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At the Feet of The Mother

Veda of the Body





The Vedas Are a Living Body of Knowledge

The body is a living Veda. Veda is the living body of knowledge that inspired the seers of Truth who saw in this world, hidden behind appearances, a secret All-knowing Wisdom, an occult Almighty Power at work. It is living in the sense that unlike a man-made mental system of thought or ethics it can be renewed in contemporary experience, stated in contemporary terms and even expanded into a many-sided richness. Of course the bedrock or the fundamental foundation of the Vedas is that there is a Conscious Force that works in the depths of creation, hidden by our surface view of life. This Conscious Force that works secretly in the heart of creation has come to a point of emergence in the human nature. In the animal creation, and all that is still below in the evolutionary scheme, it works from behind, completely hidden from sight, acting through a blind intuition of which the animal and plant forms are themselves unaware. It is there, submerged in the clod and the stone, arranging the indeterminate electrical horde into ordered Space and rhythms of Time. In Man it begins to emerge, to recover or rediscover something of itself but in terms of matter and in the physical body. That is the great marvel of man, his exceptional privilege. The real struggle of life is not the struggle for survival, but the struggle for the emergence of this secret Wisdom and Truth. Survival is only a first condition, not the last. If that were not so, then it is doubtful if evolution would have crossed the threshold of the first micro-organisms that can still outsmart man and his machines. Nay it would not have taken even the first steps towards life emerging out of rocks and minerals. The human body in this view has to be seen as a tool of the almighty wisdom that works in the heart of creation concealed behind the surfaces of life. Man can recover this Wisdom, first in his inner being and next express it in his outer life. His body is given to him for this purpose, for the recovery and the unfolding of this Greatness. The unwritten pages of the Vedic text must be written in his body even as they exist in the spiritual ether.

The Vedas reveal to us that this life is an evolutionary struggle, not just between one form of life and another (the horizontal view of traditional science), but between the forces of darkness and light (the ascending view of Vedanta). In man this struggle has reached its climax or rather a crucial turning point. In the animal creation, there is simply a blind habitual movement, a subservience to instincts and impulse. In man this begins to be replaced with something like a reflection, a referral and appeal to thought before action flows out through us. This is the first glimmer of light that begins to dawn in us, the light of reason, the birth of conscious thought and with this birth man can assist the evolutionary struggle. The Vedic lore speaks of some human beings who joined the ranks of the gods to assist them in their battle against the dark and titanic powers. Indeed man can evolve to the stature of the gods; he can become, through his thoughts and deeds, a luminous shaft of Light, a power of faith and love, a bringer of hope and joy, a catalyst of a great revolution or a much-needed change. This is his destiny, and the secret of achieving this is also enclosed in his body as a cryptic script. His body itself is a symbol. Unlike his predecessors, man neither crawls nor runs on his fours; he can neither swim as a fish does nor fly as a bird but his body stands erect, his eyes facing forward and not sideways. His vision of the world is rainbow-hued and he is able to look into the distant horizon as well as upward. The early stir of sounds have taken in him the form of speech and thought through which he can fly higher than any bird can even dream of and dive deeper than any creature of the sea. His hands are expressive of the capacity to hold and grasp, not just objects and things but also concepts and ideas that his hands must translate into practical realities of the earth life. His feet help him to stand erect. All the five senses refer their data to the brain, where lies his seat of consciousness, his station from where he is meant to control and act. But his centre, the point of electrical neutrality, lies in the heart where hides the mystery of mysteries, the flame of the Vedic seers, the altar where life offers the sacrifice of his days and nights.

But man has this difficulty that he is called upon to make conscious choices. He can look upward but also downward. Though meant to move forward, he can take a few steps backwards. His hands can hold not only the pen but also the sword. Strangely, he can use his pen to slay even as he can use his sword to save! He knows how to hold but knows not how to let go. The animal is not dead in his heart, it lies hidden in his underbelly and prowls waiting for a moment of unconsciousness to wake and devour not just others but also the man himself. He must pass through the cycle of sleep that is a death, to live each day again. He must eat and absorb earth-stuff to resume his heavenly flight. What he gains through the day, he may lose at night. The very mind meant to help him consciously grow and evolve, may become his greatest enemy never letting him free of the incessant habit of the past. Even strengthened by the new-born powers of his mind, they may become worse and assume a hideous face or a deceiving mask. His life is a conflict and a battle, not only an outer one but much more so an inner one. And yet something in him is ever dissatisfied with the past and the present and seeks to find a better and more perfect future. This persistent dissatisfaction is, in a way, the hallmark of man and his conflicted life. This is his evolutionary spur, his burden of fate as well as his door to the future. Man cannot remain content; he is the eternal seeker who hardly finds, the thinker who must move to the home of truth where thought is born out of the fires of revelation and a seeing idea remoulds life. He is the rebel who must destroy what he himself has built yesterday and then rebuild again under new conditions and with new materials. He alone of all the creatures is capable of educating himself, learning new and endless things, trying new and never before trodden paths, adventuring into the unknown, exploring new lands and adapting to new conditions faster than anyone else.

In fact all education is a way to break certain habits of the past and rebuild new habits that would be good and useful for adaptation and evolution. We inherit certain processes and patterns from our past evolution. These become ingrained in our system as habitual mechanisms which were and are very useful to animal life forms but have become counterproductive at a human stage. Let’s take the example of a typical stress response. It is designed to prepare the body for fight or flight. Thus, faced with any stress, the animal body reacts spontaneously and automatically with the release of chemicals that activate the muscles and redirect blood in ways and to organs that would be useful to undertake the flight or fight. The heart beats faster, the brain and the muscles fill with blood while the skin becomes pale as blood is redirected. Our breath becomes heavy to draw more oxygen, the sphincters contract, there is a shot of adrenaline from within the body leading to heightened alertness, glucose is rapidly transferred to the blood as it is the energy provider; the whole body is in a state of heightened activity ready to act in a moment. This remains for a while and once the danger is passed the response relaxes. If stress continues for long, then other sets of hormones come into play, the foremost of them being steroids. Now this is very useful in the animal world where the danger and the response are largely physical and usually short lived. However, with the advent and development of mind in man, new situations arise that are very different from the animal world. In addition, new possibilities of intervention also begin to take shape. Thus, human beings can get stressed by the mere anticipation of a distant event that is still in the realm of a remote possibility only. They harbour grudges and make friends and foes for life, leading to an escalation of stress with time. Many of these stresses cannot be solved simply by an increased blood flow to the heart and the muscles. We need to think and plan and act, find solutions through mental processes rather than pure physical ones. Nevertheless, the atavistic reactions continue just as in the animal world. Even anticipatory stress leads to a heightened state of alarm, an increase in blood glucose, loss of sleep leading to diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, cardiac arrhythmias, mental imbalance and all the rest. The very past habit of the body, the highly beneficial response of the animal world, becomes a source of problem and disease in the human world. It is in this sense that we can truly say that disease is indeed an evolutionary challenge. Indeed we can see today how certain meditative practices have come into mainstream modern medicine due to the stress disorders. Passing through the doors of a crisis that he alone can face, thanks to his mind, man discovers new ways and modes of life, again thanks to his mind!

But the human body has still higher and deeper possibilities than we can envisage. Even in our limited sphere we can see how the body of a trained athlete and gymnast can give much more and perform astonishing feats that baffle the mind of ordinary man. It is even possible to give a completely opposite response to the same stimuli simply by pressing the mind into service. A man under hypnosis is operated but feels no pain, another walks on fire or pricks his tongue and pierces the skin but his face beams with joy. The soldier falls on the frontline safeguarding his nation and there is a smile of satisfaction in his eyes even though the body could be blown to pieces. Children survive crashes, even buried under rubble for days without food, water and air. All these are so many reminders that the body not only has an enormous reserve but can do much more if assisted by the mind. It can slow the heart (even to a vanishing point as is recorded in the life of certain yogis), change the frequency of brain waves, alter the amount of chemicals secreted in and by an organ, conquer hunger and thirst and still remain alive and energetic! The emergence of these hidden possibilities, now abnormal or rather rare and under exceptional circumstances may one day become normal and natural. What is possible in one can and will one day generalize in the race. But before that happens, Nature may well indulge in quite a few experiments that would break the existing moulds and patterns of life-rhythms.

May be illness is one such breaking of pattern; genius is another. What we call abnormal today may be a failed or aborted attempt of Nature towards a new normalcy. Or else it may simply be a message inviting us to a changeover. This changeover may come in one life when we read the message and follow what it is trying to tell us or else it may happen through the changeover of the physical body itself. One way of looking at the phenomenon of death is that it is a complete organ transplant! Strange though it may sound yet it is like giving a new start to the human journey that, in the view of the Vedic seers, extends beyond a single lifetime. But even if we do not accept it at face value, and look at only the here and the now, still we can see this much that an illness is the end result of a certain pattern and rhythm of life that we have acquired or inherited. This pattern becomes rigid and fixed over a period of time; the disorderly order reaches a point where it must break and form itself anew. An illness gives us an opportunity to look at that disordered pattern, the rhythm that is not conducive to the health and longevity of life. It must break off. But while we are pinned down by the disorder, we can utilize that experience to rethink about ourselves and reshape our life. In fact the human body is so designed that there is a subtle correspondence between the physical organs, their functions and the nature of the inner disorder. Let’s take another example. We can take a disorder such as hypertension (high blood pressure). Now it is being increasingly recognized as a lifestyle disorder. So we already have two levels of intervention, one of which is at the outer level through medication and supplements. But we also need to look at the lifestyle that is/was unhealthy, say a lack of exercise and bad diet habits, and try to correct that. If we take one step deeper we shall discover that the lack of exercise and unhealthy diet habits are due to something more intrinsic in the body and mind, in the constitution itself. It may be a general lethargy, inertia or tamas in the system or perhaps an excessive emotionality that satisfies itself through an indulgence in food and sleep. In fact it may be a number of things alone or together. Thus, until we correct that, we remain still prone to an illness. We need to take our constitution into account when we look at the phenomenon of illness. That is how holistic systems of medicine work. They do not simply treat the symptoms but the deeper pattern. What they lack, however, is this inability to look beyond the existing pattern which we today call as normal. What applies to blood pressure, applies to other illnesses as well except that while blood is a generalized organ that conveys the life-force throughout the body, other organs may have a more restricted function and therefore the disordered pattern reflected through them is also a more limited one.

The Vedas saw the journey of life as a struggle between the forces of Light and darkness. Out of the darkness we grow and move towards the Light. But this growth is not without its share of struggle. Outwardly it looks like a struggle for survival where one form of life wins over the other or at least has an upper hand. But when we look deep within, we find that all life is essentially one. The different varied forms are of so many moods and colours, shades and hues of one life. Life is the ultimate winner; it is the forms that seem to ‘win’ and ‘lose’. Whatever form this outer struggle seems to take, it ends up kneading matter in ways that make it more and more supple and strong, plastic and stable, thus providing an evolutionary support for a future and better form. This is the game of life in which man comes at a crucial point when a much greater evolutionary leap has to be affected than any so far. It is a great transition from man-the thinking animal to man-divine. This evolutionary passage has to be found and worked out within the body. The truths of the Veda that one discovers in the trance of inwardness must become natural and normal to the outer waking consciousness. The animal was a living laboratory to work out the miracle called ‘man’; now man, in turn, becomes a living and conscious laboratory through and in which a still greater miracle is working itself out. This is the secret that awaits its hour of revelation, not just to an inner eye of the prophet and the seer but to the outer eye of man. In other words, the human body must grow more conscious, more plastic, and more luminous even as the body of the gods. It must be naturally immune to grief and free from degeneration and disease even as the gods are free from these ills. Finally, it must find an inner way, the inner power to free itself not only from the scourge of diseases but also of death. Thus, the dream of the Vedic seers that saw the journey of life as moving from darkness to Light, from death to immortality, come true in the most outward sense as well.

Indeed the human body is a field for a complex play of forces — forces material and physical, forces psychological and subtle, forces spiritual and uplifting, even forces dark and dangerous. Depending upon the nature of the force we are attuned to, we feel or rather experience, in the very stuff of our bodies, a state of health or a state of illness; a turn towards disintegration and disorder or a turn towards harmony and order; a filling up with energy and enthusiasm or else a lulling into dullness and depression; a growth of peace and joy or an agitation and suffering, a faith and will to live or a will towards decline and death. All these impinge upon the body and have their effects. Normally our body is equipped to handle a number of these forces. Its evolutionary journey has been carved through this field. Yet this has its limits, just like the toxins that accumulate in the body are handled but only up to a certain limit. Once that limit is crossed, things begin to go wrong. In fact, one of the theories of ageing refers to the accumulation of errors with each cell division. It is as if programmed into the very body itself. In the larger scheme of things one can see why it is so. The balance of life cannot be maintained if there is not this constant equilibrium between life and death, between creation, growth and disintegration. A human body in this vaster vision is nothing but one single cell of the body of the Universe!

The ancients, less equipped with the means of survival we have at our disposal, knew this balance very well. They knew that one of the secrets of living a healthy life is to care about the All-life around it. They saw in this vast endless curve of Space a single Universal Being where each individual being, energy, force, person and object must be in its own proper place for the time appointed to it and for the special role it is meant to fulfil in the economy of the cosmos. This thought and this attitude towards life put them spontaneously in a state of harmony with All-life around them — sharing of resources, co-habitation, following the rhythms of Nature in everything they did from eating and sleeping and mating to prayers and meditation and communion with the spirits of the universal life. That natural rhythm is now destroyed and replaced with an artificiality that is very lucrative in the short term but is dangerous in the long run. We are perhaps beginning to pay the price with a lowered natural resistance and an increasing dependency on external means and outer supports for survival. So also the sense of harmony and respect for everything around has been increasingly replaced with a misplaced Darwinian meaning of life, an individual struggle to somehow survive. The result has been an aggressive competitive stress of life, where paradoxically, the aggressor suffers as much as the one who is preyed upon or outsmarted. Darwin’s observations were not wrong but the conclusions we drew and the meaning we saw in it was not correct. We saw only one side of the story, the smaller picture where the predator seemed to outsmart the preyed upon. But for Nature, the two are a single unit. The same great Mother who has endowed powerful teeth and claws to a tiger also endowed swift nimble legs to the deer. Any species that tries to overdo its capacities and becomes a threat to the totality of Nature begins to fade out. We have to reorient ourselves; instead of looking at separate things and persons and cells and organs, we have to look at the total picture, the entire cosmos and our presence in it with regard to all that is around and behind and in front and beyond.

We often treat our body as a dead body. We treat it as if it were isolated from everything else. We treat it as if it were a mere machine with certain parts to be set right, without any consideration for the rest of it or even its larger purpose or deep utility. To somehow survive, to prolong life at any cost, even if it means hanging on to a machine, is the goal! It is fine and admirable as a technological feat but the problem is that each such technological support leads to a biological amputation. The natural ability of the body to adapt is compromised more and more till we lose it completely. The individual disorder spreads to the collective and mankind as a whole enters into a state of imbalance where the egoistic survival of a group becomes the sole overriding preoccupation. Any price seems to be worth it — the depletion of natural resources, the pumping of chemicals, exposure to radiation and whatever else. Hopefully we are through with this kind of rampaging of nature and are close to yet another turning point in our understanding of man and his relation with the world around him.

But there is something yet greater. It is the evolutionary aspect of man. Modern medicine hardly takes note of it. The human body has its own innate resources that help it adapt to challenges and threats, and to evolve through them. But in man this evolution takes a double or even a triple aspect. There is of course the biological and the physical side of evolution. But there are also in human beings these other psychological and subjective side. The challenges that human beings face are not only from without but also from within. We grow not only in terms of developing new dendrites and neuronal connections or the alteration of chemistry to tackle new learning but also new attitudes. Nay, we can go still deeper, evolve still further. The human body has within it certain occult doors through which he is inwardly connected to other hidden realms that lie beyond the range of our present sense organization. Within the recesses of our brain, between the gaps of our nerves, there lie time-loops and trap-holes through which we can project into other dimensions and experience other realms and states of consciousness. Modern neuropsychology and neurobiology have touched some of these doors but they do not know how to enter through them. It is just as in modern quantum physics man has discovered certain wormholes through which our consciousness can slip into other dimensions that take us swiftly through gaps of time, but we don’t know how to exactly manipulate this wormhole to actually undertake time travel. There are junction points where the gross melts into the subtle and reorganizes itself. There are bridges thrown across from this side — the material to the non-material realms where there is another substance-energy combination and another time-space continuum than what we are presently aware of. The body is merely a symbol erected in three-dimensional space of something that exists in the fourth dimension. It is a little shadow cast against the backdrop of material nature from a Light whose source is within us but in another dimension. Man can find that Light, live and grow by it, even remake his entire world, his self-regard and worldview. But for that he must break free from the trap of the sensory world and take an inward turn, a feat of which only humans seem to be capable.

The Vedas speak of not just one body but three or four and even five. These bodies are the various sheaths of the soul, the real dweller that temporarily occupies a house built by Nature. Each of these sheaths is a layer that connects it to the universal plane from which the sheath is constituted. Of these the most material sheath, the physical body as we call it, is the most dense and obscure. As we go further, the sheaths become subtler and quick in response. The soul shares the life and qualities of the sheath with which it is most identified. It gets limited in its action by the particular layer. One option for it is to get back to the highest and most luminous sheath. It can do this either after the death of the physical body or through certain forms of Yoga that helps us to withdraw progressively and successively from one layer to another until it takes its station permanently above. The body is then kept only for remaining linked to the physical world and only that much of it is used as is necessary for the maintenance of material life. This does not change the nature of the most material sheath but it helps an individual to be relatively free from its chains — relatively since complete freedom is not possible as long as one continues to dwell upon earth in a physical body. It is from this knowledge that there arose the lure for an other-worldly existence and of Nirvana and a complete cessation from birth and death. To be born upon earth meant to assume a material body which in turn meant assuming all the problems and difficulties, the obscurities and the denseness that accompanies it. But there is another possibility and that is to work towards changing the nature of this most material sheath itself! The logic behind this effort is that though these sheaths are different, they belong to a single continuum. It is something of the self-luminous Spirit that has become this dense and obscure robe. Always in its depths it remains secretly connected to this spiritual fount. If this connection between the material world and the spiritual was not there, then it would be impossible for the soul to ascend out of one into the other while in the physical body. Yoga would then be an impossibility. But if there is a connectedness, then it is possible to make this outermost robe more and more capable of transmitting the Light and Power of the Spirit, thereby getting rid of this seemingly incurable defect that accompanies it. Naturally, this has to be a general collective achievement since it involves a change of the law and properties and qualities of the most material sheath. The seers of the Vedas foresaw this luminous possibility of the earthly body, its grand and divine destiny. The same was reaffirmed in Sri Aurobindo’s own experience with the realms that surpass the material domain and reach out to the kingdoms of the Spirit worlds. He also saw how this can be done and that the time to do it is here and now. Naturally since this is a collective achievement it cannot be done in all its finality in one body but will need a certain number of physical bodies, a certain quantity of matter that can be thus converted into a higher type of matter. Once a critical mass is reached, the process of this glorious change would be self-perpetuating like the chain reaction in a laboratory. Man’s body is precisely such a laboratory where Nature has prepared grooves for the reception and transmission of forces and energies of the life-worlds and mind-worlds in the form of impulse to action, desire, emotion and thought. But now it strives to create new grooves within the physical body that can receive, hold, transmit higher forces and spiritual energies, without breaking down or distorting them in any way. It is this new impulse that is stirring in Nature, an impulse originating in a hidden intuition and will-to-be that is there in creation, occult and unseen and yet it pushes and presses all things from behind to exceed and excel, to achieve their utmost possibility and even to surpass it. It is this game and not just a blind game of survival that Nature plays with her creatures!

A great and unprecedented experiment has been going on in the most sophisticated of all labs in the world. This lab is the physical body or matter itself upon which Nature has been acting through various forces down the millenniums to create a perfect home for the indwelling soul. All the problems that accompany our birth arise from this natural limitation of the material sheath in which the soul enters. The soul itself is pure and untouched, unaffected and unafflicted. It is the true and the most beautiful part of our being. But trapped within the body it suffers just as a great musician would suffer if the instrument placed in front of him is poor in quality and incapable of creating good music. If the instrument itself can be changed, if the most material sheath that we call as the body can be refined, subtilized, purified, spiritualized and divinized, then being born upon earth would no more be a problem. It would even be a great opportunity, as then the great musician will have the delight of playing the perfect music that he always carried within him. The completion of this task would mark a great transition for earthly life. It will be not only the end of all our bodily and other miseries that arise from the very nature of things but also the fulfilment of the dream of millenniums — the dream of terrestrial perfection that man has dreamed since he first began to consciously think. It is the dream of earth that man has inherited along with the earth nature. It is the dream implanted in the heart of earth by the Wisdom that works within its depths. It is the real dream destination of our life, the destiny that has been bequeathed to us but for which we must work and which will unfold itself as the next stage of the evolution of earthly life. It is the great adventure for which we are born, and death and disease are only some of the challenges we face as we march on this path of the great epic of the human soul, braving perils and hazards on the one hand and filling its lungs with the delight of fresh discovery and new conquests on the other. This is the new discovery that awaits us and all our pain is nothing but the labour of this new birth. This is the ‘Veda of the Body’ of which only the first few chapters have been written so far, on the pages of matter with the ink of life and embodying the thought of the mental worlds. Higher still must reach the climb. Out of the candle flames of the mind our physical Nature must embody the Light of the Supramental Sun. Our bodies must hold the immortal fire and our nerves and tissues and flesh thrill to the rapture of the Infinite Love that has built the worlds. This is man’s inevitable destiny, the destiny of his body, the destiny of earth.

“More and more souls shall enter into light,
Minds lit, inspired, the occult summoner hear
And lives blaze with a sudden inner flame
And hearts grow enamoured of divine delight
And human wills tune to the divine will,
These separate selves the Spirit’s oneness feel,
These senses of heavenly sense grow capable,
The flesh and nerves of a strange ethereal joy
And mortal bodies of immortality.
A divine force shall flow through tissue and cell
And take the charge of breath and speech and act
And all the thoughts shall be a glow of suns
And every feeling a celestial thrill.
Often a lustrous inner dawn shall come
Lighting the chambers of the slumbering mind;
A sudden bliss shall run through every limb
And Nature with a mightier Presence fill.
Thus shall the earth open to divinity
And common natures feel the wide uplift,
Illumine common acts with the Spirit’s ray
And meet the deity in common things.
Nature shall live to manifest secret God,
The Spirit shall take up the human play,
This earthly life become the life divine.”
((( Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book XI, Canto I)))

Dr. Alok Pandey



The Veda of the Body is a work of inspiration. However, there has been an effort to bring together science and spirituality, intuitive and analytical knowledge, statistical data and inspirational wisdom in a single book. This would not have been possible without the help of the many hands through which this work has passed. The script went through successive layers of editorial corrections. Each person added value to the work by providing some very useful suggestions and undertaking the painstaking work of editorial corrections. While the persons involved with this project are quite many, special mention needs to be made of James and Vilasini (for going through the first draft), Shonar and Manasi for polishing the English, Vivechana and Kaushal for providing some very useful suggestions, and finally Puja Narula Nagpal whose dedicated and painstaking effort has been quite an inspiration for me.

