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At the Feet of The Mother

The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life

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Talk at Savitri Bhavan on August 22, 2009 (Invocation 32:30-53)

The Mother has spoken of Savitri as a supreme revelation; as such it belongs to the class of poems known as ‘revelatory’ and by its very nature it is a poem which cannot exactly be understood by the intellectual mind which has neither the data nor the capacity. But revelations themselves mount from hill to hill, as the ancient seers saw. There is a plane of Revelation in which things are revealed as symbols, and as one climbs higher one sees the inner lines of forces which lie behind the symbols. Still further, the symbol is illumined by an inner meaning and sense, and then one can discover the Idea-Force or the Real Idea that has built the world. Sri Aurobindo goes beyond these and brings us a little taste of all that is closed and sealed to our outward gaze. It is not just a revelation poured in the body of words and sound-symbols: it has a creative power in it and by the mere fact of reading, Sri Aurobindo gives us some kind of a contact with whatever he is describing. We see this in many of his works. One example is when we read The Synthesis of Yoga: when we read the section ‘The Yoga of Divine Works’, it is as if a flame of sacrifice burns through the chapters, inducing one to lead a life of consecration. When we read through ‘The Yoga of Knowledge’, we feel as if we are climbing a steep mountain, and Sri Aurobindo holds our hand and carries us from one plateau to another. Again, when we read ‘The Yoga of Divine Love’, throughout the chapters a strange sweetness, an unearthly ethereal sweetness and joy seems to fill our being, as if the divine Companion were walking by our side. All this, and much more, is poured into Savitri.

In this series of revelations we are presently being shown the subtle worlds. Sri Aurobindo is taking us hand in hand, sometimes carrying us, through these worlds which have been known in both the Indian and the European mysticism. In the Vedas there is a description of these worlds, and so also in European mysticism, often under the name of occultism. The modern mind, the rational and scientific mind, often rejects them, partly because it lacks the data to verify their existence. Our corporeal senses are unable to put us in contact with them because they can only tell us about gross-physical things. Sri Aurobindo raises this question: ‘Why don’t we know about these hidden worlds?’ and he gives a very beautiful answer, one that appeals to both common-sense and logic. He says that we do not know about these worlds, just as we do not know what is going on in our neighbour’s mind – but that does not mean that in the neighbour’s mind nothing is going on. There are things going on in his mind, thoughts and feelings arise, but we are unaware of them. Of course, Sri Aurobindo is very generous: frankly, we are not even aware of what is going on in our own minds, what to speak of hidden worlds based on the crude sense-data? The only way that one can understand is to start by taking them on faith and then move on. We need not stay only with faith. Religion has stayed with faith; religion both in the east and the west speaks of these hidden worlds, but there one has to just accept their existence by faith. In yoga one moves on, starting with faith, one moves from experience to experience. As the inner senses are liberated, as the inner consciousness is liberated through the action of Grace, these worlds and their contacts begin to become not only possible, but real, palpable, concrete – as a mystic would say, more concrete than this earthly reality. That is why the yogis speak of us having not just one body but many bodies.

In what we have been reading recently, Sri Aurobindo is taking us on a tour of one of these bodies, the vital body, through the vital world which corresponds to the vital body of the Cosmos. In this process he is taking us from level to level. Sri Aurobindo has described the heights and the depths of these worlds – their forces, their energies and how they have influenced the earth scene, what has been their characteristic role, their action, the principle that works in them, even their beings. But as he has himself has written, we should not believe that when Sri Aurobindo speaks of ‘The Little Life’ and ‘The Greater Life’, ‘The Paradise of the Life-Gods’ and ‘The Descent into Night’, that these are the only Life-worlds. Each of these worlds divides into several sub-worlds, in fact, it is quite possible that if one entered the Life-world one would end up discovering thousands of Worlds of Life alone. That is why mystic literature has often spoken of not just one, two, three, but of many, many worlds. But they are built upon a certain plan. That plan, Sri Aurobindo reveals to us, consists of three lower worlds of matter, life and mind, and three higher worlds: the Sat-lok, the Tapo-lok, the Ananda-lok, and these are linked through the Supramental world. While Sri Aurobindo describes this, he also reveals to us the mystery of these three lower ‘fallen’ worlds. These worlds have originated from the One and therefore each world picks up one aspect of the One Infinite, and that becomes its predominant principle and everything else is subordinated to that. Therefore, these are called typal worlds.

There are only two planes where one can discover the complete Truth: one revealed completely above in the Supreme; the other below, concealed in the depths of matter. All energies, all powers, all forces find their entry into this Earth, and through the evolutionary process they are being revealed step by step. All other worlds are typal worlds. In the world of life, the dominant principle is desire, and forms there are subservient to desire – meaning thereby that what one desires assumes a form; that is almost like an instant action of the energy of this world – unlike the world of matter. One might think, ‘Oh, it is so nice: whatever one desires, that immediately creates a form.’ But as Sri Aurobindo would reveal to us, this is not what we are really seeking. And yet, this world has its own place in this great and perilous and beautiful and dangerous and charming journey.

