Sri Aurobindo’s yoga is a yoga of Transformation and not a rejection of life. But equally it insists of reshaping life in the divine image and not a continuation of the past old nature as it is. The lower nature has to be rejected and the new consciousness must find room in its place. The basic premise is that what we know as our present nature is a shadow, a distortion of the higher Divine Nature just as the ego is the shadow and a distortion of the true divine individual within us. How are we to get rid of the lower movements is a crucial important question? The present talk explores some of these issues.
Words of Sri Aurobindo
The next instrument which needs perfection is the citta, and within the complete meaning of this expression we may include the emotional and the pure psychical being. This heart and psychic being of man shot through with the threads of the life instincts is a thing of mixed inconstant colours of emotion and soul vibrations, bad and good, happy and unhappy, satisfied and unsatisfied, troubled and calm, intense and dull. Thus agitated and invaded it is unacquainted with any real peace, incapable of a steady perfection of all its powers. By purification, by equality, by the light of knowledge, by a harmonising of the will it can be brought to a tranquil intensity and perfection. The first two elements of this perfection are on one side a high and large sweetness, openness, gentleness, calm, clarity, on the other side a strong and ardent force and intensity. In the divine no less than in ordinary human character and action there are always two strands, sweetness and strength, mildness and force, saumya and raudra, the force that bears and harmonises, the force that imposes itself and compels, Vishnu and Ishana, Shiva and Rudra. The two are equally necessary to a perfect world action. The perversions of the Rudra power in the heart are stormy passion, wrath and fierceness and harshness, hardness, brutality, cruelty, egoistic ambition and love of violence and domination. These and other human perversions have to be got rid of by the flowering of a calm, clear and sweet psychical being.
But on the other hand incapacity of force is also an imperfection. Laxity and weakness, self-indulgence, a certain flabbiness and limpness or inert passivity of the psychical being are the last result of an emotional and psychic life in which energy and power of assertion have been quelled, discouraged or killed. Nor is it a total perfection to have only the strength that endures or to cultivate only a heart of love, charity, tolerance, mildness, meekness and forbearance. The other side of perfection is a self-contained and calm and unegoistic Rudra-power armed with psychic force, the energy of the strong heart which is capable of supporting without shrinking an insistent, an outwardly austere or even, where need is, a violent action. An unlimited light of energy, force, puissance harmonised with sweetness of heart and clarity, capable of being one with it in action, the lightning of Indra starting from the orb of the nectarous moon-rays of Soma is the double perfection. And these two things saumyatva, tejas, must base their presence and action on a firm equality of the temperament and of the psychical soul delivered from all crudity and all excess or defect of the heart’s light or the heart’s power.
The Synthesis of Yoga: The Power of the Instruments 737
From Evening Talks
22nd December, 1938.
(All of us assembled in the hope of hearing something from Sri Aurobindo. I was actually praying for it. But he did not seem to be in a talking mood. So we were forced to keep quiet at the same time thinking how to draw him into conversation and by what question. Suddenly we find X. beaming with a smile and looking at Sri Aurobindo. Then he takes a few more moves nearer to Sri Aurobindo and we automatically follow him, he still nears and then he bursts out with a question : "To attain right attitude what principles should we follow in our dealing and behaviour with others?"
Sri Aurobindo could not quite catch the question so it was repeated.
Sri Aurobindo : It seems to me the other way about. If we have the right attitude other things come by themselves. Right attitude is necessary; what is important is the inner attitude. Spiritual and ethical principles are quite different, for every thing depends on whether it is done for the sake of the Spirit or ethical reasons.
One may observe mental control in dealings etc. but the inner state may be quite different e.g. he may not show anger, may be humble externally, but internally he may be proud and full of anger, for example A. When he came here he was full of humility outside. It is the psychic control that is required and when that is there right attitude follows in one's external behaviour. Conduct must flow from within outwards and the more one opens to the psychic influence the more it gains over the outer nature. Mental control may or may not lead to the spiritual. In people of a certain type it may be the first step towards psychic control.
Disciple : How to get psychic control?
Sri Aurobindo : By constant remembrance, consecration of ourselves to the Divine, rejection of all that stands in the way of the psychic influence. Generally, it is the vital that stands in the way with its desires and demands. And once the psychic opens it shows at every step what is to be done......
One can repeat the name of the Divine and come to divine consciousness.
Disciple : How does name do it?