But behind these human hands, there are those unseen Hands of the Unseen who is the eternal source of all wisdom, without whose sanction nothing worthwhile can ever be accomplished. Many are the names of this Unseen One but to us He has come in the form of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This work is Their gift to us. All our gratitude to Them, whose guiding Hand has been felt at each step of our journey.

To Them it is offered and to all seekers of Light and Truth in the field of Health and Healing.



Books are not merely a collection of facts and figures, they are meant for learning and education. They are an invitation to think, to ponder, to reflect upon the mysteries of life that have vexed mankind since inception. They are also a collective body of knowledge where each bit has built itself by standing upon countless other seen or unseen, acknowledged or unrecognized shoulders. Above all, books are meant to inspire us and compel us to look beyond the narrow and fixed frames of reference that we unconsciously build around ourselves. It is in this sense that knowledge is liberating. On the one hand, it releases us from the prison house of ‘ignorance’; on the other hand, it empowers us to handle our life better. The difference between information and knowledge is a special gift which comes by Grace. While it is easy to collect data and bundle it up neatly in facts and figures, it is not so easy to make sense of this enormous data knocking for appeal and admittance at the gates of our senses, claiming attention by our mind. No doubt facts exist in books, but what a book is meant to do is to reveal to us what works behind these facts. The data that the senses provide, on which much of our knowledge and theories are built upon, is only the first desideratum. The phenomenon is only a facade of an immensely complex play of forces that hold it against the background of Time and Space. True empowerment comes when we understand this background that gives birth to, supports and eventually draws back the phenomenal appearance that it had placed before our senses.

Much of our science is the ‘science of appearances’. It deals with the surfaces of things, the flow and flux that we see and recognize. But we seldom understand how and why this flow came into being and into what does it collapse. We catch some intermediary processes, but the deeper lines of forces always elude our grasp. We know genes and molecules, but not ‘that’ which turns the genetic key into the right lock and regulates the molecular switch. We know the physiology and chemistry of life, but not its beauty and artistry. We know each and every detail of the house of clay, but are completely unaware of its builder and its owner. We also hardly know the many inhabitants of this house, except for our formidable ego-self. To this grand ‘ignorance’ we give the name ‘knowledge’. But knowledge is not just bits of information strung together in columns with neat margins. As the Isavasya Upanishad (one of the principal Upanishads of Indian metaphysical thought that deals with the comprehensive nature of the Reality in which and by which we live) puts it so clearly:

Other, verily, it is said, is that which comes by the Knowledge, other that which comes by the Ignorance; this is the lore we have received from the wise who revealed That to our understanding.

But all this sounds like some mystic and meaningless doctrine of a bygone era. We belong to another age, the age of fast transfer of information and of a quick analysis of data under which heaps knowledge lies buried for want of space; and, thus, wisdom remains silent and unseen. Indeed we live in an age of information explosion. We are flooded with information of all sorts from every side. Each piece of this vast and an increasingly complex body of information is further supported by data of all kinds. Strangely we have streaming in towards us information and data that is often completely contradictory. Depending upon the angle of observation, we build different theoretical models and frameworks of knowledge and systems to make sense of the flood that is bursting the seams of our mind and its capacity. Confused and confounded we make one of the two choices. Either we pick up our own angle of vision, our window of approach, and look at life and the world through that or we trust a wider perception of those who have gone beyond us. Thus glued, almost hypnotically to our small point of perception, we declare all else as a non-existent reality, a hallucination or a chimera. This helps us to handle things, which could otherwise be lost in an unintelligent sea of non-comprehension. Obviously we miss out on much that is equally if not more important. But in the bargain we seem to preserve our sanity.

But for how long? We are flooded each day, each minute, each second and we cannot ignore it any longer. We must reconcile contradictory things. We need to synthesize the supposed opposites. We cannot remain blind for long, or play at the great game of denial that often passes off in the name of modern ‘science’. There is indeed much more in heaven and earth than our Science dreams of.

The paradox of our times is that we have too many answers, but very few questions. Our mind believes that just because something has passed through the crucible of reason, and that illusory thing we call as logical proof, it must therefore be true. This is nothing short of a blind faith in reason, though every such proof is dismissed by fresh evidence and new proofs. The corpse of the truth of yesterday is often revived and revitalized as new data pours in, while the truths of today fade into oblivion leaving behind a slain body upon the highways of Time. Yet something survives and even grows through all this change and death and rebirth of Ideas — it is the human quest for Perfection, for Truth, for Light, for Immortality. To this indefatigable thirst for truth, this eternal seeking of the Eternal hidden in forms and names, trapped in the dust of time and captured however momentarily in the systems of thought and patterns of experience, we give the name of Veda. It has been said that if we distil information, cutting out the trash and the waste while keeping the reality hidden within the husk of outer fact, then we arrive at knowledge. When we distil this knowledge that is nothing but one way of looking at the vast incomprehensible universe and thus uncover the essence hidden carefully within the systems of knowledge, then we have Wisdom. But when we surpass even Wisdom and go straight to the heart of Truth, where all Ideas rejoin Reality and rest in a harmonious concert, becoming the many faces of a single Truth, then we have the Veda. The Vedas are not simply outer data and heaps of information, they are not even a system of Knowledge, a way of looking at things like many others; it is not even Wisdom that comes through an inner illumination and the dawning of a sudden insight that opens a path to hidden truths. It is rather an intuition that goes straight to the heart of the matter and puts us in touch with its core and unveils the secret truth that it contains. Such was the path the ancient seers followed in a spiritual and intuitive age of mankind. While this must have happened everywhere, since mankind has a common origin and a common quest and a common goal, yet it has been given to India to safeguard this knowledge and explore the many paths that lead to it and the many ways it expresses Itself in life and creation.

One such expression of this Intuition hidden in the depths of creation is the human body itself. It is also, for those who know it, a secret pathway to lead us into a larger and vaster and freer existence now hidden to us, but to which there are secret doorways that open from within our human body itself. It is said in one of the Upanishads that when the One brought out many a form from within, He asked of the gods (the many powers of this One Supreme Transcendent Existence) if they would want to enter into any of them. The gods refused till the human form was brought forth into which they happily agreed to enter. The human body thus became a tabernacle in which the gods reside and where still a secret worship is offered to the Divine Presence that is immanent in the universe. This is a view of life that may seem to some of us moderns a bit archaic today. Have we not dissected the human body and found that there is no god but only a bundle of chemicals or call it molecules if you like? This model of man echoes the sentiment of the previous century, especially its early phase. Biological and psychological sciences followed in the trail of physics in the last century and often mechanically parroted what physics, the leading frontier of science, declared. In the process, these other sciences lost an opportunity for fresh and original thought. The logic ran thus — matter is basically chemicals and atoms and molecules; therefore, anything found on earth and built with matter would share the same basic nature. What we missed out was the glaring fact that living beings do not behave as matter does. So also thinking creatures have something else added to them than is found in living beings alone. The true formula of man is matter plus life plus mind. The laws of life and the laws of mind are not merely a repetition in different terms and on another ground of the same fundamental laws of matter. So what really is Mind? Is it another form of matter or is it something else that is overriding upon matter and altering its laws under the pressure of something that is imposed upon material substance? Surely for the latter to happen something of the mind must exist in matter to build up a point of contact. It is like the spark plug of the motor vehicle that starts up the engine. And yet we cannot say that it is all the same and that mind is simply the brain and its movements can be studied as and reduced to simple chemistry and physiology.

In fact, our understanding of matter itself has undergone a sea of change since the early twentieth century. Matter itself has become a magical space full of wonders where very little holds in its lap so very much, where near nothing adds up to a considerable something, where zero and infinity, empty space and solid substance, randomness and laws, chaos and order are intertwined together in such a way as to fulfil each other. Unity and differentiation enrich rather than cancel each other as far as Nature is concerned. Thus seen, the game of survival begins to change into a play of forces and qualities with forms as mere toys. Nature, in this vast and complex game, appears to the unsealed eye no more as something mechanical and unconscious, but as a goddess whose ways and ends we cannot fathom. She conceals most when she seems to be revealing most; she holds the finite and the infinite together in a single sum and when we believe that we have finally discovered and known her ways and will be her master, she deftly and with one master stroke makes a fool of us and enslaves. None knows what secrets she guards beneath her countless apparels, dark and dangerous or bright and beautiful. Yet if we just observe carefully without any a priori biases and preferred opinions, we shall have a glimpse of the deep wisdom, the intuition that surpasses and baffles our highest intelligence hidden behind all her works and processes, an intuition that at once takes into account the smallest and minutest details as well as the largest span of our seeing. Even her random footfalls and seeming errors are more self-assured steps than those of our utmost calculating minds. She creates the laws and she enjoys in breaking them, as if freedom and rules were merely pastimes for her. The ancient seers called her as maya duratya, that none can overcome by one’s own efforts alone. It needs a special Grace, a breath of the Spirit, to surpass her. Then we too can play with her along the highways of life instead of the constant fear and anxiety, and the burden of fate that we carry upon our shoulders.

Yes to some she does reveal her secret. He who has thus untied the cosmic knot and solved the cosmic riddle of creation; he who has glimpsed behind the iron curtain of our material senses; he who has been able to look beyond the ever-changing face of Nature upon the face of the ever unchanging Eternal, the stable base and support of all things born in Time and Space — these are the seers of the Vedas. They saw what our modern mind in its hurry and impatience misses. They saw the origin of this constant flow and flux and the royal road to freedom and mastery. They held the thread that links all creation in a single interconnected chain, this necklace of many beads that nature has woven for herself. They called this common matrix of all creation ‘Chit-Tapas’ or ‘Chit-Shakti’, that which is at once Supreme Knowledge and Supreme Power. Forms and qualities and forces are simply its grand or minor projections, like the rays of the sun. Laws and processes are simply its play of light and shadows as it builds forms out of itself projected in Time and Space. She is the original ‘cause’ yet is beyond all ‘causation’. Free and infinite and omniscient and all-powerful, She too is present in all beings, concealing most of Her Power and letting out only a miniscule fraction of it in the creature, and that miniscule is enough to sustain it for a lifetime. The whole universe is lit up by a single degree of Her Ray. Thus, they beheld Her, the power within, behind, beyond and around all creation. This is another way to live, a deeper, truer and more complete way since through Her we are linked to all things manifested or yet unmanifested, things that are born and those that to our limited vision are dead and gone. The past and the future, the individual and the cosmic rhythms are all linked through Her. She is the secret of all Harmony and all Delight.

Thus, they — the scientists of the Spirit who tried in their own way to decipher the secret language of Nature — discovered the rhythms and patterns and laws and rules of her vast and random game. They had a top-down view or an inside-outside vision of life and its forces and energies, tracing the lines of descent of the One Consciousness from Its Origin right up to the nether bottom of existence. As it descended, this vast supra-cosmic intelligence, this infinite power, this delight that is at the core and base of each thing, like an underground stream sustaining it, lapsed into a more and more fragmented state with each of its aspects and each of its trillion energies that spread out like so many rays of the Sun and rushed towards creation as if separate and cut off from its origin. In its final leap it lapsed into its utter opposite. But since the secret link was always there, a memory thrilled and stirred within creation’s depths towards its own self-discovery, the discovery of its origin and parentage. In each creature this pull towards the origin is felt in its own way. In man it has taken the form of conscious seeking, a quest that is more than mere questioning, a search for something that is never satisfied. It is this recovery to which modern science gives the name of evolution. It is the recovery of the full orb of Consciousness of the lost sun hidden behind the veil of shadows and darkness, of the treasures of the spirit that lie buried in caves of Time. All evolution is the emergence of possibilities inherent in creation since they lie latent within the creature. But this emergence is not without its struggle and pain, the labour pains of a new birth. On the one hand, there is this tendency towards the lapse and its result of a mechanical habitual pattern or way of being that we call as ‘fixed laws of nature and of each species’. On the other hand, there is along with it a constant urge to understand, master, challenge and eventually change these laws. Modern science tries to do it by changing the externalities, by manipulating the surfaces of life and the environment in which we live and breathe. By doing so it only exchanges one set of laws for another, becomes dependent upon external regulation imposed and executed by machinery and equipment in place of Nature. Yet we still remain slaves of Nature, since mind too is part of Nature and all our equipments and machinery cannot change the inner man however much they may modify his behaviour and speech and outer actions. The ancients instead took another route to conquest. They tried to find ways and means to change the inner man and to master and harness the forces of Nature by the emergence of a greater and still greater power and knowledge from within the bedrock of infinite possibilities until that point was reached where one could touch and find the One True Consciousness, the Original Power, the authentic Truth.

That is another way to understand life, another way to live and act and be. It is another vantage point from where we can look at creation without the sense of awe and fear and yet with the perfect wonder of a child playing a game with a full awareness of the rules, knowing all the while that it is a game, though a game with a divine purpose. Or shall we say that life is a great puzzle where through the paradoxes we encounter we move towards a greater harmony. One such paradox of life is the existence of a conscious soul that resides in a mechanically conscious body. This is the great puzzle that Nature has set before us — not to baffle or frustrate us but to help us grow into the fullness of life. It even makes this paradox acute, the contrast sharper, when it wants to hasten us towards finding the key that would resolve the contradiction. The seers of the Vedas had discovered this key, this alchemic energy in man, this transmuting fire that can uplift all things and change them from things human to rhythms and movements divine. That is the real and radical solution they offered, though along the way they made many discoveries, the hidden planes and the secret springs of mighty energies that can rock our inner space, powers that can chain and maim as also powers that can make us strong and set us free. These powers that are ever battling since time immemorial try to occupy as much of man’s inner psychological and even physical space as they can, giving his nature a turn towards the beast or a god. But man was not born to remain an animal. True his body belongs more to an animal but his Consciousness has already something in him that would not long suffer an animal make-up. He must outgrow this early start and release from within his body the flaming godheads, the hidden divinities that reside and labour in his depths though unknown to his outer awareness.

We too can share this great discovery and recover the lost godhead that we secretly are. It is even given to us to do so. The human body as we shall see is a marvellous opportunity, a doorway to things that are far beyond our present comprehension. Our anatomy and physiology is like an immense and attractive facade of a multi-tiered mansion. Flowing side by side with our blood vessels there are streams of light and force and bliss whose touch can alter the fixed logic of things. Concealed below the floor of genes and the ambiguous molecules whose strange configuration shapes our lives, there exist roots of our bygone past waiting to sprout. There is a vast expanse of spiritual space knocking at the doors of perception, awaiting the handlebars of the brain and the knobs of the synaptic space to turn, leading us to the magical space of another dimension. Running through the nervous channels and its physiological currents that traverse up and down the spinal column feeding all organs with life, there runs parallel to it, the occult channels of a mighty transfiguring Force that has built the many systems of worlds in its omniscient sleep. Our breath carries, along with the molecules of oxygen and air waves and particles of life-energy parcelled in packets and bundles, a subtle energy than our senses can perceive or our scientific instruments detect. Our very organs are symbolic of some aspect or movement of the universal existence and are linked with these aspects of the universal Energy. Not just the outer but our inner life of thoughts and dreams and feelings and impulse to action reflect something of the cosmic flux and flow of which our body and brain are the secret receivers and transmitters. Thus, when we study the body, we study the whole cosmos along with it, for indeed the whole universe is concealed or reflected within it. But also when we study the body, we also study the ways of the Spirit that transcends the cosmos, we enter into relationship with the transcendent, that infinite force and intelligence that lies secret within us. Above all, we discover the Love that is one with Wisdom and labours in our own depths keeping a constant vigil over our body and mind and heart and soul when we slip into sleep. The body by this view is so far the highest expression of the Spirit that is secret within Matter.

But Man is still only a half-way home of the Evolutionary Spirit. It must complete the full circuit. The journey must end from where it began. Through whatever route it may take, wearing the various masks of name and form, it must return back to that omnipotent wisdom and omniscient will whose essence and core is delight. Our evolutionary journey is incomplete till we have recovered, within the boundaries of form, the boundless, the eternal, the infinite. Nay it must still labour on until the finite form becomes a perfect expression of the infinite Spirit and the name releases within us the divine potencies now only latent as a hidden possibility. Birth, death and illness are only some of the stages and stations of this great journey; a comma, a brief pause and not a full stop. This book is an attempt to trace this perilous and delightful adventure that the Spirit has undertaken with matter as its means and the human body as its fulcrum and lever to launch into a new and unprecedented project whose end is the divinization of this clay house built of mud and mire and whose path and passage is full of uncertainties and risks and surprises. It is a look at life in its totality. It attempts to capture a glimpse of the vast complexity that has woven this stupendous tapestry of life and this robe of matter for the soul to wear. Without discarding and even including the various models and paradigms used to describe and understand Man, it seeks to go beyond them and understand afresh the mystery called ‘Man’ and the wonder called ‘the human life’. It derives its inspiration from the vast and all-comprehensive vision and outlook of the seers of yore who foresaw the distant possibility of the transmutation of our very physical substance into a divine body, best described by the foremost seer of our times, Sri Aurobindo in his epic and mantric poem Savitri:

“A magical accord quickened and attuned
To ethereal symphonies the old earthy strings;
It raised the servitors of mind and life
To be happy partners in the soul’s response,
Tissue and nerve were turned to sensitive chords,
Records of lustre and ecstasy; it made
The body’s means the spirit’s acolytes.
A heavenlier function with a finer mode
Lit with its grace man’s outward earthliness;
The soul’s experience of its deeper sheaths
No more slept drugged by Matter’s dominance.
In the dead wall closing us from wider self,
Into a secrecy of apparent sleep,
The mystic tract beyond our waking thoughts,
A door parted, built in by Matter’s force,
Releasing things unseized by earthly sense:
A world unseen, unknown by outward mind
Appeared in the silent spaces of the soul.
He sat in secret chambers looking out
Into the luminous countries of the unborn
Where all things dreamed by the mind are seen and true
And all that the life longs for is drawn close.
He saw the Perfect in their starry homes
Wearing the glory of a deathless form,
Lain in the arms of the Eternal’s peace,
Rapt in the heart-beats of God-ecstasy.
He lived in the mystic space where thought is born
And will is nursed by an ethereal Power
And fed on the white milk of the Eternal’s strengths
Till it grows into the likeness of a god.”







Health – The Spiritual Perspective



The recognition of a spiritual dimension of health by the World Health Organization (WHO) has indeed been a landmark event. It is doubtful, however, that the full import and significance of this fundamental aspect of human existence has been grasped even by well-intentioned persons. The reason is very simple. The spiritual dimension is still a concealed possibility in the race as a whole. Even though its emergence is the inevitable next step in Nature’s scheme of things, it is a slow emergence. There have been individuals no doubt, who have experienced a greater spiritual consciousness. It is also true that such individuals have cut across the barriers of race and gender, language and culture. Yet for the majority of humankind, the spiritual dimension still remains a possibility which many do not care to explore. Most of us confuse it with philosophy, religion, morality and occultism.

While these four approaches can prepare man and even throw open a window to the spiritual truth, in themselves they are insufficient to solve the riddle of man and conquer for him freedom from suffering, limitation, death, disease and incapacity. Philosophy, religion and ethics prepare man’s thoughts, emotions and will for an awakening to the true spiritual impulse. Occultism explores the inner hidden dimension of existence and its forces and powers and faculties. All of these, however, miss the deepest truth. At best they throw some reflection or hint and thereby act as a preparatory catalyst. At worst they distract and confuse us by offering an imitation in lieu of the real spiritual truth.


Defining the Indefinable

The first need is, therefore, to get rid of this misconception of confusing the spiritual dimension with philosophy, religious values, ethical morality and even occultism. When we thus get rid of these elementary misconceptions and understand the spiritual reality by self-identification, we discover that there is a unity of experience that cuts across the barriers of time and space. The real figure is seen only if we sound the depths ourselves and try to fathom the vastness that hides behind the human persona of those who have truly experienced and lived a spiritual life. Since such men have been few and scattered (though always present), it is doubtful if the statistical approach of interviewing the average or even an above-average intellectual can help us understand this dimension better. Such a process may even be counterproductive by diluting or, worse still, falsifying or replacing the real thing by an imitative mimicry. ‘The spirit is other than the mind’ affirm the seers. It is unity and oneness while the mind is duality and division. It is peace and bliss while the mind dwells in pain, pleasure and indifference. It is harmony and truth while the mind fumbles through error and ignorance. It is easy to understand from this that the spiritual dimension defies any simple definition. In fact, the spiritual reality does not necessarily need a language to communicate itself. Rather, it is best communicated and understood in the silence and stillness of our being. This inability to define and describe the spiritual reality is not any limitation as many suppose. It stems because firstly speech itself is a lesser term and faculty. Secondly, since it belongs still to the mental domain in its manifestation, it evokes different meanings and images in different human beings. To obviate this dual difficulty, we can attempt to define the spiritual dimension as the highest perfection man is capable of through self-evolution. This too, however, runs the risk of contamination by the mind which constantly confuses the human ideas of perfection with a spiritual one. Human perfection is a quantitative thing. It is the development of human capacities to their utmost pitch. Spiritual perfection is, however, a qualitative thing. It is the emergence of new faculties and capacities better and superior to what the human mind can at present imagine. For example, the Sanskrit word for health — Swasth — literally means ‘rooted in the (true) self’. That is to say, true health exists only when man’s consciousness is firmly fixed in the spiritual self, the sva. Short of it, there can be absence of disease, Arogya or, physical prowess and fitness, bala, but not health. As Dr. Bisht rightly pointed out in his recommendation to the WHO that ‘a pack of wolves are physically strong, mentally alert and socially well-knit but there is something more in man which marks him apart’. And that ‘something more’ in him is not just the maximum development of his mind through education and learning but the wisdom and power of his soul.


Spirit and Body: A False Opposition

We have also to understand spirituality not as an escapist or illusionist tendency, but the awareness of a fundamental spiritual Reality behind every form and name. This is supported by the experience that it is the spirit that has become all beings and things including matter. This is well reflected in the evolutionary Indian parable of the Dasavatara where the incarnation of the One Divine becomes the fish, the tortoise, the boar, the half-animal, half-man, etc., through evolution to a perfect mental man. The missing link in our evolutionary journey may not be the Archaeopteryx but the mediatrix Consciousness that runs as a common thread through all phenomena. The story of evolution is still a half-told tale. The adventure of the Spirit upon earth is not yet over. It will continue till Nature evolves a body capable of manifesting the Perfect Consciousness. Unless we grasp this, we will continue the mistake of regarding the spiritual dimension not only as a separate but also an exclusive dimension that exists in isolation without any hold upon the creature that inhabits it. If that is so, then all hope of spiritual health remains a chimera and the great utterance of the spiritual dimension of health becomes only an idealistic doctrine.