In traditional yoga as we have known it over the last thousand years, one does not speak of these worlds. The reason is that if Moksha, Nirvana, or simply Self-Realisation of the adwaitin kind is the goal, then there is no need to speak about them. All that one does is to dismiss the whole affair as the complex Lila of the world which none can understand. In a sense it is true, and if the goal is simply to escape from the lines of Nature, then one should just find the shortest route, through any door, it does not matter – any door or any window will do. One need not understand the whole affair. But as Sri Aurobindo says, we are not out to escape from the world, we are here for a divine Conquest of this world; and therefore it is important to understand these worlds not only in their action upon us, but also in their own cosmic movement. Not only for Yoga, it is important also in ordinary life, because so much happens within us which is the result of a subtle transaction, as Sri Aurobindo says, ‘an inner commerce’ with these worlds. Because we are unaware of that, ‘They bring the incoherencies of Fate’ [162],  as described in a beautiful line. We don’t understand because we don’t see what is really happening inside us. Therefore, to understand about these worlds is important both from a pragmatic standpoint, from the point of view of our earthly life, and also from the viewpoint of the ancient yogis and mystics who were very much concerned with an integral knowledge. They sought this knowledge, they revealed it in the language and the symbols which were pertinent to that time. Many things they hid because they thought that this knowledge can have another side, it can be subject to misuse. But we are fortunate and privileged that Sri Aurobindo is revealing this knowledge to us in a language that we can receive.

We are reading in ‘The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life’. In the Life-worlds the reigning principle is desire, and the objects sought are joy and power and intensity of movement. It tries to capture the experience of the extremes. This is the joy of life: it tries to capture the many moods of the Infinite. That is why we see that before life emerged on earth there was a purely material existence which we can more or less categorise in a few elements at the most. The scientists say that there seem to be about 108 elements. From the gross point of view we can say we have plains and rivers and mountains and seas – only a few things. But the moment life enters into matter we see that the whole world is filled with infinity. That is the beauty of life: it tries to recapture the many moods of Infinity. As Sri Aurobindo has said, it is a child who has strayed away from its heavenly home but it remembers what it was like when it was a little baby and therefore it tries to re-create and capture that mood of Infinity. In its own native world it can do that with much greater freedom, but even here life tries to do it. That is the principle of that world, unlike our world where the principle is rigidity of form and inertia. In that world there is a much greater plasticity and freedom of movement. That world, because it is untouched by the mental world, does not care about what we call virtue and vice. It seeks the hazard of extremes, intensity of movement and the rapture of that movement for its own sake. Sri Aurobindo says,

This was transition-line and starting-point,
A first immigration into heavenliness, [184]

For all who cross into that brilliant sphere: These are the kinsmen of our earthly race;

This region borders on our mortal state. [184]

As we enter into this zone of Greater Life, the drab pull of the earth, the sense of mortality begins to fade behind, and we begin to breathe a freer and a vaster air. This is the first immigration line, not the last: there will be many borderlines and many checkpoints that Sri Aurobindo will reveal to us, but this is the first immigration, where we begin to feel an unearthly sense and force moving us.

On the next page we read these lines about how these worlds are concerned essentially with power and joy and the expansion and the intensity. This power and joy, this sense of expansion and intensity can be used either by the forces of evil on the lower side, or the forces of good. Sri Aurobindo says that in this yoga this world too must be conquered and placed at the feet of the Divine for his use.

Whether for Heaven or Hell they must wage war:
Warriors of Good, they serve a shining cause
Or are Evil’s soldiers in the pay of Sin.
For evil and good an equal tenure keep
Wherever Knowledge is Ignorance’s twin.
All powers of Life towards their godhead tend [185]

In these worlds Knowledge walks hand in hand with Ignorance. That is why these worlds are called ‘fallen worlds’. The worlds of mind try to re-create the total knowledge, but they do it by piecing things together. The worlds of life try to recreate the original consciousness, its power, its joy, but again they do it by capturing the many moods – but each mood is unique in its own right; it is not harmonised and unified with all the others, as in the One Divine. In the One Divine all these moods are harmonised and unified: sweetness is one with strength; but here sweetness touches its own absolute, strength its own absolute. These are worlds where each power and potentiality tries to touch its own absolute, but isolated from the rest. Lower down on the same page we read,

Her worshippers proclaim her sacred right.
A red-tiaraed Falsehood they revere,
Worship the shadow of a crooked God,
Admit the black Idea that twists the brain
Or lie with the harlot Power that slays the soul.
A mastering virtue statuesques the pose,
Or a Titan passion goads to a proud unrest:
At Wisdom’s altar they are kings and priests
Or their life a sacrifice to an idol of Power. [185]

Many myths and legends, especially the epics, are built around this world. The whole heroic age of mankind is about these worlds, where each being expresses a tendency or quality and tries to reach its own peak. We have many stories which have tried to symbolically express this world. One which comes to mind is about King Shibi, who in generosity goes to a point where he says, ‘Take my entire flesh, but I want to save this little dove because he has taken refuge with me.’ When it comes to nobility and sacrifice they can go to any extent, when it comes to war, and even laying down one’s life for the sake of something one is convinced about, they can go to any extent. This is the greater life; it is not a life of our daily cares and worries, our little wants and hopes, our little anxieties and fears, but a life where there is a larger movement.

