Sri Aurobindo: A journey into his life divine (part 2)

This article first appeared in Light of Consciousness magazine, and is reprinted with permission.
Part one (section one and two) appeared in the Fall 1996 issue of Collaboration.


by Vishnu Eschner 
When Sri Aurobindo had first taken up yoga, it was with 
 the idea of obtaining Divine guidance and a spiritual force 
for the political work. By the time he reached Pondicherry, his inner 
realization had taken on a scope which went far beyond the emancipation of 
one country and was instead world-wide, concerned with the future of all of 
humanity. He went into complete retirement in Pondicherry, curbed his 
affiliation with the political life and even refused several times to 
accept the Presidentship of the National Congress. 

Letters written to young disciples in 1911 and 1912 state that the yoga 
practice he embarked upon is not for attaining personal salvation or 
escaping from the world, but for "the work of changing the world." He named 
India as the center for the return of the Age of Truth, Satya Yuga, through 
the reemergence of the Sanatana Dharma-the eternal path of Righteousness. 
He sought establish a Yogic Sadhana which will not only liberate the 
soul, but prepare a perfect humanity. ...But what we propose just now is not 
to make the earth a supramental world but to bring down the supramental as 
a power and established consciousness in the midst of the rest-to let it 
work there and fulfill itself as Mind descended into Life and matter and 
has worked as a power there to fulfill itself in the midst of the rest. 
This will be enough to change the world and to change Nature by breaking 
down her present limits... 
Te have before us daily evidence of a transformation which seems to be 
acting upon the very material of our civilization, a power working from 
inside and from without, shattering the frail constructs of society and 
government, and even testing the limits of nature. We hear of the breakdown 
of governments, worldwide chaos, record storms and fires and floods, of 
random violence, organized warfare, and the eroding of the once robust 
values encoded in custom and tradition. At the same time we hear of the 
massive new-age quest for spirituality and alternatives to the status quo, 
of a crusade to imbue our institutions with a newer, high-minded ethic. It 
may be that we are experiencing the descent into the world of a force that 
humankind in its present state is generally unprepared or unequipped to 
deal with. 

The descent of Truth-Consciousness, which Sri Aurobindo called "supramental 
descent," was foreseen by him as the next step in humanity's evolution. He 
was not referring to Darwinian evolution in which the struggle for life is 
worked out by the mechanical circumstances of the world. With patient 
logic, he makes clear in his work The Life Divine that the force which 
drives evolution responds differently to the environment in different 
creatures; that the numerous species can be seen to express alterations or 
adjustments of the same original seed. He reveals the presence of a 
conscious Force, playing with and developing its own Idea-" . . . from 
matter into life, from life into mind, from the mind into the spirit." 

The One Being and Consciousness is involved here in Matter. 
Evolution is the method by which it liberates itself, consciousness appears 
in what seems to be inconscient, and once having appeared is self-impelled 
to grow higher and higher and at the same time to enlarge and develop 
towards a greater and greater perfection. Life is the first step of this 
release of consciousness; mind is the second; but the evolution does not 
finish with mind, it awaits a release into something greater, a 
consciousness which is spiritual and supramental. 

Evolution is nothing but the progressive unfolding of Spirit out of 
the density of material consciousness and the gradual self-revelation of 
God out of this apparent animal being. 

The supramental light of which Sri Aurobindo wrote has 
existed from the beginning as a realm of creation: "a dynamic 
Truth-Consciousness which is not there yet, something to be brought down 
from above." But unlike the physical, vital, and mental worlds in which we 
move, it has the complete Truth and does not partake of ignorance. It is 
The next step of the evolution must be towards the development of 
Supermind and Spirit as the dominant power in the conscious being, For only 
then will the involved Divinity in things release itself entirely and it 
become possible for the life to manifest perfection. 
The character of this supramental nature is a recognition and an experience 
of the oneness of the cosmos, through the power of Love. 
 It must come by a fourth status of life in which the eternal unity 
of the many is realized through the spiritŠ 
Like Darwin's ape, who could not conceive of or imagine that he would 
evolve into man, the human mind, ignorant and limited by nature, cannot of 
itself discern the Truth-Consciousness which enfolds it. It cannot fathom 
the supramental principle or its infusion into Mind, Life and Matter. 
Evolution is usually a sluggish, methodical and difficult process, 
requiring ages to achieve a minute transformation. But human beings are 
unique in the creation. We can bring this process into the light. 
Individually, we may enhance or assist the evolution, and even cooperate 
with the descent of the Truth-Consciousness through the supramental yoga or 
other methods to purify the heart and mind. 

