தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Sathyam - Truth is a Pathless Land > Unfolding Consciousness > Relevance of Aurobindo > Evening Talks with Aurobindo

Evening Talks with Aurobindo
Recorded by A. B. Purani 

1938-1950

The reader is requested to note that Sri Aurobindo is not responsible for these records as he had no opportunity to see them. So, it is not as if Sri Aurobindo said exactly these things but that I remember him to have said them. All I can say is that I have tried to be as faithful in recording them as I was humanly capable. That does not minimize my personal responsibility which I fully accept. A. B. Purani

Names of participants in the evening talks from 1938-1950: 1. Nirod Baran 2. Champaklal 3. Satyendra Thakore 4. Mulshankar 5. A. B. Purani 6. Becharlal  Occasional Participants: 1. Dr. Manilal Parikh 2. Dr. Srinivas Rao 3. Dr. Savoor

bullet Introduction bullet 10 December 1938 bullet 11 December 1938
bullet 13 December 1938 bullet 14 December 1938

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Introduction

I

The question which Arjuna asks Sri Krishna in the Gita (2nd Chap.) occurs pertinently to many about all spiritual personalities: "What is the language of one whose understanding is poised? How does he speak, how sit, how walk?"

Men want to know the outer signs of the inner attainment,--the way in which a spiritual person differs outwardly from other men. But all the tests which the Gita enumerates are inner and therefore invisible to the outer view. It is true also that the inner or the spiritual is the essential and the outer derives its value and form from the inner. But the transformation about which Sri Aurobindo writes in his books has to take place in nature. So, all the parts of nature--including the physical and the external--are to be transformed. In his own case the very physical became the transparent mould of the Spirit as a result of his intense Sadhana. This is borne out by the impression created on the minds of sensitive outsiders like Sj. K. M. Munshi who was deeply impressed by his radiating presence when he met him after nearly forty years.

The Evening-Talks collected here may afford to the outside world a glimpse of its richness, its many-sidedness, its uniqueness. One can also form some notion of Sri Aurobindo's personality from the books in which the height, the universal sweep and clear vision of his integral ideal and thought can be seen.

His writings are, in a sense, the best representative of his mental personality. The versatile nature of his genius, the penetrating power of his intellect, his extraordinary power of expression, his intense sincerity, his utter singleness of purpose--all these can be easily felt by any earnest student of his works. He may discover even in the realm of mind that Sri Aurobindo brings the unlimited into the limited. Another side of his dynamic personality is represented by the Ashram as an institution.

But the outer, if one may use the phrase, the human side of his personality, is unknown to the outside world because from 1910 to 1950--a span of forty years--he had led a life of outer retirement.

No doubt, many knew about his staying at Pondicherry and practicing some kind of very special yoga to the mystery of which they had no access. To some, perhaps, he was living a life of enviable solitude enjoying the luxury of spiritual endeavour. Many regretted his retirement as a great loss to the world because they could not see any external activity on his part which could be regarded as "public", "altruistic" or "beneficial." Even some of his admirers thought that he was after some kind of personal salvation which would have very little significance for mankind in general. His outward non-participation in public life was construed by many as lack of love for humanity.

But those who knew him during the days of the national awakening--from 1900 to 1910--could not have these doubts. And even these initial misunderstandings and false notions of others began to evaporate with the growth of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram from 1927 onwards. The large number of books published by the Ashram also tended to remove the idea of the other-worldliness of his yoga and the absence of any good by it to mankind.

This period of outer retirement was one of intense Sadhana and of intellectual activity--it was also one during which he acted on external events,--though he was not dedicated outwardly to a public cause. About his own retirement he writes, "But this did not mean, as most people supposed, that he (Sri Aurobindo) had retired into some height of spiritual experience devoid of any further interest in the world or in life. It could not mean that, for the very principle of his yoga is not only to realize the Divine and attain to a complete spiritual consciousness, but also to take all life and all world-activity into the scope of this Spiritual Consciousness and action and to base life on the Spirit and give it a spiritual meaning.

In his retirement Sri Aurobindo kept a close watch on all that was happening in the world and in India and actively intervened, whenever necessary, but solely with a spiritual Force and silent spiritual action; for it is part of the experience of those who have advanced in yoga that, besides the ordinary forces and activities of the mind and life and body in Matter, there are other forces and powers that can and do act from behind and from above; there is also a spiritual dynamic Power which can be possessed by those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness,--though all do not care to possess, or possessing, to use it, and this Power is greater than any other and more effective. It was this force which Sri Aurobindo used at first only in a limited field of personal work, but afterwards, in a constant action upon the world forces.

Twice he found it necessary to go out of his way to make public pronouncements on important world-issues, which shows distinctly that renunciation of life is not a part of his yoga. "The first was in relation to the second world-war. At the beginning he did not actively concern himself with it, but when it appeared as if Hitler would crush all the forces opposed to him and Nazism dominate the world, he began to intervene."

The second was with regard to Sir Stafford Cripps' proposal for the transfer of power to India.

Over and above Sadhana, writing-work and rendering spiritual help to the world during his apparent retirement there were plenty of other activities of which the outside world has no knowledge. Many prominent as well as less known persons sought and obtained interviews with him during these years. Thus, among the well-known persons may be mentioned C. R. Das, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sarala Devi, Dr. Munje, Khasirao Jadhava, Tagore Sylvain Levy.

The great national poet of Tamilnad, Subramania Bharathi, was in contact with Sri Aurobindo for some years during his stay at Pondicherry; so was V. V. S. Aiyar. The famous V. Ramaswamy Aiyangar--Va. Ra. of Tamil literature--stayed with Sri Aurobindo for nearly three years and was influenced by him. Some of these facts have been already mentioned in "A Life of Sri Aurobindo."

Jung has admitted that there is an element of mystery, something that baffles the reason, in human personality. One finds that the greater the personality the greater is the complexity. And this is especially so with regard to spiritual personalities, what the Gita calls "Vibhutis" and "Avatars."

