religious background like Les Miserables.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, religious but not spiritual.

Disciple: Our friend X has taken up an episode that occurred here, and tried to bring out the spiritual struggle of the individual and contrasted it with the standpoint of the worldly people, i.e. the parent’s standpoint.

Disciple: Some people here think that he has not done justice to the case of the worldly people. He has made it weak.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you find it a very strong standpoint? It is simply egoistic insistence, you may call it strong insistence if you like, but it is hardly a strong point of view. I can understand the standpoint of someone who does not believe in spirituality and insists on moral and social values; he has no belief in anything else. There can be a stand, and a strong stand, from the artist’s point of view in that. For instance, in the Bride of Lammermoor Scott has tried to bring out a mother’s point of view. The daughter falls in love with some young man but the mother does not approve of the match and she is married off to someone else. Here you see the mother does not care for the daughter’s happiness but is concerned with family honour and is trying to secure connection with a high family. This point of view rendered in character has made the book interesting.

12.05.1940

Roger Fry’s idea about the formal elements in the art of painting was conveyed to Sir Aurobindo

Disciple: These new movements in the plastic arts correspond to similar movements in the literary arts, especially in poetry. In all these arts the modernists are trying to reduce everything to manipulation of technique. Roger Fry takes the illustrations of the Impressionist Art which he tries to appreciate on the basis of these formal elements and yet he admits that he found it lacking in structure and design.

Sri Aurobindo: But I thought the Impressionists were trying to convey the impression by mass of colour and did not require any design.

Disciple: He seems to have found that Impressionist paintings had no body and so he went to classical art for design and structure. He found them there. But even there he tries to separate what he calls the pure aesthetic feeling from the other overtones of painting.

He takes as an illustration the “Transfiguration” of Michael Angelo. He argues that aesthetically it is not necessary for any one to know Christian mythology in order to enjoy the picture. These are “overtones” and have nothing to do with the pure aesthetic feeling of the picture. The disposition of the mass, the composition, the design, the colour-scheme — these alone contribute to the pure aesthetic value of the picture.

Sri Aurobindo: Does he mean to say that Michael Angelo painted it keeping in view the masses and the colour-scheme? I thought aesthetics had something to do with beauty and beauty is not only formal. It is also beauty of the emotion, in fact, beauty of the whole thing taken together.

Disciple: These modern critics have taken some of the formal elements of beauty and have tried to reduce all art to them. Form is certainly an element of beauty, but there are other things also. Roger Fry pays a great compliment to Tolstoy for pointing out that art is not in the object and the only purpose of art is communication. Art mainly conveys emotion from the artist to other men.

Sri Aurobindo: The first part is acceptable: for example, beauty may not be in the object but it is the artist’s vision that sees beauty in it and conveys it through art.

Disciple: Roger Fry does not admit Tolstoy’s contention that it is the moral implications of the emotion aroused by the work of art that art important.

Sri Aurobindo: That, of course, is not true.

Disciple: The one good result of modern artistic movements has been that representative art and imitation of Nature are no longer considered the highest art. Now they admit that the artist can take what he likes from Nature for his purpose and convey through his creation whatever he has to say.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. That is how you find some of them representing the human form with a few lines and very imperfectly putting force into it or emotion.

Disciple: He also speaks about the Primitives. He says that their painting tries to convey their idea of man. To them man as they saw him was not interesting or important, but the idea of man in their mind was important. In the primitive man’s idea the head and the legs and the arms had importance but the torso had no importance.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t think the primitive men had any ideas.

Disciple: Roger Fry refers to the cave-paintings in the Pyrenees mountains which are supposed to be ten thousand years old and the bushman’s paintings in Africa. He speaks of them as having an idea of the form and also the ability to convey it.

Sri Aurobindo: What they had was not an “idea” but some perception, or rather some first essential perception of the object and it is that which they tried to convey. You can call it basic perception. Because the modernists believe that there is an idea behind the primitives they call Indian art conceptual. They think that somebody wanted to convey the “idea of peace” and so he invented the figure of Buddha! But it is not an idea at all, it is “the experience” that is meant to be conveyed. Vision and experience are the creative elements of Indian art.

What modernist art is trying to do — at least what it began with — is to convey the vital sensation of the object, very often it happens to be the lower vital sensation. But it is the first effort to get behind the physical form.

Disciple: Yes, it was Cézanne who began the modernist movement, It was fortunate that he had not to depend on his art for his maintenance. He had no training in art and yet he was never easily satisfied with his work. His friend Vollard gave him about 150 sittings at the end of which Cezanne said he was not dissatisfied with the shirt-collar! In his still life study of the “Apples” he wanted to convey the very ripeness and warmth of the fruit.

Sri Aurobindo: But, as the Mother says, much of modernist art is “erotic folly”.

Disciple: Roger Fry argues that as Impressionism was lacking in elements of structure and design Cubism followed almost as a natural corrective.

Sri Aurobindo: So he thinks that Cubism supplies the element of design in Nature, doesn’t he?

Disciple: He himself questions whether a picture is meant to convey merely abstract elements. In fact he asks if it is possible to have a “song” without meaningful words and without being set to music.

Sri Aurobindo: Evidently not, unless you repeat the letters of the alphabet and call it a song.

14.01.1941

Sri Aurobindo saw a volume containing Cezanne’s paintings and one of the painters of the 20th century representing the most modern trend of the artistic movement in Europe.

He found Cézanne “remarkable” in his portraits, all of them were “fine” and “showed power”.

In the evening he said he liked Matisse also. But he found “three things general about modern art: l. Ugliness. 2. Vulgarity or coarseness. 3. Absurdity”.

Sri Aurobindo: In their “nude” studies it is a very low sexuality which they bring out. They call it “Life”! One can hardly agree. Even in the ugliest corner of life there is something fine and even beautiful that saves it. This art explains why France and Europe have gone down.

When these artists go further in the application of their theories than they become absurd.

And what they mean by “inner” truth of the object is most often the “subconscient” or “lower vital”. There is no objection to suppressing the non-essentials of a form in a work of art. In fact all great artists do it. But the work that you produce must have aesthetic appeal.

Part 1. Chapter VI. On Poetry

22.05.1925

The talk turned on the subject of Indians writing English poetry. Sri Aurobindo remarked that when he was conducting the Arya he received heaps of poems.

Sri Aurobindo asked about Hindi literature, inquiring whether it carried the modern spirit in its works.

Disciple: It contains the element of nationalism, that is the new strain; as for the rest there is not much that can be called modern. The form at present is mainly lyrical.

Sri Aurobindo: But the lyric is quite old in Hindi.

Disciple: What about X’s English poetry.

Sri Aurobindo: Has he written anything new recently except his inexhaustible dramas that are no dramas?

Disciple: Y tells me that X has even begun to write in Hindi.

Sri Aurobindo: His poetry now a days is not what it was before. He gets an idea and then he goes on weaving image after image. There is more language than substance. Besides, he has not the self-control to put in only what is necessary. His first collection was very good. He has language and he knows the technique; but it is high time he condensed his expression instead of diffusing it as he is doing.

12.10.1926

Disciple: What name can be given to your philosophy — viśistādvaita, kevalādvaita, or śuddhādvaita?

Sri Aurobindo: Or, Dwaitawada of Madhvacharya or Dwaitd dwaita of Nimbarka? Unfortunately all philosophy is mental, i.e., intellectual, while the Supramental is not mental. Therefore, it is not possible to express it completely — because the mind can’t. Even when Supermind takes up the task, it only gives indications, gives to the mind some side of itself, some aspect.

Disciple: But you have written philosophy in the Arya.

Sri Aurobindo: Arya was written because of Richard. After starting it he went away and left me alone to fill 64 pages per month. The Life Divine is not philosophy but fact. It contains what I have realised and seen. I think many people would object to calling it philosophy. Of course, there are elements of all the systems in the Arya. But Supermind would remain even if the whole of the Arya were rubbed out or had never been written. Supermind is not to be philosophised about, it is to be lived.

Disciple: When one lives in the Supermind then there will be perfect expression of it, I believe.

Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. I have been telling you it can’t be fully expressed. It can be experienced and lived. Do you think living it is inferior to expressing it?

Disciple: Can one express it in art?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. In music, for instance, something of it can be expressed but then to the ordinary mind it might convey nothing. To the man who is ready, or who has some glimpses of it, it may convey much more than to another. That is not because of the thing expressed but because the man is able to go from what is expressed to what is behind the expression.

Disciple: Can poetry be the medium of its expression?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it can also be. Art and poetry can be the media though they are not adequate. But one who attains the Supermind does not sit down to write philosophy about it. That is just like using poetry to teach grammar, so as to take all poetry out of it Even when Supermind finds expression it would carry its meaning only to the man who knows; as the Veda puts it, “Words of the Seer which reveal their mystery only to the Seer”. One can’t express the whole Supramental Truth but something of it can come through.

Disciple: The other day you spoke about the psychic element in poetry. Is it that which constitutes the highest expression of Truth in poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: There are different types of poetry. That is to say, poetry there may be and yet the psychic element in it may not be strong.

Disciple: What do you think of Vedic poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: It is poetry on the plane of intuitional vision. There is rhythm, force and other elements of poetry in it, but the psychic element is not so prominent. It is from a plane much higher than the mental. It moves by vision on the plane of intuition, though there are passages in which you may find the psychic element. It is a wide and calm plane,— it also moves you but not in the same way as the poetry which contains the psychic feeling. It has got its own depth — but psychic poetry differs from it in its depth and feeling.

Disciple: Is it true that psychic poetry would be more personal?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, one can say so. It moves you differently. Vedic poetry is more impersonal. The centre of vision in psychic poetry is the centre between the eyebrows, in Vedic poetry it is from above the mind. Take, for instance, the hymn: “Covering after covering becomes conscious, in the lap of the Mother he entirely sees.” Here you find the whole process of opening up the consciousness to the Truth, and the descent of the Light into the being, but it is different from psychic poetry.

Disciple: In Vedic poetry the psychic feeling comes to the front in hymns expressing aspiration for Agni or for Surya.

Disciple: Can you give an instance of psychic poetry? Is there a psychic element in Vidyapati?

Sri Aurobindo: I think there is some, though it is rare even in Chandidas.

As for psychic poetry, take Shelley’s lines:

The desire of the moth for the star,

Of the night for the morrow,

The devotion to something afar

From the sphere of our sorrow.

There the feeling and the expression are both psychic.

Disciple: We find true poetry in the Ishopanishad. Where does it come from?

Sri Aurobindo: It is from the plane of inspiration. It is inspiration of knowledge. The Upanishads are all very high poetry.

Disciple: Then psychic poetry is not the highest poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: Well what do you mean by the highest poetry? Two things are essential for high poetry: vision and beauty, and of course, the power of expression must be there.

Disciple: We recently heard the song “Jaya jaya Gokula pala”.

Sri Aurobindo: That is devotional poetry, not psychic.

Disciple: “ā hā! Ki majā. ki majā” is not poetry (laughter).

Sri Aurobindo: I mentioned vision and beauty as two necessary elements but they do not belong to one plane only, they may belong to various planes.

There must be for great poetry power of beauty, power of vision, power of expression — it may be on any plane. For example, it may be on the plane of vital aesthesis, or any other. All poetry need not be psychic.

Disciple: Do you find the psychic element in Kalidasa’s poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: Psychic? I don’t think there is much psychic element in his poetry. Vital and aesthetic if you like,— that he has in an extraordinary degree and you find even a certain dignity of thought.

12.12.1938

A few of Tagore’s last poems were read, which were supposed to bear the burden of experience.

Disciple: Is there anything here?

Sri Aurobindo: Nothing much, except that he speaks of the Light in the first poem.

Disciple: In the rest he speaks of losing the body-consciousness and the world-memory getting fainter and fainter.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that means death. What next?

Disciple: Does it not mean that he is getting into another world?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, if it is so, why does he not speak about it? The poem is hazy. The Vaishnava poets state their experience clearly in their poems.

Disciple: D told me that Tagore in the agony of pain tried to concentrate hard and he could mentally separate himself from the pain and get relief.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a spiritual experience.

Disciple: In another of his early poems also he speaks of an experience; one day on the terrace of the Jorasanko House he felt a sudden outburst of joy and the whole of nature and life seemed to him bathed in Ananda. The poem “Nirjharer Swapna Bhanga” is the outcome of the experience.

Sri Aurobindo: That is also a spiritual experience. What does he say in that poem?

Disciple: He speaks of a fountain that flows breaking all the barriers rushing towards the sea.

Sri Aurobindo: But why did he adopt the symbol? Did the experience come with the symbol?

Disciple: It does not seem so.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t know whether the symbol came with the experience. The experience should have been put as he felt it. Nobody reading the poem would realise that it was written from experience. He tends to become decorative and the danger of decoration is that the main thing gets suppressed by it.

Take the line from the Rig Veda which I have quoted in The Future Poetry “Raising the living and bringing out the dead.” When one reads it, it becomes clear at once that it is written from experience. Usha, the goddess of dawn, raises higher and higher whatever is manifested, and she brings out all that had remained latent into manifestation. Of course, one has to become familiar with the symbol in order to grasp the truth.

Disciple: But mystic poetry is bound to be a little hazy and vague. Tagore has also written simple and clear poems in his Gitanjali, e.g. “amar matha nata kare dao”. Perhaps one can write that sort of poem mentally also.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, one need not have any experience to write that.

Disciple: You once spoke of mystic poetry as “moonlight” and of spiritual poetry as “sunlight”.

Sri Aurobindo: No. I meant “occult poetry”. There are two kinds of mystic poetry: occult-mystic and spiritual-mystic. That poem of mine about the moon and the star or “The Bird of Fire” is occult mystic. In “Nirvana”, for instance, I have put exactly what Nirvana is. One is at liberty to use any symbol or image but what one says must be very clear through these symbols or images.

For example,

“Condition after condition is born

Covering after covering becomes conscious

In the lap of the Mother he {{0}}sees”[[Rig Veda v. 19.1]]

Here images are used but it is very clear to any one knowing the symbol what is meant and it is the result of genuine experience.

Take another instance:

“The seers climb Indra like a ladder”

Along with the ascent “much that remains to be done

becomes {{0}}clear”[[Rig Veda I. 10. (1.2)]]

It is an extraordinary passage expressing perfectly a spiritual experience. Indra is the Divine Mind and as one ascends higher and higher in it or on it, all that has to be done becomes clearly visible. One who has that experience can at once see how perfectly true it is and that it must have been written from experience and not from imagination.

Disciple: Cannot one write about spiritual truths sometimes, even without having any experience or being conscious of them?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? The inner being can have the vision and can express it.

Disciple: Can one who is not a mystic himself write mystic poems?

Sri Aurobindo: One can if one has a tradition inspiring him or a mystic part in his make-up.

03.01.1939

Disciple: A man called Ferrar passed through Calcutta when the Alipore trial was going on. Was he known to yon in England?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he was my classmate at Cambridge, but he could not see me in the court when the trial was going on. All the accused were put into a cage lest they should jump out and murder the Judge! Ferrar was a barrister practising at. Singapore or Malaya. He saw me in the court-cage and was very much concerned and did not know how to get me out.

It was he who gave me the clue to the hexameter verse in English. He read out a line from Homer which he thought was the best line and that gave me the swing of the metre. There is really no successful hexameter in English. Matthew Arnold and his friends have attempted it but they have failed.

Disciple: I thought Yeats has written it.

Sri Aurobindo: Where? I did not know. I think you mean the Alexandrine.

Disciple: Perhaps it is that.

Sri Aurobindo: Plenty of people have written it. But this is dactylic hexameter,— the metre in which the epics of Homer and Virgil are written. It has a very fine movement and is very suitable for the epic. I have tried it and X and Y have seen and considered it a success. I remember just a few lines: —

Old and alone he arrived, insignificant, feeblest of mortals,

Carrying Fate in his helpless hands and the doom of an empire.

Ilion

Disciple: When did you begin to write poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: When we three brothers were staying at Manchester. I began to write for the Fox family Magazine. I was very young. It was an awful imitation of somebody I don’t remember. Then I went to London where I began to write poetry. Some of the poems then written are published in Songs to Myrtilla.

Disciple: Did you learn metre at school?

Sri Aurobindo: They don’t teach metre at school, I began to read and then write poetry by following the sound. I am not a prosaist like X.

Disciple: Had Mono Mohan already become a poet while in England.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he, Lawrence Binyon, Stephen Phillips were all poets. But he did not come to very much, though he brought out a book — Prima Vera — in conjunction with others like Binyon and it was well spoken of. But 1 dare say my brother stimulated me to write poetry.

Disciple: Was not Oscar Wilde his friend?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he was. Mono Mohan used to visit him very often in the evenings and he used to describe Mano Mohan in his childish way: “a young Indian panther in Evening brown”!

Wilde was as brilliant in conversation as he was in writing. Once some of his friends came to see him and asked him how he had passed the morning. He described at length his visit to the Zoo and gave a graphic description of what he had seen, the animals and other things. Then at the end Mrs. Wilde put in in a small voice — “But how could you say that, Oscar, when you have been with me all the morning?”

He replied: “Darling one must be imaginative sometimes.”

There is another story of Wilde. Once a proof was sent to him for correction. He wrote to the press, “I have put in a comma.” Then the second proof came and he sent it back with the remarks, “I have taken out the comma.”

09.01.1939

Disciple: Is is true that the epic now, after Milton, will tend to be more subjective?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is so. The idea that an epic requires a story has been there for long, but the story as a subject for an epic seems to be exhausted. It will have to be more subjective and the element of interpretation will have to be admitted.

Disciple: There is an idea that the form of the epic may be a combination of epic and drama, or may be a series of odes in combination like the one written by Meredith.

Sri Aurobindo: There has been an effort by Victor Hugo. His La legende des siecles is epic in tone, in thought and movement. And yet it is not given its right place by the critics. It does not deal with a story but with episodes. That is the only epic in the French language.

Disciple: Some maintain that as there is no story in Dante’s Divine Comedy it is not an epic.

Sri Aurobindo: It is an epic. Paradise Lost has very little story and very few incidents, yet it is an epic. At present men demand something more than a great story from an epic.

Disciple: Hyperion of Keats,— is it an epic?

Sri Aurobindo: The first draft of it would have been an epic — if he could have kept to the height and finished the poem. But in the second draft there is already a drop — a decline from the epic height.

Disciple: There have been Indian writers of English poetry. What do you think of them?

Sri Aurobindo: They do write poetry in English and it may even be successful, but it is not the real man who is speaking. Very few can do it in another language, Sarojini Naidu had a small range but had the capacity to express herself.

Disciple: The general impression is that poetry is not in vogue in England, or perhaps anywhere else.

Sri Aurobindo: It is true; poetry is not read in England today. Somebody sent my poems to a publisher who gave them to his reader. He said: “They are remarkable poems and have a new element in them. But I don’t advise their publication. If the writer has written anything in prose it is better to publish it first and then the poems may go.”

Disciple: Harm’s poems were sent to Masefield but got only lukewarm praise from him. He said they were “interesting”.

Sri Aurobindo: Why were they sent to Masefield?

Disciple: Perhaps, because he was the poet Laureate.

Sri Aurobindo: Generally Poet — Laureates are uninteresting: Very few are like Wordsworth and Tennyson. Masefields’ poems are Georgian rhetoric.

Disciple: Do you remember Volsung Saga by William Morris?

Sri Aurobindo: It is a very good poem; it is an exercise in Epic. I remember his Earthly Paradise which is exceedingly fine. There is a tendency to run down Morris, because he derived his inspiration from the Middle Ages as the Victorian age did not give him any subject. Shelley and Keats both tried to bring in the epic with the subjective element, but they failed because they tried to put it in the old forms.

Disciple: Toru Dutt has written poetry in English and was well-spoken of for some time.

Sri Aurobindo: She has written poetry,— not as an Indian writing in English but like an Englishwoman. But in England no one considers her a great poet. The only vigorous poetry she wrote was about the German invasion of France. That is because of her great sympathy for France. I remember her phrase for France: “The head of the human column” and “Atilla’s own exultant hordes” for the Germans.

After reading some of the modernist poetry I am not surprised that poetry is not read today.

06.01.1940

A letter to one of the poet-disciples was received from Tagore in which he had tried to make the following points:

i. Those who try to express high spiritual truths in poetry tended to create something new — a novelty — and, therefore, there was ceṣṭāḥ, effort, in their writings.

ii. A true literary architect would build rather on the common earth of common humanity — “jana sadharana” — and not insist on building on “Kanchan Jangha” — Himalayan heights.

iii. He suggested that the “cira puratana dhara” — “the age — old way” — in literature should be the guide.

Sri Aurobindo: I believe those who have experience or vision of spiritual truth, when they do express themselves in poetry, try to reproduce it as they see it and make no effort — ceṣṭāḥ — to make themselves understood. So the work is not a result of effort. And it is just this that makes their poetry difficult for others.

And as to his second point about building on common earth, it may be that the poet may not build for all, he may have a private chapel. The artist creates moved by an inner urge, not according to any ulterior motive, or consideration for the mass.

Disciple: Tagore also says that even if the artist sees a heavenly vision he will build his heaven on earth.

Sri Aurobindo: He may, but it is not necessarily so.

Disciple: About art Kalelker’s contention is that it is a vessel. His idea is that the food is more important than the vessel in which it is served.

Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps that is Tagore’s idea too. But there can’t be art without form. If you have substance only then it is only substance and not art. An artist tries to give body to his vision and you can’t separate the soul from the body. These images — vessel and food — can be applied to physical processes, not to any inner process like art-creation.

Disciple: When he speaks of the “cira puratana dhara” — “the age — old way” in literature, he forgets that he himself would have said when he began his new style that he did not care for the “cira puratana” way, as it is puratana — “old” — and that he himself was “nitya nutana” — “ever new and fresh” — the same old truth expressing itself through ever new forms.

Sri Aurobindo: Sometimes poets themselves get into a groove and are unable to appreciate anything new.

07.01.1940

Disciple: Mahatma Gandhi at one of the literary conferences in Gujarat, 1920, asked the writers: “What have you done for the man who is drawing water from the well?”

Sri Aurobindo: What has he done for himself? I am afraid he has not done very much.

Most of these people forget that everybody in England does not understand Milton and that the ordinary man has to prepare himself to understand high poetry.

Disciple: Tagore says that even if what you have to give is Amrita — ambrosia — it must be eatable by the ordinary man.

Sri Aurobindo: But people also must have capacity to understand and enjoy noble literature.

Disciple: Kalelker in a recent article has tried to make out that Valmiki wanted to serve Janata, humanity — and so he recited the Ramayana from cottage to cottage! I can never understand this idea. I can’t imagine Valmiki doing it. When did he find the time to write the Ramayana, if he was reciting it from place to place?

Sri Aurobindo: But where does Kalelker find his authority for saying so? The Ramayana was not recited to the mass by Valmiki: It was the reciters who popularised it.

Disciple: He refers to some verse in the Ramayana which describes how the Rishis heard the Ramayana and gave Valmiki a Kaupin — loin cloth, Kamandalu and a Parnakuti — thatched house.

Sri Aurobindo: Good Lord! But the Rishis are not jana sadharana — ordinary people; they lived apart and had reached a very high spiritual status. Is Kalelker understood by the masses?

Disciple: I believe, formerly, Tagore had not got this idea of jana sadharna — the common man.

Sri Aurobindo: No. He had been always speaking of the “viswa manava” — “the universal man”. It is not the same as jana sadharana. In the Vishwa Manava all the best people, as well as the lowest of humanity, are included. Perhaps in the jana sadharana only the lowest remain.

Disciple: It is the proletarian idea of literature coming with the Socialistic and Communistic ideology. Or, perhaps it is the echo of Vivekananda’s daridra-nārāyaṇa — the divine as the poorest.

Sri Aurobindo: I think it is Vivekananda who started the idea.

Disciple: He at least had the idea of nārāyaṇa while he served them — but nowadays the unfortunate part is that Narayana is lost sight of,— only the daridra — the poorest — remain.

Some time back there was an article in Hindi “Kasmai devaya havisa vidhema” — “To which God shall we make our offering?” and the writer answered: “janata Janardanaya” — “to the average humanity which is God”. Thus Janardana — God — is to be equated to janata — humanity — which is ignorant and imperfect. It almost seems that according to these people God outside janata — average humanity — does not exist!

Sri Aurobindo: Quite so.

Disciple: And they don’t try to raise the janata — the common man — to janardanatwa — divinity. Every time they try to go down to its level. It does not seem possible to serve it by going down to its level.

17.01.1940

The talk centred round Tagore’s letter to Nishikanta concerning poetry.

Sri Aurobindo: Take Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven Everybody does not understand it: does it follow that Thompson is not a great poet? Or take the Upanishads. They deal with one subject only and have one strain: can we say, therefore, that it is not great poetry?

Disciple: Tagore does not raise the question of understanding but of variety.

Sri Aurobindo: Homer has written on war and action. Can one say that those who write on many subjects are greater than Homer? Sappho wrote only on one subject: therefore can we say she is not great? What about Milton and Mirabai?

Disciple: What Tagore wants to say is that to be a perfect poet one must have variety.

Sri Aurobindo: In that case we have to conclude that no poet is perfect. Even Shakespeare has his limitations. Browning has variety. Can we, therefore, say that he is greater than Milton?

Disciple: In considering the greatness of a poet, depth and height and variety have to be considered.

Sri Aurobindo: Height and depth — yes. But why compare greatnesses? Each one writes in his own way.

18.01.1940. Morning

Disciple: We heard from you that some people consider Blake greater than Shakespeare — is it correct?

Sri Aurobindo: I did not say that. What Housman says is that Blake has more pure poetry than Shakespeare.

Disciple: What does he mean by that?

Sri Aurobindo: He means that Blake’s poetry is not vital or mental, i.e. intellectual, but comes from beyond the Mind and expresses spiritual and mystic experience.

