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Sri Aurobindo

Letter to his younger brother Barin (1920)

(Original in Bengali)


April 7, 1920

Dear Barin,

I have your letter, but have not succeeded in writing an answer till now. That I have even sat down to write now is a miracle; for me to write a letter is an event that takes place once in a blue moon - especially to write in Bengali, a thing I have not done for five or six years. If I can manage to finish this letter and put it in the post, the miracle will be complete!

First, about your yoga. You wish to give me the charge of your yoga and I am willing to take it, but that means to give its charge to Him who is moving by His divine Shakti [Energy], whether secretly or openly, both you and me. But you must know that the necessary result of this will be that you will have to walk in the special path which He has given to me, the path which I call the path of the Integral Yoga. What I began with, what Lele [1] gave me, was a seeking for the path, a circling in many directions - a first touch, a taking up, a handling and scrutiny of this or that in all the old partial yogas, some sort of complete experience of one and then the pursuit of another.

Afterwards, when I came to Pondicherry, this unsteady condition came to an end. The Guru of the world who is within us then gave me complete directions for my path - its complete theory, the ten limbs of the body of this Yoga. These past ten years He has been making me develop it in experience, and this is not yet finished. It may take another two years, and as long as it is not finished I doubt if I shall be able to return to Bengal. Pondicherry is the appointed place for my yoga siddhi [realization], except indeed one part of it, and that is action. The centre of my work is Bengal, although I hope that its circumference will be all India and the whole earth.

I shall write and tell you afterwards what this way of yoga is. Or if you come here I shall speak to you about it. In this matter the spoken word is better than the written. At present I can only say that its root-principle is to make a harmony and unity of complete knowledge, complete works and complete Bhakti [Devotion], to raise all this above the mind and give it its complete perfection on the supramental level of Vijnana [Gnosis]. This was the defect of the old yoga - the mind and the Spirit it knew, and it was satisfied with the experience of the Spirit in the mind. But the mind can grasp only the divided and partial; it cannot wholly seize the infinite and indivisible. The mind's means to reach the infinite are Sannyasa [Renunciation], Moksha [Liberation] and Nirvana, and it has no others. One man or another may indeed attain this featureless Moksha, but what is the gain? The Brahman, the Self, God are ever present. What God wants in man is to embody Himself here in the individual and in the community, to realize God in life.

The old way of yoga failed to bring about the harmony or unity of Spirit and life: it instead dismissed the world as Maya [Illusion] or a transient Play. The result has been loss of life-power and the degeneration of India. As was said in the Gita, "These peoples would perish if I did not do works" - these peoples of India have truly gone down to ruin. A few sannyasins and bairagis [renunciants] to be saintly and perfect and liberated, a few bhaktas [lovers of God] to dance in a mad ecstasy of love and sweet emotion and Ananda [Bliss], and a whole race to become lifeless, void of intelligence, sunk in deep tamas [inertia] - is this the effect of true spirituality? No, we must first attain all the partial experiences possible on the mental level and flood the mind with spiritual delight and illumine it with spiritual light, but afterwards we must rise above. If we cannot rise above, to the supramental level, that is, it is hardly possible to know the world's final secret and the problem it raises remains unsolved. There, the ignorance which creates a duality of opposition between the Spirit and Matter, between truth of spirit and truth of life, disappears. There one need no longer call the world Maya. The world is the eternal Play of God, the eternal manifestation of the Self. Then it becomes possible to fully know and fully realize God - to do what is said in the Gita, "To know Me integrally." The physical body, the life, the mind and understanding, the supermind and the Ananda - these are the spirit's five levels. The higher man rises on this ascent the nearer he comes to the state of that highest perfection open to his spiritual evolution. Rising to the Supermind, it becomes easy to rise to the Ananda. One attains a firm foundation in the condition of the indivisible and infinite Ananda, not only in the timeless Parabrahman [Absolute] but in the body, in life, in the world. The integral being, the integral consciousness, the integral Ananda blossoms out and takes form in life. This is the central clue of my yoga, its fundamental principle.

This is no easy change to make. After these fifteen years I am only now rising into the lowest of the three levels of the Supermind and trying to draw up into it all the lower activities. But when this siddhi will be complete, then I am absolutely certain that through me God will give to others the siddhi of the Supermind with less effort. Then my real work will begin. I am not impatient for success in the work. What is to happen will happen in God's appointed time. I have no hasty or disorderly impulse to rush into the field of work in the strength of the little ego. Even if I did not succeed in my work I would not be shaken. This work is not mine but God's. I will listen to no other call; when God moves me then I will move.