The spiritual dimension includes the material and can and does intervene subtly to alter the laws and processes of the material universe and to change the course decreed by the so-called purely material and biological forces.


Measuring the Immeasurable

If defining spiritual reality is difficult, studying its complex effects is even more difficult. Statistics are useful for recording phenomena. The present scientific methods and equipment register gross events. To pursue and discover subtler truths and spiritual laws we have to follow another method whose usefulness has been verified since ancient times. Firstly, we need to trust the word of those who have awakened the spiritual consciousness in themselves. Secondly, we must begin to observe ourselves and the movements of subtler levels in us. The effects of those subtle movements escape conventional data collection since most of us are not conscious of these subjective psychological events. ‘We are asleep there’, to use an Upanishadic image. The scientist must first and foremost make himself the field of his observation and record his experiences. Such cumulative records over a period of time would be very helpful for all who wish to explore this dimension. But simultaneously we should avoid the rash attempt to codify too rigidly the experiences. Our mind always likes to formulate laws but the spiritual field being very subtle and plastic escapes the rigidities of human logic. Thus, if in a certain state of consciousness, say ‘peace’, the patient recovers faster or is even cured of an acute emergency like a heart attack or appendicitis, we can truthfully record it. We can equally record the effect of negative emotions on health and disease. But we should not rush to reduce it into a system. Peace, for example may not always cure. It may not always be readily accessible either. But even though not reproducible, a single event of ‘cure by peace’ is significant and opens doors of enormous possibilities for those who can and will.


The Law of Averages

The method of studying, analysing and understanding physical phenomena has its great utility in the physical domain. The accuracy and predictability are somewhat more reliable here because in gross matter, there is not the free play of other subtler domains. But to extrapolate the same method mechanically in the spiritual domain may lead to gross errors. The reasons are threefold. Firstly, our equipments are not yet geared to register and record subtler energy impacts. However in these we can find the presence of the anomalous and the unpredictable. As all practitioners of medicine know, medicine is not an exact science like mathematics.

Secondly, there is a whole range of phenomena which are subjective and cannot be measured. And yet these may be quite crucial in matters of health and healing. For instance, peace and faith are two such non-measurable units that do determine our state of health.

Thirdly, and most importantly, scientific methods deal with phenomena. But as spiritual experience constantly affirms, behind the phenomena of name and form there is a supporting and sanctioning consciousness and force. It is difficult to envisage how we could possibly measure the quantum of spiritual consciousness and force in units of grams or kilograms, or god-knows-what, that goes into healing a malady. Even where a method is used, there is always the secret force and consciousness that makes all the difference. The force can use one particular method or another. It may even dispense with all methods and techniques. A given method is after all only one condition of spiritual awakening. Just as clouds and lightning are one condition for the emergence of electricity. Besides, the force and power of electricity exist as principles even if we have not discovered the method to tap them. Likewise, spiritual force and power are a latent possibility in every human being. They can be awakened and brought to the fore by a number of methods. The method is however only an excuse for the emergence. The real essence escapes the technique. When human evolution reaches a certain crucial and critical inner point, the pressure of the spiritual consciousness bursts the limited bounds of our ego and we emerge in a larger and freer consciousness. Spirituality is essentially this change of consciousness from the human to that which is greater than man and beyond him.


The Truth that Escapes Us

It is a fact that human consciousness is not the highest, and Man not the last word of creation. Man is a transitional being to be surpassed by a more perfect being. Till that new step in evolution happens, man’s life will be riddled with death, his efforts at outer conquest marred with inner defeats, his glorious successes sum up into specious failure. Man’s commerce with life and forces around him will remain precarious at his own level of evolution. Even at best, he may arrive at a healthy equilibrium with his environment as a pack of wolves or a species of plants. But Nature would not allow this. It is thus that disease, death and infirmity pursue man. All stress and strain that besieges this race is in essence a call to evolve. Every crisis is a challenge and stimulus to growth and liberation. All pain and suffering is Nature’s hint and reminder that the joy we experience is imperfect and the power we command is yet a narrow and limited one. Each limitation we experience is a pointer towards our own incomprehension and ignorance. To remove this stamp of death and seal of suffering, we must remove ignorance and divinize this dust that wakes to life in plant and climbs to thought in man. This is the inner significance of disease and illness as seen from a spiritual consciousness.


The Central Disease

The central root of our difficulty lies mainly in our sense of separateness and its attendant problems of want, greed, lust and desire. It is this that translates itself physically and psychologically as self and not-self. The sense of ‘not-self’ leads to effort for adaptation as well as imbalances of various kinds at physical, vital and mental levels, leading to disease and death. Our true identity is neither physical nor psychological but a spiritual one. And this spiritual individuality is not opposed to other spiritual individualities but is conterminous with a sense of universality and oneness. It widens us and by widening liberates us from suffering and makes us more capable of receiving the peace and bliss that heal our maladies of body and mind. For spiritual health to emerge, we have to dissolve the false sense of ego-self and replace it by the true ‘I’, the soul in us. The emergence brings, as testified by all who have had the contact, its attendant effects of peace and fullness and joy, and openness towards truth and harmony and light, a freedom from the stress and strain of want and desire. This spiritual change has a positive effect on our entire constitution, bringing health and fitness in the body, quietude and goodwill in the vital, clarity of understanding, generosity and broadness as well as balance in the mind. Overall it results in progress and harmony and a general sense of well-being, security and satisfaction. The effects are there so long as the contact remains. But it is difficult for most of us to retain a constant contact. The old person that we are comes back to the surface with all its habits, conditioning and unhealthy preoccupations and preferences. The peace is replaced by restlessness, clarity by confusion, generosity and goodwill by narrowness and bigotry, and health by want of balance and illness. These periods of light and darkness alternate till the spiritual element is fully freed in us and once purified of all egoism it sets the other parts of our nature to its own harmonious rhythm. The spiritual self holds the key to release the forces of progressive harmony and health in us. Under the stress of the soul, the human consciousness begins to grow deeper, wider and higher. All our values of understanding, sensing, feeling and living start undergoing a marked qualitative change which is superior to the mere philosophizing idealism, ethical and moral piety, emotional fervour and exalted sentimentalism. The mind opens to intuition, illumination, visionary revelation and prophetic inspiration. The heart opens to a deep, pure and calm capacity to love without possessiveness and turbulent attachment. The life-force and will, bereft of the heaving disturbance of desire, becomes a dynamo for selfless Divine work in the world. Even the body shares the spiritual touch which translates itself in terms of calm and balance, trust and an absence of fear, things that help us immensely in healthy living and even cure us of disease. Yet this is not enough. More is needed. A greater perfection can emerge by the total transformation of nature wherein an immunity from all types of diseases is possible, not just for a few exceptional individuals, but as a potentiality for the entire race.


Search versus Research

How are we going to do that? By research or by search, by convincing statistical proofs or by living example? This is a question everyone has to answer for oneself. However, history shows that one example in this regard is far more convincing than a whole mass of data and statistics. Data and statistical analysis reach out only to a small section of the human mind — the scientific one. Often, it only helps to convince the already convinced. The sceptic continues to disbelieve, for such is the nature of mind that it can interpret the same truth differently, and by a subtle twist of logic and change of premises arrive at totally different and even opposite conclusions. But example touches much deeper and has a wider range of action. It is like fire. Talking about fire can ignite only curiosity but actual contact with it can light up a similar fire and convince one of the mass of heat and light that fire is. One such living fire is of far greater value than a whole pile of figures that often gather dust in our libraries. Thus, it is the pressure of the spirit that wakes up the sleeping soul of man. There are no other means for it.


A Practical Programme for the Future

How are we going to implement all this in our collective health programmes? This is not a simple question and perhaps there are no easy answers. A few approaches can however help us integrate the spiritual dimension with the others. Here are some suggestions:

  • Subjective psychological experiences like peace, joy, faith, etc., should be included in our research designs. So far, scientific studies have largely ignored personality factors of the patient and therapist in health and illness. These need to be included.
  • There is a need for health education programmes creating greater awareness about the role of our psychological states in health and illness. This awareness needs to reach both physicians and health educators as well as their clientele.
  • From a scientific point of view it may be better to approach the spiritual dimension through a better understanding of our subjective psychological states than through an understanding of religion. Psychological states are universal whereas religions have become a source of misunderstanding, confusion and division rather than being one of the means of arriving at higher states of consciousness.
  • At least, a minimum stress should be put in our medical education curriculum on the spiritual aspects of human existence. This can be done by inviting guest speakers to give lectures or perhaps going on experiential tours for a couple of weeks to places which carry a spiritual atmosphere.
  • Medical training should include knowledge of self-help techniques that would help physicians develop greater calm and confidence. They can in turn extend and apply it to patients. Many such methods for self-development and self-mastery exist but need implementation.
  • Individuals and institutions with expertise in the field of self-mastery and self-growth and willing to help impart the necessary knowledge and skills to selected workers can be identified. These trained workers can then serve as a link between the community and the public health system.
  • A serious and sincere study of the psychic sciences and their interface with other aspects of our biology and psychology needs to be undertaken. So far, mainstream science has only distanced itself, seeing it with a sceptic’s eye and denying it even before exploration.
  • Above all, a paradigm shift is needed about our concept of ‘Man’ himself. One could work towards this end by inviting more constructive debates amongst leading men in each field, who feel the necessity to go beyond the present notion of man and life. These alternative views need to be publicized and presented to the health workers. At present they are made aware (as if almost deliberately) only about the physical side of man even though enough data and material already exist to show that man is not just a biological organism but something more.
  • An open minded study of ‘consciousness’ and ‘self-experience’ will be of great help. The study and corresponding literature and publications could be funded through world bodies dealing with health and education, like the WHO and UNESCO. The persons identified to study this must be those having a reasonably good understanding about these aspects.
  • We have to understand that even a highly qualified person with good standing in his specialised field may know next to nothing about ‘consciousness’ and ‘spirituality’. His opinion carries little or no meaning. On the contrary, there are specialists in ‘consciousness’ and ‘spirituality’ just as in other fields. It is on these that initially the responsibility for a deeper exploration of the spiritual dimension must rest.
  • Finally, serious efforts should be made to study the psychological evolution of the human race, especially as it is happening now. The key to the spiritual dimension may well be found there.



The task, therefore, before us as physicians is not just the relief of symptoms but to seek deeper into the layers of our psychology where the roots of health and illness lie. The illness is a crisis point which leads us, as if by Nature’s irony, to the doors of our own concealed possibilities. We suppress one form of illness, but another surfaces. It is so because we have failed to take note of the hint and refused to learn from the wisdom of Mother Nature. We can avoid this responsibility of learning what Nature intends to teach, only at our own peril. We can ignore the lesson and the leading, only to face the threat of extinction. But if we are to not only survive but progress and evolve beyond our religions and ideological cults, then we must open the doors to this greater and vaster spiritual consciousness and allow its influx in us. It is in this spiritual emergence that lies our hope and future as a race. The spiritual dimension holds the key to the enigma called ‘man’ and the solution to the paradox called ‘life’.



Methods of Enquiry and Research



Research in life sciences, of which medicine is a specialized branch, seems to be entering into a blind alley because of its heavy leanings upon the materials and methods of enquiry more appropriate to physical science. So universal is the phenomenon of regarding life as an offshoot of matter, as a by-product of certain physical and chemical processes, that the above statement may appear shockingly unscientific to a mind accustomed to conventional ways of thought and experience. Yet, the paradox is that the three recognized revolutionary directions in the domain of physical, biological and psychological sciences came precisely by disregarding the conventional form of research where ‘seeing is regarded as believing’ and ‘measuring is considered the only way to separate error from truth’. These three were, respectively, Einstein’s theory of relativity, Darwin’s theory of evolution, and Freud’s concept of the unconscious mind. Despite their limitations, the fact is that these three statements (which so powerfully moulded modern scientific thought) were neither derived from the data of pure sense experience nor evolved through deductive logic. In fact, our usual repertoire of sense experience contradicts all the three. We do not ‘see’ the relativity of time and space, we do not ‘see’ or ‘hear’ the unconscious, and we have never seen an ape turn into a man.

But if not true to the experience of our outer sense, just a little careful observation of ourselves reveals that all the three statements are common experiences of human psychology. Perhaps Einstein’s broodings over the movement of stars or Darwin’s epic voyage and Freud’s encounters with patients were outer events that simply served to trigger a knowledge already known within. For the mind does observe time shorten or lengthen and space contract or expand based on the observer’s state of consciousness. The mind also observes that a dog can be trained in a way that comes close to some activities of human beings through specialized effort. Even in oneself, one finds that the mind grows with or without the impact of life experiences and if we do not confine evolution to its narrow definition of forms, we can well say that we evolve in consciousness from birth to death. The mind also observes that much of its own activities, behaviour, impulses and feelings originate especially in dreams and often enough in the waking state from some source within itself (which is not yet its known self) — the unconscious.

In this sense we find that a knowledge concealed and inherent within our psyche was simply projected and applied to outer events which made or became suddenly meaningful and comprehensible. For certainly the same observations can lead to many possible modes of thought. The same phenomenon can be explained in a perfectly logical and reproducible way by different reasonings. The explanation or reason we give is therefore not the only one. An ‘unconscious choice’ is made either under the light of a guiding intuition or the shadow of our past experience. That this is so is well illustrated in the domain of life sciences itself. The same illness that was treated by ‘shamans’ effectively is treated today by the medical man using different time-tested methods of enquiry and treatment. However, since the mind finds it impossible to reconcile contraries it accepts one theory to the exclusion of others depending on which way the pendulum of the majority swings.


The Qualitative Aspect of Phenomena

This brings in another factor, the concept of ‘statistical majority’ as a valid probability. A basic truth is ignored here, that is, every phenomenon has a quantitative and a qualitative aspect. All human brains look alike and have similar pathways, but there is a wide range of difference in their capacity for thought. We have not been able to ascribe this uniqueness to a difference of brain structure or neurochemistry. The same neurophysiological event gives rise to a wide range of phenomena. Even if minor variations are found, they would only be indicative of the endless variety of nature rather than any correlating factor between mind and matter. Even where the psychological event is of the same broad category, the range of experience is very wide. As, for example, the romantic love of a teenager with all its fits of expectations and desires is qualitatively different from his love for a friend or of a mother towards her child.

That this is so is indisputable if we do not limit our range of observation to the seen and the heard but also to the felt and the willed and the thought. One neither sees anger nor hears it, nor can one prove its existence until it overtakes the body and creates a certain characteristic form of nervous reactions. Diverse emotions such as fear, anger, even certain forms of love and joy can create the same nervous response in the physical organism. Yet one knows anger as different from fear and love. The more sensitive psychology can appreciate the subtle shades of difference between one kind of joy and another even if it is not always possible to communicate it to someone else.

This happens because man is a qualitatively complex organism. He is not just a cellular aggregate of atoms. It is possible that life exists as an independent substance with independent properties other than those of matter and mind, and has a ‘substance-organization’ different from mind and body. If we accept this basic premise, we can readily extend it to other domains and infer that the soul, if considered to exist, would be composed of a different ‘substance-organization’. Thus, it is a common experience that feelings of one person can be communicated to others without words or acts. And, less commonly though, one observes the phenomenon of telepathy, clairvoyance, etc., wherein a direct use is made by the thought to communicate itself through the mental substance without a physical mode. That such phenomena exist is a qualitative truth. Their absence in the majority no way proves the contrary. Again it has been demonstrated in the Yogic tradition of certain trance states that life can continue for some time in the absence of physical mechanisms like heartbeat and breathing. A similar phenomenon is seen in Near Death Experience (NDE) or an Out of Body Experience (OBE), wherein life returns after a period of cessation of life processes. In fact, life does not return. It was always present and if one were to include the testimony of Yogic science, cessation of breathing and heartbeat in any person is not a sign of absence of life. This is well recognized now in the concepts of biological death and cellular death respectively.


The Qualitative Methods of Knowledge

Thus, we need to radically alter our methods of enquiry in the domain of life and mind sciences and come out of our heavy leanings upon the sole prevalent methods of studying material phenomena. The fundamentals remain. For, observation, which is the beginning of all science, will still be there but extend its scope beyond ‘seeing’ to ‘experiencing’ and ‘introspecting’. Experimentation will still be there, but may change its domain from the physico-chemical issues to increasingly subtle and psychological issues. Inferences will also be drawn but rely not only on reason but also increasingly on reflection, contemplation and the steady growth of intuition. Naturally, this admits the need for a considerable growth in consciousness of the experimenter himself. But it is undeniable if we are to eliminate the observer bias. Naturally, there may be an absence of reproducibility unless the others are close to the consciousness of the scientist.

These methods of enquiry were used in the ancient Indian traditions, validity of which is currently recognized even in the purely physical domain. There is no reason to believe then that by experimenting upon one’s own consciousness, the subtle truths of human psychology will not see the light of the day. The dreams of reason with their play of probables and not-probables will surely give birth to the dawn of true science or a larger science where intuition will illuminate observation and knowledge will enrich information. Till then the uncertain passage is to be passed through. Its period of darkness will depend upon our will and courage to take a leap from one level of enquiry to another, from the gross to the subtle, from the mere sensible to the supra-sensible.


The Objective and the Subjective

Thus we have seen that for their fullest scope life sciences have to shed their bias towards observing merely the life and mind operations confined to the body. We have also seen that such a preoccupation not only limits the field of enquiry, but may also lead us to grossly incorrect conclusions by failing to observe, record and include a large mass of subjective and other phenomena which are lumped as abnormal, mystic, irrational and hence superstitious. A serious study is never made to qualify these wide ranges of subjective states.

This happens because we feel knowledge must be quantifiable and objective. In a sense all knowledge is subjective since it is gained by contact of the object with the subject. The intermediary to such a contact, whether it be the sense organs themselves or the instruments, does not alter its nature. The final receiver and analyser is the subject whose personal (individual or racial) limitations must necessarily be imposed upon the object. Yet, taken in quite another sense, even the knowledge of one’s so-called subjective states is objective for something in us observes it ‘as if’ in another person. This antagonism can be solved only by postulating the presence of consciousness behind phenomena. This consciousness can withdraw itself from any field within or around and enter a kind of ‘observer or witness status’. It may, on the contrary, project itself on to the object and identify with it in what is known as the ‘subjective status’. Unfortunately, this capacity of projecting itself subjectively is little explored though its potentials are many. We know ourselves simply because of this habitual or ego-mediated subjective projection onto ourselves. But the same ego limits us from a subjective identification with others whom we regard as ‘not ourselves’, and the consciousness has to rely on the data received by the impact of the object upon our senses and through our nervous processes on to the mind. At each of these levels a certain distortion occurs so that we are never able to know the true properties of what we observe.

It is a truth of Yogic-psychology that it is possible to withhold or even dissolve this ego-formation and suspend or do away with the senses and reach out directly to the object and know it by identification. In a certain sense, we all experience it in some measure or the other. An intense rush of feelings in a person can create a wave that reaches us and makes us directly aware of it without the usual mediums necessary. But these are rare moments and confined to specific states. The possibility however exists. It is also possible, on the contrary, to use the senses as pure channels and the mind and nerves can be so stilled and purified that they become fairly perfect instruments of knowledge without the usual distortions.


A Reconciliation in Consciousness

The training and education of scientists must therefore include these capacities of ‘witness’, projection and subjective identification, purification of sensory and nervous-emotional reactions, and the art of stilling them at will. Then the true world of reality will begin to appear before us. Till then we will simply measure and analyse, cut and rejoin, record and pile up information, but never really know.

The dangers are evident enough. Firstly, the increasing complexity of human life in the absence of a substantial change in the present form necessitates that even in the material domain many states or experiential statuses are mediated through common physical pathways. This is increasingly been found by the various researchers studying the neurological basis of psychological phenomenon. While sometimes entirely contradictory states are seen to exist by way of the same or similar neurophysiological changes, at other times, the same state appears to be mediated through different mechanisms and pathways.

As always one good result has surely come out of this confusion. It is the concept of ‘holism’. This remained the only way to explain the heap of contradictory information that gathered down the last few decades. Though used in a very limited sense, the realization that all events take place in a bio-psycho-social matrix, has opened doors towards some kind of a unity of phenomenon even in its diverse manifestation. This lead, if we take it rightly, can take us to the science of consciousness which postulates that all events — biological, material, psychological, social or spiritual — arise in a matrix of consciousness, which though one in essence, can have varied and diverse manifestations.



This was the basis of science laid down by the rishis. The mere fact of these things as belonging to the past is no sign of their inadequacy. Many great ideas are born far ahead of their time which men at a later date acknowledge and put to use for a common good. The seed of a tree antedates the appearance of its first fruit which men at another time come and enjoy. These truths have an eternal quality verifiable at all times, under all circumstances, by those who cared to live them. However a detailed understanding of the processes and methods of enquiry is warranted.



The Human Body – A Spiritual View


There is a scientist’s way of looking at the human body and there is a spiritual way to look at it. The two views, though different due to a difference in the angle of the vision, are nevertheless mutually complimentary if we take the larger interests of the human race in its evolutionary progression. The view of the scientist is of course more narrow, his angle of vision more focused on the details of physical processes, his field of enquiry the outward and the immediate. The scientist brings us to the detailed knowledge of the chemical blocks which build our physical body, the laws and processes that govern our physical existence and the means of physical interventions that can help it to remain fit and healthy and function normally.

The yogi casts a wider look; his angle of vision is broader since his consciousness moves in a larger field of experience — the inner and cosmic. He may not necessarily be aware of the detailed chemical constitution or physical processes governing the body, yet his intervention can be more direct, powerful and effective. This is so because he knows the play of the cosmic forces and their subtle laws and occult processes that work upon matter and govern it from behind. Yet his aim of intervention is not merely to secure fitness and normalcy for their own sake but for the fulfilment of a higher Purpose, of the cosmic Will in man. Therefore, a yogi seldom intervene under any pressure of personal will of the claimant to health but rather more and more in alignment to a deeper and larger cosmic Will which sees beyond the outward and the immediate. Unless of course the mere intensity of the personal will is enough to move the cosmic Will. There is of course an intermediate terrain between the physical and the spiritual, a domain of mixed possibilities. The physical scientist has begun to recognize this as higher than the physical domain and calls it ‘psychological’. What he means by the term is that our thoughts, will, emotions have their physical counterparts, and through these psychophysical components of our physiology, they can and indeed do influence the physical processes, the organs and their functioning. This is a great discovery and opens doors into deeper territories. As of now, however, the physical scientist is satisfied with studying only the physical components of our psychophysical parts.

But just as there is a physical side of the psychological parts, there is a pure psychological side of our physical existence. It is occult to our physical vision and yet is teeming with rich and varied possibilities. It consists of a direct seizing upon of mind energies and life energies and other forms of an intermediate energy and their deft handling to heal and succour. This field known to the occultists, the alchemists and the tantrics of old had taken a backseat in the last few centuries that saw man preoccupied almost exclusively with the physical world and his material existence. The triumphant march of sciences based upon a study of gross matter and its possibilities almost blotted out this other type and even diminished faith in such deeper hidden possibilities. But now since we have explored and sounded the depths of the physical world we see a resurgence of interest in the hidden forces of life.

