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At the Feet of The Mother

The Mind-Worlds

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A talk at Savitri Bhavan on August 22, 2010 on Book 2, Cantos 10-11 (Invocation 33:4-27)

We are grateful to Sri Aurobindo for giving us Savitri. If we really go back a few decades, to those moments when we hardly had the privilege of this kind of Light, while the world was full of the noxious fumes emanating from the Second World War, with all the grumblings and complainings of us human beings, Sri Aurobindo was busy pouring the perfume of another world onto this one. This perfume would one day spread far and wide and fill our hearts and minds and lives. This is the gift of Savitri.

We are also grateful for this wonderful venue. As one came inside – of course this is the kind of feeling one shares at Savitri Bhavan – the spontaneous state that came about was that a deep inner truth becomes concrete and real. That deep inner truth is that the Divine is not only within us but surrounding us, enveloping us. Here it is as if we are surrounded, most physically, most concretely, by their Atmosphere; and He is not only surrounding us but, beyond the limited arc of our vision, standing majestically. This is the wonderful atmosphere that we find in Savitri Bhavan. Thanks to Shraddhavan and all the team for this. It is Her Grace.

We shall start with a small Prayer of the Mother where a deep profound Truth has been stated so simply and so briefly – this is the beauty of the Mother’s writings. This is her prayer from January 3rd, 1914:

It is always good to look within oneself from time to time and see that one is nothing and can do nothing, but afterwards one must turn one’s eyes to Thee, knowing that Thou art all and Thou canst do all.

Then comes the profound mantra, the most profound formula of life that can ever be uttered – and yet in such simple words, so much so that we almost take it for granted:

Thou art the life of our life and the light of our being, Thou art the master of our destinies. [CWM 1: 45]

Behind this limited cramped-up life there stands a greater life, and behind this greater life stands a diviner life, waiting for its hour. Behind this limited mind with all its conceptions and cognitions and opinions, behind its limitations and littleness there stands a greater mind, waiting for its hour; and beyond and behind this greater mind stands That of which both are simply a projection, a brilliant reflection or a dull shadow. This is what we have been covering during the last week, the journey through the ‘Little Mind’ and the ‘Greater Mind’.

It is interesting because we stand precisely at this juncture of our evolutionary journey. Evolution has carried us so far, and now it is going to carry us further, into those domains which have so far been concealed to man. They have acted from time to time, in some rare moments of some human beings whom we know by various names as saints and sages and heroes and vibhutis, the great ones who have led the way. This Greater Mind has acted through them and in them, from time to time. But a still greater and a larger light has remained hidden within, waiting for its hour. Sri Aurobindo comes at precisely this evolutionary juncture when a radical change has to take place, from the Little to the Greater and from the Greater to a still greater leap into the very Highest.

The great mystery of life is not death – often we think that death is a mystery; the greatest mystery of life is birth, and seen from both poles life appears a mystery. When we are at this end, when we do not know what is behind these appearances and this facade called the universe, then it appears mysterious that there is anything in this universe: out of nothing, all this is emerging. The beauty is that if we cross over to the other side, the mystery becomes deeper, because then we wonder, how has That which is so beautiful, so delightful, so wonderful, the Glory of Glories, become this Something? This is the great mystery and it is given to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to give us the link between these two poles. The infinite becomes the infinitesimal, and the infinitesimal, through a process of successive transmutations, must recover its lost infinity, without annulling the finite. This is the great challenge, the great puzzle, which the Divine has taken upon himself.

It is easy to recover infinity by annulling the finite, and it has been done. Traditional yogas have done it. From any point of finiteness or finite experience which the mind provides, we can jump into the infinite and completely annul this. There are ways of annulling it. It is like cutting the knot, rather than solving the problem. But Sri Aurobindo brings us another solution: that this finite must be more and more transmuted, until it recovers its infinity but without losing the finite. This is something very interesting: it makes the play really very interesting if we take it as a challenge and a puzzle. As the Mother says, ‘There are people who love adventure. It is these I call, and I tell them this: “I invite you to the great adventure”’ [CWM 9: 151-52]. It is a very fascinating puzzle and only the Divine can solve this puzzle; it is not at all easy, even to conceive of it is difficult. And yet she has taken upon Herself to do it, to do it for Earth, to do it for the Divine; for this is the very purpose of creation.

It is this process of transmutation, this successive transmutation of the infinitesimal to the infinite, that we in our ignorance call death – because it is only through death of the past that the future is born. That is why one way to look at the present moment, through which we are all passing, is that it is a history of the future. Normally we have history in the past, but the present is a history of the future – because the future is settled and decided. It is a decisive action, yet events and circumstances will unfold it. What we are living at this point of time is the history of something which is already decided, which is bound to be. This has to come about through a series of transmutations. Each transmutation involves a leaving behind of that which humanity or earth has no more need of, and moving to something which is greater, higher, better. This passage, to begin with, is a narrow passage, often a dark and difficult passage, and that is what we call death.

