LETTERS ON YOGA
Volume 3. Part Four
1. The Triple Transformation:
Psychic Spiritual Supramental
I II III IV V
There can be no immortality of the body without supramentalisation; the potentiality is there in the yogic force and yogis can live for 200 or 300 years or more, but there can be no real principle of it without the supramental.
Even Science believes that one day death may be conquered by physical means and its reasonings are perfectly sound. There is no reason why the supramental Force should not do it. Forms on earth do not last (they do in other planes) because these forms are too rigid to grow expressing the progress of the spirit. If they become plastic enough to do that there is no reason why they should not last.
Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter see here
Well, don't you know that old men sometimes get a new or third set of teeth in their old age? And if monkey-glands can renew functionings and forces and can make hair grow on a bald head, as Voronoff has proved by living examples, well? And mark that Science is only at the beginning of these experiments. If these possibilities are opening before Science, why should one declare their absolute impossibility by other [yogic] means?
Death is there because the being in the body is not yet developed enough to go on growing in the same body without the need of change and the body itself is not sufficiently conscious. If the mind and vital and the body itself were more conscious and plastic, death would not be necessary.
The physical death is the dissolution of the physical form but all form does not disappear by death.
Immunity from death by anything but one's own will to leave the body, immunity from illness, are things that can be achieved only by a complete change of consciousness which each man has to develop in himself, there can be no automatic immunity without that achievement.
It [death] has no separate existence by itself, it is only a result of the principle of decay in the body and that principle is there already it is part of the physical nature. At the same time it is not inevitable; if one could have the necessary consciousness and force, decay and death is not inevitable. But to bring that consciousness and force into the whole of the material nature is the most difficult thing of all at any rate, in such a way as to annul the decay principle. It came because it is there in the subconscient and in Matter into which you are trying to bring down the intuition and overmind, it wanted to get into the subjective centre so as to combat the higher power in the mind as well as in the body.
There is no ambiguity1 that I can see. “En fait” and “attachιe” do not convey any sense of inevitability. “En fait” means simply that in fact, actually, as things are at present all life (on earth) has death attached to it as its end; but it does not in the least convey the idea that it can never be otherwise or that this is the unalterable law of all existence. It is at present a fact for certain reasons which are stated, due to certain mental and physical circumstances if these are changed, death is not inevitable any longer. Obviously the alteration can only come “if” certain conditions are satisfied all progress and change by evolution depends upon an “if” which gets satisfied. If the animal mind had not been pushed to develop speech and reason, mental man would never have come into existence, but the “if” a stupendous and formidable one, was satisfied. So with the ifs that condition a farther progress.
The change of the consciousness is the necessary thing and without it there can be no physical siddhi. But the fullness of the supramental change is not possible, if the body remains as it is, a slave of death, disease, decay, pain, unconsciousness and all the other results of the ignorance. If these are to remain the descent of the supramental is hardly necessary for a change of consciousness which would bring mental-spiritual union with the Divine, the overmind is sufficient, even the Higher Mind is sufficient. The supramental descent is necessary for a dynamic action of the Truth in mind, vital and body. This would imply as a final result the disappearance of the unconsciousness of the body; it would no longer be subject to decay and disease. That would mean that it would not be subject to the ordinary processes by which death comes. If a change of body had to be made, it would have to be by the will of the inhabitant. This (not an obligation to live 3000 years, for that too would be a bondage) would be the essence of physical immortality. Still, if one wanted to live 1000 years or more, then supposing one had the complete siddhi, it should not be impossible.
That is the argument2 of the Mayavadin to whom all manifestation is useless and unreal because it is temporary even the life of the gods is of no use because it is in Time, not in the Timeless. But if manifestation is of any use, then it is worthwhile having a perfect manifestation rather than an imperfect one. “Have to be left willingly” is a contradiction in terms. One keeps the body as long as one wills, with an illumined will, leaves it or changes it according to the same will. That is a very different thing from a body assailed constantly by desire and suffering and death brought on by decay and illness. Always assuming that the divine manifestation or any manifestation is worthwhile.
As for the second argument,3 change and progress are not excluded from the supramental life. I do not see why the change of cells, supposing it continues in the supramentalised body, takes away from the value of the transformation, if it is a change to something equally or more conscious and luminous.