A charm and greatness locked in every hour
Awakes the joy which sleeps in all things made.
A mighty victory or a mighty fall, [186]

As Sri Aurobindo writes in Essays on the Gita, when Arjuna asks ‘What should I do? Should I fight or not fight?’ immediately, the very first answer of Sri Krishna uplifts him beyond his little thinking, his limited way of looking at little things. Immediately he is reminded of a greater plane from which he is born. Sri Aurobindo puts it very beautifully, he says that Sri Krishna gives the answer of a hero to a hero: ‘Either conquer mightily, or fall nobly. Either way the gates of heaven are open to you. Either conquer and enjoy this kingdom, or die fighting a great battle. Both are worthwhile.’ In this Kingdom of the Greater Life we have this kind of approach.

A mighty victory or a mighty fall,
A throne in heaven or a pit in hell, [186]

It is not afraid of going down, even into the pit of hell if that be necessary.

The dual Energy they have justified
And marked their souls with her tremendous seal:
Whatever Fate may do to them they have earned; [186]

Sri Aurobindo brings us into touch with these worlds, he gives us a little taste of this world, he inspires us to climb to this greater life.

Whatever Fate may do to them they have earned; [186]

Not like little weaklings who are always afraid of what Fate may bring.

Something they have done, something they have been, they live.
There Matter is soul’s result and not its cause.
In a contrary balance to earth’s truth of things
The gross weighs less, the subtle counts for more;
On inner values hangs the outer plan. [186]

Our life hangs on outer values. If somebody meets with a tragic fate, one says ‘Oh, it was very unfortunate.’ In that world, that is not the value. One may live a hundred years, two hundred years, but a worthless life, from the point of view of the greater life, is meaningless; but an Abhimanyu, dying at the age of 16 fighting a valiant battle and falling nobly, is what counts. Beings of this world feel and think like that, because that is the characteristic energy of that world. This will explain many things that appear contradictory to our eyes. For example, that of all the people during the Second World War, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, looking for a great instrument, picked Winston Churchill. If one looks at things from the purely outer point of view, he is neither a very devoutly religious man, so far as we know; he has certain habits and tendencies which many people would not regard as very virtuous, and yet he had a tremendous life-energy – and it is this that was important. In fact, in one place Sri Aurobindo says that this abundant life-energy often flows into wrong channels and people call it vice. There is the story of Hanuman who has tremendous life-energy; as a child he is always plucking people’s beards and troubling everyone, disturbing the class so that often the teachers have to tell him ‘You stay outside because others cannot study in your presence’. He is born with that, he is moved by a sense of largeness; he cannot be confined to a small classroom. That would explain many things which we don’t understand about today’s children, who are born with a larger Prana because the touch of the Supermind is releasing a greater life inside them. Therefore, unlike their parents, our generation, which was more concerned about what job they will get and whatnot, they just live life with the carefree laughter of the gods. They are born with this, and only after reading Sri Aurobindo we begin to understand the touch of these worlds. This is the passage that humanity is going through.

In this world and in the beings of these worlds simultaneously the walls and the boundaries are not so rigid as in our material world. When we are totally entranced in gross matter then we understand nothing about what is happening in another person’s heart and mind. In fact, we are so deeply into ignorance that even if somebody says one sentence, we understand it in a completely different way, because ego gives its own twist and meaning – a cause of much misunderstanding in the world. But let us see how the beings of this world interact with each other. We have these lines on the same page:

In the communion of two meeting minds
Thought looked at thought and had no need of speech; [186]

One understands others in this world because there is an interpenetration of substance. This is a world that is much more free, fluid; the forms of this plane are much more fluid. That is why this image of fixed forms, fixed gods, came much later. In these worlds the same gods and goddesses, or the same Titan kings, can appear in different forms, because the form here is plastic to the touch of the energy of this world.

Emotion clasped emotion in two hearts, [186]

This is why, when human beings are moved by some touch of these worlds, spontaneously one begins to feel, ‘Yes, yes, I feel exactly as you feel.’ Of course, we must understand that this world is also a world of Ignorance, but at that point of time the touch of this world generates this experience.

