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At the Feet of The Mother

Correspondence 1932, May (I)

May 1932?

The two sonnets are very good — especially the first is perfection as a sonnet in the rounded unity of its thought-construction and development. As to the moral, there is no moral; but a sonnet is either a thought-sequence or a sight-sequence or both and it always mounts or should mount to a strong conclusion expressing the result or finale of all that has gone before. But that cannot be called drawing a moral.

Yes, it is a profound truth that you have expressed here — the supreme difficulty which stands in the way of the vital in human nature opening to its own longed-for privilege of full joy and force and Ananda.

Harin’s poetry, I find, is always beautiful and striking in its images, but sometimes … [incomplete].

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May 5, 1932

Why on earth allow yourself to be carried away by self-torturing imaginations? You ought to know by past experience that I am not likely to be “fed up with you” or give you up even in your most unreasonable fits. I told you I had to revise my letter and get it typed. I have had in fact to rewrite parts of it and add here and there — and all that takes time. I shall finish it tonight and you will get it in the course of tomorrow.

Your letter to me showed that you had passed into an entire misunderstanding of what the Mother said to you. I say “passed” because at the time you showed that you understood her perfectly well. But you must have gone home and brooded in the old way until the light got clouded and you began to infer this and imagine that until you have accumulated the clouds around your head. The Mother never said that you were receiving nothing or that she could not work in you; she said just the opposite, that the force was working and that you had always been receptive. It was the reason for your being unconscious of the working that she was trying to explain to you and at the same time precisely to give you the “key” you were asking for. I am trying in my letter to put the whole thing in its right light so that you may know what to do and be able to do it. If the letter is not sufficient, we will try again and again till you have got the trick and are able to turn the key in the door. I absolutely refuse to accept your plea of inability or admit any ground for outcry and despair. You have got to root out this self-discouraging attitude from your vital and to succeed.

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May 5, 1932

You have been allowing yourself to get upset and depressed again and, as usual, this unhelpful condition has clouded your mind and under its influence it has been twisting things, getting them all awry and taking them by the wrong end altogether. The Mother protests against the affirmations you put into her mouth in your letter to me and I must first clear up this tangle.

The Mother did not say that whenever you meditated with her she had felt this stiffness in you, this closeness (closedness?) and she could not work. On the contrary, last time she told you you had made a great progress in receptivity which meant that you had been receptive all along and were now much more so. This time also she remembers to have told you that in meditating with you she had always found the force there and found you receptive. It would therefore be quite contrary to the truth to say that she could not work because of non-receptivity in you and she did not say that at all. On the contrary, she said the force had always been at work even when you were not conscious of it and had had its results, and you yourself admitted that it was so and that you had felt the results afterwards, even though not aware of the working at the time.

It is also quite unwarranted to say that you have been going in the wrong direction for three and a half years — going west when you thought you were going east. The Mother said nothing of the kind. You were not going in the wrong direction; there was nothing wrong in praying or in calling on the Mother or concentrating within, there is nothing wrong in meditating with ardour — provided it is a confident and happy ardour. You were going towards the east all right, but what the Mother said amounted to this that you were going along as if with a chain on your ankles and the chain was a certain tension and stiffness in your endeavour. This was what she found to have been wrong in your way of meditation. Therefore there is no need to lament that you have been going in the wrong direction all the time — for that is not the case; what is needed is to profit by the discovery and get rid of the impediment. The Mother did not merely point out the impediment, she showed you very expressly how to get rid of it and at that time you understood her, though now (at the time of writing your letter to me) the light which you saw seems to have got clouded by your indulging your vital more and more in the bitter pastime of sadness. That was quite natural, for that is the result sadness always does bring. It is the reason why I object to the gospel of sorrow and to any sadhana which makes sorrow one of its main planks (abhimāna [hurt love], revolt, viraha [separation]). For sorrow is not, as Spinoza pointed out, a passage to a greater perfection, a way to siddhi; it cannot be, for it confuses and weakens and distracts the mind, depresses the vital force, darkens the spirit. A relapse from joy and vital elasticity and Ananda to sorrow, self-distrust, despondency and weakness is a recoil from a greater to a lesser consciousness, — the habit of these moods shows a clinging of something in the vital to the smaller, obscurer, dark and distressed movement out of which it is the very aim of Yoga to rise.