Sri Aurobindo : Name has a power like Mantra. Everything in the world is power. There are others who do Pranayama along with the name. After a time the repetition behind the Pranayama becomes automatic and one feels Divine presence etc. Here people once began to feel tremendous force in their work. They would work without fatigue for hours and hours, but they began to overdo it. One has to be reasonable even in spirituality. That was when the Sadhana was in the vital. But when it began in the physical then things were different. Physical is like a stone, full of inertia and resistance.
Disciple : What difference is there between modification of nature and its transformation?
Sri Aurobindo : Transformation is the casting of the whole nature in the mould of realization. What you realize you project out in your nature. Christian Saints speak of the presence in the heart. That presence can change the nature.
I speak of three transformations : 1) Psychic, 2) Spiritual and 3) Supramental. Psychic transformation many had; spiritual is the realization of the Self, the Infinite above, with its dynamic side of peace, knowledge, ananda etc. That transformation is spiritual transformation and above that is the Supramental transformation. It is Truth-consciousness working for a Divine aim or purpose.
Disciple : If one has inner realization does transformation follow in the light of the realization?
Sri Aurobindo : Not necessarily. There may be some modification in the nature-part but the transformation is not automatic. It is not so easy as all that. My experience of peace and calm in the first contact with Lele has never left me, but in my outer nature there were many agitations and every time I had to make an effort to establish peace. From that time onwards the whole object of my yoga was to change nature into the mould of the inner realization. I had to try to change or transform these by the influence of my realization.
Disciple : Even then a man with inner realization,–I don't mean experience–won't have grave difficulties such as sex in his nature.
Sri Aurobindo : Why not? There can be anger, like Durvasa's or sex. You have not heard of the fall of Rishis through anger or through sex? The Yogis pass beyond the stage of good and evil. Ordinary questions of morality don't arise in them. They look upon outer nature as a child behaving according to its wants.
Disciple : Would not the inner realization stop because of these outer indulgences.
Sri Aurobindo : It depends on how far one has gone in the path in spiritual realization. There are any number of passages, crossways and paths; one may be at liberty to whatever yoga one likes. But in our yoga we insist on the transformation of outer nature as well. And when I say something is necessary in yoga, it means in "our yoga"; it does not apply to yoga with other aims.
A letter from X's husband which raised certain general questions about the relation of man and woman in this yoga. He wants to exercise the conjugal right with his wife. Both have written to Sri Aurobindo, separately for guidance.
The husband's argument :
"Sri Aurobindo's yoga is not a yoga of renunciation and even if renunciation was to be carried out I shall carry it out gradually, I am not able to control myself. I want to know : What is the relation between man and woman in this yoga ?"
Sri Aurobindo replied : "This is not a yoga of renunciation in the sense that one has not to reject life or the world externally. But that does not mean that one has to give room to lower forces and allow them full play in their lower forms.
"This is a yoga of rising into the Divine Nature from the lower nature. What that higher Nature is you will understand afterwards. You have to become fit for it. You can now see your lower nature; especially the vital play of Kama (lust) and Krodha (anger) etc – is essentially the Dharma – the functioning – of the animal man. You have to rise into the Divine Nature by rejecting the lower nature. How can you get the Divine Nature unless you conquer the nature of the animal-man in you ? The first step has been given to you : you must learn to separate yourself as the Purusha, and look unmoved at all the play of nature in you. You must externalise the play and see all its actions as outside yourself. You ought not to allow any mental justification for the play of the lower forces of the vital beings. The Shuddhi – purification – necessary in this yoga cannot be attained with the forces of lust and anger and there is no question of harbouring them."
Then Sri Aurobindo continued :
"In this matter, you must resort to simple thinking and simple action, leaving all mental complications and Shastric injunctions. You must not allow the intellect to play with them. Your ideas about Spastic injunctions are nothing else but justifications. Really it is the lower play of the vital being. In this rejection of the lower nature you ought to be ever alert – vigilant.
The ideal relation between man and woman in this yoga you cannot at present understand. You have, first, to make yourself fit for it. Your own ideas of married life and Shastra etc. are dangerous and if you follow these ideas there is every chance of your fall from the yoga. All of them are mental constructions. The first thing in a case where both man and woman are aspirants is to help each other in Sadhana, the spiritual effort. They must exchange their forces and help each other to rise into the Higher Consciousness.
Secondly, there is the question of love. What most People call 'love' is a superficial thing and mostly bound up with the vital craving of lust. That has to be completely rejected.