Savitri is solving this enigma for us; and we will just go quickly through all that we have done in this week, as a kind of concluding session.

Sri Aurobindo has revealed to us the taste of Paradise – ‘The Paradise of the Life-Gods’. This was a wonderful high point of life, of the Life Worlds; and yet Sri Aurobindo starts the next canto, Canto 10, with four very powerful lines:

This too must now be overpassed and left,
As all must be until the Highest is gained
In whom the world and self grow true and one:
Till That is reached our journeying cannot cease. [238]

This is the highest Self which we have to arrive at, not the Self that annuls life but the Self that fulfils life. For indeed all these things that we see, experience, even though they are appearances, yet it is the Self that has become all this, and we must find the point where the two are integrated, where the two become one, where God and world grow true and one.

This is the journey. Because of this, Aswapati steps out of the wonderful boundaries of the Life Heavens, which are so captivating, so glorious; and this, as we see, is the great sacrifice and renunciation of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. When we speak of ‘renunciation’, I think the word does not apply to any of us, for we renounce the lower for the higher: we renounce the ugly for the sake of the beautiful; but what is this renunciation which renounces the beautiful for the sake of something which is far greater? – for the sake of a labour which we can never fathom.

Essentially Sri Aurobindo divides this movement of mind into two basic movements, the Little Mind and the Greater Mind. The Vedic rishis followed this same division more or less, speaking of the alpa and the bhuma, the little and the vast. The Little Mind is entangled in appearances, lost in the finite; and within itself there is a triple movement. This mind which becomes completely lost in the smallest, in the infinitesimal, is, if we see things from above it, the cause of the Infinite appearing as finite. It is the action of mind which makes the One appear as many – and then it identifies with the many so completely that it is lost in the processes of what it has created. Sri Aurobindo describes it so beautifully. It is almost like one makes a little room out of this vastness – the earth is one, the sky is one – but one makes a little room and then one shuts oneself in it. We create something small and then we limit ourselves to that smallness. Then we safeguard it and don’t allow anything to intrude into it because ‘this is my space’. Almost like that, this Little Mind works upon matter and earthly life. It limits it, it cuts the infinite into small small bits; after that it identifies with it and then, at a human level, it clings to it. It will not let go of its boundaries which are so very dear to it. That is why this mind is one of the greatest difficulties in the process of transformation. And yet this mind must change into a truer action. In fact, we have in Mother’s Agenda this very interesting episode narrated, where Shiva comes and wants to break the layer of the physical mind, and Sri Aurobindo says ‘No, we do not want that, we want transformation.’ It is something which is difficult to conceive, because it is so easy to break it – this mould is so small, so narrow; why not break it and enter into the vastness? To fill this, to expand it, to lead it slowly and steadily, enlarge its boundaries, that is the difficult task.

This Little Mind in its earliest stirrings is beautifully described. This mind is lost in matter and identified with matter, and regards only form and appearance as everything. The beauty is that it has built the form and appearances, and it has got trapped into it.

A pigmy Thought needing to live in bounds
For ever stooped to hammer fact and form.
Absorbed and cabined in external sight,
It takes its stand on Nature’s solid base. [245]

This mind is completely tied to appearances.

A technician admirable, a thinker crude, [245]

Why is this mind required? Because in dealing with matter, in handling matter, we need this mind. Sri Aurobindo uses a wonderful phrase to describe this mind where he says, ‘A material interim diplomacy’ [244] – Truth diplomatically allows this mind. This mind has a wonderful capacity to deal with matter because it can forget – in fact it has forgotten – all other things which are in the background. Therefore it can work so beautifully upon matter. It is the mind of the technocrat.

A riveter of Life to habit’s grooves,
Obedient to gross Matter’s tyranny,
A prisoner of the moulds in which it works,
It binds itself by what itself creates. [245]

We have several examples of this mind in today’s life; one classic example is when we discover something and become its slave – we don’t realise that this is just a habit, a habit of nature and we think it is a gospel truth. That is why the Mother says that when people go to a doctor, one of the big problems is that before you go, you have just a few symptoms, and you could actually get over it. But the moment you go into a hospital setting, and especially to a highly qualified doctor with a very active physical mind, he fixes the illness. A very nice neat label gets stuck to it. The moment the label is stuck on, with all the paraphernalia that this may happen, that may happen, the mind gets completely convinced about it. Basically, there is no such law, but its impress is so strong, its hold is so strong upon earth and the material reality, that it becomes difficult to shake off. This is a constant experience that people have after coming out from a clinic: while on one side they feel reassured, now they have come out with a nice neat label, which is written on the prescription, and this label sticks to them almost throughout life, and is very difficult to get rid of: ‘You are diabetic, you are hypertensive …’ This goes on mechanically in the mind and it is creating its own law – that is the difficult part. It moves mechanically in a certain groove and through that movement it reinforces itself. The real movement should be the other way round, but it keeps on reinforcing itself, and each visit to the doctor we shed some more money from our pocket and we once again get the label stamped on, fixed very firmly on the consciousness. This mind makes us prisoner of the mould in which it works. What we see is a set of processes. Each process is simply a habit of nature. For example, if we take something, something will happen. It is nothing, but in the process of evolution nature has evolved it. But there is within us the Master of Nature, the Lord of Nature, and it can be undone, a Greater Mind can undo it. But it is very difficult to convince because we keep observing this process again and again and it gets fixed, it is a mould.