Sri Aurobindo has explained the mystery of personality in some of his writings. Ordinarily by a personality we mean something which can be described as "a pattern of being marked out by a settled combination of fixed qualities, a determined character." In one view personality is regarded as a fixed structure of recognizable qualities expressing a power of being;" another idea regards "personality as a flux of self-expressive or sensitive and responsive being." "But flux of nature and fixity of nature--which some call character--are two aspects of being, neither of which, nor indeed both together, can be a definition of personality."

Besides this flux and this fixity there is also a third and occult element, the Person behind of whom the personality is a self-expression; the Person puts forward the personality as his role, character, persona, in the present act of his long drama of manifested existence. But the Person is larger than his personality, and it may happen that this inner largeness overflows into the surface formation; the result is a self-expression of being which can no longer be described by fixed qualities, normalities of mood, exact lineaments, or marked out structural limits."

The gospel of the Supermind which Sri Aurobindo brought to man envisages a new level of consciousness beyond Mind. When this level is attained it imposes a complete and radical reintegration of the human personality. Sri Aurobindo was not merely the exponent but the embodiment of the new, dynamic truth of the Supermind. While exploring and sounding the tremendous possibilities of human personality in his intense spiritual sadhana, he has shown us that practically there are no limits to its expansion and ascent. It can reach in its growth what appears to man at present as a "divine" status. It goes without saying that this attainment is not an easy task; there are conditions to be fulfilled for the transformation from the human to the divine.

The Gita in its chapters on the Vibhuti and the Avatar takes in general the same position. It shows that the present formula of our nature, and therefore the mental personality of man, is not final. A Vibhuti embodies in a human manifestation a certain divine quality and thus demonstrates the possibility of over coming the limits of ordinary human personality. The Vibhuti,--the embodiment of a divine quality or power,--and the Avatar--the divine incarnation--are not to be looked upon as supraphysical miracles thrown at humanity without regard to the process of evolution; they are, in fact, indications of human possibility, a sign that points to the goal of evolution.

In his Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo says about the Avatar:

"He may on the other hand descend as an incarnation of divine life, the divine personality and power in its characteristic action, for a mission ostensibly social, ethical and political, as is represented in the story of Rama and Krishna; but always then his descent becomes in the soul of the race a permanent power for the inner and Spiritual rebirth."

"He comes as the divine power and love which calls men to itself, so that they may take refuge in that and no longer in the insufficiency of their human wills and the strife of their human fear, wrath and passion, and liberated from all the unquiet and suffering may live in the calm and bliss of the Divine."

"The Avatar comes to reveal the divine nature in men above their lower nature and to show what are the divine works, free, unegoistic, disinterested, impersonal, universal, full of the divine light, the divine power and the divine loves. He comes as a divine personality, which shall fill the consciousness of the human being, to replace the limited egoistic personality, so that it shall be liberated out of ego into infinity and universality, out of birth into immortality,"

It is clear that Sri Aurobindo interpreted the traditional idea of the Vibhuti and the Avatar in terms of the evolutionary possibilities of man. But more directly he has worked out the idea of the "gnostic individual" in his masterpiece The Life Divine. He says: "A Supramental gnostic individual will be a Spiritual Person, but not a personality, in the sense of a pattern of being marked out by a settled combination of fixed qualities, a determined character; he cannot be that since he is a conscious expression of the Universal and the Transcendent." Describing the gnostic individual he says: "we feel ourselves in the presence of a light of consciousness, a potency, a sea of energy, can distinguish and describe its free waves of action and quality, but not fix itself; and yet there is an impression of Personality the presence of a powerful being, a strong, high or beautiful recognizable Someone, a Person, not a limited creature of Nature but a Self or Soul a Purusha."

One feels that he was describing the feeling of some of us--his disciples--with regard to him in his inimitable way.

This transformation of the human personality into the Divine--perhaps even the mere connection of the human with the Divine--is probably regarded as a chimera by the modern mind. To the modern mind it would appear as the apotheosis of a human personality which is against its idea of equality of men. Its difficulty is partly due to the notion that the Divine is unlimited and illimitable while a "personality", however high and grand, seems to demand imposition, or assumption, of limitation. In this connection Sri Aurobindo said during an Evening Talk: "No human manifestation can be illimitable and unlimited but the manifestation in the limited should reflect the unlimited, the "Transcendent Beyond." (28-4-1923)

This possibility of the human touching and manifesting the Divine has been realized during the course of human history whenever a great spiritual Light has appeared on earth. One of the purposes of this book is to show how Sri Aurobindo himself reflected the unlimited Beyond in his own self.

Greatness is magnetic and in a sense contagious. Whenever manifested, greatness is claimed by humanity as something that reveals the possibility of the race. The highest quality of greatness is not merely to attract us but to inspire us to follow it and rise to our own highest spiritual stature. To the majority of men Truth remains abstract, impersonal and far unless it is seen and felt concretely in a human personality. A man never knows a truth actively except through a person and by embodying it in his personality. Some glimpse of the Truth-Consciousness which Sri Aurobindo embodied may be caught in these Evening Talks.

II

Guru griha vasa--"staying in the home of the Guru"--is a very old Indian ideal maintained by seekers through the ages.

The Aranyakas--"the ancient teachings in the forest groves"--are perhaps the oldest records of the institution. It was not for "education" in the modern sense of the term that men went to live with the Guru; for the Guru is not a "teacher". The Guru is one who is "enlightened," who is a seer, a Rishi, one who has the vision of and has lived the Truth. He has, thus, the knowledge of the goal of human life and has learnt true values in life by living the truth. He can impart both these to the willing seeker. In ancient times seekers went to the Guru with many questions, difficulties and doubts but also with earnestness. Their questions were preliminary to the quest.

The Master the Guru, set at rest the puzzled human mind by his illuminating answers, perhaps even more by his silent consciousness, so that it might be able to pursue unhampered the path of realization of the Truth. Those ancient discourses answer the mind of man to-day even across the ages. They have rightly acquired--as everything of the past does--a certain sanctity. But sometimes that very reverence prevents men from properly evaluating, and living in, the present. This happens when the mind instead of seeking the Spirit looks at the form. For instance, it is not necessary for such discourses that they take place in forest groves in order to be highly spiritual. Wherever the Master is, there is Light And Gura griha--the house of the Master--can be his private dwelling place.