They felt each other’s thrill in the flesh and nerves
Or melted each in each and grew immense
As when two houses burn and fire joins fire:
Hate grappled hate and love broke in on love,
Will wrestled with will on mind’s invisible ground;
Others’ sensations passing through like waves
Left quivering the subtle body’s frame,
Their anger rushed galloping in brute attack,
A charge of trampling hooves on shaken soil;
One felt another’s grief invade the breast,
Another’s joy exulting ran through the blood:
Hearts could draw close through distance, voices near
That spoke upon the shore of alien seas. [186-87]

That is why in yoga, it is bound to happen that after some time, all the energies that are locked in matter begin to get liberated, and one passes through this zone. That is a point where one becomes acutely sensitive to everything that is happening in the environment. Often, if such a person were to mingle in a crowd and feel uneasy, people might wonder and think that yoga is supposed to make you more stable, but it is making you more unstable. The reason is this, that one enters into this zone – it is just a passage, of course; again and again Sri Aurobindo will tell us that this is not the resting ground and one should not rest in that state. That is why it is very important to have a spiritual realism and a solid grounding even in matter, otherwise normally we are shut in matter’s wall and it is very safe. That is why two kinds of people are not affected: those who are like sages, who have reached the transcendent heights; and those who are like stone – totally like matter, so they are not affected. But there is an intermediate range where one becomes more and more subtle, the consciousness becomes more and more refined, and as the Mother puts it, this sensitivity which develops at a stage of yoga is actually the sign of an evolution of consciousness; but then one has to pass beyond. But right now Sri Aurobindo is describing that point where

One felt another’s grief invade the breast,
Another’s joy exulting ran through the blood:
Hearts could draw close through distance, voices near
That spoke upon the shore of alien seas.
There beat a throb of living interchange:
Being felt being even when afar
And consciousness replied to consciousness. [187]

We expect that when this world comes – of course, this is not the New World but only a passage, when much of humanity has evolved to this point – we won’t need telecommunication and mobiles; and probably this was the kind of development at one stage that was actually happening, because one could directly make a reply of consciousness to consciousness. One doesn’t need to speak for half an hour to communicate something. Often speaking half an hour leads to more and more confusion. In this intense state, the more we speak the more we confuse, the more we misunderstand. Sri Aurobindo is giving us a key, a master-key: if we try to understand and to feel things from this Greater Life-plane, things could be simpler.

And consciousness replied to consciousness.
And yet …

There is a ‘yet’ –

And yet the ultimate oneness was not there. [187]

This is still a world of Ignorance, a world of division.

There was a separateness of soul from soul:
An inner wall of silence could be built,
An armour of conscious might protect and shield; [187]

Sri Aurobindo is telling us now the secret of how to protect ourselves when we are in this phase of extreme sensitivity which sometimes comes as our consciousness becomes refined, subtle, and begins to enter and receive some touch of these worlds; he says we can build an armour of silence and safety.

An inner wall of silence could be built,
An armour of conscious might protect and shield;
The being could be closed in and solitary;
One could remain apart in self, alone. [187]

Now we can skip a few pages. Aswapati goes through these worlds and sees their many moods, myriad energies, countless facades. Many forms appeared to his eyes, each claiming its right of admittance and entry. He passes through this. We come to page 191:

A witness overmastered by his scene, [191]

This inner world is captivating, and many souls can get trapped in this world. In Yoga these are known as the mid-worlds. They are dangerous worlds because their charm can be so alluring, they can manufacture almost anything. One desires to see Krishna, and Krishna is there in front of your eyes. It is so difficult – unless one has the right inner discrimination or a conscious surrender to the Divine, one can easily get misled.

There is a little story I heard about someone who wanted to give talks on The Life Divine – it is another dangerous profession, to give talks! He asked the Mother for permission and the Mother would not reply. He waited for some time and then suddenly he had a revelation: he saw Krishna before him and Krishna said ‘Yes, yes, of course you can!’ – or something to that effect: ‘You can go ahead and give talks.’ So he wrote to Mother, ‘I have already received Sri Krishna’s adesh, so I am going to give the talks.’ The Mother wired to him: ‘It is not Krishna you have seen, but a hostile force assuming the form of Krishna.’ Sri Aurobindo and the Mother could know all this, sitting there in Pondicherry. But the person did not understand, did not get the message, and went on to give one talk, another talk, a few talks, till finally he had to keep quiet and learn all that he was speaking about.

This is the kind of risk we face in these worlds and we have all, I am sure, encountered people – certainly I have seen quite a few – who keep having visions by the dozen from morning to evening: every possible god they have seen, and yet it does not seem to make any change at all in their life, except sometimes to puff up the vanity, because these are the worlds where Desire rules. That is why it is so necessary to purify. It is very good if for a long time one does not see the Divine because that means that the Divine has taken our consecration seriously. Otherwise, one may get caught in these vital worlds without any purification and one starts seeing things and one can easily get lost.

Therefore, he allows this Desire; as we shall see later, it changes into an anguish and at its height it becomes a sob of suffering and yearning, as we find in the instance of some mystics like Mira. Those are the peaks of the ‘Kingdoms of the Greater Life’. And then he says, ‘Now, child-soul, you are ready to graduate into adulthood.’ But as we enter into Yoga and from the third day, the fourth day we start seeing things, we must be doubly careful, triply careful. Here Sri Aurobindo describes,

A witness overmastered by his scene,
He admired her splendid front of pomp and play
And the marvels of her rich and delicate craft, [191]

If they create a Krishna in front of you, you can’t disbelieve that it is the real Krishna, because every detail is there, even the fluting can be heard. These worlds can create that kind of thing.