Disciple: Since the two deal with quite different spheres, can the comparison be valid? Or, if Blake really has more pure poetry, then can be he said to be greater than Shakespeare?

Sri Aurobindo: Shakespeare is superior in one way, Blake in another. Shakespeare is greater because he has a greater poetic power and more creative force, while Blake is more expressive.

Disciple: What is the difference between the two?

Sri Aurobindo: “Creative” may be something which gives a picture of life creatively, representing the life-situation of the Spirit. “Expressive” is that which is just the expression of feeling, vision or experience, In The Hound of Heaven you get a true creative picture. Blake is confused and was a failure when he tried to be creative in his prophetic poems.

Disciple: Did you write to X that in life Shakespeare is everywhere and Blake nowhere?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is true.

Disciple: But can we compare poets and decide who is greater?

Sri Aurobindo: How can you?

Disciple: But you said, for instance, that Yeats can be considered greater than A.E. because of greater style.

Sri Aurobindo: “More sustained” style.

Disciple: Then, there is some standard — say, power of rhythm, expression, subject, form, substance, variety, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: If one has all form and no substance, is he greater than one who has substance and no form? Some say Sophocles is greater than Shakespeare, others say Euripides is greater. There are others, again, who say Euripides is nowhere near Sophocles. How can you say whether Dante is greater than Shakespeare?

Disciple: It is better to ask what is the criterion of great poetry.

Sri Aurobindo: Is there any criterion?

Disciple: Then how to judge?

Sri Aurobindo: One feels these things.

Disciple: But different people feel differently.

Sri Aurobindo: So there cannot be a universal standard. Each one goes by his feeling or opinion or liking.

Disciple: Abercrombie tries to give a general criterion. Only one point I remember just now: he says that if the outlook of the poet is negative and pessimistic, his poetry cannot be “great” — e.g. Hardy.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t see why. Usually, of course, great poets are not pessimistic,— they have too much life-force in them; but generally every poet is dissatisfied with something or other and has some element of pessimism in him. Sophocles said, “The best thing is not to be born.” (laughter)

Disciple: But we want you to give us the criterion or criteria by which one can decide the greatness of poetry.

We always compare X and Y and never agree about their greatness.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not be satisfied with what I have said? All I can say is that X has a greater mastery over the medium and greater creative force.

Disciple: What did you say about creative poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: Poetry is creative where it gives a complete picture of life as in The Hound of Heaven. There you have such a picture of the life of a man pursued by God.

Disciple: X is not quite successful in his mystic poems.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by mystic? Occult? Symbolic? There are various kinds of mystic poetry.

18.01.1940. Evening

Disciple: It is difficult to bring in creative force in mystic or symbolic poetry.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is difficult, but it is possible.

Disciple: Is there creative force in that sonnet of Mallarme on the Swan?

Sri Aurobindo: I have forgotten the poem.

Disciple: That poem in which he speaks of the wings of the swan being stuck to the frozen ice so that it cannot fly.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no creative force in it; it is descriptive and expressive. In lyrical poetry it is generally difficult to give that creative force. In sonnet form it is only in a series of sonnets as in Meredith’s sonnets on “modern love,” that one can put in creative force.

Disciple: That means it can be done only in descriptive and narrative poems.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in epics, dramas, series of sonnets, as I said. But modern poets say that long poems are not poetry! Only in short poems you get the essence of pure poetry!

Disciple: Some of the moderns have themselves written long poems. Among Indian poets Tagore would score high as he has great creative force.

Sri Aurobindo: Tagore is essentially a lyrical poet, and has no more creative force in his poetry than in his drama. One of his long poems, debatar grash I remember, was very finely descriptive but it did not create anything.

Disciple: Is not X creative? He has traced the growth of consciousness from the ordinary level to the Transformation by turning to the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo: It is the description of an idea. In fact, very few poets are creative.

Disciple: I would like to understand more clearly your idea of creative poetry. Don’t you find in Tagore’s “jete nahi dibo” a great creative force?

Sri Aurobindo: No.

Disciple: It is — as he said just now about Debatar grash — a very good description.

Sri Aurobindo: The girl there is created out of Tagore’s mind. For example, when you read Hamlet, you become Hamlet — you feel you are Hamlet. When you read Homer, you see Achilles living and moving and you become Achilles. That is what I mean by creativeness. On the other hand, in Shelley’s Skylark there is no skylark at all. You do not become a skylark,— through that name the poet has only expressed his own ideas and feelings. Or take his line, “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” It is very fine poetry but it is not creative in the sense that it does not make you live in that truth.

Disciple: In poems of Bhakti — devotion — one can feel devotion.

Sri Aurobindo: It is feeling only. It does not create for you a living and moving world. Feeling is not enough to be creative.

Disciple: Abercrombie says that poetry should express and carry to the reader the poet’s “experience”.

Sri Aurobindo: It depends upon what you mean by “experience”. An idea may be an experience, a feeling may an experience.

Disciple: In comparing Shelley and Milton he says that “Prometheus Unbound” is not as great a theme as “Paradise Lost”.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not great because Shelley does not create anything there. But the theme is equally great.

Disciple: He says that Satan and Christ are living characters created by Milton.

Sri Aurobindo: Satan is the only character he has created. His first four books are full of creative force. But Christ? — Well — I object to the claim that he ever created Christ.

Disciple: About Dante Abercrombie says that he created Beatrice and her memory was always with him.

Sri Aurobindo: What about Dante’s political life? I am sure he was not thinking of Beatrice when he was doing politics.

Disciple: Abercrombie says that a true poet passes on his experience to his readers.

Sri Aurobindo: But there are poets who neither experience nor even understand what they have written. They merely transcribe. I myself have done that. One can transmit and transcribe.

19.01.1940 (i)

The subject was continued. Two disciples bad a discussion on the above topic and one of them did not quite catch the distinction between “creative force” and “experience” in poetry. They decided to raise the question today.

Sri Aurobindo caught the idea and so he asked:

Do you want to say something, or ask a question?

Disciple: X is not clear in his mind about “creative force” in regard to devotional poems. Why should they not be considered “creative” if one feels devotion by them?

Sri Aurobindo: Because you identify yourself with the feeling and not with the character or man as in the case of Hamlet. It must come out as a part of the poet’s personality and the reader identifies himself with the world or personality which the poet has created or the experience which he had. Of course, anything is creative in a general way.

Disciple (1): Abercrombie says that a great poet transmits his experience to the reader.

Disciple (2): But one can transmit the creative force without having oneself the experience or without being conscious?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it can be done. But people who have the creative force usually make it a part of themselves, they have the experience first and then they transcribe it.

Disciple: How to get the correct force?

Sri Aurobindo: Either you have it or you do not have it.

Some poets are born with it.

Disciple: Can one acquire it?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It can be developed. Most people have it within them, but it may not manifest. In yoga, of course, it is different. Here it depends on the power of opening.

Disciple: X says that your Bird of Fire has got creative force. It is a creative symbolic poem.

Sri Aurobindo: (smiling) I don’t know. It is for X to pronounce.

Disciple: He believes that your Shiva also has the same force.

Sri Aurobindo: It is for others to judge. It is not necessary to become Shiva. The point is whether you find the picture created living, i.e. do you feel it alive?

Disciple: I find it living. That is to say, it is not an idea of what Shiva is or stands for that is depicted. I find here a personality, a being.

Sri Aurobindo: That means what is created is living. But why not leave out my poetry? If you want examples, I gave you that of The Hound of Heaven and you may add Chesterton’s Lepanto.

Disciple: X says that if there is poetic force, it will be felt. I told him that everybody may not feel the force; The Hound of Heaven, for instance, won’t be appreciated by everybody.

Sri Aurobindo: Not by jana sādhārana, the common man — as yon call him. But a poet or a literary man who has taste for poetry will feel the force, unless he has a prejudice.

Disciple: What about Meghnād Vadha of Madhusudan? Has it not creativeness?

Sri Aurobindo: Poor creation: what sort of Ravana has he created? It is an outline of an idealised non-rakshasic Rakshasa!

Bengalis in those days were very fond of weeping. I think it was Romesh Dutt who translated “Savitri” from the Mahabharata and portrayed her as weeping, whereas in the Mahabharata there is no trace of it. Even when her heart was being sawed in two not a single tear appeared in her eyes. By making her weep he took away the very strength of which Savitri is built.

Disciple: He wanted to make it realistic perhaps.

Sri Aurobindo: He thought that Vyasa had made a mess of it. About Madhusudan, I don’t say that it is not fine poetry, or that there is no force, or no thought in it. What I say is that it is not creative, it has no vital substance.

Disciple: People say he tried to imitate Milton.

Sri Aurobindo: Milton, Homer and everybody else perhaps!

Disciple: Among our poets here do you find X great?

Sri Aurobindo: I was reading his book and I find it exceedingly fine poetry but in order to be called “great” that is not enough. In order to equal Tagore he must progress more in “body”. I don’t mean length. What I mean is the quality of massiveness. One can say his whole work has not got sufficient “body”. I have read his long poems also, but that element is not yet there. Yeats has not written long poems, but if you take his poems piece by piece you will see that he has sufficient “body” in his work. Tagore has added to the “body” of the world’s literature. If you take poem by poem, perhaps, X’s work may equal Tagore’s, but he has not that “body” which the latter has and which can stand by itself.

Disciple: Is not X’s poetry sufficiently characteristic?

Sri Aurobindo: It is; but I mean quite another thing. For instance, if Milton had not written Paradise Lost he would have still been a great poet, but he could not have occupied so great a place as he does in English literature. Keats, some people say, would have been as great as Shakespeare, had he lived. At least there was the promise in him, but it was not fulfilled.

Disciple: Some people have demanded of Y to attempt something big, like an epic.

Sri Aurobindo: For the epic you require the power of architectural construction. With most of these poets it is yet the promise and not the fulfilment of their poetic personality.

19.01.1940 (ii)

Sri Aurobindo: You were asking me about an example of a lyrical poem which had the creative force in it. Well, I can give you two examples from Tagore though it is not usual with him to write such lyrics. His Urvashi and Parash Pathar have got that creative force — there he has created something, not a character, but some reality of the inner life of man. What I mean is it is not simply a description. Also Nishikanta in the Gorur Gadi has created something. You see there that the “cart” is a real cart and man in it is a real man; and yet it is the “world-cart” and the “world-man” in it.

Take Shelley’s Skylark or Keats’s Nightingale. There you find that the Skylark and the Nightingale are nothing; they are only an occasion. It is the thoughts, the feelings and the images that rise in the poet’s mind that you get when you read the poem.

27.01.1940

Disciple: I had a talk with X and he asks: How can Francis Thompson be called a great poet because he has written one poem the Hound of Heaven which is great?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by “great”? At any rate it is a great poem and one who has written a great poem is a “great” poet.

Disciple: Perhaps if you take into account the mass of his work he may not appear great. But in his Hound of Heaven he has achieved the summit of poetic art and it sums up his whole life-experience. In that sense it is great.

Sri Aurobindo: And it is not individual life but universal life — anybody who goes through spiritual life gets that experience.

The idea of greatness of poetry is difficult to standardise. The French poet Villon, if you take his poems one by one, is equal in greatness to any other great poet, but if you take his work in a mass you can’t justify his greatness. Petrarch has written only sonnets and that on one subject, and yet he is considered a great poet and given a place next to Dante. Simonides has not a single poem complete, he is known by fragments and yet he is regarded as second to Pindar who is called the greatest lyricist. The Hound of Heaven is a far greater poem than any of Oscar Wilde’s or Chesterton’s.

26.09.1943

Disciple: What is the real root of man’s interest in story and literature? Is it independent of Truth? If it is not, what is its purpose?

Sri Aurobindo: Literature exists for its own sake; it is an independent value. Its purpose is governed by the law of Ananda. If you bring in, or make it serve, some other purpose — say, morality or philosophy — then it does not serve its highest purpose.

Disciple: But literature, art, poetry all have to give us truth, have they not?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, in art, poetry and literature there is truth. However it is not the discovery and statement of truth in itself, but of the beauty of truth or truth as beauty.

The Law of Ananda governs these activities. Some parts of literature have their own laws: for instance, fiction. Its law is to represent life.

If the writer has spirituality in himself, it is bound to express itself in his poetry or art.

Disciple: Should then literature set before it the task of evolution towards, or an ascent to, a higher consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: Literature need not set that task before itself. It will itself be influenced automatically by the process of upward evolution and thus create higher and higher beauty and delight.

28.09.1943

The talk centred round Lascelles Abercrombie’s idea of great poetry. His general thesis is that literature is communication of experience involving three factors:

1. Subjective, 2. Objective, 3. Medium of communication.

Disciple: He says that in poetry the poet wants to transfer his experience without the least modification to others. That is to say, poetry — all literature for that matter — is not merely expression or self-expression; it is chiefly communication.

Sri Aurobindo: When a poet writes poetry he does not think of others who may read it. He should not, because then he would be influenced by their likes and dislikes. He thinks only of himself, as he should.

Disciple: But he writes because he has some experience.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by experience? You mean change in his subjective consciousness due to an outer or an inner impact, don’t you? There are cases where the experience is not his own. It is something that descends or takes hold of him, or it may be even an experience imagined.

Disciple: Could an experience which is imagined be equally strong in expression as an actual experience?

Sri Aurobindo: It depends. Experience as one has it is not literature; it is too matter of fact. Generally, it is divested of its local and personal character by a great writer. Imagination can only give him a mental construction; but inspiration can give a powerful expression. In a great poet you will find it is not merely an expression, but there is an element of creation. You can’t define these things rigidly.

January 1939

Disciple: They say the Mantras were heard by the Rishis. Is it the inner hearing?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It is the inner hearing. Sometimes one hears a line, a passage, a whole poem, or sometimes they come down. The best poetry is always written in that way.

Disciple: Yes. I remember that line, “A fathomless beauty in a sphere of pain”, coming to me as if someone had whispered it into my ear.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite. It is the inner being but sometimes one may be deceived. Inspiration from the lower planes also can come in an automatic way.

Disciple: Oh yes. I have been deceived many times like that. Lines which came at once and automatically and which I thought high-class turned out to be ordinary by your remarks.

Sri Aurobindo: One writes wonderful poems in dream, Surrealistic poems, but when they arc written on paper they seem worthless. In Shakespeare in whom poetry always flowed, I suppose, the three lines in Henry IV invoking sleep,

Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast

Seal up the ship-boy’s eyes and rock his brains

In the cradle of the rude imperious surge?

leap out strikingly from the rest. There is no doubt at all that these three lines have simply descended from above without any interruption. Or, his lyric, “Take, O take those lips {{0}}away[[Take, O take these lips away.(((D-FOOTNOTE_40_150_0)))That so sweetly were foresworn;(((D-FOOTNOTE_40_150_0)))And these eyes, that the break of day,(((D-FOOTNOTE_40_150_0)))Light that do mislead the morn:(((D-FOOTNOTE_40_150_0)))But my kisses bring again, bring again(((D-FOOTNOTE_40_150_0)))Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.(((D-FOOTNOTE_R_20)))“Measure for Measure” Act IV. Scene I]]” — the whole of it has come down from above.

Part 1. Chapter VII. On Beauty

12.08.1926

Disciple: What is it that creates physical beauty?

Sri Aurobindo: There is a certain vital glow which is really not beauty — when it is overpowering and full of personal magnetism it is dangerous.

Disciple: Can heredity account for beauty?

Sri Aurobindo: Not much. Too much of vital glow and charm may be due even to the hostile forces and it may be dangerous.

Disciple: Does beauty belong to the vital world?

Sri Aurobindo: The true vital world is a world full of beauty and grandeur.

Disciple: Is not beauty a part of perfection?

Sri Aurobindo: Yet, it is; but beauty and perfection do not always go together in life.

Disciple: Is not beauty psychic in its origin?

Sri Aurobindo: The psychic element gives only a certain charm to the form, not what people ordinarily call beauty. There is a vital and a physical element in beauty and even in these there is an “inner” beauty, a certain charm, a flame in the object.

Disciple: It is said that Sri Ramakrishna’s body had a glow which he used to hide from men by covering his body. Can one say it was inner beauty?

Sri Aurobindo: It may be the light of the Spirit; that is not beauty. There are many people who are not spiritual but are beautiful and some spiritual men are not beautiful.

Disciple: What is meant by saying that the Supreme is the True, the Good and the Beautiful “satyam — sivam — sundaram?”

Sri Aurobindo: That is a different thing. The “True” can be the mental form of the Supreme Truth, the “Good” has a relation to morality. Whereas “Beauty” is different with different men, there is no one standard of beauty. There are certain things, however, which all people consider beautiful: for instance, the rose.

Disciple: What did Christ look like? Were the Rishis beautiful?

Sri Aurobindo: None can say, because there is no record.

Disciple: On what does the creation of beauty depend?

Sri Aurobindo: True beauty is a creation from the Ananda plane.

Disciple: But some people say there is beauty in everything.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. There is a stage in which everything has its beauty. For a perfect creation of beauty three elements are needed:

1. The fundamental element of beauty which is present in everything.

2. The pervading quality or Guna.

3. The expression or form.

Where these three are in agreement then there is the perfect expression of the Ananda.

Disciple: What is the utility of aesthetic refinement in spiritual development?

Sri Aurobindo: The aesthetic sense is easily purified and it can then open the path of approach to the Supreme through beauty. It is very difficult to purify a rough and gross being.

12.10.1942

Disciple: We have heard, and partly known, that the experience of delight is possible on the higher planes. Is it possible to experience “beauty” on these planes?

Sri Aurobindo: Beauty and delight are inalienable in the ultimate analysis, or rather in the ultimate experience on the higher planes.

Disciple: Could experience of beauty be compatible with Shankara’s conception of the Absolute?

Sri Aurobindo: In his conception experience of delight you can have, but beauty? I don’t think. There is no Laxana — the quality which is characteristic — of beauty there in the Brahman according to Shankara. There is only the Self-existent and its Delight — white delight, if you like, but the colourful play of beauty would only be a figure in it and therefore unreal.

Disciple: Is form inseparable from the experience of beauty?

Sri Aurobindo: On the plane of matter it seems so, but it is not true on planes of consciousness above mind. There, beauty can be formless.

Disciple: There are people who experience deep peace but no delight in the Brahmic consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo: In my own case the SACHCHIDANANDA as Brahman comes more easily as a constant experience and ANANDA — delight — comes in to complete it, so to say. Delight is the essential Reality of existence.

Disciple: But many people are satisfied with the experience of the immobile aspect of the Brahman.

Sri Aurobindo: It depends. If you approach the Absolute negatively — i.e. as a negation — you reach a more and more negative value. If you take up the positive side it leads you to a more and more positive value.

Disciple: Then why do the artists say that form is indispensable for art-creation?

Sri Aurobindo: We were speaking of the experience of beauty. But if you speak of art-creation then one can say that form is indispensable for that.

Disciple: Tagore agrees here — that form is indispensable for the creation of beauty in art.

Sri Aurobindo: But even there the form which gives the experience of beauty is not something apart from the Spirit. In the experience of the Brahman, the essential beauty is there without which the thing would not be beautiful. In the experience of beauty you can perceive two distinct elements: the form and the spiritual element of beauty. But the formal beauty is only an expression of that spiritual beauty, it is not something quite separate. Of course, the mind can make a distinction and speak of them as two distinct things.

Disciple: What is the connection between spirituality and art?

Sri Aurobindo: One can say that spirituality is the basis of art. Art expresses, or tries to express, the soul of things. The true soul of things is the divine element in them. Then spirituality, which is the discipline to come into conscious contact with the Divine, has a place, and a big place, in art.

In a sense spirituality is the highest art, the art of life; for, it aims at creating a life of beauty pure in line, faultless in rhythm, replete with strength, illumined with light and vibrant with delight.

24.01.1939

Sri Aurobindo went into silence for a while and when he came out he began:

I was thinking how some races have the sense of beauty in their very bones. Judging from what is left to us, it seems our people once had a keen sense of beauty. For example, take poetry, or Indian wood-carving which, I am afraid, is dying now. Greece and ancient Italy had the perception of beauty. The Japanese are a remarkable people — even the poorest have got the aesthetic sense. If they produce ugly things, it is only for export to other countries. I am afraid the Japanese are losing that sense now because of the general vulgarisation. In Germany Hitler must have crushed all fine things out of existence — German music, philosophy, etc. How can anything develop where there is no freedom? I hope Mussolini has kept some sense of art.

Disciple: He is very proud of Italians as a nation of artists! A friend of mine visited Italy and found that the Italians still have a sense of beauty and art.

Sri Aurobindo: Of music also. Art and music are their passion. The mother had a remarkable experience. She was staying in North Italy for some time and was once playing on the organ all alone in a church. After she had finished, there was a big applause. She found that a crowd had gathered and was ecstatic in appreciation.

Disciple: Indian music, especially in the South, has been preserved in the temples.

Nishta (Miss Wilson) is all praise for many Indian things. She finds great beauty in the gait of Indian women. She told me, “You won’t understand it, but I have seen our European women and I can understand it better. Indian women seem to me born dancers, they have such a fine rhythm in their walk.”

Sri Aurobindo: She is quite right. I suppose it is due to their having to carry pots on their heads.

Disciple: She also praises the coloured saris of our women and finds that the women have a sense of colour.

Sri Aurobindo: I hope they are not giving it up under modern influence.

Disciple: Sari, though graceful, is not good enough for active work, it is inconvenient.

Sri Aurobindo: Why? The Romans conquered the world with their togas. Plenty of Indian women work with saris on. When this craze for utility — that is the modern tendency — comes, beauty dies; people now look at everything from the point of utility as if beauty were nothing.

Disciple: But beauty and utility can be combined, I believe. I have found at any rate, that the European dress for men gives one a push for work and activity, while the Indian dhoti gives lethargy and a sense of ease.

Sri Aurobindo: That does not prevent the European dress from being ugly. I have seen plenty of people leading an active life with the dhoti. The most utilitarian dress is shorts and a shirt.

Disciple: But nowadays European ladies have made many innovations, they go about in shorts without stockings.

Sri Aurobindo: I see. At one time they used to cover the whole body except hands and face. I remember an incident in London. Bapubhai Majumdar was coming down from the bath-room in his hotel with his feet bare. A lady who came out of her room suddenly saw him. She ran to the manager and complained that the gentleman was going about half naked in the hotel! The manager called Bapubhai and told him not to do so! Do you know this Bapubhai — He was at Baroda.

Disciple: Yes, he was seen once being stopped by the police on the road for a breach of traffic rule. He gave such an eloquent lecture in English that the policeman was flabbergasted.

Sri Aurobindo: (laughing) That must be he: he was my first friend in Baroda. He took me to his house and I stayed there for some time. He was a nice man, only some would say “volatile and mercurial”.

27.08.1926

The other day there was a talk about the arūpa devás — Gods without form — and the rūpa devás and their planes. Sri Aurobindo explained that it was merely a mental way of dealing with those things. Beauty is not merely an abstraction of the mind. Of course, the mind can create a sort of division and think of beauty as an abstraction. It seems merely an idea without, as it were, any power behind it. But if you go to the plane above mind you find that all things that are abstractions in the mind are Powers and Realities there. There you find that beauty is a power of the Supreme.

Disciple: I want to know what connection this power of beauty has with Vaishnavism. Bhakti begins with emotion. Is there a connection between Bhakti and this power of beauty?

Sri Aurobindo: How do you mean? I don’t understand your question. Bhakti has not only the sense of beauty in it, there are many other elements besides.

Disciple: There is the emotional element but where or when does the element of beauty enter — at the beginning or at the end?

Sri Aurobindo: It may be at the beginning or at any other time. There is the emotional element, the element of faith, the element of love, of beauty, of ananda and so many other things.

Disciple: You said that “Beauty is a power of the Supreme”. I want to have some idea of that power on the plane higher than the mental.

Sri Aurobindo: Why on the higher plane only? Do you think that beauty is not a power? Do you believe that it is a mental abstraction?

Disciple: I can understand that it is a power in a certain sense on the mental, vital and physical planes. But what is it on the plane higher than the mind?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, how can I convey an idea of it to you? Beauty is beauty everywhere and it is a power wherever it may be.

But what is your idea of beauty? What is beauty? Is it an abstraction?

Disciple: No, it is not an abstraction.

Sri Aurobindo: What is it then? When you say “There is beauty in the rose,” is it something apart from the rose itself? What do you mean by it?

Disciple: I mean it is a quality.

Sri Aurobindo: “Quality” is an abstract idea.

Disciple: I would say that it is not an idea but something connected with the life of the flower, something of the life-force in it.

Disciple: Whenever beauty of form is concerned, it is said that certain relations are required to be fulfilled, proportion, harmony, etc. Otherwise the form is not beautiful.

Sri Aurobindo: Well, that is not the whole of beauty. Neither is it the most essential element. You can say “That is how beauty expresses itself”. But it is not the essence of beauty — lines, proportions etc. are there only as its supports, especially in the beauty of forms, not so much in other kinds of beauty. There is, for instance, beauty of emotion — of thought — of force — of Ananda etc. By observing the rules about line, proportion, rhythm, harmony etc, a man does not become an artist. Every time a new creator comes into the field of art he brings something which to others appears perhaps out of proportion. Then a time comes when people begin to see and discover new proportions and a new harmony. Even in music the same thing happens. For instance, when Wagner gave his music it sounded very unusual and, to some, discordant. But at last they found harmony and rhythm and everything else.

Similarly poetry is not some arrangement of words or ideas, it is a power which goes forth from the being of the poet.

In other religions there is a certain insistence on moral virtues, therefore they did not put the same emphasis on beauty. But in India God is the All-beautiful.

Disciple: What is the relation of Beauty and devotion (Bhakti)?

Sri Aurobindo: In the path of devotion — Bhakti Marga — in India, God is regarded as the All-beautiful. In the case of other paths it is not so.

