The spiritual dawn

The spiritual journey begins in enigmatic ways and progresses along sinuous and untrodden paths in its ascending arc towards some dim, distant promise of greater harmony.  Some come disillusioned by life and seek to comprehend why the world is so treacherous, while others may be motivated by a mystic verse which promises a larger and fuller vision of life.  Even after a promising start, we may vacillate for a long time unable to relinquish our past attractions or get trapped in inferior ideals before recovering our purpose and resuming our pursuit.  In this excerpt taken from the Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo reflects on the myriad ways in which people begin the spiritual journey.

(Sri Aurobindo)

All Yoga is in its nature a new birth; it is a birth out of the ordinary, the mentalised material life of man into a higher spiritual consciousness and a greater and diviner being. No Yoga can be successfully undertaken and followed unless there is a strong awakening to the necessity of that larger spiritual existence. The soul that is called to this deep and vast change may arrive in different ways to the initial departure. It may come to it by its own natural development which has been leading it unconsciously towards the awakening; it may reach it through the influence of a religion or the attraction of a philosophy; it may approach it by a slow illumination or leap to it by a sudden touch or shock; it may be pushed or led to it by the pressure of outward circumstances or by an inward necessity, by a single word that breaks the seals of the mind or by long reflection, by the distant example of one who has trod the path or by contact and daily influence. According to the nature and the circumstances the call will come.

But in whatever way it comes, there must be a decision of the mind and the will and, as its result, a complete and effective self-consecration. The acceptance of a new spiritual idea-force and upward orientation in the being, an illumination, a turning or conversion seized on by the will and the heart’s aspiration, — this is the momentous act which contains as in a seed all the results that the Yoga has to give. The mere idea or intellectual seeking of something higher beyond, however strongly grasped by the mind’s interest, is ineffective unless it is seized on by the heart as the one thing desirable and by the will as the one thing to be done. For truth of the Spirit has not to be merely thought but to be lived, and to live it demands a unified single-mindedness of the being; so great a change as is contemplated by the Yoga is not to be effected by a divided will or by a small portion of the energy or by a hesitating mind. He who seeks the Divine must consecrate himself to God and — to God only.

If the change comes suddenly and decisively by an overpowering influence, there is no further essential or lasting difficulty. The choice follows upon the thought, or is simultaneous with it, and the self-consecration follows upon the choice. The feet are already set upon the path, even if they seem at first to wander uncertainly and even though the path itself may be only obscurely seen and the knowledge of the goal may be imperfect. The secret Teacher, the inner Guide is already at work, though he may not yet manifest himself or may not yet appear in the person of his human representative. Whatever difficulties and hesitations may ensue, they cannot eventually prevail against the power of the experience that has turned the current of the life. The call, once decisive, stands; the thing that has been born cannot eventually be stifled. Even if the force of circumstances prevents a regular pursuit or a full practical self-consecration from the first, still the mind has taken its bent and persists and returns with an ever-increasing effect upon its leading preoccupation. There is an ineluctable persistence of the inner being, and against it circumstances are in the end powerless, and no weakness in the nature can for long be an obstacle.

But this is not always the manner of the commencement. The Sadhaka(seeker) is often led gradually and there is a long space between the first turning of the mind and the full assent of the nature to the thing towards which it turns. There may at first be only a vivid intellectual interest, a forcible attraction towards the idea and some imperfect form of practice. Or perhaps there is an effort not favoured by the whole nature, a decision or a turn imposed by an intellectual influence or dictated by personal affection and admiration for someone who is himself consecrated and devoted to the Highest. In such cases, a long period of preparation may be necessary before there comes the irrevocable consecration; and in some instances it may not come. There may be some advance, there may be a strong effort, even much purification and many experiences other than those that are central or supreme; but the life will either be spent in preparation or, a certain stage having been reached, the mind pushed by an insufficient driving-force may rest content at the limit of the effort possible to it. Or there may even be a recoil to the lower life, — what is called in the ordinary parlance of Yoga a fall from the path. This lapse happens because there is a defect at the very centre. The intellect has been interested, the heart attracted, the will has strung itself to the effort, but the whole nature has not been taken captive by the Divine. It has only acquiesced in the interest, the attraction or the endeavour.  There has been an experiment, perhaps even an eager experiment, but not a total self-giving to an imperative need of the soul or to an unforsakable ideal.  Even such imperfect Yoga has not been wasted; for no upward effort is made in vain.  Even if it fails in the present or arrives only at some preparatory stage or preliminary realisation, it has yet determined the soul’s future.

But if we desire to make the most of the opportunity that this life gives us, if we wish to respond adequately to the call we have received and to attain to the goal we have glimpsed, not merely advance a little towards it, it is essential that there should be an entire self-giving. The secret of success in Yoga is to regard it not as one of the aims to be pursued in life, but as the whole of life.

(Sri Aurobindo.  The Synthesis of Yoga, chapter on Self-Consecration)

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The spiritual dawn (L’aube spirituelle)

by French poet Charles Baudelaire(1821-1867).  Translated by Cyril Scott.