It binds itself by what itself creates.
A slave of a fixed mass of absolute rules,
It sees as Law the habits of the world,
It sees as Truth the habits of the mind.
It lives content with the common and the known.
It loves the old ground that was its dwelling-place:
Abhorring change as an audacious sin, [245]

This mind also works in the extreme conservative, in the traditionalist who doesn’t want change at all, for whom the only surety is what was, and what is or what can be is a very difficult, almost impossible thing. How much Sri Aurobindo must have laboured, and still continues to labour against this mind which cannot conceive, cannot imagine that really it is possible for man, who is right now crawling like an ant and an animal, to grow into the Godhead he is meant to be.

Distrustful of each new discovery
Only it advances step by careful step [245]

This is the first kind of mind and its role and hold in earthly life. We can see that it has its own importance: from the motions of the planets to the atomic configuration, this mind has gone into fixing each thing within its limits and boundaries; and these limits and boundaries are because this mind has immersed itself in matter and completely fixed things within certain limits. So much so, that even a species doesn’t feel like moving beyond its limits – not because it cannot, though if it did it would create chaos in the world – it lives within those limits, simply because this mind is very active in matter and has a great hold on matter.

Yet, because evolution demands an emergence and not a fixity, along with this mind another mind begins to emerge out of matter, and in matter’s sleep there emerges dream. This mind that dreams of things that are seemingly impossible, things which are not there – they emerge as a wish, a desire, an impulsion, as a movement to expand, to grow, to do the impossible, to leap towards that which is unknown – this is the vital mind, the fiery spirit that Sri Aurobindo describes here:

It burns all breasts with an ambiguous fire. [247]

This seed of dissatisfaction is sown in earth. This is also a kind of grace, because if everything was satisfied with what is, then there would have been no movement forward ever.

A radiance gleaming on a murky stream,
It flamed towards heaven, then sank, engulfed, towards hell;
It climbed to drag down Truth into the mire
And used for muddy ends its brilliant Force;
A huge chameleon gold and blue and red
Turning to black and grey and lurid brown,
Hungry it stared from a mottled bough of life
To snap up insect joys, its favourite food, [247]

This mind stirs matter with all kinds of impulsions; it gives its movement and dynamism. In matter it is concealed as a kinetic energy, but it begins to express itself in the insect world, the flower world, bringing colours. What really are colours, and different types of variations we find in Nature? They are nothing but dreams of Nature. She is trying to dream and in her dream she fills all this with colour and joy and the many moods of life. And yet, although this mind is not tied to appearances like the physical mind, it jumps from one appearance to another, because it is ever in search of something which it cannot find. Sri Aurobindo describes it ironically:

Ardent to find, incapable to retain,
A brilliant instability was its mark,
To err its inborn trend, its native cue.
At once to an unreflecting credence prone,
It thought all true that flattered its own hopes;
It cherished golden nothings born of wish,
It snatched at the unreal for provender.
In darkness it discovered luminous shapes;
Peering into a shadow-hung half-light [248]

This mind is still restricted and limited to the formula of the ego; it wants to see in the world a magnified image of its own self, and therefore it paints everything with its own wishful thinking. We are very familiar with this movement: those people are very good, very near and dear to us, who tell us very nice things, who always flatter us, who always say, ‘You are so good, so kind.’ Our foes are the difficult ones whom we do not like, who are the bad ones, who do not flatter our hopes, who would say things which are critical about us. This mind is very active in the common human lot, and all of us succumb to it. This is because this mind is moving from one appearance to another, seeking to flatter itself. It dreams, it wishes, it hopes, it imagines – but always keeping itself at the centre: this is the problem of this mind. Therefore, it is prone to error, it hopes violently and despairs swiftly. This is the second level which appears in the process of mind emerging from matter.

Then comes the third level, the rational mind. This mind comes to study the appearances and go deeper into them. While the physical mind fixes, binds itself with appearances, clings to them, limits itself by them, and the vital mind jumps from one appearance to another and tries to throw its own shadow onto everything, the rational mind tries to probe into the appearances to try to find out what is there inside, what is behind. Sri Aurobindo says,

Of all these Powers the greatest was the last. …
Came Reason, the squat godhead artisan,
To her narrow house upon a ridge in Time.
Adept of clear contrivance and design, [249]

