The Four Austerities and the Four Liberations
from Bulletin 1953
See the Original in French
To pursue an integral education that leads to the supramental realisation,
four austerities are necessary, and with them four liberations.
Austerity is usually confused with self-mortification, and when someone
speaks of austerities, we think of the discipline of the ascetic who, in
order to avoid the arduous task of spiritualising the physical, vital and
mental life, declares it incapable of transformation and casts it away ruthlessly
as a useless encumbrance, as a bondage and an impediment to all spiritual
progress, in any case as something incorrigible, as a load that has to be
borne more or less cheerfully until Nature, or divine Grace, delivers you
from it by death. At best, life on earth is a field for progress and one
should take advantage of it as best one can in order to reach as soon as
possible the degree of perfection which will put an end to the ordeal by
making it unnecessary.
For us the problem is quite different. Life on earth is not a passage or
a means; by transformation it must become a goal and a realisation. Consequently,
when we speak of austerities, it is not out of contempt for the body nor
to detach ourselves from it, but because of the need for control and mastery.
For there is an austerity which is far greater, far more complete and far
more difficult than all the austerities of the ascetic: it is the austerity
which is necessary for the integral transformation, the fourfold austerity
which prepares the individual for the manifestation of the supramental truth.
For example, one can say that few austerities are as strict as those which
physical culture demands for the perfection of the body. But we shall return
to this point in due time.
Before starting to describe the four kinds of austerity required, it is
necessary to clarify one question which is a source of much misunderstanding
and confusion in the minds of most people. It is the question of ascetic
practices, which they mistake for spiritual disciplines. These practices,
which consist of ill-treating the body in order, so they say, to liberate
the spirit from it, are in fact a sensuous distortion of spiritual discipline;
it is a kind of perverse need for suffering which drives the ascetic to
self-mortification. The sadhu's recourse to the bed of nails or the Christian
anchorite's resort to the whip and the hairshirt are the result of a more
or less veiled sadistic tendency, unavowed and unavowable; it is an unhealthy
seeking or a subconscious need for violent sensations. In reality, these
things are very far removed from all spiritual life, for they are ugly and
base, dark and diseased; whereas spiritual life, on the contrary, is a life
of light and balance, beauty and joy. They are invented and extolled by
a sort of mental and vital cruelty towards the body. But cruelty, even with
regard to one's own body, is nonetheless cruelty, and all cruelty is a sign
of great unconsciousness. Unconscious natures need very strong sensations,
for without them they can feel nothing; and cruelty, which is one form of
sadism, brings very strong sensations. The avowed purpose of such practices
is to abolish all sensation so that the body may no longer stand in the
way of one's flight towards the spirit; but the effectiveness of this method
is open to doubt. It is a recognised fact that in order to progress rapidly,
one must not be afraid of difficulties; on the contrary, by choosing to
do the difficult thing at every opportunity, one increases the will-power
and strengthens the nerves. Now, it is much more difficult to lead a life
of moderation and balance, in equanimity and serenity, than to try to contend
with over-indulgence in pleasure and the obscuration it entails, by over-indulgence
in asceticism and the disintegration it causes. It is much more difficult
to achieve the harmonious and progressive development of one's physical
being in calm and simplicity than to ill-treat it to the point of annihilation.
It is much more difficult to live soberly and without desire than to deprive
the body of its indispensable nourishment and cleanliness and boast proudly
of one's abstinence. It is much more difficult to avoid or to surmount and
conquer illness by an inner and outer harmony, purity and balance, than
to disregard and ignore it and leave it free to do its work of destruction.
And the most difficult thing of all is to maintain the consciousness constantly
at the height of its capacity, never allowing the body to act under the
influence of a lower impulse.
This is why we shall have recourse to the four austerities which will result
in four liberations within us. The practice of these austerities will constitute
a fourfold discipline or tapasya which can be defined as follows:
1 - Tapasya of love
2 - Tapasya of knowledge
3 - Tapasya of power
4 - Tapasya of beauty
These terms have been listed from top to bottom, so to say, but their order
should not be taken to indicate anything superior or inferior, or more or
less difficult, or the order in which these disciplines can and ought to
be practiced. The order, importance and difficulty vary with each individual
and no absolute rule can be formulated. Each one must find and work out
his own system according to his personal needs and capacities.
Accordingly, only an overall view will be given here, presenting an ideal
procedure that is as complete as possible. Each one will then have to apply
as much of it as he can in the best possible way.
The tapasya or discipline of beauty will lead us, through austerity in physical
life, to freedom in action. Its basic programme will be to build a body
that is beautiful in form, harmonious in posture, supple and agile in its
movements, powerful in its activities and robust in its health and organic
To achieve these results, it will be good, as a general rule, to make use
of habit as a help in organising one's material life, for the body functions
more easily within the framework of a regular routine. But one must know
how to avoid becoming a slave to one's habits, however good they may be;
the greatest flexibility must be maintained so that one may change them
each time it becomes necessary to do so.