Disciple: There is an idea that for art limitation is necessary. There can be no art if there is no restraint and every great artist imposes his own limitations by himself.

Sri Aurobindo: Well, it is not always true. Take the lines and forms used by art. You can say that they serve to limit the expression and there are artists who produce works of art under that kind of restraint. But it is not always so. Take, for instance, Shakespeare. At first the idea was that in his work there is no measure and harmony. It was considered bizarre. Then they found that it was a work of great art. In a poet like Shakespeare the movement is not towards limitation but rather expression — a throwing himself out to cover everything.

And a work of art is not great unless the artist is able to express the infinite through the limitations,— unless the lines and forms are not overpassed, so to say. There must be beauty of line and form but that is only the primary basis,— the earth on which you stand, but it must go beyond and express something from within. That is what we mean when we say that a particular work of art is “cold”, though you can see that the beauty of line and form — the technique — is perfect. The work may not be sufficiently “inspired”. Take Greek art: it was their aim to put as much of inner beauty as they could in a limited form and line which had set standards. In India we had quite another standard.

Disciple: What is it in beauty that gives us delight?

Sri Aurobindo: Beauty is the Divine himself in his Anandapower seeking to express himself in perfect form. That is, perhaps, the only definition that could be given. Since you are particular about it one can say that there are several elements of beauty: one is the power of Ananda that seeks expression, the other is the form — or you can say, the manner in which it expresses itself.

Disciple: I suppose it is also necessary that the physical instrument should be prepared so that it can express perfect beauty.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the training of the physical instrument is absolutely essential because without it the work of art cannot take the perfect body.

Disciple: If we look at a man like Tagore, do you think that in a case like him also the physical instruments have to be trained, or can one say that the force which is working in such people creates its own instruments?

Sri Aurobindo: There are people who are born with their physical instrument ready. Even then a lot of training is necessary. Even if the force created its own instrument the work would be uneven — very good at times but very bad at other times.

Disciple: Tagore did a lot of work before he became established as a poet.

Sri Aurobindo: Shakespeare studied all the existing dramas before he wrote his own. One cannot play the violin without training.

Disciple: Would not the Higher Power develop even the physical instrument when it comes down?

Sri Aurobindo: It is a great advantage if you can start with a good instrument.

Disciple: But how is it that when a man appreciates beauty he is not conscious of it as an expression of God?

Sri Aurobindo: There are so many things of which man is not conscious. I am not speaking of what man feels, or sees or, is conscious of. I am speaking of what is behind.

Disciple: If a poet does not know the language he cannot be a great poet.

Sri Aurobindo: Nor can he invent rhythms unless he knows prosody. In art, as in everything else, training is necessary; one can develop the sense of beauty consciously.

Disciple: Have not the musicians got the sense of beauty inborn in them?

Sri Aurobindo: Not all. And even if it is there, much has to be done before it expresses itself perfectly. So many elements have to be brought together and harmonised before there can be the perfect expression.

Disciple: Does not, then, the expression become forced?

Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that when a poet writes his lines and then revises them and finds that certain things ought to be changed he is becoming artificial, or that his poetry becomes forced? Not at all.

Disciple: Does the artist get his form from the vital only?

Sri Aurobindo: No. But these arts are such that they require their stand in the vital. There may be other elements in them but the vital is indispensable. In fact, the highest poetry cannot come unless through the vital. One may take the elements from the mind or emotion or other parts according to necessity.

Disciple: How far is mind a factor in the process?

Sri Aurobindo: If you mean the intellectual mind it has a very little part — though it, too, has a part. The whole process is very complicated. The first impulse is given by the vital and then there is communication with the higher mind — the intuitive faculty. Then something from there comes down to the heart and the artist again takes it up into the mind, and gives expression to it.

Disciple: That is to say, something from above comes down through intuition.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, some power from above. I use the word “Intuition” in the general sense for all the faculties that act; more properly it is “Inspiration”.

Disciple: In what way does the mind enter as a factor in the creation of poetry?

Sri Aurobindo: In the very highest poetry, the mind is silent; in other kinds, the mind is active but it is not the intellectual mind.

Part 2. Chapter II. Congress — Politics

07.03.1924

The Khilafat ended two days back (5th).

Disciple: The Khilafat is steam-rollered.

Sri Aurobindo: It is quite right that it should be gone; the new republic seems thorough and solid in its working

Disciple: I doubt if the Turks were right in taking the step because now the opinion of other Muslim countries would go against them.

Sri Aurobindo: Opinion can go to the dogs! It was not by opinion that Kamal defeated the Greeks!

Disciple: But would he be now popular in Turkey?

Sri Aurobindo: He does not care for popularity.

Disciple: The allegiance of other Muslims to the Khilafat has all along been theoretical and the tie of sympathy very weak and had no hold on life. As a matter of fact, it was the Indian Muslims who fought against the Turks in Mesopotamia during the first world war.

Sri Aurobindo: The Amir of Afghanistan is the only external power to whom the Indian Muslims can look up.

Disciple: There are tendencies among the Muslims showing that fanaticism may disintegrate.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not sufficient because it would not change their whole outlook. What is wanted is some new religious movement among the Madans which would remodel their religion and change the stamp of their temperament. For instance, Bahaism in Persia which has given quite a different stamp to their temperament.

Next day (6th) it was announced that the Khalifa had to leave Turkey within 10 days.

Reuter had cabled: “the chief wife of the Khalifa was prostrate and the chief eunuch has been fasting for the last three days.” Sri Aurobindo laughed loudly saying “How funny this Reuter’s correspondent seems to be!”

Ismet Pasha remarked: “We are in Constantinople because we fought the Greeks and the Khalifa. Sympathy of the people was due to our being strong and not to the presence of the Khalifa.”

Sri Aurobindo: The first four were the real Khalifas. Afterwards it became a political institution.

Disciple: The fasting of the chief eunuch is a form of Satyagraha! But the deposition of the Khalifa is dramatic.

Sri Aurobindo: It is rather comic than dramatic.

The Pondicherry politics came in for discussion. Monin Naik from Chandernagore arrived today.

Sri Aurobindo: Our people have not yet got the political sense, If they can once break the hegemony of the white clique here then they can attempt anything afterwards.

Disciple: I tried to explain to our Chandernagore friends that all the Indians in the Council must join and shake off the white people. Then they can do anything. But somehow they did not take it well. Our people lack backbone.

Sri Aurobindo: Not only backbone but common sense.

08.03.1924

Disciple: The Servant has written a long leader on the Khilafat.

Sri Aurobindo: What does it say?

Disciple: That it is a momentous thing.

Disciple: What is momentous — the Khilafat — or the abolition?

Disciple: The Servant’s writing about it is a momentous thing. (laughter)

Disciple: Abul Kalam and Yakub Husain are satisfied with Kamal’s action, while Pickthall and Fazlul Huque have found fault with Kamal; they have even abused and accused him

Disciple: There is a proposal to have a Khalifa who would be only the religious head.

Sri Aurobindo: Nobody will acknowledge the Khalifa unless he has power. Did you read Gandhi’s letter, to Mad Ali?

He almost congratulates him on having his daughter, sick! He does not mean it evidently, but a very strange way of writing.

And what is this new paper, the Voice of India?

Disciple: It is edited by Natarajan who is also conducting the Social Reformer in Bombay.

Disciple: When he first started the Social Reformer he was called Nitrogen and therefore an inert, odourless and colourless gas!

Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps a very good description of him.

Disciple: It seems that the Independents and the Swarajists may join in the obstruction against Government.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. There seems to be a chance. Oliver’s salt-tax speech has something to do with it.

11.03.1924

Disciple: Did you read Mad Ali’s statement about the Khilafat?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I saw it, but I did not go through the whole statement.

Disciple: He says that the new assembly at Angora has no right to depose the Khalifa and that now there is even more need of the Khilafat agitation in India!

Disciple: But what does he propose to do over and above writing and speaking?

Sri Aurobindo: He says that the lion of Islam is not dead though the jackals are shouting around it.

Disciple: It would be interesting now to watch the development since Yakub Husain and others have favoured the Angora decision and Mad Ali opposes it. There may be two parties among the Muslims. The Servant points out that the new republic is secular and not religions.

Sri Aurobindo: In the first four Khalifas there was the reality of the Khilafat. They were the centres of Islamic culture and had some spirituality. After that the Umayad and other dynasties came and it became more and more religious and external, When it passed into the hands of the Turks it became a mere political institution without the fact of it.

Disciple: The nationalists seem to be in the majority in the Indian central Assembly.

Sri Aurobindo: It does not seem to be certain yet; there is every chance that the budget would be thrown out.

Disciple: At last Dr. Gaur has fallen off (from the nationalist group).

Sri Aurobindo: I knew that he would. He has nothing very deep in him, only a gift of speech and sometimes he tries to show himself more intelligent than he is. He was with me at Cambridge and I have heard him speak at the College Union. He repeated during one speech three times: “The Egyptians rose up to a man”!

Disciple: In Nagpur they have granted Rs. 2/- per annum for the Minister’s pay!

Sri Aurobindo: At last the Government has come out and the Governor is taking over the transferred departments.

Disciple: In Bengal also the Governor has vetoed the resolution of the Assembly.

Sri Aurobindo: The veto is with regard to the transferred subjects. This concerns the “reserved” subjects. The Government has simply to ignore the resolution and the budget is to be certified. By the way, what is the average income of an Indian?

Disciple: Rs. 30/- per annum.

Disciple: Rs. 2/8- per month.

Sri Aurobindo: The New India is particular about giving the average income to the Ministers! If the average income increases then his pay also increases. Very fair proposal!

Disciple: So, now there is certification and taking over the transferred departments also. These Reforms are very funny! They can allow and withdraw whatever they like from the “transferred” subjects. It means they can do anything they like. Wonderful Reforms, while the whole power is in the hands of Englishmen! (Turning to Sri Aurobindo) Do you remember what you said when the Reforms were proposed? You said: Everything given by the British up till now is a shadow and these Reforms are a huge shadow!

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I {{0}}remember.[[Sri Aurobindo was pressed by Mrs. Besant to give his opinion on the Montague Chelmsford Reforms. For a long time he avoided making any pronouncement. At last, when pressed again, he wrote an article in the New India on condition that his name should not be published. So the article appeared under the name of “an Indian Nationalist”.{{1}}In that article he said in effect: “the Reforms are like a Chinese — puzzle. Even a Chinese — puzzle can be solved but this one cannot be solved. Everything given by the Government till now was a mere shadow and the Reforms are a huge shadow.”]]

14.03.1924

Today Sri Aurobindo expressed disgust at the lukewarm attitude of Pandit Malaviya: “The whole affair is disgusting; it is characteristic of our country. They may wreck the party.”

Some one raised the topic of sanitation in Calcutta.

Disciple: Every city deserves to be burnt down after an interval of 300 years according to Charaka. Calcutta is due to be burnt.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, after some years it becomes physically and morally unfit to live in.

Disciple: Mrs. Besant is bringing up each and every problem of India in her papers and at the end always insists on her idea of calling a National Convention. It seems her panacea for everything! And the non-cooperators have been doing nothing but opposing the Swarajists.

Sri Aurobindo: What the non-cooperators are doing is simply absurd.

Disciple: Some Congress men in the Godavari District have left their propaganda of non-cooperation and taken to village reconstruction because enthusiasm has waned among the people. No one comes to attend meetings, no money is subscribed to the Tilak Swaraj Fund. Khadi does not evoke response.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I had that experience in 1909 when I was in Bengal. That gave me an insight into my countrymen. After the arrests and deportations we used to hold meetings in the College Square and some sixty or seventy persons used to attend, mostly passers by; and I had the honour to preside over several of those meetings!

Disciple: In Gujarat we had the same experience in the National Educational programme. The public would not support an independent national school or college.

A Disciple reported the arrival of a Bengali teacher at Pondicherry to see Sri Aurobindo. He had joined the non-cooperation movement and stayed — in the Sabarmati Ashram for seven months and learnt spinning and weaving. He was going to Rajkot as the headmaster of the national school there.

Disciple: He is very solicitous about humanity and Wants your yoga to help humanity.

Sri Aurobindo: Humanity has, fortunately, a sound head, and so it is safe from its saviours.

Disciple: There are so many of them; and yet the wonder is that humanity is still living!

Sri Aurobindo: Quite so; it is living in spite of them!

In the afternoon a Pondicherian who had returned from Saigon came and wanted that Sri Aurobindo should cure his wife by his yogic power.

Disciple: I told him that it was not possible. Then he said “What is the use of his yoga if he does not help humanity?”

Sri Aurobindo: Humanity means his wife or what?

08.04.1924

Disciple: Did you read Gandhiji’s opposition to council entry?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he is opposed to it because it is against Ahimsa! It is negative and not constructive. The same was said by Tagore about non-cooperation!

Disciple: C. Rajgopalachari says one yard of Khaddar means one step towards Swaraj.

Sri Aurobindo: It will be a very long way in that case.

Disciple: I hear that Gandhiji is getting text-books prepared for schools.

Sri Aurobindo: One book will begin with how to grow cotton and end with lessons on weaving, another on cooking and another on how to clean latrines.

Disciple: The last would be in the higher standards! (laughter) In his commentary on the Gita he tries to show that the war is between good and evil tendencies in man,— it is only a figure of speech,

Sri Aurobindo: So, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna: You may kill the bad passions or evil tendencies but do not be sorry, really they are not going to be killed! Who kills whom? Thus the whole thing is an allegory. But is it?

09.04.1924

Disciple: Did you see Gandhiji’s reply to the sub-assistant Surgeon’s letter requesting him to give up the field of action because of his ill-health? It also says that he should retire because of his need of spirituality and also because of his use of medical aid against his own declared opinions.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I read it. There is the same mixture of which I have already spoken, only by his reading of books, I am afraid, he has made it worse. There was a mixture of Tolstoi, Christianity and Jainism. Now he has added the Veda, Koran and Gita to it.

Disciple: Did he not see that Ahimsa applied that way would not succeed?

Sri Aurobindo: Why? That is his gospel. People have to see if they want to accept it. It may fail in the collectivity but he may and can follow it individually.

But, as I say, the whole turn of his mind is like that of the Europeans. I doubt if he ever had the grasp of the ideas of Indian philosophy. Besides, the whole trend of his being is vital — he always tries to put things into life and make a rule of it. That again is the European tendency,— everything to be turned into a code, a rule. Only, he puts it in Indian terms.

I don’t see any use his saying: “So long as others have not got «good Khaddar» I will not use «fine» Khaddar.” It may come to saying: “So long as others are not educated I shall not learn, or for that matter, so long as others do not get food I will starve.”

Disciple: There are disparaging reports about the political situation in Maharashtra and Andhra. People’s enthusiasm has ebbed and it is hard to find office-bearers for the Congress.

Sri Aurobindo: Our people are wonderful — they always want some excitement. They have not yet realised that politics is a serious affair and of long breath. They say: “Give us Swaraj in one year or sensation!”

Disciple: I have been in the non-cooperation movement and worked in it for some time. My own feeling is that Gandhiji would look up to St. Francis, who licked the wounds of the lepers, as his ideal.

Sri Aurobindo: Licking the leper would do the leper no good and may do harm to St. Francis.

Even in these days — apart from what our people did in the past — the Indian way is to do things but not to make it a rule of life. They do certain things to get rid of the obstructing Sanskara.

Disciple: That is what Ramakrishna did — going and sweeping the quarters of the untouchables — to get rid of the Sanskara of the Brahmin and his feeling of superiority. He did it as a part and process of sadhana.

Sri Aurobindo: That is what I mean by the Indian way — I said that once before.

31.05.1924

The topic was Gandhiji’s statement that the Swarajists must walk out of the Congress. For being a Congressman one has to believe in the five-fold Boycott, then one has to spin, and stop drinking if he is doing it and unite with the Muslims.

Disciple: You saw the statement of Mahatmaji?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. He says in effect: “first, you have to believe in the five Boycotts; I tell you it is hard and not an easy thing to do.”

Disciple: Then to spin is harder still.

Sri Aurobindo: If you comply with the requirements he — says Swaraj can be easily attained, though he does not give the time — limit.

Disciple: The argument he gives is that two parties cannot carry on the Government.

Sri Aurobindo: [???]its: modern times, many European governments are carried on by coalitions.

Disciple: He seems to be trying some kind of yoga also.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Do you know: anything about it? I saw his article on Brahmacharya but it did not contain consistent thought. Once he says that a strong mind has a strong body and then he says that as one progresses in mental development the body must get weak.

He also finds a connection between lust and taste.

Disciple: He wants to stick to the mental consciousenss and to the ordinary nature and tries to master the movements of nature from the mental consciousness helped, if possible, by prayer. He has hardly even a cursory acquaintance with the division of Purusha and Prakriti, so necessary to establish the basis of the spiritual life

Disciple: The prayers in the Ashram are a fixed routine.

Disciple: You know, I once conducted a prayer in Nava Vidhan Brahmo Samaj! It was greatly appreciated while I uttered absolute platitudes, I believe.

Sri Aurobindo: They only appreciated it, that’s all?

Disciple: No, they said: “it was poetic and very fine”!

Sri Aurobindo: This kind of prayer is current in England. It is very external and mechanical.

07.06.1924

Rasputin, the musician mystic of Russia was the subject of the talk for some time. This Rasputin had suddenly become a spiritual man. He was a villager and suddenly got some power of the vital plane. He influenced people with his eyes. He had used his power for lower ends.

Disciple: There is a pronouncement today about the elegibility to the A.I.C.G. — All India Congress Committee.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it makes very strange reading! This method of purification which is proposed seems absurd. One can follow up this kind of proposal by saying, “All the members must produce a certificate that they have cooked their own food, cleaned their own latrine” etc.

Disciple: Sir Sankaran Nair has lost his case against O’Dwyer.

Sri Aurobindo: It was a foregone conclusion.

17.06.1924

Disciple: Tagore’s internationalism seems to have received a rude shock in China at the passing of the Japanese Exclusion Bill.

Disciple: It seems from his writing that he is an internationalist first and looks on nationalism as something dispensable.

Sri Aurobindo: But you must have nations before you can have “inter” between them.

Disciple: He seems to argue the other way round: if you work for internationalism then nationalism will take care of itself.

Disciple: It does not take care of itself — others take care of it; that is the difficulty.

Sri Aurobindo: Internationalism is all right, we accept it on its own plane. But we must have “nations” first.

Disciple: When he finds people do not accept his idea he says: “great ideals can afford to wait — their failure in such matters means nothing.”

Sri Aurobindo: It seems only a mental construction without any idea of the reality. In this way sometimes people injure the very cause for which they stand. I should be on good terms with my neighbour, but that does not mean that I should allow him to come into my house and occupy it.

Disciple: He advises the Indians to extend the hand of friendship and help Europe in its forlorn condition.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it will take the hand and give a kick in return.

Disciple: Or perhaps it will take the hand and search our pockets.

Sri Aurobindo: There is nothing left in the pockets now.

Disciple: It is like some people who say we must help the poor; therefore, let us become poor ourselves.

19.06.1924

Disciple: The Swarajists have a difficult task.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. The resolution which Gandhi proposes amounts to an ultimatum to the Swarajists.

By the way, what is the meaning of “Satyagraha”?

Disciple: Mahatmaji differentiates between “passive-resistance” and “Satyagraha”.

Sri Aurobindo: I do not see much in it. Passive resistance also is resorted to because one is convinced of the Truth — Satya — of one’s side.

Disciple: Mahatmaji’s definition differs: according to him Satyagraha is not merely a political weapon; and secondly, it conveys the idea of Truth with non-violence as its necessary corollary.

Sri Aurobindo: But passive resistance can be done in all the fields of life; he himself did it. Perhaps “passive-resistance” is a plain and unpretentious expression while “Satyagraha” is high-sounding. It conveys to others the idea that what one stands for is the Truth. Some may find an air of moral superiority in it.

Disciple: But about the spinning clause I know that even in the heyday of non-cooperation no one span. There is also a resolution that the provinces should carry out the orders of the A.I.C.C. I wonder why that is brought forward,

Sri Aurobindo: It is to bring Bengal under the “No-changers”.

Disciple: But formerly he talked of Provincial Autonomy in the Congress organisation.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. But now it does not suit him, then it was suitable. One accepts the Truth that suits one at the time. He may be wanting to keep the whole organisation in his hands.

Disciple: Formerly he said that if the Congress did not agree with him he would work separately.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. That was suitable at that time. He is perfectly justified in imposing all conditions on his own organisation; but to do it on the Congress is hardly justifiable.

Disciple: The leaders, I believe, have a conspiracy for supplying the ten tolas of cotton spun.

Sri Aurobindo: You mean with their wives! (laughter)

22.06.1924

There was talk about “Gopinath Saha” resolution in the Congress. The Forward came out with Dhingra’s statement

Disciple: Mahatmaji says that his faith in the programme is daily increasing. Only, the difficulty is that others seem to be losing faith in it in the same proportion.

Sri Aurobindo: Probably it is rolling back to its own source!

Disciple: Khadi now has become a fashion, so much so that one can’t attend a public meeting without Khadi on his person.

Disciple: The logic is something like this: the capacity to depend upon ourselves in the matter of clothing would give us economic independence.

Sri Aurobindo: If all began to spin and weave there would be no time left to produce other things. We might have to import them from outside.

One should put on hand — spun and hand — woven cloth and the Charkha also may be used; there is absolutely no objection to these things. But everything taken out of its proper place becomes ridiculous.

Disciple: I was instructed to take a particular kind of bath as a treatment by Mahatmaji. He was against using medicine.

Disciple: What would happen in case of Appendicitis? A British surgeon, Medical science, etc. may be necessary.

30.06.1924

Sri Aurobindo: What became of the resolution in the A.I.C.C.?

Disciple: It seems Mahatmaji has climbed down.

Sri Aurobindo: It is surprising because he had declared that he was “unmoved”.

Disciple: The Swarajists had only to go to him and he seemed ready to climb down.

Sri Aurobindo: They probably went to him seeing the penalty clause, and also to ascertain how far he would climb down.

Disciple: The last resolution — about litigants being allowed to appear in law-courts — was ruled out of order. But in actual practice all these resolutions are shelved.

Sri Aurobindo: You do, and can do, all these things as “practical” men; but how can you be a conscientious non-cooperator at the same time?

Disciple: Hanumanth Rao drew attention to the pleader’s plight and sought permission for them to continue legal practice.

Sri Aurobindo: No, there will be litigants and no pleader!

03.07.1924

There was talk about the resolution of the A.I.C.C. concerning litigants. The case of donation of Rs. 25,000/- came up also. He was not able to sell his bungalow and wants “somebody to buy it”. He had to defend himself in court. His two sons are light-fingered according to report.

Sri Aurobindo: What is their age?

Disciple: One is twelve and the other fifteen.

Disciple: Then it is the age for stealing. I stole up to my fortieth year and even this morning I stole a chrysanthemum from the Telegraph Office garden. X wanted to pluck more flowers. But I hurried him away.

Disciple: What a situation! From planning political dacoities to pilfering flowers!

Sri Aurobindo: Why? It is not a fall. It is an ascent,— that was Rajasik, this is Sattwik. If you steal, you must do it in the proper way and in the right spirit.

All property is theft and so when you steal you Steal from a thief! (laughter)

Disciple: When I came out of the compound I was thinking that this was the only way to equalise property. Mr. A has one plant, now I will have one and so each of us will have one!

Disciple: But do you want everyone to steal from the Telegraph Office garden?

Disciple: I do not mind if someone stole from here; only, he must not tell me, because if he asks I won’t give. (laughter)

Disciple: The first condition is that, you must not be found out!

04.07.1924

The subject was Gandhi’s article: “Defeated and humbled” — an article in which he bemoans the situation in the Congress and says that it was a clear victory for Mr. G.R. Das.

Sri Aurobindo attended to the correspondence and then began:

“Did you read Gandhi’s article?”

Disciple: I heard about it, it is a long wail.

Sri Aurobindo: “Wail” is not the word.

He could not restrain his tears, though he says it is hard to make him shed tears. He also says that the whole sitting was frivolous

Disciple: Even in the heyday of non-cooperation the A.I..C.C. people voted in the same fashion as they did now. Then they Voted for him; now they voted against him.

Disciple: That makes the whole difference: that makes it unreal and frivolous etc.

Sri Aurobindo: Generally, in such moments people do not speak; they keep it to themselves but he comes out with it. It is all how it affected the “I” and how he felt and how it all touched him!

Disciple: He becomes so much identified with the work in hand that he can hardly have that detached self-view which is necessary to detect the central k mistake.

Sri Aurobindo: If the resolutions he has brought forward are defeated, or if a certain resolution is ruled out of order, there is no reason why he should feel hurt and that has nothing to do with the work for the country.

He objects to Dr. Choithram’s resolution and he is very much hurt at that shielding (Deshpande) resolution. About the Serajgunj resolution also Gandhi has felt much.

15.07.1924

The Gujarat Provincial Congress Committee passed the compulsory spinning resolution with the penalty clause.

Sri Aurobindo (turning to a disciple): Gujarat is outdoing itself.

Disciple: First month three thousand yards and then five thousand yards.

Sri Aurobindo: Who will spin for V.J. Patel? [Sardar Patel]

Disciple: His daughter may do it for him.

Sri Aurobindo: If spinning by proxy is allowed, then it is easy.

Disciple: Mr. G.M. Desai opposed the motion.

Sri Aurobindo: Who will spin for him?

Disciple: He has lost his wife many years ago, and has no child.

Sri Aurobindo: Then his opposition is very much self-interested.

Disciple: Who will supply them with cotton?

Disciple: Bajaj.

Disciple: But each one must grow his own cotton!

02.08.1924

Today Motilal Nehru’s letter to Sri Aurobindo was received.