And thrilled to the insistence of her cry;
Impassioned he bore the sorceries of her might, [191]

One of the precautions that Sri Aurobindo recommends is ‘Do not take the bhoga, the enjoyment, of the experience.’ Do not start enjoying: ‘Ah, I saw this, I heard that …’ and worst of all, start narrating it to everyone. One learns it with much pain sometimes that these are not things to be spoken of. Just wait. The rishis knew how to wait and let revelation mount upon revelation. That is why this one word, this beautiful word, pregnant with so many meanings, comes in the Upanishads: Who sees the Atman? ‘tam atmastham yenu pasyanti dhira’ – ‘dhira’: one who knows how to wait, who is patient, persevering, who is stable – all those shades of meaning are captured in this one word – not one who is impatient and over-eager, because these worlds give that feeling; they make us want to achieve the divine in haste, and therefore we get caught in them.

Impassioned he bore the sorceries of her might,
Felt laid on him her abrupt mysterious will,
Her hands that knead fate in their violent grasp,
Her touch that moves, her powers that seize and drive. [191]

But Aswapati is not just any ordinary aspirant, so he casts his glance deep, to see what is lying at the heart of this world, and he discovers something interesting:

But this too he saw, her soul that wept within, [191]

Because it tried and tried and tried, but could not recapture the Infinite: it could only create forms after forms.

But this too he saw, her soul that wept within,
Her seekings vain that clutch at fleeing truth,
Her hopes whose sombre gaze mates with despair,
The passion that possessed her longing limbs,
The trouble and rapture of her yearning breasts,
Her mind that toils unsatisfied with its fruits,
Her heart that captures not the one Beloved. [191]

All else is there. We shall see that also in ‘The Kingdoms of the Greater Mind’ everything is there – all thoughts, formulas, theorems – yet the One is missing. That is why there is so much emphasis on the idea that until one has found the One who is infinite, one should not rest. The ancient yogis always almost used it as a dictum, and a great mystic has said that knowing Him all else can be known. The Upanishads also speak of it, and another mystic said, ‘ekai jane sab jane, sab janat ek na hoi’, ‘It is by the One that one can know the rest, the many.’ In Sri Aurobindo’s yoga also, and here in Aswapati’s yoga, we see that he has first discovered the One, he had completed the Vedantic yoga, and then he discovers all the planes of the cosmic consciousness in this book, ‘The Traveller of the Worlds’. These worlds have not to be explored as one ordinarily enters into the new age techniques and all kinds of prana stuff where one picks up some vital energy and plays with it. These are very dangerous things, especially for one who is going into yoga, for sometimes they can end up aggrandising the ego and instead of a demi-god one can become an instrument of a titanic will.

Always he met a veiled and seeking Force,
An exiled goddess building mimic heavens, [191]

As he moved upward, each plane said ‘Here is heaven’ but as he went, something was always still missing. These are the kinds of heavens which Viswamitra once built for Trishanku when he could not get into the real heaven. Viswamitra had tremendous power; he said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll build a heaven for you.’ With the power of his tapasya he could build such a heaven. There are many such heavens which are annexes of the real worlds, some of them created by our own thoughts and feelings; and it is so easy to get locked there. It is only the sincerity of aspiration that can save us from all this. That is why Mother says that sincerity is the key to the divine doors. If this is missing, if one is doing yoga only for power and joy and some kind of gifts, like becoming a yogi or a great man, then one gets into these worlds and one is very happy. One can travel all around the world, earn millions of dollars, and one’s name appear on big posters, but at the end of it one misses the One Beloved. Sri Aurobindo is warning us that this can be a resting place but it is not the ultimate goal.

A Sphinx whose eyes look up to a hidden Sun. [191]

This is the catch. If one wants to expose these worlds there is one single test: one can ask, ‘Have you really found the One who hides himself behind these million forms and names?’ If not, the journey is not complete. This is the story of the Sphinx. Ultimately the question of the Sphinx is, ‘Have you found the One? Have you found the one Self who changes appearances? He is one thing in the morning, another in the noon, another at night. If you have found Him, fine, you can pass through my gates to the consciousness of Immortality.’ This zone one must cross, because the Sphinx guards it. If not, then the Sphinx ultimately devours and finishes you. It is a Sphinx who looks up to eternity.

We find the same truth expressed here where Sri Aurobindo reveals:

In her mazes of approach and of retreat [193]

The more one enters into it, it is like with some of those auto and taxi drivers – of course now, thankfully, things are better but sometimes it was amazing – if somebody by chance got down at the Auroville Information Centre and said, ‘I want to go to Matrimandir’ – it is walking distance – those old-time autorikshaw fellows would say ‘Yes, I will take you’ and if you did not know the way he would take you all around Auroville, all around Pondicherry, and he would keep saying, ‘It is just coming sir, it is just coming.’ Then you realise what is happening. Ultimately he brings you after one hour. Of course, he at least brings you, but in these worlds the goal keeps retreating and keeps retreating.