One must build up nerves of steel in powerful and elastic muscles in order
to be able to endure anything whenever it is indispensable. But at the same
time great care must be taken not to demand more from the body than the
effort which is strictly necessary, the expenditure of energy that fosters
growth and progress, while categorically excluding everything that causes
exhaustion and leads in the end to physical decline and disintegration.
A physical culture which aims at building a body capable of serving as a
fit instrument for a higher consciousness demands very austere habits: a
great regularity in sleep, food, exercise and every activity. By a scrupulous
study of one's own bodily needs - for they vary with each individual - a
general programme will be established; and once this has been done well,
it must be followed rigorously, without any fantasy or slackness. There
must be no little exceptions to the rule that are indulged in "just
for once" but which are repeated very often - for as soon as one yields
to temptation, even "just for once", one lessens the resistance
of the will-power and opens the door to every failure. One must therefore
forgo all weakness: no more nightly escapades from which one comes back
exhausted, no more feasting and carousing which upset the normal functioning
of the stomach, no more distractions, amusements and pleasures that only
waste energy and leave one without the strength to do the daily practice.
One must submit to the austerity of a sensible and regular life, concentrating
all one's physical attention on building a body that comes as close to perfection
as possible. To reach this ideal goal, one must strictly shun all excess
and every vice, great or small; one must deny oneself the use of such slow
poisons as tobacco, alcohol, etc., which men have a habit of developing
into indispensable needs that gradually destroy the will and the memory.
The all-absorbing interest which nearly all human beings, even the most
intellectual, have in food, its preparation and its consumption, should
be replaced by an almost chemical knowledge of the needs of the body and
a very scientific austerity in satisfying them. Another austerity must be
added to that of food, the austerity of sleep. It does not consist in going
without sleep but in knowing how to sleep. Sleep must not be a fall into
unconsciousness which makes the body heavy instead of refreshing it. Eating
with moderation and abstaining from all excess greatly reduces the need
to spend many hours in sleep; however, the quality of sleep is much more
important than its quantity. In order to have a truly effective rest and
relaxation during sleep, it is good as a rule to drink something before
going to bed, a cup of milk or soup or fruit juice, for instance. Light
food brings a quiet sleep. One should, however, abstain from all copious
meals, for then the sleep becomes agitated and is disturbed by nightmares,
or else is dense, heavy and dulling. But the most important thing of all
is to make the mind clear, to quieten the emotions and calm the effervescence
of desires and the preoccupations which accompany them. If before retiring
to bed one has talked a lot or had a lively discussion, if one has read
an exciting or intensely interesting book, one should rest a little without
sleeping in order to quieten the mental activity, so that the brain does
not engage in disorderly movements while the other parts of the body alone
are asleep. Those who practice meditation will do well to concentrate for
a few minutes on a lofty and restful idea, in an aspiration towards a higher
and vaster consciousness. Their sleep will benefit greatly from this and
they will largely be spared the risk of falling into unconsciousness while
After the austerity of a night spent wholly in resting in a calm and peaceful
sleep comes the austerity of a day which is sensibly organised; its activities
will be divided between the progressive and skilfully graded exercises required
for the culture of the body, and work of some kind or other. For both can
and ought to form part of the physical tapasya. With regard to exercises,
each one will choose the ones best suited to his body and, if possible,
take guidance from an expert on the subject, who knows how to combine and
grade the exercises to obtain a maximum effect. Neither the choice nor the
execution of these exercises should be governed by fancy. One must not do
this or that because it seems easier or more amusing; there should be no
change of training until the instructor considers it necessary. The self-perfection
or even simply the self-improvement of each individual body is a problem
to be solved, and its solution demands much patience, perseverance and regularity.
In spite of what many people think, the athlete's life is not a life of
amusement or distraction; on the contrary, it is a life of methodical efforts
and austere habits, which leave no room for useless fancies that go against
the result one wants to achieve.
In work too there is an austerity. It consists in not having any preferences
and in doing everything one does with interest. For one who wants to grow
in self-perfection, there are no great or small tasks, none that are important
or unimportant; all are equally useful for one who aspires for progress
and self-mastery. It is said that one only does well what one is interested
in doing. This is true, but it is truer still that one can learn to find
interest in everything one does, even in what appear to be the most insignificant
chores. The secret of this attainment lies in the urge towards self-perfection.
Whatever occupation or task falls to your lot, you must do it with a will
to progress; whatever one does, one must not only do it as best one can
but strive to do it better and better in a constant effort for perfection.