The talk turned first to the explanation given by a French scientist about the twinkling of stars. He says that the azote particles come across the atmosphere and that is why the planets being near do not twinkle, while the stars being far do.

Disciple: It is an intelligent way of believing, I am afraid.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not at all an intelligent explanation.

Disciple: Apart from theories, why do the stars twinkle?

Sri Aurobindo: You must ask them! When we were young we were told that the planets reflect the light of the Sun while the stars emit it and therefore they twinkle. (turning to a disciple) Did you read Motilal’s letter asking for contribution to his paper?

Disciple: Yes, I did.

Sri Aurobindo: Evidently the Swarajists are very much afraid of the Mahatma.

Disciple: But they have “love and esteem”!

Sri Aurobindo: It is also dread and fear — more than anything else.

*

Disciple: Who will supply them with cotton?

Disciple: Bajaj.

Disciple: But each one must grow his own cotton!

02.08.1924

Today Motilal Nehru’s letter to Sri Aurobindo was received.

The talk turned first to the explanation given by a French scientist about the twinkling of stars. He says that the azote particles come across the atmosphere and that is why the planets being near do not twinkle, while the stars being far do.

Disciple: It is an intelligent way of believing, I am afraid.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not at all an intelligent explanation.

Disciple: Apart from theories, why do the stars twinkle?

Sri Aurobindo: You must ask them! When we were young we were told that the planets reflect the light of the Sun while the stars emit it and therefore they twinkle. (turning to a disciple) Did you read Motilal’s letter asking for contribution to his paper?

Disciple: Yes, I did.

Sri Aurobindo: Evidently the Swarajists are very much afraid of the Mahatma.

Disciple: But they have “love and esteem”!

Sri Aurobindo: It is also dread and fear — more than anything else.

12.09.1924

The Tarakeshwar affair was being settled. The first terms that were proposed did not meet with Sri Aurobindo’s approval. But next day an open letter from Swami Vishwananda appeared agreeing with C.R. Das: The Mahant abdicates in favour of Prabhat Giri and the power of management of the temple rests with a committee that can, if necessary, dismiss the Mahant and the committee would appoint a separate Manager of estates.

Today (the 13th) Sri Aurobindo approved of these terms. If we have our own Government we could throw out the Mahant and settle the affair once for all; but under a foreign rule if Das can establish the authority of the committee legally, it would be the cleverest thing to do, so that in case of emergency the committee can enforce its mandate by law. As it is, the whole law is against the public.

After all Das is a man who “muddles through” — he acts on his intuitions and impulses and somehow muddles through a difficulty.

Disciple: He is very impulsive.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, impulses are vital intuitions. Not that he commits no mistakes. He goes on committing mistakes and tries to rectify them and somehow comes to “something”.

Disciple: He may bungle into Swaraj.

Sri Aurobindo: If not Swaraj, he may stumble into some way towards it. There are some people like Mustafa Kamal who never commit a mistake and everything about them is organised. Das is not that type.

Disciple: Kamal lords it over everyone and I am afraid that makes him unpopular.

Sri Aurobindo: That, every strong man does.

Disciple: Even his lieutenants try to follow him in that respect and people find it difficult to get on with them.

Sri Aurobindo (after a time): That is perhaps inevitable when you require people who will take the extreme step. Such men can hardly remain calm and yet be extremists. Few can be extremists while retaining their calmness.

An article in the Young India gave the list of books Mahatmaji read in jail.

Disciple: It contains at the end Gandhiji’s estimate of Christianity; he differs, he says, from orthodox Christianity. He believes in the symbolic interpretation of Christ, Mary and the Holy Ghost.

Sri Aurobindo: A lot of Christians also believe the same.

Disciple: He also believes that everyone must be crucified in order to attain Christhood; he would not, he says, put a limited interpretation on the “Sermon on the Mount”. But he finds Hinduism quite sufficient for his spiritual development. He has read the Upanishads and finds them very grand, but he cannot agree with some of their ideas, he finds them difficult to understand even.

Sri Aurobindo: All that could hardly prove that he is not a Christian in his make.

Disciple: He has written a long paragraph on the Mahabharata. He finds it a great poem, and he is especially charmed by the poet’s consistently working out the law of Karma (cause and effect). The mighty Krishna dies like — an — ordinary — man; the great Arjuna is robbed by the Kabas — his Gandiva, the famous bow, notwithstanding; and even Dharmaraja is made to feel the unpleasant odour of hell for having lowered the ideal of Truth.

Sri Aurobindo: What is there the cause and what is the effect? One man strikes the blow and the other dies, so one is the cause and the other is the effect!

Disciple: He has also read Goethe’s Faust and finds that the heroine (Henrietta) could not find peace until she took to the spinning-wheel.

Sri Aurobindo: My God! (turning to a disciple) Do you know Mrs. Besant, Jaykar and Natarajan have decided to spin?

Disciple: It is a fine trio! I do not know how long their enthusiasm is going to last.

Disciple: Now the proposal made by the Mahatma is very simple.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Instead of four annas you have to give two thousand yards per month.

Disciple: Those who do not will cease to be members of the Congress.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is the penalty.

Disciple: Penalty for whom? the man or the Congress?

Disciple: Have you not used the word “wheel” in your writings in the Arya? We may send the cutting to the Mahatma!

Sri Aurobindo: I may have used “Brahman’s wheel” or some such expression.

Disciple: Does it not turn?

Sri Aurobindo: It turns out men and also Gandhis.

23.10.1925

There was a report in the press about Mahatma Gandhi’s going to Cutch. He seemed to believe that he was approaching his death. There was a statement that he was going to Cutch to take rest and also to attend to the grievances of the Cutch people.

Disciple: His idea is that he would like to do “spiritual” work for the country.

Disciple: Nowadays “spiritual” is a word of which the meaning is known to very few people.

Sri Aurobindo: In ancient India they knew the meaning. But now obviously the Indians have got the European idea of spirituality. It is not a very deep idea. If you have strong emotion, or strong passion, or a particular type of thoughts — that is what they call spirituality. Or it is something bound up with ethics, morality and philanthrophy.

In Europe they use the word “spirit” in contrast to “matter”. Whatever is not matter is spirit; and so if any man has high mental ideals and an aesthetic turn of mind or some ideas of social service they call him “spiritual”.

Disciple: When I first came across the use of the word “femme spirituelle” in France during the first World War, I took it in the Indian sense and it was later on that I came to know that it only meant any “witty” or “vivacious” girl.

Sri Aurobindo: Because in French “esprit” means “mind”, “wit” and such other things.

Disciple: During the war a doctor — probably Dr. Lebon — of France took photographs of departed spirits and immediately after the war there was a mania in France for consulting “spiritualists”, to get messages from the departed souls.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is another definition of “spirituality”, or rather “spiritualism”, in Europe.

Disciple: The one thing they accept is the physical body and in France they have come to accept vital force or “living matter”.

Sri Aurobindo: The French find it difficult to go beyond the intellect. Other European nations are no better,, They are satisfied if they get a “proof”. Newman saw that evidence does not prove anything and that you can prove what you want by using the same evidence. They can’t understand that the laws governing the planes behind the physical plane may be quite different from those that obtain here.

For instance, Oliver Lodge is a great scientist and he asserts that the voice which came to him was that of Raymond, his son, who had died in the war. He says that it is proved beyond doubt because it spoke in the way in which his son used to speak and recounted things which only Raymond knew and also spoke about certain family matters,

Now, if a voice, or a spirit, comes to you and says that it is so and so, it does not, in the least, mean that it is that man. Any spirit from that plane can come and figure as that man. Europeans can’t believe that a being on the subtle planes can have knowledge of things by means which are quite different from those we have to use. It can know many things. Not only that, it can catch hold of the “astral” body and the nervous form of the individual and figure before you. But that would not prove that it is that man. You can even take its photograph perhaps. But that is not the astral or the subtle body. It is the body just behind the physical that you see.

But Europeans are mere children in these things. They take the laws of this plane and try to apply them to the subtle planes. Col. Wedgewood, when he came here, could not understand anything when someone told him that I was doing “spiritual work”. He asked:

“What is spirituality?” But in spite of an explanation he could not understand what spirituality is. If Europeans had to pass through the experience of the stone-throwing incident which occured in 41 Rue Francois Martin, they would at Qnce take the incident as a proof of some spirit throwing it. In fact, it only proves that “stones fell” and that “they were thrown by some agency without the use of physical means”. That is all you can say. It is a matter of experience; one has oneself to enter into these planes and find out the laws obtaining there. There are so many possibilities and you have yet to find out which is the fact in a particular case.

07.04.1926

There was a reference to a letter of Lord Reading to the Nizam of Hyderabad in which he says: “No Indian State can deal with the British on terms of political equality and that the British was the Paramount power in India.”

Disciple: This time the Indian Government has been outspoken to the Indian princes probably because other princes also have begun to insist on the terms of their treaties being observed. The Gaekwad, for instance, asked back Kathiawad the other day. The Indian Government wants to prevent such a movement among the princes.

Sri Aurobindo: The Indian princes may be anything personally, but as a class they lack courage and political wisdom.

Disciple: Taraknath Das in his book points out that the Indian princes could help in the work of national regeneration. They could even take part in international politics.

Sri Aurobindo: Many things are desirable, but they do not always come true. No doubt, if the princes were politicians they could hasten the march of freedom to a very great extent. They could create real centres of power within their dominions which would serve when the time for revolution came. That was the idea in the Gaekwar’s mind when he began but it was not carried through.

Disciple: There was a Praja Mandal which recently protested against the increase of taxes.

Sri Aurobindo: I do not mean that the Indian States must adopt parliamentary institutions, or even that India must copy them from Europe. You think that the opposition between the State and the popular party must always be there. That is the European idea. It is not necessary to have that kind of opposition at all.

Disciple: Was there no such thing in ancient India?

Sri Aurobindo: There was; you need not have the same thing today. In India the communal freedom was very great. The communities had great powers and the State had no autocratic authority. The State was a kind of general supervising agency of all the communities. What these modern princes can do is to create great centres of life amongst their subjects, so that they may be the seats of real power and life of the nation. The princes need not take part as leaders; but they can help the growth of the nation.

Disciple: In olden times, had the villages also such great powers?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, they had; it is the European idea that makes you think that the parliamentary form or constitution is the best. We had great communal liberty and the communities were the centres of power and of national life. The king could not infringe the right of the commune.

Disciple: The communities must be strong and living enough not to allow their rights to be snatched away.

Sri Aurobindo: It was so; the king had a continuity of policy from father to son and he could not infringe the rights of the communes; and if these rights were interfered with the people at once made themselves felt.

That was the form which the genius of the race had evolved. You think that this parliamentary government is the best form of government. In fact, that form has been a success nowhere except in England. In France, it is worse, in America, in spite of their being an Anglo-Saxon race, it has not succeeded.

Disciple: In Japan, is it the European form?

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t think so; in Italy and in South Europe the parliamentary form is there but they all copied the German constitution and there is no reality behind the form.

I don’t understand why everything should be centralised as in the parliamentary constitution. We must have different, numerous centres of culture and power, full of national life, spread all over the country and they must have political freedom to develop themselves.

Disciple: Village organisation can also help in the creation of such centres.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. But it is not by lectures and sermonising to the village people, as we are trying to do now.

Disciple: I have letters from a friend informing me that the organisation of co-operative societies has succeeded in Gujarat.

Sri Aurobindo: If you want to work in the village, you must take to a natural profession, go and settle down among the village people and be one of them. When they see that you are a practical man they will begin to trust you. If you go there and work hard for ten or fifteen years you will gain your status and you will be able to do something because they will be prepared to listen to you.

The parliamentary form would be hardly suitable for our people. Of course, it is not necessary that you should have today the same old forms. But you can take the line of evolution and follow the bent of the genius of the race.

29.06.1926

Disciple: What is the difference between European and Indian Politics?

Sri Aurobindo: If you mean the politics of India today then there is absolutely no difference. It is a bad copy of Western politics, taking any catch-words, often even without any reference to realities. For instance, you introduce parliamentarian liberalism or the labour movement because Europe has got them. But there it is very real while here it is merely an idea and a name. Parliamentarianism is based upon educating public opinion and there the agitation has a direct bearing on their government and they have got to do it to take the masses with them at the polls. In India while we take up this form of agitation, of making a big noise, we forget that they have their government while here it is not ours and therefore the agitation is futile.

There are three elements in European politics.

1. Mental idea or ideal of political and social life.

2. Interest of the communities or classes.

3. Machinery of Government.

Now, in Europe people believe and think that if they succeed in bringing about a definite form of Government on the lines of certain ideals such as Democracy, Monarchy, Socialism, Communism etc, then all the problems of humanity will be solved. They follow a mental ideal which they think to be the only truth and they create public opinion and try to catch, or get hold of, the machinery of the State.

Among all the conflicting ideals none has yet proved successful. It was thought that democracy would be the most successful form but after experience it is proved that it is far from being a success.

Next comes the interest of individuals and classes. It is really the interest which gets the better of the mental ideal and succeeds in getting hold of the machinery of the State, i.e., power.

In the beginning it was the priest and the monarch with his aristocracy who ruled. Then the aristocracy, the fighting class, with the common man under it, and then came the middle class, the merchant class, which is now having the machinery of power under what is called Democracy. And now there is the effort in countries like Russia where the proletariat are trying to rule.

Now for Machinery of the State. It is rigid and hard centralisation and mechanization of the life of the nation perfectly organised in all details to meet an aggression, to defend and to expand.

In the old Indian collective life the three Indian things were: (1) spontaneously growing free communal units; (2) the Dharma-idea; (3) harmonising of national life by a central agency. In India we had nothing of the mental ideal in politics. We had a spontaneous and a free growth of communities developing on their own lines. It was not so much a mental idea as an inner impulse or feeling, to express life in a particular form. Each such communal form of life — the village, the town, etc, which formed the unit of national life, was left free in its own internal management. The central authority never interfered with it.

There was not the idea of “interest” in India as in Europe, i.e., each community was not fighting for its own interest; but there was the idea of Dharma, the function which the individual and the community has to fulfil in the larger national life, There, were caste organisations not based upon a religio-social basis as we find nowadays; they were more or less groups organised for a communal life. There were also religious communities like the Buddhists, the Jains, etc. Each followed its own law — Swadharma — unhampered by the State. The State recognised the necessity of allowing such various forms of life to develop freely in order to give to the national spirit a richer expression.

Then over the two there was the central authority, whose function was not so much to legislate as to harmonise and see that everything was going on all right. It was administered by a Raja in cases, also, an elected head of the clan, as in the instance of Gautama Buddha. Each ruled over either a small State or a group of small States or republics. One was not at the head to put his hand over all organisations and keep them down. If he interfered with them he was deposed because each of these organisations had its own laws which had been established for long ages.

The machinery of the State also was not so mechanical as in the West — it was plastic and elastic.

This organisation we find in history perfected in the reign of Ghandragupta and the Maurya dynasty. The period preceding this must have been a period o| great political development in India. Every department of national life, we can see, was in charge of a board or a committee with a minister at the head and each board looked after what we now would call its own department and was left free from undue interference of the Central authority. The change of kings left these boards untouched and unaffected in their work. An organisation similar to that was found in the Town and in the Village and it was this organisation that was taken up by the Madans when they came and it is that which the English also have taken up. The idea of the King as the absolute monarch was never an Indian idea. It was brought from Central Asia by the Madans.

The English in accepting this system have disfigured it considerably. They have found ways to put their hand on and grasp all the old organisations, using them merely as channels to establish more thoroughly the authority of the Central Power. They discouraged every free organisation and every attempt at the manifestation of the free life of the community. Now attempts are being made to have the Co-operative Societies in villages, there is an effort at, reviving the Panchayats. But these organisations cannot be revived once they have been crushed and even if they revived they would not be the same.

If the old organisation had lasted it would have been a successful rival of the modern form of government.

Disciple: Is it possible to come back to old forms in modern times?

Sri Aurobindo: You need not come back to the old forms but you can retain the spirit which might create its own new forms.

They could not last, firstly, because there was the flagging of national energy owing to various causes. Secondly, the country was too vast and the means of communication not efficient enough to permit all national forces being concentrated on a particular point. Chandragupta could not have very easily reached the farthest end of his dominion so as to put all available national strength to a single purpose. If India had been a small country it would have been much more easy and with the modern means of communication I am sure it would have succeeded.

It has been a special feature of India that, she has to contain in her life all the most diverse elements and assimilate them. This renders her problem most intricate.

Disciple: If it is India’s destiny to assimilate all the conflicting elements, is it possible to assimilate the Madan element also?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? India has assimilated elements from the Greeks, the Persians and other nations. But she assimilates only when her Central Truth is recognised by the other party, and even while assimilating she does it in such a way that the elements absorbed are no longer recognisable as foreign but become part of herself. For instance, we took from the Greek architecture, from the Persian painting etc.

The assimilation of the Madan culture also was done in the mind to a great extent and it would have perhaps gone further. But in order that the process may be complete it is necessary that a change in the Madan mentality should come. The conflict is in the outer life and unless the Madans learn tolerance I do not think the assimilation is possible.

The Hindu is ready to tolerate. He is open to new ideas and his culture has got a wonderful capacity for assimilation, but always provided that her Central Truth is recognised.

Disciple: Did India have the national idea in the modern sense?

Sri Aurobindo: The “Nation” idea India never had. By that I mean the political idea of the nation. It is a modern growth. But we had in India the cultural and spiritual idea of the nation.

Disciple: Is it possible to continue the modern idea of the nation with the spontaneously growing institutions of the old times?

Sri Aurobindo: The modern political consciousness of the national idea has come to Europe recently. It arose either by a slow growth as in England and Japan on account of their insular position more or less, or in response to outside pressure as with the French who got it after their conquest by the Britons. Practically, the French began to be a nation after the appearance of Joan of Arc. Up to that time England found always some allies among the French nobles. Italy got it not more than a century ago, and the Germans as late as the time of Bismarck.

This consciousness is more political than anything else and it aims at the organisation of the national forces for offence and defence. If you accept the ideal of nations going on fighting and destroying for ever, then you have to give up the cultural and spiritual free growth of the nation and follow in the footsteps of European nations.

Disciple: In America — U.S.A. — each state makes its own laws — there the central authority is not oppressive.

Disciple: But the State legislates about everything. America, in fact, is a country of laws and regulations and not free growth.

Sri Aurobindo: The present-day national spirit and the centralised mechanical organisation of the State are logical conclusions or consequences of “nations” — of “armed nations”; you feel more and more justified in centralising everything once you have begun.

But there is no reason to suppose that the present-day ideal of nationhood which is only aggressive and defensive would last for ever. If this state of affairs is to last for ever then you can give up all hope for humanity. Only a cataclysm, in that case, can save humanity.

Disciple: If the spirit of nationalism is given up by the European nations, what will they follow?

Sri Aurobindo: Do you want me to prophesy? But the modern tendency seems: to be towards some kind of internationalism.

Disciple: What do you think of Tagore’s idea of India becoming the meeting-ground of the West and the East?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by the meeting of the West and the East? You mean like the meeting of the tiger and the lamb?

Disciple: Meeting like brothers and equals.

Disciple: Why meet in India? We can meet in London, as their brother! (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: We in India take time to assimilate and put into life this new national idea of the West. Other Asiatic nations like the Japanese and the Turks have been able to catch it. There is a great difference between the Indian and the Japanese mind. The Japanese have got the mental discipline and capacity to organise. We in India have not that sort of ordered and practical mind. In Japan everyone lives for the Mikado and the Mikado is the symbol of the nation — he embodies the spirit of the nation. Everyone is prepared to die for him. This we could never have in India; Japan was more feudal in its past than any other Asiatic nation.

Disciple: Is there no similarity between the political institutions of the Middle Ages and the organisations of Chandragupta in India?

Sri Aurobindo: There is only a superficial resemblance.; We had no feudalism as it was practised in Europe.

Disciple: Was there no penal system in ancient India?

Sri Aurobindo: There were no jails as we have them now.

Disciple: No jails!

Disciple: What will non-co-operators do?

Disciple: The laws of Manu — do they represent the ancient penal code of the past?

Sri Aurobindo: Manusmriti is a compilation made by the Brahmins and it is not very old. It was, I believe, somewhere about the first century that the laws were compiled. They must be embodying, of course, the former laws. There were punishments in those days, fines, corporal punishments, mutilation and even capital punishment.

Disciple: If we had all these things, why have we Indians come to our present condition?

Sri Aurobindo: Present-day Indians have got nothing to boast of from their past. Indian culture today is in the most abject condition, like the fort of Jinji — one pillar standing here, and another ceiling there and some hall out of recognition somewhere!

04.08.1926

Disciple: The word “Dharma” has come to mean “religion”, though the original sense is not that. It is the law of being — social or moral — which sustains the being. Is the old classification of men in four orders, according to the peculiar Dharma of each, tenable now? Can each human being have the characteristics of the four orders?

Sri Aurobindo: There is infinite possibility. So the potentiality of all the four castes is in every man, but that does not exist as a fact. No classification can be perfect so long as man is living in the mental consciousness. It is not possible to classify all natures into four orders. So we have come to the present confusion because it is regulated by birth. Of course, there are tradition, training, culture and atmosphere which tend to give the stamp of nature.

But then the economic classification set aside the one according to inherent inborn nature. Profession then became the mark of the caste. Now, even this has broken down — what continues as caste is meaningless. Many meaningless things continue in humanity.

Before Buddha there were Kshatriyas in Bengal. When Buddhism collapsed there remained two castes — Brahmins and Shudras — other castes rightly resented being called “Shudras”. In old times the agriculturist, the trader and the craftsmen were all Vaishyas.

Disciple: Nowadays there is the democratic ideal.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. In the democratic ideal all are inherently equal. Now they say we must give equal opportunity to all — that is possible; there was a hierarchy in India and in Feudal Europe.

But where is democracy even today? It is a name which simply covers up the inequalities. All human ideals move round in a vicious circle. First, a hierarchy starts the culture — the start, generally, is with knowledge and spiritual experience. Then the culture spreads down to the people and in so doing it depreciates. Then a general levelling down takes place and there comes democracy. Then a hierarchy comes in and the circle starts again.

Disciple: But is there a goal for humanity?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there is a goal, and humanity is not going towards it but round and round in a circle below, while the goal is high up.

Disciple: What can man do to get out of the circle?

Sri Aurobindo: To escape he must go beyond humanity. In the case of individuals attempts up till now have succeeded. But no effort has succeeded in making it a part of the earth-nature.

08.09.1926

Disciple: What are the possibilities of industrialism in India?

Sri Aurobindo: About that you can say as much as I. that do you mean by industrialism?

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

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

Disciple: The real question is: how to prevent life from being mechanised?

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

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

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

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

Disciple: The problem is: how to introduce big machinery and yet avoid all the evils arising out of it?

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

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

Sri Aurobindo: But why should India wait till other countries solve the problem, so that it may imitate them afterwards?

Disciple: How will India avoid the evils?

Sri Aurobindo: Let her first acquire wealth. Without wealth they cannot expect to make any progress.

Part 2. Chapter III. Non-Violence

28.03.1923

Disciple: There are some followers of the school of non-violence in Indian politics who want to prove that the Gita preaches non-violence. They depend on the Mahatma’s interpretation of the Gita.

Sri Aurobindo: Non-violence is not in the Gita. If, as some people, including — the Mahatma, say, the Gita signifies a spiritual war or battle only, then what of Apariharyerthe and Hanyamane same — “inevitable circumstance” and “body being killed”? What of the Shoka — the sorrow — for those who are dead? To me such a reading seems the result of a defect in their mental attitude. They have not got the intellectual rectitude which can wait and calmly grasp the truth. Besides, there is no question of crying over dead sins if the Kaurawas only symbolise the “sins” — and these people may be sure! that the sins killed by Arjuna have not been really dead.

18.04.1923

Disciple: Sometimes we had discussions about Ahimsa — non-violence and I pointed out the sixth chapter of the Essays on the Gita to my friends of the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad and I found they could not reply to it.

Sri Aurobindo: I am not sure, but the Mahatma’s son — Devadas — who came here sent it to the Mahatma who said he was unable to reply to it intellectually. Perhaps he could not make up his mind to accept the principle that an evil cannot be destroyed unless much that lives by the evil is destroyed.

They could not grasp the argument that the spiritual power of Vashishta was responsible for the destruction. The original story is that the Cow,— Kamdhenu,— did not want to go to Vishwamitra. Vishwamitra wanted to take it by force. But Vashishta refused to resist. So the Cow asked him to allow her to resist Vishwamitra. Vashishta said: “You can do whatever you like.” She called upon the psychical powers to resist and the Asuras came on account of the spiritual power of Vashishta. Because one saves himself from the act of killing, his responsibility is not less on that account. The question is whether one resists or not. If one resists it may be by physical force or soul force — that is quite another matter.

Disciple: Did you read Malavia’s speech about the Multan riots and also what C. Rajgopalachari has said?

Sri Aurobindo: I am sorry they are making a fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have to fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organise themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it.

Disciple: We had a funny argument about language the other day in course of which Upen Banerji said that Sanskrit was derived from Bengali! (laughter)

Disciple: He could not have seriously meant it. He must have meant it as a joke! Probably he wanted to impress all — particularly the non — Bengalis. But the strange thing is that some one has recently made an effort to prove that Sanskrit is derived from Tamil! (laughter)

Disciple: Everyone can say something absurd because no one is there to put in a word for Sanskrit.

Sri Aurobindo: (turning to a disciple) Why don’t you try to prove that Sanskrit was derived from Gujarati?

Disciple: Yes, my friend always puts forth the fact that Krishna lived in Gujarat.

Sri Aurobindo: Then it proves that Gujarati was spoken by Krishna! (laughter)

23.07.1923

Disciple: The Mahatma believes that non-violence purifies the man who practises it.

