Why read Sri Aurobindo’s books?

Enlightened Masters such as Sri Aurobindo who have reached a high level of consciousness are able to state Truths with great clarity by virtue of the illumination they have attained. Every statement becomes a revelation and every paragraph an epiphany. Those who aspire for spiritual progress have to desist from reading books which lower the consciousness precisely because words have power. This is a collection of passages by the Mother of the Aurobindo Ashram, Mirra Alfassa, on the effect of reading ordinary books versus reading Sri Aurobindo’s books. At the end of this post, I have appended an Amazon review by someone who initially found it difficult to read Sri Aurobindo.

Reading ordinary books hinders the spiritual seeker

Question: “In the initial stages of Yoga, is it well for the Sadhaka (practitioner) to read ordinary books?”

It is a question I have been asked many times. If someone can tell me the effect on him of the reading of ordinary books, it will interest me very much.

Ordinary books tire me.

It is a good sign.

They give rest to the mind and have no effect on me.

No! The subconscient records everything, and if you have the impression that an ordinary book leaves no effect, it means that you are not conscious of what goes on within you. Each time you read a book in which the consciousness is very low, it strengthens your subconscient and inconscient – it prevents your consciousness from rising upward. It is as if you threw buckets of dirty water on the efforts you had made to purify your subconscient.

The Mother, Questions and Answers (1950 – 1951): 26 February 1951

General advice on concentration and the reading of books

How to increase concentration (single-mindedness) and will-force they are so necessary for doing anything.

Through regular, persevering, obstinate, unflagging exercise I mean exercise of concentration and will.

The Mother, On Education: Answers to a Monitor

Are mental indifference and lack of curiosity a sort of mental inertia?

Usually they are due to mental inertia, unless one has obtained calm and indifference through a very intense sadhana resulting in a perfect equality for which the good and bad, the pleasant and unpleasant no longer exist. But in that case, mental activity is replaced by an intuitive activity of a much higher kind.

The Mother, On Education: Answers to a Monitor

How can one get out of this mental laziness and inertia?

By wanting to, with persistence and obstinacy. By doing daily a mental exercise of reading, organisation and development.

This must alternate in the course of the day with exercises of mental silence in concentration.

The Mother, On Education: Answers to a Monitor

Sweet Mother, I have too much “grey” matter in my head, which prevents me from thinking clearly and grasping new ideas quickly. How can I free myself from this?

By studying much, by reflecting much, by doing intellectual exercises. For instance, state a general idea clearly, then state the opposite idea, then look for the synthesis of both that is, find a third idea which harmonises the other two.

The Mother, On Education: Answers to a Monitor

What is the use of discussions? What is the best way to make other people understand what one feels to be true?¹

In general, those who like to discuss things are those who need the stimulant of contradiction to clarify their ideas.

It is obviously the sign of an elementary intellectual stage.

But if you can attend a discussion as an impartial spectator – even while you are taking part in it and while the other person is talking with you – you can always benefit from this opportunity to consider a question or a problem from several points of view; and by attempting to reconcile opposite views, you can widen your ideas and rise to a more comprehensive synthesis.

As for the best way of proving to others what one feels to be true, one must live it – there is no other way.

How is it that we lose a chance to widen our knowledge by prevailing in a debate?

A debate is never anything but a conflict of opinions; and opinions are nothing but very fragmentary aspects of the truth. Even if you were able to put together and synthesise all opinions on a given subject, you still would not achieve anything but a very imperfect expression of the truth.

If you prevail in a debate, it means that your opinion has prevailed over the opinion of another, not necessarily because yours was truer than his, but because you were better at wielding the arguments or because you were a more stubborn debater. And you come out of the discussion convinced that you are right in what you assert; and so you lose a chance to see a view of the question other than your own and to add an aspect of the truth to the one or the ones you already possess. You remain imprisoned in your own thought and refuse to widen it.

The Mother, On Thoughts and Aphorisms: Aphorism – 56

Why read Sri Aurobindo’s books

Sweet Mother, how should one read your books and the books of Sri Aurobindo so that they might enter into our consciousness instead of being understood only by the mind?

To read my books is not difficult because they are written in the simplest language, almost the spoken language. To draw profit from them, it is enough to read with attention and concentration and an attitude of inner goodwill with the desire to receive and to live what is taught.

To read what Sri Aurobindo writes is more difficult because the expression is highly intellectual and the language is much more literary and philosophic. The brain needs a preparation to be able truly to understand and generally a preparation takes time, unless one is specially gifted with an innate intuitive faculty.

In any case, I advise always to read a little at a time, keeping the mind as tranquil as one can, without making an effort to understand, but keeping the head as silent as possible, and letting the force contained in what one reads enter deep within. This force received in the calm and the silence will do its work of light and, if needed, will create in the brain the necessary cells for the understanding. Thus, when one re-reads the same thing some months later, one perceives that the thought expressed has become much more clear and close, and even sometimes altogether familiar.

It is preferable to read regularly, a little every day, and at a fixed hour if possible; this facilitates the brain-receptivity.

The Mother, On Education: Study of Works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Sweet Mother, with what attitude should I read Sri Aurobindo’s books when they are difficult and when I do not understand? Savitri, The Life Divine, for example.

Read a little at a time, read again and again until you have understood.

The Mother, On Education: Study of Works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

How to read Sri Aurobindo’s works

In fact, you should do a little preparatory work and note down the new idea in each new paragraph, adding it to the preceding ideas so that at the end of the chapter you have the complete picture; for if you ask me a question now about what I have just read, this question may require an answer that is sometimes almost contradictory to what we have seen in the previous paragraph. That comes from his way of going about the proof. It is as though Sri Aurobindo were putting himself at the centre of a kind of sphere, at the centre of a wheel the spokes of which end in a circumference. And he always goes back to his starting-point and goes all the way out to the surface, and so on, which gives the impression that he repeats the same thing several times, but it is simply the exposition of the thought so that one can follow it. One must have a very clear memory for ideas to really understand what he says.