And now Sri Aurobindo describes the limitations of this mind. This mind tries to study appearances and infer what may lie inside. By its very nature it is a mind that seeks. So long as the rational mind has not emerged, the physical mind is satisfied with what is. The strong traditionalists are always happy and satisfied with the fixed formulas of life – what they have received from their parents and grandparents, the legacy of tradition. They do not question it. That is why it is good that in today’s times children have begun to question everything. But the traditional mind that is governed by the physical mind does not question anything: the customary is true; whatever is conventional is the only thing which is and it should not change. The vital mind throws fanciful images into dream. But the rational mind tries to understand what is really there behind the appearances, it tries to probe into them to discover what formula of truth it may find. It also has its problems: it looks only at a small piece, it cannot look around, it cannot look above, it cannot look below. We have these lines expressing its limitations:

An inconclusive play is Reason’s toil.
Each strong idea can use her as its tool;
Accepting every brief she pleads her case.
Open to every thought, she cannot know.
The eternal Advocate seated as judge
Armours in logic’s invulnerable mail
A thousand combatants for Truth’s veiled throne
And sets on a high horse-back of argument
To tilt for ever with a wordy lance
In a mock tournament where none can win. [252]

Here again, as we have been observing throughout, Sri Aurobindo shows such a subtle humour. Such is the nature of the rational mind that it must argue. Eventually it wins, but wins only unto itself. It never convinces another person. This is an unfortunate thing that we learn with so much pain – that no amount of argument really helps. It only creates a greater and greater gulf, it only makes the fortress of separation more and more strong. By its very nature the fallacy is that each one argues from his own standpoint, on the basis of his own premise. The other person is arguing from his own standpoint, his own premise. Unless we assume that premise, which means getting out of the ego – because this is also a kind of clinging: to opinions, ideas, premises – so unless we completely get out of that and change our premises we cannot understand the other person’s point of view. That is also not desirable, because both are premises of Ignorance. We have to ascend beyond Reason.

When we fix ourselves to a particular premise we can logically explain anything and everything. In several of his aphorisms Sri Aurobindo speaks of this. For example, he says ‘Whom am I to believe? My own experience, what I have seen, or the arguments of the scientists?’ – because depending on the premise we can prove anything.

A question which I used to have, and I was very happy that recently somebody has taken it up, is about the directions – East and West and North and South – how do we fix them? The movement of the earth goes on – why don’t the directions change? I never got a satisfactory answer. I don’t know about physics much, but recently I heard that somebody has sent a theory to NASA, and NASA has apparently invited this theory. They say ‘We don’t accept it but it is an interesting concept, so please put it across’. He has given something very strange, a geocentric view on which he is trying to explain why the directions don’t change … it is very amazing. The logical mind tells us that it should happen. Depending on the premise we can understand anything and everything. We can even prove that east is west and west is east. It all depends on your premise. One single premise and on that we can build a whole logical system.

The second problem of Reason is that it is too much dependent on its ignorant ministers. We have this image of the courtroom, where the judge is blindfolded. The advocate is not blindfolded, he makes sure that the blindfold on the eyes of the judge becomes tighter and tighter. It is supposed to be a place where truth must win – but he makes sure that anything else will win except the truth. Truth is too difficult to see. Sri Aurobindo is bringing that out so beautifully. In fact, no offence meant to anyone, this is a joke from Sri Aurobindo, when someone used the word ‘lawyers’ he said ‘In Punjab they pronounce it ‘liars’.’ We can argue out anything, depending on a premise. This is one problem of Reason. And yet, this is the joke of it all:

Assaying thought’s values with her rigid tests
Balanced she sits on wide and empty air,
Aloof and pure in her impartial poise.
Absolute her judgments seem but none is sure;
Time cancels all her verdicts in appeal. [252]

Whatever Reason has won, proved conclusively, is eventually overturned. We can go back a thousand years and see how science has evolved. About 200 years ago people used to do blood-letting and it was supposed to be the most effective treatment. In fact, the best specialists were those who could do blood-letting to perfection. As today we have cardiologists and amongst them arrhythmia specialists, the blood-letters were the greatest doctors – and in fact that is how they parted from homeopathy. It is a big story. The interesting part of it is that, if I am not mistaken, it was George Washington who died because of that. He had a simple sore throat and they did the blood-letting and he felt even more weak – so they thought that the infection was becoming worse, so they did more blood-letting. In the process they removed more than one and a half litres of blood, and the poor man, no wonder, in an hour or so he was gone. And yet they were regarded as specialists. Their theories were considered as really perfect – the blood was impure and you had to remove it, it was as simple as that: when you remove the blood, everything will be fine. Logically it is wonderful – but something was missed out: that in this impure blood there is also vitality, there is also health which is circulating: if they removed the whole thing en masse that too would be diminished. Based on the premises, Reason can prove anything.

The other problem of Reason is that it is bound to the senses – they are the only data for Reason. It doesn’t know anything about the play of forces which lies behind the sensory world. When the Second World War was going on, Sri Aurobindo said that this is the problem with the intellectuals – they don’t know about the play of forces, and therefore all their conclusions are based on appearances which are fed by the senses. The senses feed data, and Reason can weigh only that. What it has not seen, what it cannot experience, it cannot believe in. This is the second difficulty with Reason.