To merge the consciousness in the Divine and to keep the psychic being controlling and changing all the nature and keeping it turned to the Divine till the whole being can live in the Divine is the transformation we seek. There is further the supramentalisation, but this only carries the transformation to its own highest and largest possibilities it does not alter its essential nature.
Immortality is one of the possible results of supramentalisation, but it is not an obligatory result and it does not mean that there will be an eternal or indefinite prolongation of life as it is. That is what many think it will be, that they will remain what they are with all their human desires and the only difference will be that they will satisfy them endlessly; but such an immortality would not be worth having and it would not be long before people are tired of it. To live in the Divine and have the divine Consciousness is itself immortality and to be able to divinise the body also and make it a fit instrument for divine works and divine life would be its material expression only.
09.10.1936 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter
I find that there is a change of views on your part about the Supermind's descent and the work of conquering death for humanity. Formerly I thought everything depended on your own success; now it seems a lot depends on us in this vital matter. But the outlook for us does not seem very bright; even physically it does not appear encouraging: one or two people have actually died.
In what does this change of views consist? Did I say that nobody could die in the Ashram? If so, I must have been intoxicated or passing through a temporary aberration.
As for the conquest of death, it is only one of the sequelae of supramentalisation and I am not aware that I have forsworn my views about the supramental descent. But I never said or thought that the supramental descent would automatically make everybody immortal. The supramental can only make the best conditions for anybody who can open up to it then or thereafter attaining to the supramental consciousness and its consequences. But it could not dispense with the necessity of sadhana. If it did, the logical consequence would be that the whole earth, men, dogs and worms would suddenly wake up to find themselves supramental. There would be no need of an Ashram or of yoga.
Why vital? What is vital is the supramental change of consciousness conquest of death is something minor and, as I have always said, the last physical result of it, not the first result of all or the most important a thing to be added to complete the whole, not the one thing needed and essential. To put it first is to reverse all spiritual values it would mean that the seeker was actuated, not by any high spiritual aim but by a vital clinging to life or a selfish and timid seeking for the security of the body such a spirit could not bring the supramental change.
Certainly, everything depends on my success.... But did you imagine that would mean the cessation of death on the planet and that sadhana would cease to be necessary for anybody?
What you said on the subject was quite correct. There are three stages of the sadhana, psychic change, transition to the higher levels of consciousness with a descent of their conscious forces the supramental. In the last even the control over death is a later, not an initial stage. Each of these stages demands a great length of time and a high and long endeavour.
It is absolutely idle to think of transforming the body when other things that are so much easier to do though of course none is easy are not done. The inner must change before the outermost can follow. So what is the use of such a concentration unless one thinks that everything else is perfect, which would be a rather astonishing claim. What has to be done with the body at first is to make it open to the Force, so as to receive strength against illness and fatigue when they come, there must be the power to react and throw them off and to keep a constant flow of force into the body. If that is done, the rest of the bodily change can wait for its proper time.
It is quite true that the surrender and the consequent transformation of the whole being is the aim of the yoga the body is not excluded, but at the same time this part of the endeavour is the most difficult and doubtful the rest, though not facile, is comparatively less difficult to accomplish. One must start with an inner control of the consciousness over the body, a power to make it obey more and more the will or the force transmitted to it. In the end as a higher and higher Force descends and the plasticity of the body increases, the transformation becomes possible.
As for immortality, it cannot come if there is attachment to the body, for it is only by living in the immortal part of oneself which is unidentified with the body and bringing down its consciousness and force into the cells that it can come. I speak of course of yogic means. The scientists now hold that it is (theoretically at least) possible to discover physical means by which death can be overcome, but that would mean only a prolongation of the present consciousness in the present body. Unless there is a change of consciousness and change of functionings it would be a very small gain.
It depends on the consciousness. As it is, at present, most people do not get tired of life; they die because they must, not because they want to at least, that is true of the vital; it is only a minority that tire of life and for many of these it is due to the discomforts of old age, continued ill-health, misfortune. Supposing a consciousness descended in the body that got rid of these discomforts, would people get tired of life in the same way merely because of its length or would they have some source of perpetual interest within as well as without, that would keep them on that is the question. Of course physical immortality would not mean that one is tied down to the body, but that one is not subject to disease and death, but can keep or leave the body at will. I don't know whether Ashwatthaman4 lives on because he cannot die or because he won't die whether it is for him a doom or a privilege. There are by the way animals that live for many centuries, but as they have not the philosophic mind the question for them does not arise probably they take it as a matter of course.