So much was this feeling a part of Sri Aurobindo's nature and so particular was he to maintain the personal character of his work that during the first few years--after 1923--he did not like his house to be called an "Ashram", as the word had acquired the sense of a public institution to the modern mind.

But there was no doubt that the flower of Divinity had blossomed in him; and disciples, likes bees seeking honey, came to him. It is no exaggeration to say that these Evening-Talks were to the small company of disciples what the Aranyakas were to the ancient seekers.

Seeking the Light, they came to the dwelling place of their Guru, the greatest seer of the age, and found it their spiritual home--the home of their parents, for, the Mother, his companion in the great mission, had come. And these spiritual parents bestowed upon the disciples freely of their Light, their consciousness, their power and their grace.

The modern reader may find that the form of these discourses differs from those of the past but it was bound to be so for the simple reason that the times have changed and the problems that puzzle the modern mind are so different. Even though the disciples may be very imperfect representations of what he aimed at in them, still they are his creations. It is in order to repay, in however infinitesimal a degree, the debt which we owe to him that the effort is made to partake of the joy of his company--the Evening-Talks--with a larger public.

III

Evening Sittings

Sri Aurobindo was never a social man in the current sense of the term and definitely he was not a man of the crowd. This was due to his grave temperament, not to any feeling of superiority or to repulsion for men. At Baroda there was an Officer's Club which was patronized by the Maharajah and though Sri Aurobindo enrolled himself as a member he hardly went to the Club even on special occasions. He rather liked a small congenial circle of friends and spent most of his evenings with them whenever he was free and not occupied with his studies of other works.

After Baroda when he went to Calcutta there was hardly any time in the storm and stress of revolutionary politics to permit him to lead a "social life." What little time he could spare from his incessant activities was spent in the house of Raja Subodh Malick or at the Grey Street house. In the Karma yogin office he used to sit after the office hours till late chatting with a few persons or trying automatic writing. Strange dictations used to be received sometimes: one of them was the following: "Moni (Suresh Chakarvarty) will bomb Sir Edward Grey when he will come as the Viceroy of India." In later years at Pondicherry there used to be a joke that Sir Edward took such a fright at the prospect of Moni's bombing him that he never came to India!

After Sri Aurobindo had come to Pondicherry from Chandranagore he entered upon an intense period of spiritual sadhana and for a few months he refused to receive anyone. After a time he used to sit down to talk in the evening and on some days tried automatic writing. Yogic Sadhana--a small book--was the result. In 1913 Sri Aurobindo removed to Rue Francois Martin No. 41 where he used to receive persons at fixed times. This was generally in the morning between 9 and 10. 30.

But, over and above newcomers, some local people and the few inmates of the house used to have informal talk with Sri Aurobindo in the evening. In the beginning the inmates used to go out for playing foot-ball, and during their absence known local individuals would come in and wait for Sri Aurobindo. Afterwards regular meditation began at about 4. p. m. in which practically all the inmates participated. After the meditation all of the members and those who were permitted shared in the evening sitting. This was a very informal gathering depending entirely upon Sri Aurobindo's leisure. When Sri Aurobindo and the Mother removed to No. 9 Rue de la Marine in 1922 the same routine of informal evening sittings after meditation continued.

I came to Pondicherry for Sadhana in the beginning of 1923. I kept notes of the important talks I had with the four or five disciples who were already there. Besides, I used to take detailed notes of the evening-talks which we all had with the Master. They were not intended by him to be noted down. I took them down because of the importance I felt about everything connected with him, no matter how insignificant to the outer view. I also felt that everything he did would acquire for those who would come to know his mission a very great significance.

As years passed the evening sittings went on changing their time and often those disciples who came from outside for a temporary stay for Sadhana were allowed to join them. And, as the number of Sadhaks practicing the yoga increased, the evening sittings also became more full, the small verandah upstairs in the main building was found insufficient. Members of the household would gather every day at the fixed time with some sense of expectancy and start chatting in low tones. Sri Aurobindo used to come last and it was after his coming that the session would really commence.

He came dressed as usual in Dhoti, part of which was used by him to cover the upper part of his body. Very rarely he came out with Chaddar or Shawl and then it was "in deference to the climate" as he sometimes put it.

At times for minutes he would be gazing at the sky from a small opening at the top of the grass-curtains that covered the verandah of the upstairs in No. 9 Rue de la Marine.

How much were these sittings dependent on him may be gathered from the fact that there were days when more than three-fourths of the time passed in complete silence without any outer suggestion from him, or there was only an abrupt "Yes" or "No" to all attempts at drawing him out in conversation. And even when he participated in the talk one always felt that his voice was that of one who does not let his whole being flow into his words; there was a reserve and what was left unsaid was perhaps more than what was spoken. What was spoken was what he felt necessary to speak.

These sittings, in fact, furnished Sri Aurobindo with an occasion to admit and feel the outer atmosphere and that of the group living with him. It brought to him the much-needed direct contact of the mental and vital make-up of the disciples, enabling him to act on the atmosphere in general and to the individual in particular. He could thus help to remould their mental make-up by removing the limitations of their minds and opinions, and correct temperamental tendencies and formations. Thus, these sittings contributed at least partly to the creation of an atmosphere amenable to the working of the Higher Consciousness.

Far more important than the actual talk and its content was the personal contact, the influence of the Master, and the divine atmosphere he emanated; for through his outer personality it was the Divine Consciousness that he allowed to act. All along behind the outer manifestation that appeared human, there was the influence and presence of the Divine.

What was talked in the small group informally was not intended by Sri Aurobindo to be the independent expression of his views on the subjects, events or the persons discussed. Very often what he said was in answer to the spiritual need of the individual or of the collective atmosphere. It was like a spiritual remedy meant to produce certain spiritual results, not a philosophical or metaphysical pronouncement on questions, events or movements. The net result of some talks very often was to point out to the disciple the inherent incapacity of the human intellect and its secondary place in the search for the ultimate Reality.