As we have said, the view of the yogi is deeper and wider than even the psychological and the occult. This is so because to his unsealed vision there is disclosed not only the stray strands of mental and vital and other energies but also the forces and forms and beings and godheads at each of these universal planes of existence. Instead of simply channelling the ‘energies’ through his personal will, which besides may yet be an ignorant limited and egoistic will, he opens himself to the action and play of the Cosmic Divine and even the Will of the Transcendent Supreme by a progressive surrender of his psychological apparatus and the instrumentality of nature; by a progressive dissolution of the ego to that which is beyond ego. The sign of such a surrender is that he no more opens a healing shop or promises miracles to each and everyone who approaches since he can no longer be impelled any more by his own limited personal will or the limited and ignorant will of his clients. He begins to act or rather be acted upon, more and more directly in alignment to a higher Will, more and more silently, yet more and more powerfully. He can claim nothing, nor promise anything unless he sees and knows it as coming from the transcendent source of all things.

What then is this deeper view of the human body, its necessity and its ultimate purpose? How does our health and illness relate with this Purpose? And how can we facilitate this great Purpose through both health and illness? This of course is another point of divergence. For while the scientist (physical and occult) hardly evinces any interest in the body other than its utility for survival and physical (vital existence for its own sake), the yogi, sees further. The yogi sees in the body the capacity to deliver the soul out of its self-willed confinement in matter. According to the yogi, the seemingly unconscious field of matter is pregnant with a conscious soul that has entered into a state of self-oblivion having identified with the unconscious state of matter. It has done this deliberately so that by a slow process of an evolutionary progression it can extract the divine possibilities hidden in matter. This is possible because, in the deepest vision of the seers, it is Spirit that has become matter. And therefore by a process of reversal (what we term as an evolution) matter can reclaim its spiritual status. This evolutionary unfolding takes place by the pressure of the growing soul. As it wakes up, it also wakes up the deeper possibilities of matter — the possibility of sensation, the possibility of impulse to live, of feelings, of thought and ideas. In other words, matter is the field in which seedlings of the Spirit are sown deep, carefully hidden in the folds of darkness of our material existence. These seedlings are watered and looked after by the Divine Gardener who pours down the Light and Breath and Force of a higher sphere of spiritual existence through the mediating agency of the soul. The soul holds the trust deed of this field whose ownership is with the Divine. But till the soul grows and is able to exercise a sufficient degree of influence and control over matter and physical existence, it has to act through the already developed agency of a caretaker mind and life.

And herein lies the first knot of the problem of our bodily existence. The body has already developed from within itself the powers of life with its fairly elaborate and perfected processes. The powers of mind and their processes and neurological connections are still developing as some latest researches tell us. In other words, unlike the processes of life, the processes of cognition are yet not fully laid down and new patterns are replacing old ones. But the soul-powers and soul faculties are still largely asleep except for occasional glimpses from time to time. The yogi’s efforts are therefore not focused so much on physical survival or health and fitness for vital enjoyment or to enhance comfort and sense pleasure. In fact, the yogi may prefer the instrument to be broken rather than being used by reckless powers of an excess ambition and blind lust. His efforts are to first of all extract the soul out of its entrapment in matter and secondly to exercise a spiritual control and mastery over material and bodily existence. Thirdly, and lastly, to progressively spiritualize and then divinize matter, the aim put forward by Sri Aurobindo.

The problem of the bodily existence that the yogi had set to resolve are therefore different from those of the medical scientist. Though they work upon the same field, they work towards a different aims and with different principles and methods. The medical scientist’s job is to repair the damaged bodily equipment and enhance its lifespan for survival purposes or even to prolong the ability of sensory enjoyment, physical pleasures and comforts. Therefore, the medical scientist multiplies outer methods of prolonging life, repairing defects, handling emergencies, change of organs, etc. To preserve and prolong is his aim. But the yogi’s interest lies elsewhere. Not survival for the sake of survival, not prolongation of life for fear of death, not a fresh lease so that he can indulge a little longer into sense pleasures. So, his first and foremost aim is to keep the body supple and fit, in a reasonable healthy and balanced state, relatively free of serious disturbances so that he can concentrate upon his soul, not that he cannot do so in a sick body. He can, if he has a strong will, but in the usual case, a sick body, and a body full of tamas and inertia drags the consciousness outward and downward. True, with practice it is not difficult to learn detach the mind from our physical condition, yet that makes the effort so much more difficult, especially if there is too much of inertia. Besides inertia and tamas naturally attract forces of disharmony and disruption, of greed and lust. A physical consciousness that is too tamasic preoccupies itself with food, sex and sleep, etc., and attraction to things that make the body heavy and dull or damage the nerves such as alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, heavy or stale food, etc. Some simple medicines as and when necessary to avoid too much discomfort are okay in this stage when one is simply learning to disengage the soul from the body and mind. Life, death, disease are in this stage mere passing incidents that temporarily block our view or pause for a short while our search for the soul.

The second level of difficulty arises when having found his soul, the yogi strives to master each and every movement. The law of moderation is to be replaced here by a growing spiritual perfection. It is no more enough to eat in moderation but to eliminate greed completely. It is no more a regulated sex, but an effort to completely master the sex impulse. It is no more having a sound refreshing sleep but to become conscious of that very period of rest. Even with regards to illness, the effort is to get rid of it by an inner control and exercise of a spiritual will and by the pressure of a higher consciousness and its forces. One may still need medicines but rarely and in lower dosages for short duration. As the change proceeds, the so-called normal laws of the body no more hold tight. The body itself is seen as a field and a symbol for the play of various forces and energies of different levels of consciousness reflected and represented in the body. This is a long and protracted battle. The vital and the mind do not easily let go off their old misrule. The subconscious caves where these traffickers and robbers hide raise their head again and again. The effort here is to link the physical consciousness to the soul and through it to the higher realms. This is done through aspiration and opening of the physical consciousness to change, a persistent, painstaking, rejection full of perseverance; a constant referral to Grace, its invocation to eliminate the many defects and impulses and a surrender to the Divine Will. As the psychic consciousness grows, as the inner being begins to change under the psychic pressure, as the higher forces accumulate, the task becomes relatively easier though by no means a simple one.

A distinction has to be made between the psychic control vis-à-vis a mental and vital control of the body. For people with a strong vital will can impose it upon the body. Usually, this vital will in man, being subject to the ego and desire, is used for all the wrong purposes. However, sometimes the vital will and the mind can exercise a strong control over the body. Such a control should not be confused with the control arrived at by a psychic and spiritual consciousness. The vital and mental will impose upon the body certain arbitrary rules based on preferred opinions. These rules may even be drastic ones like raw vegan vegetarianism, or breatharians, or food fads, or an extensive exercise programme without proper and adequate rest and sleep. Such a control may appear drastic and swift to arrive but is usually temporary, achieved by a locking up of mental and vital energy in suppressing something, done at the expense of the body’s health (even though people do not always realize it is as in cases of anorexia nervosa). Besides, such a control usually brings a certain rigidity and harshness in nature. The psychic control takes longer because it keeps the little grain of wheat while removing the chaff, but is more complete, carries a sense of harmony, sweetness, peace and joy. Nevertheless, mental and vital control have their own utilities in our evolutionary journey. The mental and vital control are more external such as not eating certain things even though you like them, while the psychic control is more intrinsic such as eliminating greed. Both may therefore complement each other.

The psychic control is usually in the form of an invitation, a subtle indication of the gesture to be made, the thing to be done and the right way to do it. It has neither the harsh insistence of the mind nor the vehemence of the vital but acts more as a subtle but sure compulsion which we (the mind-vital-body ego) may or may not follow. But if persisted and followed, it leads a harmony and grace in the body, a ring of authentic sweetness and peace in the voice and speech, an unerring impulsion to our bodily movements and a spontaneous resetting of the body’s rhythms in accordance with deeper truths. The food becomes more nourishing and in the right quantity without our thinking or calculating of calories, the sleep becomes much more refreshing and the dreams change their quality, one develops a ‘natural’ (as contrasted with enforced and artificial) distaste for certain crude impulses such as sex and anger. Fear tends to diminish and finally vanish. The very limbs feel a subtle sweetness flowing through them as a rejuvenating sap of some immortal life, and even the taste and other senses may undergo a corresponding change. A new and deeper sense of beauty comes that is no more deceived by charming appearances and can easily see through them. A spontaneous knowledge, a more subtle but effective will, a quality of tranquillity in feeling and impulsion, a natural state of peace and joy, an uplifting of everything towards the Divine, a clarity that the intellect cannot offer, a goodwill, wideness and love that the heart has not known before, a native generosity of the soul that is equal-visioned towards all and therefore at peace and ease with itself and the world are some of the profound physical and psychological changes that arises with the progressive awakening of the psychic. This itself is a great gain and makes us so much freer from many maladies. But since it is difficult for man to remain in constant touch with the soul, there are lapses and recoils, the revolts of the vital, the surfing up of the mind’s anxieties and fears, the hearts hopes and expectations, the body’s maladies. The subconscient throws up the old illnesses and habits again in such vulnerable moments and the maladies return. Nevertheless, once the passage is seated for the psychic streams to pour upon the body it becomes easier and easier to get back to the psychic poise and heal the body from within.

This becomes possible because unlike the mind and the vital, the psychic consciousness can directly link us to the healing forces of a higher consciousness. It can even call down the touch of Grace upon matter and redeem it from its fallen state. And if for some reason it (the soul) decides to leave the body, then one is put in the best and most favourable inner conditions to do so. Then death itself becomes a leap, an opportunity, and crisis an evolutionary lever. If this is combined with a strong faith and will in the mind and the vital, then it can make an almost impregnable fortress against almost all illnesses. Such a fortunate combination is however very rare. Often, in fact, the story may well be different. A person with a great psychic possibility may be endowed with a great difficulty of nature that is like a shadow which he must conquer to realize his own true strength. And in Nature’s great economy and wisdom the obstacle is so arranged so that it may hasten the inner possibility which would remain dormant if it did not meet the friction and resistance of an opposing force which acts as a stimulant or a challenge to facilitate the psychic emergence. To conquer this rock-like obstacle to facilitate the flow of the soothing streams of the nectar of delight that secretly even now supports and heals our existence is the work of the yogi. This work needs time, patience, faith and courage. It is the work of bringing into the frame of our mortal existence that which exceeds all frames. It is the work of preparing our earthly field called the body to receive and implant seeds of light form another realm whose harvest is not yet known to man. But once it begins to blossom and bloom it will solve all problems of disease, incapacity and death by striking at the very roots of the malady that lie embedded and entangled in the dark concealment of the rock caves of our subconscient nature. Medicines cannot do it, nor can any alternate system of therapy or exercises of techniques of breathing do it for us. These may be and are helpful in their own place ad time but only temporarily and perhaps immediately so. But the yogi looks beyond the temporal and the immediate. He looks at concealed parts, parts of light and parts of night and reuniting them becomes a whole.

From the Yogic point of view each part of the body is symbolic of a higher movement that is reflected here in a more or less distorted manner. Yet there is a subtle correspondence between the two. Now the effort of evolution translates itself in physical terms to create a perfect body that is truly representative of the higher states of consciousness, a body moved entirely by the higher forces and energies rather than by their lower and lesser counterparts as of now. This would naturally lead not only to a perfect immunity that could practically extend to everything but also to a free and full play of Divine Consciousness and its forces and energies in matter. It would bring, in other terms, a complete freedom from all animality and also death-bound, disease-prone, desire-driven humanity. How will this come about? The first step is to accumulate the forces and energies of a higher consciousness by a constant aspiration, psychic purification and a spiritual opening of the embodied human consciousness right up to the physical. There must increase simultaneously the receptivity of the body cells to this higher consciousness. A conscious and methodical physical education is one of the means to achieve that. The pressure of the transformed inner consciousness will begin to mould and remould the physical stuff till it finally admits the transformation of each part into a corresponding physical centre of energy.

Secondly, to a deeper spiritual sight, each part contains the whole in itself. There is a whole universe contained or rather crammed within us. In a transformed body, it may be possible to effectuate changes in one part of the world by concentrating on a corresponding part of the body and releasing the higher forces locked there. Each body can become then a representative body of the earth. This is the deeper work of the yogi — to awaken and release the spiritual forces locked in the prison house of matter. And by that release turn this prison into a camp or temple or house of God. The scientist’s work is simply to study and repair the prison bars, make them strong and lasting. The yogi’s work is to change them and in its place erect something new, something far more beautiful and true.







The Human Body



There has been a certain tendency in many quarters to study and regard the body as a machine. Comparisons are elaborately drawn between the brain and computer, kidneys and filtration systems, heart and pump and so on. This approach owes itself to a materialistic model of life which sees everything as mechanical matter and nothing else. It is maintained that just as a machine has many parts and subparts, the body too has many organs and tissues. And just as one need not open the whole machine to correct a part of it (since faults are local), the body too can be treated in parts, disregarding the whole. Such an approach has had two advantages. Firstly, it has made the study of the human body a little easier to grasp for the human mind. The human mind in fact knows of no other way of studying a phenomenon except by dividing it into smaller parts and handling each in isolation to the rest. Once the parts are studied, it adds them together to build a picture of the whole. Secondly, this approach has its immediate practical rewards. It is easier to see an organ in isolation and correct it. But while specialization has evidently helped in one way, its disadvantages are beginning to become increasingly obvious. The time has now perhaps come to replace this reductionist and mechanical view of life with a wider vision that is closer to the reality and working of the body.


Whole and the Part

The fact that the whole is greater than the sum of parts is easily demonstrated to us in everyday life. For example, we are told that every material object is composed of atoms, which in turn represents ninety-nine per cent of empty space and one per cent electrical charges arising and vanishing into nothingness. But the table we bump into, the cot on which we sleep, and the book we read appear solid and not ninety-nine per cent empty. Nor does it function like a charged electronic device, the electrical energy of the atom being simply concealed inside. A force not caught or analysed by our instruments leads to different patterns and configurations and to that is added the cognitive faculties of our mind and senses. All this leads to the impression of solid material in front of us. Habit and conditioning then come to give meaning and value — the table, the cot, the book.

If this is true of simple everyday objects, it is even more so of the complex human being. To take an example, human beings are made up of cells and the cells themselves made up of genes and certain chemicals (the genes themselves can be eventually resolved into chemistry). But neither the gene nor the cell nor the chemical of course has the capacity to think and analyse (except an elementary information processing necessary for its functions), leave alone introspect and understand or philosophize or contemplate higher things. Yet human beings composed of cells and genes and chemicals can do so. Obviously man is not just chemicals and genes but much more. That is why there is in us a great amount of unpredictability, an unpredictability that sometimes makes human beings very anxious but looked at differently it is the door of evolutionary possibility left open deliberately by Nature so that we can change things, including our cellular behaviour, genetic loading and body chemistry and eventually the body’s destiny. In fact what we call as predictable side of life is not because of any fixity of laws but because of the recurrent pattern of habits that tend to run the same groove again and again until a new force enters into the field of their working and alters or dislodges their habitual pattern. This new force enters if we know how to fully operate the switch by the process of conscious choice using the agency of our will. In fact, an element of unpredictability (in a way science is an attempt to discover and harness the predictability of events) that is present in the atom (the uncertainty principle) becomes prominent even in simple living beings. So, while we can predict the trajectory of a ball, we cannot predict the movement of a bird in flight, even by studying all possible physical forces and combinations. Even the ball’s course can only be predicted in strictly controlled circumstances. The movements of physical forces outside the lab are not entirely predictable and so not always determinable, a fact constantly borne out by meteorology departments. In living beings, something more intrinsic enters — the intention and will. Even the most avid bird-watcher cannot be certain whether a crow sitting on a tree is going to fly away or not, or, if it does, in what direction it will go and where it will next choose to land. This element of choice is even subtly present in the atom (as we know today) and it becomes a little more developed in a living cell and animal. It becomes prominent in the creature called Man. Choice (or intent and will) is the crucial trigger, the switch that sets in motion the entire machinery of the body. We can study the machine, but since this aspect of conscious choice escapes analysis, biology and medicine will always remain non-mathematical, unpredictable applied sciences. To put it in another way, faith and will are the two switches provided in the human being that trigger one set of responses over others. If I have faith in self-healing and the will to heal myself, my body would end up activating the healing processes. Perhaps the physician and the medicine partly or largely act due to this activation of the faith and will!


Separative Specialization and Holistic Comprehension

The implications are therefore not just philosophical but deeply practical. Practically, the mechanical model is constantly contradicted by something else that is always out of reach. In fact, the simplest function of the tiniest cell is something that not even the most complex and developed machine can ever duplicate. This is ‘self-replication’. A computer can replicate and multiply programs fed into it, but it cannot reproduce another computer out of itself. In a lighter vein, we can say that the market for material things is dependent on the limitation of physical objects to replicate, whereas the market for living things is dependent on this power and capacity for self-replication. Physical objects deplete themselves. Life renews itself. Physical objects remain static or disintegrate with time; but life can grow, change, expand and evolve in a thousand ways. This power to grow and evolve through experience is another of life’s unique gifts, absent in the machine. The machine has to be externally programmed, life can and does program itself, even change the programming itself.

This ability of life to change, adapt and evolve is seldom used in medical practice because of the strong mechanical model, where parts have fixed functions and properties. In dealing with life and its organs, we find that this fixity is only an appearance. The apparent fixity gives a certain stability and order to the form and its processes. Yet the fixity is largely due to an evolutionary conditioning. It can be deconditioned and changed. In fact, the case of Dolly, the sheep and her cloning, shows that there is no strict law that only a reproductive cell must alone fulfil the function of reproduction. Any cell can do that, potentially at least. This is so because the entire human structure ultimately grows out of the fusion of two cells that become one. The single cell divides and multiplies itself and later enters into specialisation and sub-specialization. However, the secret ‘oneness’ and ‘totipotence’((( Technical term indicating that the cell at this stage is undifferentiated and not yet specialized.))) is not lost. It is only pushed into the background for immediate practical purposes to provide stability and order to the form. This happens because the ‘mental consciousness’ presiding over the human body’s development can only create order in this way. In sub-mental forms, in vegetable and lower animal life, the form of the body is moulded under the influence of the vital consciousness or life-force, unhindered entirely by the mind. The mind is only in the background. The life-force allows a certain kind of fluidity and variability to the function of each subunit. It is possible then, that in future, under the influence of a still higher consciousness (higher than the mind), the body may lose its separative tendency to overspecialization and rediscover a higher wholeness and oneness. Our present form and functioning has been largely developed under the consciousness and force of the mind. This simple truth has far-reaching consequences which we shall take up a little later.


Fixity and Fluidity

All the same, despite the divisive nature of mind and its tendency towards specialization, there is this background of oneness that is still the secret support and base. We know, for instance, that the specialized functions of the cerebral lobes can change. One area of the brain can take over the functions of the other, a fact used to advantage in speech therapy for cases of dysphasia. So too, we find that all the so-called specialized higher functioning faculties, memory and intelligence are not limited to the brain alone, but spread in a general way throughout the body. The modes are different. The white cells, for instance, have their own form of memory. This function in every cellular group has the advantage of preserving and passing on the learnt experiences of the past adaptation. But this has the disadvantage that it conditions the cells, tissues, organs and systems to certain habitual and fixed functions. Thus, memory becomes a contrivance used by Nature at the level of mental consciousness to facilitate the stability of form. If mechanical fixity is a habit and not the last truth of the human body, then, it should be possible to train and condition the body to break those limits. And who knows we may one day discover that even heredity and genetic determinism is a habit, merely a bad habit of nature.

A gymnast or athlete is simply using this intrinsic capacity of the body to change and adapt from within. Through practice and training, sometimes out of sheer necessity as in wars and catastrophes, at other times simply by a suspension of mental conditioning as in catatonic states, one can make the body do many strange things, like survive without food or even water or enough air, for long periods. This is done simply through an intrinsic motivation and will. It has also been scientifically demonstrated that, by practice, one can even bring under voluntary control those functions traditionally regarded as autonomous. The conscious intent and will, we referred to earlier, can extend itself to alter the heart rate, gastric juices, brain rhythm, blood pressure and who knows what else. There are recorded instances that a yogi can entirely stop his heartbeat and breath and yet continue to talk, live and act as any other normal being. This proves that the body has many hidden capacities which can be awakened and used. In fact, biofeedback, yogasanas, methodical training and all forms of physical culture are a means of awakening the latent potential of the body. And it seems there is so much potential for each organ and the body as a whole that practically no limit can be set. An Almighty Power seems to be concealed in the seemingly mechanical and limited cell.

A look at the general evolution of forms demonstrates this. The entire evolutionary history of living material or embodied life shows an evolution of new capacities for adaptation, growth and expression through complex material processes. We cannot conceive how a random association of amino acids can, by freak accident, preserve and evolve to create a man out of mud and clay. Our fifty years’ attempts at creating life in this way out of sheer matter have failed, for there is something else to it. There is a greater mystery that follows all phenomena. There is a hidden marvel that reductionism cannot analyse. There is a secret that escapes the confines of the scientist’s lab, but is found in the lab of Nature. For we cannot know, understand and master the human body and its functions, unless we know and grasp its secret.

This secret is ‘consciousness’. Perhaps when confronted by a challenge, the inner reserves of the body (and it has plenty of it) come out and take charge. But what else is this ‘inner reserve’ if not consciousness locked in the cells, the consciousness that gives an inherent capacity to matter for adaptation and mastery of a challenge, for an evolutionary transformation through a crisis. Maybe disease itself is an evolutionary challenge of Nature so that the body can bring out its inner potential, and while curing, itself grow in the process, provided of course the medical science obsessed with the mechanical view of life will let it happen before our natural capacity to adapt and evolve and grow is crippled forever. Machines are helplessly dependent upon external aid to rectify; the body is not. For unlike a machine it is not unconscious matter but a half conscious living matter. And perhaps it is given to man to convert this half conscious matter into a fully conscious body, a body perfectly adapting to every change without fatigue, a body fully capable of being directly conscious of the highest consciousness that man can experience, a body that can respond to the complex play of forces with full knowledge and power, a body that is completely open and receptive to the higher ranges and powers of consciousness, without any loss or diminution.