What you say about being tired of life, is true. Edison's family was very long lived but his grandfather after a century found it too long and died because he wanted to. On the other hand there are men who are strongly vital and do not get tired of life, like the Turk who died recently at 150, I think, but was still eager to live.
23.07.1935 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter
If the Emanation is the Mother herself, why do we have to make a big case of our troubles and depressions, and buzz it in post-haste for your hearing? Lack of receptivity? or opening? No faith in the Emanation or in its existence? What?
Nobody has to do it. People do it because they are ignorant and unconscious.
If anyone is conscious of the Mother's presence, he does not make a big case of his troubles. Even if one is not yet conscious, still those who have faith or are not touched by your Man of Sorrows are not making the row you speak of.
A.B. says if we see things impartially we'll find that happiness predominates over sorrow. It is hard for me to concur with this observation.
It is fundamentally true for most people that the pleasure of life, of existence in itself, predominates over the troubles of life; otherwise most people would want to die, whereas the fact is that everybody wants to live – and if you proposed to them an easy means of eternal extinction they would decline without thanks. That is what A.B. is saying and it is undeniable. It is also true that this comes from the Ananda of existence which is behind everything and is reflected in the instinctive pleasure of existence. Naturally, this instinctive essential pleasure is not the Ananda, – it is only a pale and dim reflection of it in an inferior life-consciousness – but it is enough for its purpose. I have said that myself somewhere and I do not see anything absurd or excessive in the statement.
He is evidently speaking from the cosmic consciousness; otherwise how could he fail to find sorrows, struggles, heart-breaks, hells, perditions gaping everywhere!
Not at all. There are plenty of people, not endowed with the cosmic consciousness, who have said and written the same thing. It is no new theory or statement.
I have no statistics about the other parts of the cosmos, but just look at India: acute epidemics, sub-acute unemployment with consequent suicides, chronic famine and starvation. People, who 10 years ago were making a good business, are breaking their heads over the future – of tomorrow, sir, only tomorrow!
All that is only a feature of the present time when everything is out of order. One can't argue from that and speak as if it were the normal existence of the human race.
Even with all this trouble and disorder are all these human beings feeling so miserable as you say? They have so much to vex and trouble them, yet they go on chatting and laughing and enjoying what they can. Why?
And still the Ananda of simply being in bone and flesh surpasses all sorrow. I would like to be an optimist, but surely not in excess!
For most people it does. All are not men of sorrows like yourself or fallen into the Byronic vein. Some of course have so miserable an existence that it stifles the innate pleasure of life – but these are after all a small minority.
You have written in The Riddle of this World that this is an unideal and unsatisfactory world strongly marked with the stamp of inadequacy, suffering and evil.
That is when you look at what the world ought to be and lay stress in that. The idealists' question is why should there be pain at all, even if it is counterweighed by the fundamental pleasure of existence? The real crux is why should inadequacy, limit and suffering come across this natural pleasure of life? It does not mean that life is essentially miserable in its very nature.
People will invite A.B. to come down from his hyper-optimism into the material earth-consciousness and see for himself.
A.B. is not an ass. He knows perfectly well what is taking place in the material earth-consciousness and would be very anxious to plunge into the fray to make things better, if I allowed him – but I don't and won't.
I am trying to have a dash again at poetry.
Very glad to hear it.
Some people do get disgusted with the body for its uncleanness, but I should say it is very few.
The suggestion of Patanjali5 supposes that the mind is everything, so if I get the idea that the body is an unclean thing, all my feelings will harmonise with that idea. But it is not so there are other parts which do not care for the idea or knowledge in the mind and are not affected by it but are led by their own instincts and desires. It is only those who have already the turn to vairāgya who can make use of Patanjali's suggestion to help their already existing vairāgya. The medical man for instance holds his knowledge of the composition of the body as a matter of fact of science, he keeps it separate there in the scientific compartment of his mind and it does not in the least affect his other ideas, feelings or activities.
The supramental perfection means that the body becomes conscious, is filled with consciousness and that as this is the Truth-consciousness all its activities, functionings etc. become by the power of the consciousness within it harmonious, luminous, right and true without ignorance or disorder.