But there were occasions when he did give his independently personal views on some problems, on events and other subjects. Even then it was never an authoritarian pronouncement. Most often it appeared to be a logically worked out and almost inevitable conclusion expressed quite impersonally though with firm and sincere conviction. This impersonality was such a prominent trait of his personality! Even in such matters as dispatching a letter or a telegram it would not be a command from him to a disciple to carry out the task. Most often during his usual passage to the dining room he would stop on the way, drop in on the company of four or five disciples and, holding out the letter or the telegram, would say in the most amiable and yet the most impersonal way: "I suppose this has to be sent." And it would be for some one in the group instantly to volunteer and take it. The expression very often he used was "It was done", "It happened" not "I did."

There were two places where these sittings took place. At the third place there was no sitting but informal talk to a small number of disciples who were attending him after the accident in November 1938.

From 1918 to 1922 we gathered at No: 41 Rue Francois Martin, called the Guest House, upstairs, on a broad verandah into which four rooms opened and whose main piece of furniture was a small table 3'/x 1 1/2', covered with a blue cotton cloth. That is where Sri Aurobindo used to sit in a hard wooden chair behind the table with a few chairs in front for the visitors or for the disciples.

From 1922 to 1926 No. 9 Rue de la Marine, where he and the Mother had shifted, was the place where the sittings were held. There, also upstairs, was a less broad verandah than at the Guest House, a little bigger table in front of the central door out of three, and a broad Japanese chair--the table covered with a better cloth than the one in the Guest House, a small flower vase, an ash-tray, a block calendar indicating the date and an ordinary time-piece, a number of chairs in front in a line. The evening sittings used to be after meditation at 4 or 4-30 p.m. After November 24, 1926, the sitting began to get later and later, till the limit of 1 o'clock at night was reached. Then the curtain fell. Sri Aurobindo retired completely after December 1926 and the evening sittings came to a close.

Then, on November 23, 1938 I got up at 2 o'clock to prepare hot water for the Mother's early bath because the 24th was Darshan day. Between 2.20 and 2.30 the Mother rang the bell. I ran up the staircase to be told about an accident that had happened to Sri Aurobindo's foot and to be asked to fetch the doctor. This accident brought about a change in his complete retirement, and rendered him available to those who had to attend on him. This opened out a long period of 12 years during which his retirement was modified owing to circumstances, inner and outer, that made it possible for him to have direct physical contacts with the world outside.

The long period of the second world war with all its vicissitudes passed through these years. It was a priceless experience to see how he devoted his energies to the task of saving humanity from the threatened reign of Nazism. It was a practical lesson of solid work done for humanity without any thought of return or reward, without even letting humanity know what he was doing for it! Thus he lived the Divine and showed us how the Divine cares for the world, how he comes down and works for man. I shall never forget how he who was at one time--in his own words--"not merely a non-co-operator but an enemy of British Imperialism" bestowed such anxious care on the health of Churchill, listening carefully to the health bulletins! It was the work of the Divine, it was the Divine's work for the world.

There were no formal evening sittings during these years but what appeared to me important in the talks was recorded and has been incorporated in this book.

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DECEMBER, 1938

10-12-1938

Disciple: Why did you choose Pondicherry as the place for your Sadhana?

Sri Aurobindo: Because it was by an Adesh--command from Above--I was asked to come here. When I was leaving Bombay for Calcutta I asked Lele what I should do regarding my Sadhana. He kept silent for some time [probably waiting to hear a voice from the heart] and replied, "Meditate at a fixed time and hear the voice in the heart."

I did not hear the voice from the heart, but a different voice and I dropped meditation at fixed time because meditation was going on all the time. When Lele came to Calcutta and heard about it, he said that the devil had caught hold of me. I said, "If it is the devil, I will follow him."

Disciple: People say that 'Yogic Sadhan' was written by the being of Keshab Sen?

Sri Aurobindo: Keshab Sen? When I was writing it, every time at the beginning and at the end the image of Ram Mohan Roy came before me. So perhaps, Ram Mohan has been changed to Keshab Sen. Do you know the origin of the name "Uttara Yogi?"

Disciple: No, Sir.

Sri Aurobindo: There was a famous Yogi in the South who while dying said to his disciples that a Purna Yogi from the North would come down to the South and he would be known by his three sayings. The three sayings were those I had written to my wife. A Zamindar--disciple of that Yogi--found me out and bore the cost of the book "Yogic Sadhan."

Disciple: Tagore never spoke at any time about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda except recently when he wrote a very ordinary poem on Ramakrishna during his centenary. He used to tell girls that Ramakrishna used very often to deride women saying "Kamini Kanchan" are the roots of bondage and still women worshipped him.

Sri Aurobindo: I understand that Ramakrishna used to say "Kama Kanchana". When the division came after his death one party said that he never uttered "Kamani" but "Kama". I don't think there was any one in Brahmo Samaj with spiritual realization. Dwijendra Nath had something in him and Shiva Nath Shastri too and perhaps Kesab Sen. Bejoy Goswami ceased to be a Brahmo.

Disciple: Lele had realization?

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, he had some, but as I said he had ambition and ego.

Disciple: It is said that Christ used to heal simply by a touch. Is it possible?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? There are many instances of such cures. Of course, faith is necessary. Christ himself said "Thy faith has made thee whole."

Disciple: Is faith always necessary for such a cure?

Sri Aurobindo: No, cure can be done without faith, especially when one does not know what is being done. Faith is above the mind so that any discussion or dispute spoils the action of the faith.

Disciple: I knew also such instances of cure or help by faith. When I came to see you first, you told me to remember you in my difficulties. As I returned I did so and I passed through all the difficulties, but as soon as I came here I heard many things from Sadhaks and did not get the same result. I thought, perhaps, I was, not able to open myself to you.

Sri Aurobindo: That is called simple faith, or as some call it, "blind faith." When Ramakrishna was asked about faith, he said, "all faith is blind otherwise there is no faith." He was quite right.

Disciple: Is it because there is something in the nature of environmental influence that doubt come and one does not get the same result as before?

Sri Aurobindo: Both; the physical mind has these things, doubt, etc. and they come up at one time or the other. And by contact with other people also faith gets obscured. I knew a shocking instance in the Ashram. A truthful man came here. A Sadhak told him that speaking of the truth always is a superstition. One must be free to say what one likes. And then there is another instance of a Sadhak who said that sex indulgence is no hindrance to yoga, it can be allowed, and everyone must have his Shakti. When such ideas are prevalent no wonder that they cast bad influence on others.