The third difficulty, which now is changing, as Sri Aurobindo would reveal to us, is that it believes that matter is the sole reality. These are the three main problems: one, in its very nature Reason is something which picks up a premise and argues on that basis; two, it regards sensory evidence, the evidence provided by the senses, as the sole evidence; and three, its main premise is that matter is the sole reality. Sri Aurobindo takes a dig at all of these on the next page.

As if she knew not facts are husks of truth, [253]

What we see is a world of appearances, the real truth is inside it. In one of her talks where Mother speaks of the supramental world she says ‘You know, my child, what is the impression that one has from that standpoint? One sees that everything here is so artificial.’ She says that the only thing that is true is what goes on deep inside the human being – that is the only thing which is true. All the rest is layers upon layers; we live in a world of falsehood. We breathe it because of its very nature, because this world doesn’t express the Divine.

That which is inside is the true thing. When we communicate in the terms of thought, thought is simply a medium: we express a state of consciousness through a body of words and sounds. Human mind is attuned to sounds and words, and not to the consciousness which is inside. How much chaos is created simply because we give importance to sound and word and not to what is inside, what is within.

The problem of Reason is that it sees the husks, and thinks that this is the truth; the real thing which is inside, it throws aside: this is the cause of so much misery. Often people fight; if you ask each one individually, each one will say ‘I have so much love’; the other person also will say, ‘I have so much love.’ Then why are you fighting? ‘So and so says this, does this …’, a list of things all on the surface – deep inside there is something which is true and beautiful, but it remains hidden. Reason throws out the truth:

The husks she keeps, the kernel throws aside.
An ancient wisdom fades into the past,
The ages’ faith becomes an idle tale,
God passes out of the awakened thought,
An old discarded dream needed no more:
Only she seeks mechanic Nature’s keys. [253]

It is like someone who sees a car and takes great pains to understand it. Having understood the car, he doesn’t care who is the driver, who will sit in it, where it will go – that is irrelevant. He keeps the car and marvels at it, but never imagines that this car has a purpose, that it has been built for a purpose and is meant to carry someone. This is the problem of Reason. Further down on the same page:

The mystic’s lore was a fancy or a blind;
Of soul or spirit we have now no need:
Matter is the admirable Reality,
The patent unescapable miracle,
The hard truth of things, simple, eternal, sole. [253]

Reason is dependent on the senses. The only data the senses can give us is what the senses themselves have viewed. This is the interesting part, that this world is a creation of two things: a consciousness within, and the mind and the sense play upon that consciousness and create an image, and then the being is trapped in that image and looks at all that is around and thinks ‘This is me.’ At present what we can see and understand is matter, and we think that this is the sole reality. Then of course Sri Aurobindo says that this kind of a rational world could go on and create a very precise and exact machine. Just as Reason looked at this universe and discovered all the processes and saw in this universe nothing but a machine, behind which there was a mechanical intelligence, or an unconscious intelligence, if one may use the paradoxical terms, which was working and operating mechanically, in the same way it may create a just society, but driven by certain fixed rules. And yet we are reaching the end of the rational curve, as Nolini-da puts it very beautifully: ‘The age of reason is over, we are entering the age of luminous faith.’ The Mother very interestingly reveals that the new species which is going to come is likely to follow the pattern of the previous emergence. Each time there is a new emergence, that which was the strongest point of the previous species is lost and then the new emergence takes place. When creatures emerged from the water to become land animals, they lost the ability to breathe in water, they lost the ability to live in water. This was their strength, and they lost it. So also, when the crawling creature had to fly, it had to lose all the thousand little feet with which it crawled so swiftly on the ground and then it began to fly – it could crawl no more. It must suffer that loss, in order to be able to fly. The bird’s wings were clipped for it to run on the plains, and the swift and strong vitality of the animal had to be reduced and cabined for human intelligence to emerge. Similarly, she says, this rational faculty of which man is so legitimately and yet so vainly proud, he has to lose it to grow into the next intuitive cycle. This loss does not mean becoming irrational, but the Reason must become subordinate to the action of a higher force. How it will come about, that is also revealed in Savitri – it is a book of Revelation. This rational world may be the last outpost of Ignorance:

So might it be if the spirit fell asleep;
Man then might rest content and live in peace,
Master of Nature who once her bondslave worked,
The world’s disorder hardening into Law,— [256]

The only way that Reason can govern this world is through rules and laws. But because these rules and laws are based on appearances, after a time it begins to become a disorder. Societies where there are too many rules become extremely hypocritical, because deep inside there is something else which is going on. Because there are too many rules, this deeper thing expresses itself in ways and means which are very disorderly, and yet there is a facade. That facade is what Sri Aurobindo is expressing so beautifully:

The world’s disorder hardening into Law,— [256]

There is chaos and disorder in the inner life, but outwardly there is a facade of order and law. But this would be only:

If Life’s dire heart arose not in revolt,
If God within could find no greater plan.
But many-visaged is the cosmic Soul;
A touch can alter the fixed front of Fate.
A sudden turn can come, a road appear.
A greater Mind may see a greater Truth,
Or we may find when all the rest has failed
Hid in ourselves the key of perfect change.