I am emphasising this because, unless you proceed systematically, you won’t derive much benefit from this reading; it will appear to you like a maze where it is very difficult to find one’s way.…All the ideas are joined at the centre, and at the circumference they go in altogether different directions.

Have you any questions this time?…No.

It is difficult, isn’t it? I read and I see quite well that it is difficult to ask a question, for until one has come to the end of the proof, one doesn’t know what he is leading up to or what he wants to teach; and at the same time, if one were to read the whole exposition, it would be impossible – unless one has a specially faithful memory – to recall all the points. Before reaching the end one would have forgotten what is written at the beginning! It would be rather interesting to take notes, brief notes, to try to summarise each paragraph in one or two key-ideas so as to be able to compare them.

The Mother, Questions and Answers (1957 – 1958): 4 December 1957

What I call ‘studying‘ is to take Sri Aurobindo’s books, where he quotes or speaks of one thing or another, then have the corresponding books – when he quotes something, you must take the book it corresponds to; when he speaks of something, you must study the writings on that subject. This is what I call ‘studying.’ Then, after having read the corresponding works, you compare them with what Sri Aurobindo has said, and in this way there may be a beginning of understanding. If someone is very studious, he can ‘review’ all that has ever been written or taught by going through Sri Aurobindo’s books. I mean this for someone who loves working.

The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: August 10, 1960

To be able to offer my mind to Sri Aurobindo in all sincerity, is it not very necessary to develop a great power of concentration? Will you tell me by what method I could cultivate this precious faculty?

Fix a time when you can be quiet every day.

Take one of Sri Aurobindo’s books. Read a sentence or two. Then remain silent and concentrated to understand the deeper meaning. Try to concentrate deeply enough to obtain mental silence and begin again daily until you obtain a result.

Naturally you should not fall asleep.

The Mother, On Education: Study of Works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

What is the true method for studying Sri Aurobindo’s works?

The true method is to read a little at a time, with concentration, keeping the mind as silent as possible, without actively trying to understand, but turned upwards, in silence, and aspiring for the light. Understanding will come little by little.

And later, in one or two years, you will read the same thing again and then you will know that the first contact had been vague and incomplete, and that true understanding comes later, after having tried to put it into practice.

The Mother, On Education: Study of Works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother

Nolini Kanta Gupta (a disciple) on how to read Sri Aurobindo’s books

Once I told you, I think, how to study or approach Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in order to read them or understand their writings. There are two things: studying and reading; I made a distinction between the two. To study Sri Aurobindo is ― I won’t say fruitless, that is too strong a word, but it can only be an aid or a supplementary way. Study means: you take the text, you understand mentally each word and phrase; if you don’t understand, you take a dictionary and try to catch the external meaning expressed by the words. That may be neces­sary but it is not the way to approach their works.

Simply to read them in the right way is sufficient. Read, it does not matter what you understand and what you do not, simply read and wait in an expectant silence. In studying you approach them with your external mind, your external intel­ligence. But what is there in the text is beyond your mind, beyond your intelligence. And to understand mentally means you drive your intellect forward into the thing. It is an effort and takes you only to the outside of the thing. It is an exercise of your brain, developed in that way, but it doesn’t take you very far.

Instead of that, suppose you could keep quiet, silence your mind, and only read, without unduly trying to understand, and wait for what is there in the text to enter into you. Instead of your intelligence driving forward, pushing forward and trying to catch the thing, let the thing come into you; for what is there in their writings is not words and phrases, dead material, it is something very living, something conscious, that they have expressed in the words, phrases and the sound and rhythm. And I may tell you that each sentence anywhere, not to speak of Savitri, is a living being with whom you have to make acquain­tance ― not that you understand or are able to explain, but it is a living being, an entity, a friend, even a Lover whom you have to know. And your attempt in that way will be rewarded. You will enjoy much more. You may ask: “Just because I open a book and read, how can what are in the lines come to me?” But I say they are living entities ― if you approach in the right spirit, they come into you. The consciousness, the being in each line comes to you. And you find how beautiful it is. This is­ an approach of love, not of the intellect to understand and explain. Take for example, the very first verse of Savitri:

It was the hour before the Gods awake.

It is a Mantra, a living person, how beautiful it is, you needn’t understand much ― and a whole world is there.

Or, take the opening sentence of The Life Divine ― the rolling cadence of the vast ocean is there. It brings you a sense of vastness, a sense of Infinity and takes you there. And, as I said, it is a very living entity and personality.

Here is the whole passage:

The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation, ― for it survives the longest periods of scepticism and returns after every banishment, ― is also the highest which his thought can envisage: It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last, ― God, Light, Freedom, Immortality.¹

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine – I: The Human Aspiration

There is indeed a personality behind it and you have to make acquaintance with that personality. That is what I meant when I said: become it, by an approach through love, an approach through your soul. Even in studies you shouldn’t approach with the mere intellect, mere mental understanding; however fine an understanding or intellect you may have, it won’t lead you very far. Only through your soul you can go far. Even intellectual things can be approached through your soul ― because the soul is the very essence of all your faculties and being. The soul is not mere consciousness, mere being, it gathers in all the elements of your personality. The seeds of your mind, your vital, even of the physical personality, the true physical personality, are there in your soul, and you can establish a true relation with things and persons through that part of your being ― your soul. And remember the soul is not very far from you because you are that-rather your mind, your vital, your physical are away from you; they are not your true personality. It is your soul that is nearest to you.

[Nolini Kanta Gupta, Volume 5, Eight Talks, To Read Sri Aurobindo]

Excerpt from an Amazon review 

Initially, some people find Sri Aurobindo’s writing repetitious and his arguments tedious to follow. It requires some spiritual opening to enter into the spirit behind the words. This is an excerpt from an Amazon review of A.S. Dalal’s anthology “A Greater Psychology : an introduction to the psychological thought of Sri Aurobindo” which illustrates how the reading ability changes.

Several weeks ago, I bought “A Greater Psychology”. Upon settling into the sofa for a good, long read, I felt that I was looking at an opaque mirror. The sentences flowed on and on endlessly, but I could not comprehend any meaning. I put aside the book, thinking at it was surely pure gobble-de-gook. However, I was nevertheless chomping at the bit to learn about Eastern thought, beyond Buddhism.