Disciple: Such people ought to be quarantined?

Sri Aurobindo: I thought of that but it is not possible. Mother at one time tried to impose some restrictions and regulations but it did not work. One has to change from within. There are, of course, other yogic systems which have such strict regulations. Buddhism is unique in that respect. There is a school in France [Labratte?] which enjoins strict silence.

Disciple: Is such exterior imposition good?

Sri Aurobindo: It can be good provided one sincerely keeps to it. For instance, in that school in France, people who enter there know what they want and so keep to the regulation that are meant to help them in achieving their aim.

The world has to change,--people here are epitomes of the world. Each one represents a type of humanity and if one type is conquered that means a great victory for the work. And for this change a constant will is required. If that is there, lots of things can be done for the Sadhak as they were done.

Disciple: Things became sluggish afterwards.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is when the Sadhana came down in the physical and the subconscient that things became very difficult. I myself had to struggle for two years; for the subconscient is absolutely inert like stone. Though my mind was quite awake above, it could not exert and influence down below. It is a Herculean labour, for when one enters there, it is a sort of an unexplored continent. Previous Yogis came down to the vital. If I had been made to see it before, probably, I would have been less enthusiastic about it. That is the instance of blind faith. The ancients were quite right perhaps in leaving the physical, but if I had left it there, the real work would have remained undone. And once it is conquered, it becomes easy for people who come after me, which is what is meant by realization of one in all.

Disciple: Then we can wait for that victory!!

Sri Aurobindo: You want an easy path!

Disciple: Not only easy but like a baby we want to be carried about. Is it possible?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but one has to be a baby--and a genuine baby.

Disciple: Ramakrishna has said a Yogi need not be always like a drawn sword.

Sri Aurobindo: When did he say that and what did he mean by that? A Yogi has always to be vigilant, especially in the early part of one's Sadhana. Otherwise all one has gained can come down like a thud. People here usually don't make Sadhana the one part of their life. They have two parts: one, the internal and other external, which goes on with ordinary movements, social contacts, etc. Sadhana must be made the one part of the being.

Disciple: You spoke about the brilliant period of the Ashram.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it was when Sadhana was going on in the vital and when it is that, everything is joy, peace, etc. and if I had stopped there, we could have started a big religion, or something like it. But the real work would have been left undone.

Disciple: Why did you retire? To concentrate more on your work?

Sri Aurobindo: No, to withdraw from the physical atmosphere. If I had to do the work the Mother is doing, I would have hardly time to do my own work, besides its being a tremendous labour.

Disciple: Vishudhanand of Banares is said to be able to produce all sorts of perfumes, scents, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: It is difficult to know if they (perfumes) are all materialization or subtle perfumes projected into the physical or on the senses. Paul Brunton saw always some pressure accompanying him. When he saw my photo, it had nothing to resemble it but when he saw me at the Darshan, he at once recognized me as that pressure.

Disciple: Why does one rise and fall physically in meditation?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not the physical but the vital body separating itself from the body. At one time I thought physical Siddhi was impossible. But in Alipore jail, once I found that my body had occupied a position which it was physically impossible to have. Then again; I was practicing to raise my hands and keep them suspended without any muscular control. Once in that raised condition of hands I fell off to sleep. The warder saw this condition and reported that I had died. Authorities came and found me quite alive. I told them he was a fool.

There is a French author Joules Romain. He is a medical man and a mystic. He can see with other parts of the body with eyes closed. He says, "Eyes are only a specialized organ." Other parts can as well be trained to see. But scientists refused to admit his demonstration.

Disciple: Ramana Maharshi does not believe in the descent (of the Supermind).

Sri Aurobindo: It--the descent is the experience of many Sadhaks even outside our Yoga. An old Sanyasi of the Ramakrishna Mission saw a flood of light descending and when he asked he was told it was all the work of the devil and the whole experience stopped afterwards. In Maharshi's case he has received the thing in the heart and has worked with it, so he does not feel the descent.

Disciple: I believe that grace is without condition.

Sri Aurobindo: That may be true from the side of the Divine but the man must try to fulfill the condition under which alone grace can act.

[In this respect Sir Aurobindo's writing in The Mother was quoted by a disciple where he lays down that "the grace will work under the conditions of the Truth, not under those imposed upon it by falsehood."

Disciple: Grace is grace, but one need not sit with folded hands. What is achieved is by the divine grace.

Sri Aurobindo: Grace is of course unconditional, but it is for men to fulfill the conditions. It is as if man was continually spilling from a cup in which something was being poured.

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11-12-1938

Disciple: Is there no justice for the misdeeds of people like S, V and N? Surely they will have to bear the consequences of their actions? And yet how is it these people succeed in life?

Sri Aurobindo: Justice in this life? May not be. Most probably not. But justice is not what most people believe it to be. It is said that virtuous people will have happiness, prosperity etc. in another life while in this life they have the opposite effects. In that case, the people you speak of must have been virtuous in their previous life. There is justice in the sense that the virtuous and pious people advance towards Sattwic nature while the contrary one goes down the scale of humanity and become more and more Asuric. That is what I have said in the "Arya."

(At this moment Mother came in and asked what was the subject of talk.)

Sri Aurobindo replied that X was asking about justice, whether it exists. After some moments' pause Mother said: "Of course, there is justice; these people suffer, they are tormented and not happy within. But that unhappiness does not seem to change them. They go from worse to worse; yes; but in some cases as the divine pressure goes on acting, at some time, especially during some impending catastrophe, suddenly some change takes place in these people. We saw a number of people like that. e.g. those who were trying to persecute Sri Aurobindo.

Disciple: You have said in your Prayers that justice exists. One cannot avoid the law of Karma except by Divine Grace.

Sri Aurobindo: N. may be a scoundrel but he has capacity and cleverness and so he will surely succeed. It is that capacity and cleverness that succeeds in life not virtues etc.

Disciple: To cheat people and get money? Is it cleverness?

Sri Aurobindo: Of course, it is cleverness or you may say, misuse of cleverness. But I don't say that cleverness will not have its consequences, but at the same time it is these qualities that succeed in life.

Disciple: Why does not one believe in Grace?

