The path of the Yogin demands dogged persistence because final perfection depends on two qualitatively different factors: one’s own refractory psychological habits whose complete dissolution requires multiple rounds and a whimsical Divine power which intermittently showers its Grace but leaves you in the dark at other times. These are a couple of progress reports that Sri Aurobindo had jotted down in his diary The Record of Yoga during his early years in Pondicherry. They indicate the ceaseless struggle and the subsequent reversal of consciousness that he underwent in the quest for yogic perfection.
In August 1905, Sri Aurobindo took up the practice of Pranayama which, after several months, had to be suspended due to his increasing involvement in the Indian freedom struggle. He even became dangerously ill at some point. In January 1908, with the help of another Yogi named Lele, Sri Aurobindo had his first fundamental spiritual experience – the experience of the Nirvana wherein his mind was overwhelmed by an overpowering Silence. He felt as if there was no ego, no real world but a world of empty forms, materialized shadows without true substance. A few months later, while imprisoned in Alipore jail, he had the positive experience of Cosmic Consciousness wherein he saw that it was the Divine itself who was present in all beings. In April 1910, he came to Pondicherry to pursue further askesis(sadhana) to ascend to the Supramental plane of consciousness. These notes were made during his early years in Pondicherry.
On 1st July, 1912, he recollected the ceaseless struggle he had undergone over the past seven years. He also recorded the Divine voice(sruti) and etheric writing(lipi) which had informed him of the changes to come in his life.
August, 1912, will complete the seventh year of my practice of Yoga. It has taken so long to complete a long record of wanderings, stumbles, gropings, experiments, for Nature beginning in the dark to grope her way to the light now an assured, but not yet a full lustre, for the Master of the Yoga to quiet the restless individual will and the presumptuous individual intelligence so that the Truth might liberate itself from human possibilities & searchings and the Power emerge out of human weaknesses and limitations. The night of the thirtieth marked by a communication from the sahasradala(the chakra above the head), of the old type, sruti (voice), but clear of the old confusions which used to rise around the higher Commands. It was clearly the Purushottama(Transcendental Supreme) speaking and the Shakti receiving the command. Already the lipi (etheric writing) had given warning of a new life beginning on the 1st. July, a new life, that is to say, a new type of action, starting with a temporarily complete realisation of novel Personality and the final inevitable seal on the dasyabhava(experience of servitude to the Supreme). Not that anything was done abruptly. In this yoga at least nothing has been abrupt except the beginnings, the consummations are always led up to by long preparation & development, continual ebb & flow, ceaseless struggling, falling & rising a progress from imperfection through imperfections to imperfect and insecure perfections & only at last an absolute finality and security.
- sruti: the guiding voice that one hears during spiritual experiences.
- lipi: the etheric writing that one sees during subtle visions.
The Bhagavad Gita in chapter 6, verse 3 says
arurukshor muner yogam
karma karanam ucyate
samah karanam ucyate
Essentially, it means that the wise one who is desirous of attaining yoga must engage in action, but the one who has already attained yoga must remain tranquil.
In the following diary entry made on 31st Jan, 1913, Sri Aurobindo’s words echo this insight from the Gita. He found that the old method of Yoga through action and self-control(nigraha) had to be discarded. Further progress now required remaining serene and allowing the Divine Power (Tapas) to shape itself through him.
The transition which has been for some time in process of accomplishment, completes itself today. Formerly life was regarded as a thing to be worked upon and worked out, by active mental will and bodily means, speech, writing, work etc. A thing written had to be composed. An intellectual difficulty had to be thought out, a conclusion fixed and edified. That which was undiscovered, had to be sought for by speculation, reasoning, experiment. That which was unattained, had to be constructed by labour, attempt, adaptation of means, careful manipulation of materials. The remnants of this way of seeing clung until now to the thought and action, but henceforth it is removed.
Life is a great mass of existence, Sat, moulding itself through its own Tapas. All that has to be done is for the Jiva (soul), the knowledge centre of this existence, to sit fast in his city, navadware (nine gates of the body) pure, & allow the infinite Tapas to manifest through him, accepting it, sanctioning it, (anumati), giving the command to fulfil it to his helping devatas, (ishwara), holding up the whole system&its working, (bharta), and watching & enjoying the results. The Tapas may be with knowledge & then the results will be perfectly in accordance with what is intended, for what is intended, will be what is known to the mind as the thing that has to be done or is to happen, kartavyam karma(work to be done); if it is without knowledge or with imperfect knowledge, it will still be known as the thing which God intends the individual system to lay stress upon (tapyeta), therefore to be willed, and the result, whether in accordance with the Tapas, or adverse to it, chosen or not chosen (ishta, anishta, priya apriya), favourable or adverse (mangala, amangala,) success or failure, (siddhi asiddhi, jayajayau,) will be the unseen thing that all along had to be & towards which all tapas has been contributing, (adrishtam, bhavitavyam), therefore to be accepted with equality of mind and with equality of ananda(bliss). This must be the first principle of the new period of action.
The second principle, which has also been long preparing, is the renunciation of nigraha(control) or as it used to be called, tapasya. Not that the Tapas may not have to persist under difficulties, but no violence has to be done to the Prakriti. It has to work out its own defects. This is now possible, because of the growth of the supreme or quaternary dasya(servitude to the Supreme), by which the very thought & feeling comes only as things impelled by the divine hand of the Master & Sarathi(controller). Absolute Samata(equanimity) & passivity are now possible.
Therefore in action there will be no planning, only seeing of the way the thing to be done will develop under the shaping of the divine Tapas whether through myself or others; in writing no composition, only the record of the vak(Divine vibration) as it flows down from above and forms itself in the Sat of Mind; in Yoga no sadhan(method), but only the acceptance of the self-organising movements of the anandamaya vijnanamaya Prakriti as it progressively takes entire possession of this inferior mental & physical kingdom .
- Sat: refers to the Existence aspect of the triple higher planes of Sachchidananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss).
- navadware: Nine gates of the body – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the mouth, the genitals and the anus.
- Tapas: dynamic power of the Chit plane of consciousness
The conditions of a solitary bird are five:
First, that it flies to the highest point.
Second, that it does not seek after company, not even its own kind.
Third, that it aims its beak to the wind.
Fourth, that it has no definite color.
Fifth, that it sings very sweetly.
(John of the Cross: Sayings of Light and Love)
- Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, CWSA vol. 10-11, p 74.
- Sri Aurobindo. Record of Yoga, CWSA vol. 10-11, p 222.
- Early mystic experiences of Sri Aurobindo
- How to cultivate the state of witness consciousness(Saksi-bhava)
- The subtle sounds which indicate progress in Yoga
- Various ways in which the Kundalini rises
- The first meeting of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa
- The phenomenon of double consciousness
- Triple movement of Integral Yoga (Witness, Consenter, Enjoyer)
- Syncretism in Sri Aurobindo’s thought – part 1
- How does a Guru act?
- Signs of spiritual apitude
- Disrupting the routines of life
- Explaining the Ascent-Descent in Integral Yoga