I know very well that Bengal is not really ready. The spiritual flood which has come is for the most part a new form of the old. It is not the real transformation. However this too was needed. Bengal has been awakening in itself the old yogas and exhausting their samskaras [old habitual tendencies], extracting their essence and with it fertilizing the soil. At first it was the time of Vedanta - Adwaita, Sannyasa, Shankara's Maya and the rest. It is now the turn of Vaishnava Dharma - Lila, love, the intoxication of emotional experience. All this is very old, unfitted for the new age and will not endure - for such excitement has no capacity to last. But the merit of the Vaishnava Bhava [emotional enthusiasm] is that it keeps a connexion between God and the world and gives a meaning to life; but since it is a partial bhava the whole connexion, the full meaning is not there. The tendency to create sects which you have noticed was inevitable. The nature of the mind is to take a part and call it the whole and exclude all other parts. The Siddha [illuminated being] who brings the bhava, although he leans on its partial aspect, yet keeps some knowledge of the integral whole, even though he may not be able to give it form. But his disciples do not get that knowledge precisely because it is not in a form. They are tying up their little bundles, let them. The bundles will open of themselves when God manifests himself fully. These things are the signs of incompleteness and immaturity. I am not disturbed by them. Let the force of spirituality play in the country in whatever way and in as many sects as may be. Afterwards we shall see. This is the infancy or the embryonic condition of the new age. It is a first hint, not even the beginning.

~ The peculiarity of this yoga is that until there is siddhi above the foundation does not become perfect. Those who have been following my course had kept many of the old samskaras; some of them have dropped away, but others still remain. There was the samskara of Sannyasa, even the wish to create an Aravinda Math [Sri Aurobindo monastery]. Now the intellect has recognized that Sannyasa is not what is wanted, but the stamp of the old idea has not yet been effaced from the prana [breath, life energy]. And so there was next this talk of remaining in the midst of the world, as a man of worldly activities and yet a man of renunciation. The necessity of renouncing desire has been understood, but the harmony of renunciation of desire with enjoyment of Ananda has not been rightly seized by the mind. And they took up my Yoga because it was very natural to the Bengali temperament, not so much from the side of Knowledge as from the side of Bhakti and Karma [Works]. A little knowledge has come in, but the greater part has escaped; the mist of sentimentalism has not been dissipated, the groove of the sattwic bhava [religious fervor] has not been broken. There is still the ego. I am not in haste, I allow each to develop according to his nature. I do not want to fashion all in the same mould. That which is fundamental will indeed be one in all, but it will express itself in many forms. Everybody grows, forms from within. I do not want to build from outside. The basis is there, the rest will come.

What I am aiming at is not a society like the present rooted in division. What I have in view is a Samgha [community] founded in the spirit and in the image of its oneness. It is with this idea that the name Deva Samgha has been given - the commune of those who want the divine life is the Deva Samgha. Such a Samgha will have to be established in one place at first and then spread all over the country. But if any shadow of egoism falls over this endeavor, then the Samgha will change into a sect. The idea may very naturally creep in that such and such a body is the one true Samgha of the future, the one and only centre, that all else must be its circumference, and that those outside its limits are not of the fold or even if they are, have gone astray, because they think differently.

You may say, what need is there of a Samgha? Let me be free and live in every vessel; let all become one without form and let whatever must be happen in the midst of that vast formlessness. There is a truth there, but only one side of the truth. Our business is not with the formless Spirit alone; we have also to direct the movement of life. And there can be no effective movement of life without form. It is the Formless that has taken form and that assumption of name and form is not a caprice of Maya. Form is there because it is indispensable. We do not want to rule out any activity of the world as beyond our province. Politics, industry, society, poetry, literature, art will all remain, but we must give them a new soul and a new form.

Why have I left politics? Because the politics of the country is not a genuine thing belonging to India. It is an importation from Europe and an imitation. At one time there was a need of it. We also have done politics of the European kind. If we had not done it, the country would not have risen and we too would not have gained experience and attained full development. There is still some need of it, not so much in Bengal as in the other provinces of India. But the time has come to stop the shadow from extending and to seize on the reality. We must get to the true soul of India and in its image fashion all works.

People now talk of spiritualizing politics. Its result will be, if there be any permanent result, some kind of Indianized Bolshevism. Even to that kind of work I have no objection. Let each man do according to his inspiration. But that is not the real thing. If one pours the spiritual power into all these impure forms - the water of the Causal ocean into raw vessels - either the raw vessels will break and the water will be spilt and lost or the spiritual power will evaporate and only the impure form remain. In all fields it is the same. I can give the spiritual power but that power will be expended in making the image of an ape and setting it up in the temple of Shiva. If the ape is endowed with life and made powerful, he may play the part of the devotee Hanuman and do much work for Rama[2], so long as that life and that power remain. But what we want in the Temple of India is not Hanuman, but the god, the avatar, Rama himself.