There is a relation deeper than that : it is of the Soul. That relation comes from within by itself. It manifests itself in both as an ideal oneness – oneness in mind, oneness of the soul, oneness of self. That relation is Shanta, full of peace, wide, pure – pavitra. In it there is no trace of vital lust and physical craving. There is also possible a relation of Purusha and Shakti between man and woman. But that relation is not social, it is not ordinary. Because one is married to a certain woman it does not follow that his wife is necessarily his Shakti.
So long as these relations are not understood and expe¬rienced by you another possible relation is that of friends. That is to say, you ought to live with your wife just as you would with a friend who has the same aim of life, without any other relation than that of friendship.
You must remove the misunderstanding from your mind about your wife that she does not love you, etc. She has an aspiration for the yoga and therefore she wants to reject all the lower play of nature from herself and from you. You ought not to press her or induce her to fall from the path of yoga. If you can't control yourself you should live separately and fight your nature.
You write about passivity and activity : you have to understand and know what they are. When one begins yoga, naturally, all the forces on the mental – and especially on the vital-plane, that are hostile to the Siddhi of this yoga, are bound to rise and one must be active in rejecting them – what the Gita calls apramatta – because the Purusha is not only sāksi – the witness – but anumantā – one who gives consent. This activity of rejection must be always there. Even if you fall you must rise up again and again and fight.
Passivity merely means a calm inactive attitude of mind keeping it open to the higher influence and ready to accept the light, power, knowledge, Ananda that come from Above.
It, must be a prayerful mood so that the knowledge may come down. When the higher knowledge comes one ought not to allow the mind to get active with it, but must allow that knowledge to come more and more by keeping the mind passive.
Both passivity and activity are legitimate movements of this yoga in the beginning. The highest, the true passi¬vity will, of course, come afterwards. If you remain passive now, you will open yourself to all sorts of influences and accept all kinds of suggestions, ideas etc. coming from outside – from the universal nature. You will mistake them for those coming from the higher Power."
* * *
15 September 2011
14th September 2011
at Dining Room Hall, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India.
A crucial element in the
physical perfection is the mastery over the vital element. Prana is the energy
giver for all our activities, including the sadhana. The following talk
discusses some aspects of Pranayama, one of the traditional ways for this
mastery and its relation to the Integral Yoga
Yoga of the
over the Prana
Words of Sri Aurobindo
We can become aware of the existence
and presence of the universal Shakti in the various forms of her power. At
present we are conscious only of the power as formulated in our physical mind,
nervous being and corporeal case sustaining our various activities. But if we
can once get beyond this first formation by some liberation of the hidden,
recondite, subliminal parts of our existence by Yoga, we become aware of a
greater life force, a pranic Shakti, which supports and fills the body and
supplies all the physical and vital activities,—for the physical energy is only
a modified form of this force,—and supplies and sustains too from below all our
mental action. This force we feel in ourselves also, but we can feel it too
around us and above, one with the same energy in us, and can draw it in and
down to aggrandise our normal action or call upon and get it to pour into us.
It is an illimitable ocean
of Shakti and will pour
as much of itself as we can hold into our being. This pranic force we can use
for any of the activities of life, body or mind with a far greater and
effective power than any that we command in our present operations, limited as
they are by the physical formula. The use of this pranic power liberates us from
that limitation to the extent of our ability to use it in place of the
body-bound energy. It can be used so to direct the prana as to manage more
powerfully or to rectify any bodily state or action, as to heal illness or to
get rid of fatigue, and to liberate an enormous amount of mental exertion and
play of will or knowledge. The exercises of Pranayama are the familiar
mechanical means of freeing and getting control of the pranic energy. They
heighten too and set free the psychic, mental and spiritual energies which
ordinarily depend for their opportunity of action on the pranic force. But the
same thing can be done by mental will and practice or by an increasing opening
of ourselves to a higher spiritual power of the Shakti. The pranic Shakti can
be directed not only upon ourselves, but effectively towards others or on
things or happenings for whatever purposes the will dictates. Its effectivity
is immense, in itself illimitable, and limited only by defect of the power,
purity and universality of the spiritual or other will which is brought to bear
upon it; but still, however great and powerful, it is a lower formulation, a
link between the mind and body, an instrumental force. There is a consciousness
in it, a presence of the spirit, of which we are aware, but it is encased,
involved in and preoccupied with the urge to action. It is not to this action
of the Shakti that we can leave the whole burden of our activities; we have
either to use its lendings by our own enlightened personal will or else call in
a higher guidance; for of itself it will act with greater force, but still
according to our imperfect nature and mainly by the drive and direction of the
life-power in us and not according to the law of the highest spiritual
The ordinary power by which we
govern the pranic energy is that of the embodied mind. But when we get clear
above the physical mind, we can get too above the pranic force to the
consciousness of a pure mental energy which is a higher formulation of the
Shakti. There we are aware of a universal mind consciousness closely associated
with this energy in, around and above us,—above, that is to say, the level of
our ordinary mind status,—giving all the substance and shaping all the forms of
our will and knowledge and of the psychic element in our impulses and emotions.