In this way everything without exception becomes interesting, from the most
material chore to the most artistic and intellectual work. The scope for
progress is infinite and can be applied to the smallest thing.
This leads us quite naturally to liberation in action. For, in one's action,
one must be free from all social conventions, all moral prejudices. However,
this does not mean that one should lead a life of license and dissoluteness.
On the contrary, one imposes on oneself a rule that is far stricter than
all social rules, for it tolerates no hypocrisy and demands a perfect sincerity.
One's entire physical activity should be organised to help the body to grow
in balance and strength and beauty. For this purpose, one must abstain from
all pleasure-seeking, including sexual pleasure. For every sexual act is
a step towards death. That is why from the most ancient times, in the most
sacred and secret schools, this act was prohibited to every aspirant towards
immortality. The sexual act is always followed by a longer or shorter period
of unconsciousness that opens the door to all kinds of influences and causes
a fall in consciousness. But if one wants to prepare oneself for the supramental
life, one must never allow one's consciousness to slip into laxity and inconscience
under the pretext of pleasure or even of rest and relaxation. One should
find relaxation in force and light, not in darkness and weakness. Continence
is therefore the rule for all those who aspire for progress. But especially
for those who want to prepare themselves for the supramental manifestation,
this continence must be replaced by a total abstinence, achieved not by
coercion and suppression but by a kind of inner alchemy, as a result of
which the energies that are normally used in the act of procreation are
transmuted into energies for progress and integral transformation. It is
obvious that for the result to be total and truly beneficial, all sexual
impulses and desires must be eliminated from the mental and vital consciousness
as well as from the physical will. All radical and durable transformation
proceeds from within outwards, so that the external transformation is the
normal, almost inevitable result of this process.
A decisive choice has to be made between lending the body to Nature's ends
in obedience to her demand to perpetuate the race as it is, and preparing
this same body to become a step towards the creation of the new race. For
it is not possible to do both at the same time; at every moment one has
to decide whether one wants to remain part of the humanity of yesterday
or to belong to the superhumanity of tomorrow.
One must renounce being adapted to life as it is and succeeding in it if
one wants to prepare for life as it will be and to become an active and
efficient part of it.
One must refuse pleasure if one wants to open to the delight of existence,
in a total beauty and harmony.
This brings us quite naturally to vital austerity, the austerity of the
sensations, the tapasya of power. For the vital being is the seat of power,
of effective enthusiasm. It is in the vital that thought is transformed
into will and becomes a dynamism for action. It is also true that the vital
is the seat of desires and passions, of violent impulses and equally violent
reactions, of revolt and depression. The normal remedy is to strangle and
starve the vital by depriving it of all sensation; sensations are indeed
its main sustenance and without them it falls asleep, grows sluggish and
starves to death.
In fact, the vital has three sources of subsistence. The one most easily
accessible to it comes from below, from the physical energies through the
The second is on its own plane, when it is sufficiently vast and receptive,
by contact with the universal vital forces.
The third, to which it usually opens only in a great aspiration for progress,
comes to it from above by the infusion and absorption of spiritual forces
To these sources men always strive more or less to add another, which is
for them at the same time the source of most of their torments and misfortunes.
It is the interchange of vital forces with their fellows, usually in groups
of two, which they most often mistake for love, but which is only the attraction
between two forces that take pleasure in mutual interchange.
Thus, if we do not wish to starve our vital, sensations must not be rejected
or diminished in number and intensity. Neither should we avoid them; rather
we must make use of them with wisdom and discernment. Sensations are an
excellent instrument of knowledge and education, but to make them serve
these ends, they must not be used egoistically for the sake of enjoyment,
in a blind and ignorant search for pleasure and self-satisfaction.
The senses should be capable of enduring everything without disgust or displeasure,
but at the same time they must acquire and develop more and more the power
of discerning the quality, origin and effect of the various vital vibrations
in order to know whether they are favourable to harmony, beauty and good
health or whether they are harmful to the balance and progress of the physical
being and the vital. Moreover, the senses should be used as instruments
to approach and study the physical and vital worlds in all their complexity;
in this way they will take their true place in the great endeavour towards
It is by enlightening, strengthening and purifying the vital, and not by
weakening it, that one can contribute to the true progress of the being.
To deprive oneself of sensations is therefore as harmful as depriving oneself
of food. But just as the choice of food must be made wisely and solely for
the growth and proper functioning of the body, so too the choice of sensations
and their control should be made with a very scientific austerity and solely
for the growth and perfection of the vital, of this highly dynamic instrument,
which is as essential for progress as all the other parts of the being.
It is by educating the vital, by making it more refined, more sensitive,
more subtle and, one should almost say, more elegant, in the best sense
of the word, that one can overcome its violence and brutality, which are
in fact a form of crudity and ignorance, of lack of taste.