I picked up an amazing book by Dhruv S. Kaji, “Common Sense About Uncommon Wisdom: Ancient Teachings of Vedanta”. Kaji’s book seemed to start a little slow, but quite soon I became enthralled, as if I was approaching the last chapters of a great mystery novel. I had never heard of nondualism, and the unfolding concept answered some profound question I had never thought to ask.

Thereafter, I immersed myself in other Vedanta readings and similar material — Easwaran’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads; Torwesten’s “Vedanta: Heart of Hinduism”; “The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi”; Wilber’s “No Boundary”; Zimmer’s “Philosophies of India”.

So, last week, I pulled “A Greater Psychology” from my bookshelf, and started afresh. To my amazement, Aurobindo’s writing metamorphosed from opacity and pompous wordiness to subtle, sublime profundity. Never have I encountered such an insightful description of the human condition — a supremely lucid and all-encompassing treatise shedding light on every layer of consciousness from our lower animal selves to highest reaches of spiritual realization. As each new jeweled concept flowed from the book, I found myself nodding over and over, “Yes, that rings true in my experience” or “Yes, that idea fits seamlessly with my own understanding of what it means to be human”.

I have often complained that someone took the “psyche” out of psychology. Our worship of the scientific method has tended to restrict our burgeoning knowledge to what is observable and what is measurable, even despite Einstein’s legacy. So psychologists get steeped in statistics and experimental design, virtually ignoring the unseen motivations, emotions, passions, and cravings of the human — and spiritual aspect of healthy psychological development is simply a taboo topic. Except for those trudging after Freud’s tradition, even the unconscious is unmentionable.

To have available Aurobindo’s comprehensive, experiential psychospiritual teachings is priceless. It puts conventional Western psychology to shame. The book will not be easy reading, even for those with a background in psychology and a strong familiarity with Vedanta and Eastern philosophy. But if you have the backbone for a fearless and arduous education in the human condition, all-inclusive, with guideposts to your own place in the cosmos, then I could not recommend this book more highly.

39 thoughts on “Why read Sri Aurobindo’s books?

  1. Pingback: Difference between religion and spirituality « Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  2. Pingback: The role of intellectual development in the spiritual path | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  3. Sandeep Post author

    Professor Gabriel Monod-Herzen, the well-known French physicist, once explained in what sense Sri Aurobindo embodied for him the quintessence of the scientific spirit. “There are two attitudes in him which I most admire: The first is that he does not reject anything or anyone; there is a place for all opinions, even those which he does not accept, in his work. He has come to find that particle of truth that exists in everything because without it that opinion itself could nor exist. One never feels a prisoner of ideas when one reads him. One never save, ‘This is falsehood’, or else ‘That person is wrong’; one says, ‘Here is an incomplete idea.’ Being a physicist, I was deeply struck because I had always been greatly impressed by the fact that the long succession of scientists did not contradict one another, as say those who have not studied science themselves. In fact they complement one another.”

    source: (Amal Kiran, Poet and Critic, page 258)

  4. amsha

    Long ago when I was reading Sri Aurobindo book letters in it appeared for me to be sort of electric blue but it didn’t last for long, once there was something present on His photograph which is not actually there(for my ordinary sight) and meaning of it was clear.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      These are signs that there is an “inner contact” with a greater being. These things develop gradually.

    2. Sandeep Post author

      Amsha: once there was something present on His photograph which is not actually there(for my ordinary sight)

      A similar experience discussed elsewhere. A young man found Ramana Maharshi’s photograph became animated.

      Then the experience of a young disciple was mentioned. The young man, educated and in good circumstances, in good health and sober mind, was once facing Ramana Maharshi’s picture in his home and meditating on the figure. The figure suddenly appeared animated with life, which threw the young man into a spasm of fear. He called out for his mother. His mother came and asked him what the matter was. He was surrounded by his relatives who were perplexed by his appearance. He was aware of their presence, but was still overpowered by a mysterious force which he tried to resist. He became unconscious for a short time. Fear seized him as he regained consciousness. The people became anxious and tried to bring him round with medicines

      When later he came to Tiruvannamalai he had some foreboding of similar experience. The proximity of Ramana Maharshi prevented any untoward happening. But whenever he wandered away from the hall he found the force almost irresistible and himself in the grip of fear.
      Ramana Maharshi said: “Is it so? No one told me this before.”
      A devotee asked, if it was not saktipata (descent of divine power)?
      Ramana Maharshi: Yes it is. A madman clings to samskaras (past impressions), whereas a Jnani does not. That is the only difference between the two. Jnana is madness of a kind.

      Source: (Talks with Ramana Maharshi:Talk 275, 5th November, 1936)

      1. amsha

        In my case it was Image of Consciousness that Sri Aurobindo represents (I’m not sure that I should be more precise and speak of it in detail), if I have to trust my inner sense It was in Him like for example Psychic in man thou in different “quality, size, way and position”. Nothing negative
        in my perceptions and reactions all was pure, clear and limpid, how your could fear something like this? This happened at least few times and was too vivid to be my own imposition or imagination.

        Here is blog of close disciple of Sri Chinmoy were he describes interesting account with his Guru photograph: http://abodeofyoga.blogspot.com/2008/01/awakening.html

      2. Sandeep Post author

        Amsha: …how your could fear something like this?

        This fear arises because there parts of the personality that are impure and therefore tend to recoil from the initial contact with the Divine. It is for this reason that complete transformation takes time.

        Amsha : … close disciple of Sri Chinmoy

        The Mother made some comments about Chinmoy, who used to live in the Aurobindo Ashram before he came to the USA, in the Agenda dated August 18, 1965.

        In the next passage, “C” stands for Chimnoy.

