Most people in the initial stages of the spiritual path attain what may be called a “passive calm”. The glow on their face lasts only as long as they are surrounded by kind and gentle people like themselves. Faced with a protracted conflict, they either shrink from it in revulsion or unexpectedly lose their composure in exasperation. One must strive to attain an “active calm” which doesn’t dissipate even in the midst of conflict. The ability to handle vicissitudes in the hustle and bustle of daily life has to be developed. It is in the darkest hour, when circumstances are the opposite of one’s spiritual ideals, that one must be able to survive solely by the power of the inner lamp.
Those who are advanced along the path find that the Divine Power is intentionally guiding them towards such arduous challenges in order to achieve all-round perfection. The life of the spiritual aspirant can abound with unexpected ups and downs. Sometimes the Divine Grace, after giving a brief glimpse of its power, can veil itself to test the faith of the aspirant and compel him or her to drop the streak of idealism and self-righteousness, reappearing only after the surrender to Divine Will is complete.
In the life of Mother Mirra Alfassa, we find the incidence of such an adversity. In 1914, she met Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry and recognized him as the guide she had seen in her visions ten years ago. She was already an advanced spiritual practitioner at the time and naturally assumed that she would stay in Pondicherry in the proximity of the one she knew to be her Guru. Circumstances, however, forced her to leave India for six years in the midst of World War I and, as she was to understand at the end of her odyssey, there was a greater purpose behind her travails.
In this selection of entries from her diary Prayers and Meditations, we observe how she was first despondent, then waited patiently for further Divine guidance, and gradually regained her communion with the Divine. At the end she discovered the hidden purpose behind this unexpected six-year detour.
(March 3, 1915): Solitude, a harsh, intense solitude, and always this strong impression of having been flung headlong into a hell of darkness! Never at any moment of my life, in any circumstances, have I felt myself living in surroundings so entirely opposite to all that I am conscious of as true, so contrary to all that is the essence of my life. Sometimes when the impression and the contrast grow very intense, I cannot prevent my total submission from taking on a hue of melancholy, and the calm and mute converse with the Master within is transformed for a moment into an invocation that almost supplicates, “O Lord, what have I done that Thou hast thrown me thus into the sombre Night?” But immediately the aspiration rises, still more ardent, “Spare this being all weakness; suffer it to be the docile and clear-eyed instrument of Thy work, whatever that work may be.” For the moment the clear-sightedness is lacking; never was the future more veiled.
If we look at the last line of the next jotting, we see that even in the midst of a harsh solitude, she still sustained herself though the luminous puissance of the psychic being.
(March 4, 1915): Always the same harsh solitude… but it is not painful, on the contrary. In it more clearly than ever, is revealed the pure and infinite love in which the whole earth is immersed. By this love all lives and is animated; the darkest shadows become almost translucent to let its streams flow through, and the intensest pain is transformed into potent bliss. Each turn of the propeller upon the deep ocean seems to drag me farther away from my true destiny, the one best expressing the divine Will; each passing hour seems to plunge me again deeper into that past with which I had broken, sure of being called to new and vaster realisations; everything seems to draw me back to a state of things totally contrary to the life of my soul which reigns uncontested over outer activities; and, despite the apparent sadness of my own situation, the consciousness is so firmly established in a world which passes beyond personal limitations on every side, that the whole being rejoices in a constant perception of power and love.
(March 7 1915): I am exiled from every spiritual happiness, and of all ordeals this, O Lord, is surely the most painful that Thou canst impose: but most of all the withdrawal of Thy will which seems to be a sign of total disapprobation. Strong is the growing sense of rejection, and it needs all the ardour of an untiring faith to keep the external consciousness thus abandoned to itself from being invaded by an irremediable sorrow….But it refuses to despair, it refuses to believe that the misfortune is irreparable; it waits with humility in an obscure and hidden effort and struggle for the breath of Thy perfect joy to penetrate it again
In the subsequent entry, we read of the state of immobility that one must aspire to. In the words of Christ, one has to be “in the world but not of it“.
(March 8 1915) …For the most part the condition is one of calm and profound indifference; the being feels neither desire nor repulsion, neither enthusiasm nor depression, neither joy nor sorrow. It regards life as a spectacle in which it takes only a very small part; it perceives its actions and reactions, conflicts and forces as things that at once belong to its own existence which overflows the small personality on every side and yet to that personality are altogether foreign and remote.
