Meditations on the human journey, Part 2 (ctd.)

This is the first half of Part 2. The first half is here.



C.V. Devan Nair

Whatever level above the mind we can ascend to is proportionate to the descent we can safely make into the regions below our surface mind. To descend even deeper we need to ascend even higher above. Those who rashly attempt a precipitate descent without the necessary preparation risk becoming dangerously unhinged and cast into stark raving madness. Several such lapses are recorded in the history of the spiritual journey. We would do well to heed Sri Aurobindo's precautionary words in an essay titled "The Way":

First be sure of the call and of thy soul's answer. For if the call is not true, not the touch of God's powers or the voice of his messengers, but the lure of thy ego, the end of thy endeavor will be a poor spiritual fiasco or else a deep disaster.

And if not the soul's fervor, but only the mind's assent or interest replies to the divine summons or only the lower life's desire clutches at some side attraction of the fruits of Yoga-power or Yoga-pleasure or only a transient emotion leaps like an unsteady flame moved by the intensity of the Voice or its sweetness or grandeur, then too there can be little surety for thee in the difficult path of Yoga.

The outer instruments of mortal man have no force to carry him through the severe ardors of this spiritual journey and Titanic inner battle or to meet its terrible or obstinate inner ordeals or nerve him to face and overcome its subtle and formidable dangers. Only his spirit's august and steadfast will and the quenchless fire of his soul's invincible ardor are sufficient for this difficult transformation and this high improbable endeavor.

Imagine not the way is easy; the way is long, arduous, dangerous, difficult. At every step is an ambush, at every turn a pitfall. A thousand seen or unseen enemies will start up against thee, terrible in subtlety against thy ignorance, formidable in power against thy weakness. And when with pain thou hast destroyed them, other thousands will surge up to take their place. Hell will vomit its hordes to oppose and enring and wound and menace; Heaven will meet thee with its pitiless tests and its cold luminous denials.

Thou shalt find thyself alone in thy anguish, the demons furious in thy path, the Gods unwilling above thee. Ancient and powerful, cruel, unvanquished and close and innumerable are the dark and dreadful Powers that profit by the reign of Night and Ignorance and would have no change and are hostile.

Aloof, slow to arrive, far-off and few and brief in their visits are the Bright Ones who are willing or permitted to succour. Each step forward is a battle. There are precipitous descents, there are unending ascensions and ever higher peaks upon peaks to conquer. Each plateau climbed is but a stage on the way and reveals endless heights beyond it. Each victory thou thinkest the last triumphant struggle proves to be but the prelude to a hundred fierce and perilous battles . . .

But thou sayst God's hands will be with me and the Divine Mother near with her gracious smile of succour? And thou knowst not then that God's Grace is more difficult to have or to keep than the nectar of the Immortals or Kuvera's priceless treasures? Ask of his chosen and they will tell thee how often the Eternal has covered his face from them, how often he has withdrawn from them behind his mysterious veil and they have found themselves alone in the grip of Hell, solitary in the horror of the darkness, naked and defenseless in the anguish of the battle.

And if his presence is felt behind the veil, yet it is like the winter sun behind clouds and saves not from the rain and snow and the calamitous storm and the harsh wind and the bitter cold and the atmosphere of a sorrowful grey and the dun weary dullness. Doubtless the help is there even when it seems to be withdrawn, but still is there the appearance of total night with no sun to come and no star of hope to please in the darkness.

Beautiful is the face of the Divine Mother, but she too can be hard and terrible. Nay, then, is immortality a plaything to be given lightly to a child, or the divine life a prize without effort or the crown for a weakling? Strive rightly and thou shalt have; trust and thy trust shall in the end be justified; but the dread Law of the Way is there and none can abrogate it.


Our safest course would be to tread what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother called the sunlit path which involves the primary discovery of the truth of our own beings, the psychic being or soul. During a personal darshan some three years before Mother left her physical body, I took the opportunity to ask her blessing to enable me to achieve the highest supramental consciousness. I also asked how I could collaborate in her work.

Her response: "In the individual, it is the psychic that represents the Divine. Find it and unite with it." Then, in her infinite compassion, she handed me a card with a mantra inscribed on it, and a blessing packet, saying: "This flower is of the Divine Love." And, as I knelt before her, She laid her hands of power on my benighted head and blessed me.

There are revealing references in Savitri to the true person in each one of us--the psychic being or soul. I quote one of them:

    Ourself and a high stranger whom we feel,
    It is and acts unseen as if it were not;
    It follows the line of sempiternal birth,
    Yet seems to perish with its mortal frame.
    Assured of the Apocalypse to be,
    It reckons not the moments and the hours;
    Great, patient, calm it sees the centuries pass,
    Awaiting the slow miracle of our change
    In the sure deliberate process of world-force
    And the long march of all-revealing Time.

    Always we bear in us a magic key
    Concealed in life's hermetic envelope.
    A burning witness in the sanctuary
    Regards through Time and the blind walls of Form;
    A timeless light is in his hidden eyes;
    He sees the secret things no words can speak
    And knows the goal of the unconscious world
    And the heart of the mystery of the journeying years.