When the morning white and rosy breaks,
With the gnawing Ideal, upon the debauchee,
By the power of a strange decree,
Within the sotted beast an Angel wakes.

The mental Heaven’s inaccessible blue,
For wearied mortals that still dream and mourn,
Expands and sinks; towards the chasm drawn.
Thus, cherished goddess, Being pure and true–

Upon the rests of foolish orgy-nights
Thine image, more sublime, more pink, more clear,
Before my staring eyes is ever there.

The sun has darkened all the candle lights;
And thus thy spectre like the immortal sun,
Is ever victorious–thou resplendent one!

Image: Angkor Wat temple in modern-day Cambodia built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Photo by Trey Ratcliff. Flickr Creative Commons. Click image for source.

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7 thoughts on “The spiritual dawn

  1. nizken

    New Topic below 🙂

    So far, I’ve only limited myself to reading SA&M’s works, a few online websites about IY etc, and tried my best to open my heart to the faith in the Divine, Shakti and other Indian dieties (emanations from the ParaBrahman)

    Sri Aurobindo & The Mother have written a lot of books, but I haven’t been able to find any specific instructions of methods or stages in the Integral Yoga (for future aspirants). Not sure if just reading through all these volumes will take me very far in the sadhana, and I feel just a superficial mental reading will not take me very far at all. So could you please tell me how to start on this path and get closer to the Divine Spirit?
    Can you recommend any methods or things which you have done to progress in this path and get more faith etc? I would really be happy to know how people here have approached Intergral Yoga and the sadhana of this path.

    Something tells me that just reading his books obsessively is not the right practice, also there is a lot of repetition in them on the same key themes. So I’d like to know how everyone else is trying to progress on this path and get closer to Sri Aurobindo & Mother.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Nizken: Something tells me that just reading his books obsessively is not the right practice, also there is a lot of repetition in them on the same key themes

      yes, I felt the same before but then I found that in each repetition there is something subtle, something extra which is being developed and disclosed 🙂

      The other thing, as the Mother once explained, is that Sri Aurobindo is presenting other people’s viewpoints before giving his own which causes the repetition.

      Mother: …This is an argument Sri Aurobindo is presenting. As he has said, it is one way of looking at the problem and solving it, but that does not mean that this is his own point of view. And this is exactly what he does throughout the book, all the time; he presents different arguments, different points of view, different conceptions, and once he has placed all these problems before us, then he comes and gives the solution. And that is why our method of reading has a drawback, for I read one paragraph to you and if we stop there, it seems as though he had proved his own point of view; and then, if by chance one doesn’t remember very well and the next time I read another paragraph in which he expounds another point of view – sometimes totally different, sometimes even opposite – and we stop there, the conclusion is: this too is his point of view. So there is a contradiction. And then if we continue, there are two or three contradictions! I am telling you this because I have heard people who read in a rather superficial way and perhaps also don’t read continuously enough – people who consider themselves extremely intelligent and learned – who have told me, “But Sri Aurobindo repeats himself all the time in this book! He tells us the same thing again in almost every paragraph.” (Mother laughs) For he presents all other points of view, then gives his own, the conclusion; then once again he presents every point of view, gives all the problems, and ends up by proving the truth of what he wants to teach us – so he “repeats himself”! (Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 9, p 224)

      Nizken: Something tells me that just reading his books obsessively is not the right practice,

      Yes, you have to develop a meditation practice. You have to attempt to sit quietly for a few minutes everyday and empty the mind and open the heart. It won’t work immediately but you have to begin somewhere. This is why a living Guru is important for Yoga, as I was telling you.

      If you scroll down this page, there are various methods as well as difficulties enumerated.
      It also displays some books by M.P. Pandit which are helpful

      You should also check the article by Larry Seidlitz linked on this page under “External Links”

  2. nizken

    Thank you Sandeep. Yes I think there is quite a bit of Anekāntavāda in SA’s writings. And also the blind men with the elephant kind of synthesis.

    What do you mean by a living guru? Did you mean to meditate upon a guru’s pic etc?
    To me SA & Mother seem very alive even in these books and writings online… I’d like to hear what other people think about this topic and what their methods of sadhana are.


    1. Sandeep Post author

      Nizken: What do you mean by a living guru? Did you mean to meditate upon a guru’s pic etc? To me SA & Mother seem very alive even in these books and writings online

      During initiation (diksha), a Guru puts an emanation of their power into your inner being. There is a palpable sensation of a burning fire in the heart. The Guru is also able to perceive your aura and decide which Mantra and which method of meditation is suitable for you. See the article: “How does the Guru act

      Most of the senior Integral Yoga seekers who are alive today went through this process when they met the Mother before 1973. She used to give seekers an audience, fix her razor-sharp gaze on them, tell them the purpose of their life and what work they should do in the future. The ones who are called to the path usually get such guidance either in person or through dreams. If you keep reading their works and trying out various methods, you might also begin to get direct guidance at some point. One also has to be prepared for the inevitable dry periods where nothing happens and one just fumbles around looking for answers.

  3. Pingback: Practicing Yoga without a Guru | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

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