Sri Aurobindo: I believe Gandhi does not know what actually happens to the man’s nature when he takes to Satyagraha or non-violence. He thinks that men get purified by it. But when men suffer, or subject them — selves to voluntarily suffering, what happens is that their vital being gets strengthened. These movements affect the vital being only and not any other part. Now, when you cannot oppose the force that oppresses, you say that you will suffer. That suffering is vital and it gives strength. When the man who has thus suffered gets power he becomes a worse oppressor. That is what I have written in the Essays on the Gita that when a nation gets freedom by the suffering of its leaders and other men, it oppresses other nations in its turn. It is almost always the case with those who suppress their vital being. It allows the pressure on itself, gets strong and then finds vent in some other direction. The same thing happened to the Puritans in England. Cromwell and his men came to power and became the worst oppressors. In Christianity the principle of non violence is there but it is meant to be practised for religious and spiritual development. It may be partial but it can certainly develop certain types of spiritual temperaments. What one can do is to transform the spirit of violence. But in this practice of Satyagraha it is not transformed. When you insist on such a one-sided principle what happens is that cant, hypocrisy and dishonesty get in and there is no purification at all. Purification can come by the transformation of the impulse of violence, as I said. In that respect the old system in India was much better. The man who had the fighting spirit became the Kshatriya and then the fighting spirit was raised above the ordinary vital influence. The attempt was to spiritualise it. It succeeded in doing what passive resistance cannot and will not achieve. The Kshatriya was the man who would not allow any oppression, who would fight it out and he was the man who would not oppress anybody. That was the ideal.

Disciple: Those who take to non-violence as a religion can not intellectually conceive the possibility of transforming the spirit of violence.

Sri Aurobindo: But you can’t get rid of the spirit of fighting like that.

Disciple: There is also the question of Hindu-Muslim unity which the non-violence school is trying to solve on the basis of their theory.

Sri Aurobindo: You can live amicably with a religion whose principle is toleration. But how is it possible to live peacefully with a religion whose principle is “I will not tolerate you”? How are you going to have unity with these people? Certainly, Hindu-Muslim unity cannot be arrived at on the basis that the Muslims will go on converting Hindus while the Hindus shall not convert any Madan.

Disciple: There was only recently the boycott of a drama in Andhra because some Hindu in the show was represented as marrying a Muslim lady!

Sri Aurobindo: You can’t build unity on such a basis. Perhaps, the only way of making the Madans harmless is to make them lose their fanatic faith in their religion.

Disciple: Can that be done by education?

Sri Aurobindo: Not by the kind of education they receive at Aligarh but by a more liberalising education. The Turks, for instance, are not fanatical because they have more liberal ideas. Even when they fight it is not so much for Islam as or right and liberty.

It was the Madans and the Christians who began the religious wars — i.e., fighting for religion. First the Jews began persecuting and then the Christians when they began to disagree among themselves began to persecute also.

Disciple: The Madan religion was born under such circumstances that the followers never forgot the origin.

Sri Aurobindo: That was the result of the passive-resistance which they practised. They went on suffering till they got strong enough and, when they got power, they began to persecute others with a vengeance.

The Roman government persecuted the Christians and the Christians suffered. When the Christians came to power they started inquisitions and they always said that the institutions like the inquisition were very good for the souls of those people. (laughter)

Disciple: The Satyagrahi only cares about remaining non-violent himself.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but when you become non-violent why do you allow another to exercise violence on you?

Disciple: But his position is that he does not care to remove violence from others; he wants to observe non-violence himself.

Sri Aurobindo: That is one of the violences of the Satyagrahi that he does not care for the pressure which he brings on others. It is not non-violence — it is not “Ahimsa”. True Ahimsa is a state of mind and does not consist in physical or external action or in avoidance of action. Any pressure in the inner being is a breach of Ahimsa.

For instance, when Gandhi fasted in the Ahmedabad mill-hands’ strike to settle the question between mill-owners and workers, there was a kind of violence towards others. The mill-owners did not want to be responsible for his death and so they gave way, without, of course, being convinced of his position. It is a kind of violence on them. But as soon as they found the situation normal they reverted to their old ideas. The same thing happened in South Africa. He got some concessions there by passive resistance and when he came back to India it became worse than before.

Disciple: He always calls it soul-force.

Sri Aurobindo: Really speaking it is a kind of moral force or, if you like, will-force that is ethical in its nature. You can say that in a certain sense all force is ultimately soul-force. But real soul-force is something different,

Disciple: What about Prahlad? He succeeded because of soul-force.

Sri Aurobindo: I do not know; for that you must ask Prahlad.

Disciple: But the Mahatma says that Prahlad used soul-force and he derives his Satyagraha from him.

Sri Aurobindo: First of all, Prahlad was young. Then, his father was the king. There was the natural love for the father — very strong at that time in the society. But you must also remember that the whole thing resulted in tearing out the entrails of his father. (Laughter)

Disciple: Sri Krishna and Arjuna can serve as examples of men who resorted to what the Mahatma calls “violence”.

Disciple: But Mahatma says “I am not Krishna”.

Sri Aurobindo: Any man can say, “I am not Prahlad”.

23.07.1923

Disciple: I had a long discussion with X on vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet. His argument was that those who take non-vegetarian diet are people devoid of pity. Life is sacred and no one, who has not realized the Spirit in all forms of life, has the right to take meat.

My reply was: Many Madans and Christians who take non-vegetarian diet are not devoid of pity. Christ himself was not a vegetarian; — diet has little to do with pity or cruelty. Secondly, the Jains who are proverbially vegetarians are not less cruel. Your argument that vegetables being lower forms of life can be eaten but animals being higher forms should not be eaten is based upon an arbitrary assumption about the higher and the lower forms of life. It is a creation of human mind. All life is life.

Disciple: X would have taken fish if it had been a vegetable.

Sri Aurobindo: It is absurd to make food such an important thing in the spiritual life. It is a secondary matter whether one takes vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet, so far as the spiritual life is concerned. The real thing is equality or Samata. If that is there then it is immaterial whether one takes fish or vegetarian diet. Philosophically, it is meaningless to say this has more life and that has less.

Disciple: But the animals have more evolved life than the trees.

Sri Aurobindo: Not life but mind. Life is more manifest in the plant, in some respects, than even in man. Only, the mind is not evolved.

Disciple: The question is of vital repulsion. One can say he feels repulsion in killing an animal or he feels the animal nearer to him. But that would not prove that the plant when killed suffers less. It is only because man is not able to see the suffering of the plant that he feels the repulsion less, perhaps. All these things are due to Samskaras — previous, impressions. The plain fact is that one cannot live unless he takes some kind of life. All these arguments are only intellect trying to justify old Samskaras.

Disciple: You spoke of equality, Samata. Why should one establish equality in the Prana, the vital, before one does it in the mind?

Sri Aurobindo: Why should he not, if he can? It is not that one has to wait and establish equality on all planes at once, at a time.

Disciple: Is it necessary to wait till the yoga is perfect in order to take fish?

Sri Aurobindo: I do not understand why one should. Very few people realise the true meaning of Samata, equality. By Samata, equality, is meant a certain attitude of the whole being towards the world and its happenings. This world is full of so many things which are horrible and terrible. Samata means that one should be able to look at them from a certain poise without being perplexed or moved. It does not mean that one will go on killing others indiscriminately or out of a personal motive. That would be untruth. But it means that one must be able to look at things without being moved. What X calls “pity” is something quite different from “compassion” and both are different from Samata — equality. Samata is an attitude of the whole being. Pity and sentimentalism are results of nervous repulsion, some movement in the vital being. I myself, when I was young, could not read anything related to cruelty without feeling that repulsion and a feeling of hatred for those who practised it. I could not kill an insect, say, a bug or a mosquito. This was not because I believed in Ahimsa but because I had nervous repulsion. Later, even when I had no mental objection, I could not harm anything because the body rejected the act. When I was in jail I was subjected to all sorts of mental tortures for the first fifteen days. I had to look upon scenes of all kinds of suffering and then the nervous repulsion passed away.

Compassion is something different. It comes from Above. It is a state of sympathy for the suffering of man and the suffering that is on earth and there is an idea of helping it as far as one can, whenever one can in his own way. It is not like pity. It is like the Gods who look upon human suffering from above, unmoved. That compassion can also destroy and it destroys with compassion,— Daya,— as Durga does the Rakshasas, the hostile beings. There can be no pity there. Many times the Rakshasa may come and ask you to save him, he may even ask you to transform him — as some beings asked the Mother in her vision — by your spiritual power. If you try that, all the power goes to the Rakshasa and you may become powerless. When these vital beings incarnate in men then the compassion would not prevent you from killing them.

That the vegetable kingdom has got life is not something new to know and it is not necessary to acquire Samata to take fish. I used to take it when I was a child and when I had no Samata. What is required is: one should have no repulsion. As a matter of fact, I cannot take fish nowadays, but that means nothing. I give it to the cats all right.

When there is Samata then there comes Samarasatva — equal enjoyment — from everything — one gets the rasa, essential delight, from every kind of food. Even the food that we call badly cooked has a rasa of its own. But one can agree to a little bit of diplomacy. It is no use casting fish in the face of a Jain or forcing Smoke in the face of an orthodox Tamil Brahmin.

10.05.1924

Disciple: Did you read in the papers that Mahatmaji is thinking of retiring to his Ashram and there playing with children?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It may be a correct intuition. But I cannot understand how his argument about Khaddar bringing Swaraj holds. He says that if he can universalize Khaddar he can also make all who use it resort to civil disobedience. I do not quite see how it follows; for, putting on Khaddar is harmless — except for the inconvenience in summer perhaps — but civil disobedience is not harmless. One who puts on Khaddar may not join civil disobedience.

Disciple: He has advised moderation in Vakyam Satyagraha perhaps because he feels humble.

Sri Aurobindo: But that kind of moderate tinge is not good. Humility in a leader like that is not always a great virtue. At any rate humility of this sort. It is one thing to know that you are the instrument of Fate or of some power, or of God. But you must know that you are there to lead and that people must do what you say.

I am afraid, the difficulty with him is that his vital being drags him into all sorts of activities and he begins to say: “You must do this, you must not do that,” Then his mind — the mental being — comes in and says: “You may do what you like. I am nothing, you are free to do what you like.” This kind of double movement renders the activity ineffective. If he had only worked with his vital drive, he could have achieved many things.

Disciple: If he restricts his work to the Ashram, even then “support of friends” would be necessary, as he says. It was with great difficulty, I learn, that the Wardha Ashram was able to make two ends meet. And the inmates could hardly get time for anything else.

Disciple: Then it is parisrama, and not asram!

Sri Aurobindo: Why not sasrama! — (with the labour)

Disciple: Roman Rolland has written a book on Mahatmaji.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, I have heard about it and seen it. These European writers and thinkers I have found airy, wandering in their thought. I found another error in his book which is common to all European thinkers: it is about the Indian Spirit.

He traces the influence from Buddha and Mahavira to Gandhi; and for the Europeans that is the whole of the Indian Spirit!

Disciple: I believe Tagore is partly responsible — for that, as it is he who many times has insisted on the gospel of Buddha — whatever that may be, for various people have different ideas about it — as the only way for the salvation of humanity.

Sri Aurobindo: I think partly at least it is Tagore who has made the idea current on the continent that Buddha is the beginning and the end of the Indian Spirit. Formerly, Rolland never thought about Asia; he was busy with his European unity and European culture etc.

Romain Rolland does not appear to be such a great intellect as he is reputed to be. He is a very good writer, no doubt. But the ideas are not much above ordinary, average ideas.

17.05.1924

Disciple: Did you see the papers today? Mahatmaji proposes to move a resolution against the boycott of empire goods.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the line of argument is strangely inconsistent: in one breath it is “impossible and unethical”! and then “useless and against non-cooperation”. The argument is: you can’t do without British books and medicines and so you can’t do without anything British! He forgets that British trade does not depend on books and medicines only. Then, again, he says that European firms and the Government will go on buying British goods and thus the Boycott is futile. So, if some men go on ordering foreign goods, you must also order foreign goods! Very strange!

20.05.1924

Elections to the French Chamber of Deputies are going on. Mons. Valiant of Karikal saw Sri Aurobindo in connection with the elections. Certain instructions and advice were given to him.

The Tarakeshwar temple Satyagraha came for discussion. Sri Aurobindo seemed anxious to know the details. The report was that Abhayanand was Mahant’s man and hirelings had been engaged to beat the volunteers of Swami Satchidananda and Vishwananda. Satchidananda was saved from being killed by the Gurkha, the keeper of a Marwari-Dharamsala.

Sri Aurobindo was not only interested but anxious that the fight must go through to success.

Mahatmaji’s silent day and the conclusion of his talk with the Swarajists came up. He wants the Swarajists to take up the constructive programme in the councils — e.g., Khaddar and prohibition; in case of failure in getting them through, to resort to civil disobedience.

Sri Aurobindo: But in that case again there may be another Chauri Chora!

Disciple: He also spoke at Bombay on the Anniversary of Gautama Buddha and said Buddhism was not given sufficient trial.

Sri Aurobindo: Christianity and Buddhism, I am afraid, will ever remain without being given a trial. They make such a demand on human nature that it cannot be fulfilled so long as man is what he is.

Disciple: I get puzzled by Mahatmaji’s logic, or shall I say? by his want of logic. At one time he says: “You must not fast against your enemy because by that you do violence to him. But you can fast when you have a grievance, or a cause, against your father.”

Then in the Vakyam Satyagraha when the people began to fast he says: “Why do you fast? The king is your father, why do you injure his feelings?”

Sri Aurobindo: I have no quarrel with what he says, so long as he says: “Do this” or “Do that”. That is quite all right; but why does he give reasons?

02.06.1924

There was Mahatmaji’s pronouncement about Hindu- Muslim Unity, a long one.

Disciple: Did you see Mahatmaji’s statement about Hindu-Muslim Unity?

Sri Aurobindo: I did not go through the whole thing — it was very long — but there is compromise about non-violence which he says one can give up in the case of robbers, looters and foreign invasion. He is also wonder-struck that his interpretation of the Gita is seriously questioned by a Shastri. I am rather wonder-struck at his claim to an infallible interpretation of the Gita.

Disciple: He has criticised the Arya Samaj also.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, he has criticised Dayananda Saraswati who has, according to him, abolished image-worship and set up the idolatory of the Vedas. He forgets, I am afraid, that he is doing the same in economics by his Charkha and Khaddar, and, if one may add, by his idolatry of non-violence in religion and philosophy.

In that way every one has established idol-worship. He has criticised the Arya Samaj but why not criticise Madanism? His statement is adulatory of the Koran and of Christianity which is idolatry of the Bible, Christ and the Gross. Man is hardly able to do without externals and only a few will go to the kernel.

About conversion also you “do not merely change compartments”, as he says, but you change the environment. All are not going to practise the central core of spirituality. Very few can do that, but from the externals some can come to the internal.

Disciple: There is also the proposal to meet the Madans with bare breast and with smile on the face!

Part 2. Chapter IV. Sadhana

09.04.1923

Disciple: Can one practise the Supramental yoga while remaining in the ordinary life?

Sri Aurobindo: It is true that the Supramental yoga accepts life but that does not mean life as it is at present, because the Supramental wants perfection and at present life is not perfect. Many fields of life are at present dominated by Ignorance. We want to change the whole mould of life. We want to gain the Supramental state in human evolution as the next higher step from the Mind. Now that there are signs of its coming we must try to bring it down into the physical being. It is comparatively easy to ascend to the Supermind. But, then, those who go up generally go away from life.

Humanity is the only field of manifestation and all gains must be brought to that plane: that is, to the plane of the ordinary consciousness. In order to do that, the Truth and nothing else must be demanded, otherwise one gets something mental, emotional or vital and is satisfied with it. Till now, humanity has only got glimpses of the Truth — but not the Truth itself. Every spiritual movement has tended to the same and has helped the realisation of it to a certain extent. The Vaishnavite religion wanted to bring the Truth into the vital and the aesthetic being but it remained satisfied with it. The Vaishnavites indulged themselves, you may say, spiritually. The austerity of the effort was also lost. The Vedic Rishis had the conception of the Truth but under those conditions it could not be brought down for humanity. The Upanishads have got the idea but it is only a statement of it and there is no idea of bringing down the Truth. Mainly, theirs is the working of the intuitive mentality. Then came the intellectual philosophies — which were only intellectual — and the Puranas followed.

If the Supramental is brought to the physical then it might tend to endure, because Matter, though limited, is the one thing certain on this plane. If a number of men can reach this condition, then in course of time it may become a permanent force in mankind. It would certainly bring new forces into play in the universe and change the present balance of universal forces.

There may be many things beyond the Supermind but they cannot operate in this manifestation except through the Supermind. Therefore it must be made a permanent part of humanity.

13.04.1923

Disciple: Yesterday we had a talk about Sj. Lele and his Gurubhai — co-Disciple — Narayan Swami, and I told you that I came to know that they follow — I do not know how far it is true, though — the Dattatraya yoga. I wonder what that yoga is like.

Sri Aurobindo: I was thinking about it after the talk. You know there is, perhaps, a traditional method of yoga in the Maharashtra which belongs to the Dattatraya Cult. The truth behind it is that Dattatraya represents the highest realisation — he always keeps his consciousness immersed in the Infinite and the freedom of the Infinite is brought down by him to the mental, vital and even to the physical plane. Therefore a man who is a Siddha of the path acts free like the Infinite even in his Prakriti, nature,— and therefore often acts in a way which is considered immoral by society. He tries, thus, to bring down the power of the free Infinite into the instruments of manifestation and this he considers perfection. But it is doubtful whether it is perfection.

The danger of the realisation of the Infinite, free from all bondage, is that except in the highest condition, many false experiences can also masquerade as true. For instance, such a man gets tremendous power and generally has an ego-centric nature. Even Ravana was a great yogi. One having a great control over the vital plane only is generally known as a Rakshasa, The Asura controls his mind and his vital being. There is a great possibility of committing a blunder in the Dattatraya path.

Disciple: In the Avadhuta Gita, attributed to Datta, great stress is laid on vairagya, renunciation of the world. It teaches the abandonment of the world and nature.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but that does not seem to be the whole of Datta-marga — the yoga of Dattatraya. It seems only one side of it. There is the other side — the side that accepts every determination of the Infinite free from all relations — or relativities. There is unbridled pleasure or enjoyment on the one hand, there is renunciation of pleasure on the other.

Disciple: There are some people who claim to have met Dattatraya.

Sri Aurobindo: Lele also told me that he saw Dattatraya at Girnar and talked to him in the form of a boy for one hour.

Disciple: Lele gave you the yoga — then did he not give the Dattatraya yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: I did not begin with Lele. I first began on my own with prāṇāyāma, drawing the breath into my head. This gave me good health, lightness and an increased power of thinking. Side by side certain experiences also came. But not many nor important ones. I began to see things in the subtle.

Then I had to give it up when I took to politics. I wanted to resume my yoga but did not know how to begin again. I wanted spiritual experience and political action together. I would not take up a method that required me to give up action and life.

When I came to Baroda from the Surat Congress, Barin had written to me that he knew a certain yogi to whom he would introduce me at Baroda. Barin sent a wire to Leie from Baroda and he came. At that time I was staying at Khasirao Jadhava’s house. We went to Sardar Majumdar’s place. On the top floor in a room we were shut up for three days. He asked me to do nothing but throw away all thoughts that came to my mind. In three days I did it. We sat in meditation together, I realised the Silent Brahman Consciousness. I began to think from above the brain and have done so ever since. Sometimes at night the Power would come and I would receive it and also the thoughts it brought and in the morning I would put down the whole thing word by word on paper.

In that very silence, in that thought-free condition, we went to Bombay. There I had to give a lecture at the National Union. So, I asked him what I should do. He asked me to pray. But I was absorbed in the silent Brahman and so I told him I was not in a mood to pray. Then he said he and some others would pray and I should simply go to the meeting and make namaskār — a bow — to the audience as Narayana, the all-pervading Divine, and then a voice would speak through me. I did exactly as he told me. On my way to the meeting somebody gave me a paper to read. There was some headline there which caught my eye and left an impression. When I rose to address the meeting the idea flashed across my mind and then all of a sudden something spoke out. That was my second experience from Leie. It also shows that he had the power to give yogic experience to others.

When I was in Bombay, from the balcony of a friend’s house, I saw the whole busy movements of Bombay city as a picture in a cinema show — all unreal, shadowy. That was a Vedantic experience. Ever since I have maintained that peace of mind, never losing it even in the midst of difficulties. All the speeches that I delivered on my way to Calcutta from Bombay were of the same nature — with some mixture of mental work in some parts. Before parting I told Leie: “Now that we shall not be together I should like you to give me instructions about Sadhana.” In the meantime I told him of a Mantra that had arisen in my heart. He was giving me instructions when he suddenly stopped and asked me if I could rely absolutely on Him who had given me the Mantra. I said I could always do it. Then Lele said there was no need of instructions. We had then no talk till we reached our destination. Some months later, he came to Calcutta. He asked me if I meditated in the morning and in the evening. I said, “No.” Then he thought that some devil had taken possession of me and he began to give me instructions. I did not insult him but I did not act upon his advice. I had received the command from within that a human Guru was not necessary for me. As to dhyāna — meditation — I was not prepared to tell him that I was practically meditating the whole day.:

All that wrote in the Bande Mataram and in the Karmayogin was from that state. I have since trusted the inner guidance even when I thought it was leading me astray. The Arya and the subsequent writings did not come from the brain. It was, of course, the same Power working. Now I do not use that method. I developed it to perfection and then abandoned it.

29.05.1923

Sri Aurobindo (to a disciple): Really speaking two things matter: one, the Spirit that is dynamic above and the other the Life here which is the field of expression of the Spirit. Mind, emotion and other psychological activities are only intermediate terms. Mind is more or less a channel and so is heart. The body is merely the mould.

*

Two things are necessary in this yoga: balance and a strong hold on the earth. By balance I mean the different parts of the being adjusted to one another, or some steadiness, a quiet poise somewhere in the man,— not an unsteady inner condition.

A strong mental being is also very necessary. Otherwise, when the experiences come the man turns upside down. In India, our mental development — I mean the outer man’s development — is not at all proportionate. There is the psychic being ready in many cases, there is the aspiration for spiritual life and faith also. But mind, reason, intelligence — the dynamic mind — are very crude. That is why I hesitate sometimes to give the yoga.

In Europe the outer parts are very well developed — reason, expression, the dynamic mind etc. But then there the whole thing ends. There is a great poverty in the inner being. Some of the Europeans are, really, babies in spiritual life. To combine the inner development with the outer would be ideal. Science, for instance, steadies reason and gives a firm grounding to the physical mind. Art — I mean the appreciation of beauty pure and simple, without the sensual grasping at the object — trains up the aesthetic side of the mind. The true artist has always the pure love of beauty — free and impersonal. Philosophy cultivates the pure thinking power. And politics and such other departments of mental work train up the dynamic mind. All these should be duly trained with the full knowledge that they have their limited utility. Philosophy tends to become mere mental gymnastics and preference for one’s own ideas and mental constructions. So also Reason becomes the tyrant and denies anything further. But if the training is given to these parts with an understanding of their limitations then they may serve very usefully the object of this yoga. As I say, they must all admit a higher working in them.

*

A disciple related the yogic experience of a student.

Sri Aurobindo: It is no use hurrying about psychic experiences and realisations. One must prepare the physical mind, the intelligence by common knowledge as well as knowledge pertaining to yoga. One must understand what comes to him. Sometimes one does not even know what has come to him. One must also pay attention to śuddhi — purification, by introspection, by Karma yoga and by Bhakti, devotion. Then a step forward can be taken.

*

The question was about the Guru giving spiritual experience to disciples.

Sri Aurobindo: It only means that the readiness was already there and the Guru’s help removes the obstacle and the natural development comes about. But no one can permanently change the consciousness.

Disciple: The difficulty with our people is that they seek the easy path and are easily satisfied; they do not want to face an uphill task.

Sri Aurobindo: In the first place, they get easily satisfied. But the permanent change of consciousness is the one thing important. And our people do not want to take pains. Moreover, yoga is regarded as the realm of the miraculous. Another thing is that they do not want to be harsh to themselves: they want the satisfaction of feeling, “I am all right.”

X got this experience: the vision of the golden Mother over the head, and then the descent of a great calm. Then the next thing was to purify the whole being so that the experience might remain. But he could not do it and so he lost it. He got the experience and thought he had done everything! He could have asked: “What after all is this experience? What next?” These people get all sorts of experiences but when the question of permanent change of consciousness comes they are not able to take a firm step.

11.11.1923

A telegram from a mentally deranged Sadhaka became the topic of this evening. The Sadhaka in question wanted to die. The suggestion of death, it was thought, was due to some hereditary poison in the blood. These kinds of poisons often attack the brain.

Sri Aurobindo: It is these people who also get a sense of “sin” and the tendency to repent and humble themselves before others. Also they have very big ideas about themselves. They think they are very important in the universal scheme.

(After a pause) This yoga, to be done well, requires perfect balance. Therefore, those who have merely a general call for yoga should not go in for this yoga because it opens a possibility for the Higher Consciousness to work as well as a possibility for the powers of the vital world to come and take possession. If a man has not got the perfect balance, it becomes easier for these powers to take possession. Sometimes the man who has no faith in things invisible is much better off than the man who has faith in them or the man who has a tendency towards occultism. He is generally free — comparatively — from attacks from the other planes because he does not accept them and so is not open to them. While the man who believes in them gives them a chance. In this yoga you must have a “sane” mind.

Disciple: The general idea is that unless one has got a “screw loose” in his brain one would not come for yoga. (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: How do you mean? If a screw is loose then the machine is not doing its work at all!

Disciple: The idea seems to be: the more “loose screws” the better chance for yoga. (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: You mean myself? (laughter)

Disciple: I did not mean that. But does it mean that a sane man is more fit for yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: A perfect yoga requires perfect balance.