In truth, a cultivated and illumined vital can be as noble and heroic and
disinterested as it is now spontaneously vulgar, egoistic and perverted
when it is left to itself without education. It is enough for each one to
know how to transform in himself the search for pleasure into an aspiration
for the supramental plenitude. If the education of the vital is carried
far enough, with perseverance and sincerity, there comes a time when, convinced
of the greatness and beauty of the goal, the vital gives up petty and illusory
censorial satisfactions in order to win the divine delight.
"Bulletin", February 1953
The question of mental austerity immediately brings to mind long meditations
leading to control of thought and culminating in inner silence. This aspect
of yogic discipline is too well known to need dwelling upon. But there is
another aspect of the subject which is usually given less attention, and
that is control of speech. Apart from a very few exceptions, only absolute
silence is set in opposition to loose talk. And yet it is a far greater
and far more fruitful austerity to control one's speech than to abolish
Man is the first animal on earth to be able to use articulate sounds. Indeed,
he is very proud of this capacity and exercises it without moderation or
discernment. The world is deafened with the sound of his words and sometimes
one almost misses the harmonious silence of the plant kingdom.
Besides, it is a well-known fact that the weaker the mental power, the greater
is the need to use speech. Thus there are primitive and uneducated people
who cannot think at all unless they speak, and they can be heard muttering
sounds more or less loudly to themselves, because this is the only way they
can follow a train of thought, which would not be formulated in them but
for the spoken word.
There are also a great many people, even among those who are educated but
whose mental power is weak, who do not know what they want to say until
they say it. This makes their speech interminable and tedious. For as they
speak, their thought becomes clearer and more precise, and so they have
to repeat the same thing several times in order to say it more and more
Some need to prepare beforehand what they have to say, and splutter when
they are obliged to improvise, because they have not had time to elaborate
step by step the exact terms of what they want to say.
Lastly, there are born orators who are masters of the spoken word; they
spontaneously find all the words they need to say what they want to say
and say it well.
None of this, however, from the point of view of mental austerity, goes
beyond the category of idle talk. For by idle talk I mean every word that
is spoken without being absolutely indispensable. One may ask, how can one
judge? For this, one must first make a general classification of the various
categories of spoken words.
First, in the physical domain, we have all the words that are spoken for
material reasons. They are by far the most numerous and most probably also
the most useful in ordinary life.
A constant babble of words seems to be the indispensable accompaniment to
daily work. And yet as soon as one makes an effort to reduce the noise to
a minimum, one realises that many things are done better and faster in silence
and that this helps to maintain one's inner peace and concentration.
If you are not alone and live with others, cultivate the habit of not externalising
yourself constantly by speaking aloud, and you will notice that little by
little an inner understanding is established between yourself and others;
you will then be able to communicate among yourselves with a minimum of
words or even without any words at all. This outer silence is most favourable
to inner peace, and with goodwill and a steadfast aspiration, you will be
able to create a harmonious atmosphere which is very conducive to progress.
In social life, in addition to the words that concern material life and
occupations, there will be those that express sensations, feelings and emotions.
Here the habit of outer silence proves of valuable help. For when one is
assailed by a wave of sensations or feelings, this habitual silence gives
you time to reflect and, if necessary, to regain possession of yourself
before projecting the sensation or feeling in words. How many quarrels can
be avoided in this way; how many times one will be saved from one of those
psychological catastrophes which are only too often the result of uncontrolled
Without going to this extreme, one should always control the words one speaks
and never allow one's tongue to be prompted by a movement of anger, violence
or temper. It is not only the quarrel that is bad in its results, but the
fact of allowing one's tongue to be used to project bad vibrations into
the atmosphere; for nothing is more contagious than the vibrations of sound,
and by giving these movements a chance to express themselves, one perpetuates
them in oneself and in others.
Among the most undesirable kinds of idle talk must also be included everything
that is said about others.
Unless you are responsible for certain people, as a guardian, a teacher
or a departmental head, what others do or do not do is no concern of yours
and you must refrain from talking about them, from giving your opinion about
them and what they do, and from repeating what others may think or say about
It may happen that the very nature of your occupation makes it your duty
to report what is taking place in a particular department, undertaking or
communal work. But then the report should be confined to the work alone
and not touch upon private matters. And as an absolute rule, it must be
wholly objective. You should not allow any personal reaction, any preference,
any like or dislike to creep in. And above all, never introduce your own
petty personal grudges into the work that is assigned to you.
In all cases and as a general rule, the less one speaks of others, even
to praise them, the better. It is already so difficult to know exactly what
is happening in oneself - how can one know with certainty what is happening
in others? So you must totally abstain from pronouncing upon anybody one
of those final judgments which cannot but be foolish if not spiteful.