We can mix with all, but in order to draw all into the true path' keeping intact the spirit and form of our ideal. If we do not do that we shall lose our direction and the real work will not be done. If we remain individually everywhere, something will be done indeed; but if we remain everywhere as parts of a Samgha, a hundred times more will be done. As yet that time has not come. If we try to give a form hastily, it may not be the exact thing we want. The Samgha will at first be in unconcentrated form. Those who have the ideal will be united but work in different places. Afterwards, they will form something like a spiritual commune and make a compact Samgha. They will then give all their work a shape according to the demand of the spirit and the need of the age - not a bound and rigid form, not an achalayatana [3], but a free form which will spread out like the sea, mould itself into many waves and surround a thing here, overflood a thing there and finally take all into itself. As we go on doing this there will be established a spiritual community. This is my present idea. As yet it has not been fully developed. All is in God's hands; whatever He makes us do, that we shall do.

Now let me discuss some particular points of your letter. I do not want to say much in this letter about what you have written as regards your yoga. We shall have better occasion when we meet. To look upon the body as a corpse is a sign of Sannyasa, of the path of Nirvana. You cannot be of the world with this idea. You must have delight in all things - in the Spirit as well as in the body. The body has consciousness, it is God's form. When you see God in everything that is in the world, when you have this vision that all this is Brahman, Sarvamidam Brahma, that Vasudeva is all this - Vasudevah sarvamiti - then you have the universal delight. The flow of that delight precipitates and courses even through the body. When you are in such a state, full of the spiritual consciousness, you can lead a married life, a life in the world. In all your works you find the expression of God's delight. So far I have been transforming all the objects and perceptions of the mind and the senses into delight on the mental level. Now they are taking the form of the supramental delight. In this condition is the perfect vision and perception of Sachchidananda.

You write about the Deva Samgha and say, "I am not a god, I am only a piece of much hammered and tempered iron." No one is a God but in each man there is a God and to make Him manifest is the aim of divine life. That we can all do. I recognize that there are great and small adharas [vessels]. I do not accept, however, your description of yourself as accurate. Still whatever the nature of the vessel, once the touch of God is upon it, once the spirit is awake, great and small and all that does not make much difference. There may be more difficulties, more time may be taken, there may be a difference in the manifestation, but even about that there is no certainty. The God within takes no account of these hindrances and deficiencies. He breaks his way out. Was the amount of my failings a small one? Were there less obstacles in my mind and heart and vital being and body? Did it not take time? Has God hammered me less? Day after day, minute after minute, I have been fashioned into I know not whether a god or what. But I have become or am becoming something. That is sufficient, since God wanted to build it. It is the same as regards everyone. Not our strength but the Shakti of God is the sadhaka [worker] of this yoga.

Let me tell you in brief one or two things about what I have long seen. My idea is that the chief cause of the weakness of India is not subjection nor poverty, nor the lack of spirituality or dharma [ethics] but the decline of thought-power, the growth of ignorance in the motherland of Knowledge. Everywhere I see inability or unwillingness to think - thought-incapacity or thought-phobia. Whatever may have been in the middle ages, this state of things is now the sign of a terrible degeneration. The middle age was the night, the time of the victory of ignorance. The modern world is the age of the victory of Knowledge. Whoever thinks most, seeks most, labors most, can fathom and learn the truth of the world, and gets so much more Shakti. If you look at Europe, you will see two things: a vast sea of thought and the play of a huge and fast-moving and yet disciplined force. The whole Shakti of Europe is in that. And in the strength of that Shakti it has been swallowing up the world, like the tapaswins [ascetics] of our ancient times, by whose power even the gods of the world were terrified, held in suspense and subjection. People say Europe is running into the jaws of destruction. I do not think so. All these revolutions and upsettings are the preconditions of a new creation.