Mother: It is because the human mind arranges and combines things and does not leave any room for the Grace. For instance, when one is cured of a disease or passes an examination, he thinks it is due to medicine or some chance. He does not see that in between, or behind, there may be Grace acting on him. Is it not so?

Sri Aurobindo: They would call it luck.

Mother: If you don't recognize the Grace how can it work? It is as if you had shut your doors against it, Of course, it can work below, underneath so to say.

Disciple: Doesn't it act unconditionally?

Mother: It does, especially in those people who have been predestined for some thing; but if one recognizes and expresses gratitude, it acts more forcefully and quickly.

Disciple: Isn't it because we are ignorant?

Mother: No, I know many ignorant people having the Grace expressing a deep gratitude rising from the heart.

Disciple: We would like the Grace to act like a mother feeding a hungry baby, giving things when it needs etc.

Sri Aurobindo: And who is the baby? (loud laughter)

Mother: But the Grace does not work according to human demands or conceptions. It has its own law and way. How can it? Very often what seems to be a great blow or calamity at the present moment may appear to be a great blessing after ten years and people say that their real life began after that.

Sri Aurobindo: Grace is unconditional but at the same time, how will it work if a man is throwing away the Grace, or does not recognize it? It is like a man spilling away from the cup in which something is being poured. Mother said that she is interested to see the reactions with the two fellows. It may have different results in both. She can't say how it will be different.

Disciple: Will it be a question of a degree?

Sri Aurobindo: No, difference of quality also. One is more stupid and blind than the other who knows consciously what he is aiming at. So the former has less power to harm.

Disciple: Perhaps one may change for the better during life?

Mother: That is romance.

Disciple: Especially S. may return to Ashram again.

Mother: {looked very amused and said) Do you think so? When a man turns his back he has no chance, no possibility. One who is given a chance may have a possibility.

Disciple: The law of Karma according to Jainism is inexorable. Even the Tirthankars can't escape it, and have to pay in exact mathematical proportion.

Sri Aurobindo: It is a great thing. But too wonderful and mathematical to be true. e.g. a son who lived for a short time cost a great deal of money to the father for his ill-health. It was said that the father had been the debtor to the son in previous life and the son realized exactly the same amount of money which he had lent by means of his illness and died. (Laughter)

Disciple: There is what is Nikachit Karma or Utkata Karma which cannot be avoided. It is like a knot that cannot be untied. It is like a silk thread tied and burnt.

Sri Aurobindo: It may be this Utkata Karma that brought about the accident (to his foot).

Disciple: What is incomprehensible is the unmerited suffering of the physical consciousness in your case.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know it is unmerited? Perhaps it was to give me knowledge of what intense pain is. I had ordinary pains before which I could turn into Ananda. But this was intense. I never had the experience when it came suddenly and abruptly, I could not change it into Ananda. When it became of steady nature I could. Besides, we shall see afterwards the full significance. Of course, I accept it as a part of the battle.

Disciple: When will you be cured?

Sri Aurobindo: Don't ask me the question. It is just what I can't know, for, immediately I say something the hostile forces would at once rush to prevent it. That is why I don't want to prophesy. Not that things are not known, or possibilities not seen. For instance, there are things about which I had definitely said. But where it is a question of possibilities, I don't tie myself to that chain of possibilities For if I do that I commit myself in advance to certain lines of movement and the result of it may not be what I want, and I won't be able to bring down that for which I am striving, it may not be the highest but something partial. But plenty of people can prophesy. That capacity is common among Yogis. When I was arrested, my maternal-grand-aunt asked Swami Bhaskaranand, "What will happen to our Aurobindo?" He replied, "The Divine Mother has taken him in her arms; nothing will happen to him. But he is not your Aurobindo. He is world's Aurobindo and the world will be filled with his perfume.". Another time I was taken by Jatin Banerji to a Swami Narayan Jyotishi who foretold about my three trials, white enemies and also my release. When my horoscope was shown he said that there was some mistake about time and when the time was corrected he replied, "Oh, the lead is turned into gold now."

Disciple: Have you had any prophesy in dreams? Many people get dreams or vision of coming events.

Disciple: I know the instance of A's daughter-in-law who saw him carried to cemetery and exactly two hours after he died of heart failure.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, that is a good instance of that.

Disciple: Even without knowing the person concerned can one prophesy like that? i.e. like Bhaskaranand?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is an intuitive power. I once tried to see a man who was to be elected and saw a figure seated in the office but quite different and unknown, not the one elected. After some time a quarrel took place between my brother-in-law and a Government official and he was called. But my mistake "Bose" became "Ghose", and I had to go and see the man. I found the same man of my vision sitting as the Governor and I was much surprised.

On another occasion a friend of X. (V. Ramaswamy Aiyanger) was coming to see me and I wanted to have a vision of the man. I saw him as having clean shaven head, bull-dog face; but when he came, I found his appearance quite different, regular South Indian Brahmin features. But curiously enough, exactly after two years I saw that the man had changed to what I had seen of him in vision. These thing are thrown out from the subtle world to the surface consciousness. There is another instance; I was a great tea addict and could not do any work without a cup of tea. The management of tea was in charge of my brother-in-law. He used to bring the tea at any time he woke up from sleep. One day though I had much work to do I was thinking, "When will he bring tea?" "Why does he not come?" and looked at the watch when exactly, at the very moment, the tea was brought. I had made a rule never to ask anything from anybody.

Disciple: Is consciousness of the Divine possible in the physical cells even?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the cells can have peace, joy, etc. and when they are quite conscious, they can throw out the opposing forces. When peace descends in the physical it is a great force for cure.

Disciple: Can one have peace without knowing it?

Sri Aurobindo: That is natural peace which is more than quietude. But there is a positive peace which one knows and feels. Truth also can descend in the physical, and also Power, but very few can bear Power. Light also descends. I remember a disciple telling his Guru about the descent of Light in him.

The Guru said, "The devil has caught hold of you", and from that time the disciple lost everything.

There is an infinite sea of peace, ananda, above the head; if one is in contact with it one can get them always.