When a thought is expressed in speech, the vibration of the sound has a
considerable power to bring the most material substance into contact with
the thought, thus giving it a concrete and effective reality. That is why
one must never speak ill of people or things or say things which go against
the progress of the divine realisation in the world. This is an absolute
general rule. And yet it has one exception. You should not criticise anything
unless at the same time you have the conscious power and active will to
dissolve or transform the movements or things you criticise. For this conscious
power and active will have the capacity of infusing Matter with the possibility
to react and refuse the bad vibration and ultimately to correct it so that
it becomes impossible for it to go on expressing itself on the physical
This can be done without risk or danger only by one who moves in the gnostic
realms and possesses in his mental faculties the light of the spirit and
the power of the truth. He, the divine worker, is free from all preference
and all attachment; he has broken down the limits of his ego and is now
only a perfectly pure and impersonal instrument of the supramental action
There are also all the words that are uttered to express ideas, opinions,
the results of reflection or study. Here we are in an intellectual domain
and we might think that in this domain men are more reasonable, more self-controlled,
and that the practice of rigorous austerity is less indispensable. It is
nothing of the kind, however, for even here, into this abode of ideas and
knowledge, man has brought the violence of his convictions, the intolerance
of his sectarianism, the passion of his preferences. Thus, here too, one
must resort to mental austerity and carefully avoid any exchange of ideas
that leads to controversies which are all too often bitter and nearly always
unnecessary, or any clash of opinion which ends in heated discussions and
even quarrels, which are always the result of some mental narrowness that
can easily be cured when one rises high enough in the mental domain.
For sectarianism becomes impossible when one knows that any formulated thought
is only one way of saying something which eludes all expression. Every idea
contains a little of the truth or one aspect of the truth. But no idea is
absolutely true in itself.
This sense of the relativity of things is a powerful help in keeping one's
balance and preserving a serene moderation in one's speech. I once heard
an old occultist of some wisdom say, "Nothing is essentially bad; there
are only things which are not in their place. Put each thing in its true
place and you will have a harmonious world."
And yet, from the point of view of action, the value of an idea is in proportion
to its pragmatic power. It is true that this power varies a great deal according
to the individual on whom it acts. An idea that has great impelling force
in one individual may have none whatsoever in another. But the power itself
is contagious. Certain ideas are capable of transforming the world. They
are the ones that ought to be expressed; they are the ruling stars in the
firmament of the spirit that will guide the earth towards its supreme realisation.
Lastly, we have all the words that are spoken for the purpose of teaching.
This category ranges from the kindergarten to the university course, not
forgetting all the artistic and literary creations of mankind that seek
to entertain or instruct. In this domain, everything depends on the worth
of the creation, and the subject is too vast to be dealt with here. It is
a fact that concern about education is very much in vogue at present and
praiseworthy attempts are being made to make use of new scientific discoveries
in the service of education. But even in this matter, austerity is demanded
from the aspirant towards truth.
It is generally admitted that in the process of education a certain kind
of lighter, more frivolous, more entertaining productions are necessary
to reduce the strain of effort and give some relaxation to the children
and even to adults. From a certain point of view, this is true; but unfortunately
this concession has served as an excuse to justify a whole category of things
which are nothing but the efflorescence of all that is vulgar, crude and
base in human nature. Its coarsest instincts, its most depraved taste find
in this concession a good excuse to display and impose themselves as an
inevitable necessity. They are nothing of the kind, however; one can relax
without being dissolute, take rest without being vulgar, enjoy oneself without
allowing the grosser elements in the nature to rise to the surface. But
from the point of view of austerity, these needs themselves change their
nature; relaxation is transformed into inner silence, rest into contemplation
and enjoyment into bliss.
This generally recognised need for entertainment, slackening of effort and
more or less long and total forgetfulness of the aim of life and the purpose
of existence should not be considered as something altogether natural and
indispensable, but as a weakness to which one yields because of lack of
intensity in the aspiration, because of instability in the will, because
of ignorance, unconsciousness and sloth. Do not justify these movements
and you will soon realise that they are unnecessary; there will even come
a time when they become repugnant and unacceptable to you. Then the greater
part of human creation, which is ostensibly entertaining but in reality
debasing, will lose its support and cease to be encouraged.
However, one should not think that the value of spoken words depends on
the nature of the subject of conversation. One can talk idly on spiritual
matters just as much as on any other, and this kind of idle talk may well
be one of the most dangerous. For example, the neophyte is always very eager
to share with others the little he has learnt. But as he advances on the
path, he becomes more and more aware that he does not know very much and
that before trying to instruct others, he must be very sure of the value
of what he knows, until he finally becomes wise and realises that many hours
of silent concentration are needed to be able to speak usefully for a few
minutes. Moreover, where inner life and spiritual effort are concerned,
the use of speech should be subjected to a still more stringent rule and
nothing should be said unless it is absolutely indispensable.