Then look at India. Except for some solitary giants, everywhere there is your "simple man," that is, the average man who does not want to think and cannot think, who has not the least Shakti but only a temporary excitement. In India, you want the simple thought, the easy "word." In Europe they want the deep thought, the deep "word"; there even an ordinary laborer or artisan thinks, wants to know, is not satisfied with surface things but wants to go behind. But there is still this difference: there is a fatal limitation in the strength and thought of Europe. When it comes into the spiritual field, its thought-power can no longer move ahead. There Europe sees everything as riddle - nebulous metaphysics, yogic hallucination. They rub their eyes as in smoke and can see nothing clear. Still, some effort is being made in Europe to surmount even this limitation. We already have the spiritual sense - we owe it to our forefathers - and whoever has that sense has at his disposal such Knowledge and Shakti as with one breath might blow away all the huge power of Europe like a blade of grass. But to get that Shakti one must be a worshiper of Shakti. We are not worshipers of Shakti. We are worshipers of the easy way. But Shakti is not to be had by the easy way. Our forefathers dived into a sea of vast thought and gained a vast Knowledge and established a mighty civilization. As they went on in their way, fatigue and weariness came upon them. The force of thought diminished and with it also the strong current of Shakti. Our civilization has become an achalayatana [prison], our religion a bigotry of externals, our spirituality a faint glimmer of light or a momentary wave of religious intoxication. And so long as this sort of thing continues, any permanent resurgence of India is improbable

In Bengal this weakness has gone to the extreme. The Bengali has a quick intelligence, emotional capacity and intuition. He is foremost in India in all these qualities. All of them are necessary but they do not suffice. If to these there were added depth of thought, calm strength, heroic courage and a capacity for and pleasure in prolonged labor, the Bengali might be a leader not only of India, but of mankind. But he does not want that, he wants to get things done easily, to get knowledge without thinking, the fruits without labor, siddhi by an easy sadhana [discipline]. His stock is the excitement of the emotional mind. But excess of emotion, empty of knowledge, is the very symptom of the malady. In the end it brings about fatigue and inertia. The country has been constantly and gradually going down. The life-power has ebbed away. What has the Bengali come to in his own country? He cannot get enough food to eat or clothes to wear, there is lamentation on all sides, his wealth, his trade and commerce, his lands, his very agriculture have begun to pass into the hands of others. We have abandoned the sadhana of Shakti and Shakti has abandoned us. We do the sadhana of Love, but where Knowledge and Shakti are not, there Love does not remain, there narrowness and littleness come, and in a little and narrow mind there is no place for Love. Where is Love in Bengal? There is more quarreling, jealousy, mutual dislike, misunderstanding and faction there than anywhere else even in India which is so much afflicted by division.

In the noble heroic age of the Aryan people [4] there was not so much shouting and gesticulating, but the endeavor they undertook remained steadfast through many centuries. The Bengali's endeavor lasts only for a day or two.

You say that what is needed is maddening enthusiasm, to fill the country with emotional excitement. In the time of the Swadeshi [fight for independence, boycott of English goods] we did all that in the field of politics, but what we did is all now in the dust. Will there be a more favorable result in the spiritual field? I do not say there has been no result. There has been. Any movement will produce some result, but for the most part in terms of an increase of possibility. This is not the right method, however, to steadily actualize the thing. Therefore I no longer wish to make emotional excitement or any intoxication of the mind the base. I wish to make a large and strong equanimity the foundation of the yoga. I want established on that equality a full, firm and undisturbed Shakti in the system and in all its movements. I want the wide display of the light of Knowledge in the ocean of Shakti. And I want in that luminous vastness the tranquil ecstasy of infinite Love, Delight and Oneness. I do not want hundreds of thousands of disciples. It will be enough if I can get a hundred complete men, purified of petty egoism, who will be the instruments of God. I have no faith in the customary trade of the guru. I do not wish to be a guru. If anybody wakes and manifests from within his slumbering godhead and gets the divine life - be it at my touch or at another's - this is what I want. It is such men that will raise the country.

You must not think from all this lecture that I despair of the future of Bengal. I too hope, as they say, that this time a great light will manifest itself in Bengal. Still I have tried to show the other side of the shield, where the fault is, the error, the deficiency. If these remain, the light will not be a great light and it will not be permanent.

The meaning of this extraordinarily long talk is that I too am packing my bag. But I believe that this bundle is like the net of St. Peter, only crammed with the catch of the Infinite. I am not going to open the bag now. If I do that before its time, all would escape. Neither am I going back to Bengal now, not because Bengal is not ready, but because I am not ready. If the unripe goes amidst the unripe what work can he do?[5]

Your Sejda,[6]

Sri Aurobindo

in SABCL, volume 4
published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherry
diffusion by SABDA

[1] Lele, a tantric guru Sri Aurobindo met in 1908, who gave him the realization of mental silence and Nirvana.
[2] Rama, the divine Avatar who killed the demon Ravana with the help of Hanuman and the other monkeys.
[3] A prison; a place where everything is regimented down to the last detail.
[4] In Vedic times.
[5] Translated from the original Bengali, Cent. Ed., IV.327.
[6] Sejda: Elder brother.

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