Yoga is a predominantly psychological process of conquering one’s weaknesses through the assistance of a Higher Light. As part of the surrender (samarpan) to the Divine, one is expected to reject deviant movements within oneself and offer them to the Divine for removal. This is a private exercise which does not require confessing in front of family, friends, priests or the public at large (…by writing a memoir or appearing on a TV talk show, as Americans tend to do these days). The exercise is undertaken not to gain social acceptance or to unburden oneself but to eliminate the depravities which occlude the inner light – the psychic being – from shining forth.
In the Ashram, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother facilitated this process by adopting a laissez-faire approach towards their disciples. Instead of pushing the disciples towards prescribed goals, they would intervene only after the disciple became aware of a subconscious defect and presented it to them for elucidation and purging. That is why the disciples were given notebooks in which they were asked to identify and jot down their daily upheavals and aberrant movements of consciousness. Either Sri Aurobindo or the Mother would later read these notebooks and apply their power to assist the disciple accordingly. The principle they worked on was that a permanent change of consciousness cannot come unless the disciple also willingly consents to it.
In the following exchanges with disciples, we see them independently giving the same explanation when asked why they did not correct mistakes immediately.
A written exchange with Sri Aurobindo
Disciple: How is it you never write to me anything unless I ask for it or make some statement about it?
Sri Aurobindo: I never do to anybody unless he gives me the occasion. A sadhak (seeker) must become conscious and lay himself before the light, see and reject and change. It is not the right method for us to interfere and lecture and point out this and point out that. That is the school master method – it does not work in the spiritual change.
The disciples here are not pupils and the gurus here are not school teachers.
Disciple: You often use words like “please” etc. In India at least, a Guru, not to speak of an Avatar, does not speak this way to his disciples!
Sri Aurobindo: They were not in the habit of writing English.
Disciple: Since you and the Mother are supposed to know all that happens in us, then why do you want us to write to you about it?
Sri Aurobindo: It is necessary for you to be conscious and to put your self-observation before us; it is on that that we can act. A mere action on our own observation without any corresponding consciousness on the part of the sadhak would lead to nothing.
(Nagin Doshi, Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol. 3, pp 253-254)
An oral exchange with the Mother
Disciple: Mother, when we have done something and want to hide it from you, when we come to you, you look as if you knew nothing. Why? (Laughter)
Mother: (Laughingly) I look as if… I listen, yes? I listen as though I knew nothing, don’t I? It is good like that, and sometimes I exclaim “Ah!” and “Oh!” as though I did not know, don’t I? Well, my child, all that is for another reason. I have explained that already several times.
When I see people and am busy with them, I want to—I don’t say it is always possible, but still—I want to see in them their psychic being, their ideal, what they want to do, what they want to be, in order to keep it, pull it to the surface; all my work consists of this: what I see I pull out always. And so, when I am doing that, apart from those cases in which I am aware that people are a little conscious of themselves, I am not always sure of the degree of their outer consciousness; and when I ask questions it is to know the difference between what they are conscious of and what I see; and this I am doing all the time. It looks as though I did not know, doesn’t it? I ask a question to find out: “What do you feel? What do you think? What have you experienced? What…” You know, it is to have a clear picture of the degree of your consciousness.
There is a tremendous difference between what you know about yourself and what I know about you. What I know about you is obviously what you ought to be. So, outwardly one sees clearly what people are like, but that is just an outer phenomenon, you know. Between the two, there is the vital and mental domain which is the most important from the human point of view, and it is there that in everyone the consciousness of what he ought to be should be reflected, so that he may realise it. But there is a vast distance between what each one knows about himself, what is actively conscious in him and what he is in the truth of his being. It is more difficult for me; this intermediate domain is a very cloudy one, for me it is a domain of falsehood, what I call falsehood. There are two words in English, “falsehood” and “lie”; well, it is the sense of falsehood. It is not a lie in the sense that one tells a lie, but it is a domain of what is not true, what is not at all the experience of the truth of a being, and yet it is of this that he is almost solely conscious.
Only a very few have the inner perception of what they want to be, what they want to do, of what the truth of their being is.
There are not many such. Or else it comes and then gets veiled; suddenly one has a flash and then it gets clouded over. And so the questions I put are always in order to know the state of this surface consciousness, which for me is something quite unreal, something that is not true.
There is such a contradiction between the brutal fact of your daily way of life and the picture I have before myself of what each one of you ought to be, a picture I keep there with all the power of my consciousness so that you may realise it—and that is yourself, that, yes, is yourself! It is not this ignorant being, stupid and insincere—sometimes dishonest—who is the… whom you call yourself.
(Collected Works of the Mother, vol 6, pp 164-166)
- The story of a soul
- Haven’t I seen you before?
- My words will remain imprinted on your soul
- How does a Guru act?
- The Mother Mirra Alfassa as a Guru
- Anandamayi Ma as the Guru
- What Did J.D. Salinger, Leo Tolstoy, and Sarah Bernhardt Have in Common?
- Dharana Shakti : the capacity to sustain spiritual experiences
- Why the future is veiled from us
- The ability to withstand hardships in the spiritual path
- Practising Titiksha with marshmallows
- The elusive touch of the psychic being
- Four epistemic methods of consciousness
- Gita Chapter 7, Verse 16 – Four types of Divine seekers
- Gita Chapter 6, Verse 5 – uplift the self by the self
- Disrupting the routines of life
- Spirituality : between morality and immorality
- Four stages of human love