This mind force can be made to act upon the pranic energy and can impose upon
it the influence, colour, shape, character, direction of our ideas, our
knowledge, our more enlightened volition and thus more effectively bring our
life and vital being into harmony with our higher powers of being, ideals and
spiritual aspirations. In our ordinary state these two, the mental and the
pranic being and energies, are very much mixed up and run into each other, and
we are not able clearly to distinguish them or get a full hold of the one on
the other and so control effectively the lower by the higher and more
understanding principle. But when we take our station above the physical mind,
we are able then to separate clearly the two forms of energy, the two levels of
our being, disentangle their action and act with a clearer and more potent
self-knowledge and an enlightened and a purer will-power. Nevertheless the
control is not complete, spontaneous, sovereign so long as we work with the
mind as our chief guiding and controlling force. The mental energy we find to
be itself derivative, a lower and limiting power of the conscious spirit which
acts only by isolated and combined seeings, imperfect and incomplete
half-lights which we take for full and adequate light, and with a disparity
between the idea and knowledge and the effective will-power. And we are aware
soon of a far higher power of the Spirit and its Shakti concealed or above,
superconscient to mind or partially acting through the mind, of which all this
is an inferior derivation.
(The Synthesis of Yoga:
The Divine Shakti)
Man fulfilling himself in the body is given Hathayoga as his means. When he rises above the body, he abandons Hathayoga as a troublesome and inferior process and rises to the Rajayoga, the discipline peculiar to the aeon in which man now evolves. The first condition of success in Rajayoga is to rise superior to the dehatmak bodh, the state of perception in which the body is identified with the self. A time comes to the Rajayogin when his body seems not to belong to him or he to have any concern with it. He is not troubled by its troubles or gladdened by its pleasures; it has them to itself and very soon, because he does not give his sanction to them, they fall away from it. His own troubles and pleasures are in the heart and mind, for he is the rajasic and psychical man, not the tamasic material. It is these that he has to conquer in order that he may realise God in his heart or in his buddhi or in both. God seen in the heart, that is the quest of the Rajayogin. He may recover the perception and enjoyment of the body afterwards, but it is only to help the enjoyment of God as Love and God as Knowledge.The processes of the Rajayoga are mental and emotional…..
It is difficult, though not
impossible, to do the practice of Pranayam according to Patanjali’s system
without perfect bodily stillness. It can be done and has been done even while
walking about, but this is not so easy or usual. Now Pranayam in its proper
sense, the mastery of the vital force in oneself and Nature, is essential to
every Rajayogin, but it can be brought about by much simpler methods. The only
physical process that the Rajayogin finds helpful enough to be worth doing, is nadishuddhi
or purification of
the nerve system by regular breathing and this can be done while lying,
sitting, reading, writing, walking. This process has great virtues. It has a
wonderfully calming effect on the whole mind & body, drives out every
lurking disease in the system, awakens the yogic force accumulated in former
lives and, even where no such latent force exists, removes the physical
obstacles to the wakening of the Kundalini shakti.
But even this process is not
essential. The Rajayogin knows that by tranquillising the mind he can
tranquillise the body, by mastering the mind he can master both the body and
the prana. This is the great secret of the Rajayoga that mind is the master of
the body, creates it and conditions it, body is not the master, creator or
lawgiver of the mind. It may be said that the body at least affects the mind,
but this is the other discovery of the Rajayogin that the body need not in the
least affect the mind unless by our consent we allow it to do
so. The kumbhak or
natural cessation of the breathing is essential to the deeper kinds of Samadhi,
not to all; but even so he finds that by the cessation of the lawless
restlessness of the mind, which we mistakenly call thought, we can easily,
naturally and spontaneously bring about the cessation of the breathing, a calm,
effortless and perfect kumbhak. He therefore dispenses with physical processes,
easy or laborious, and goes straight to the root of the problem, the mind.