It is a well-known fact that one must never speak of one's spiritual experiences
if one does not want to see vanishing in a flash the energy accumulated
in the experience, which was meant to hasten one's progress. The only exception
which can be made to the rule is with regard to one's guru, when one wants
to receive some explanation or teaching from him concerning the content
and meaning of one's experience. Indeed, one can speak about these things
without danger only to one's guru, for only the guru is able by his knowledge
to use the elements of the experience for your own good, as steps towards
It is true that the guru himself is subject to the same rule of silence
with regard to what concerns him personally. In Nature everything is in
movement; thus, whatever does not move forward is bound to fall back. The
guru must progress even as his disciples do, although his progress may not
be on the same plane. And for him too, to speak about his experiences is
not favourable: the greater part of the dynamic force for progress contained
in the experience evaporates if it is put into words. But on the other hand,
by explaining his experiences to his disciples, he greatly helps their understanding
and consequently their progress. It is for him in his wisdom to know to
what extent he can and ought to sacrifice the one to the other. It goes
without saying that no boasting or vainglory should enter into his account,
for the slightest vanity would make him no longer a guru but an impostor.
As for the disciple, I would tell him: "In all cases, be faithful to
your guru whoever he is; he will lead you as far as you can go. But if you
have the good fortune to have the Divine as your guru, there will be no
limit to your realisation."
Nevertheless, even the Divine, when incarnate on earth, is subject to the
same law of progress. His instrument of manifestation, the physical being
he has assumed, should be in a constant state of progress, and the law of
his personal self-expression is in a way linked to the general law of earthly
progress. Thus even the embodied god cannot be perfect on earth until men
are ready to understand and accept perfection. That day will come when everything
that is now done out of a sense of duty towards the Divine will be done
out of love for Him. Progress will be a joy instead of being an effort and
often even a struggle. Or, more exactly, progress will be made in joy, with
the full adherence of the whole being, instead of by coercing the resistance
of the ego, which entails great effort and sometimes even great suffering.
In conclusion, I would say this: if you want your speech to express the
truth and thus acquire the power of the Word, never think out beforehand
what you want to say, do not decide what is a good or bad thing to say,
do not calculate the effect of what you are going to say. Be silent in mind
and remain unwavering in the true attitude of constant aspiration towards
the All-Wisdom, the All-Knowledge, the All-Consciousness. Then, if your
aspiration is sincere, if it is not a veil for your ambition to do well
and to succeed, if it is pure, spontaneous and integral, you will then be
able to speak very simply, to say the words that ought to be said, neither
more nor less, and they will have a creative power.
"Bulletin", April 1953
Of all austerities the most difficult is the austerity of feelings and emotions,
the tapasya of love.
Indeed, in the domain of feelings, more perhaps than in any other, man has
the sense of the inevitable, the irresistible, of a fatality that dominates
him and which he cannot escape. Love (or at least what human beings call
love) is particularly regarded as an imperious master whose caprice one
cannot elude, who strikes you according to his fancy and forces you to obey
him whether you will or not. In the name of love the worst crimes have been
perpetrated, the greatest follies committed.
And yet men have invented all kinds of moral and social rules in the hope
of controlling this force of love, of making it amenable and docile. But
these rules seem to have been made only to be broken; and the restraint
they impose on its free activity merely increases its explosive power. For
it is not by rules that the movements of love can be disciplined. Only a
greater, higher and truer power of love can subdue the uncontrollable impulses
of love. Only love can rule over love by enlightening, transforming and
exalting it. For here too, more than anywhere else, control does not consist
of suppression and abolition but of transmutation - a sublime alchemy. This
is because, of all the forces at work in the universe, love is the most
powerful, the most irresistible. Without love the world would fall back
into the chaos of inconscience.
Consciousness is indeed the creatrix of the universe, but love is its saviour.
Conscious experience alone can give a glimpse of what love is, of its purpose
and process. Any verbal transcription is necessarily a mental travesty of
something which eludes all expression in every way. Philosophers, mystics,
occultists, have all tried to define love, but in vain. I have no pretension
of succeeding where they have failed. But I wish to state in the simplest
possible terms what in their writings takes such an abstract and complicated
form. My words will have no other aim than to lead towards the living experience,
and I wish to be able to lead even a child to it.