        Mother: Do you remember C.? He has become a great guru there, with a group, and it seems he hypnotizes people…. And two Americans have come here (very nice people, one is a painter, the other is a sculptor); one was in C.’s clutches and it’s the other who saved him by keeping him, almost brutally, materially far from C. for three days – the third day, he was free (which does seem to prove that he has a hypnotic influence) – and by telling him, “We’re leaving for Pondicherry, you don’t need an intermediary between the Mother and you.” Because C. plays the great “intermediary” between Sri Aurobindo and the poor public.

        The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: August 18, 1965

        He asked for a visa as “preacher” (!) and it seems that in that case you are allowed to stay indefinitely; he no longer has to leave – that’s very good, I am very glad he is there! Because when people are caught, it was their destiny and they needed to be caught. And you can even reach the Goal through a devil as well as through an angel – better, sometimes! (Mother laughs)

        But it was visible when he was here: a fantastic pride and ambition that were to end up like this. He has a nasty face, very nasty.

        Satprem: But still, the fact that he declares himself to be the Ashram’s “envoy” is troublesome.

        Mother: Ah, but I immediately wrote to Dr. Sanyal, who passed on my answer to all the people he knew.

        The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: August 18, 1965

        He [C.] must have something, but I don’t feel anything! (Mother makes a gesture as thin as cigarette paper.) It’s something without force. But K., too, when she was in America, was quite under his thumb. And she said she had marvelous meditations with him! … But I wrote to K., because he gave her advice on her life and on what she should and should not do; so she wrote to ask me, “How much am I to believe?” I answered, “Nothing! “… He had forbidden her to come to the Ashram; he had told her that it wasn’t the place for her, that she was much too grown-up to come here! The Ashram is good for those who have nothing in them, who need to be kept well in hand, while someone with a capacity must live independently.

        That’s how he catches them.

        No, it’s very good! It’s comical.

        If one has ambition, it is relatively quite easy to draw a [subtle] being to oneself, who naturally comes under very deceptive disguises, and then to believe oneself to be the incarnation of a great personality.

        The Mother, Mother’s Agenda: August 18, 1965

      3. amsha

        I was aware about Mother’s negative attitude towards Sri Chinmoy, noticed
        influence of his ego, nasty face, knew that he abused disciples but I can’t really believe he never had any spiritual or psychic experiences or my point of view is totally wrong?
        Are there any comments regarding Osho?

      4. Sandeep Post author

        I can’t speak on the type of experienecs Sri Chinmoy himself had or bestowed on others, and I am not aware of any comments the Mother made regarding Osho. Perhaps the issue of Osho was never raised before her.

        Such inquiries are ultimately futile. I have found that if we keep our aspiration sincere, things usually work fine, although we may get misled from time to time regarding the true character of various individuals. We have to keep plugging away to replace belief and faith with realization and transformation.

  5. Pingback: The message of the Gita | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  6. Sandeep Post author

    Former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was first accused in 1998 of corruption and sodomy and again in 2008 of sodomy which is punishable with 20 years in Malaysia. In 1999, he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption, and in 2000, to another nine years for sodomy. In 2004, the Federal Court reversed the second conviction and he was released. In July 2008, he was arrested over allegations he sodomised one of his male aides, but was acquitted of the charge in January 2012.

    During a visit to India, he gave an interview in which he was asked the following question:

    Interviewer: How did you keep your morale up in jail?

    Anwar Ibrahim: I spent six years in solitary confinement before I was released in 2004. Earlier for two years I was a political detainee. Eight years — that’s a short walk to freedom compared to Nelson Mandela’s 26 years! The harassment was small compared to Gandhiji’s , I was badly assaulted, and that is a reprieve compared to those who were shot dead okay? So you always look at things positively.

    The first six months Mahathir denied me any reading material. But after that they slowly allowed under pressure from international media and I spent a long time reading the Islamic epics, Hindu epics, Chinese epics, western books. Other than Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gita and Gandhi, I read Shri Aurobindo whom I think should be popularized more . I read Shakespeare of course, the entire works four and half times, with copious notes.

    Read the whole interview at http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/article2796044.ece

  7. Pingback: How an Egyptian discovered Sri Aurobindo | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  8. Pingback: Sri Aurobindo’s prose style – by Goutam Ghosal | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  9. Pingback: Sravana Manana and Nidhidhyasana | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  10. Pingback: Différence entre spiritualité et religion « musael

  11. Pingback: Mahabiplabi Arabindo: Bengali movie on Sri Aurobindo’s early life | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  12. Ganesan

    Aurobindo’s teachings, unlike that of Bhagavan Ramana, don’t seem to contain any liberating knowledge. Even his work Life Divine doesn’t contain anything spiritual, but being only highfalutin intellectual speculations, neologisms such as Supramental, Overmind, conveying nothing. The only good thing that one can find in that work is high flourishing language. If Aurobino decried Advaita, why should he have had to be immersed in a trance, being available to be seen by the public only on special days like his birthday, unlike Ramana who was always available to the public, being not chosen to hide himself into a solitary chamber as Aurobindo did. Aurobindo has very much misunderstood Advaita, since, the predication of unreality attached to the world from the perspective of Advaita, is only from the view point of any independent ontological status to the world not being attached, the world being only subservient to the true Self in the light of which alone the world having any existence, but lacking an intrinsic reality, a fact not understood by Aurobido. Similarly, Aurobindo hasn’t understood the teachings of the Buddha also.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      I will reply to your other remarks later…

      Ganesan: If Aurobino decried Advaita, why should he have had to be immersed in a trance, being available to be seen by the public only on special days like his birthday, unlike Ramana who was always available to the public, being not chosen to hide himself into a solitary chamber as Aurobindo did.

      He spent his life alone because he was undergoing the supramental transformation. Mixing with the milling crowds lowers the consciousness and prevents you from rising higher. He left the work of guiding others to the Mother.

      A disciple had asked him this question:

      Disciple : Why did you retire? To concentrate more on your work?
      Sri Aurobindo : No, to withdraw from the physical atmosphere. If I had to do the work the Mother is doing, I would have hardly time to do my own work, besides its being a tremendous labour. (Evening talks)

      Secondly, one can sit in a solitary chamber and affect people sitting half way around the world.