For not by Reason was creation made
And not by Reason can the Truth be seen [256]

This is the first movement, where Sri Aurobindo takes us on the journey of the mind from its first crawl within matter, or self-loss in matter, right up to its emergence in man.

In the next movement, he takes us to the mind which has not yet lost its touch with the Oneness, but is advancing further and further from it towards the separativeness. This is the Greater Mind. We have these two movements of the mind – one where it has completely lost itself in matter and in the appearances; the other where there is still some touch, a lingering memory, however faint, of that Light from which it has emerged. Even though it is advancing towards separativeness, that Light is there in the background. This is the Greater Mind, and its operations are naturally very different. The Little Mind turns towards matter, it must pick up data from the senses, work upon them and conclude things, infer, analyse, conclude and thereby arrive at truth – but it cannot arrive at truth because the data themselves are deficient. The Greater Mind on the other hand simply turns towards the Spirit and, because that Consciousness is in all things, all-pervading, it arrives at truth by a contact of consciousness. This is its means of arriving at Knowledge. It touches something deep inside, and the truth emerges. When one dwells in those regions, it is effortless; that kind of effort through the intellectual mind, through inferences, analysis, categorisation – that is all gone. That goes away, and instead of that the spontaneous knowledge begins to emerge. Sri Aurobindo describes this beautifully:

There ceased the limits of the labouring Power.
But being and creation cease not there.
For Thought transcends the circles of mortal mind,
It is greater than its earthly instrument:
The godhead crammed into mind’s narrow space
Escapes on every side into some vast
That is a passage to infinity. [260]

As we emerge into this Greater Mind the mode of knowledge begins to change: we are no longer dependent on sense-data alone, instead we are informed by a contact of consciousness. New faculties of knowing begin to emerge as one ascends higher and higher. Sri Aurobindo reveals four main faculties of which the Vedic seers were seekers and aspirants: Truth-Vision, Truth-Hearing, Truth-Touch and Truth-Action. Truth-vision is of course the Truth-sight: the whole thing is revealed as if in a flash. Behind appearances, behind thought, there is an Idea and this Idea clothes itself in symbolic significances. Suddenly the symbolic sense is revealed within, intuitively. This revelation becomes the key to understanding the phenomenon. It is an understanding of the phenomenon from inside out, and not from outside in. The apparently disparate movements of Time and seemingly separate objects in Space are all linked in a rhythmic sense. Similarly, there is Inspiration, the dawning or the downpour of knowledge from above, through concentration and stillness: as the mind grows still and quiet and opens to something above, then just one moment of concentration on an object and its secret truths start being revealed through Inspiration. The third faculty is Truth-seizing, where immediately the true significance of anything is seized by a greater thought, so it is Truth-touch. The fourth is Truth-action: what needs to be done, what has to be done at a given point of time, becomes a spontaneous law of being. We begin to become closer and closer to what in the Vedas is called rta – the right action, the right arrangement of things. The mind, if it really tries to find the right law of action, cannot find an absolute law because it is always weighed with probabilities, possibilities, this data, that data. This is right from one point of view, it is not right from another point of view, so the mind gets confused in its action. If we really rationally try to find the right course of action, and if we are really impartial, it is very difficult – because the more data flow in, the more confused we become. That is why it is not always because courts are bad that injustices are committed – the judges really cannot decide; years pass but they cannot decide, because the more data that come in, the more witnesses, the more confused the issue becomes: is this right? is that right? There is no absolute certainty. That is why most of them keep retiring because nobody wants to take the onus of responsibility – until one day somebody comes, after the matter has dragged on in the courts for ten or twenty years, and pays to end the whole process – because Reason cannot know. Its play is inconclusive. But Dakshina, the faculty of Truth-action, is inspired by the rta, which is the right arrangement of things. There is an inner law by which things should be arranged. The beauty of this inner law is that it spontaneously relates the individual to the totality. Therefore, this Truth-action reveals to us what is the right thing to be done at a given moment, in relation not only to the totality of things arranged in Space, but also in terms of Time. When we act, we are seeing only the immediate good; but this rta reveals itself in terms of the past and the future. As this begins to emerge, we keep on growing into a greater and greater light and suddenly there is a sense as if one has come up out of a well in which one was imprisoned.

As we were seeing, the physical mind is like being at the bottom of a well where there is no light and all that it knows is what is inside the well. The vital mind is inside the well, but closes its eyes and dreams of what may be around; one doesn’t quite know, sometimes one dreams rightly but many times it is just a guess. The rational mind is nearer the top of the well, but still looking down; if at all it turns upward it sees a strip of blue with an odd bird crossing it. It cannot make sense of what it sees. The moment we step out of the well into the Greater Mind there is a larger, vaster consciousness: a sense of wideness, calm, beatitude, ananda, sweetness begins to emerge. This Greater Mind is not just a greater cognition and understanding, another way of thought and knowing. It is these things but also something more. It carries within itself a beatitude, a peace and joy; any discovery at the level of the Greater Mind carries with it joy and peace. That is its characteristic action. In fact, one can differentiate even a right inspiration from a wrong one on that basis. Depending on the joy and peace and wideness one is experiencing within, one knows whether one is keeping to the right track or not. They become indicators of where the car of life is going.