Disciple: I am afraid, the sane men generally are matter-of-fact.

Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. What do you mean by “sane”?

Disciple: Sane does not mean “dull”.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course not; when I speak of want of balance in these people, I do not mean they are “insane”. It only means that their development is not proportionate, it is lopsided or there is a twist somewhere in the nature which prevents the harmonious development of all the parts.

A period of silence

Sri Aurobindo: That was the thing that saved me all through, I mean the perfect balance. First of all I believed that nothing is impossible, and at the same time I could question everything. If I had believed in every thing that came I would have been like Bijoy Krishna Goswami.,

Disciple: What is “perfect balance”?

Sri Aurobindo: A perfect yogi can have strong imagination and equally strong reason. Imagination can believe in everything while reason works out the logical steps. Even in the case of scientists you find they have very strong imagination.

Disciple: It is not exactly imagination, perhaps.

Sri Aurobindo: Imagination is the power of conceiving things beyond the ordinary experience of life.

Disciple: Does it correspond to Truth? Or is there a higher faculty of which imagination is the representative in the mind?

Sri Aurobindo:It ultimately becomes “inspiration” when it ascends higher. The purer it becomes the nearer it gets to Truth. For instance, in the case of poets, generally, it is the inspired imagination that works. What you meant to say about the scientist was perhaps “intuition”. (Pause).

The capital period of my intellectual development was when I could see clearly that what the intellect said may be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justifies is true and its opposite also is true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it.

You see. Mind means infinite possibility. Reason or intelligence chooses one to the exclusion of all the other possibilities. But it is reason which gives value to one and selects it. It is like a law in science; you accept it because it explains most of the phenomena. In the mind we accept one and suppress the other possibilities and so we see the reasons for the view we hold and other reasons are suppressed. Or the intellect goes in a futile round and justifies the choice, which has already been made by some other part of the being.

Intellect is merely selective. I felt it very clearly for a long time. And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone. As you go higher up, a wider movement develops which reconciles all contraries.

Then you see the Forces that are behind mental ideas. Of course, it is no use telling this to the ordinary man as he would be in a most hopeless confusion if he saw everything as mere possibilities. For instance, you would be absolutely confounded if I placed before you all the possibilities.

Disciple: When all intellectual operations appear merely as dealing with possibilities then what is to be selected and how is one to act?

Sri Aurobindo:There is no need to be puzzled. Simply look at them, watch them, see what they are and what is behind them.

For instance, I can laugh at Shankara’s Mayavad or Mahatma’s views; but I can see the truth that ii behind them both. I know the place they occupy in the play of world-forces; for, it really comes to that

Disciple: Can want of balance be overcome?

Sri Aurobindo: Everything can be done. You can do it within your limits; you can correct the exaggerations of the parts in you that are well-developed and develop those that are suppressed and bring about balance in your being.

31.01.1924

Disciple: Has collective Sadhana any advantage over individual Sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it has.

Disciple: Has it not disadvantages also?

Sri Aurobindo: It has some. It is an advantage to those who are less advanced and a disadvantage to those who are more advanced. Collective Sadhana always requires somebody who can create the necessary atmosphere — not by anything else but his presence.

Disciple: How could the disadvantages be overcome and the burden on the leader or leaders lightened?

Sri Aurobindo: As I have just said, it requires somebody who can keep off certain forces and at the same time create an atmosphere by his presence. For instance I meditate with you here but I do not come out with the same consciousness that I have when I am insider. The burden is not a question of any individual. No one can help it.

26.02.1924

A question arose from Sri Aurobindo’s remark about a new Disciple some days back.

Sri Aurobindo: I do not know how far he would go in the yoga but, apart from it, he has something large about him, If he takes up the Sadhana more intensely he may find many difficulties, especially in the vital being. Largeness is an asset as well as an obstacle. But if he can go through, the result would be richer and more ample in his case. He is not, like K, straight and limited.

Disciple: Suppose two men begin the practice of the Supramental yoga and attain perfection in it, how, can we say that one is richer than the other, since both have reached perfection? Both are incomparable, each is great in his own way.

Disciple: Perfection being given, I believe grades would still remain. You start with a certain fundamental stuff and you can ultimately count upon that only.

Disciple: It is something like this: we say everything at the end of Sadhana becomes gold. But you start with a certain amount of copper that will become gold. If you have more copper to start with you will get more gold. Is it not so?

Sri Aurobindo: Why can there not be a richer fulfilment? You seem to think the Supramental to be a magnificent monotony! Why should not there be degrees among the Yogis and Siddhas?

Disciple: I have put my difficulty about the two men starting together and reaching the end. In what sense can one be said to be superior to the other, or his Sadhana richer than that of the other?

Sri Aurobindo: Why do you assume that all should be equal and that at no time one would be greater and richer than another? You must get rid of the democratic idea. There are degrees, ranges and heights in the Supermind and they may be more defined than those that you find in the mind.

Disciple: When the whole being is Supramentalised then how can any difference remain?

Sri Aurobindo: If you talk of the essential being, then there is no difference between you and a cat and the trees, the essential Self is One. The difference exists in what one puts forth in Nature. In the Supramental also, that which is put forth through one Prakriti — nature — need not be identical with what is put forth through another; and in that case you can say that one manifestation can be richer than another.

Disciple: I am afraid I am not giving the same meaning to “Supramentalisation”. So, if you make the meaning clear I would be able to follow.

Sri Aurobindo: By Supramentalising is meant the process by which one allows the Supramental to come and take hold of the several parts of the being; complete Supramentalisation takes place when the Supramental takes hold of all the parts down to the physical body.

Disciple: I also attach the same meaning to the term.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but you confuse “height” with “richness”. Two persons may be on the same plane and yet one may be richer than the other.

Disciple: I grant that one may go faster; but suppose you and I start together, then there must be no difference between us at the end!

Disciple: That is to say, if he reaches the goal first and gets hold of the Supermind — because he is faster — then you will come up and participate in the bundle! It would be Supramental Bolshevism!

Sri Aurobindo: No, it as not exactly like that; when you come to the goal I am already gone a stage higher up, you see.

Disciple: But what happens when you attain perfection?

Sri Aurobindo: But what do you mean by perfection? Perfection is a relative term. What is the Supramental state? It is also relative, it is not absolute.

Disciple: In that way one can say that every man has got infinite possibilities in him, and so all men are equal.

Sri Aurobindo: Every man has infinite possibilities in him but what reason is there to suppose that two men at a certain time must manifest, or actualise, the same possibility? You can say that every one has infinite possibilities realisable in an eternity of time.

Disciple: Yes. That eternity is a terrible affair! We are talking of things today, and possibilities in this life and it is true they can’t be the same for two persons.

Disciple: I grant that there may be a difference in the types of nature, or manifestation, but one can’t say that one is richer than the other. We may at the most say that they can’t be compared.

Sri Aurobindo: Why do you say that the difference can be of type only and not of degree? Take the case of mental perfection,— though that is also imperfect and only relative,— say myself and B.C.Pal. Both of us began under similar circumstances and got into the same kind of work and lived at the same time. He has remained stationary in his mental growth — he has ceased to grow. He has developed more power to speak — I mean he may have been a better speaker than myself, and in such one or two directions he developed more, but in general intellectual development I have cultivated my intellect in many directions and have a richer development in my mind. The same can be said of the Supermind.

Disciple: I may illustrate the difference in types by taking Tagore and J.G.Bose — both of them are intellectuals.

Sri Aurobindo:In the case of Tagore and Bose, on the whole you can say that Tagore has got a richer development than Bose. He is a greater personality also.

Disciple: What would be the final development of Supermind being brought down to the physical consciousness? In what respect would it differ from icchā mṛtyu,— death at one’s will — mentioned in the old books?

Sri Aurobindo: What is really understood as icchā mṛtyu can hardly be called the conquest of death.

Disciple: Generally, when yogis know that the time for death is nearing, they draw up the Prana and prepare to die,

Sri Aurobindo: There is a process by which the Prana is drawn up into the brahmarandhra and then the man departs leaving the body. What is wanted is immunity from all sorts of diseases which are the agents of death, One must have the capacity to leave the body when one likes: that is, not be compelled to leave it by any external force. There are other kinds of pressures — for instance the psychic pressure — which may demand withdrawal from the body. In any case one must be able to leave the body like a clothing.

16.10.1925

A friend of a Disciple who had taken yoga from some Guru came and wished to take up Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. He was told that this was not his path.

Disciple: I told him to seek out his old Guru again and stick to him. But he likes an “educated” and a “good-looking” Guru! (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: He told me during our talk that he was “weak”. So I told him he must become strong; he is unwilling to sit down at his task, that means; does not want it. I am afraid he would not stick to anybody. And then he has got this “educated” stupidity about his Guru! What people understand by education is some kind of ideas or thoughts and restlessness without any fixity of aim. He can take yoga from Tagore if he wants a good-looking Guru! The whole thing is that he is not prepared to take trouble.

Disciple: His idea of mahāpuruṣa — great man — is that he can make small men do what they alone cannot do.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that the mahāpuruṣa can aspire on his behalf, and also sit down to yoga for him? I do not know how this idea about miraculous change by yoga has come to India. All along the Indian idea is that yoga is done by abhyāsa — practice — and tapasyā — concentrated will — and not by miracles. Some say that it came from the Vaishnava religion laying stress on consecration and prapatti — complete surrender. Some of the followers of Ramanujacharya think that as he had done the Sadhana his followers have not got to do it! How is that possible?

Disciple: But if that can’t be done, then where is the good of mahāpuruṣa — the great man? Where does he stand? (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: He stands on the ground and on his own legs! All that he can do is to show the path; he can give the experience and then the man must work it out by himself.

Disciple: This idea of spirituality has come from “surrender”.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but no one can do the surrender for another man; each must make his own surrender. And surrender is not easy. If one can surrender “unconditionally” and “sarva bhāvena”— in all the parts of the becoming, as the Gita says — then there is nothing more to be done. But can a man do it? You can’t do it by merely saying, “I surrender.” It must become real, that is Sadhana.

Disciple: But then would the idea of surrender to the Guru alone be sufficient?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by it? Do you think it so easy to surrender? It is very difficult, it is Sadhana itself.

Disciple: But supposing a man surrenders to a human Guru, would it be sufficient?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by surrender to a human being? And “sufficient” for what?

Disciple: Sufficient for attaining Perfection or God.

Sri Aurobindo: I suppose surrender to a man means surrender to the Divine in him, and whether it would be sufficient or not depends upon the man to whom he surrenders,

Disciple: Is it the same thing as surrendering to God?

Sri Aurobindo: I suppose when a man surrenders himself to another man, he surrenders to the Truth in the man, in what other sense can one understand it? He can, of course, get whatever the Guru has got if he is sincere and if he has a still greater sincerity for the search he may be even greater than his Guru.

The disciples then began to recount stories about various Gurus. The question raised was: “Should the mahapurusa call himself God?” The difference between Rukmini’s and Radha’s surrender was also discussed. Rukmini laid down conditions in her surrender while Radha surrendered unconditionally.

Disciple: I now remember how Girish Chandra Ghosh some days before his death, said that though Ramakrishna had asked him to leave the burden of his Sadhana to him, yet Girish found he had not been able to transfer his burden to Ramakrishna.

Sri Aurobindo: But the idea in India is that yoga is a work of abhyāsa,— constant practice. How can one man do Sadhana for another? Whatever may be the idea in other yogas, in our yoga, at any rate, to leave the burden to the Guru would defeat its own aim. Each must work out his way by himself. What the Guru can do at the most is that he can put the Power. But the rejection and the transformation are to be done by the Sadhaka himself. He can get the help when he needs. And when the Guru can put the Power one may not be able to hold it, or one may even spend it away uselessly. Everyone has to work out his way.

A suggestion was made to the newcomer to stick to his Vaishnava Guru from whom he had got the temporary experience of peace.

His objections to the Guru were: (1) That he was a Vaishnava. (2) That he did not generally speak and explain. (3) That he was not impressive — looking.

This was reported to Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo: All these, if they are true, instead of being disqualifications are, on the contrary, recommendations! The fact that he can give experience in silence is a sign of a great Sadhaka. That he does not speak except when necessary is also a good sign.

He may be a Vaishnava or a Shaiva. That matters very little. That is religion; but this man does not want any religion from him. He wants spiritual development. What has that to do with religion?

And about impressive appearance, most of the people, who have it, get it from the vital world and turn out to be deceptive.

02.03.1926

Today Sri Aurobindo was not in a mood to talk. He turned to X and said: “If you want to talk you must put forward some subject. I am devoid of all talk today.”

Disciple: In this yoga what is the part of the Sadhaka and how far does it depend upon God and how far upon the Guru?

Sri Aurobindo: O Lord! That is too big a question. Do you want a mathematical reply or what?

Disciple: I do not want mathematics; I have already calculated.

Sri Aurobindo: What is the result? Have you found a formula?

Disciple: Not one, but many.

Sri Aurobindo: First of all, in this yoga if you do everything yourself you make a mess; and yet at every moment you have to give consent to the higher movement, reject the lower and so far you have got to act. If you do not act properly then also you make a mess.

Even when you see the higher Force coming down you have to receive it properly. When the higher Force is present you have to see that you use it in the proper way without twisting or torturing it. When the higher Force is absent, you have to act yourself and take the consequences. You can’t say that God must do everything. God does not do everything that way.

Then there is the Guru. What do you mean by the Guru? If you mean myself, I may, for the sake of convenience, consent to be called the Guru, but there is no Guru in this yoga as people ordinarily understand the term. It is the Higher Force that is coming down. Generally, whenever any such Higher Force comes down then it prepares an instrument who discovers, but, really speaking, to whom the Truth is discovered and it manifests itself in him in proportion to his power of receptivity; there, too, the power is given to him,

When the Power that is coming down prepares; one such instrument it becomes easy for it to come down into others who want to manifest it, who do not want to go their own way but want to have and live the Truth. Then there is chance of success. (Pointing to himself) There is the instrument. Whenever there is the human instrument it becomes easy for the higher Truth to manifest itself in life. If you prefer to call it a “dynamo” you can say so. Even then everyone has to do his own work.

In this yoga, at any rate, you can’t say that “the Guru will do everything”, and leave the whole burden to him. I do not know about other yogas; but this yoga means growing conscious every moment of what is going on in oneself. One has to give consent to the higher working, rejecting the lower movement. That is the basis.

The conditions for receiving the Guru’s help are the same as those for receiving the help of the Higher Power directly. Unless you consent to his working, even God does not help man. In this yoga there is that perfect liberty to the individual to make his choice.

Disciple: Do we get the help through you or directly?

Sri Aurobindo: In both ways. As the Force is coming down you get it as anybody else can get it. You also get it from me. It is the same Truth. It is something beyond Mind that is coming down. If you turn to me for help you get it from me. Something from me goes to you and sets up the necessary conditions so that the Higher Force can come down into you. In fact, the two movements are not so separate as you take them to be.

Disciple: In Tirupati’s case what happened?

Sri Aurobindo: I had to tell him clearly: If you want to do what you like and then want the Guru to help you I can’t do it. In his case there were two things wrong: he had certain experiences and he began to indulg himself in them, to take the Bhoga of the experiences. He felt the exhilaration and the sense of power. When for two or three days he — went without food with that weak body of his, people used ti wonder. But it was all due to the vital force, and he entirely precipitated himself into the vital.

The second thing was that he did not want th Truth for its own sake but he wanted it so that he mighi become something great and unique — he wanted tht Truth for himself — he wanted to. become divine and used to tell me that he had already got half the Supermind. I was trying to push him into the physical consciousness. Unfortunately his psychic being had no hold over his other parts.

Disciple: Could the force that he pulled down — whatever its nature — have been warded off or kept away from him?

Sri Aurobindo: Not unless he would consent to it himself, God himself cannot help you unless you want to be helped.

Disciple: Was the tendency to twist the Truth, this want of sincerity, in him from the very beginning?

Sri Aurobindo: The seed of it must have been there. Such a seed can be either destroyed or developed. If you reject it, then it can be destroyed; if you develop it, then it can become strong and grow.

Disciple: Had he no sincerity when he began the yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: There was sincerity in him, otherwise he could not have got into the yoga at all; but when the other thing rises up it may cloud the whole being and overcome the sincerity.

Disciple: But when the attack is coming on him, can you not save him?

Sri Aurobindo: I cannot be holding him tight like that a along. If I attend to him like that then the moment I let go the hold and attend to someone else the difficulty will get into him again.

Disciple: Can you not change him without his consent?

Sri Aurobindo: No. It cannot be done without his consent. Even God himself cannot and does not do like that and He is much more powerful than I am. Nothing can be done without the consent of the individual. I asked him not to pull the higher Power. He used to say “Yes Yes”, but he never stopped. At last he came to such a condition that he could no longer listen to me. He used to say that what he had got was the Supermind! When I told him it was not the Super mind, he would again say “Yes”, but go on in his own way. His only salvation was in his coming to the physical mind and behaving like an ordinary man.

Disciple: Can you not make him feel that he is not sincere?

Sri Aurobindo: No. He does not want to know; I can give him the experience of what is the true state but it is for him to reject the lower and consent to the higher working. I can’t be all along holding him.

That is to say, that part of the being which has consented to the lower play must withdraw, recoil from it: that is the condition for getting rid of the obstacle. It comes to this: in this yoga one can never be forced into the Truth. One has to consent to the Truth at every step.

Disciple: Do you think that the same is true in other yogas also?

Sri Aurobindo:I do not know. But I think some kind of consent somewhere in the being, veiled or unveiled, is absolutely necessary for the working of the power of the Guru. But the exterior does not matter. The real thing required is the central sincerity.

Disciple: Suppose there is the central consent.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by the central consent?

Disciple: I mean by it the consent of the psychic being.

Sri Aurobindo: The psychic being is behind the mental, vital, etc., while what I call the Central Being is generally something above the whole being which presses on the nature and gets the thing done. It is that which drives the man to yoga. All the rest is merely an excuse — circumstances, intellectual ideas and such other things are mere excuses. In my own case I started with the idea of freeing India and then I entered deep into yoga, I found that something already had arisen and I went straight and all right; otherwise I would have deviated from the path.

In this yoga it is not sufficient that the Central Being, which is generally above, should give the consent from a distance, but, when necessary, it must be able to come forward and make itself felt upon other parts. It is that which usually saves. For instance, doubt may arise a hundred times in the being and for a while, it may seem to carry you away completely; even then it is the Central Being which asserts: “I know the Truth, I can wait for it.”

Disciple: What is central sincerity?

Sri Aurobindo: It is a very big question. You can say it is something in the central being which keeps to the call, There may be deviations from the path and also faults but if the central being is there the man comes back to the path. To have that central sincerity is the necessary condition for getting the Truth.

Disciple: Is it the case with all kinds of powers?

Sri Aurobindo: It depends upon what kind of power you are getting — there are so many kinds of powers.

Disciple: “Dodging and distorting” by the vital being seeming to be the common malady. But it is very difficult to set it right.

Disciple: Is there no such dodging and distorting in the mental being also?

Sri Aurobindo: There is, and it may also deviate the Sadhaka from the right path. But even then mind has after all some aspiration for the light and it is comparatively easy to enlighten it. The whole real danger comes from the vital being; it is there that the Sadhaka deviates. It may happen that one can’t do the yoga because of some physical obscurity rising up, but if one has done the work up to the vital then there is no chance of deviation. If one falls in the struggle in the physical, it is no real falling; for, what is done will stand for the future. But if one deviates in the vital, then it is real deviation because it means defeat.

Generally such persons do not like the peace that descends. When X was here he felt that he was like an ordinary man, and he very much objected to that condition. When the higher Force is present, there is a sense of power and delight and some people mistake it for their own power and when that Force is absent they feel like chaff and, really speaking, it is so. At that time the only thing one can do is to remain quiet and calm. It is the Force that has to work and not the man.

Disciple: What are the conditions for the Force to effect the transformation?

Sri Aurobindo: If the transformation gets done in me thoroughly, then it means it is easier for others; and if it founds itself successfully in others it means the necessary conditions are there for its continuance in the world.

Disciple: It means that time is required for it; it also means the Truth cannot manifest itself — as a universal factor — unless the universal conditions are ready.

Sri Aurobindo: Time is the universal sense. Everything may be there and yet the environment may not be ready.

Disciple: Is it not very difficult to establish a sincere demand in the nervous and the physical being?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally the physical is not insincere. In fact, it is sincere, but very obscure, conservative, slow to change, it is inert and dull.

In the nervous being the return to Ignorance comes because of the memory of the past, or because of the physical being throwing up its impurities, or the vital being throwing its impurities upon it. Therefore, in dealing with the nervous impurities you have to see from where they come. If the vital being is sincere then the return in the nervous being comes from the physical being.

09.04.1926

The question of drinking and the use of narcotics by Sadhaks cropped up today at the evening table.

Disciple: Those Sadhaks who drink, or take narcotics, do they get Some help thereby in obtaining Samadhi?

Sri Aurobindo: All that depends upon what you call “Samadhi”. My own experience in the matter is that wine and narcotics generally inhibit the action of the most Tamasic centres in the physical brain; and the other centres in the brain get stimulated. This helps one to escape from the limitations of the physical consciousness and one may get into other planes of consciousness.

Generally, Sadhaks who live on mountains resort I to these things to get warmth and get rid of cold. Others I might resort to them to get away from the physical consciousness.

Disciple: Do they really get some help or merely imagine things and make it an excuse for drinking and satisfying their desire?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, it is sufficiently well-known that drinking and use of narcotics generally enable people — whether Sadhaks or not — to escape from the physical consciousness.

Disciple: Some people write their poems under the effect of narcotics.

Sri Aurobindo: One day Mother asked a workman why he was drinking. He said that after drinking he got thoughts which he could never get when he was sober. Coleridge wrote most of his poems when he was under the influence of opium. Somebody once praised a line of Tennyson. He said: “Ah! that line! It cost me 25 cigars!”

So there is no reason to suppose why a Sadhaka should not derive help from it. (Then after a pause) I don’t hope you have serious intentions in asking these questions! (laughter)

Disciple: I only want to know if they really get into Samadhi.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by Samadhi? If you mean an inward-drawn condition, certainly it may help one to get into it.

Disciple: Those who drink, generally, have got a light mood —.

Sri Aurobindo: There are many moods: there is the light mood, the angry mood, the emotional mood — you would be a great Bhakta if you got into the last.

Disciple: Drinking had no effect on me: I simply used to get giddy.

Sri Aurobindo: That is the first stage.

Disciple: And then I used to go to sleep.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a kind of unconscious Samadhi. (laughter) It may help one to concentrate. But what one does with that concentration depends upon the man. My own idea is that of all these people, who resort to these external stimulants, ninety percent never go beyond — the vital consciousness. They get into it and then the vital is a great builder: it constructs any number of things, worlds, states etc. It can give you an idea that you are in the Highest. There are any number of Siddhis on the vital plane and if you have proper knowledge you can get them by using these things. And even if one gets into the Brahmic consciousness it is not that one has got the highest Truth, because the Brahmic consciousness can be had on any plane. You can have that consciousness on the mental or the vital plane.

These stimulants merely help you to get away from the physical. But what one does with that freedom depends upon the man. These are external means and therefore they have very bad reactions — they are not generally recommended in the spiritual life.

Disciple: There is a fear of Siddhis among spiritual aspirants and generally they are banned.

Sri Aurobindo: It must be due to the fact that once you get into the vital plane you find it very difficult to get tc the Truth. The general idea is that for the experiena of the Brahmic consciousness one must be always in drawn. But that is not quite true. I first had the silent Brahmic consciousness at Baroda as soon as I quieted my mind. It came, of course, to the mental being and I kept it for about a month. But I Was not unconscious, I saw people and things as Maya — all things only small and the One, the Reality, behind them.

The experience of Shunyam — the void — is stil more striking because you — get into it by a sort of negation even of the Atman — Self.

Disciple: What is that Shunya consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: It is difficult to describe it exactly, because it is Shunyam. A man may be passive, but then that experience of passivity is something positive. While Shunyam is nothing: it is absence of anything; the great Asat — Non-being — from which all things proceed — asato sadajāyata.

Disciple: Does it correspond to some Reality?

Sri Aurobindo: What is your test for Reality?

Disciple: Do they exist really, these states of experience?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? If you ask whether they exist on the physical plane it is absurd, because by their very nature they are supraphysical. But they are real.

Disciple: What I mean is: do these states of consciousness exist?

Sri Aurobindo: Of course The truth is that the Mental Purusha can take up any number of positions towards the ultimate Reality and in each position find a certain truth which is as absolute as the truths of the others. Each is thus complete, final. There is, for instaitee, a plane of dnanda which is self-existent; you remain in that state, you don’t care whether the house is falling or your head is breaking, or what is happening to your friends.

18.05.1926

A question was not taken up the other day. The Disciple raised it again today: Is complete transformation possible without having a Shakti — a feminine counterpart in Sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo evidently was not prepared to say everything that was in his mind.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t understand why it should not be possible to bring about the transformation without a Shakti. Transformation would be complete if one can bring down the Higher Consciousness that you get in the mind and the vital being into the physical being and even into the very cells of the material body. The conditions of complete transformation are that you should be able to keep the same deep peace, wideness, strength, purity, power and plasticity from the mind downward to the very material cells. That is the fundamental basis. This transformation does not require a Shakti — a feminine counterpart in Sadhana.

Disciple: Perhaps he wants to say that this transformation is only possible in your case and in no other.

Sri Aurobindo: In that case, I would be in the very sorrowful plight of being the solitary transformed individual. I would be in the position of the Purusha in the beginning of creation when he found himself alone! (laughter)

Disciple: When He found himself alone then He was in a, hurry to create!