The Consciousness Paradigm

In essence, consciousness means awareness. Our difficulty is that the only form of experiential awareness we know of is our own. Hence, the only form of consciousness we know a little about is the mental consciousness. Indirect evidence (the experiments of Sir J.C. Bose, for instance) however suggest that there is an awareness and response even in plants and, if certain findings of modern physics are to be trusted, there is rudimentary awareness even in metals and elements too. In other words, the aspect of ‘consciousness’ is common from physical matter to man; only its capacity, mode of expression, details of processes and execution, etc., differ. Consciousness is the common thread that weaves the fabric of the universe and holds the diverse forms of creation together in a matrix of oneness. The mental consciousness and organs of sense and action are only one means of its expression. There are other modes of expression, as we see in animals and plants. Equally, nothing prevents us from assuming that new, higher and better forms cannot emerge in future to express this ‘One Consciousness’ even more perfectly. This indeed seems to be the drift of evolution and logic of things. Such also is the discovery of those who can step behind the world of forms into the world of consciousness. That this consciousness is one in essence is borne by the fact that any two particles across the universe are linked; it is also borne by the fact that there is a chain of interdependence in the entire creation. And if we shift even one unit of the chain, however small, we cause a corresponding change in the whole. This is a truth we sadly confront every day in the study of ecology. This is also the truth we are beginning to face in the world of medicine and the relation of man with chemicals, bacilli and other organisms. The forced elimination of a single unit leads to a recoil of other units to maintain the strange and mysterious balance of Nature. Wisdom teaches us the lesson of humility: that nothing can be known till all is known and nothing can be done till all is done. But since the ‘all’ is not a sum of the parts, it is still possible to act upon a part without necessarily a detailed knowledge of its separate working. When we are able to do that, and so relate each unit of life with the whole, then wisdom changes and grows into intuition and our action and awareness both begin to assume some form of perfection.


Consciousness and the Human Body

In other words, the consciousness view of life and body is a reversal of logic. Ordinary logic claims that consciousness is a mere by-product, a secondary phenomenon of some neuronal activity in the brain. The brain and body in turn are like machines — similar to a computer and generator, mechanical and not conscious in themselves. This unconscious or inconscient body is surrounded by other inconscient forms of energy — chemicals and living forms — and a mechanical adjustment and interchange is what leads to adaptation and survival. This mechanical adjustment is necessarily precarious and prone to failures and flaws. ‘Accidents’ occur, ‘chance’ intervenes, genes err — the result is disease, disintegration and death.

The consciousness view however regards it as the fundamental primary matrix, the force that builds forms out of itself; the body and brain are but one form of its creation. The sense organs of speech and action all develop under the pressure of consciousness that chooses to limit itself to a certain degree at each evolutionary level. In essence, it is consciousness that motivates the organs to function and experiences seeing, hearing, speech and action. In fact, each organ is more like a receiver and a transmitter. It receives not only physical signals but also psychological and spiritual and other forces. Unfortunately, the body organs are attuned (out of habit) to respond only to certain set of vibrations and forces, mostly related to its animal past. Yet it can be trained to become more conscious and respond to higher forces, forces that would heal and succour. Indeed the whole task of physical self-culture is primarily that, to make the body more conscious, to bring it more and more under a mental control and may be one day under a spiritual control as well.

Behind every element of the universe, there is this One Consciousness that works as perfect Intelligence and an inherent Knowledge and Power in all things. Only it is limited in its self-expression by the form that it has temporarily created for its own purposes. And through the entire evolutionary journey of the cell this One Consciousness is trying to create higher and higher forms that can express higher and higher degrees and potencies of the Perfect Consciousness. The body is an instrument to regulate and limit experience to one level of consciousness, the mind in human beings, for instance. Technology, machine, computer and the rest are, in turn, an extension and expression of the mental consciousness that has expressed itself in man. At each level of consciousness, there is a technology appropriate to that level. The anthill, honeycomb, rabbit’s burrow and sparrow’s nest are all examples of technology extending itself from consciousness active in the form. Put another way, it is not man that is like a machine, it is machines that mimic man, as all technology is just an extension of human consciousness. So all are still linked and supported by the One Consciousness that becomes all things.

Medical research has so far been largely directed towards studying man’s survival in isolation from the rest. It is only recently that we have begun to talk of survival by developing inner immunity (thanks to diseases like AIDS that have brought this out so sharply, rather than blindly killing all that threatens with the violent vehemence of a predator). Such violent approach to life leads to isolation and self-extinction. Harmony with life around through growth, assimilation and sharing is a higher law of life than elimination. The success of elimination is short-lived even if it may appear spectacular today.


And Then…

It is necessary then to conquer health more than disease. Disease is a diminution of health status, a breach of equilibrium and harmonious functioning. Aging is a progressive deterioration of this equilibrium of health. When the disequilibrium is slow, gradual and imperceptible, it manifests itself as old age. When it is relatively abrupt, it manifests as disease. When this disruption in equilibrium (whether sudden, abrupt or slow) reaches a critical point of ‘no return’ then the phenomenon of death intervenes. The study of health and its governing principles, a balanced lifestyle, sound health attitudes and approaches are poorly stressed in medical studies. It is only now we are discovering that health and illness are largely nurtured in the individual himself. These may be his genetic make-up, physiological constitution, immunity, or even his lifestyle, habits, mental attitudes and personality. The outside agent is just a trigger that can only act by taking hold of some deficiency or imbalance inside. The ‘germ theory’ is being replaced by ‘immune theory’ and this is a good trend. But still there is a long way ahead. For even the inner defects and imbalances of the body functioning arise through a deeper disequilibrium in consciousness. We need to see that the body is not just a mechanical machine driven by certain inconscient laws. In fact, there are no ineluctable laws, only habitual movements of consciousness. The repetition of movement only gives the impression of fixed law and stability. But movement implies that there is a dynamism and so the possibility for growth and change. It is in the possibility for conscious growth or, to put it in another way, the growth of body consciousness, that lies the future hope. The emergence of body consciousness, its growth and development, even a certain kind of perfection, is the prime task of the health educator and the cornerstone of the doctor’s medical practice. A doctor who can assist in awakening the consciousness in his patient gives the ultimate remedy and boon of lasting health. In contrast, a doctor who simply prescribes certain drugs to alter the physio-chemistry of the body eventually becomes a hastener of decay and disintegration. Drugs have a role but that is only temporary. The last word of cure lies in the power of health and healing, still concealed as a possibility in the consciousness of man, nay in the very consciousness of the cells.



The Human Body:
A Mystery’s Workshop



We are so used to seeing the body so much as organs, tissues, cells and their functions that we fail to observe any consciousness inherent in it. Is the body something unconscious, a machine driven by mechanical energy? It may appear so at first, but a deeper probe reveals that a consciousness stands behind the seemingly unconscious machine. The first impression itself is of a battalion of cells that has repeatedly rehearsed their drill and execute it to the minutest perfection. Or of an orchestra playing a concert with various musical instruments. What we see is the final performance, but what we do not see are the years of patient practice. This programming of each cell (in our body’s case) to perform a certain drill or strike a certain note in the concert of the body’s movements has come through aeons of conditioning. The fixity of laws and processes are the result of an adaptive conditioning over the years. Whether this conditioning and memory is passed down through the genetic mechanism or in some other way is open to discussion. But the fact of adaptation in one body acquired through years being transmitted to others of the species in a rapid and spontaneous way, is an undisputed thing.

Whatever be the mechanism behind this evolutionary adaptation, this conditioning has its advantages. It provides stability essential for useful and coordinated function. It also provides a rapidity of response to known environmental cues and so enhances survival. But the flip side of this is a fixity, which prevents us from discovering new ways of understanding and meeting the challenges of life. The horns and the tail so useful to animal life become meaningless at the human level with the full development of hands and its power to hold and grasp. Again, for example, even when we eliminate fear of an object or social situation from our mind, the body still gives the response of fear in the form of a tremor. But once this fear is de-conditioned from the physical body, it is done for good. The body is difficult to de-condition but once done, the lesson is permanent. The memory of the mind may fail but the body’s imprints remain.


The Physical Consciousness

So where is the seat of physical imprint and memory? Where is the blueprint which registers all the changes and transmits it down the line and even horizontally? One can still stretch one’s imagination to conceive of reverse t-RNA, a strand of RNA that carries information from the cell surface to the nuclei. Its importance is that it is perhaps the microchip linking the outside world with the inside of a cell. Thus our environment (physical and psycho-spiritual) can induce changes within the cell itself, carrying messages from the outside to the nucleus and effectuating genetic changes to be subsequently passed down the generations. What is not so easily conceivable is the transmission of the evolutionary changes horizontally as if our very physical being extended into one another as a single continuum! The only way to understand this is that behind the gross and visible physical body is a layer of subtle physical consciousness extending as the archetype holding the imprints and images of our past as well as the present and the future. It is this physical consciousness that mingles with the gross physical body and becomes one with it. In fact the gross body is nothing but a derivative product precipitated through the condensation of this physical consciousness.

The physical consciousness is like the healthy background against which the changing patterns of our physical being are matched and certified as healthy or sick. A consequent directive follows to correct the imbalance and the entire body’s processes adjust to its dictates. Or else we may visualize the physical consciousness as the uncorrupted original file containing the plans and processes of the gross body. Genes, chemical reactions, the various functions are only intermediary processes that adjust of themselves in accordance with the central directive. The real map and contours, the inner geography and history of each form is there in the individual physical consciousness. Perhaps, considering the great importance of this subtle body, Nature has kept this original file in secrecy lest our all too human curiosity corrupts it. Yet Nature does lend all its secrets if we pursue it rightly. So too the physical consciousness can be studied, awakened and called upon to assist in the healing as well as the evolutionary process. It is the last frontier where the sense of a separate body is preserved without losing the innate sense of oneness behind all physical existence and within the different parts of the body itself. Just as computer programming is not on the display screen or circuits, but in the mind of the programmer, the fixity of patterns in body movements and functions is not in the gross structure or genetic code (which are mainly transcripts), but in the physical consciousness that receives and transmits influences from subtle levels of consciousness.

If subtlety, fluidity and an incessant urge to progress are the hallmarks of the mind fluidity and an ever-expanding plasticity are the hallmarks of life, then it may well be said that fixity and inertia are the hallmarks of the physical consciousness and the body. It is only natural that this be so because the very purpose of the body is to provide a stable basis for our individual existence. The human body is much like the take-off field for various types of aircrafts in the form of thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses, etc. If the field is not good, then the forces of life and mind suffer a diminution and labour under great duress. The solidity of the field may not guarantee an equally robust and healthy life and mind but it does open such a possibility. In contrast, a handicap at the physical level generally (exceptions apart) does limit the possibilities. To take a common experience, while it is possible for us to turn our thoughts and emotions upwards or downwards when we are in a state of physical health, our thinking and feeling get grossly constricted when we are sick, say with fever! The significance of the body can therefore never be underestimated. The hardware has to be commensurate with the software we wish to install.


The Hardware of the Body and Its Future Possibilities

Much of the body’s evolutionary hardware still pertains to our animal past and life in the jungles. If developed we can still recover many of the lost capabilities of animal life. A methodical programme of physical exercises can turn our muscles into steel, our legs into powerful wheels and our heart into an extraordinary pumping machine. But that would not really be a forward march but a sliding back to a left behind past. The physical consciousness has however not only the imprints of the past but also and more importantly the blueprints of the future. Any evolutionary change must first transit itself through the subtle physical consciousness and then trickle to the gross body through a complex system of nerves. The subtle body has many other possibilities than merely those of our animal past. It can, for example, escape the laws of gravity, change its size according to need, create additional covering for itself as a cloth wrapped around us, extend a portion of itself into other things, prolong its existence, reconstitute itself into different shapes, reach out through the subtle senses far beyond our limited sense, draw energy directly without food, transmute the experience of pain into delight, multiply itself and possibly exist indefinitely. We find these exceptional and higher possibilities manifested in the case of rare yogis. These rare possibilities, often mocked by our arrogant and limited science as fantasy and myths, are yet the things that would manifest in the future. The hidden possibility must one day come out and the concealed and latent energies release themselves. The human body may have an animal past; it yet has a god’s future.

It is in this evolutionary direction that we need to develop the hardware of the body. This would need a twofold effort. First, an awakening and development of the body to its own highest human possibilities, that is, to bring the now automatic functions under a wilful, conscious and voluntary control. Next, to further sublimate the possibilities by the pressure of higher and higher energies accessible to us. The body consciousness has first to be awakened out of its animal sleep and next opened to the spiritual influences from above. It would need again a twofold labour. A de-conditioning of the body from many of the animal instincts, which hinder the full play of higher energies in us, is the first requirement. The next requirement is to link our thus purified physical consciousness with the spiritual existence above through an aspiration and surrender.

In fact, all physical culture properly pursued awakens physical consciousness, makes it subtler and less obscure, introducing into it a certain plasticity and control, thereby making it more receptive to higher influences. Dancing is one such ‘exercise’ that reintegrates body, mind, life-energy and even the higher consciousness. Yogasanas also reintegrate body, mind and deeper levels of consciousness. It is no easy task and needs persistence and perseverance. What is of utmost importance, however, is not the fact of doing this or that exercise but rather adopting a certain attitude within us and a concentrated aspiration in the physical consciousness towards its own higher future.


Key to Educating the Body

“The mind with its dogmas, its rigid and arbitrary principles, the vital with its passions, its excesses and dissipations soon destroy the natural balance of the body and create in it fatigue, exhaustion and disease. It must be freed from this tyranny and this can be done only through a constant union with the psychic centre of the being. The body has a wonderful capacity of adaptation and endurance. It is able to do so many more things than one usually imagines. If, instead of the ignorant and despotic masters that now govern it, it is ruled by the central truth of the being, you will be amazed at what it is capable of doing. Calm and quiet, strong and poised, at every minute it will be able to put forth the effort that is demanded of it, for it will have learnt to find rest in action and to recuperate, through contact with the universal forces, the energies it expends consciously and usefully. In this sound and balanced life a new harmony will manifest in the body, reflecting the harmony of the higher regions, which will give it perfect proportions and ideal beauty of form. And this harmony will be progressive, for the truth of the being is never static; it is a perpetual unfolding of a growing perfection that is more and more total and comprehensive. As soon as the body has learnt to follow this movement of progressive harmony, it will be possible for it to escape, through a continuous process of transformation, from the necessity of disintegration and destruction.”2)


Evolutionary Transformation or Disintegrative Destruction

This, therefore, is the real challenge before the human body and everybody. The animal body faced this challenge in its earlier leap towards the human form. The human body faces the same challenge today, leading to an upsurge in the many forms of illnesses. Seen outwardly these illnesses are threats to survival to be crushed out by powerful medicines that eliminate germs and toxins (and perhaps the body itself in the long run). We forget that animal life knew nothing of all this consciously, and yet it overcame the challenges and evolved to a greater possibility of life. The same evolutionary force is once again active in the earth atmosphere, calling us to exceed our human limitations. Disease is merely a shadow showing us where we stand in this process. It is an inability of the physical parts to respond with a sufficient plasticity to the evolutionary pressure, firstly due to inertia and secondly due to the long-standing habit of response to forces of a lower order. Unfortunately much of our present culture continues to strengthen our animal instincts, thereby making things even more difficult for the body that is subjected to these extravagances of our vital life of nightclubs and late-night parties with the docility of a tamed animal and an obedient slave. The only way it can make noise or make itself heard is through the agency of illness. But do we listen and make the corresponding change in our lifestyle that precipitated the illness in the first place? The final conquest would not be, therefore, in eliminating the outer causes of illnesses or our ability to contain them through powerful drugs. The real conquest would be to eliminate the inner causes of illnesses by a spontaneous immunity to every force of disease and disintegration. This demands an evolutionary transformation of the body itself without which we will only replace one illness with another, create one mutant strain of virus after another, substitute one powerful chemical by another, change one form of illness into another without really eliminating them.

The inner reasons for physical deterioration and aging, therefore, are as follows:

  1. An inability of the body to follow, due mainly to its fixity, the progressive movement of other parts of the being. The body has learnt to obey the vital impulses (from its animal past) and thought movements (in our human present). It does not yet respond to the forces of the higher consciousness (the superconscience). There are yet no centres in the body to respond to the higher touches. The superconscient is not yet organized in the body. In fact, that is why traditionally, the body is required to be stilled so as to escape into a trance of superconscience. However, the future body will be able to directly manifest the superconscience without resistance, in its waking, active state. Governed by the truth above, it will be able to respond much more surely and effectively.
  2. A conditioning of the physical consciousness due to past programming.
  3. A secret necessity of life to have infinite experience on a finite basis can also be the cause of ageing and death. No form, however great and powerful, can provide this varied opportunity for infinite growth. Therefore, death is used as a device to assume new and different forms under different psychological and physical conditions. This cyclical return of growth through experience is the rationale for rebirth. In effect, nothing dies — all returns and reconstitutes itself, so that one day each element can manifest the highest harmony.







A Consciousness-Based Approach


The Tent House of Matter

The modern scientific view of the human body is taken so much for granted that we hardly ever pause to consider that the body could be viewed from so many other standpoints. There is little doubt that modern medicine has been remarkable in making accurate observations about the material processes that govern the body. The grey area, however, is the inferences it has drawn from those observations. The inferences suffer the serious lacuna of being drawn upon a presumptuous premise of the sole reality of matter as we know it and its processes. The material world view seen in isolation is much like a tent house hanging in mid-air with a vast and frightening unknown space within and around it. It is neither rooted to the ground below nor supported by a rope from above. Such is the figure of the human body drawn by our present-day science.

Thus, we are told today of the inevitable fatalism of our genetic make-up. Convincing voices from some of the most sophisticated laboratories shout at us (or hypnotize us in believing) that our minutest reactions, from the first rush of love to the fits of post-partum blues, the immune response and the allergic response, the excess proliferation of cells as in cancer or their under development are all written somewhere in the genetic script of our destiny, waiting for its hour to unfold. We are but our genes and our true identity is our genetic identity. Sounds familiar, like the racism of the old world in a new guise? And yet, ask the astute geneticist about identical twins that are nature’s clones in a way and you have elaborate theories to explain (or explain away) the difference in psychological make-up, self-experience and the world view of these genetically identical but psychologically different people. ‘Multifactorial’, we are told, a term no better than guess work. A guessing within boundaries, of course. The boundaries are the walls of matter; the tent house hanging in mid-air. The space within and around, the forces at play that hold and support and even build the fabric of the tent house are as yet a forbidden territory. To probe them, even to question about them is a taboo, an unscientific speculation. But not for long!

The materialist view of matter itself has led us to the point where fact and fantasy, the tangible and the intangible begin to mingle. The solidity of matter vanishes into the atomic void. The atomic void in turn collapses into a world of energy dancing in empty space. The seeming orderliness, the fixity of sequences, the links of cause and effect, the so-called laws are nothing else but a trick of the brain, an illusion woven by the senses and supported by a limiting mind that cannot observe the totality and the whole as one movement. Or perhaps they are habits mimicking cause and effect! The mind only perceives events successively and divides them on the basis of the time of observation into a past, present and future. Thus, it sees a person coming in contact with someone having flu, and it sees next this person himself begin to show signs and symptoms of flu. It, therefore, feels it logical to presume that flu is contagious and spreads from one person to another. Further, based upon the nature of the physical contact, it feels that it can safely conclude about the mode of transmission. Finally, it administers a drug to the patient and sees a curative response repeated in a ‘statistically significant way’ and again feels confident in patenting a physical remedy to cure us of a physical illness with a physical cause.

But this is incorrect. We can imagine or even consider a scenario as vast as Time itself — at least from the time since man appeared upon earth. Then, if we could somehow see how the symptoms of illness and ‘illnesses’ itself are a pattern thrown up during certain spaces of time, we may observe many new and unknown factors. The upsurge in the flu virus, the lowering of our body defences, the epidemic, may all be linked to a third or fourth factor, for example, war, that we fail to see or correlate since we observe things in small spaces of time. This third or fourth factor that we fail to see is the other side of physical phenomenon. In other words, each phenomenon has its physical and its occult side. These do not cancel each other; they often complement and explain each other. This occult side is composed of certain psychological states or rather conditions that exist in the cosmos parallel to the physical world, which is simply one kind of organization of Reality or rather our experience of it. Ischemic heart disease (IHD) is another case in point. It is barely a few decades back that the medical pundits were convinced about smoking, obesity and dietary habits as being the prime factor in causing or precipitating a heart attack. The pattern however changed soon enough within a few decades. The clinician began to see more younger people appearing physically quite fit with no history of smoking, suffering from major coronary blocks. And consequently they discovered a new factor — the type A personality. It was the kind of person created by the competitive world of today; a person driven by time, critical of everyone and everything, with no time to release his emotional life. These persons had blocked their emotions, at least the positive ones, and the blocked coronaries well reflected and recorded this inner state. So things began to fall in place. Smoking, wrong eating habits and IHD were all common symptoms of an unknown factor — an impoverished and constricted emotional life driven by the mad rush of ambition. It is then that one began to observe and understand why quite a few people escaped an assault on their hearts despite the intake of high fat content, despite the nicotine and of course, despite being as obese as sumo wrestlers.

But then, where are the limits of the behind and the beyond? Our physical probes, even the most accurate and the minutest ones stop at the threshold of the mind. They paused at the doorsteps of that grey passage where thoughts, feelings, attitudes mingle with molecular currents and electromagnetic waves within the brain and reach out from there through a complex neuro-circuitry to the remotest cell, perhaps penetrating even deeper, touching the nucleus with its genetic core? We yet do not know and may never know as long as we limit our science to a study of physical vibrations alone. The vibrations of thoughts and feelings may and do affect our cells without the necessary support of a material medium just as the feelings aroused in one person can awaken and engulf another person who is emotionally or physically close without the aid of a physical medium. Or, perhaps like the vibrations of an ‘ultrasound’ which can go right up to the cells and resonate back without any visible physical evidence of penetration. So much for ‘Evidence-Based Medicine’. Evidence, yes, but is physical evidence alone enough is the question. We need to dig deeper into the dumb and dark depths of matter, beyond the cellular mechanisms and processes, beyond genes and electrical currents, beyond molecules and electrons, beyond the vast unknown that almost frighteningly occupies with a fathomless emptiness our physical atomic and sub-atomic space. The seer-poet probing thus, illumining by the inner Light of the Self the fathomless dark unknown, beautifully observes:

“I saw the electric stream on which is run
The world turned motes and spark-whirls of a Light,
A Fire of which the nebula and sun
Are glints and flame-drops, scattered, eremite;
And veiled by viewless Light worked other Powers,
An Air of movement endless, unbegun,
Expanding and contracting in Time’s hours
And the intangible ether of the One.
The surface finds, the screen-phenomenon,
Are Nature’s offered ransom, while behind
Her occult mysteries lie safe, unknown,
From the crude handling of the empiric Mind.
Our truths discovered are but dust and trace
Of the eternal Energy in her race.”
((( Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems, ‘Discoveries of Science’, Sonnets from Manuscripts, circa 1934–1947)))


Probing Deeper

A day may well arrive when we are able to map each and every gene that determines some physical attribute and psychological event. We may also find the key that triggers into an amazing and unbelievable order the genetic concert and fine tunes the music of life down to the minutest details of its melody. We may, with stretches of imaginative fiction filling the factual gaps, relate each mental event to a precise neurochemical pathway. Perhaps, we may rather discover the varying intensity of molecular movements and electrical currents in the same pathway, correlating with forming the material basis for an essentially mental experience. Having done that and thereby manipulating the chemistry to alter physiological events and psychological experience, we may sit back and congratulate ourselves at the wonders of molecular biology and its extreme limits! But where are the limits?