Even as she was plunged in hardship, she was being bathed by the coruscating waters of a Higher consciousness.
(July 31 1915) …Thy power in me is like a living spring, strong and abundant, rumbling behind the rocks, gathering its energies to break down the obstacles and gush out freely in the open, pouring its waters over the plain to fertilise it. When will the hour of this emergence come? When the moment arrives, it will burst forth, and time is nothing in Eternity. But what words can describe the immensity of joy brought by this inner accumulation, this deep concentration, of all the forces that are submissive to the manifestation of Thy Will of tomorrow, preparing to break over the world, drowning in their sovereign flood all that still persists in wanting to be the expression of Thy will of yesterday, so as to take possession of the earth in Thy Name and offer it to Thee as a completer image of Thyself.
In the next jotting, she talks about how she had to adapt to the difficult situation she found herself in.
(June 7 1916) …This return to activity meant a completely new adaptation of the vital instrument, for its natural tendency is always to resume action with its old habits and methods. This period of adaptation was long, painful, sometimes obscure, though behind, the perception of Thy Presence and perfect surrender to Thy Law were immutable and quite strongly conscious for any disturbance to shake the being. Gradually the vital being grew accustomed to find harmony in the intensest action as it had in passive surrender. And once this harmony was sufficiently established, there was light again in all the parts of the being, and the consciousness of what had happened became complete. Now in the heart of action the vital being has discovered the perception of Infinity and Eternity. It can perceive Thy Supreme Beauty and live it in all sensations and all forms. Even in its every sensation, extended, active, fully developed to feel contrary sensations at the same time, always it perceives Thee.
(Jan 23, 1917) Thou didst fill my being with so complete, so intense a love and beauty and joy that it seemed impossible to me that this would not be communicated. It was like a glowing hearth whence the breath of thought wafted far many sparks which, entering the secrecy of men’s hearts, kindled other similar fires, fires of Thy divine Love, O Lord, that Love which impels and draws all human beings irresistibly to Thee. O my sweet Lord, grant that this may not be only a vision of my enrapt consciousness, but indeed a reality, effectively transforming all beings and things.
In the next item, she questions the purpose behind her unexpected ordeal. The Divine Grace sometimes veils itself without revealing the deeper purpose behind apparently superficial events.
(Sept 24 1917) Thou hast subjected me to a hard discipline; rung after rung, I have climbed the ladder which leads to Thee and, at the summit of the ascent, Thou hast made me taste the perfect joy of identity with Thee. Then, obedient to Thy command, rung after rung, I have descended to outer activities and external states of consciousness, re-entering into contact with these worlds that I left to discover Thee. And now that I have come back to the bottom of the ladder, all is so dull, so mediocre, so neutral, in me and around me, that I understand no more….What is it then that Thou awaitest from me, and to what use that slow long preparation, if all is to end in a result to which the majority of human beings attain without being subjected to any discipline?
As we see from the following entry, she was subjected to such adversity because she had to overcome her dread for conflict. The exact nature of her adversity is not known but it had something to do with transforming Paul Richard, who was her husband at the time. Much like Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, this experience established in her the conviction that worldly struggle too could be a basis for Divine action in the world.
(June 22, 1920) After granting me the joy which surpasses all expression, Thou hast sent me, O my beloved Lord, the struggle, the ordeal and on this too I have smiled as on one of Thy precious messengers. Before, I dreaded the conflict, for it hurt in me the love of harmony and peace. But now, O my God, I welcome it with gladness: it is one among the forms of Thy action, one of the best means for bringing back to light some elements of the work which might otherwise have been forgotten, and it carries with it a sense of amplitude, of complexity, of power. And even as I have seen Thee, resplendent, exciting the conflict, so also it is Thou whom I see unravelling the entanglement of events and jarring tendencies and winning in the end the victory over all that strives to veil Thy light and Thy power: for out of the struggle it is a more perfect realisation of Thyself that must arise.
- Subtle forms of the ego – (transcending suffocation)
- Jnana Yoga : the ego blocks that have to be dissolved
- How to know the Divine Will?
- How to rise above the ordinary life?
- How to make the right choice when faced with a serious decision
- Developing one’s own spiritual atmosphere (Gita 3:17)