In her mazes of approach and of retreat
To every side she draws him and repels,
But drawn too near escapes from his embrace; [193]

That is why Sri Aurobindo says that in this yoga the first step is to bring out the psychic: it alone has the soul-discrimination. All other parts do not. If this yoga is done by the power of the mind or the vital, this is what happens. He says in one of his letters that one can luxuriate in experiences, one can have illuminations in the mind, one can luxuriate in siddhis of the vital and even have astounding remarkable siddhis in the physical, and yet if the secret soul, the inmost soul, the psychic being does not come forward, nothing genuine has been done. That is the safety; otherwise, if one is caught in this world …

All ways she leads him but no way is sure.
Allured by the many-toned marvel of her chant,
Attracted by the witchcraft of her moods [193]

In Odysseus’ travels this world is depicted through the song of the Sirens – it is so attractive, so alluring. If you hear it, you are captivated, you are helplessly drawn to it. Odysseus is very smart. He tells his sailors, ‘You guys put molten wax in your ears and keep rowing. I’ll keep my ears open – but you must tie me to the mast. Even if I beg and cry and give orders – don’t untie me.’ Sure enough as they pass the isle, he hears the song of the Sirens and he wants to go – they are so attractive and charming. He shouts and begs and cries and accuses them that they are not obeying his orders. Some feel pity and melt, but this is the place where sometimes it is good to be firm. And here we have a description:

Allured by the many-toned marvel of her chant,
Attracted by the witchcraft of her moods
And moved by her casual touch to joy and grief,
He loses himself in her but wins her not.
A fugitive paradise smiles at him from her eyes: [193]

A paradise that comes and disappears, comes and disappears, because it is not held by the One.

He dreams of her beauty made for ever his,
He dreams of his mastery her limbs shall bear,
He dreams of the magic of her breasts of bliss.
In her illumined script, her fanciful
Translation of God’s pure original text, [193]

Here comes Sri Aurobindo’s subtle sense of humour. It tells you, ‘You want to understand God’s script? I’ll tell you.’ It mimics even intuition. We see in the yoga of Savitri that this world can even mimic the stress of intuition.

He thinks to read the Scripture wonderful,
Hieratic key to unknown beatitudes.
But the Word of Life is hidden in its script,
The chant of Life has lost its divine note.
Unseen, a captive in a house of sound,
The spirit lost in the splendour of a dream
Listens to a thousand-voiced illusion’s ode. [193]

This world captures the soul! Each world is given its own way of dealing with the soul. In each world, there is nature dealing with the soul. In matter, the soul is held captive in its obscurity, its rigidity and inertia: the soul in matter is completely asleep. In this world, the soul is held captive to its many moods, and it is forever listening to that thousand-voiced illusion’s ode and it must wake up. In the worlds of mind, the soul is held captive by the many many ideas. But here Sri Aurobindo is describing for us the relation between soul and nature in this world. It is only in the highest worlds that the soul is free and Nature obeys it.

A delicate weft of sorcery steals the heart
Or a fiery magic tints her tones and hues,
Yet they but wake a thrill of transient grace;
A vagrant march struck by the wanderer Time,
They call to a brief unsatisfied delight
Or wallow in ravishments of mind and sense,
But miss the luminous answer of the soul. [193]

When one takes to Sri Aurobindo’s yoga expecting marvellous miraculous experiences, but year after year one is made to do hard labour, to dig into mud so that the base can be strong – if at that time someone comes and says, ‘What are you doing here? Fifteen years, what have you experienced?’ you may reply ‘I don’t know. Somehow I just have faith in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’.

‘Oh, come, come: next door there is a very nice path – in a few days you will get all this new creation stuff.’ ‘Is it so?’ ‘Yes, transformation is very easy’ – and we are led into that and sure enough within a week we start experiencing all kinds of things, and if we pay a little more money, the greater the experience and its value. To go to the Samadhi, we just go casually, nobody asks us to pay or anything. Of course, there are gate passes and timings, but no dress-code, no nothing, you can keep your chappals just a few feet away from the Samadhi. It is so unassuming, so one doesn’t value it. If one has to pay a hundred dollars just to visit the Samadhi, then see how many people would really get such experiences! Sri Aurobindo is warning us that even this ‘Kingdom of the Greater Life’, so charming, so alluring and having everything, may come in the course of our inner journey, but we should not be caught in its sorceries, because one misses ‘the luminous answer of the soul.’ And what happens, towards the end of this part of the journey:

A blind heart-throb that reaches joy through tears,
A yearning towards peaks for ever unreached,
An ecstasy of unfulfilled desire
Track the last heavenward climbings of her voice. [193]

There are mystics who have risen through the vital planes, and they are sincere, so when they go towards these heights they begin to yearn with a deep passion and sorrow. There is a true story from the life of Mira, who of course used to feel Krishna and see him as intimately as anyone, in his many moods. Once when she has been cast out, the family has disowned her and the city has disowned her, she leaves with a little idol of Krishna. One night, as the story goes, that idol is stolen – perhaps on the very first night she slept. She laments and cries, ‘This was the only thing that I held on to and you have taken even this away?’ So Krishna says, ‘Oh, this was the only thing? Do you know me?’ She says, ‘Of course I know you.’ ‘Really?’ and then Krishna reveals to her what he is in truth. Till then she believed that she knew Krishna, and you can see in her that pathos of the vital sometimes: yearning – that is the height towards which this can climb. It is a very high seeking, but in this yoga the seeking has to come through the psychic and not through the vital. But this too is a passage. Some mystics have sought, and here we find:

Transmuted are past suffering’s memories
Into an old sadness’s sweet escaping trail:
Turned are her tears to gems of diamond pain,
Her sorrow into a magic crown of song. [193-94]

This is the height of this world, after going through it, at the end one finds that one has not really found the One Face hidden behind her thousand million forms, so there is a deep pathos.