The extreme limit is only a limit of our creative insight. As the horizons recede, the unknown is pushed a little further. And so will it be as long as we extend our gaze outward and outward. But where is the centre of this ever-expanding circle of infinity? For having answered all questions about the mechanism, we would still have the most fundamental question left unanswered: ‘Who or what is this Self that experiences the mental events?’ ‘Who is the witness, the thinker, the dreamer, the doer, the seer?’ Confining ourselves to the chemistry we may move within the confines of a closed system with no issue or scope of any authentic evolution and certainly none of a Self-experience. A group of cells, tissues, organs and even a totality of all these functioning in perfect order and harmony does not lead to the sense of Self. Just as a conglomeration of all the atoms and elements in the physical universe does not explain a single movement of life. However, life can and does explain the movement of the cosmos, the forces holding it, the forces moving it apart — the breath of life expanding and contracting the living pulsating universe.

So too with the entire physiological processes and events of life. Mind can explain the logic behind the magical movements of life. Yet all the processes of life, in plants and animals and all the genes from the yeast to the ape cannot explain the logic of logic itself.

And what lies beyond the logic of logic itself and holds the key to the magic of the Infinite and the finite in a single embrace? What is it that can explain the gaps in our mind’s logic, the gaps in the rhythms of life and the gaps in our understanding of matter itself? This gap in our knowledge as well as the gap within the atom is filled by Consciousness. Consciousness explains thought and mind and life and matter itself. Since it is Consciousness that has become these things — in the deeper view of things — it is indeed Consciousness that becomes all these myriad phenomena, physical, psychological or any other.

How are we to probe consciousness? It is evident that if consciousness is anterior and superior to phenomenon, then naturally any amount of investigation of one phenomenon by another phenomenon will not lead us to any definite conclusion. Consciousness would always escape the grasp of phenomenon. Or we may at most understand only that much of ‘It’ as is involved in the process of the phenomenon, yet it is possible to study and understand consciousness and, having done that, it is possible to understand and know each and every phenomenon from the perspective of consciousness. Not only can one understand better, one can relate better, master better, this phenomenal world with the help of consciousness because consciousness is, in its essence, not only awareness or knowledge but also the force, the primal Conscious Force that assumes and becomes the limited mind force and awareness and consciousness or life-force and body force, etc. We have an analogy here. When the physical scientist began to perceive matter not as matter alone but as one pole of matter-energy continuum, he could understand better, manipulate better, the world of physical phenomenon. So too when we begin to understand physical matter not just as matter-energy but as matter-energy-consciousness, we would understand even better. For consciousness is neither just in the mental world, nor is it a chance by-product of an aberrant gland acting in conjunction with the brilliant babble of a billion neurons. Consciousness is there in the instinct of the beast holding it in a cyclic chain of oneness with the rest of the biological world. Consciousness is also there in the gaps between atoms and molecules and in the seemingly empty space within the atom upholding this ocean of quarks and electrons and drifting particles of energy and weaving them all together with the fabric of ether.


Properties vs. Quality: The Unseen Factor

If matter is nothing else but a condensation of consciousness (just as ice crystals are condensed vapour), each and every form has its correlate in terms of consciousness as well. While a phenomenal study of matter can give us its quantitative attributes (for example, weight, shape, properties, etc.), the qualitative aspects of matter or any material form can only be rightly and fully understood in terms of consciousness. The ancient seers knew it well. So, when they worshipped a stone idol they saw in it a living expression of the deity behind the form. It was not just another stone for them that can be hurled to hurt or huddled with other stones to build a wall. By appealing to the attribute of consciousness, they could use the stone idol to receive earthly and unearthly boons as if the stone suddenly came alive and were charged with a power that exceeded even the limited average human consciousness. On its obverse side, totems and amulets were charmed (charged) by people through an inner act of consciousness giving it properties to harm or heal. Elaborate studies exist that even classified metals and stones into categories that could attract and hold helpful or harmful vibrations of consciousness. The use of marble in places of worship because of its property to receive and hold spiritual vibrations is well known. Of course, it is understood that the object had to be charged by those who have the capacity to do so. And when a patient having faith and receptivity in the method used the amulet or the stone, he could receive the vibrations of consciousness entrapped in it. So much so that instances are on record wherein a glass of plain water, a small leaf of Tulsi (a sacred plant), a flower, a thread, or for that matter any material object could be used to heal even difficult cases.

We all have witnessed these things but choose to ignore since the bandage of a material science had covered our eye. But the bandage does get ripped off, the scales begin to fall off, the dust is cleared and we begin to truly see and know instead of, as we do now, know and see or rather still worse, think and see. Most of the time we see only the heap of dust thrown into our eyes as facts of truth but fail to see the force of wind behind and the luminous sun above. Or else we give the name of chance to our ignorance (or unwillingness to probe and know). Perhaps we feel safe within the limits of our material well till it collapses into the water underground and we suddenly see a very different, much vaster horizon and the world. The walls of the well are nothing else but the limits of our faith for in the end it is faith that precedes knowledge and not vice versa. Thus, we see and observe what we wish to see and observe. We draw inferences based on what will strengthen and support our basic belief about life. We see matter as matter alone because it absolves us of all except a minimum material responsibility.

If we look deep into matter, we shall see that it is composed of electric charges spinning in 99% empty space (the ‘Nihil womb’). It is strange that something that is so unsubstantial gives rise to the sense of solidity. It is due to a complex interplay of material forces (the five subtle forces of Indian thought that corresponds to similar material forces in modern physics). The point is whether these forces, delicately balancing themselves and creating the atomic foundation of solid substance, are unconsciously driven or else are the result of Consciousness reducing Itself to form and qualities. The Nihil womb of atom is after all a cosy place to rest if we wish to pass off the burden of our life to a mechanical inconscient force of Nature. But we can equally and with greater force of mastery see matter as an act of consciousness and thereby open doors of our science to a conscious handling of the forces of life. Thus, we can use pure material means to master a sea-storm, a flood, an earthquake, or rain and gale. We can equally approach these seemingly material phenomena from the pole of consciousness. We can then master the sea, the wind, the rain, the earth and the sky by an appeal to the consciousness behind these phenomenal forms. Or else, we can integrate both using matter as an instrument and means to hold and convey a particular mode of energy, a certain vibration of consciousness.

Matter and material means are like a vehicle carrying different personages and housing different personalities. And in each age mankind has used it differently. It has observed the same matter from one or the other of many points of views and supported by the faith of the age-created mental systems, sciences and philosophies. After all each age had its own unique and successful system of science, valid for that epoch of time but denied and denounced in another age. Each system of science, and of medicine, is nothing else but a special way of looking at the same phenomenon. The real truth, however, escapes unobserved since it is not trapped in the phenomena at all. Each system is valid and invalid depending upon the age and the faith mankind puts into it. Each system is nothing else but a certain bridge thrown across to fill the gap between the mental consciousness of man and the higher consciousness that is present everywhere but unseen and unfelt by us. The system is more like a movement in the wind that makes us aware of the air upon which our very existence depends, even though unseen and unfelt by us routinely. The ‘movement’ makes sense to us, what is otherwise insensible to our crude and limited senses. We, however, start relying too much on the ‘movement’ and not on that which moves and that which is the movement. Now it blows in one direction, now from another. And we look helplessly for the direction and search with a hopeless despair if the direction changes. But the thing that gives life is always there. Perhaps, we would do better if we stopped looking for directions and rather looked at the thing itself. Perhaps, we would recover much faster and better if we stopped relying so much on this or that system and rather put our trust in ‘That’ which acts through all the systems and acts even when we have dispensed away with them. For at the end of our search we discover only two things holding as an indispensable and solid pillar the different bridges and roads we take towards health and wholeness. On this side, it is the pillar of ‘Faith’, while on the other side it is the pillar of ‘Grace’. All the rest is a dispensable necessity in between. Systems are interim truths that change from time to time. But Faith and Grace are the eternal unchangeables that forever endure.


Towards a Holistic View

Neither is complete without the other. We need to understand matter afresh in terms of consciousness. We also need to extract the latent possibilities of consciousness and translate them in material terms. Not just consciousness as we know it today — that is the limited mental awareness. And not just the material matter or physical matter that our limited senses are accustomed to experience through evolutionary conditioning but also subtler matter appropriate to other planes of existence.

The consciousness approach (if one may say so for want of a better term), therefore, opens the doors to a much vaster understanding and mastery of the forces around us. It is a completer understanding and therefore truly holistic. All other forms of knowing are limited and therefore valid within a limited range and for a limited time. Even a combination of all the systems is not holistic, since there will always be many other systems that are undiscovered or forgotten and lost through which consciousness can travel or has travelled once. Many pathways and by-lanes are yet to manifest since the One Consciousness is potentially infinite and can use all methods. To know the One Consciousness is therefore to know all in essence and principle. To know the parts is only to know intermediary details whose ends are missing from our sight. And to know the One Consciousness, the only known way is to identify with ‘It’ through whatever method. True knowledge therefore begins with knowledge of the One Consciousness that has become the many. And true science accordingly is the knowledge of the relationships of the One Consciousness in its application with the many.

In other words, not only our self-view and world-view but also our understanding and means of mastery over phenomenon depend largely upon the level of consciousness with which we are habitually or instinctively identified. This identification varies from species to species, from race to race, from one period of Time to another but also varies from individual to individual. The variation can sometimes be so marked as to make some individuals very distinctly different (for better or worse) from the age and the environment in which they are born or live. This creates one kind of disequilibrium at a social and psychological level and continues in the form of a seeking, (sometimes even a restless seeking or rebellion with its own share of experimentation and error) till the individual consciousness either discovers its own type in the world, or if a rarer variety, isolates himself or creates its own kind around it. Our extension into other bodies and minds is not only through the physical unit and genes but also and perhaps even more commonly and importantly through consciousness. Consciousness reproduces itself into other bodies through a continuous interchange of which we are largely unaware. That can explain many things about individual and group psychology if we wish to. Also many of the seeming anomalies of life arise because of an apparent dislocation of our inner consciousness from the outer; or the consciousness of the different parts of our being. A wide and generous heart may find itself stifled when surrounded with mean and selfish thoughts, within or around it. A high and clear thinking mind may get pulled back by narrow and limited perceptions and feelings arising within or in those around it. A strong and noble vital may feel frustrated when its natural impulse is curbed in a cramped up environment or a weak and fragile body. And, of course, a body full of natural ease and grace may lose its innate beauty due to a rough vital misusing it. All these and so many other forms of disequilibrium of consciousness may arise in a human being, leading to various forms of inner and outer maladies of the body and mind. A disease, from a consciousness perspective is essentially an inner disequilibrium. This inner disequilibrium sometimes translates itself as the aberrant movement of molecules, genes, chemistry and physiology. Whether this disequilibrium is triggered by inner or outer causes matters little, for in essence it is always an inability of the inner to respond to the challenge from outside. And at a certain point, the sharp distinctions we draw between inner and outer, within and without, ourselves and others begin to fall and we see all as a single extension, a single oneness and a single plan.

Yet, for convenience we speak of individual pathologies and individual diseases. In reality it is not only the individual’s but also a larger disequilibrium within the humanity of which he is a part. No man is an island and that is much truer of our inner being. All the same, the human body is a symbol and an instrument. As a symbol it reflects faithfully the truth of our inner being, our inner strengths and weaknesses, our unique inheritance (psychological as well) and constitution; above all, it reflects the changes in our thoughts and feelings and impulses in the pattern of our consciousness. As an instrument it can be likened to a machine (as science does see it but unfortunately as an inconscient machine alone) driven by various forces — physical, vital, mental, spiritual forces of consciousness. When it opens too much to the forces of a lower order, in short, forces of division, and disintegration, it falls ill. The nature of illness then becomes a symbolic pointer to the level of consciousness at which the forces of disintegration are active. Thus, when we use our mouth and tongue to project very harsh and crude vibrations, the teeth and oral cavity become susceptible to decay and illness. When we hold tight our feelings and let ourselves be governed by excessive ambition, we develop tight and choked coronaries hurting our heart. The stifling smoke of anger (and proneness to it) can stifle our lungs. Depression depresses every healthy function in general but specifically the immune and the cardiovascular system. Anxiety erodes the stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) tract in general. The fire of desire finishes the bodily fuel much too early than warranted. Unkindness, jealousy, hate, fear, greed and lust in general attack the abdominal organs just as a weak and selfish sentimentalism adversely affects our liver. And so on and so forth.

Equally, an opening of the body and mind to a higher spiritual or a deeper soul consciousness can protect and heal and strengthen and succour. One may do it through prayers, meditation, contact with someone inwardly developed, but it works best when the opening comes naturally and spontaneously as an inner need of the soul. This way, the illness can itself become one of the gateways to a deeper consciousness, a turning point that helps us depart from our ordinary mental to a higher spiritual consciousness. To put the whole thing in an apparent paradoxical reconciliation, we may say that the price of opening to the lower forces is illness and the prize of illness is a possibility of opening to the higher forces, out of sheer necessity. This alone (and not the theories of God’s curse and punishment) justifies the presence of pain and illness in a world built by an all compassionate God and woven by His consciousness with the fabric of Love. This alone justifies our passage through the hell of suffering as a shortcut to heaven, a rough and bumpy road through which we move ahead when our feet are unwilling to tread the smooth and sunlit path.


The Healer and the Healed

The healer therefore has a threefold task. First, to understand the truth and level of inner dislocation from the outer illness. By doing so, he assists the patient’s entry into his own inner life and its unique features. Second, to induce faith and assist in opening the patient through the rickety and narrow wicket gate of illness to the higher and deeper forces of health and healing. Here he may use whatever means or system comes naturally to him and to which the patient himself may be receptive. Thirdly, and most importantly, he cannot accomplish the first two tasks unless he himself is open and progressing towards deeper and higher zones of consciousness. If the physician is himself entrapped in a narrow and limited self-view and world-view, he obviously cannot become a truly powerful catalyst for the inner change. To work upon others, one has to work upon oneself, for in fact there are no others but the One carrying the all. And each particle and unit of all that liberates itself from its fears and bondage automatically helps liberate others. Besides, we can give to the world only that which we have. Only one who has peace and harmony can potentially impart these to others. Only the strong can give strength to others.

“Only who save themselves can others save.((( Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Canto III, Book VII)))

For the rest there is the usual physical view of health and illness, physical remedies and drugs, physical doctors knowing and replacing body parts with astounding precision but who miss the ‘One’ and the ‘whole’.

Just as we have the individual consciousness of the doctor and the patient, so also there is the collective consciousness of the environment in which each of us dwells (our psychological dwelling place). The vibrations of consciousness and the quality of forces that cohabit and surround our inner dwelling are of importance in health and healing. This environmental consciousness may exist in a certain place as a formation from the past. Or else, and in addition, it is largely created by the consciousness of the patient and the people around him, including the health-care personnel. Interestingly, there is a reciprocal effect between our physical and psychological environment. A clean and simple environment full of sunlight and fresh air may well be conducive in attracting forces of beauty and harmony and health. So can certain colours and patterns and designs attract vibrations of peace and strength. The lighting of incense is not just a symbolic act of worship but a concrete physical means to purify the atmosphere. Equally, and in an obverse way, dirt, smoke, alcohol may make us ill not just by physical means alone but even more through a secret affinity to forces of disorder, confusion and disintegration. A whole world of consciousness-based preventive hygiene is waiting to be explored!


The End or the Beginning?

Finally, at the end of this day, the debate continues about which came first — consciousness or matter. The ghost of Phineas Gage still haunts the scientific world((( Phineas Gage had an accident in which his brain was damaged with a crow bar drilled through it. His personality underwent a change subsequently thereby paving the way for theories of personality based on biology and in fact of taking mind to be simply an activity of the brain.))). And so the miracle cures and sudden conversions of history like St. Paul and King Ashoka. The phenomenon of a Hitler and Bin Laden on the one hand and that of a Buddha and Christ on the other hand continue to baffle the average humanity. Not to speak of the various hue and range though which the spectra of this world moves reflecting the shades of the viewer’s glass. Like the subjective-objective and the impersonal-personal dilemma it is unlikely to be resolved at the level at which we stand today. The mental consciousness of man stands at a strange crossroad. The problem and the solution move in a narrow arc of a modicum of few necessities. The animal does not carry the burden of its past or the load of a future destiny. Likewise, beyond man there is no need of answers just as there are no questions since all is self-explained, self-known in the light of a luminous Self. But here, in man, the mental self is like a blind man moving through a virgin forest with sometimes the staff of faith and at other times the touch of a half-lit ignorance full of reasoned guesses as his support. The eye of knowledge is however missing and therefore he knows not his map or his compass. He feels ever unsure in the midst of a thousand million cosmic forces around him. He sees nothing in the atomic space and stumbles over each idea that holds him for a while. His knowledge only pushes the unknown further and the ‘Thing’ always escapes his infant grasp. He knows not who he is or why he is or perhaps even where he is. Yet, unlike the animals he is aware that he is. And this is the source of his misery. He, therefore, has questions but no definite answers; problems with temporary solutions but no resolution of the enigma’s knot which ties his fate. He is defeated in the midst of his conquests and having fallen and failed finds himself victorious. Diseases and germs multiply even as drugs and remedies do. He only plays at pushing death for a while till it stares at his face again in another form, mocking at his efforts.

The issue cannot be resolved at the level of the mental man. The mental man must rise and become the spiritual man or man-divine to undo the Gordian knot. The script of the earth indeed seems to be written in double terms — the material and the spiritual. Both must embrace each other to complete each other. And that seems possible only in the common matrix of consciousness. Otherwise we have to rest content with playing with the mud of the earth or the mud of the stars and forget about the path of light that links the two.

This however cannot be. The debate over ‘Consciousness’ may now be divided 50-50 in two camps. But there is a growing effort to genuinely link the two. The debate and the effort are themselves indicative that the resolution is near. It may not be just around the corner. And truly speaking how do 20, 40, 50 or a 100 years matter so long as we as a race are moving forward? How does it matter whether we, as we know ourselves today, would live to see the resolution? In the consciousness view of things, we all will be there as we have always been, speaking and working and sensing through one body or another, through one form or another. The worm is nothing else but a forerunner and precursor of the now extinct dinosaur. So too, the dolphin and the ape are nothing else but humans in disguise awaiting the hour of an evolutionary knock that would shatter the simian mask and disclose the human face of analysis and reason from behind. And who or what is man? The Infinite wearing a finite mask; God denying his godhead; the Divine wearing the shape of a limited intelligence and power! On the answer to this question rests the future of science and of man.

The Sphinx calls to man and to his science:

“… Thou thinkest term and end for thee are not;
But though thy pride is great, thou hast forgot
The Sphinx that waits for man beside the way.
All questions thou mayst answer, but one day
Her question shall await thee. That reply,
As all we must; for they who cannot, die.
She slays them and their mangled bodies lie
Upon the highways of eternity.
Therefore, if thou wouldst live, know first this thing,
Who thou art in this dungeon labouring?”
((( Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems ‘A Vision of Science’, circa 1900-1906)))



The Microcosm called Man


A Consciousness-Based Understanding

Once we admit the possibility of Consciousness, a new frontier opens before us. This new psychology based on the science of consciousness would be new in the following ways:

  1. Since the fabric which weaves all form and phenomena is the stuff of Consciousness, therefore all form, phenomena and processes can be understood in essence by an understanding of the laws and properties of consciousness at appropriate levels.
  2. It would also mean discovering the ability to manipulate our psychological and eventually even physical existence (since all is a play of consciousness) more radically and effectively with a minimum resort to material means.

As a result of these two, it is possible to arrive at a point where we are directly able to effect a change in the cellular and atomic constitution of material life by the pressure of consciousness alone.

This does not mean that there is no truth in biological pathways and neural circuitry. They too are formulations of that consciousness. But to manipulate them by external means alone, as we do now, leaves the balance precarious, the control only partial and temporary. We control one disease and another new one springs a surprise upon us. Old diseases rebound and return. The primitive, savage and brute continues to live in us. He wears a raiment of silk instead of grass and animal skins. He has even learnt the use of computers and doesn’t need stones to fight anymore. He has perfected weapons of mass destruction. An outer change alone, that is not commensurate with an inner change, is therefore merely an illusion and sometimes a fatal one since it makes us complacent about ourselves. A consciousness-based understanding is a more complete one since it includes the inner and the outer as understood from a common matrix rather than understanding the inner in terms of the outer, the mind in terms of the body, as we do now. We shall therefore try to understand the psychological apparatus in terms of Consciousness and its evolutionary history.

Consciousness is a fundamental reality and is therefore essentially one. However, in the course of its involutionary and evolutionary history it differentiates itself into many levels and planes and sub-planes with properties unique to each one. Our perception, experience, understanding and even reactions to life derive themselves largely from the plane of consciousness to which we fundamentally belong. Even the outer circumstances of life are in their last analysis related to the station of our consciousness and its need for a certain kind of evolutionary experience. These planes of consciousness are like a ladder which we climb in our evolutionary journey from life to life. A very important key to the understanding of all problems therefore lies in our ability to grasp and understand the different planes and levels of consciousness and their effects upon us.


The Subconscious

In a certain sense, the human apparatus (both physical and otherwise) is nothing else but layers of consciousness that have developed in the course of evolution. All these layers exist in one form or another in the collective memory of the race. They also exist as a hitherto forgotten subconscious memory, as seeds we have sown in our individual and collective evolutionary journey. No evolutionary psychology can be complete which does not take into account this vast unconscious repository where all our past lies buried as a confused, inchoate and disorganized mass of memory traces and fragments. True development is not possible unless we learn to handle and master it. The seeds of energies we have let into motion are not all helpful in our upward growth. There are weeds and bushes holding the tree of life back from its skyward climb. There are also husks and thorns hiding and perhaps protecting the golden grain of our future to be released into fruition at the right moment. The good seed, the bad seed, the sweet spring and the poison sting all lie there waiting for their hour. If allowed, some of these can topple man’s neat and ordered world, crumbling to dust in a moment what centuries of effort built. Therefore no authentic and lasting change is possible without tackling this mixed, incoherent mass; mixed because it contains every possibility; incoherent because it is all something jumbled up, whose origin is lost in the crypts of our past lives. Yet though this mass needs to be dealt for any thorough work upon our self, it is a mistake to take it up as a first door of entry for our self-discovery. The subconscious is like an ancient hieroglyph whose key we have lost and therefore even when we see it and confront it, as in dreams and through psychoanalysis, we can barely make sense of it. But the only authentic record keeper of our past is the secret soul in us and unless we have contacted the soul we can make little sense of this ancient script. If anything, we may only add to the confusion. Yet we can talk about it first since it represents our mummified past as a background to much that we habitually think and do.