Disciple: What I wanted to say was not about doing yoga or getting Knowledge or Power, I was asking about incarnating the Divine in the body.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Incarnating the Divine means incarnating your own divine Self that is in the Supermind. It is something quite different from your present self; it is full of knowledge, power and ananda of the Supramental plane; yet it is a Person — not merely an impesonal being. As I said, the. conditions for that Being to come down and work here are that you must have the same deep peace, wideness, strength, plasticity etc. even in your physical being. Transformation is a personal affair, I don’t quite see what a Shakti has got to do with it.

You are mixing up things: 1. Transformation and the need of a Shakti, 2. You are mixing up myself and yourself!

Disciple: No, I didn’t want to mix up myself with you.

Sri Aurobindo: I thought your question about Shakti was, perhaps, a distant preliminary to an application for marriage. (laughter)

(After a pause) I do not object to a Shakti if there is a genuine case. You can produce your Shakti, if there is one, up your sleeve! (laughter)

Disciple: He was thinking: “What is the good of transformation without a Shakti?”

Disciple: I have no personal concern in the question. I wanted to understand it and to have more knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo: I am not prepared to say everything on the question. I think I have already said something on some other occasion. The function of the Shakti is something quite different. In my own case it was a necessary condition for the work that I had to do. If I had to do my own transformation, or give a new yoga, or a new ideal to a select few people who came in my personal contact, I could have done that without having any Shakti. But for the work that I had to do it was necessary that the two sides must come together. By the coming together of the Mother and myself certain conditions are created which make it easy for you to achieve the transformation. You can take advantage of those conditions.

But it is not necessary that everybody should have a Shakti. People have a passion for generalisation.

Disciple: I wanted to say that we are not as great as you.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not a question of great or small. It is a question of your being less complex than I am.

And before you can have a Shakti, you must first of all deserve a Shakti. The first condition is that you must be master of Kama, lust.

Disciple: I know it as a condition.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not the only thing. There are so many other things; as I said I am not prepared to say everything on this matter. One thing is that both must come together and there must be complete union on every plane of consciousness.

Disciple: But if the Shakti is there then all these conditions would be fulfilled.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you think that because there is meeting between the two in the Central Being, or somewhere else, the whole thing is done?

There are many personalities in man and in order to have complete perfection you must know the value of personality in the world. What is the true personality in you? There are various personalities on each plane and in the case of Purusha and Shakti they must all agree. It is a long and arduous Sadhana you have to undergo before such a complete union can take place.

But that has nothing to do with transformation.

Disciple: But at the rate at which we are progressing, if I multiply by the velocity the number of years, then I find very little chance of our being able to achieve it.

Sri Aurobindo: You are, now, in the condition in which you feel that the thing is impossible; you seem to be pessimistic.

Disciple: I was not always so.

Sri Aurobindo: I am not quite sure. You can’t judge from the present-day speed what it would be next year. At present we are marching on foot, then after some time we may ride on the bicycle, then in the motor car.

Disciple: Then in the aeroplane.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there was a time when I had to give up the idea of doing this work in my life-time. There was a great push in the vital being trying to do the thing very soon. Then I had to learn to give up all those ideas and leave it to God to do whatever He likes,

The vital being is easily elated and the physical being is depressed. I too had periods of depression, but at no time I lost faith. I knew that the thing had to be done and would be done, but I did not know whether I would be able to do it in my life-time, or whether somebody else would do it. The periods of depression with me were never long. As a matter of fact, I find this year far better than all the past three years.

Disciple: 1. Does not the fulfilment of Sadhana mean that the power of the Higher Truth should be made dynamic and effective on the physical plane — even with regard to outside work?

2. If so, what are the general lines and forms of that work?

3. What is the precise nature of the role which we may have to play in it?

Sri Aurobindo: What makes you put these questions? There are two things: first is the constructive mind that wants to have some sort of image before it — of course, it wants mental lines and forms; secondly, it is the vital mind which wants to have a play.

It would be easy for me to reply to your questions if you want to know whether it is our aim to have the Higher Power working in all the fields of life.

I answer: “Yes, it is our aim to have the Higher Power which would be dynamic and effective in life.” What again do you mean by external work?

Disciple: I did not include Sadhana and inner changes but the dealing with and acting in the outside life.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you fix the limit? Has not each work to do with the inside life also?

Disciple: Yes, but there is in each work an inner and outer coefficient. I mean by external work that in which the coefficient of the outer is greater than that of the inner.

Sri Aurobindo: Well, take the case of your cooking: would you call it external or internal work?

Disciple: I call it external work.

Sri Aurobindo: That means you have not yet established the right attitude towards it; otherwise it would be a part of your inner work as well.

Disciple: I do not exactly mean that it cannot be a part of internal work. I shall try to explain: Suppose the Supermind has come down and that we are all Supermen, We shall have to live an external life,— we shall deal with each other etc. What would be the difference between our dealing and that of an ordinary man?

Sri Aurobindo: You ask like Arjuna in the Gita: “How does the sthitaprajna walk? How does he speak?”

Disciple: I don’t mean that; but what would be the fundamental difference between his external life and that of an ordinary man?

Sri Aurobindo: All fundamental change will be inner and not outer. That is to say, we shall have attained a higher consciousness and all we do will proceed from that consciousness.

But why this haste to know what would be the forms and lines of the Truth that has not yet come down into the physical? It is just the wrong way of proceeding, It would frustrate its own aim. Supposing you fix the form with your mind and say, “Such and such shall be the lines that the higher Truth must take whatever it be.” Now this form is your own mental construction, and whatever higher Truth comes down you will try to force it into that limited form.

As a matter of fact, the Truth that is coming down is not mental, it is an infinite Truth. The form it would take would be an organisation of that infinite Truth. But if you bind it down to a mental formula and say, for instance, that it should be democracy or communism or socialism or anything of that: sort you naturally limit the Truth.

The one thing that Sadhana has done for me is that it has destroyed all “isms” from my mind.: If you had asked this question a few years back I would have told you “it is spiritual communism” or, perhaps, “commerce, culture and commune” as the Chandernagore people say. At that time it was: my mind that received the knowledge from Above and thought that the higher Truth would take a particular form — the one that I suggested to Motilal Roy. Even at that time I was not quite sure that it was the form,— only I thought it was the proper form and I took it up as an experiment.

But now if you ask me I would say “Wait and let us have the Truth down here.” Then it will not be the mind that will give form, the Supermind itself will create its own forms. It may be fluid and plastic and can be infinitely complex in its working out.

What we are doing at present is to make ourselves fit instruments for the higher Truth, so that when it came down there would be the proper instrumentation for its working. We won’t reject life; we have to bring a new consciousness into the external work. Supposing I am preparing fish for the cats. That is not my Supramental work. But as it happens to be there I do it, so as to be able to do anything that is needed in the proper way, without mistake. The tuning of the violin is not merely a physical but also a mental work — while this work is infinitely more complex. We have not to do our work mechanically, we have to become conscious of the forces that are at work and find out those that make for success and those that make for failure. We have to bring about the right movement.

Life has no “isms” in it, Supermind also has no “isms”. It is the mind that introduces all “isms” and creates confusion. That is the difference between a man who lives and a thinker who can’t. A leader who thinks too much and is busy with ideas, trying all the time to fit the realities of life to his ideas hardly succeeds. While the leader who is destined to succeed does not bother his head about ideas. He sees the forces at work and knows by intuition those that make for success. He also knows the right combination of forces and the right moment when he should act.

Not that such a man does not make a plan with his mind for himself and for others, but even after making his plan if he finds that the forces have changed he does not hesitate to turn round and adopt another course. Look at Indian politicians: all ideas, ideas — they are busy with ideas. Take the Hindu-Moslim problem. I don’t know why our politicians accepted Mahatma’s Khilafat agitation. With the mentality of the ordinary Madan it was bound to produce the reaction it has produced: you fed the force, it gathered power and began to make demands which the Hindu mentality had to rise up and reject. That does not require Supermind to find out, it requires common sense, Then, the Madan Reality and the Hindu Reality began to break heads at Calcutta. The leaders are busy trying to square the realities with their mental ideas instead of facing them straight.

Disciple: Will India be free before the Supramental work begins?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that India will be free, there is no doubt. Whether it will be by several peaceful stages on all on a sudden, that is the question. But that is the business of politicians, we need not have to bring down the Supermind for that. How it will be free is too big a thing to say. I am very much against a true politician giving out his plans to be torn and discussed by all people. He ought to keep things to himself.

So far as I am concerned I have got my work and I am satisfied with it. Not that I have no idea about the work that would be done when the Truth comes down. But immediately at present we have to bring down a change in the physical mind, the nervous being, and the vital mind, so that they may become fit instruments of the Truth. That is a big enough work, I should think. Not that the final goal is not known. But I always keep my mind open for any change that the higher Truth may bring in it. I have got an idea but I don’t want to shut out any new light that may come.

So long as you discuss mental ideas, it does not matter very much — I mean about the yoga. There you can understand something and you have prepared yourself. But why should you want to know the practical side beforehand? In the first place, if I gave you some mental idea, you would grasp it mentally. There would be, first, the possibility of error in my idea. Then you would discuss it and create mental forms and you might commit worse mistakes and then they would ail be thrown about into the atmosphere and come in the way of its own fulfilment.

In these practical works there are not merely forces that help but also those that oppose. I don’t want them to know beforehand what I am going to do. I don’t believe, like Mahatma Gandhi, that secrecy in these matters is a sin. You must find out what role you have to play.

Disciple: We must have knowledge of it.

Sri Aurobindo: The higher Truth brings its own knowledge. It is not like the mind: the Truth that is coming down is knowledge.

(Turning to the Disciple) You want to know what role you have to play, but how can I tell you now? I must know what is within you. You must find the true Person within yourself. First, when you have acquired the capacity to be a fit instrument of the Truth, then you will know what is intended of you. Then you find: “This is my work, and I have to do it in this way.” At one time it was thought that the mind could grasp the whole Truth and solve all problems that face humanity. The mind had its full play and we find that it is not able to solve the problems. Now, we find: that it is possible to go beyond Mind and there is the Supermind which is the organisation of the Infinite consciousness. There you find the Truth of all that is in mind and life.

For instance, you find that Democracy, Socialism and Communism have each some Truth behind it, but it is not the whole Truth. What you have to do is to find out the forces that are at work and understand what it is of which all these mental ideas and “isms” are a mere indication. You have to know the mistakes which people commit in dealing with the Truth of these forces and the Truth that is behind the mistakes also. I am, at present, speaking against democracy, That does not mean that there is no Truth behind it, I know the Truth, but I speak against democracy be cause that mentality is at present against the Truth that is trying to come down.

In order to get the true form — and if you want the unhampered play of the higher Truth what you have to do is to be very open and ready for changing all your ideas — personal, social and national. Take taste and food: I was once a violent non-vegetarian, as X is at present a violent vegetarian. Then I found that it was my own vital being that was demanding meat. Well, I gave it up and for years together I went on taking whatever came my way. Then I found that even what people call “tasteless” and “bad” food has got a taste in it.

Disciple: Is it the experience of Sama Rasa — the essential delight in everything?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, today I am a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian together and I know what people want to enjoy when they demand and insist; on a certain kind of food. In order to arrive at that stage you have to give up your individual likes and dislikes — because that is a very limited condition — and enter into the universal consciousness and find:what the cosmic spirit enjoys through each of these forms, what delight it derives from each.

Disciple: What relation will;the Superman have with outside humanity?

Sri Aurobindo: You again come to the old question of humanity. I have nothing directly to do with it. If this supramental Truth comes down then of course no problem remains because in the Supermind there are no problems — there is Truth. But it is not likely to happen that way, because that is not the way things are done in this universe. We can expect a small beginning. When the highest Truth comes down in its full power then humanity may manifest even the perfection of the Divine in life in this world. But that is not yet.

18.08.1926

Disciple: Is it possible to have some idea of the minimum requirement for being a Superman?

Sri Aurobindo: Is this not like an examination? It is rather a hard question to answer.

Disciple: Has anybody attained Supermanhood?

Sri Aurobindo: No. But one may say that it requires: 1.Complete opening from the highest mind to the most material part — all must open to the Truths — a sort of perfect square from top to bottom. 2. Raising the centre of consciousness into the plane of the Truth consciousness so that one is normally seated on the Supramental plane.

Disciple: All the time?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, all the time. The third thing needed is the establishment of harmony between, and organisation of, all the movements of nature — mental, vital and physical in the light of the Truth. All this not in order one after another but at the same time,

Disciple: What are the gradations of the Supermind?

Sri Aurobindo: The gradations of the Supermind are four; 1. Saramā 2. Sarasvatī 3. Ilā 4. dakṣiṇā.

Disciple: When all the parts of the being are opened to the Truth, does the struggle with the hostile forces become more acute?

Sri Aurobindo: That depends on the work that is done before the opening: that is to say, one must have worked out to some extent the impurities in the nature before the opening. All this one must have done consciously.

Disciple: Has it to be done before the opening?

Sri Aurobindo: Why? opening also means becoming conscious of the movement of nature.

Generally, one goes through the gradations of the Supermind. I have written about it in the Arya. Then I was speaking not about the highest Supermind but about the highest Supermind “in the Mind”. There is, for instance, the Intuitive Mentality. It is not Supermind but Mind. You can say it is Supermind working on the basis of Mind — by flashes. From the point of view of the highest Supermind, intuitions are “glorious guesses”. Of course, the guesses may be quite correct.

The other three gradations are: 1. the Representative 2. the Interpretative 3. the Imperative. As you go on developing, the higher and higher grades become active. The Intuitive Mentality is a kind of “modified Supermind”.

Disciple: What do you mean by “modified Supermind”?

Sri Aurobindo: Supermind as it comes down modifies the mental movements and in turn gets modified itself also.

Disciple: What is Agni? What is Kratu?

Sri Aurobindo: Agni is the power behind all internal effort. Kratu is will and some other things also.

Disciple: You said yesterday that watches respond to mental thought and will. What did you exactly mean by it?

Sri Aurobindo: That they respond to your suggestion — if you can make it in the right way.

Disciple: What kind of suggestion?

Sri Aurobindo: Of any kind. Only, it must be done in the proper way.:

Disciple: What kind of response do the watches make?

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, they don’t jump off the table if you want them to.

Disciple: Can they be, made to go slower or faster?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. And they can be made to stop or start by suggestion.

Disciple: If a watch is out of order, will it start if I give the suggestion?

Sri Aurobindo: No, not if there is something wrong in the mechanism. There must be sufficient mechanical basis for the suggestion.

Disciple: Can fire be lighted by exertion of will-power?

Sri Aurobindo: That is a different thing.

Disciple: Will the trigger of a gun go off if I exert my will?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, If you have a will sufficiently strong for the purpose. It may take some time before the response comes.

Disciple: When there are many Supermen, what language will they use? Or would they use the same language and convey more meaning and force?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not necessary to be Supermen for that; poets can do that without being Supermen.

Disciple: All our language is mental and it is said that at one time there was only one natural language.

Sri Aurobindo: Our language is not mental in its origin, it was only half-mental at the most. Man began to use language not so much to express ideas as to convey “sensations” and a certain sound was made to convey a certain sensation. The word employed was not so important as the sound itself and the different shades of it were conveyed by intonations of the same sound,

Disciple: It is said that in the beginning there was only one language.

Sri Aurobindo: It is likely. In the past, men used sounds to convey sensations and each word expressed many “things” —

As mind developed, ideas began to be expressed and each word was bound down to convey only one meaning. This evolution of language is very clearly visible in the history of Sanskrit and at one time I proceeded far enough into the study — of the subject,

Disciple: How can the general atmosphere of humanity affect the Sadhana of the individual or the group?

Sri Aurobindo: You see all sorts of things come to you from the universal; that is, from the general atmosphere of humanity — thoughts and ideas in the mind, impulses; etc. in the vital being and so on. It is for this reason that a Sadhaka has to isolate himself from the general atmosphere and create his; own fort where; these things cannot come in easily.

06.09.1926

Disciple: What is the ideal relation of a Disciple to his Guru?

Sri Aurobindo: Ask some other question! You must find it out within yourself.

Disciple: What should be the relation of the Guru to his disciple?

Sri Aurobindo: That I know. (laughter)

Disciple: What should be the relation between the disciples themselves?

Sri Aurobindo: That you better ask K. He will be able to explain.

Disciple: How can there be a fixed relation by rule?

Sri Aurobindo: In these matters it is no good forming mental ideas and ideals and trying to cut the behaviour according to it. Again, it depends on the Guru.

Disciple: What I wanted to know was: is there anything like grace—what it called ahaitukī kṛpā?

Sri Aurobindo: You mean to say that the Guru would give everything whether the Disciple deserved it or not? What do you mean by ahaitukī kṛpā?

Disciple: I do not know the exact meaning, but I believe it is what may be called “grace”. Something from the Divine descending in man.

Sri Aurobindo: But grace is also a part of divine wisdom. You do not mean to say that divine grace is due to a chance caprice of God! It is there because the divine knows its purpose.

Disciple: ahaitukī bhakti and kṛpā means that there is no purpose — that is, human purpose or reason — which man can attribute to it. But there is always some other purpose which man may not be knowing.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a different matter; it may have no human purpose.

Disciple: Then is there nothing like the personal side of the Guru? I was all along thinking that there is the personal side as well as the impersonal side. Any one who opens himself to the impersonal side of the Guru gets the Truth, but unless there is surrender to the personal it is not complete. This personal side of the Guru can use divine grace.

Sri Aurobindo: It depends on the Guru. If he is a human Guru then his personal vital or mental preferences may play a part and often they falsify the purpose of grace. The less they interfere the better. But what did you mean by the personal and the impersonal? Do you mean to say that if you gave me a lot of fruits and other things every day there would be a lot of spiritual things going from me to you? (laughter)

Disciple: It will depend upon the object with which one gives the fruit etc.

Disciple: It will be ahaituk fruit.

Disciple: Yes, ahaituka offering with an eye to ahaitukī kṛpā! (laughter)

Disciple (to Sri Aurobindo): But then, is there nothing like patit-pāvan —the Divine purifying the fallen and the low?

Sri Aurobindo: That is sentimentalism.

Disciple: It is specially the work of grace to raise up the adhama — “the low and the fallen”.

Sri Aurobindo: That is to say, the Divine must neglect the uttama, the best, and be partial to the adhama, the low? (laughter)

It is like the Christian idea that he who is favoured by God gets a “flogging”. The more a man is flogged the more favoured he is!

Disciple: Is there nothing, then, like personal grace?

Sri Aurobindo: As I said, it depends on the Guru. You don’t mean to say that the personal side of the Guru decides voluntarily and independently of the Divine what is to be given to a disciple. Even when it appears to take that form it is something else that decides. The more the personal element (in the sense of the vital or mental preference on the part of the Guru) the more is the likelihood of mistake being committed. If he is a mere human Guru, then if he is a Bengali he would like to give his grace to Bengalis or he would choose his relatives. That has nothing to do with the divine work. All that idea about patit-pāvan and adham uddhār means only this that however bad or seemingly wicked the external life may be, the man can yet be saved if he has something in him which can receive the Truth. One may say that even for grace to descend there are conditions.

Disciple: Are there conditions determined by the Divine?

Sri Aurobindo: If you take the stand that everything is decided by the Divine then we have nothing to do but to sit still. If you drive the matter to a mental logical extreme then you have to come to a dead stop.

But, taking things as they are, man has his part to play.

Disciple: Is there anything like predestination, everything about a man being fixed by something Divine?

Sri Aurobindo: No, as I said already, in these questions, so long as man is talking mentally, his words will hardly have any sense. For, the thing that is decided the decision is taken on so high a plane that for man to say that “all is decided” is rather too much.

Disciple: It is the Higher Power that does everything in our yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: Even then your consent is necessary at every step.

Disciple: I suppose “surrender” is the chief condition?

Sri Aurobindo: It is one of the conditions. There is also the power to receive the Force and many other things. It is not as simple as many people imagine — that the Guru gives and the disciple takes.

Disciple: Is it not true that of all the disciples of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda got the greatest benefit?

Disciple: You mean spiritual benefit?

Sri Aurobindo (after a pause): Well, it is very doubtful; evidently he was the strongest of them all and so he manifested it most and put it forward in his expression. But that is not the measure of spirituality.

Disciple: For instance, a silent man like Brahmananda may have more of it than any other.

Sri Aurobindo: Many times outer success is not beneficial to a man’s inner progress. Sometimes it may be better for a man’s progress that he should fail than succeed.

Disciple: Why?

Sri Aurobindo: Because success may mean being led away from the path; of course, it depends upon what you mean by success. If you mean success in external life then it is a different matter. But if you mean “following the upward line of his evolution” then the so-called outward success may be harmful.

Disciple (turning to another): Suppose you had become a minister — you might have been successful in the external sense, but what would have happened to your spiritual development?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, and our X would have been a big official somewhere and might have retired with a pension. (laughter)

Disciple: And Y would have been a diabetic professor. (laughter)

Disciple: Instead of a dyspeptic yogi.

Sri Aurobindo: And Z would have been a mammoth athlete like Ram Murthy.

Disciple: Instead of a rheumatic Sadhaka.

Sri Aurobindo: Why, if I had followed the line of extenal success I would have been somewhere in Baroda! That life was easy.

Disciple: But what would have become of your energy?

Sri Aurobindo: Do you think I had then the same energy that I have got now?

Disciple: But the possibility and capacity must have been there.

Sri Aurobindo: It is like the seed of a tree. If it does not get the soil it may not grow. If I had stuck to my job I would have been a Principal, perhaps, written some poetry and lived in comfort like a bourgeois.

All the energy that I have I owe to yoga. I was very incapable before. Even the energy that I put forth in politics came from yoga.

Disciple: You said about the forces that control money that two conditions were necessary. First, one must be very calm and must not get disturbed and have no desire for money. Secondly, it requres a bojhāpadā — an understanding — with the universal forces. What is this understanding?

Sri Aurobindo: There are many ways. Even in the case of one man there are different methods, I mean in the yogic sense, which he can follow. First, you must put your need before God and ask him to satisfy it; your duty ends there. In that case you need not have any bojhāpadā — understanding — with the universal forces.

But we look upon money as a power of the Divine, and, as with everything else, we want to conquer it for the Divine in life. Hence, in our case an “understanding” is necessary. As the money-power today is in the hands of the hostile forces, naturally, we have to fight them. Whenever they see that you are trying to oust them they will try to thwart your efforts. You have to bring a higher power than these and put them down. First, they try to trick you by offering success,— one can say, by trying to buy you up. If a man falls into that trap then his spiritual future is ruined.

You have really to follow a certain rhythm of the money-power, the rhythm that brings in and the one that throws out money. Money is given to you in the beginning; then, you have to deserve it. You have to prove that you do not waste it. If you waste it, then you lose your right to it.

Disciple: What is waste?

Sri Aurobindo: Waste is waste. Throwing away money without any order, unorganised expenses without regard to the means of getting money or to the utility of spending. It is not that you have to hoard money. It is there for being spent. But we must spend it in the right way — in a certain order and with an arrangement.

Sometimes the Divine even follows man’s caprices, as is typified in the case of men like Thakur Dayananda,

Disciple: Yes. Whatever he gets must be spent away on that very day, that is the rule; and they all wait till they get their next day’s food.

Sri Aurobindo: The result is that sometimes for seven days they get so much food that they can’t eat and then fifteen days they have to starve!

Disciple: Even the young children go without food for period.

Sri Aurobindo: Well, that is a chaotic movement; but he follows it!

Disciple: Even the industrial magnates who get money into that rhythm of which you spoke.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, they do, otherwise they can get rich. They take it in and then again they throw it out, then it returns and again it is thrown out. That is the reason why they get colossal wealth. These rich people often have no attachment to money, it is the action of the vital force that they enjoy, not their money.

Disciple: It is a life-movement.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. That was the ideal of the Vaishya as opposed to the Bania — the miser. The Vaishya was the man who could get tremendous wealth and could spend it liberally, could establish the interchange and enter into the rhythm.

Disciple: But these Marwadis who are very rich are attached to their wealth.

Sri Aurobindo: No.

Disciple: No, they are not. We think them greedy because they don’t give money in the way in which we want them to give. They generally spend it in the old conventional way. We think them greedy also because they are particular about small things in their business caring for pies.

Sri Aurobindo: It is very necessary. It is exactly that which brings them the money.

Disciple: Henry Ford has also got that habit and so has become rich. He describes in his biography how he started with the idea not of making money but of giving people a quick conveyance at a small price.

Sri Aurobindo: The Americans have got the knack of getting into the rhythm which brings them money. The French method, for instance, does not succeed because they follow out small narrow paths, while the Americans boldly get into movement on a large scale and money circulates and as it circulates it accumulates and increases life wherever it flows.

Disciple: You said that some men have got in their vital being a special capacity that draws money to them.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Some have it. And some women also have got it. Women can give a tremendous push to a man in anything he does. There are also women who are lakṣmī chādā — those that take away what you may have.

09.09.1926

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

Sri Aurobindo: What do you exactly mean?

Disciple: In our yoga we have to discontinue the lower movement of nature as being an obstacle to Sadhana, but the Tantrics — specially the Vira Sadhakas — turn these obstacles to account and, taking help from these, they build up spiritual life.

Sri Aurobindo: How?

Disciple: That is my question.

Sri Aurobindo: I have no objection to taking fish and even you can take wine, if it suits you, but how can the sexual act be made to help in spiritual life? In itself the sexual act is not bad as the moralists believe. It is a movement of nature which has its purpose and is neither good nor bad. But, from the yogic point of view, the sexual force is the greatest force in the world and if properly used helps to recreate and regenerate the being. But, if it is indulged in in the ordinary way, it is a great obstacle for two reasons. First, the sexual act involves a great loss of vital force, it is a movement towards death, though this is compensated by creation of new life. That it is a movement towards death is proved by the exhaustion felt after it; many people feel even a disgust.