Brief are her snatches of felicity
That touch the surface, then escape or die:
A lost remembrance echoes in her depths,
A deathless longing is hers, a veiled self ‘s call;
A prisoner in the mortal’s limiting world, [194]

Those who are born from this world into ours always feel a sense of strangeness, a sense of alien-ness, a sense of limitation; and the more one begins to live in it one feels more and more limited and tries to seek something greater.

A spirit wounded by life sobs in her breast;
A cherished suffering is her deepest cry.
A wanderer on forlorn despairing routes,
Along the roads of sound a frustrate voice
Forsaken cries to a forgotten bliss. [194]

This is its height and culminating point. And yet Sri Aurobindo tells us the significance of this world: this world has stood behind everything, because its joy sustains even the suffering, because there is ultimately even a joy in that. In this world even suffering carries within itself an undercurrent of joy, and this makes us understand many things about life. This world is not to be belittled. We have a few marvellous lines expressing this below:

Yet is it joy to live and to create
And joy to love and labour though all fails,
And joy to seek though all we find deceives
And all on which we lean betrays our trust; [194]

In this world there is only a seeking, but not the finding – and yet there is a joy in the seeking itself.

Yet something in its depths was worth the pain,
A passionate memory haunts with ecstasy’s fire.
Even grief has joy hidden beneath its roots:
For nothing is truly vain the One has made:
In our defeated hearts God’s strength survives
And victory’s star still lights our desperate road;
Our death is made a passage to new worlds.
This to Life’s music gives its anthem swell.
To all she lends the glory of her voice;
Heaven’s raptures whisper to her heart and pass,
Earth’s transient yearnings cry from her lips and fade.
Alone the God-given hymn escapes her art
That came with her from her spiritual home [194-95]

This is what yearns in the depths of this world, and this is the safety. Ultimately, when we have passed through this world and seen its many moods, this is the hope: that there is within it something that survives. Look how in the lower worlds, when Sri Aurobindo speaks of the ‘Little Life’, at the end he gives us hope. Again here, as he comes to the close of ‘The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Life’, a world which can be terribly misleading and deceiving, yet at the end of it he gives us hope – because even here God inhabits; nothing is devoid of Him.

Now, a new movement starts:

Here is the gap, here stops or sinks life’s force; [195]

This starts with many many moods, intensity, rapture, joy, power – after all its play, at the end it leaves a yearning and a suffering and a sob of missing the One. This is the essence of this world.

This deficit paupers the magician’s skill: [195]

It cannot take us beyond it.

This want makes all the rest seem thin and bare.
A half-sight draws the horizon of her acts:
Her depths remember what she came to do,
But the mind has forgotten or the heart mistakes:
In Nature’s endless lines is lost the God. [195]

It can give all powers and everything, yet something is missed out; and therefore, Aswapati has seen its truth:

Out of her daedal lines he sought escape; [197]

He has seen the maze, this complex world full of charm and beauty and danger,

But neither gate of horn nor ivory
He found nor postern of spiritual sight, [197]

That is why beings who are caught in this world never understand. Any amount of telling doesn’t work. This world is so misleading, as Sri Aurobindo would tell us in the yoga of Savitri, that it is only through Death that can one escape from this world,  unless of course one has the psychic discrimination, and above all trusts the Grace and the Grace walks by one’s side. But if we try to do yoga by our own effort this can be one of the issues, very often.

There was no issue from that dreamlike space. [197]

This is for those who want to do yoga by their own effort and do not believe in either Grace or Guru or Master, who believe ‘Of course we can do everything, what is there? This is material and that is spiritual and we know it all. We now have a book and we can do it.’ Well, books will lead us, but here we are misled in ways that books cannot help: it can mimic everything.

Our being must move eternally through Time;
Death helps us not, vain is the hope to cease;
A secret Will compels us to endure.
Our life’s repose is in the Infinite;
It cannot end, its end is Life supreme.
Death is a passage, not the goal of our walk: [197]

And we shall end with some lines where all this entire movement is summarised very beautifully. The whole seeking of life is for the One, but so long as life labours in ignorance, so long as it has not received the redeeming touch of Grace, its seeking cannot reach, and all the joys at the end cannot sum up and capture that Delight. In fact, the more it tries to capture – elsewhere there are lines in this very canto that describe this – the more it held, the more it escaped. It tries to possess that One Delight, but it cannot, because the only way one can really possess It is by allowing it to possess Itself. In this world, one has seeking but not the finding, many joys but not the One Delight, many charms but not the one Face that one loves. Therefore, at the end there is a sob, a yearning, and in the depths of the yearning a hope that He is there and one day He will redeem us. The beings and denizens of this world cry like a chained divinity, hoping for their release.