Tor four years in Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo lived an ascetic life, 
completely absorbed in the sadhana, rarely leaving his residence. By 1914, 
the year World War I began, a young woman arrived in Pondicherry. Born 
Mirra Alfassa on February 21, 1878, she had lived a silent and 
introspective life since childhood, showing a penetrating detachment from 
things of the world. In Paris, she had been the center of a group of 
spiritual seekers. Independently, her aspiration had developed along a 
similar thread as Sri Aurobindo's. Her writings in 1912, before their 
meeting, echo his concept of evolution: 

The general aim to be attained is the advent of a progressive universal 
harmonyŠ The means for attaining this aim, in regard to the earth, is the 
realization of human unity through the awakening in all and the 
manifestation by all of the inner Divinity which is one. 
She met Sri Aurobindo for the first time and immediately recognized him as 
the master who for many years had been inwardly guiding her spiritual 
development. Later she would be known and adored by her thousands of 
spiritual children as the Mother, the Divine Mother in manifestation. Sri 
Aurobindo recalled of their meeting, "That was the first time I knew that 
perfect surrender down to the last physical cell was humanly possible; it 
was when the Mother came and bowed down that I saw that perfect surrender 
in action." 

Mirra and her husband Paul Richard collaborated with Sri Aurobindo to start 
a philosophical monthly, the Arya. In the six years it existed, the Arya 
published most of Sri Aurobindo's important works, comprising the inner 
knowledge that had come to him in his practice of yoga: The Life Divine, 
The Synthesis of Yoga, Essays on the Gita, The Isha Upanishad, and The 
Secret of the Veda, as well as political and literary works. The 
Foundations of Indian Culture, The Human Cycle, The Future Poetry, and The 
Ideal of Human Unity first appeared there in serial form along with much of 
his poetry. Because of the war, the Mother returned to France after 11 
months in Pondicherry, and later lived nearly four years in Japan. On April 
24, 1920, she returned to Pondicherry and resumed her collaboration with 
Sri Aurobindo. She remained in India the rest of her life. When she 
returned, a handful of disciples had gathered around Sri Aurobindo. Slowly, 
more and more came to follow his spiritual path, leaving everything behind 
for a new birth into a life of yoga. 

Sri Aurobindo withdrew into deeper seclusion in 1926, and in November of 
that year commended the entire safekeeping and spiritual care of the 
disciples to the Mother. He maintained correspondence with disciples from 
1930 to 1938. After 1938, Mother was his only link with the world. 
During nearly 50 years of the Mother's attentive and patient guidance, the 
informal group of sadhaks (seekers) grew into a diverse community which 
became the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, presently consisting of about 2,000 
people. The Mother's unique role in bringing Sri Aurobindo's vision into 
concrete form can be understood from Sri Aurobindo's words: "The Mother's 
consciousness and mine are the same, the one Divine Consciousness in two, 
because that is necessary for the play." One facet of the miracle of their 
working is that within the thousands of transcribed words of both Sri 
Aurobindo and the Mother-recorded spontaneously and independently over 
decades of growth and progress-nowhere do we find a contradiction between 
them, either in the broad philosophy of the yoga or in practical details. 
Among the extensive volumes written by Sri Aurobindo, is a small book 
called The Mother. Contained simply and clearly in its forty-one pages are 
the seeds, perhaps, of his Integral Yoga: 

In all that is done in the universe, the Divine through his Shakti is 
behind all action but he is veiled by his Yoga Maya and works through the 
ego of the Jiva in the lower nature. 

What did I find in Pondicherry to answer my questions on Yoga? 

* * *
Live always as if you were under the very eye of the Supreme and of the 
Divine Mother. Do nothing, try to think and feel nothing that would be 
unworthy of the Divine Presence. 
* * *
. . . find the presence of the Divine Mother within and the psychic behind 
the heart and from there the knowledge will come and all the power to 
dissolve the inner obstacles. 
* * *
You have to learn to go inward, ceasing to live in external things only, 
quiet the mind and aspire to become aware of the Mother's workings in you. 
* * *
I had been mistaken, I was trying to do the yoga myself. I learned that it 
is She who must do it. 
* * *
O Savitri, I am thy secret soul 
I have come down to the wounded desolate earth 
To heal her pangs and lull her heart to rest 
And lay her head upon the Mother's lap 
That she may dream of God and know his peace 
And draw the harmony of higher spheres 
Into the rhythm of earth's rude troubled days. 
   -Savitri VII.4 
With gratitude to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry, for the kind 
permission to quote passages from the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the 

Vishnu Eschner is a resident of Sri Aurobindo Sadhana Peetham in Lodi, 
California, and  president of the Sri Aurobindo Association. He most 
recently visited Pondicherry in fall 1994.  For a complete list of sources 
for the quotations in this article, write to him at the Sri Aurobindo 
Sadhana Peetham, 2621 W. Highway 12, Lodi, CA 95242 

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