As if this is not enough, we are constantly filling this store of passive memory with fresh records, albeit in a casual, random, heedless and largely unconscious way. Nothing is lost here and can even be retrieved under special conditions of hypnotic regression or even free association as well as in dreams. Even in our waking life, this passive storehouse throws up many sudden surprises. It is for this reason that even the best human beings can suddenly be overtaken by the worst impulses if the barrier between this subconscious and waking life is broken. So too man may drown under a flood of subconscient forces, may lose his balance and become a helpless toy in the hands of powerful infra-rational forces. Drawn into the mire of subconscient life, he may lose all contact with outer reality and a deeper inner reality and live like a zombie in a black hole. Not only this, the subconscient is also responsible for the recurrences of many old afflictions of body and mind. Even when the active symptoms have been removed from the surface, the seeds of illness remain in the subconscious. Even when we have thrown out the thought of an illness, its memory still lingers in the shadowy regions of our subconscient nature.

This is the true significance of the subconscious in us. With regard to illness, it is the main reason for their recurrences. With regard to habits, it is the main seat of resistance in the breaking up of past habits and the formation of new ones. Its role, especially in certain psychological illnesses of throwing our whole system out of gear and catching us off guard, is already known. It is a faithful record keeper and no experience is forgotten and can erupt any time on finding support in our waking life. This support can come through active remembrance, fear and anxiety about the illness and its recurrence, suggestions of illness, sometimes even trivial associations like observing someone who has a similar problem, etc. In collusion with certain other parts of our nature, these subconscient recurrences can get strengthened and lead to the formation of habit. Most habits persist and return perniciously because of strong subconscious support.

In addition, the subconscious also receives all the collective suggestions that are prevalent at a certain time in the world. These suggestions may be thrown upon the unsuspecting mind through the TV and media and also from the medical persona. Once received passively, they can create havoc (rarely also do good if the suggestion is a positive one). There are instances of patients who suddenly worsened soon after their diagnosis even though they were harbouring the illness safely without much discomfort for years. The very name and the idea associated with the illness worked like a disintegrating force. It is very important that especially health professionals carefully weigh their words when they talk to their patients, a fact that most medical practitioners do not understand. What adds to the complexity is that these suggestions can enter even as vibrations of thought and need not be overtly spoken. It is enough that people in the environment believe and think in a certain way and the individual is receptive or simply passive to them and the door of entry is found and the damage done. The role of this part in health and illness is therefore immense.

It is not easy or simple to deal with this part. The method of free association as in psychoanalysis only uncovers it more. It may make matters worse by stimulating a force we do not have the strength to handle. The other method of hypnotic regression is perhaps only a shade better. For in a state of hypnosis, a strong counter-suggestion can be placed in the subconscient or a strong formation left there to serve as barrier. The strength of this barricade, however, depends upon the power and level of consciousness from where the suggestion originated. If weak, it may add to the confusion that human life has become. Human will is mental and while it can be powerful over our outer life, it is less active upon our inner life. The reason for this is that our will is at best a mental will, often divided within us wherein one part cries for one thing and the other for another. Still by practice we can make this will strong and help in getting rid of some of the subconscient baggage. One of the ways to deal with the subconscient therefore is to give auto suggestions or positive affirmations, especially when we are in a half-asleep state. The subconscious is more readily accessible then and the suggestions sink better. The final victory however needs, in addition to our mental will, the will and powers of our soul to aid us, the help of the superconscient parts to come in and conquer the subconscient fiefdom that holds our future a prisoner at the mercy and at ransom to our past.


The Superconscient

It is only a power greater than the mind that can truly handle the subconscient mass in man and annihilate its difficulties. That power is usually still not active in most human beings. Yet it is a latent potential in all. All true self-culture is an effort, however small, to activate this latent power, or at least prepare us for its greater action in us. Its intuitions are less common than the subconscient, since this part has not yet developed nor organized itself in the material life of man. We visit these golden beaches sometimes in our dreams, which leave a vivid and beautiful trace of impression upon our careworn lives. The mystic frequents this lost Eden more often in the form of visions. The truly religious is occasionally touched by a breath of fresh air from these mountain summits stirring his heart with feelings sublime. The man of dynamism is empowered from these realms, when like Joan of Arc, he participates in a truly great action oblivious of his small ego self. The superconscient is our future, the larger and higher self of ours just as the subconscient is our fallen and lower self.

Accordingly this part is usually accessible only under special states of meditative trance, when the subconscient and the waking conscious life are quietened. Yet if there has to be a new organization of life in man, this suppressed superconscious must emerge in our normal waking life. We do indeed see it in those rare and exceptional moments of self-transcendence when we exceed ourselves. The hero charged by an ideal, the man inspired by a higher intuition, the devotee offering himself at the unseen altar of God, the person sacrificing himself for a mission: these are some examples of a higher influx. The result is a martyr, a hero, a genius, a saint, a prophet, and a sage. But closer to us, are the sudden, miraculous cures, the release from old habits, the recovery/discovery of new faculties, etc. It is the real doer of miracles. For what is miraculous and supernatural to us is perfectly natural to the superconscient.

The methods traditionally used for an entry into the superconscient parts are truly selfless action, the various forms of Yoga, spiritual means like prayers, concentration upon God and His Name, etc. The superconscient is not just a single layer but a series of climbs that reach like so many steps beyond our present highest mental state of reason and analysis. If the subconscient eludes rational analysis because it is infra-rational, the superconscient is even less analysable being supra-rational and thereby transcending reason. The method of rational enquiry cannot therefore apply to an exploration of the superconscient. The superconscient has its own reason but not the way our mind is accustomed to value and see things. Its premises are other, its values and vision different and closer to the truth of our being and nature. We can understand the mind and all that is below it through the superconscient and not vice versa. The only valid way to truly study and understand the superconscient is by an entry into it, through direct experience, by fulfilling the conditions required for the same.

The superconscient evolution is indeed the future of humanity. The pressure of the superconscient is beginning to reshape our material life. The superconscient force has entered into the subconscient life, throwing up its mud and mire as a necessary and inevitable cleansing process. The result may be an initial confusion, a loss of old systems. This is the reason for many of the social and other upheavals taking place since the last few decades. The breaking of the past, the youth unrest, the women empowerment movement, globalization, the cry for individuality and freedom, breaking of fixed norms, an exploration of new frontiers in science and technology, an experimentation into the boundaries of human relationships, the rediscovery of the lost and bygone past for utilizing its materials or working it out, etc., are some of the effects of the pressure of the emerging superconscient in us. Even the sudden upsurge of new diseases is partly due to the increasing pressure of the superconscious and the resistance of physical nature to its emergence. No doubt this massive influx as an invasion from another world is leading to a lot of confusion, an unsettling of all our fixed ideas and norms. But once the storm settles, a happier and higher life will emerge, a clearer and luminous horizon bridging our earth and the sky.

There is an interesting and important side of application in all this. The rational barrier dividing the super- and subconscient parts (or supra- and infra-rational) is not fully developed in a child. It is possible, therefore, to approach it easily during early life since it is more readily accessible. It is easier in childhood to implant helpful suggestions, strengthen desirable tendencies and associations, work upon stubborn subconscient impulses, open doors to superconscient influx and influences through stories, myths and legends. As the child develops, the constant impressions of our outer necessities, demands and logic of outer life begin to take over. There is an increasing recession of both, the subconscient and the superconscient and what we have is a so-called normal, crystallized adult, shocked by the subconscient in himself and the world, and deprived of the superconscient gleam in his life and humanity. The result is a half-blind, erring humanity, unable to bridge the gulf between what we are and what we aspire to be. The result is a half-animal, half-human creature ‘stumbling through fog in search of paradise’. Having said this, we may now turn to study the layers that lie between the repressed subconscient and the dormant and suppressed superconscient in us.


The Intermediate Layers of Consciousness

As we have seen, the story of human psychology is not confined to man alone. A whole past lingers, a whole future is waiting to emerge. The different layers of consciousness have accumulated in the course of our evolutionary past just as there are those that are asleep and awaiting to emerge. What is below us are the ranges of a half-conscious, subconscious and inconscient existence. So too there are ranges above the mind that climb to the highest levels of existence. Compressed and sandwiched in between are the triple levels of mind, life and body that largely constitute our waking consciousness. These levels climb up and down like a double ladder. The nature of our life experience, capacities, personality, understanding and responses depend largely upon the level at which we are awake at the moment. What we experience is not a true and total picture but a reflected image due to the peculiar angle of our vision from which we view reality. This unique peculiar mode of viewing, this partial seeing is the false ego identity. It is false because we consider the partial seeing as the whole. Therefore, we understand neither others nor ourselves. As we climb, we gather experience, grow and expand, become increasingly whole and integrated. It is this growth of consciousness from which the necessity and machinery of rebirth and karma arises. What is however not stated, but is of great importance, is that our present constitution is moving towards the future. Thus, the sum of past energies and the attraction to the future, determine what we are today. The truth behind karma and rebirth is a growth to a higher level of consciousness that is freer, subtler, lighter, and vaster with greater capacities for knowledge, harmony, beauty, power, joy and action. The sole punishment is to linger at the same level for a long time or rarely, to regress for a while to complete some remaining attraction of experience. Thus, karma is in effect a machinery and law of evolution rather than a means of reward and punishment or of bondage. The forgetting of our past at the level of our outer awareness is also meant to hasten the evolution so that we are not looking backwards. The unfinished lines of our past experience, however, linger in the dim tracts of our subconscious existence waiting to be consumed or consummated.

But just as we can visualize the planes of consciousness as vertical ascending and descending ladders so too we can look at it as a building in the horizontal plane with one door leading to another within. The outermost of this many-roomed mansion leads to our most outward and superficial waking consciousness composed mainly of outer contacts and their corresponding sensations. Behind that lie our routine and mechanical thoughts, feelings, impulses — a veritable pell-mell mixture of many things. This outer consciousness is more like a wave thrown as a result of many outer and inner forces whose origin are not readily traceable though their net effect is seen. Deeper than this is a vast room of a subliminal consciousness with greater range of faculties and powers of mind, life and body. The inner being is less cabined than the outer and mingles freely with the universal consciousness around it. This greater consciousness is usually hidden, though can be developed and brought out through a methodical self-culture.

Thus, the inner mind can be trained to receive impressions and information from sources beyond the reach of the senses as in the phenomenon of telepathy, clairaudience, clairvoyance, etc. There is a tendency in some quarters of science to deny its existence because of the rarity of the phenomenon and its lack of 100% accuracy. The rarity, however, is because absorbed in our routine and mechanical outer life; we scarcely develop this part or notice its presence and influence. The absence of 100% accuracy is because though endowed with greater powers and faculties it is still a domain of ignorance, of a larger and cosmic ignorance if we like to call it. Systems like Reiki use the powers of this inner life-force effectively in the healing process just as the powers of the inner mind and its thought force can be used for distant healing, etc. So too the secret inner physical consciousness, if awakened in us through physical culture, can directly heal many maladies from within without the conscious intervention of mind and other forces. This part can be developed by training our consciousness to go within, withdrawing and freeing it from the clutches of outer life. It can also wake up spontaneously in some or be aided through hypnosis and trance states.

Deeper still lies the secret chamber and inner chapel of our soul waiting for the hour of our readiness for its self-discovery. We shall have occasion to turn to it later. These levels are accessible to all who sincerely attempt to know them and their truths are verifiable. There are however conditions for doing this research. As certain physical conditions are needed to experiment and research physical truths, so too here one is required to fulfil certain psychological conditions. The laboratory of the psychologist in the science of consciousness is not outside but within and his field of experience is the whole life. We shall have to turn to these levels of consciousness later and hence it is necessary to grasp them.


Food for Thought

“…There are three occult sources of our actions — the superconscient, the subliminal, the subconscient, but of none of them are we in control or even aware. What we are aware of is the surface being which is only an instrumental arrangement … universal Nature individualising itself in each person; for this general Nature deposits certain habits of movement, personality, character, faculties, dispositions, tendencies in us, and that, whether formed new or before birth, is what we usually call ourselves.

…Our nature is a constant activity of forces supplied to us out of which (or rather out of a small amount of it) we make what we will or can. What we make seems fixed and formed for good, but in reality it is all a play of forces, a flux, nothing fixed or stable; the appearance of stability is given by constant repetition and recurrence of the same vibrations and formations. That is why our nature can be changed … but it is a difficult job because the master mode of Nature is this obstinate repetition and recurrence.((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, p. 218-219)))

“…The spiritual consciousness is that in which we enter into the awareness of Self, the Spirit, the Divine and are able to see in all things their essential reality and the play of forces and phenomena as proceeding from that essential Reality.

…The cosmic consciousness is that in which the limits of ego, personal mind and body disappear and one becomes aware of a cosmic vastness … It is not that the ego, the body, and the personal mind disappear, but one feels them as only a small part of oneself. One begins to feel others too as part of oneself or varied repetitions of oneself … One begins to know things by a different kind of experience, more direct, not depending on the external mind and the senses.

…The ordinary consciousness is that in which one knows things only or mainly by the intellect, the external mind and the senses and knows forces etc. only by their outward manifestations and results and the rest by influences from these data.((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, p. 316)))

…The supreme supra-cosmic Sachchidananda is above all. Supermind may be described as its power of self-awareness and world-awareness … The Supermind is an entirely different consciousness not only from the spiritualised Mind, but from the planes above the spiritualised Mind which intervene between it and the supramental plane. Its fundamental character is knowledge by identity … Mind is an instrument of the Ignorance trying to know — Supermind is the Knower possessing knowledge because one with it and the known … It is a dynamic and not only a static Power, not only a Knowledge, but a Will according to Knowledge…..((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, p. 134, 137)))

“…A line is … drawn between the higher half of the universe of consciousness … and the lower half …. The higher half is constituted of Sat, Chit, Ananda, Mahas (the supramental) — the lower half of mind, life, Matter. This line is the intermediary Overmind….((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, p. 138)))

“…Intuition sees the truth of things by direct inner contact, not like the ordinary mental intelligence by seeking and reaching out for indirect contacts through the senses etc. But the limitation of Intuition as compared with the Supermind is that it sees things by flashes, point by point, not as a whole, ….. Mental intuitive knowledge catches directly some aspect of the truth but without any completeness or certitude and the intuition is easily mixed with ordinary mental stuff that may be erroneous; in application it may easily be a half truth or be so misinterpreted and misapplied as to become an error.”((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, p. 159, 163)))

“…The ‘Mind’ in the ordinary use of the word covers indiscriminately the whole consciousness, for man is a mental being and mentalises everything; but in the language of this Yoga the word mind and mental are used to connote specially the part of nature which has to do with cognition and intelligence, with ideas, with mental or thought perceptions, the reactions of thought to things, with the truly mental movements and formations, mental vision and will etc. that are part of intelligence. The vital has to be carefully distinguished from mind, even though it has a mind element transfused into it; the vital is the Life nature made up of desires, sensations feelings, passions, energies of action, will of desire, reactions of the desire soul in man and of all that play of possessive and other related instincts, anger, fear, greed, lust, etc., that belong to this field of nature. ….. The body also has a consciousness of its own and, though it is a submental instrument or servant consciousness, it can disobey or fail to obey as well. In many things, in matters of health and illness for instance, in all automatic functionings, the body acts on its own and is not a servant of the mind. If it is fatigued, it can offer a passive resistance to the mind’s will. … When you first ask the hand to draw a straight line or to play music, it can’t do it and won’t do it. It has to be schooled, trained, taught, and afterwards it does automatically what is required of it. All this proves that there is a body consciousness …. which can do things at the mind’s order but it has to be awakened, trained, made a good and conscious instrument. It can even be so trained that a mental will or suggestion can cure the illness of the body.”((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, pp. 168, 176)))

“…[T]he mind in the physical or mental physical is limited by the physical view and experience of things, … and does not go beyond that … The mechanical mind is a much lower action of the mental physical which, left to itself, would only repeat customary ideas and record the natural reflexes of the physical consciousness to the contacts of outward life and things…

…The vital physical on the other hand is the vehicle of the nervous responses of our physical nature; it is the field and instrument of the smaller sensations, desires, reactions of all kinds to the impact of the outer physical and gross material life … As to the gross material part it is not necessary to specify its place, for that is obvious but it must be remembered that this too has a consciousness of its own, the obscure consciousness proper to the limbs, cells, tissues, glands, organs…

In the subconscient there is an obscure mind fill of obstinate sanskaras, impressions, associations, fixed notions, habitual reactions formed by our past, an obscure vital full of the seeds of habitual desires, sensations and nervous reactions, most obscure material which governs much that has to do with the condition of the body. It is largely responsible for our illnesses; chronic or repeated illnesses are indeed mainly due to the subconscient and its obstinate memory and habit of repetition of whatever has impressed itself upon the body consciousness. But this subconscient must be clearly distinguished from the subliminal parts of our being such as the inner or subtle physical consciousness, the inner vital or inner mental; for these are not at all obscure or incoherent or ill-organised, but only veiled from our surface consciousness. …

The subconscient is a concealed and unexpressed inarticulate consciousness which works below all our conscious physical activities. Just as we call the superconscient is really a higher consciousness above from which things descend into being, so the subconscient is below the body consciousness and things come up into the physical, the vital and the mind-nature from there.”((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, pp. 178, 202-3, 216, 220)))

“…If we regard the gradation of worlds or planes as a whole, we see them as a great connected complex movement; the higher precipitate their influences on the lower, the lower react to the higher and develop or manifest in themselves within their own formula something that corresponds to the superior power and its action … But all this must not be taken in too rigid and mechanical a sense. It is an immense plastic movement full of the play of possibilities and must be seized by a flexible and subtle tact or sense in the seeing consciousness. It cannot be reduced to a too rigorous logical or mathematical formula.”((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 1, p. 129-130)))

What we see, therefore, is first the One Supreme consciousness lapsing itself to vanishing points through stages and grades, creating the many levels of consciousness. Next, is the slow progressive emergence of the same consciousness but this time creating, as it were, the material existence evolving and embodying higher and higher levels, thus creating evolutionary forms, each increasingly more complex, more capable of true power and knowledge and love, more capable of freedom and joy and perfection. Man stands somewhere in the middle of this double ladder, his feet of clay glued to earth, his head held up aspiring to the sky. It is against this backdrop that we can proceed to study and understand the hierarchy of consciousness.



The Unresolved Riddle called Life



More than five decades of experiments in the most sophisticated labs has not been able to produce a single building block of life from its material substrates. We know the processes of life but not life itself. We know that something turns the genetic clock and unwinds its cryptic code into a decipherable script of life and its many moods and colours. But we do not know what force or substance does this magic of translating the language of genes into a conscious breathing frame. So rare is the probability of life evolving out of matter that the man who discovered the genetic code could not accept that it is possible at all for life to evolve out of matter upon earth. Being an atheist, he theorised that life must have been seeded upon earth from some other planet by aliens! Not that one has to be a believer in God to believe that there exists an aspect of consciousness that manifests itself as life in matter. Like the mind this force or power of consciousness uses material instruments to express itself. These instruments are not the generators of life but simply means to receive and circulate the life-force through matter. Matter draws life-energy through the breath and circulates it through the body by means of blood. When this life-energy withdraws, the person dies even if we keep the breath and circulation going by artificial means. So long as the subtle link between the physical body and the vital body of life remains, there can be a return of life into a body that had stopped functioning but not when the force of life has withdrawn or the connection cut off. Yet, an excessive preoccupation and consequent conditioning with material energy has been so evident in the last century that we assume there is no other form of substance, energy or power than physical matter. The only body we know is our physical body and any mention of life brings to our mind the notion of embodied life and its processes in living matter. A belief in the existence of life beyond matter is suspected to be a kind of return to the old ‘vital magnetism theories’ which science has already discarded. Discarded yes, but disproved?

Science has been passing through a phase of exploring matter and hence had closed its eyes to everything else. But now that it has dived deep into matter and sounded its limits, it can more readily turn to understand and accept the independence (as well as the interdependence) of life-energy, mind energy and spiritual energy. Yogic experience indeed affirms that we have not just one body but two or three or four and more bodies composed of a different quality and vibrational intensity of matter. The physical matter is the densest of these and therefore least responsive to the subtler forces of other domains. Between our denser and less opaque physical matter and the subtler and etheric mental and spiritual substance lies the intermediary range of life-force or vital substance. It is more fluid and plastic, capable of a greater degree of interpenetration. This vital body has a direct bearing upon our health and illness. A strong vitality is a great preventive against many an illness despite the excesses! A weak vital force in contrast creates a climate of diseases. A holistic approach to prevention of illnesses should therefore include knowledge of the ways and means of strengthening and reinforcing this vital envelope in us. Its perfect mastery would teach us how to prolong youth, and delay death and disintegration.

In everyday life also, two men with identical bodies and an identical genetic make-up may vary greatly in their dynamism, output capacities, creativity and vision, character and temperament. In identical twins too, the differences cannot be simply wished away by environmental difference! All bodies utilise oxygen through the Krebs cycle, yet there is an enormous difference in people, too striking to be explained away by chance or the multifactorial theory. Why are Buddha, Napoleon and Einstein different? This chance difference may be the influx from other planes of consciousness, which can alter the balance of our genetic and material destiny. The material body can be said to be like a flying strip for a wide range of aircrafts, which different pilots can use. The physical body can be seen as the ‘hardware’, which can accommodate a wide range of ‘software’, programmes which the user or ‘skinware’ may choose. Thus soul, mind and life act through the body but are not confined to it. They spill over beyond the boundaries of our physical body. Our thoughts can reach out to another beyond the confines of our material body even as we can receive others thoughts (telepathy). Our emotions can touch and influence others even at a distance. Our desires begin to circulate in the world to find the means for fulfilment.

Modern science, unable to let go of its strict material determinisms and methods, often isolates itself rigidly and refuses to see and understand any other force than the physical. And because it closes its eyes, it is unable to fully utilize the powers of Nature hidden within us. It stubbornly discards auras and their photography as mere humbug; it denies the evidence of homoeopathy; and refuses to acknowledge that prayer and Grace can help, heal and cure. This happens because these phenomena contradict the comfortable cocoon of our customary theories based on a material origin of life. But Nature has many more secrets and treasures than our science can dream of. One such power is ‘Life’.


The Life-Energy

This ‘life-energy’ can be likened to a horse. It is known as prana in India and chi in China or Japan. But like Mind, Life also has different levels. In fact the ancient seers speak of a fivefold movement of prana, which can be likened to five forms of corresponding activities in which the life-force engages itself in man. These can be roughly divided into the following:

  • The life-force or prana involved in the most material processes such as the activities required for the preservation of the physical body, its functioning including reproduction through which the seed and force of life no less than the genes extend into another body.
  • The prana involved in the pursuit of obscure desires and activities linked to the physical preservation, such as fear, rage, lust etc. This movement of prana is closely linked to physical states and, therefore, there is a strong interdependence upon it.
  • The prana that expands and extends itself to unconquered territories of human life in the form of ambition, achievement, possession, etc.
  • The prana that becomes somewhat more refined and subtle and takes the form of movements of emotional bondage, courage that is full of sacrifice, attachment, etc.
  • The prana that goes into the power of thought and creative expression and at its highest can help the mind climb to spiritual summits.