We have these lines describing this yearning:
As yearns an obscure moth to blazing Light.
Our life is a march to a victory never won. [199]

In this Greater Life one doesn’t find, even with its greater powers and force, all its energies; they can give all the siddhis that we seek, make the big small, the small big, lighter heavy and heavy light, or in inner value ‘the subtle counts for more.’ And yet, ‘Our life is a march to a victory never won.’

This wave of being longing for delight,
This eager turmoil of unsatisfied strengths,
These long far files of forward-striving hopes
Lift worshipping eyes to the blue Void called heaven [199]

This world ultimately ends in a blue Void: all the forms it has created are not the form of the paramdrishtva, they are only forms that come and flee before our eyes.

Looking for the golden Hand that never came, [199]

This is the deep pathos of Life; in fact, all our suffering in its depth is an anguish for this. And even a greater life cannot fulfil this need. We often think in this little life that the anguish will cease if a greater life comes down, and that there are those who will give it to us; but even this cannot fulfil.

Looking for the golden Hand that never came,
The advent for which all creation waits,
The beautiful visage of Eternity
That shall appear upon the roads of Time.
Yet still to ourselves we say rekindling faith, [199-200]

If yoga is done under the stress of the higher vital, this Greater Life-world, we end up in this situation, sometimes in utter despair. That is why when somebody asked the Mother ‘Would you tell us something about yoga?’ she replies, ‘What do you want the yoga for?’ – it is so simple, yet so deep – ‘to gain power, to help humanity?’ She says that none of these motives is sufficient to make you ready for the path. So what is the readiness? ‘Do you want yoga for the sake of the Divine?’ – the Divine for the sake of the Divine, not for any of these kick-backs. When the kick-backs become the main issue then there is a problem. ‘Oh, if I get the Divine then I’ll become a great yogi, I shall become a superman, I shall do extraordinary things.’ Then we land in a trap of this world.

Spiritual ambition is worse than ordinary ambition. Ordinary ambition will at the utmost gives us a crash feeling after we retire, and we can reconcile ourselves by going to a retired life ashrama, where we can live our life in peace, seeking something else which we didn’t find in this life. Spiritual ambition lands up in despair; we end up in a terrible mess. And yet something in us, the strength of God, survives as faith, and what does it say:

“Oh, surely one day he shall come to our cry,
One day he shall create our life anew
And utter the magic formula of peace
And bring perfection to the scheme of things. [200]

This is the throb and anguish of that world, to call for that, and this is what we must ultimately receive from this world, and pass on – this faith that He is there and that He will bring perfection to the scheme of things.

One day he shall descend to life and earth,
Leaving the secrecy of the eternal doors,
Into a world that cries to him for help,
And bring the truth that sets the spirit free,
The joy that is the baptism of the soul, [200]

This is not a joy dependent on any external charm, any external form, any experience outside, but a joy that is natural, shantim sukham, a joy one finds by living in the Self, atmarati, the joy which is the very nature of the Self, ‘the joy that is the baptism of the soul,’ – one doesn’t have to seek it in this or that experience.

The strength that is the outstretched arm of Love. [200]

This is not love that is weak, incapable, not love that is only sweetness, but love that is strong to rescue us out of the bonds of ignorance. This Love one does not find in this world, this Love can only come from the heights. The problem is that we don’t recognise this Love, because when it pulls us out of all this maze, we cry ‘How cruel you are! What a torturing hand is this, which is taking away from me all that I cherish and desire.’ This world of Greater Life, on the contrary, whatever we cherish and desire it presents to us, and we like this kind of god. We like a god who is more like a being of the Greater Life-world, who fulfils our desire, and everything that we desire he presents to us. And if he can present it to us quickly, from house to wealth to health, we like that god; but not so much that ‘outstretched arm of Love’ that is strong and pulls us out of Ignorance, sometimes with firmness taking away all that we cherish and hope for and desire – we don’t like that God. Yet something in us cries for that:

One day he shall lift his beauty’s dreadful veil, [200]

He has deliberately worn this dreadful veil, this little life, this darkness, this obscurity, or even sometimes a beautiful veil; but all this is because of a great purpose that it serves. One day he will lift it.

One day he shall lift his beauty’s dreadful veil,
Impose delight on the world’s beating heart
And bare his secret body of light and bliss.”
But now we strain to reach an unknown goal:
There is no end of seeking and of birth,
There is no end of dying and return;
The life that wins its aim asks greater aims,
The life that fails and dies must live again; [200]

It is there in life, because there is a joy in everything and this cannot cease until it has found the One. At the end of all these worlds, Sri Aurobindo will reveal to us the hope, he rekindles faith and hope and shows us the meaning and purpose of the journey.

Till it has found itself it cannot cease.
All must be done for which life and death were made. [200]