      See https://auromere.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/sri-aurobindos-interaction-with-an-american-soldier-during-world-war-ii/

  13. mike

    Ramana was a Great Soul, no doubt, but His realisation was only the beginning of Sri Aurobindo’s work and stopped at Self-Realisation. Ramana knew nothing about anything beyond self-realisation, as far as l understand it, and when he’d attained that realisation there was nothing else to do, except help other’s to attain that same realisation – so there was no need to retire.. Sri Aurobindo’s realisations far exceeded the Self, and demanded a commitment that few understand – a far Greater Work IMO….
    Anyway, physical appearances of Realised Souls are just another illusion, as far as l’m concerned. That’s NOT who they are. lf we still need a public show, then we still have a long way to go, l think….

  14. mike

    “I was aware about Mother’s negative attitude towards Sri Chinmoy, noticed
    influence of his ego, nasty face, knew that he abused disciples but I can’t really believe he never had any spiritual or psychic experiences or my point of view is totally wrong?
    Are there any comments regarding Osho?”

    l’ve had experiences with certain guru’s that l now believe to be deceived or deluded. Sai baba and mother meera are two in particular [no doubts they have something, and l’ve never had a bad experience with these two] – but from where is it manifesting, is the big question]….
    Of course, chinmoy is dead now, and he probably did have something [spiritual experience of a low order] as Mother says, and he probably still has an influence from those world’s.
    l believe these sort of guru’s are caught up in the ‘lntermediate zone’, as SA calls it – He wrote a very long and incredible letter on this ‘zone’ where many half-baked guru’s get trapped.
    lt’s definitely worth reading – just shows how important it is to have a competent Guru.
    Here’s a couple of quotes from the letter:

    “These things, when they pour down or come in, present themselves with a great force, a vivid sense of inspiration or illumination, much sensation of light and joy, an impression of widening and power. The sadhak feels himself freed from the normal limits, projected into a wonderful new world of experience, filled and enlarged and exalted; what comes associates itself, besides, with his aspirations, ambitions, notions of spiritual fulfilment and yogic siddhi; it is represented even as itself that realisation and fulfilment. Very easily he is carried away by the splendour and the rush, and thinks that he has realised more than he has truly done, something final or at least something sovereignly true.

    Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – II: Experiences of the Inner and the Cosmic Consciousness – V

    This is in fact an intermediary state, a zone of transition between the ordinary consciousness in mind and the true yoga knowledge. One may cross without hurt through it, perceiving at once or at an early stage its real nature and refusing to be detained by its half-lights and tempting but imperfect and often mixed and misleading experiences; one may go astray in it, follow false voices and mendacious guidance, and that ends in a spiritual disaster; or one may take up one’s abode in this intermediate zone, care to go no farther and build there some half-truth which one takes for the whole truth or become the instrument of the powers of these transitional planes, – that is what happens to many sadhaks and yogis.

    Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – II: Experiences of the Inner and the Cosmic Consciousness – V

    Alan Kazlev has an interesting site that describes these kind of guru’s:

    Here’s a quote:
    “Often these gurus claim vast spiritual status. They say they are an Avatar or a Sadguru. Nowadays there are so many gurus, each claiming to be the avatar of our age. This is part of the weakness of our society. People in the West are like gullible sheep looking for someone to lead them. My first experience in this was some twenty years ago, when I encountered a guru who calls himself Swamiji, no more enlightened than you or I, yet considered Sadguru by himself(?) and his followers. This is not to deny he has power, but there is a difference between power on the subtle level and genuine spirituality, let alone Realization. His followers were (perhaps still are?) doe-eyed professional people and a few more alternative types. He claims to be a tantric teacher. He almost certainly took advantage of his female disciples. He in no way was a bad person. In fact he was a very likeable rogue. But like any of us in that situation, it is so easy to be carried away by the adulation and worship of him. More recently I have come across many more cases on the internet. This is a story that is tragically all too common in the spiritual supermarket. It happens to even famous gurus like Muktananda and Rajneesh. Often one finds not just sex but violence as well, this was the case with both Muktananda, who encouraged it in several devotees, and Rajneesh, who was – like many otehrs in his ashram, the victim of it; a rare case of an abusive guru being out-abused by an even more abusive disciple. Others, it seems, like Adi Da and Andrew Cohen, were absuive even from the very start, due here (as in others) to a weakness of the adhar (outer vehicle). One prominant abusive guru is one who I naively followed in my immaturity for more than twenty years, Sathya Sai Baba. While rumours abounded even in the early days, it is only recently that the extent of his sexual abuse of young male devotees has become known. And yet, at the same time, all of these gurus possess a powerful appeal and charm for those who are drawn to them, and many even benefit spiritually. This is the paradox I refer to as “The Intermediate Zone”
    l don’t think Osho understood anything about SA

    1. amsha

      I saw recently a disciple of Osho in Russian psychic show called Battle of Extrasenses, he was doing quite well and was able to reach final though he wasn’t always on the top I liked him anyway, Osho said something grave about Sri Aurobindo but I cant take his words for truth because he was obviously quite corrupted – all this money and sex stories are a sure sign.

  15. gopal.M

    Ramana is dear to me, Sri Aurobindo had respect for him. Sri Aurobindo doesn’t call Life Divine philosophy or metaphysics, he says these are his experiences worked out in life and visioned and destined . Who are we to deny his experiences?. Ofcourse the language is such that it is addressing the intellect and the logic, . It is looking at any given point from many…. many different angles. And is trying to reconcile the world’s past [ without rejecting them in totality…] with it’s future,..

    These conversations with nagin doshi shows the differences in their orientation, and their destined mission..
    [ Sri Aurobindo also cites that incident with divine Mother that Ramana encountered.]


    this conversation on Laya and how it’s not the only destiny of the soul.


  16. mike

    Yes, ganesan, is basically agreeing with everything osho says about SA. He’s made comments on one osho website to that effect.
    Osho believes SA had never gone beyond the mental level from what l gather.