Love is, in its essence, the joy of identity; it finds its ultimate expression
in the bliss of union. Between the two lie all the phases of its universal
At the beginning of this manifestation, in the purity of its origin, love
is composed of two movements, two complementary poles of the urge towards
complete oneness. On one hand there is the supreme power of attraction and
on the other the irresistible need for absolute self-giving. No other movement
could have better bridged the abyss that was created when in the individual
being consciousness was separated from its origin and became unconsciousness.
What had been projected into space had to be brought back to itself without,
however, annihilating the universe which had thus been created. That is
why love burst forth, the irresistible power of union.
It brooded over the darkness and the inconscience; it was scattered and
fragmented in the bosom of unfathomable night. And then began the awakening
and the ascent, the slow formation of Matter and its endless progression.
It is indeed love, in a corrupted and darkened form, that is associated
with all the impulses of physical and vital Nature, as the urge behind all
movement and all grouping, which becomes quite perceptible in the plant
kingdom. In trees and plants, it is the need to grow in order to obtain
more light, more air, more space; in flowers, it is the offering of their
beauty and fragrance in a loving efflorescence. Then, in animals, it is
love that lies behind hunger and thirst, the need for appropriation, expansion,
procreation, in short, behind every desire, whether conscious or not. And
among the higher species, it is in the self-sacrificing devotion of the
female to her young. This brings us quite naturally to the human race in
which, with the triumphant advent of mental activity, this association reaches
its climax, for it has become conscious and deliberate. Indeed, as soon
as terrestrial development made it possible, Nature took up this sublime
force of love and put it at the service of her creative work by linking
and mixing it with her movement of procreation. This association has even
become so close, so intimate, that very few human beings are illumined enough
in their consciousness to be able to dissociate these movements from each
other and experience them separately. In this way, love has suffered every
degradation, it has been debased to the level of the beast.
From then on, too, there clearly appears in Nature's works the will to rebuild,
by steps and stages and through ever more numerous and complex groupings,
the primordial oneness. Having made use of the power of love to bring two
human beings together to form the biune group, the origin of the family,
after having broken the narrow limits of personal egoism, changing it into
a dual egoism, Nature, with the appearance of children, brought forth a
more complex unit, the family. And in course of time, with multifarious
associations between families, individual interchanges and mingling of blood,
larger groupings were formed: clans, tribes, castes, classes, leading to
the creation of nations. This work of group formation proceeded simultaneously
in the various parts of the world, crystallising in the different races.
And little by little, Nature will fuse these races too in her endeavour
to build a real and material foundation for human unity.
In the consciousness of most men, all this is the outcome of chance; they
are not aware of the existence of a global plan and take circumstances as
they come, for better or for worse according to their temperament: some
are satisfied, others discontented.
Among the contented, there is a certain category of people who are perfectly
adapted to Nature's ways: these are the optimists. For them the days are
brighter because of the nights, colours are vivid because of the shadows,
joy is more intense because of suffering, pain gives a greater charm to
pleasure, illness gives health all its value; I have even heard some of
them say that they are glad to have enemies because it made them appreciate
their friends all the more. In any case, for all these people, sexual activity
is one of the most enjoyable of occupations, satisfaction of the palate
is a delight of life that they cannot go without; and it is quite normal
to die since one is born: death puts an end to a journey which would become
tedious if it were to last too long.
In short, they find life quite all right as it is and do not care to know
whether it has a purpose or a goal; they do not worry about the miseries
of others and do not see any need for progress.
Never try to "convert" these people; it would be a serious mistake.
If they were unfortunate enough to listen to you, they would lose the balance
they have without being able to find a new one. They are not ready to have
an inner life, but they are Nature's favourites; they have a very close
alliance with her, and this realisation should not be needlessly disturbed.
To a lesser degree, and above all, in a less durable way, there are other
contented people in the world whose contentment is due to the magic effect
of love. Each time an individual breaks the narrow limitations in which
he is imprisoned by his ego and emerges into the open air, through self-giving,
whether for the sake of another human being or his family, his country or
his faith, he finds in this self-forgetfulness a foretaste of the marvellous
delight of love, and this gives him the impression that he has come into
contact with the Divine. But most often it is only a fleeting contact, for
in the human being love is immediately mixed with lower egoistic movements
which debase it and rob it of its power of purity. But even if it remained
pure, this contact with the divine existence could not last for ever, for
love is only one aspect of the Divine, an aspect which here on earth has
suffered the same distortions as the others.
Besides, all these experiences are very good and useful for the ordinary
man who follows the normal way of Nature in her stumbling march towards
the future unity. But they cannot satisfy those who want to hasten the movement,
or rather, who aspire to belong to another line of more direct and rapid
movement, to an exceptional movement that will liberate them from ordinary
mankind and its interminable march, so that they may take part in the spiritual
advance which will lead them along the swiftest paths towards the creation
of the new race, the race that will express the supramental truth upon earth.