This is one of the ways that the higher consciousness begins to act, and Sri Aurobindo reveals its workings in Canto Eleven – ‘The Kingdoms and Godheads of the Greater Mind’. He takes us further and further – and yet, even at its peak, where we begin to live in a greater intuitive sense, there is something which is still missed out, even in the Greater Mind, because still it is a mind that divides, though it moves in large spaces of time. What it misses is the crucial element through which all else can be understood, that is, ‘The mighty Mother’s whims and lightning moods’ [270]. Because it is mind, it still tries to give a formal structure to the great unfolding. But the great unfolding is simply an unfolding of the divine Delight. The mind has to give it structure and form – that is its purpose, that is how creation emerges out of the Formless, the Infinite, the Unmanifest. But in the very act of giving form and structure, it misses out something behind: the infinite Vastness which is simply unrolling itself.

The mighty Mother’s whims and lightning moods
Arisen from her all-wise unruled delight
In the freedom of her sweet and passionate breast,
Robbed of their wonder were chained to a cause and aim;
An idol of bronze replaced her mystic shape
That captures the movements of the cosmic vasts, [270]

This is the level of mind at which we have the highest intensity of speech, the mantra, the deities, the bij mantras, the mandalas, the occult laws – all these are natural discoveries of this Greater Mind which is right now occult and foreign to us. And yet, even at its highest it misses out something:

Yet was their wisdom circled with a nought:
Truths they could find and hold but not the one Truth:
The Highest was to them unknowable.
By knowing too much they missed the whole to be known:
The fathomless heart of the world was left unguessed
And the Transcendent kept its secrecy. [271]

This mind also has to be overpassed. Sri Aurobindo leads us to this. Just as at the level of life we had the Paradise of the Life Gods, here we have the highest Heavens of the Ideal, where ideas are unleashed into a million forms and activities. It is in this Ideal Mind that we have the four great gods. In the exhibition we have Motilal Roy’s reminiscences, where Sri Aurobindo spoke of these four great gods, which in the Vaishnava tradition are given the names of Anirudha, Pradyumna, Vasudeva and Shankarshan. They have been given other names also. They are the four great luminous ones which stand as guardians of the Light: Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman and Bhaga – each representing an aspect of the Divine, and each one creating worlds and worlds and worlds, because each can expand and expand its energy into a vastness that seems almost to merge into the Infinite.

This is the Overmind consciousness. In the Overmind consciousness we have these two sides of the divine Reality, what in Indian thought is regarded as Saguna and Nirguna. We can approach from one side and see all the flaming intensities and qualities of the Divine and realise it as Saguna Brahman. We can approach it from the other side and see it as void of all qualities, featureless and absolute, nothing but Silence, and realise the Nirguna Brahman. But this division is also an arbitrary division. There has to be a greater ascent, which we would be taking up next time. In that greater ascent these two aspects of one single Divine, the Saguna and the Nirguna, the manifold activities and dynamism of the one Truth, and its silent passive Witness and impersonal universal support, are one, not two.

Even in these high intensities, something was missing:
All there was an intense but partial light.
In each a seraph-winged high-browed Idea
United all knowledge by one master thought, [281]

One Idea was taken as a clue, and the entire universe was built according to that. Take Love – the God of Love sees everything as that, Strength sees everything as that, Knowledge sees everything according to that basis. Each Idea builds a world, and that is how, as it went down into the universe, the quarrel began to emerge. The Puranic gods quarrel: Love begins to quarrel with Strength, not in its originating sphere where it has the power of Oneness still with it, but as it comes down into more and more rigid and narrow moulds. In that Overmind consciousness each is allowed its space and term. They can continue without any interference from the other gods and they work in harmony. But as they come down, each idea begins to war with other ideas, so much so that each of us, when we embody predominantly one particular aspect, tends to come into conflict with other aspects of the same divine consciousness. That of course is because of the ego-identification, but in this Overmind consciousness there is freedom from the ego and an emergence into the cosmic consciousness. This was what we were reading yesterday.

Persuaded all action to one golden sense,
All powers subjected to a single power
And made a world where it could reign alone, [281]

But this too is not enough. What the Mother wants to bring down, and has brought down, is a yet greater consciousness where all these gods are married harmoniously in a single house.

Yet were there regions where these absolutes met
And made a circle of bliss with married hands;
Light stood embraced by light, fire wedded fire,
But none in the other would his body lose
To find his soul in the world’s single Soul,
A multiplied rapture of infinity.
Onward he passed to a diviner sphere:
There, joined in a common greatness, light and bliss,
All high and beautiful and desirable powers
Forgetting their difference and their separate reign
Become a single multitudinous whole.
Above the parting of the roads of Time,
Above the Silence and its thousandfold Word,
In the immutable and inviolate Truth
For ever united and inseparable,
The radiant children of Eternity dwell
On the wide spirit height where all are one. [281-282]

These are the highest levels of the mind, the Overmind consciousness, from which we must emerge into a still greater consciousness where all these are harmoniously brought together.

