One of the themes on which Sri Aurobindo and the Mother differ from early Vedantins is “conscious dream exploration”. While Sri Aurobindo claimed that the occult worlds that we enter in our dreams are as “real” as the physical world, the earliest Advaita Vedantins, Gaudapada and Adi Shankaracharya (8th century C.E.) saw all the worlds as illusory. For Gaudapada and Shankara, the highest state was sushupti (deep sleep) because the Atman became united with the Brahman in that state.
One of the pleasures of studying dual Gurus like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is that sometimes one can find spontaneous and fascinating coincidences in their records. It is as if they had independently experienced the same occult phenomenon. In a previous article “Does Nature revolt against machinery?“, we saw an example where Sri Aurobindo and the Mother independently perceived that some machinery failures could be due to the action of occult forces. While Sri Aurobindo alluded that occult forces could be behind large air and sea disasters, the Mother saw that the vital forces released during sugarcane crushing could cause a breakdown of machinery.
This article brings together some predictions and uncanny observations made by Sri Aurobindo that were fulfilled later in time. To preserve chronological fidelity, I will only draw on remarks which predate the actual occurrence of the event. If the modern tech-savvy yogi had to record predictions about the future, he or she could use Trusted timestamping(digital notary), a cryptographic technology which is now available in commercial software products. Such technology was unfortunately not available in Sri Aurobindo’s time nor did he care to impress others with his yogic abilities. Consequently, the neutral observer wishing to verify these predictions has to rely on a combination of trust as well as the fact that the original manuscripts from which these remarks are drawn are preserved in the Archives Department of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.
The fundamental aim of all Yogic methods is the diversion of the Prana (breath) which normally circulates in the Ida and Pingala channels into the central Sushumna channel, as was elucidated in a previous post. Numerous yogis across the Indian sub-continent over several centuries perfected a multitude of methods to achieve this common goal. If you ever wanted to read all about it in one place, the “History of Yoga” (editor: Satya Prakash Singh) is for you. This is a massive work comprising 40 chapters spanning about 900 pages written by 19 subject experts which traces the origins and development of Yoga starting from the Vedas to the modern times. It is not possible to do justice to such a large comprehensive volume in a short article. Instead, I will present some interesting tidbits that I gained from the book.
“Man is a transitional being” – Sri Aurobindo averred when he envisioned the coming of a new species he called “superman”. It is generally not necessary to practice Yoga after you attain Self-realization but both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother continued to do so in order to attain the next stage, which they called the “supramental transformation” (hence the epigram “Sri Aurobindo’s yoga begins where other Yogas end”). This aspect of their work is often misunderstood by pedantic scholars who have the irksome tendency of rashly equating superficially similar ideas espoused by various thinkers across the globe. These scholars tend to claim that Sri Aurobindo’s idea of the superman must have been influenced by Neitzche’s Ubermensch or by Darwin’s theory of evolution. In this article, I will endeavour to demonstrate the actual origin of the concept of the superman through numerous remarks made by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the subject. As much as possible, I shall present original quotations in order to avoid adding a layer of (mis)interpretation.
You can drive a car while listening to a song, but when you want to see better, you instinctively lower the radio volume in the car. You can listen to a melody while doing chores, but when you want to hear better, you inevitably stop and squint your eyes. The American President Lyndon Johnson once claimed that his political opponent Gerald Ford could not pass wind and chew gum at the same time. Such quotidian observations seem to suggest that there may be some natural constraints in our ability to do multiple tasks simultaneously.
The sudden inflow of energy, the rapture and the sense of release that one feels after a favourable period of meditation is not easy to sustain. The mind mostly misinterprets the experience, the heart seizes and appropriates it, while the physical body feels relieved and exhausted that it has ended. We tend to yawn and eat junk food after a period of meditation because the physical body is tamasic(dull) by nature and not accustomed to the newly attained tranquility. Instead of yawning and dissipating the energy gained during the meditation, the body needs to be molded to become more supple and receptive; the cells of the body have to be made more and more conscious through regular exercise and refined eating habits so that it can sustain longer and greater spiritual experiences. Sri Aurobindo denoted this power of the body as Dharana Shakti or Dharana Samarthya (retention capacity; Samarthya or Shakti = capacity, Dharana = retention).
One of the pleasures of studying dual Gurus like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is that sometimes one can find spontaneous and fascinating coincidences in their records. It is as if they had independently experienced the same occult phenomenon. The Mother had once remarked after Sri Aurobindo had left his body: “Nirod (a disciple) is reading me his correspondence with Sri Aurobindo. Strangely enough, there are all sorts of things that I said much, much later, I had no idea he had written them! Exactly the same things. I found that very interesting.” In this article, we will examine some striking parallels in the observations they made fifty years apart pertaining to Nature’s reaction to machinery.
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.
Goraknath was a yogi-philosopher belonging the Nath Path (Brotherhood of the Supreme) who lived around the 9th-10th century. His Guru Matysendranath was the progenitor of this influential brotherhood of ascetics. Gorakhnath authored several works on Yoga including the Goraksha Samhita, the Goraksha Gita, the Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga Martanada, the Yoga Siddhanta Paddhati, the Yoga-Bija, and the Yoga Chintamani. You can read more about him on wikipedia. This article briefly outlines the meditation methods that Gorakhnath first enumerated in his work Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati. The material is condensed from A.K. Banerjea’s Philosophy of Gorakhnath.
The Yogin who attains Self-realization discovers that latent powers of perception have awakened within his or her illumined consciousness. He or she begins to receive subtle images and sounds that convey the subjective internal states of the beings around him – humans, animals, and possibly even aliens. In this article, we demonstrate that observations on animal intelligence made by Sri Aurobindo decades ago have been fulfilled by recent results in comparative psychology and cognitive ethology (the field of science dedicated to studying animal cognition).
In a experiment conducted in the 1970s by a Stanford professor Walter Mischel, children were tested for their ability to resist the temptation to eat a marshmallow (“deferred gratification” as the pros call it). As the children grew up into adults, Mischel discovered that the children who had successfully resisted the temptation were also the ones who went on to achieve academic and professional success. Although the study is never cited to be so, it is actually proof of the validity of Titiksha(forbearance), which is a foundational practice in the path of Yoga.