The Hathayogic method is to bring an immense vital force into the body and by this and by certain processes keep it strong and in good health and a capable instrument.
It is a luminous body spoken of in the Veda as possessed by the beings of the higher planes. It is supposed by certain schools of yoga in the East and the West that in the final transformation on earth man will develop a body having these qualities. It was called the “Corps Glorieux” “body of glory” by the Mother's first spiritual instructor.
I read the Bible very assiduously at one time.... When I have looked at it, it has always given me a sense of imprecision in the thought-substance, in spite of the vividness of the expression, and that makes it very difficult to be sure about these things. This passage about the body, for instance although St. Paul had remarkable mystic experiences and, certainly, much profound spiritual knowledge (profound rather than wide, I think) I would not swear to it that he is referring to the supramentalised body (physical body). Perhaps to the supramental body or to some other luminous body in its own space and substance, which he found sometimes as if enveloping him and abolishing this body of death which he felt the material envelope to be. This verse like many others is capable of several interpretations and might refer to a quite supraphysical experience. The idea of a transformation of the body occurs in different traditions, but I have never been quite sure that it meant the change in this very matter. There was a yogi sometime ago in this region who taught it, but he hoped when the change was complete, to disappear in light. The Vaishnavas speak of a divine body which will replace this one when there is the complete siddhi. But, again, is this a divine physical or supraphysical body? At the same time there is no obstacle in the way of supposing that all these ideas, intuitions, experiences point to, if they do not exactly denote, the physical transformation.
December 24, 1930
It has been the idea of many who have speculated on the subject that the body of the future race will be a luminous body (corps glorieux) and that might mean radio-active. But also it has to be considered (1) that a supramental body must necessarily be one in which the consciousness determines even the physical action and reaction to the most material and these therefore are not wholly dependent on material condition or laws as now known, (2) that the subtle process will be more powerful than the gross, so that a subtle action of Agni will be able to do the action which would now need a physical change such as increased temperature.
If the consciousness cannot determine the physical action and reaction in the present body, if it needs a different basis, then that means this different basis must be prepared by different means. By what means? Physical? The old yogis tried to do it by physical tapasya; others by seeking the elixir of life etc. According to this yoga, the action of the higher Force and consciousness which includes the subtle action of Agni has to open and prepare the body and make it more responsive to Consciousness-Force instead of being rigid in its present habits (called laws). But a different basis can only be created by the supramental action itself. What else but the supermind can determine its own basis?
I did not intend to evade anything, except that in so far as I do not yet know what will be the chemical constitution of the changed body, I could not answer anything to that. That was why I said it needed investigation.
I was simply putting my idea on the matter which has always been that it is the supramental which will create its own physical basis. If you mean that the supramental cannot fulfil itself in the present body with its present processes that is true. The processes will obviously have to be altered. How far the constitution of the body will be changed and in what direction is another question. As I said it may become as you suggest radio-active: Thιon (Mother's teacher in occultism) spoke of it as luminous, le corps glorieux. But all that does not make it impossible for the supramental to act in the present body for change. It is what I am looking forward to at present.
Of course a certain preliminary transformation is necessary, just as the psychic and spiritual transformation precedes the supramental. But this is a change of the physical consciousness down to the submerged consciousness of the cells so that they may respond to higher forces and admit them and to a certain extent a change or at least a greater plasticity in the processes. The rules of food etc. are meant to help that by minimising obstacles. How far this involves a change of the chemical constitution of the body I cannot say. It seems to me still that whatever preparatory changes there may be, it is only the action of the supramental Force that can confirm and complete them.
1 These observations are apropos of the Mother's statement: “En fait, la mort a ιtι attachιe ΰ toute vie sur terre.” See La Mθre, Entretiens (1967 Edition), p. 49.
2 “What is the need of transformation of the physical if, after all, willingly (if one reaches the consciousness of immortality) or unwillingly (in other cases) the body will have to be left?
3 “Matter, especially the body cells, undergoes changes from second to second then what value has the transformation for the body?”
4 Ashwatthaman is supposed to have been living near the river Narbada for 36,000 years.
5 śaucāt svāṅga-jugupsā. “From cleanliness [arises] disgust for one's own body.” Yogasutras of Patanjali, Ch. II, 40.