It is, therefore, quite incorrect to say that the Mother took away the wrong key with which you were trying to open the faery palace and left you with none at all. For she not only showed you the true key but gave it to you. It was not a mere vague exhortation to cheerfulness she gave you, but she described exactly the condition in the right kind of meditation — a state of inner rest, not of straining, of quiet opening, not of eager or desperate pulling, a harmonious giving of oneself to the Divine Force for its working, and in that a sense of a force working and a restful confidence and allowing it to work without any unquiet interference. And she asked you if you had not experienced that condition and you said you had and you knew it very well. Now that condition is the psychic opening and, if you have had it, you know what the psychic opening is — of course there is much more that afterwards comes but this is the fundamental condition in which it can most easily come. What you should have done was to keep the key the Mother gave you present in your consciousness and apply it — not to go back and allow sadness and the repining view of the past to grow upon you. In this condition, which we call the right or psychic attitude, there maybe call, prayer, aspiration; intensity, concentration will come of themselves, not by a hard effort or tense strain on the nature. Rejection of wrong movements, frank confession of defects are not only not incompatible, but helpful to it; but this attitude makes the rejection, the confession easy, spontaneous, entirely complete and sincere and effective. That is the experience of all who have consented to take this attitude.

Now as to the tension and stiffness, the Mother saw it this time in your meditation with her, because she had to look for the impediment. You told her that in meditating with her you never felt conscious of anything — and yet it ought not to be so since your receptivity was beyond doubt and you yourself say that you have always found the personal contact helpful. I may say in passing that consciousness and receptivity are not the same thing; one may be receptive, yet externally unaware of how things are being done and of what is being done. But for such an external consciousness there must be a reason, and she looked in the meditation with you and saw (not with the mind but by concrete experience) that it was this stiffness created by a tension and straining which made the consciousness rigid and closed it up. She did not mean that it closed you to the force or that it took away the inner receptivity, but that it closed you to the surface of what is being done. When that happens, the Force works, as I have repeatedly written, behind the veil; the results remain packed behind and come out afterwards, often slowly, little by little, until there is so much pressure that it breaks through somehow and forces open the external nature. There is the difference between a mental and a vital straining and pulling and a spontaneous psychic openness, and it is not at all the first time that we have spoken of the difference. The Mother and myself have written and spoken of it times without number and we have deprecated pulling[1] and straining and advocated the attitude of psychic openness. It is not really a question of the right or the wrong key, but of putting the key in the lock in the right or the wrong way, — whether, because of some difficulty, you try to force the lock turning the key this way and that with violence or confidently and quietly give it the right turn and the door opens.

It is not that the pulling and straining and tension can do nothing; in the end they prevail for some result or another, but with difficulty, delay, struggle, strong upheavals of the Force breaking through in spite of all. Ramakrishna himself began by pulling and straining and got his result, but at the cost of a tremendous and perilous upsetting; afterwards he took the quiet psychic way whenever he wanted a result and got it with ease and in a minimum time. You say that this way is too difficult for you or the likes of you and it is only “avatars” like myself or the Mother that can do it. That is a strange misconception, for it is on the contrary the easiest and simplest and most direct way and anyone can do it, if he makes his mind and vital quiet; even those who have a tenth of your capacity can do it. It is the other way of tension and strain and hard endeavour that is difficult and needs a great force of Tapasya. As for the Mother and myself, we have had to try all ways, follow all methods, to surmount mountains of difficulties, a far heavier burden to bear than you or anybody else in the Ashram or outside, far more difficult conditions, battles to fight, wounds to endure, ways to cleave through impenetrable morass and desert and forest, hostile masses to conquer — a work such as I am certain none else had to do before us. For the Leader of the Way in a work like ours has not only to bring down and represent or embody the Divine, but to represent too the ascending element in humanity and to bear the burden of humanity to the full and experience not in a mere play or lila but in grim earnest all the obstruction, difficulty, opposition, baffled and hampered and only slowly victorious labour which are possible on the Path. But it is not necessary nor tolerable that all that should be repeated over again to the full in the experience of others. It is because we have the complete experience that we can show a straighter and easier road to others — if they will only consent to take it. It is because of our experience won at a tremendous price that we can urge upon you and others, “Take the psychic attitude; follow the straight sunlit path, with the Divine openly or secretly upbearing you — if secretly, he will yet show himself in good time, — do not insist on the hard, hampered, roundabout and difficult journey.”

