Centuries ago, Yajnavalkya used the analogy of “the great fish which travels along both banks, the nearer and the farther” while referring to the human consciousness which oscillates between the waking and the deep sleep state (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.3.17). He wrote that when the Atman “rests in the intermediate state (of dream)”, it sees both states – waking and deep sleep (Brihad. Up. 4.3.9). In the state of dreamless sleep, the Advaita Vedantins saw evidence of the existence of Brahman; they reasoned that if a person feels refreshed after sleep, it must be because the Atman had temporarily united with Brahman .
A reader from India asked a question which deserves to be highlighted as a separate blog post. The question was: “Many times people on their way to temples meet with accidents and die. What is the point of praying to Deities if they cannot protect their own devotees ? We also hear of stories where people claim that their beloved Deity saved them. How do we know if it was the Deity who intervened. Why does the Diety intervene in one case and not in another?”
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.
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).
This article is motivated by a recent comment on this blog. Those who have gained some familiarity with Sri Aurobindo are often baffled by his conduct: How could he smoke or eat meat while practicing Yoga? Doesn’t it violate the central tenets of Yoga? If that didn’t hinder his practice, can I emulate him? The answer is: “No, you shouldn’t emulate him” as we shall see by the end of this article.
Sri Aurobindo identified three trajectories of the higher mind (Buddhi) – ethical, logical and aesthetic. The ethical mind is concerned with distinguishing right and good, the logical mind seen in scientists is concerned with reasoning while the aesthetic mind seen in artists is in pursuit of beauty in nature. This is a short note on the origin, perfection and conflicts created by these three trajectories of the mind.