From Early Cultural Writings
Words of the Mother
But for us who want an integral realization, are all
these mantras and this daily japa really a help, or do they also shut us in?
It gives discipline. It’s an almost subconscious
discipline of the character more than of thought.
Especially at the beginning, Sri Aurobindo used to
shatter to pieces all moral ideas (you know, as in the Aphorisms, for
example). He shattered all those things, he shattered them, really shattered
them to pieces. So there’s a whole
group of youngsters’ here who were brought up with this idea that ‘we
can do whatever we want, it doesn’t matter in the least!’ – that they need not
bother about all those concepts of ordinary morality. I’ve had a hard time
making them understand that this morality can be abandoned only for a higher
one ... So, one has to be careful not to give them the Power too soon.
It’s an almost physical discipline.
Moreover, I have seen that the japa has an organizing effect on the
subconscient, on the inconscient, on matter, on the body’s cells – it takes
time, but by persistently repeating it, in the long run it has an effect. It is
the same principle as doing daily exercises on the piano, for example. You keep
mechanically repeating them, and in the end your hands are filled with
consciousness – it fills the body with consciousness….
Are you doing it without instructions?
There's a traditional way of doing it, I know the formula.
How does it go?
The time varies. You inhale through the left nostril for
let's say 4 seconds, then you hold your breath for 16 seconds, raising the
diaphragm and closing all the openings; after 16 seconds you exhale for 8
seconds through the other nostril.
Are these the "official"
Yes; I mean that's the proportion: inhale 4, hold 16, exhale
It has to be double the exhalation. If you do 8, then it's
I did it myself for years, using the
same system: inhale, hold, exhale, remain empty. But holding the lungs empty is
said to be dangerous, so I don't advise it. I did it for years. Without knowing
it, Sri Aurobindo and I did it nearly the same way, along with all sorts of
other things that aren't supposed to be done! This is to tell you that the
danger is mainly in what you think. In the course of certain movements, both of
us made the air go out through the crown of the head – apparently that's only
to be done when you want to die! (Mother laughs) It didn't kill us.
No, the "danger" is MAINLY
a thought formation.
You can achieve excellent control of
the heart. But I never practiced it violently, never strained myself. I think
holding for 16 is too long. I used to do it simply like this: breathe in very
slowly to the count of 4, then hold for 4 like this (I still have the knack of
it!), lifting the diaphragm and lowering the head56 (Mother bends her neck),
closing everything and exerting pressure (this is an almost instantaneous
cure for hiccups – it's handy!). Then while I held the air, I would make it
circulate with the force (because it contained force, you see) and with the
peace as well; and I would concentrate it wherever there was a physical
disorder (a pain or something wrong somewhere). It's very effective. The way I
did it was: inhale, hold, exhale and empty – you are completely empty. It's
very useful; very handy for underwater swimmers, for instance!
I had trouble breathing in slowly
enough – that's a bit hard. I began with 4 and eventually managed to do 12. I
did 12-12-12-12. It took me months to reach that, it can't be done quickly. To
breathe in very slowly and hold all that air isn't easy.
No, it's not at all dangerous, at
least if you don't overdo it. If you do it simply.... I think some people
practice pranayama with the idea of gaining "powers." That idea of
gaining powers fouls it up more than anything. But if you do it simply as a
help to your progress, there's no danger.
At any rate, Sri Aurobindo and I
both did a lot of things considered dangerous, and absolutely nothing happened
to us. Not that it's necessary to do dangerous things, but nothing happened to
us, so it all depends on how you do them.
But instead of doing equal amounts
of time, it might be better to do less for inhaling and more for holding the
breath. The holding part is extremely interesting! When the air is inside,
let's say you have a headache or a sore throat or a pain in your arm, anything
– then you take the air ... (Mother demonstrates) and direct it to the
unwell part ... very, very helpful and pleasant and interesting. You see the
force go to the spot, settle in and stay there, all sorts of things.
I do my japa in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.
You can lie down on a mat, look at a flower or a
patch of sky if there's any to see …..And if you do your pranayama along with
this "relaxation" you will notice yourself growing extremely strong –
storing, storing, storing up energies. And then if you have to make an effort,
there's nothing to it – it's as easy as pie.