You say that you were never pointed out all this before. But it is what we have been saying in season and out of season to everybody for a long time past! But you were not inclined to regard it as feasible or at least not ready to apply it in the field of meditation, because your consciousness by tradition, owing to past lives and for other reasons, was clinging to former contrary conceptions. Something in you was harking back to the Vaishnava sadhana, and that tended to bring in it its pain-giving feeling elements of abhimāna, revolt, suffering, the Divine hiding himself (“always I seek but never does he show himself’), the rarity of the unfolding and the milana [union]. Something else in you was inclined to see as the only alternative some harsh, grim, ascetic ideal, the blank featureless Brahman and imagined that the supramental was that; something in the vital looked on the conquest of wrong movements as a hard desperate tapasya, not as a passage into the purity and joy of the Divine; even now something in you seems to insist on regarding the psychic attitude as something extraordinary, difficult, unhuman and impossible! There were these and other lingerings[2] of the mind and the vital; you have to clear them out and look at the simplicity of the Truth with a straight and simple gaze. It is not that there is anything peculiar to you in these difficulties; every sadhak entering the Way has to get over similar impediments. It took me four years of inner striving to find a real Way, even though the Divine help was with me all the time, and even then it seemed to come by an accident; and it took me ten more years of intense Yoga under a supreme inner guidance to find the Way and that was because I had my past and the world’s past to assimilate and overpass before I could find and found the future.

But for you the remedy we propose, the key we offer to you ought not to be so difficult to apply as you imagine. After all, it is only applying in “meditation” the way that has been so successful with you in your music and poetry. There is a way of producing poetry by strain and tension, by breaking of the brain, by hard and painful labour — often the passage clogged and nothing coming or else coming only in return for a sort of intellectual tapasya. There is the other way in which one remains quiet and opens oneself to a power that is there behind and waits for inspiration; the force pours in and with it the inspiration, the illumination, the Ananda, — all is done by an inner Power. The flood passes, but one remains quiet for the next flood and at its time surely it comes. Here too all is not perfect at once, but progress comes by ever new waves of the same Power. It is the same method that the Mother proposed to you for your meditation — if meditation it must be called — not a strain of mental activity, but a restful opening to the Force that is there all the time above and around you, so that it may flow freely and do its work in peace and illumination and Ananda. The way has been shown to you, you yourself have had from time to time the true condition; only you must learn how to continue in it or recover it and you must allow the Force to do its work in its own way. It may take some time to take entire hold of it, get the other habit out and make this normal; but you must not start by deciding that it is impossible! It is eminently possible and it is that which everyone will have to do sooner or later; for this is the door of the definitive entrance. The difficulty, the struggle were only for the period of preparation necessary to get rid of or to exhaust the obstruction in the consciousness which was a thorn-hedge round the faery palace.

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[1] There is a steady drawing of the Force possible which is not what I mean by pulling — drawing of the Force is quite common and helpful. [Sri Aurobindo’s footnote]

[2] E.g. the Russellian fear of emptiness which is the form the active mind gives to Silence. Yet it was on what you call emptiness, on the Silence that my whole Yoga was founded and it was through it that there came afterwards all the inexhaustible riches of a greater Knowledge, Will and Joy — all the experiences of greater mental, psychic and vital realms, all the ranges up to Overmind and beyond. The cup has often to be emptied before it can be new-filled; the yogin, the sadhak ought not to be afraid of emptiness or silence. [Sri Aurobindo’s footnote]

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There is nothing sentimental in the true weeping that comes from the soul. All that you feel now is the blossoming of the psychic being in you and the growth of a real bhakti.