With the discovery of the psychic being, and the mental and vital psychization that follow, we can safely begin our spiritual journey, for the psychic can unerringly sift the wheat from the chaff, distinguish the genuine from the spurious, the beneficent from the baneful, true spiritual experience from vital-theater. We cannot deal today with the other ascending and descending grades of the journey. We might merely state this. Following the psychic transformation of our being comes the spiritual transformation. Exceeding, yet inexplicably including both, comes the ascent to the supramental, followed by the descent into what Sri Aurobindo called "the bottomless pit" where he had walked. He tells us in "A God's Labour":

    On a desperate stair my feet have trod
    Armoured with boundless peace,
    Bringing the fires of the splendour of God
    Into the human abyss.

And he concludes the poem with two verses:

    A little more and the new life's doors
    Shall be carved in silver light
    With its aureate roof and mosaic floors
    In a great world bare and bright.

    I shall leave my dreams in their argent air,
    For in a raiment of gold and blue
    There shall move on the earth embodied and fair
    The living truth of you.

The superhuman labors of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and particularly the descent of the supramental force into the earth's subtle physical atmosphere on February 29, 1956, announced by the Mother, certainly make our own labors less onerous, but by no means render them unnecessary. Nor do they annul the ordeals of the spiritual seeker. But we can confidently overcome the ordeals if we consciously carry within us God's deathless light.

Neither Sri Aurobindo nor the Mother give any specific method or path to arrive at the goal of their yoga, for the good reason that each person has his or her own window on Deity. All they required was the discovery by each seeker of the hidden truth of his or her own being--the soul or psychic being. By any path chosen, said Sri Aurobindo. That's of no importance whatever, added the Mother. But a silent mind and purified vital are necessary preparations. Said Sri Aurobindo:

Cease inwardly from thought and word, be motionless within you, look upward into the light and outward into the vast cosmic consciousness that is around you. Be more and more one with the brightness and the vastness. Then will Truth dawn on you from above and flow in you from all around you.

It was the psychic influence, in the first place, that awakened the spiritual call in us. We feels its influence, for instance, in that sudden leap of joy within when we hear, see, or read something ablaze with a radiant revelatory beauty and power. But mostly, it is a game of hide and seek. We don't want the psychic hidden behind the scenes. We want it out in front to lead our mental, vital, and physical lives. Only then can the tremendous adventure of consciousness begin. Two magnificent sentences in Sri Aurobindo's Life Divine, which exercised a powerful influence in my own journey into the Great Unknown, read as follo ws:

The ascent to the divine Life is the human journey, the Work of works, the acceptable Sacrifice. This alone is Man's real business in the world and the justification of his existence, without which he would be only an insect crawling among other ephemeral insects on a speck of surface mud and water which has managed to form itself amid the appalling immensities of the physical universe.

What was this tremendous being we call Sri Aurobindo like? Nobody knows. He merely told a disciple, "My life has not been on the surface for men to see." Those who had the exceptional privilege of having had his darshan can only speak in superlatives. We know that the Mother prostrated herself before him. We know that his very name was like a mantra for her. She told us that the powerful silence that emanated from him blocked a cyclone from entering his room, even though his windows were wide open. On another occasion she said, "I saw him supramental on his bed."

To conclude, let me take you back to the celebration by the inmates of the Ashram of August 15 in the year 1924, as recorded by a hard-headed revolutionary disciple of Sri Aurobindo, the late A.B. Purani:

Who can describe this day? Nothing can be added by the colors of imagination, poetic similes, and loaded epithets. It is enough to say, "It was the 15th of August." No other day can come up to it in the depth and intensity of spiritual action, the ascending movement of the flood of emotions, and the way in which each individual here was bathing in the atmosphere.

From early morning the Ashram is humming with various activities: decoration, flowers, garlands, food, bath, etc. All are eager to go up to the Master for his Darshan. As the time passes there is a tide in the flood of rising emotion. It is "Darshan"--we see him every day, but today it is "Darshan"! Today each sees him individually, one after another. In the midst of these multiple activities the consciousness gets concentrated. Today is "Darshan"--not of a human being but of some Supreme Divinity. Today is the rare chance of seeing the Divine.

There he sits--in the royal chair in the verandah--royal and majestic. In the very posture there is divine self-confidence. In the heart of the Supreme Master, the great Yogin--a sea of emotions is heaving--is it a flood that mounts from or a flood that is coming down on humanity? Those alone who have experienced it can know something of its divinity. Those who have bathed in it once can never come out of that ocean.

He sits there --with pink and white lotus garlands. It is the small flower-token of the offerings by the disciples. Hearts throb, prayers, requests, emotions pour forth--and a flood of blessings pours down carrying all of them away in its speed. Lack of faith, doubts get assurance. All human needs the Divine fulfills and, after fulfilling, his grace overflows. Love and grace flow on undiminished. The look!--the enrapturing and captivating eyes! Who can ever forget?--pouring love and grace and ineffable divinity. If some transcendent Divinity is not here where else can he be?

But all this is before Darshan. As one actually stands in front all curiosity, all pride, all thoughts, all questions, all resolutions are swept away in some terrific divine Niagara. Thou embodiment of love Supreme! what transparency! In the heart of the Supreme Master also, an ocean of emotion is heaving. The heart melts and falls at his feet without knowing, it surrenders itself! Where is here a place for speech! There is only one speech--the language of the body and its flexion that of the prostration of the body in the act of surrender, throbbing of the heart and that of the flow of tears from the eyes! What a peace pregnant with divinity! What a beauty of this experience!

Knowledge is laid on the shelf--and it is all a flood of love. Today the soul has received the certitude of the Divine's victory as it had never done before.

We also have the Mother's declaration: "What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world's history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; It is a decisive action direct from the Supreme."

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