    ““All Arvind’s (Aurobindo) talk of supraconsciousness and the supramental is within the confines of the rational mind. He never goes beyond reason. Even when he speaks about the transcendence of reason, he uses rationalistic concepts. Arvind is a rationalist. Everything he says and the words and concepts he uses to say it belong to the grammar of rationalism…”

    Gansan posted this over there in reply to osho’s remarks [ as far as l can tell it’s the same person]:
    October 24, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Osho’s assessment of the philosophy of Aurobindo, as being the outcome of his Western schooling, being influenced by the logic of Aristotle, is correct. After a complete reading of his magnum opus, the Life Divine, one doesn’t find any liberating knowledge in it. Aurobindo was very much obsessed with the idea of the Supramental descending on the Earth, for which he had been laboriously working, being immersed in a continuous trance to achieve it. It is surprising that Aurobino, while decrying Advaita, should have chosen to be immersed in a continuous trance, an act incompatible with his conclusion that the waking state is real, whereas, Ramana, being in accord with the teachings of Advaita, didn’t give importance to such trances, having been available for the public to see him at any point of time, which was not the case with Aurobindo, since he could be seen by the people only on select days his birthday being one. Aurobindo, mischaracterised the Advaita teachings of Sankara as one of a world- negating view, whereas, according to true Advaita, it is not as if the world didn’t exist, but the truth being that the world doesn’t have an independent ontological status, but has its existence only by virtue of the unbroken Light of Brhaman from which viewpoint alone the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep don’t have any intrinsic reality apart from the common platform of ‘ Turiya’, the fourth state. Hence Advaita has in it a holistic truth being neither idealism nor realism, but constituting the whole. Whereas, while Ramana didn’t find any need to transform the world, which doesn’t exist in the light of his understanding of the truth of the Unborn, he gave a liberating knowledge to humanity through his teaching of inner quest, self- investigation, which consists in not paying attention to the thoughts alien to one’s being, such thoughts arising. only after the first, fundamental thought of ‘I’ , arising, but to turn back the mind to the heart through the, ‘Who Am I ‘, enquiry. Osho is correct, when he says that self-knowledge is not something collective, but is available to only those who want it. Further, there doesn’t seem to be any difference between the teachings of Ramana and J.Krishnamurt, since the teachings of both are based on the irrefragable truth of the individual consciousness being an illusion, the only difference being, as Osho would have it, that whereas Krishnamurt used reason to destroy logic, Ramana, from the very beginning, denied the validity of logic as a fit instrument in knowing oneself. Ramana abided in the highest state of ‘ Sahaja Samadhi’, refusing to play the role of a guru, not emphasising the role of scriptures in the scheme of self discovery. Yet another important point is that Aurobino had spiritual ambitions, which Ramana didn’t have. Perhaps, the excellent writings of Aurobindo are owing to his having been stuck up with that kundalini business, which is being exploited by many of the Western soi- distant gurus, charging money from the public to have their Chakras of the Kundalini being heightened. Another aspect, to be emphasised, is the fact that Aurobindo was somewhat secretive, whereas in Ramana’s teachings there are no secrets, Ramana being an open book available to all, being fit to be read by anybody, not containing the puerile distinctions of caste, community, race, intellectual or nonintellectual, since the Self is the true substratum of the entire phenomena.”

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Mike: Yes, ganesan, is basically agreeing with everything osho says about SA. He’s made comments on one osho website to that effect.

      Great piece of research, Mike! No point responding to this troll.

  17. mike

    Here is a bit more on osho’s assessment of SA – laughable IMO:

    “Shivanand is not yet enlightened. He has no path – stumbling in the dark. A traditional man, he can make you knowledgeable, but he cannot help you towards the ultimate understanding. A good man, a very good man, but just a good man, not yet a Jesus or a Buddha, not yet a Krishnamurti or Ramana – a simple man. If he becomes enlightened some day in some life, he will be like Ramana – his path will not be of the head. But he is not yet realized.

    And then there is Aurobindo: his path is as yet the path of an unenlightened person, moving towards it but yet in the dark. The morning is not very far away, but it has not happened yet. If some day it happens, then he will be a man like Krishnamurti; he will go through the head – a great scholar, he has much appeal for those who like logic-chopping, hair-splitting.”

  18. mike

    Also, l should mention osho’s method [who fled the US with 100 indictments against him]. l think l’ll stick with Brahmacharya lol

    “Osho Shree Rajneesh.

    Controversial Osho Shree Rajneesh was a very prolific author of books especially concerned with mysticism.Essentially,he belived that “anthing goes” including sex. By indulging in it we could ultimately go beyond it, and attain “Enlightenment”. In other words, a form of Tantra Yoga.Moreover, his ideas, and his meditational practices notably included “Western pop psychology” in which via certain forms of pent-up emotions (eg crying, wild laughing, etc) could be released in a structured manner (eg in Dynamic Meditation) so that they could no longer ultimately become a problem in life.”

  19. mw

    *This has been posted before, but I thought it would be good to post it again:

    A Talk By The Mother On Savitri
    (a report written from memory)
    by Mona Sarkar

    Do You read Savitri ?
    Yes Mother, yes.
    You have read the whole poem?
    Yes Mother, I have read it twice.
    Have you understood all that you have read?
    Not much, but I like poetry, that is why I read it.

    It does not matter if you do not understand it ? Savitri, read it always. You will see that every time you read it, something new will be revealed to you. Each time you will get a new glimpse, each time a new experience; things which were not there, things you did not understand arise and suddenly become clear. Always an unexpected vision comes up through the words and lines. Every time you try to read and understand, you will see that something is added, something which was hidden behind is revealed clearly and vividly. I tell you the very verses you have read once before, will appear to you in a different light each time you re-read them. This is what of happens invariably. Always your experience is enriched, it is a revelation at each step.

    But you must not read it as you read other books or newspapers. You must read with an empty head, a blank and vacant mind, without there being any other thought; you must concentrate much, remain empty, calm and open; then the words, rhythms, vibrations will penetrate directly to this white page, will put their stamp upon the brain, will explain themselves without your making any effort.