These rare souls must reject all forms of love between human beings, for
how ever beautiful and pure they may be, they cause a kind of short circuit
and cut off the direct connection with the Divine.
For one who has known love for the Divine, all other forms of love are obscure
and too mixed with pettiness and egoism and darkness; they are like a perpetual
haggling or a struggle for supremacy and domination, and even among the
best they are full of misunderstanding and irritability, of friction and
Moreover, it is a well-known fact that one grows into the likeness of what
one loves. Therefore if you want to be like the Divine, love Him alone.
Only one who has known the ecstasy of the exchange of love with the Divine
can know how insipid and dull and feeble any other exchange is in comparison.
And even if the most austere discipline is required to arrive at this exchange,
nothing is too hard, too long or too severe in order to achieve it, for
it surpasses all expression.
This is the marvellous state we want to realise on earth; it is this which
will have the power to transform the world and make it a habitation worthy
of the Divine Presence. Then will pure and true love be able to incarnate
in a body that will no longer be a disguise and a veil for it. Many a time,
in order to make the discipline easier and to create a closer and more easily
perceptible intimacy, the Divine has sought, in his highest form of love,
to assume a physical body similar in appearance to the human body; but each
time, imprisoned within the gross forms of Matter, he was able to express
only a caricature of himself. And in order to manifest in the fullness of
his perfection he waits only for human beings to have made some indispensable
progress in their consciousness and in their bodies; for the vulgarity of
man's vanity and the stupidity of his conceit mistake the sublime divine
love, when it expresses itself in a human form, for a sign of weakness and
dependence and need.
And yet man already knows, at first obscurely, but more and more clearly
as he draws nearer to perfection, that love alone can put an end to the
suffering of the world; only the ineffable joy of love in its essence can
sweep away from the universe the burning pain of separation. For only in
the ecstasy of the supreme union will creation discover its purpose and
That is why no effort is too arduous, no austerity too rigorous if it can
illumine, purify, perfect and transform the physical substance so that it
may no longer conceal the Divine when he takes on an outer form in Matter.
For then this marvellous tenderness will be able to express itself freely
in the world, the divine love which has the power of changing life into
a paradise of sweet joy.
This, you will say, is the culmination, the crown of the effort, the final
victory; but what must be done in order to achieve it? What is the path
to be followed and what are the first steps on the way?
Since we have decided to reserve love in all its splendour for our personal
relationship with the Divine, we shall replace it in our relations with
others by a total, unvarying, constant and egoless kindness and goodwill
that will not expect any reward or gratitude or even any recognition. However
others may treat you, you will never allow yourself to be carried away by
any resentment; and in your unmixed love for the Divine, you will leave
him sole judge as to how he is to protect you and defend you against the
misunderstanding and bad will of others.
You will await your joys and pleasures from the Divine alone. In him alone
will you seek and find help and support. He will comfort you in all your
sorrows, guide you on the path, lift you up if you stumble, and if there
are moments of failure and exhaustion, he will take you up in his strong
arms of love and enfold you in his soothing sweetness.
To avoid any misunderstanding, I must point out here that because of the
exigencies of the language in which I am expressing myself, I am obliged
to use the masculine gender whenever I mention the Divine. But in fact the
reality of love I speak of is above and beyond all gender, masculine or
feminine; and when it incarnates in a human body, it does so indifferently
in the body of a man or a woman according to the needs of the work to be
In summary, austerity in feelings consists then of giving up all emotional
attachment, of whatever nature, whether for a person, for the family, for
the country or anything else, in order to concentrate on an exclusive attachment
for the Divine Reality. This concentration will culminate in an integral
identification and will be instrumental to the supramental realisation upon
This leads us quite naturally to the four liberations which will be the
concrete forms of this achievement. The liberation of the feelings will
be at the same time the liberation from suffering, in a total realisation
of the supramental oneness.
The mental liberation or liberation from ignorance will establish in the
being the mind of light or gnostic consciousness, whose expression will
have the creative power of the Word.
The vital liberation or liberation from desire gives the individual will
the power to identify itself perfectly and consciously with the divine will
and brings constant peace and serenity as well as the power which results
Finally, crowning all the others, comes the physical liberation or liberation
from the law of material cause and effect. By a total self-mastery, one
is no longer a slave of Nature's laws which make men act according to subconscious
or semi-conscious impulses and maintain them in the rut of ordinary life.
With this liberation one can decide in full knowledge the path to be taken,
choose the action to be accomplished and free oneself from all blind determinism,
so that nothing is allowed to intervene in the course of one's life but
the highest will, the truest knowledge, the supramental consciousness.
"Bulletin", August 1953
in CWM, volume 12, "On Education" pages
published by Sri
Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA
See the Original in French