Disciple: Do any thoughts or suggestions come to you?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean? Thoughts and suggestions come to me from every side and I don't refuse them. I accept them and see what they are. But what you call "thinking" that I never do. Thinking in that sense had ceased long ago since I had that experience with Lele. Thoughts, as I said; come to me from all sides and from above and the transmitting mind remains quiet, or it enlarges to receive them. True thoughts come in this way. You can't think out such thoughts, what Mother call "mental-constructions."

Disciple: Was "Arya" written in that way?

Sri Aurobindo: No, it was directly transmitted into the pen. It is a great relief to get out of that responsibility.

Disciple: Yes, Sir?

Sri Aurobindo: I don't mean responsibility in general but that of thinking about everything. Some thoughts are given or reflected from outside. It is not that I don't ask for knowledge. When I want knowledge I call for it. The Higher faculty sees thoughts as if written on a wall.

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13-12-1938

Mother came at 5-55 and meditated till after 7-5. It is difficult to say whether the feast of silent meditation was more precious than the conversation which happened to take place after Mother left for evening meditation.

Sri Aurobindo: (with a smile to X.) Meditating?

Disciple: I am trying hard; Sir, for the last three-fourths of an hour but have not succeeded. Many unwanted thoughts come.

Sri Aurobindo: What are they?

Disciple: Some nonsense.

Sri Aurobindo: Some extraordinary non-sense like perpetual attendance on the Maharajah or successor to Mussolini?

Disciple: No sir, the thought of the Maharajah comes very rarely. But why does not one succeed in meditating even after so many trials? The last time I had fine meditation was when Dr. N. came from Madras.

But I see my friend N. at once bends his head down and I believe he is merged in Satchidananda.

Disciple: Yes, in despair, perhaps. I go to sleep.

Sri Aurobindo: But there is power of deep concentration on your face (laughter).

Disciple: Can one go to sleep in despair?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, as a refuge out of the despair. Apart from that, it happens to everybody except for yogis who have made it their business to meditate. And even they find there are periods of blankness when nothing seems to be done or going on.

Disciple: As he is a poet he may be living in higher regions.

Sri Aurobindo: You must no forget Shakespeare's saying that "All poetry is telling lies." (laughter)

Disciple: He is not a poet of that sort.

Disciple: Perhaps you had a dose of meditation last week which you are now assimilating; you are suffering from spiritual dyspepsia.

Disciple: But some people go into unconsciousness as soon as they begin meditation. For example R. and C. Even P. when he used to join became unconscious of the body.

Sri Aurobindo: Some yogis require a support to prevent their bodies from falling while they are in meditation. Those who practice Asan can remain erect. There are some who go to sleep standing like the horse. My grand-father, Raj Narayan Bose, was like that. One day we were walking together at night. Suddenly we missed him. When we came back we saw him sleeping standing.

Disciple: It is a question of habit and convenience, I think.

Disciple: Was Raj Narayan practicing meditation?

Sri Aurobindo: Not much. It was a Brahmo-meditation. (Laughter)

Disciple: Sometimes meditation used to come to me spontaneously at my place and I used to get into a condition when I would be compelled to sit down to meditate.

Sri Aurobindo: It was probably the inner being insisting on it. It is always better to allow it to work.

Disciple: It used to happen even when I would be leaving for my work. For days I used to feel that my head was resting on the Mother's feet. What is that?

Sri Aurobindo: It was the experience of Psychic Bhakti.

Disciple: But then it went away. How to retain that experience?

Sri Aurobindo: The condition is "to want that and nothing else." If you have that intense passion for union with the Divine then it can remain. It is too difficult, is it? So, it is better to allow the higher Power to work.

Disciple: We have been trying hard to make him remain here for three months but he is all the time thinking of his family.

Disciple: I feel a pull upward in the head while meditating.

Sri Aurobindo: It is the mind trying to ascend to the Higher consciousness.

Disciple: Sometimes I feel myself widening.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, sometimes one feels the head opening or expanding. That is the sign of the mental being opening to the Power.

Disciple: Sometimes I see sky, ocean, or mountains and forests.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. One sees many things i.e. by the inner sight. These are symbols of life or energy. Sky is the symbol of the mind. Mountain is the symbol of the being with its different planes and parts with the Divine as the summit. Forests are symbols of the vital.

Disciple: These visions are seen by many (quite common).

Sri Aurobindo: Oh yes, as the mind expands so also the heart expands and also the vital. If one sees those things outside oneself then that has only symbolic significance but if one feels the widening or coming of Light in himself then that increases the opening and the receptivity of the being.

Disciple: What do you mean by the Divine or the Supreme?

Sri Aurobindo: I mean by it a consciousness of which the Gita speaks as Param Bhavam, Purushottama, Parabrahman, Paramatman. That is to say, the origin and the support and cause of every thing. It is Omnipotent, Omnipresent, everywhere, You can't define it. You limit it if you define it. It can be described as Satchidananda. It is everything, it is everywhere, it is in everything. It is impersonal, 'Neti, Neti;' it is also 'Iti, Iti'. You can have the experience of Satchidananda on any plane. These things cannot be known by the mind or by discussion. The "Golden lid has to be broken".

Disciple: What will happen if one realizes the divine consciousness?

Sri Aurobindo: First thing, you will become calm, quiet; secondly, there will be the feeling of strength, I mean the presence of a Force. Thirdly, the sense of the Infinite will be felt, you will feel yourself as the Infinite. Fourthly, something will be always there behind which will be able to govern the nature. Also the sense of Eternity and of yourself as Immortal. Even though the body dies you know you are immortal. Also there are many things more. For example, freedom from every thing even from the world. You realize the Transcendental and the Universal consciousness.

Realization of the fundamental being may be the beginning i.e. of the Essential being, Consciousness and Delight. Then, everything is divine, you are divine, you live in the divine: it is one of the most Anandamaya experiences. It is a concrete and real thing and not an idea. You cannot explain these things. You can't explain even a stone in spite of your science. Everything is not material but mystical at bottom.

Disciple: Is it that this experience formulates itself differently in different Yogis to suit their personalities? or the difference is due to nature or personality itself?

Sri Aurobindo: There, personality is no longer separate. It is the One putting itself forward with a special quality, stress or emphasis. Nimbarka's Bhedabheda means that.