    Savitri alone is sufficient to make you climb to the highest peaks. If truly one knows how to meditate on Savitri, one will receive all the help one needs. For him who wishes to follow this path, it is a concrete help as though the Lord himself were taking you by the hand and leading you to the destined goal. And then, every question, however personal it may be, has its answer here, every difficulty finds its solution herein; indeed there is everything that is necessary for doing the Yoga.

    *He has crammed the whole universe in a single book.* It is a marvellous work, magnificent and of an incomparable perfection.

    You know, before writing Savitri Sri Aurobindo said to me, *I am impelled to launch on a new adventure; I was hesitant in the beginning, but now I am decided. Still, I do not know how far I shall succeed. I pray for help.* And you know what it was? It was ? before beginning, I warn you in advance ? it was His way of speaking, so full of divine humility and modesty. He never. . . *asserted Himself.* And the day He actually began it, He told me: *I have launched myself in a rudderless boat upon the vastness of the Infinite.* And once having started, He wrote page after page without intermission, as though it were a thing already complete up there and He had only to transcribe it in ink down here on these pages.

    In truth, the entire form of Savitri has descended ?en masse? from the highest region and Sri Aurobindo with His genius only arranged the lines ? in a superb and magnificent style. Sometimes entire lines were revealed and He has left them intact; He worked hard, untiringly, so that the inspiration could come from the highest possible summit. And what a work He has created! Yes, it is a true creation in itself. It is an unequalled work. Everything is there, and it is put in such a simple, such a clear form; verses perfectly harmonious, limpid and eternally true. My child, I have read so many things, but I have never come across anything which could be compared with Savitri. I have studied the best works in Greek, Latin, English and of course French literature, also in German and all the great creations of the West and the East, including the great epics; but I repeat it, I have not found anywhere anything comparable with Savitri. All these literary works seems to me empty, flat, hollow, without any deep reality ? apart from a few rare exceptions, and these too represent only a small fraction of what Savitri is. What grandeur, what amplitude, what reality: it is something immortal and eternal He has created. I tell you once again there is nothing like in it the whole world. Even if one puts aside the vision of the reality, that is, the essential substance which is the heart of the inspiration, and considers only the lines in themselves, one will find them unique, of the highest classical kind. What He has created is something man cannot imagine. For, everything is there, everything.

    It may then be said that Savitri is a revelation, it is a meditation, it is a quest of the Infinite, the Eternal. If it is read with this aspiration for Immortality, the reading itself will serve as a guide to Immortality. To read Savitri is indeed to practice Yoga, spiritual concentration; one can find there all that is needed to realise the Divine. Each step of Yoga is noted here, including the secret of all other Yogas. Surely, if one sincerely follows what is revealed here in each line one will reach finally the transformation of the Supramental Yoga. It is truly the infallible guide who never abandons you; its support is always there for him who wants to follow the path. Each verse of Savitri is like a revealed Mantra which surpasses all that man possessed by way of knowledge, and I repeat this, the words are expressed and arranged in such a way that the sonority of the rhythm leads you to the origin of sound, which is OM.

    My child, yes, everything is there: mysticism, occultism, philosophy, the history of evolution, the history of man, of the gods, of creation, of Nature. How the universe was created, why, for what purpose, what destiny ? all is there. You can find all the answers to all your questions there. Everything is explained, even the future of man and of the evolution, all that nobody yet knows. He has described it all in beautiful and clear words so that spiritual adventurers who wish to solve the mysteries of the world may understand it more easily. But this mystery is well hidden behind the words and lines and one must rise to the required level of true consciousness to discover it. All prophesies, all that is going to come is presented with the precise and wonderful clarity. Sri Aurobindo gives you here the key to find the Truth, to discover the Consciousness, to solve the problem of what the universe is. He has also indicated how to open the door of the Inconscience so that the light may penetrate there and transform it. He has shown the path, the way to liberate oneself from the ignorance and climb up to the superconscience; each stage, each plane of consciousness, how they can be scaled, how one can cross even the barrier of death and attain immortality. You will find the whole journey in detail, and as you go forward you can discover things altogether unknown to man. That is Savitri and much more yet. It is a real experience ? reading Savitri. All the secrets that man possessed, He has revealed, ? as well as all that awaits him in the future; all this is found in the depth of Savitri. But one must have the knowledge to discover it all, the experience of the planes of consciousness, the experience of the Supermind, even the experience of the conquest of Death. He has noted all the stages, marked each step in order to advance integrally in the integral Yoga.

    All this is His own experience, and what is most surprising is that it is my own experience also. It is my sadhana which He has worked out. Each object, each event, each realisation, all the descriptions, even the colours are exactly what I saw and the words, phrases are also exactly what I heard. And all this before having read the book. I read Savitri many times afterwards, but earlier, when He was writing He used to read it to me. Every morning I used to hear Him read Savitri. During the night He would write and in the morning read it to me. And I observed something curious, that day after day the experiences He read out to me in the morning were those I had had the previous night, word by word. Yes, all the descriptions, the colours, the pictures I had seen, the words I had heard, all, all, I heard it all, put by Him into poetry, into miraculous poetry. Yes, they were exactly my experiences of the previous night which He read out to me the following morning. And it was not just one day by chance, but for days and days together. And every time I used to compare what He said with my previous experiences and they were always the same. I repeat, it was not that I had told Him my experiences and that He had noted them down afterwards, no, He knew already what I had seen. It is my experiences He has presented at length and they were His experiences also. It is, moreover, the picture of Our joint adventure into the unknown or rather into the Supermind.

    These are experiences lived by Him, realities, supracosmic truths. He experienced all these as one experiences joy or sorrow, physically. He walked in the darkness of inconscience, even in the neighborhood of death, endured the sufferings of perdition, and emerged from the mud, the world- misery to breathe the sovereign plenitude and enter the supreme Ananda. He crossed all these realms, went through the consequences, suffered and endured physically what one cannot imagine. Nobody till today has suffered like Him. He accepted suffering to transform suffering into the joy of union with the Supreme. It is something unique and incomparable in the history of the world. It is something that has never happened before, He is the first to have traced the path in the Unknown, so that we may be able to walk with certitude towards the Supermind. He has made the work easy for us. Savitri is His whole Yoga of transformation, and this Yoga appears now for the first time in the earth-consciousness.

