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At the Feet of The Mother

Sri Aurobindo and the Sanatana Dharma 8: Yoga

This idea of evolution through a fast track or a leap forward by compressing the long process into few lives or even few years is what is called Yoga. Leaving aside the complexities and details of the process Yoga is essentially concentrated evolution. This of course is a vast subject that has been dealt with earlier. Suffice it to say that Yoga is not something unnatural and abnormal but a method or methods through which we hasten the hidden Intent in nature for the full blossoming of the human soul. It is because of admitting the evolutionary element that makes Sanatan Dharma by its very nature progressive and admits change and reform as Time moves forward through the cycles of yugas. Each Yuga has its own yugdharma and each cycle is a working out on one of the four principal aspects of life, – Spiritual in Satyuga, Mental and emotional in Treta, Vital in Dwapara and, the Physical in Kaliyuga. All this makes Sanatan Dharma a complex system of interlacing knowledge but then it is a detailed, comprehensive account of life and creation and yet, – and that is its beauty and greatness, not a fixed rigid structure but something flexible and plastic allowing for dynamis and change, evolution and progress.

It is not necessary to understand any of these details to get the core of Sanatan Dharma. All that is needed is to understand that there is a Divine Presence in all things and man has the exceptional privilege to discover and unite with it, become one with this Immanent Divine within himself and extending it horizontally with all creatures and vertically with the very Supreme Source of all things. Tattvamasi or ‘Thou art That’, the Divine is the first great truth. Ahambrahmasmi or ‘I am That’ is the next. In between are the three streams of nature that bind us if we gravitate downwards or liberate us if we learn to swim upwards. These are the three modes or gunas of nature that bind all creation with its threefold chord, namely tamas or the energy in its static poise, rajas or the energy of motion and sattwa or the energy of balance and equilibrium.

Yoga is to reset the balance between Soul and Nature in its threefold mode of action. Right now the soul is anisa, not-lord, a slave of her workings. It begins to move towards freedom when disengaging itself from the workings of Nature it begins to be a witness, Sakshi, and a student of himself. Developing still further it becomes anumanta, reclaiming its rightful place as the decision-maker instead of the ignorant mind. Then it becomes the true enjoyer, bhokta and the one who begins to fill and fulfill Nature, bharata. Finally it becomes the Isa, the Lord. To evolve fast track from the state of being totally subject to nature and its mechanical determinisms and bondage to a state of being her lord and master, free from the bondage to the ignorant movement of nature, is yoga. Of course there is much more to it and the journey of yoga does not end here. But this is the minimum, to be master and free instead of being a slave and in bondage.       

‘In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the secret potentialities latent in the being and—highest condition of victory in that effort—a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos. But all life, when we look behind its appearances, is a vast Yoga of Nature who attempts in the conscious and the subconscious to realise her perfection in an ever-increasing expression of her yet unrealised potentialities and to unite herself with her own divine reality. In man, her thinker, she for the first time upon this Earth devises self-conscious means and willed arrangements of activity by which this great purpose may be more swiftly and puissantly attained. Yoga, as Swami Vivekananda has said, may be regarded as a means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life or a few years or even a few months of bodily existence. A given system of Yoga, then, can be no more than a selection or a compression, into narrower but more energetic forms of intensity, of the general methods which are already being used loosely, largely, in a leisurely movement, with a profuser apparent waste of material and energy but with a more complete combination by the great Mother in her vast upward labour. It is this view of Yoga that can alone form the basis for a sound and rational synthesis of Yogic methods. For then Yoga ceases to appear something mystic and abnormal which has no relation to the ordinary processes of the World-Energy or the purpose she keeps in view in her two great movements of subjective and objective self-fulfilment; it reveals itself rather as an intense and exceptional use of powers that she has already manifested or is progressively organising in her less exalted but more general operations.’

As to the many, often elaborate rites and rituals and festivals these provide the outer body and flesh of the Soul of Sanatan Dharma. None of them is mandatory. All that is needed is the sense of the sacred in everything, in form and space as well as in rhythms of time. Many sciences and arts and humanities have emerged out of this vast and profound way of life known as the Sanatan Dharma. Many forms of music and dances and poetry and literature, many aspects of the occult sciences, fields of healing and marvels of engineering, even elaborate science of flying, systems of psychology and philosophy, administration and politics, and all this in a language that is structurally and sonorously the wonder that is Sanskrit. In fact about 64 different systems of deep and profound knowledge or vidyas once flourished in the ancient land of the rishis known as bharatvarsh. Extreme experiments in the adventure of consciousness in unknown spiritual fields building so many paths are the gifts of Sanatan Dharma and of course Rishis and Saints and Yogis and men and women of unparalleled nobility who were referred to as Arya which had nothing to do with geography but with the psychological type of humanity. The word Arya meant the noblest, srestha. He was the master of himself, svarat, the self realised man, Swami who aim was a constant self-, perfection, Arahat. Sri Aurobindo writes describing this higher type of humanity thus.

‘Intrinsically, in its most fundamental sense, Arya means an effort or an uprising and overcoming. The Aryan is he who strives and overcomes all outside him and within him that stands opposed to the human advance. Self-conquest is the first law of his nature. He overcomes earth and the body and does not consent like ordinary men to their dullness, inertia, dead routine and tamasic limitations. He overcomes life and its energies and refuses to be dominated by their hungers and cravings or enslaved by their rajasic passions. He overcomes the mind and its habits, he does not live in a shell of ignorance, inherited prejudices, customary ideas, pleasant opinions, but knows how to seek and choose, to be large and flexible in intelligence even as he is firm and strong in his will. For in everything he seeks truth, in everything right, in everything height and freedom.

Self-perfection is the aim of his self-conquest. Therefore what he conquers he does not destroy, but ennobles and fulfils. He knows that the body, life and mind are given him in order to attain to something higher than they; therefore they must be transcended and overcome, their limitations denied, the absorption of their gratifications rejected. But he knows also that the Highest is something which is no nullity in the world, but increasingly expresses itself here,—a divine Will, Consciousness, Love, Beatitude which pours itself out, when found, through the terms of the lower life on the finder and on all in his environment that is capable of receiving it. Of that he is the servant, lover and seeker. When it is attained, he pours it forth in work, love, joy and knowledge upon mankind. For always the Aryan is a worker and warrior. He spares himself no labour of mind or body whether to seek the Highest or to serve it. He avoids no difficulty, he accepts no cessation from fatigue. Always he fights for the coming of that kingdom within himself and in the world.

The Aryan perfected is the Arhat…..

To embrace individuality after transcending it is the last and divine sacrifice. The perfect Arhat is he who is able to live simultaneously in all these three apparent states of existence, elevate the lower into the higher, receive the higher into the lower, so that he may represent perfectly in the symbols of the world that with which he is identified in all parts of his being,—the triple and triune Brahman.’

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