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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1931, September (I)

September 1931?

It is good news that the energy has returned — let it be soon complete. About your uncle and predestination, my difficulty is that it is almost impossible to answer without going into the whole question which bristles at every step with the most tangled dualities and oppositions — it is the most perplexing problem in philosophy except that of the existence of pain and evil and cannot be cut with the stroke of a single trenchant affirmation or denial. My own answer would be a tangle to the ordinary mind, for it proceeds on a very complex basis and how to put that in a few words without being misunderstood or not understood? I will see if it can be done, but I cannot promise to be able to do it.

*   *   *

September 1, 1931

Yes, your poem is full of sweetness and beauty alike of rhythm, expression and feeling — one among your best.

Nandalal’s[1] “transformation” is very good and will make a charming frontispiece for your book.

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September 1, 1931

Your surprise at your cousin H. L. Roy’s behaviour shows as did your dealings with your Toku Mama that you do not yet know what kind of thing is the average human nature. Did you never hear of the answer of Vidyasagar when he was told that a certain man was abusing him, — “Why does he abuse me? I never did him a good turn (upakāra)” The unregenerate vital is not grateful for a benefit, it resents being under an obligation. So long as the benefit continues, it is effusive and says sweet things, as soon as it expects nothing more it turns round and bites the hand that fed it. Sometimes it does that even before, when it thinks it can do it without the benefactor knowing the origin of the slander, fault-finding or abuse. In all these dealings of uncles and cousins with you there is nothing unusual, nothing, as you think, peculiar to you. Most have this kind of experience, few escape it altogether. Of course, people with a developed psychic element are by nature grateful and do not behave in this way. But I do not think there is much more of the psychic element in your Hemendra than in your Toku Mama. Don’t let these things worry you.

*   *   *

September 2, 1931

It is certainly possible to have consciousness of things going on at a distance and to intervene — you will hear from the Mother one or two instances from her own experience. In this instance we had no such knowledge of the actual accident. When Bhavashankar was about to return to Bengal, both the Mother and myself became aware, independently, of a danger of death overhanging him — I myself saw it as connected with the giddiness from which he suffered, but I did not look farther. If this extraordinary combination of the giddiness with the boat and the river had been foreseen by us, the accident itself would not have happened, I think; for against something specific one can always put a special force which in most cases of the kind prevents it from happening, — unless indeed it is a case of irresistible predestination, utkaţa karma, as the astrologers call it. Actually, we did as we always do when we see anything of the kind, we put a strong screen of protection around him. A general protection of that kind is not always unfailing, because the person may push it away from him or go out of its circle by some thought or act of his own; but usually we have found it effective. In this case there were two persons, Maya and your grand-uncle, who were open to the Mother and called her in the moment of danger; and Bhavashankar himself had been at least touched. To that I attribute their escape.

The idea that true yogins do not or ought not to use such powers, I regard as an ascetic superstition. I believe that all yogins who have these powers do use them whenever they find that they are called on from within to do so. They may refrain if they think the use in a particular case is contrary to the Divine Will or see that preventing one evil may be opening the door to worse or for any other valid reason, or simply because it is outside the scope of their action, but not from any general prohibitory rule. What is forbidden to anyone with a strong spiritual sense is to be a miracle monger, performing extraordinary things for show, for gain, for fame, out of vanity or pride. It is forbidden to use powers from mere vital motives, to make an Asuric ostentation of them or to turn them into a support for arrogance, conceit, ambition or any other of the amiable weaknesses to which human nature is prone. It is because half-baked yogins so often fall into these traps of the hostile forces that the use of yogic powers is sometimes discouraged as harmful to the user. But it is mostly people who live much in the vital that so fall; with a strong and free and calm mind and a psychic awake and alive, such pettinesses are not likely to occur. As for those who can live in the true Divine Consciousness, certain powers are not “powers” at all in that sense, not, that is to say, supernatural or abnormal, but rather their normal way of seeing and acting, part of the consciousness — and how can they be forbidden or refuse to act according to their consciousness and its nature?

I suppose I have had myself an even more completely European education than you, and I have had too my period of agnostic denial, but from the moment I looked at these things I could never take the attitude of doubt and disbelief which was for so long fashionable in Europe. Abnormal, otherwise supraphysical experiences and powers, occult or yogic, have always seemed to me something perfectly natural and credible. Consciousness in its very nature could not be limited by the ordinary physical human-animal consciousness; it must have other ranges. Yogic or occult powers are no more supernatural or incredible than is supernatural or incredible the power to write a great poem or compose great music. Few people can do it, as things are, — not even one in a million; for poetry and music come from the inner being and to write or to compose true and great things one has to have the passage clear between the outer mind and something in the inner being. That is why you got the poetic power as soon as you began Yoga, — yogic force made the passage clear. It is the same with yogic consciousness and its powers; the thing is to get the passage clear, — for they are already there within you. Of course, the first thing is to believe, aspire and, with the true urge within, make the endeavour.