    And I think that man is not yet ready to receive it. It is too high and too vast for him. He cannot understand it, grasp it, for it is not by the mind that one can understand Savitri. One needs spiritual experiences in order to understand and assimilate it. The farther one advances on the path of Yoga, the more does one assimilate and the better. No, it is something which will be appreciated only in the future, it is the poetry of tomorrow of which He has spoken in The Future Poetry. It is too subtle, too refined, ? it is not in the mind or through the mind, it is in meditation that Savitri is revealed.

    And men have the audacity to compare it with the work of Virgil or Homer and to find it inferior. They do not understand, they cannot understand. What do they know? Nothing at all. And it is useless to try to make them understand. Men will know what it is, but in a distant future. It is only the new race with a new consciousness which will be able to understand. I assure you there is nothing under the blue sky to compare with Savitri. It is the mystery of mysteries. It is a *super-epic,* it is super- literature, super-poetry, super-vision, it is a super- work even if one considers the number of lines He has written. No, these human words are not adequate to describe Savitri. Yes, one needs superlatives, hyperboles to describe it. It is a hyper- epic. No, words express nothing of what Savitri is, at least I do not find them. It is of immense value ? spiritual value and all other values; it is eternal in its subject, and infinite in its appeal, miraculous in its mode and power of execution; it is a unique thing, the more you come into contact with it, the higher will you be uplifted. Ah, truly it is something! It is the most beautiful thing He has left for man, the highest possible. What is it? When will man know it? When is he going to lead a life of truth? When is he going to accept this in his life? This yet remains to be seen.

    My child, every day you are going to read Savitri; read properly, with the right attitude, concentrating a little before opening the pages and trying to keep the mind as empty as possible, absolutely without a thought. The direct road is through the heart. I tell you, if you try to really concentrate with this aspiration you can light the flame, the psychic flame, the flame of purification in a very short time, perhaps in a few days. What you cannot do normally, you can do with the help of Savitri. Try and you will see how very different it is, how new, if you read with this attitude, with this something at the back of your consciousness; as though it were an offering to Sri Aurobindo. You know it is charged, fully charged with consciousness; as if Savitri were a being, a real guide. I tell you, whoever, wanting to practice Yoga, tries sincerely and feels the necessity for it, will be able to climb with the help of Savitri to the highest rung of the ladder of Yoga, will be able to find the secret that Savitri represents. And this without the help of a Guru. And he will be able to practice it anywhere. For him Savitri alone will be the guide, for all that he needs he will find Savitri. If he remains very quiet when before a difficulty, or when he does not know where to turn to go forward and how to overcome obstacles, for all these hesitations and incertitudes which overwhelm us at every moment, he will have the necessary indications, and the necessary concrete help. If he remains very calm, open, if he aspires sincerely, always he will be as if lead by the hand. If he has faith, the will to give himself and essential sincerity he will reach the final goal.

    Indeed, Savitri is something concrete, living, it is all replete, packed with consciousness, it is the supreme knowledge above all human philosophies and religions. It is the spiritual path, it is Yoga, Tapasya, Sadhana, in its single body. Savitri has an extraordinary power, it gives out vibrations for him who can receive them, the true vibrations of each stage of consciousness. It is incomparable, it is truth in its plenitude, the Truth Sri Aurobindo brought down on the earth. My child, one must try to find the secret that Savitri represents, the prophetic message Sri Aurobindo reveals there for us. This is the work before you, it is hard but it is worth the trouble.

    5-11-1967 [http://www.poetseers.org/the-poetseers/sri-aurobindo/savitri-by-sri-aurobindo/a-talk-by-the-mother-on-savitri/]

  20. nizken

    I noticed the following paragraph from the Mother’s CWM:

    “It is not by books that Sri Aurobindo ought to be studied but by subjects — what he has said on the Divine, on Unity, on religion, on evolution, on education, on self-perfection, on supermind, etc., etc.”

    Is this how you study SA & M writings? By reading what they had to say on specific matters and subjects like the psychic being, on superman, on education, on the intellect etc?
    One would have to resort to the Internet and use search options in order to find out where these subjects are elucidated, no?

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Statements like these should not be taken literally. One goes through a first and second pass where one reads broadly. In the later passes, one knows which subjects are discussed in which book and chapter and reads them to understand better

  21. mike

    lf you have the kindle or ibooks versions of their writings, it’s very easy to search for anything within a book – which l do when a question comes up that l’m unclear about.

  22. Jeff

    Thank you for this excellent, in depth post. Is there a recommended reading order for Aurobindo’s works? I have been struck by Secret of the Vedas, so far, but if there is a logical or helpful reading order of his major works (e.g., The Integral Yoga, Life Divine, Secret of Vedas, the Upanishads, etc) I would greatly appreciate knowing that.

      1. Arpan

        Heard of Rama Shalaka as a kid. This method is truly beautiful _/_.
        Even if one does not have the concentration and capacity to truly use this, I guess it still works, because in that moment, one becomes truly aware of the one thing within oneself that one is avoiding.

    1. Sas

      My 0.0002 cents of opinion: One must read The Mother by Sri Aurobindo…and Nama Japa by Ramakrishna Das (disciple of Sri Aurobindo and Mother) who had undergone rare heights of consciousness even in the physical just by sincere Nama Japa of the Mothers name…if one can practice these two books, and nothing else, its sufficient…if faced with questions on the path, he can read Letters on Yoga…but simply reading for curiosity is not good. One must “eat” what one can “digest”.. what is of his immediate use for his current state of sadhana should be read…whatever is advanced, should be read later when the sadhak advances to that stage, not before! Else one suffers from egoism of “I know everything” but in fact knows almost nothing.

  23. Mick

    Tales of Prison Life by Sri Aurobindo is instructive because it describes the beginning stage of his spiritual journey – from agnostic to devotee – and it includes some funny anecdotes.


Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s