Disciple: You have also spoken of the veil in the heart.

Sri Aurobindo: It is also true. It sometimes requires removing the veil and breaking the wall (in the heart).

Sometimes after this experience of opening it seems to close again. Most of the obstruction comes from the vital. So, the being is prepared behind the veil and when everything is ready it is projected in the outer nature. But the demand of this Yoga is much more than in any other and so it takes a long time. All yoga requires patience above everything else.

Disciple: We must have been working for it for many lives.

Sri Aurobindo: According to some yogas you have no right to the result for twelve years. After twelve years you have to see if anything has happened or not.

Disciple: When the preparation is being done behind, can we say that some of the Sadhaks have achieved very great advance like the Vedic Rishis.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you mean? Their outer nature is not ready and so they can't be said to have realized the Truth. Nature is full of difficulties and obstacles and so the Higher Power works behind. If it worked in the outer nature, it would meet too many obstacles.

Disciple: So it is the Bhedabheda philosophy?

Sri Aurobindo: It is not merely philosophy, but the fact is there corresponding to the philosophy. The Gita speaks of it as "Avibhaktam Vibhkteshu Vibhaktam iva cha Sthitam", "Undivided in the midst of divided things, appearing as if divided." This is not an illusion. I see a tree. The tree appears to me as separate from me. But it is the One, because one with Him. It is myself. It is something else than a tree. It is impossible to think of it as something else than the Brahman.

When I cast my eyes round the room everything,--objects and the persons--, appears the Brahman. I call you so and so but you are not that.

Ordinarily, one tags on everything to the "ego". But in that higher state you understand the divine working better than when you are a separate "ego". It is when you can become "nobody" and have experience of the Divine that you can be free. That is Mukti. I realized the One, my self disappeared. It is difficult to think of my self as so and so, son of so and so. It is a relief and freedom to be "That" and to remain in "It".

Disciple: Can it be called Shankara's Vedantic realization?

Sri Aurobindo: About Shankara's Vedanta, difficulty is that there are different explanations by various people. The world is an illusion--and the Illusion is indescribable. This is the common basis of all Shankara Adwaita--monism. According to him soul also is Maya--as it has no real existence. But I found that the experience behind this idea is quite different. I had that experience at Baroda, and if I had stopped there I would have been an orthodox Vedantin.*

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14-12-1938.

Time: about 5-30 P. M.

Silent atmosphere. M. meditating, P. sitting by his side. Sri Aurobindo cast a glance at M. After few minutes P. tried to kill a mosquito with a clapping of hands. Sri Aurobindo looked at P. M. opened his eyes. P. felt much embarrassed.

Disciple: Were you ever a Free Mason, Sir?

Sri Aurobindo: My eldest brother was; from him I gathered that it was nothing. But Free Masons had something when it was started. Have you heard of Kaliostro? He was a mystic and a Free Mason with a great prophetic power. He prophesied about the French Revolution, the raising of Bastille and guillotining of the King and Queen. He used to prophesy about race-horses. He got into trouble and was imprisoned and died in prison. He never charged any money from any one and yet he was affluent. It was said he knew alchemy and could make gold. (There was a few minutes silence.)

Sri Aurobindo: Have you heard about Nosterdamus? No? He was a Jew. At that time Jews had great knowledge. He wrote a book of prophecy in some obscure language and prophesied about the execution of Charles I, the end of the British Empire and the lasting of the Empire for about 330 years.

Disciple: Then there is still a long time?

Sri Aurobindo: No, it was to be counted from the beginning of her colonies. That means from James I. In that case it should end now.

Disciple: From Chamberlain's speech today it seems Britain is not obliged to side with France in case of war,--it looks like it.

Sri Aurobindo: The English always keep their policy open so that they may change and correct as they like or want.

Disciple: But they cannot join Italy or Germany?

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? They can share with them France's African Colonies.

(At this time Mother came. We looked towards her and changed our position from near Sri Aurobindo's head.) She said, "Don't move, don't move."

Disciple: We have decided to meditate when you come. (Mother made big eyes and we all laughed.)

Mother: But if I want to hear the talk?

Disciple: Then we will talk.

Sri Aurobindo: (addressing the Mother): I am giving him a few prophecies of Kaliostro and Nosterdamus whom he has never read, he says.

Disciple: You know Bhikshu X was quite illogical; he called me back from here?

Sri Aurobindo: All preachers are illogical. Were you a fervent Buddhist? Is there much Buddhism in your parts?

Disciple: About one or two million people are Buddhists and there is nothing of Buddhism in what they follow.

Mother: Nothing or something of Buddhism?

Disciple: Something.

Mother: In China and Japan also no Buddhism is left. Only ceremonies remain. In Ceylon they say there is still some authentic Buddhism.

Disciple: In Burma also the same is the case. There, people put on ochre clothes at day and throw them away at night. But the Burmese people show a great respect for their Bikshus.

Disciple: Yes. Respect to dress and not to the reality.

Sri Aurobindo: Lele used to have the same idea. Once I met a Sanyasi with him. Lele asked me: "You don't bow down to him?" I replied: "I don't believe in the man". Lele said: "But you must respect the yellow robe". The Sanyasi was one of the three people whom Vivekananda drove out of his house and they became Avatars in one day (Laughter). Is he just the man to be so treated?

(As Mother had fallen into meditation we all tried to meditate with her. At about 7 P. M. she went for the group meditation and we rallied again round Sri Aurobindo.)

Addressing X,

Sri Aurobindo: You seemed to have Ananda in your meditation. Your face is beaming with it.

Disciple: Yes Sir. He is nowadays beaming with Ananda.

Disciple: (shyly), "I fell into deep sleep I think, but I had some visions also which seem to be quite distinctly outside.

Sri Aurobindo: Then why do you call it sleep? It may be the psychic being, or the inner being watching what is happening. Sometimes one goes into deeper state and remembers nothing in his outer consciousness, though many things may be going on within. What is called dreamless sleep is really a sleep in which dreams are passing on, only one does not know. Sometimes one discusses problems in such a condition, gets the ecstasy of union, etc. One may also go into other worlds with one part of this being and meet other forms etc. This is of course the first condition and a kind of a beginning

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