I do not know why you should deduce from my not yet having written about your experiences the strange conclusion that they were worth nothing. It is rather from the opposite cause that it is not written, because I considered a full explanation not only of the experience itself but of what lay behind it to be demanded by its importance, and I have had time only for short things that could be written off easily on the spur of the moment. However, since my silence is acting as a damper upon you, the best thing will be for me to explain the experience first and comment on the rationale of it afterwards. I told you from the first that it was of great importance and value, and I repeat it now, and add that when you have had an experience like that, you must accept it as a sign of destiny from within you and ought not to be discouraged even if it takes time for it to return or enlarge its scope.

P.S. The explanation of your experience is already half-written, so with good luck you may expect it on Friday or Saturday at the latest.

*   *   *

September 4, 1931

I have said already that your experience was, in essence, the piercing of the veil between the outer consciousness and the inner being. This is one of the crucial movements in Yoga. For Yoga means union with the Divine, but it also means awaking first to your inner self and then to your higher self, — a movement inward and a movement upward. It is, in fact, only through the awakening and coming to the front of the inner being that you can get into union with the Divine. The outer physical man is only an instrumental personality and by himself he cannot arrive at this union, — he can only get occasional touches, religious feelings, imperfect intimations. And even these come not from the outer consciousness but from what is within us.

In your former experiences the inner being had come to the front and for the time being impressed its own normal motions on the outer consciousness to which they are unusual and abnormal. But in this meditation what you did was, — for the first time, I believe, — to draw back from the outer consciousness, to go inside into the inner planes, enter the world of your inner self and live for a while in the hidden parts of your being. That which you were then was not this outer man, but the inner Dilip, the Yogin, the bhakta. When that plunge has once been taken, you are marked for the Yogic, the spiritual life and nothing can efface the seal that has been put upon you.

All is there in your description of this complex experience — all the signs of this first plunge. First, the sense of going a little deep down which was your feeling of the movement towards the inner depths; then, the stillness and pleasant numbness and the stiffness of the limbs. This was the sign of the consciousness retiring from the body inwards under the pressure of a force from above, — that pressure stabilising the body into an immobile support of the inner life, in a kind of strong and still spontaneous āsana. Next, the feeling of waves surging up, mounting to the head, almost, as you say, making you unconscious. This was the ascending of the lower consciousness in the ādhāra to meet the greater consciousness above. It is a movement analogous to that on which so much stress is laid in the Tantrik process, the awakening of the Kundalini, the Energy coiled up and latent in the body and its mounting through the spinal cord and the centres (chakras) and the Brahmarandhra to meet the Divine above. But in our Yoga it is not a specialised process, but a spontaneous uprush of the whole lower consciousness in currents or waves (or otherwise) and on the other side a descent of the Divine Consciousness and its Force into the body. This descent is felt as a pouring in of calm and peace, of force and power, of light, of joy and ecstasy, of wideness and freedom and knowledge, of a Divine Being or a Presence — sometimes one of these, sometimes many of them or all together. The movement of ascension has different results: it may liberate the consciousness so that one feels no longer in the body, but above it or else spread in wideness with the body either almost non-existent or only a point in one’s free expanse; it may enable the being or some part of the being to go out from the body and move elsewhere, and this action is usually accompanied by some kind of partial samādhi or else a complete trance; or it may result in empowering the consciousness, no longer limited by the body and the habits of the external nature, to go within, to enter the inner mental depths, the inner vital, the inner (subtle) physical, the psychic, to become conscious of its inmost psychic self or its inner mental, vital and subtle physical being and, it may be, to move and live in the domains, the planes, the worlds that correspond to these parts of the nature. This is what happened in your case. It is the repeated and constant ascent of the lower consciousness (not always translated by these signs) that enables the mind, the vital, the physical to come into touch with the higher planes up to the supramental and get impregnated with their light and power and influence. And it is the repeated and constant descent of the Divine Consciousness and its Force that is the means for the transformation of the whole being and the whole nature. Once this descent becomes habitual, the Divine Force, the Power of the Mother begins to work, no longer from above only or from behind the veil, but consciously in the ādhāra itself, and deals with its difficulties and possibilities and carries on the Yoga.