We may close with a beautiful prayer of the Mother, which reveals this Truth wherein all these great gods, each bringing out a power from the Infinity of the Divine, come together. She brings them together, harmonises them, and leads them. This beautiful prayer brings out this experience and revelation in its fullness. It is dated September 30, 1914:

Lord, Thou hast broken down the barriers of thought and the realisation has appeared in all its amplitude. [CWM 1: 254]

The Mother is speaking of that state of consciousness, that experience, wherein all the last barriers of thought are broken down, the thought has melted and merged into That Infinity. Therefore, she can experience that plenitude. She is now bringing out that realisation in terms of thought, for us.

Not to forget any of its aspects, to carry out their accomplishment at the same time, without neglecting any of them, not to allow any limitation, any restriction to come in the way and delay our march, this is what Thou wilt help us to do through Thy supreme intervention. And all those who are Thyself, manifesting Thee in the perfection of some particular activity, will also be our collaborators, for such is Thy Will. [CWM 1: 254]

And then she brings the secret of this journey:

Our Divine Mother is with us and has promised us identification with the supreme and total consciousness—from the unfathomable depths to the most external world of the senses. [CWM 1: 254]

That consciousness has to be found which marries the infinitesimal and the infinite. Right now in our journey we have to keep on moving forward, leaving behind the lesser for the sake of the higher. But then there comes a time when these two poles of existence unite and come together, the mundane and the supra-mundane, matter and spirit, world and God, become true and one. The Law changes then, but right now we are involved in an ascending march.

And in all these domains Agni assures us of the help of his purifying flame, destroying all obstacles, kindling the energies, stimulating the will, so that the realisation may be hastened. [CWM 1: 254]

Agni, the divine Will, the purifying energy, manifesting in man as aspiration towards Truth and Light, is the help that is given to us. He is the firstborn, the first god, and also the last one. He is the firstborn who carries this evolution upward. As he rises, the planes do not collaborate, they do not want the emergence to go further, and yet Agni will remove all obstacles. Along with Agni there is someone else:

Indra is with us for the perfection of the illumination in our knowledge; … [CWM 1: 254]

He is variously described as the divine mind, as well as the illumined mind.

… and the divine Soma has transformed us in his infinite, sovereign, marvellous love, bringer of the supreme beatitudes… [CWM 1: 254]

As one goes up and up, the oxygen of the earth becomes less and less. We need some other oxygen to sustain ourselves. Normally our earthly life is run by the fuel of desire. When desire begins to lose its hold and the senses begin to fade away, what would engage us with this world? Sri Aurobindo says that the fuel that we begin to get as we ascend further is the spontaneous delight of Being. That sustains the journey and leads us further and further. That is Soma, the supreme beatitude.

O divine and sweet Mother, I bow to Thee with a rapt, ineffable tenderness, and with infinite trust.

O splendid Agni, Thou who art so living within me, I call Thee, I invoke Thee that Thou mayst be more living still, that Thy brazier may become more immense, Thy flames higher and more powerful, that the entire being may now be only an ardent burning, a purifying pyre.

O Indra, I venerate and admire Thee, I implore Thee that Thou mayst unite with me, that Thou mayst definitively break down all the barriers of thought, that Thou mayst bestow upon me the divine knowledge.

O Thou, Sublime Love, to whom I gave never any other name, but who art so wholly the very substance of my being, Thou whom I feel vibrant and alive in the least of my atoms even as in the infinite universe and beyond, Thou who breathest in every breath, movest in the heart of all activities, art radiant through all that is of good will and hidden behind all sufferings, Thou for whom I cherish a cult without limit which grows ever more intense, permit that I may with more and more reason feel that I am Thyself wholly.

And Thou, O Lord, who art all this made one and much more, O sovereign Master, extreme limit of our thought, who standest for us at the threshold of the Unknown, make rise from that Unthinkable some new splendour, some possibility of a loftier and more integral realisation, that Thy work may be accomplished and the universe take one step farther towards the sublime Identity, the supreme Manifestation. [CWM 1: 254]

This was the highest point that past human effort could achieve, which the Vedic Rishis aspired for, which we see realised in the life of one of the great ones, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, who could reach a state of consciousness where all these great gods could be brought together and harmonised. It was a world of religions, as the Mother says, because each great god, as he unleashed his energies more and more upon earth, became fixed at the level of the higher mind into a system of thought and way of life. Yet now the time has come to go beyond this into a greater and more sublime adventure, a more harmonious and integral splendour. Standing on the threshold of the highest that human consciousness has ever achieved, the Mother invokes something yet to come, beautifully closing:

And now my pen falls mute and I adore Thee in silence. [CWM 1: 254]