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

Sri Aurobindo: That is a fallacy. Someone will say that he lived a hundred years because he did not smoke and another will assert that he has lived up to that age with smoking.

The second reason is: the excitement accompanying the ordinary sexual act destroys the psychic possibilities of the man. He gets separated and dissociated from the higher centres of consciousness and goes downwards. People say that they take the attitude of Shakti taking Bhoga through them, but that is only a way of saying. People indulge in lower movements, yield to hostile forces and at the same time pass as yogis. Even, the Vedantic attitude is often made an excuse for yielding to the hostile forces. “All this is Maya, illusion, there is no virtue, no sin, no good, no evil,” they say and give themselves up to lower vital forces.

Disciple: But are the lower movements of nature themselves not hostile?

Sri Aurobindo: No, but they offer an opening to the hostile forces and the hostile forces use these lower movements for their own purpose.

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

Sri Aurobindo: Absolutely none. These moral injunctions are for the maintenance of society, for the welfare of the children born, but so far as the yogic life is concerned the sexual act with one’s own wife is as much harmful as that with any other woman. Only those who have risen above the human level, those who have a certain kind of spiritual force as well as vital force, can possibly make a proper use of the sexual act for a spiritual purpose. If Sadhakas at a lower stage take to these things they are certain to fall.

Disciple: If the sexual act is so full of danger, why should it at all be used as a help? Why not confine oneself to a safer course?

Sri Aurobindo: That is a dangerous question to answer. I shall answer that question when you have risen above the human level.

Disciple: When one has reached, that level beyond the human consciousnes, how is the loss due to the sexual act averted? What happens to the excitement and dissociation from the higher centres of consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: The Higher Power can take up the things in its own way and prevent the harmful effects. Then the method and the act become absolutely different from the human.

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

Sri Aurobindo: Yes; by conquering it. The Sadhaka acquires knowledge of the action of the hostile forces and of the defects in his own nature which invite the attack.

Disciple: Does he acquire anything more than the knowledge?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, new openings may occur to the Higher Power, his strength may increase and so forth.

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

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

Disciple: How can “anger” act in the divine way?

Sri Aurobindo: God does not hesitate to strike or smite. He often behaves in a manner which to the ordinary mind may appear to be cruel. But the attitude is quite different. Thus, in the Vedas, the Panis steal the cows of heaven — the Sun — and conceal them in the caves. When the Panis are conquered the cows are released and rise heavenward.

Disciple: So, can one say that the Higher Power sends hostile forces to the Sadhaka?

Sri Aurobindo: The hostile forces are there and the Higher Power may use them for its own purpose. Of course, everything comes from the Supreme Power, but that must not be understood in the crude way. The hostile power may be used to test the capacity of the Sadhaka.

Disciple: The Higher Power may, sometimes, act as a hostile power as when by the descent of the Higher Power the Sadhaka breaks down.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, by the descent of the Higher Power the unfit Adhars break down, while the fit ones progress. There are certain risks but all great achievements involve dangers and risks. When one is not fit and prepared and constantly calls to God, “Come down, come down,” then the Power may come down and the Adhar may collapse.

Disciple: Is the power of the hostile attack always proportional to the resisting power of the Sadhaka?

Sri Aurobindo: Not always; otherwise why so many failures and defeats? The Guru may fill the deficiency.

Disciple: At times does the Guru even ward off the attack without any effort on the part of the Sadhak?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. There is no general rule; in some eases the Guru does the whole thing, sometimes the Sadhaka acts and the Guru helps — which means that the Higher Power helps and the Guru is made only an instrument.

10.09.1926

Disciple: In the Tantra there seems to be symbolism. There are different Chakras — centres — which open one after another.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no fixed rule as to which opens first. The heart is the psychic centre and if that opens first, it is a very good opening.

Disciple: It is said that in the Vāman, incarnation God, in the form of the dwarf, demanded three steps from the Titan, Bali. Does that signify that the three worlds — the physical, the vital and the mental — were in the Asura’s possession and the Divine demanded that they should be liberated and become the dominions of God himself?

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

Disciple: When the Mind is transformed by the action of the Higher Power what are the changes that take place in the Mind?

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

Disciple: Yes.

Sri Aurobindo: The reasonings and the fanciful constructions of the mind cease: there remains only a play of intuitions.

Disciple: Does not reason remain, at all?

Sri Aurobindo: When the whole mind is intuitionised, it knows directly and therefore needs no reasoning. I see you before me; so, why should I argue whether you exist or not?

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

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

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

Sri Aurobindo: Mind may build on its intuitions, but there is every likelihood of its committing mistakes or errors. Mental transformation is a gradual process. First, the reasoning and constructions are silenced. Then the mind becomes intuitionised. Then one feels that there is something above which is much more than intuition. Intuition goes downwards and the higher Truth takes the place of intuition. At present, you find it difficult to understand how all reasoning and constructions of the mind can cease. That can be understood when you know what is intuition.

Disciple: I understand that reasoning and constructions are obstacles to the coming of the Truth.

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

Disciple: Then one must correct these things before the higher Truth can come down.

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

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

Sri Aurobindo: If you do nothing else but merely silence the mind you will have a silent mind and nothing else.

Disciple: When a developed mind opens to the Truth and an underdeveloped mind opens to it which will be the richer of the two?

Sri Aurobindo: First you have to see whether the under — developed mind can open itself to the higher Truth; generally it cannot. Then, it may have a narrow opening and the result will be limited. The higher Truth may afterwards develop the mind but if the mind is already developed, there is already a rich material upon which the Truth can work. But the too much developed mind is also an obstacle. It has its fixed habits, its fixed grooves to which it sticks tenaciously. With the coming down of the Truth the mind may suddenly develop new powers — painting or poetry etc.

Disciple: Would it not mean that the preparation for these faculties was done in a past life?

Sri Aurobindo: You do not mean to say that if a man begins to understand Chinese suddenly he was a Chinese in his past birth?

20.09.1926

Disciple: How is it that some unfit persons are drawn this yoga while some fit persons are riot drawn to it

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by being “drawn”?

Disciple: I mean something in them pushes them to this yoga and then it is found that they are unfit and; they are pushed simply to be broken.

Sri Aurobindo: You mean to say that the man is pushed by something hostile into the yoga and that there is nothing in him that wants it?

Disciple: Yes.

Sri Aurobindo: It can’t be. Something in the man who takes the yoga wants the Truth, but the other parts may not be able to follow it.

Disciple: That is to say, such persons are not fit for yoga, and yet they take to it and get broken.

Sri Aurobindo: What is “fitness”?

Disciple: We mean an aspiration for the Truth and some strength in the vital being and a developed mind.

Sri Aurobindo: Well, a man may have; all the necessary qualifications you speak of and may appear strong, and yet he may not be able to go through; while another man may appear weak and yet something behind intervenes and he is able to go through. So there is no mental rule in this matter.

Disciple: But if they are not fit what is it that pushes them into the yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: As I say, something in them wants the yoga and pushes them. In some cases it is “destiny” that pushes them.

Disciple: What is meant by destiny?

Sri Aurobindo: Well, it is a general term to cover up anything inexplicable (laughter).

Disciple: Does it mean that the man is driven to the path because he is “chosen”?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, you can call it “chosen” or “accepted” or anything else you like; that won’t help the matter.

Disciple: But many people think they are chosen by t. yet they don’t succeed.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not a; question of your “thinking” that you are chosen. There are plenty of people who think that they are, accepted — while as a matter of fact they are not. On the other hand, there are people who go on persisting in the belief that they are not accepted almost, to the, very end and then they find that they have succeeded.

Disciple: I was thinking of X whether anything in him really wanted the yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you mean? He had at any rate something which wanted the yoga, otherwise he would not have been pushed into it. But the arrogance of his mind and vital being came in the way and he lost the chance.

Disciple: Take the case of people from X district. How much they try, and yet they do not make any headway and still they persist in pursuing what they call Sadhana. I wonder why they do it. And has their doing it any utility?

Sri Aurobindo: Evidently, because something in them wants the yoga but the Adhar, the material instrumentation, is unfit. And about utility, how can you know the utility? Something is working and these are, as it were, materials in the boiling pot. Some get prepared, others don’t. You can’t wait and start the spiritual life after all the conditions are secure. And what is fitness?

Disciple: I don’t know. I want you to tell me.

Sri Aurobindo: I have not come across anyone who has all the fitness required for this yoga. What is your idea of fitness?

Disciple: We see some people who look to us “fit” for this yoga but they don’t come to it while others who have nothing come to it and don’t get anything.

Sri Aurobindo: And there are cases where what you call a strong man breaks down and the weak man some how manages to go through.

Disciple: What are the conditions of success in this yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: I have often told of them. Those go through who have the central sincerity. It does not mean that the sincerity is there in all the parts of the being. In that sense no one is entirely ready. But if the central sincerity is there it is possible to establish it in all the parts of the being.

The second thing necessary is a certain receptivity in the being, what we call, the “opening” up of all the planes to the Higher Power.

The third thing required is the power of holding the higher Force, a certain ghanatwa — mass — that can hold the Power when it comes down. And about the thing that pushes there are two things that generally push: One is the Central Being. The other is destiny. If the Central Being wants to do something it pushes the man. Even when the man goes off the line he is pushed back again to the path. Of course, the Central Being may push through the mind or any other part of the being. Also, if the man is destined he is pushed to the path either to go through or to get broken,

Disciple: There are some people who think they are destined or chosen and we see that they are not “chosen”.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, plenty of people think that they are specially “chosen” and that they are the first and the “elect” and so on. All that is nothing.

Disciple: Then, can you. say who is fit out of all those that have come?

Sri Aurobindo: It is very difficult to say. But this can be said that everyone of those who have come in has some chance to go through if he can hold on to it.

Disciple: There is also a chance of failure.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, and besides, the whole universe is a play of forces and one can’t always wait till all the conditions of success have been fulfilled. One has to take risks and take his chance.

Disciple: What is meant by “chance”? Does it mean that it is only one possibility out of many others, or does it mean that one would be able to succeed in yoga?

Sri Aurobindo: It means only that he can succeed if he takes his chance properly. For instance, X had his chance.

Disciple: Those who fall on the path or slip, do they go down in their evolution?

Sri Aurobindo: That depends. Ultimately, the Yoga may be lost to him.

Disciple: The Gita says: Na hi kalyānkṛt — nothing that is beneficial — comes to a bad end.

Sri Aurobindo: That is from another standpoint. You must note the word is kalyān kṛt — it is an important addition.

Disciple: It is written in a book that the Japanese have given up their own instruments and have taken to European music. Is it true?

Sri Aurobindo: For that we must ask X.

Disciple: I think Japanese instruments are also found in plenty — you also find European instruments, orchestra etc. There are places where you find Japanese music and drama patronised and there are many people who like them very much.

The talk then turned to the Theosophical Lodge started in Japan, which ceased functioning very soon after the founder had left Japan.

Sri Aurobindo: Probably, even in the Lodge there were more foreigners than the Japanese

Disciple: There were only two Japanese, one Dutch, one Pole and so on. The Japanese mind is not interested in these things — philosophy, metaphysics etc.

26.09.1926

Disciple: How can a man get things done for him by the Higher Power unless the Higher Power becomes known to him or is, at least, partly realised?

Sri Aurobindo: If it is known by the mind, then, like all mental realisations, it gets mixed up. Mind divides, infers, conceives and then lays down mental standard for the Divine. It dictates to God that He shall satisfy mental standards. Mind is not the entire consciousness, it is partial. Mind is, again, arrogant and believes that it is the highest instrument, the master or even king of the universe. It has the error of false knowledge, it is limited to partial light.

The Vital mind is rampagious; it wants to do things, it is violent. It says: “Yes, I surrender, but I want God to do this.” It does not say it does not want to surrender. The physical mind is obscure and dull. In the vital, almost unconsciously to oneself, one tries to make a show — there is a tendency to pretension.

In the ideal case one is ready to admit one’s own defects and be on guard to watch with spiritual humility. But all these things make the Higher Power’s working very difficult in the lower nature. Therefore we insist so much on sincerity in this yoga. It is the psychic being which has no such pretensions because it knows and can surrender to the Divine. It is therefore that in our yoga the awakening of the psychic being is so important. That alone gives one the psychic tact which steers clear of all difficulties.

Disciple: Can one allow the Higher Power to take charge of his Sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo: You can leave the building up of the Sadhana to the Higher Power.

02.10.1926

Disciple: There is an article in the Madras Mail by Keynes in which the writer says that the attempt in modern times to establish Government monopoly is not desirable and people do not know what really happens.

Sri Aurobindo: The writer is too busy looking at facts and so he does not see what is coming. The struggle between Capital and Labour is there and Socialism and Collectivism or Communism had to be brought in to counteract the individualistic tendencies of the present-day civilisation. Assertion of the collective being is necessary for organisation and efficiency because the tendency of Capitalism was, and would be, to concentrate the power of money in the hands of the few. It is futile to expect the capitalists to move from philanthropic motives. Capitalism, Socialism, Communism have each a truth behind them. Formerly there were three parties viz. Capital, Labour and the Government. In some countries the governments have been largely influenced by capitalists. For instance, in England the Government acting as a third party has hardly remained neutral. It is clear from the coal-strike. It is really very difficult for any Government to resist the power of money, except in a country like Russia which is based on revolutionary principles. Even there the Government has identified itself with labour and, from all reliable reports, it has made the condition of the labourers much better, as far as could be done in a poor country like Russia. In Italy, Mussolini tried to establish the Government as a third party to control both Labour and Capital but even there Capital seems to have largely succeeded.

The topic was changed by a question from a disciple.

Disciple: You said yesterday that realisation of God is not sufficient to change human nature.

Disciple: The question arose from a conversation which we had about the Christian mystics. They have an idea that once they realise the Divine Consciousness there is nothing else to be done. They also maintain that after that all the work a man does is., not his but God’s.

Sri Aurobindo: How do they know? And what “divine” work do they do?

Disciple: Generally, they were monks and so they used to do the work of the Church.

Sri Aurobindo: That is what I say, that even when one gets the experience of the Divine Consciousness once, one generally remains what he was in his mental and vital being. And so they go about with the usual ideas of the Church or religion in the orthodox sense, making themselves believe that it is the divine work.

It is another side of the Adwaitawadins — the monists — who believe the world to; be Maya, illusion. Once you get the realisation of the Brahman the rest does not matter — they don’t mind what happens to the lower nature. If there are movements in the mental or the vital being, they are simply due to the past impulse, and you have nothing to do with them, they are outside you, they do not belong to you.

When I said that mere realisation of God is not sufficient I meant that such a realisation is not; sufficient to bring about a permanent change of consciousness. It needs the working of the dynamic Power of God to change human nature.

Disciple: It so happens in their case because even the first glimpse of the Divine Consciousness is so over-powering, that it is too much for them! They are satisfied with the experience.

Sri Aurobindo: It is true that all ādhārs — nature-formations — have not the capacity to hold the Divine Consciousness and they don’t make any effort to increase the capacity of the natural instrument. Once you come down from the Divine Consciousness you are again like an ordinary man. One ought to go on increasing the capacities of his natural instrument in complexity and many-sidedness so as to hold the Divine when it comes down.

Disciple: They speak of Samadhi in which one enters into Turiya — the fourth state.

Disciple: I find it very difficult to enter into Turiya. Immediately I try I go to sleep! (laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: That means you don’t go deep enough.

Disciple: What happens to their nature-part after their realisation of the Brahman?

Sri Aurobindo: They don’t care about what happens to their nature-part. It is this idea of realisation that gave the belief that one who realises the Brahman acts like bāla, (a child), jada, (inert), unmatta, (a mad man), or pisāch, (one possessed by lower vital forces).

Disciple: It is very easy to become jadavat-like one inert.

Sri Aurobindo: I don’t think it is so easy. I think the only man who came very near to it was Jada Bharat, the sage.

Disciple: Even he burst out while carrying the king’s palanquin,— the occasion was too tempting! (laughter)

Disciple: But Shankara must have got into the Brahman,

Sri Aurobindo: You better ask the Brahman! It is a knotty question to answer. Perhaps Brahman would have said: “You are too argumentative to enter into me”! But it is like the “hen and egg” question.

Disciple: But according to the Advaita philosophy, all is in the Brahman, or one can say, God is in everything,

Sri Aurobindo:That is a mental realisation and does no carry you much further.

Disciple: Can One say that the Truth-Consciousness is the same as the Jiva?

Sri Aurobindo: On its highest plane the Jiva is the true Divine being. But it is on every plane. When you realise the Divine you know your true being and also you know God and his purpose in your Jiva. One can get into contact with it through the Central Being,

Disciple: I wanted to understand how belief is known different levels — mental, vital, and physical.

Sri Aurobindo: I will say something about belief and then you try to understand it by what it is not.

Mental faith believes in an idea. That is to say, Mind believes in what it thinks. The Vital believes in what it desires, and the Physical believes in what it senses.

Disciple: Does the transformation come first or the realisation of the Divine Consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: How can you have the transformation without the Higher Power?

Disciple: Is it a process that demands faith in all the parts of our nature?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. It demands a mental faith which is the anticipation of the knowledge that is coming. Vital faith anticipates the effectuation that is coming. Faith in the physical anticipates what is going to be realised.

Disciple: Is there a difference between effectuation and realisation?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, there is a difference. Effectuation is the work of force, realisation is a fact. This object lying here is a fact, it is not a force.

Part 2. Chapter V. Vedic Interpretation

1923

The topic was Vedic interpretation.

Sri Aurobindo: The third and the fourth Mandala contain many subtle suggestions about the symbolism of the Veda. The hymns of Dirghatamas in the first Mandala are clearly mystic. The experience of the Rishis is common in general principles but it varies in detail. These details are hard to fix because you do not find any parallel to them in other hymns. And so, sometimes you become helpless. The general idea of the functions of Agni is the same. He is kavi-kratu — “one with a seer-will” or “one possessed of the seer-will”. You have also to see the connection of Agni with Satya, the Truth. The good, the “Shreyas”, which Agni does is the increase in Truth — Satyam. In the Brahmanas there are many hints that suggest the symbolism in the Veda. Yama, probably, is the Truth working on the physical aspect of the universe. The word dhī, ṛtam, satyam, bṛhat are among the important words for Vedic interpretation. Trim rocana when applied to svar refers to the three divisions of the svar. When it refers to three heavens, it means the heavens of the mental, vital and physical fulfilment. When each of these is fulfilled it is called “heaven” and its fulfilment is by the highest Truth. Agni’s “own” — svam damam — is the highest Truth., In V.12. the Rishi does not want the mixture of Truth and falsehood but wants only the Truth. Agni’s own is full of joy: Ananda is the pratistha — basis of the Divine Will. Swadhdwdn means “having the law of its own being”.

In Mandala 1.95 there is mention of the “child” that is One — that child is Agni. He is called “the son of two mothers” — of different colours — of Day and Night — i.e. of Knowledge and Ignorance. Swarthe: means “by the right path”. Anyanya means “to each other” — alternately. “Hari”, “full of coloured light”; Sukra, “white, shining white”. Suvarca, “full of bright light.” Dasa yuvatayah [1.95.2] “Ten young women bear the child — garbha — by Twashtri” daśemaṃ tvaṣṭurjanayanta garbhamatandrāso yuvatayo vibhṛtram [1.95.2.]

08.07.1924

Sri Aurobindo: This idea of poverty was never the Hindu ideal, not even for the Brahmin. Gandhi has advised the non-cooperators not to bequeath their property to their sons. The idea is: why should you burden your son with a sinful load? This is an absurd ideal, at least it was never the Hindu ideal. He seems to imagine that everyone in India after forty-five used to leave his property and go away to the forest.

Disciple: But then what should the no-changer do with his property if he does not give it to his son?

Disciple: Give it to the Government.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, if there is nobody to inherit, then it must go to the Government.

Disciple: But the Government is already sufficiently Satanic and the sin of more property may make it more Satanic.

Sri Aurobindo: It is a Christian ideal to be poor.

Disciple: In the hymns recited as flower-offerings—Puspānjali — they pray — Swasti swarajyam, bhojyam, samrajyam-pāramesthyam —“for self-rule, and all rule — of the divine — and all enjoyment.”

Sri Aurobindo: Why! you have to face property if it comes. There never was any preaching of poverty. Of course, there was Sannyasa having the ideal of “no-property”. But that is quite a different thing from remaining poor.

What the Indian ideal is you read in the Ramayana where the civic life is described. There was no man who was poor in Dashratha’s kingdom, none who had no garden. That is the Indian ideal and even in the Upanishads we see that the Brahmins had got wealth.

Sri Aurobindo recounted the story of Yāgnavalkya who said he would bow down to the highest among the knowers of Brahman. He said: “I only want to take the cows.”

Not to be attached to property was the idea, but it is quite a different thing from remaining poor.

Disciple: Did Buddhism preach poverty?

Sri Aurobindo: There was a division: the monks and the householders. The monks owned no property and for them there was the communal property. For the householders poverty was not regarded as an ideal. Our people never preached poverty.

Disciple: Even in the Taittiriya and other Upanishads we have annādo annavān, kirtyā mahān, pasubhih saha “The one who enjoys matter-food — and is possessed of Matter (of food), great by his glory, with the wealth of cattle”. — always insistence is on earthly greatness and prosperity.

Part 2. Chapter VI. Education

May 1923

Sri Aurobindo: Does any one know anything about the Montessori method of child-education?

Disciple: The principle is to base education round the spontaneous activities of the child, i.e., primarily, round its sense-activities which have to be intelligently guided by the teacher. In fact, the child learns, the teacher does not teach in the old sense. Group-life furnishes occasions to inculcate social virtues in the child’s mind. Freedom of the child is the corner-stone of her system. The training centres round child-life by guided activities of the senses, i.e. the nervous system.

Sri Aurobindo: The principle is all right. There are, I believe, three things: To bring out the real man is the first business of education. In the present system it is sorely neglected. It can be done by promoting powers of observation, memory, reasoning etc. Through these the man within must be touched and brought out.

The second thing that acts is the personality of the teacher. Whatever Montessori may say, the teacher is there and his influence is there and it does, and must, act. The teacher may not directly guide or instruct but the influence keeps the children engaged. Children are quite open to such an influence. The third thing is to place a man in the right place in the world.

Disciple: She has also provided for “silence” in her teaching. There is no religious teaching. There are people who object to this method saying that the child must be brought in contact with the past.

Sri Aurobindo: When the real man — the true individual — is brought out, then you can place him in contact with the past. At present information is forced into the child’s brain. The child can very well gather it by himself if his mind is trained. Perfect liberty would be desirable for the child. I would not like any hard things to be brought into the child’s experience. In Japan, it seems, the child is free when it is young and, as it grows and reaches the college, discipline tightens.

Disciple: But the sum total is the same whatever the method.

Sri Aurobindo: No. The Japanese are more naturally disciplined. I mean they take to discipline very easily.

26.08.1926

The question at the evening-talk arose out of the convocation address delivered by Dr. Brajendra Nath Seal.

Sri Aurobindo: All the ideas, are too academic,

Disciple: Frankly I could not go through the address because of its heaviness and also too much “internationalism”.

Disciple: But I liked it, it is readable.

Sri Aurobindo: Readable to a professor like you but not to X.

Disciple: Y read a long sentence to me out of the address and then stopped half-way for breath!

Sri Aurobindo: That way, somebody can even say the same thing with regard to the Arya, because there are long sentences there also.

Disciple: Some one told me that there was a striking resemblance between your style and that of Brajendra Nath Seal.

Disciple: When I read the first article of the Arya I could not understand anything, so I gave it up.

Sri Aurobindo: Many people cannot understand it. The Arya requires two things. First of all, a thorough knowledge of the English language which many Indians have not got. And secondly, it requires a mind that is subtle and comprehensive. I wrote the Arya, really speaking, for myself. I wanted to throw out certain things that were moving in my mind. I did not write it for others and so I did not care to write with that purpose.

Disciple: Even P. Chaudhury says that he does not understand anything of the Arya except the Future Poetry.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not because of the style but because he takes interest in literature and knows something about it. It is his subject.

Disciple: But how is it that he does not understand anything else?

Sri Aurobindo: Because other things don’t interest him. Do you think he made a serious effort to read it through and failed?

Disciple: I got the Arya in my college and I could never understand anything of it in the day-time. I used to begin at 11 o’clock at night and go up to 12 or 1 o’clock. Then I could understand something of it. It took me a few months to get into the style.

Sri Aurobindo: The difficulty is not merely language and style but thought also. The Arya makes a demand on the mind for acute and original thinking. You can’t expect all men to meet that demand.

Disciple: I hear that Hiren Dutt and Dr. Bhagwandas also do not understand it.

Sri Aurobindo: But some Englishmen do understand the Arya. The Americans too are reading it easily because they understand the language — of course, provided they take interest in the subject.

Disciple: My friend Swami Adwaitananda understands it all right but when I met professors of philosophy at Baroda or Lahore I found them complaining about their inability to understand it. Perhaps, peopli connected with Pondicherry can follow the writing easily.

Sri Aurobindo: Not always. But even the Life Divine is not so difficult, Only, there are some chapters which anybody would find difficult.

Disciple: In his address Dr. Brajendra Nath Seal spe; of the ancient ideal of education.

Sri Aurobindo: What was that ideal?

Disciple: There was “Guru grha vdsa” — living with the Guru and corporate life.

Sri Aurobindo: Where is the guru — grha,— the Master’s now?

Disciple: Seal says that in ancient times students used to do manual work for the Guru, and they were also living a corporate life — the student community working together for common ends.

Disciple: He wants modern education to be national, international, socialistic etc. I am afraid he tries to read some modern thoughts into the ancient system.

Sri Aurobindo: That is what people usually do.

Disciple: What was the ancient system of education in India?

Sri Aurobindo: In very ancient times it was the spiritual building of character which was the aim of education. The Guru was generally a Yogi who put his influence for the