Last, but not clearly indicated in your account, because not seized by you, comes the crossing of the border. You say rightly that you did not fall asleep or lose consciousness, for the consciousness was there all the time; only, it had shifted from the outer and physical and become closed to external things and gone into the inner psychic and vital part of the being. It was just when you crossed the border that you came into touch with the vital presence of Sahana and Sachin, two who had been most nearly connected with you on the vital plane. It was there in your inner vital self and on its plane that all happened of which you speak, the peace and the ecstasy, the vyākulatā [passionate eagerness] and the tears, the talk of Sahana and Sachin and the rest, and it was not your waking self, but the inner being — or part of it, the inner or true vital moved by the psychic consciousness, — that wept these tears and had this experience of ecstasy and peace. In your former experiences you felt it in the waking state; for both movements are necessary, the coming out of the inner being to the front as well as the going in of the consciousness to become aware of the inner self and nature. But here what was done, initially at least, was to break or at least to open and pass the barrier between this outer or instrumental and that inner which it very partially strives to express and to make possible in future a conscious awareness of all the endless riches of possibility and experience and new being and new life that lie untapped behind the veil of this small and very blind and limited material personality which men erroneously think to be all of themselves. The “coming to” of which you speak was simply the return from this inner world to the waking state.

You write in your letter that the tears were not real because your eyes were dry when you woke. The epithet shows the survival of a Russellian bias in your physical mind, — as if the physical were the only reality! They were perfectly real, only it was the reality of the inner self and the inner plane; for it was the inner being that shed these tears of ecstasy and bhakti. So too your meeting with Sahana and Sachin was a real experience, but real on the vital plane — and one sign of the reality was the way in which they acted, each with an exact fidelity to the vital state, Sachin ignorant and unable to understand and upset, Sahana who is awake within at once understanding what had happened and doing the right thing by leaving you to your experience. So too what happened in your dream about the Mother was real, but real on the vital plane, an experience of things that take place in the inner domains. It is a mistake to think that we live physically only with the outer mind and life. We are all the time living and acting on other planes of consciousness, meeting others there and acting upon them, and what we do and feel and think there, the force we gather, the results we prepare have an incalculable importance and effect, unknown to us, upon our outer life. Not all of it comes through, and what comes through takes another form in the physical — though sometimes there is an exact correspondence; but this little is at the basis of our outward existence. All that we become and do and bear in the physical life is prepared behind the veil within us. It is therefore of immense importance for a Yoga which aims at the transformation of life to grow conscious of what goes on within these domains, to be master there and be able to feel, know and deal with the secret forces that determine our destiny and our internal and external growth or decline.

It is equally important for those who want that union with the Divine without which the transformation is impossible. It is not less indispensable for one whose aim is the union through love and bhakti which is your aspiration. The aspiration could not be realised if you remained bound by your external self, tied to the physical mind and its petty movements. It is not the outer being which is the source of this spiritual urge; the outer being has only undergone the inner drive from behind the veil. You saw in this experience whence it came. It is the inner psychic being in you that is the bhakta, the seeker after the union and the Ananda, and what is difficult for the outer nature will become perfectly easy when the barrier is down and the inner self in the front. For you have seen yourself in your experiences that the moment this comes to the front or draws the consciousness into itself, peace, ecstasy, bhakti are natural, spontaneous, immediate.

This is the importance of your experience. It shows that all the processes and movements necessary to the Yoga are within your reach and not as you think in your outer mind difficult or impossible. It shows that the inner self in you is already a Yogin and bhakta and since that is so and it has shown itself, the spiritual turn of your outer life too is predestined and inevitable. It shows also that you have already a deep inner life, Yogic and spiritual, which is veiled only because of the strong outward turn your education and past activities have given to your thinking mind and lower vital parts. It is precisely to correct this outward orientation and take away the veil that you have to practise the Yoga. And that it will be done is sure — for this having once happened, the inner self is bound to renew its pressure, to clear the passage and finally come by its kingdom. A beginning of this kind is the indication of what is to happen on a greater scale hereafter.

There is much more that has to be said, but I will say it later. In this letter I can only give you the exact explanation and immediate significance of your experience.

*   *   *

[1] Nandalal Bose (3 February 1883 – 16 August 1966), the great artist. “Transformation” is the meaning given by Mother to Millingtonia hortensis, the flower of the Indian cork tree.

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To be spontaneous means not to think, organise, decide and make an effort to realise with the personal will.