Quite naturally, the lower movements of prana are largely dependent upon the physical condition and are easily altered by it while the higher movements can override the physical and can exist independent of it. Of course the lines of demarcation in our being are not watertight and there is clear fluidity in our being that always creates a certain degree of dependence of the higher on the lower, and which also has a therapeutic use, a possibility of influencing the lower by the higher. The higher is stronger yet younger in the evolutionary process. Therefore, the lower movements have an initial strong hold upon the human consciousness. Yet as a man develops in the scale, the balance is reversed and therefore newer possibilities of manipulating our bodies open up.

It is also important to note that the prana has a triple linkage as an energy feeder. First, it is the source of energy to the body. Second, it is linked to the mind and also provides energy to the thought. Third, the prana is closely linked to the subtle cosmic energies especially through the nervous system. This link provides for a two-way flow of prana at least in principle and in possibility even though habitually we still use it the way animals do, that is receive the vital energy through physical means or even directly from physical Nature. But we can and in fact do also receive energy from higher regions of thought as well as from subtle realms of existence. Picture a man becoming forgetful of food while he is absorbed in intense mental activity of a higher and creative nature. The other thing to understand here is that prana is locked in matter and this energy is released through metabolism as the vital force eats up the material substance even as it builds it through anabolic processes. A disturbance of this balance is one of the most common causes of disease. If the fuel is eaten up more readily due to either a wrong utilization of vital energy or an inability to conserve it, the physical organs suffer depletion and fall ill. Equally there may be a subtle force in the vital atmosphere of man that can eat away the body and/or deplete the prana and cause the person to fall ill. Certain associations, especially where there is a close and intimate physical contact, may be a source of much problem and even illness. On the other hand, some people are natural givers of life-energy, full of good cheer and hope and generosity. They can facilitate a cure much more readily. These are subtle truths of our multidimensional existence that we are yet to explore or rather rediscover.

The operation of matter and its processes are therefore only one pole where life-energy works. It also works on many other levels, for in essence it is force and power, material force, force of anger, force of ambition and lust, force of love, force of thought and intelligence and, at its highest in the most developed type of humanity, it is released and realised as a force of the spirit. This knowledge opens new doors of perception and understanding, with profound practical implications. This life-energy, if left wild and untamed, destroys. If properly guided and trained, it can be harnessed profitably. Man habitually operates more at the level of thought and so becomes conscious only of mental perception. Life, being anterior to thought and infra-rational in its working, is felt only when it reaches a strong intensity of vibrations or is given a mental form through thought. Most of us are unaware of the vibrations of fear, anger, lust, greed, ambition or even desire, unless too strong to be ignored. Yet, they are there, operating below the level of ‘our’ conscious awareness. These vital vibrations can also create a physical sensation around the abdomen and chest extending below into the legs when they seize our nerves and twist our muscles and organs in unhealthy patterns.


The Seeds and Roots of Illness

Many illnesses are simply results of an imbalance in the flow of life-energy. Take desire, for example. A little bit of desire stimulates the organs but as it grows, it begins to irritate them, leading to one form of excess (and consequent imbalance) or another. Desire can lead to exhaustion by impelling the individual to throw out life-force into wrong channels of action and sensation, cut off from the universal whole. It creates a ‘catabolic’ stimulation, to use a medical term. The imbalance created by desire is because it cuts us from the whole. The separate person becomes excessively important (if not exclusively important, though that too is common enough). The result is we lose our Gestalt, the harmony of the whole through which our individual existence derives value and strength. So a deeper understanding of life sees desire as the seed of death. Desire creates an atmosphere of deviant pleasure, which brings a host of negative and harmful influences in its wake. Fear (of losing objects we desire), anger (on not getting what we desire), anxiety (for desired things) and very obviously lust (desire for possession) and greed (desire for more and more) are forces that are natural offspring of desire. On tackling desire, the rest wear off.

This may sound so contrary to modern thinking where we acknowledge desire as the very reason of living. Our modern civilisation, built on desire as the lever, has resulted in various social pathologies and stress-related disorders. Yet, try telling a medical man, conditioned with microbes and immunity, that ‘desire’ (and its allies ‘fear’ and ‘anger’) is the single largest killer! In fact much of behaviourism is about a human being been driven by desires. While this may be true of a large majority of humanity, it is not the sole possibility or driving force of human action. A future psychology needs to acknowledge and admit selfless action, wilful sacrifice, and action done for a larger good of all beings, even at one’s own expense, as legitimate motivating forces in human nature. However rare they may now be, they are yet the future of humanity, for a civilization based solely on the satisfaction of desire is foredoomed to failure sooner or later. History bears this out in the lost glories of Atlantis, Lemur, Lanka and Rome. In fact it is the first obscure attempt to recover the lost oneness that is instinct in humanity. But its means are counterproductive for it devours and destroys that with which it unites. And since it works on the basis of separating one unit from another therefore it misses the total harmony of life. No wonder when an organ is overused under the pressure of desires, it cuts itself from the whole and thereby derails itself and falls sick.


Words of Caution

“All Matter according to the Upanishad is food, and this is the formula of the material world that “the eater eating is himself eaten”. The life organized in the body is constantly exposed to the possibility of being broken up by the attack of the life external to it or, its devouring capacity being insufficient or not properly served or there being no right balance between the capacity of devouring and the capacity or necessity of providing food for the life outside, it is unable to protect itself and is devoured or is unable to renew itself and therefore wasted away or broken; it has to go through the process of death for a new construction or renewal.

Not only so but, again in the language of the Upanishad, the life-force is the food of the body and the body the food of the life-force; in other words, the life-energy in us both supplies the material by which the form is built up and constantly maintained and renewed and is at the same time constantly using up the substantial form of itself which it thus creates and keeps in existence. If the balance between these two operations is imperfect or is disturbed or if the ordered play of the different currents of life-force is thrown out of gear, then disease and decay intervene and commence the process of disintegration.

And the very struggle for conscious mastery and even the growth of mind make the maintenance of the life more difficult.

For there is an increasing demand of the life-energy on the form, a demand which is in excess of the original system of supply and disturbs the original balance of supply and demand, and before a new balance can be established, many disorders are introduced inimical to the harmony and to the length of maintenance of the life; in addition the attempt at mastery creates always a corresponding reaction in the environment which is full of forces that also desire fulfilment and are therefore intolerant of, revolt against and attack the existence which seeks to master them. There too a balance is disturbed, a more intense struggle is generated; however strong the mastering life, unless either it is unlimited or else succeeds in establishing a new harmony with its environment, it cannot always resist and triumph but must one day be overcome and disintegrated.”((( Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter XX, p. 204)))

This profound truth is evident from microbes to malignancy. It is also evident in social pathologies where one group strives to eliminate another and in the end both get eliminated! To cut off from the truth of the Whole and of Oneness is the secret origin of diseases. To re-establish this lost harmony and recover the sense of the whole is the radical way to a lasting immunity and cure. No wonder that the races in harmony with their environment are less prone to illness despite every possible exposure. It is only when these are corrupted in their thought by the half-lit ignorance of modern man that they lose their innate balance and begin to pay the price of being civilized by an increase of individual and collective, physical and social pathologies. Modern man has lost this natural oneness we see instinctively present in the animal world. This has happened due to the extreme development of the mind that is essentially a force of division and works on the principle of separativeness. And also because the very advent of mind creates an additional demand upon the vital energies, it disturbs the balance and a new balance has to be established again. That is one reason why we are more predisposed to illnesses during certain developmental stages of our life. Well, what has been thus lost has to be regained, but not by falling below the mind to the animal spontaneity but by rising above the mind to a higher and conscious oneness and spiritual spontaneity. Mind, division, ego, desire are only intermediary terms of the great journey of life. Disease intervenes to show us the inadequacy of this way of living. Harmony and oneness are the future wherein disease will become impossible because the architecture and pattern of individual life will no more be grossly disturbed in relation to the whole. Till we arrive at that oneness even at the very physical level, the secret of lasting health may well lie in a balanced lifestyle wherein each part is given its just place in relation to the individual whole and each individual lives in a cooperative existence with the life around itself.


The Climate of Illness

If the physical constitution can be seen as the soil, the psychological constitution can be regarded as the atmosphere that helps or hinders the illnesses from taking root. This psychological atmosphere is created not only by our thoughts but even more so by the forces of life that emanate from us. Thus, forces born from the basic principle of division and desire such as fear, anxiety, greed, jealousy, depression, doubt, ambition, etc., pollute our psychological atmosphere in which our sense and power of harmony gets stifled and asphyxiated. In contrast, the forces born from a sense of unity such as trust, faith, love, harmony, peace, kindness, cheerfulness, etc., are like a breath of fresh air that rejuvenate life and defeat the battalion of death and illnesses. To the man endowed with a capacity for occult vision, this psychological atmosphere actually appears as a protective shield enveloping the body as a subtle aura. The ‘genuine’ Reiki healer can see the gaps and plug and reinforce this envelope by supplying a healthy current of life from outside. Quite evidently this is neither a lasting or true solution since the individual’s psychological being will continue to undo it again by emanating the same forces of illness from within. Reiki and similar methods are also at best temporary stop-gaps, a moment’s respite to gather ourselves and not a final cure. If the inner factory of desires continues to pollute our thoughts and bodies and atmosphere, then no amount of cleaning will eventually help. The real house cleaning has to be done within by tackling the roots of illness from where spring the shoots of fear, grief, suffering and pain. This is only possible by radically altering the motives, aim and direction of our life-force, by conserving rather than wasting it on desires, by sublimating it to higher and wider goals rather than letting it move in the narrow and polluted circle of petty gains and small inner aims.

Of course, the roots go still deeper and illnesses can become patterns that go into our subconscient parts and get thrown up from there again and again. And due to the stronghold of the subconscious upon the physical there is a tendency for illnesses to return but that is a subject to which we can turn later.


The Science of Subtle Prevention

The significance of this protective aura or subtle envelope, though not yet recognized by modern medicine, is an important factor in the trilogy of agent-host-environment. The environment may not only be physical but also psychological. A good, cheerful psychological disposition can easily override the deficiencies of our physical environment, as is being increasingly acknowledged today. The tribal may live in physically poor surroundings yet have amazing resistance to diseases. They have less fear and fewer desires and a less anxiety-laden mind due to an acceptance of life and events as the will of God. The same truth is seen in epidemics, where the crucial factor deciding who will succumb, recover or remain unaffected is medically inexplicable. It is, however, now recognized that our psychological state influences immunity. Depression depresses the immune response, faith stimulates it. The subtle reason behind this is that depression, fear, anxiety, greed, etc., create holes in our auras by depleting and draining energy. In contrast, cheerfulness, optimism, goodwill, generosity, calm and gladness, all reinforce the aura and prevent the entry of the forces of illness.

Again just as the host and environment are not only physical but also psychological, so too the ‘agent’ is not just a physical entity (a germ or microbe) but also a psychological force, a distorted energy and will of disorder, an adverse formation that enters through the subtle envelope. It is only when this line of defence is breached that the ‘vibration’ of illness settles into the physical body and makes it ill. So fear, anxiety and depression attract forces of disorder, whereas trust, peace, joy and cheerfulness provide a sort of security and a psycho-physical immunity against illness.

Another important issue in point here is that the force of life is less bound by the body than the physical forces. Therefore, it easily lends itself to an interchange with other psychological forces and atmospheres around us. Some people who are essentially ‘givers’ reinforce and strengthen this aura and thereby prevent illness in others and help us recover faster. Others, who are primarily ‘takers’ pull our life-energy and deplete us. This would explain many disconcerting things about the effects of our social interactions on health and illnesses. Since every social interaction is also an inadvertent interchange of the forces of life, it has a bearing not only upon our minds but also upon our body and physical well-being. Its implications for the paramedical staff are obvious since the atmosphere of the healer and the healed also influence each other in a positive or negative way. It would explain the difference between results of two doctors practicing the same system. It would also explain why the mere company of a saint or the effect of a place charged with positivity could be therapeutic, at times even verging upon the miraculous. For in reality there are no miracles but only subtle and subtler processes waiting for their hour of discovery.


The Yogi’s Vision of Illness

“To whatever cause an illness may be due, material or mental, external or internal, it must, before it can affect the physical body, touch another layer of the being that surrounds and protects it. This subtler layer is called in different teachings by various names, — the etheric body, the nervous envelope. It is a subtle body and yet almost visible. In density something like the vibrations that you see around a very hot and steaming object, it emanates from the physical body and closely covers it. All communications with the exterior world are made through this medium, and it is this that must be invaded and penetrated first before the body can be affected. If this envelope is absolutely strong and intact, you can go into places infested with the worst of diseases, even plague and cholera, and remain quite immune.

It is a perfect protection against all possible attacks of illness, so long as it is whole and entire, thoroughly consistent in its composition, its elements in faultless balance. This body is built up, on the one side, of a material basis, but rather of material conditions than of physical matter, on the other, of the vibrations of our psychological states. Peace and equanimity and confidence, faith in health, undisturbed repose and cheerfulness and bright gladness constitute this element in it and give it strength and substance. It is a very sensitive medium with facile and quick reactions; it readily takes in all kinds of suggestions and these can rapidly change and almost remould its condition. A bad suggestion acts very strongly upon it; a good suggestion operates in the contrary sense with the same force. Depression and discouragement have a very adverse effect; they cut out holes in it, as it were, in its very stuff, render it weak and unresisting and open to hostile attacks an easy passage.”((( The Mother, Questions and Answers 1929 – 1931, 16 June 1929)))

A whole new world of understanding dawns if we admit with humility the knowledge of ancient seers to the knowledge of the scientist. There are worlds and forces, energies and substance beyond our material world. There are modes of perception and knowing that are more direct and essential than that of sense observation and deductive analysis. In fact our mind (strongly conditioned by modern education that stubbornly refuses to admit anything more than the physical) fail to perceive and register a whole range of phenomena that can greatly enhance our understanding. Faith and suggestion work both ways. Science often condemns inner knowledge as being a product of suggestibility and superstitious belief. But its own knowledge is conditioned by the suggestion and belief that there is no other reality than a material one! The ‘nervous envelope’ or ‘aura’ is perceived by all of us, for example, in the shock of a vehicle almost brushing past us. Though it has not touched us physically, yet the sensation is palpable. The aura and its effects are not only confined to humans but to the animal and the inanimate world as well. It is this knowledge that has been traditionally used in certain ancient systems to effect a cure by charging a material substance such as a flower or an amulet by a distinguished occultist or a genuine yogi. Of course these things may be misused by some just as medical knowledge can be misused. There are quacks in every field but their presence does not negate the authenticity of a rare knowledge and phenomenon. If anything it only points indiscreetly to the existence of a possibility that is being misused by a quack!


A New Basis of Social Psychology

This subtle envelope and its composition is also one of the reasons for our affinity towards some people and repulsion to others (there are other reasons too). The personal protective envelope is like a blueprint with our psychological address attracting those who want to reach out to us. Generally speaking (not as a rule though) we feel attracted to people who reinforce our nervous envelope; those who disturb or hurt it repel us. This subtle interchange is a constant phenomenon and opens doors to a new kind of social psychology. The sense of peace, strength, lightness and comfort people feel when they visit a saint or a place with such a centre is not just an imagination or suggestibility of the gullible. There is a subtle, almost material basis to it, explaining many cases of cure and protection against illness. Millions of people overcome their grief, loss and depression without visiting a psychiatrist but by simply reading the Gita, Bible or a work embodying vibrations of peace, harmony and strength. The knowledge of material processes does not invalidate the knowledge of subtler forces and processes just as the laws of Einstein and the quantum world do not invalidate the propositions of Newton and our linear world. Each is valid in its own plane and even complements each other!



The Mind of Matter


The Mind and Its Movements

The role of mind is being increasingly recognised in health and healing. Yet after decades of search and research, we are not able to say definitively as to what the mind is. We know that stimulating certain centres of the brain generates certain forms of sensations, perceptions, feelings, cognitions. But we do not know where is the birth place of thoughts, where do they come from and where do they pass on. The ancient query of the Kena Upanishad — ‘Kena Patitam…’ — what makes the thought fall upon its mark remains an enigma to modern science. But the ancient seers had discovered behind our thoughts, in fact behind all psychological movements and physiological functions, certain powers and aspects of consciousness that motivates the organs to function. The brain according to this view is not a generator of thoughts but only its receiver and transmitter. Whether there is a mental consciousness independent of the brain is being increasingly debated by the scientists. Naturally there is no easy answer for how science can discover it unless it goes beyond matter and develops probes that are sensitive to subtler forces and energies. But at least one indirect evidence points out that this could be a possibility. It is in the function of the mental will. One can, for example, give a mental thought suggestion to lift a finger and yet he may consciously refuse to do it. The thought suggestion does not automatically translate into action as it should if the brain and body were simply a complex mechanical wiring network. The thought is powerless unless the will supports it. There are other evidences also such as the recording of experiences, including coherent ones, when the brain is asleep as in anaesthesia or coma. The yogis of course know it very well. They can actually stop thoughts from arising or else let them in at will and turn them in the direction they want. No wonder it was well known to ancient Indian mystics that our mind affects the body, though the text books still mention the field of psychosomatics as if it is only a hundred years old! Nevertheless before we can use this ancient knowledge to the fullest advantage we should try to understand the mind and its movements in a little more detail.

When we step back behind our thoughts, we become aware that the world of thoughts cannot all be clubbed in a single category. There are different categories of thoughts just as there are different types of feelings. What is even more interesting from a practical point of view is that these different thoughts have different effects upon our physical and psychological growth. And since thoughts, like feelings and impulses, can propagate themselves, they have presumably different effects upon people and the environment around us. However, while it is relatively easier to separate the mind and thoughts from our feelings and study them, it is not so easy to do the same with thoughts. That is why we hardly have any proper classification of thoughts as compared to feelings. One general method is to divide them into two broad categories, like for example, convergent and divergent or else concrete and abstract thinking. These roughly denote the less from the more developed forms of thought. However, it also speaks of the limits of our thinking and knowing in present-day times. It does not include many other forms of thought like inspiration, illumination, intuition, vision, etc. Yet our study of human nature will be grossly incomplete without incorporating these as our subject of search and research.

A closer look reveals that thought like feelings and desires climbs through an evolutionary ladder of its own, forming a hierarchy of mind planes. This ladder essentially climbs up from our mind’s excessive preoccupation with the body and world of physical senses through a reason trying to free itself from the clutches of senses up to the higher realms of the supra-sensory worlds of the yogi and the mystic. All these levels are potentially present in every human being but not all are openly active in each one. The mind of a philosopher, poet and a visionary are very different from the mind of a pragmatic man of the world and the practical scientist. Modern education hardly touches upon these layers, leaves most of them untouched, closed or undeveloped for want of nourishment. Modern civilization, being too preoccupied with the necessities of outer existence, hardly encourages it. Yet it is the prime task of evolutionary psychology to discover and uncover these hidden domains of the mind in us.


The Outer Layers: Body-Mind and Physical Mind

There is in us a mind that is ever-preoccupied with our bodily functions. It acts upon our cells with a mechanical intelligence that is astonishingly accurate within its limits. It is this that programmes the body and conditions it to certain automatic responses. It is this body-mind, which gives us fixity of function (like a gramophone record running over and over again). While this fixity is very useful to condition the body against past dangers, there is an obverse side to it. The nature of threats has changed in the course of our evolutionary journey, from the predator to the pollutants, from pure physical to emotional and psychological, yet the body-mind has not developed commensurate resources to cope with this. It reacts upon the body against psychological, even imaginary threats, quite in the same way as it did centuries back against visible external dangers. It is a slave of memory and habit, giving a fixed response and faithfully repeating itself. This fixity may be good for preservation and stability but is counterproductive from an evolutionary point of view. Evolution always requires tackling the resistances of this layer, so needed in the past for survival, and therefore naturally least accommodating to change. Since matter has evolved under challenges and difficulties, this body-mind anticipates difficulties and finds it hard to believe in Grace and miracles. It is full of fear and attracts suffering since over the millenniums it has this experience of pain and suffering as the law of growth. Thus, this rigidity comes in the way of evolution, since it will not allow the body cells to be free of their limitations and fixed responses.

In collusion with it is the physical mind in man. This is the mind, which receives external sensations, stores and reacts upon them. This mind is conditioned by the senses and also responds mechanically to them. Quite understandably, it disbelieves in anything other than the sense-testimony whose answer of true and false it weighs in a balance of pros and cons, and often without any conclusion. Unable to have any sure certitude, it worries and doubts forever tossing from one conclusion to another.

These two minds often work in close conjunction. They have apprehension and fear, weighing one possibility after another, rigidly shutting the doors of our body to Light, Grace and all that is tangible to the inner consciousness, but intangible to our outer senses. More relevant to us, this mind full of scepticism and doubts, prevents and delays our recovery for want of faith, whether in the doctor, therapy or higher Grace. The only thing it is sure of is what it has repeated and rehearsed over and over again. In the social sphere, it promotes conservation and orthodoxy and resists any change. While all this provides certain stability necessary for individual and group functioning, the same stability can lend itself to a pattern of illness and fix it with a severity in the body. Its distressing action is well known in the pathological state of obsession and compulsion. The ritualistic behaviour of many cults and the fear of displeasing the deity if one does not indulge them is a form of convention that turns into a social pathology when it becomes excessive and the breeding ground for every form of fanaticism and fundamentalism. This mind is the chief stronghold of the conservative and the orthodox but, being detailed in observation, it is also the chief means used by the physical scientists to study physical phenomenon.

Yet there are ways to deal with this mind. Japa, the repetition of certain ‘significant’ sound symbols can quieten this mechanical mind and break through its barriers of rigid resistance, open the body to a higher Light, Consciousness and Grace. Also, one can stand back from these thoughts and reject or indifferently watch them run out their course. A similar principle works in detachment and diversion. Strong-willed people can exercise a powerful formation of a higher mental will that would check these thoughts and their undue apprehension simply by the pressure of greater energy. Finally, one can open oneself to a higher consciousness and Grace through other parts of our nature that labour less under the heavy yoke of the outward and immediate.

An interesting method currently in use in psychological circles is to use repetitive thought suggestions called positive affirmations. Some of these positive affirmations used in the art of healing are ‘I am well’, ‘I will be cured’, ‘I shall be well’ and ‘I am and shall be all right’. Of course one needs to persist and persevere when one is dealing with a structure as rigid as the physical mind. It is only a persistent pressure of positive suggestions, will, detachment, japa and all the rest that can decondition and then recondition this mind (which has been the main curiosity of the ‘learning theorists’). But once reconditioned, this mind can be quite useful.


A Word about Japa

“The japa is usually successful only on one of two conditions — if it is repeated with a sense of its significance, a dwelling of something in the mind on the nature, power, beauty, attraction of the Godhead it signifies and is to bring into the consciousness, that is the mental way; or if it comes up from the heart or rings in it with a certain sense or feeling of bhakti making it alive, — that is the emotional way. Either the mind or the vital has to give it support or sustenance. …There is, of course, a third way, the reliance on the power of the mantra or name in itself; but then one has to go until that power has sufficiently impressed its vibration on the inner being to make it at a given moment suddenly open to the Presence or the Touch.”((( Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga, Part 2, p. 745)))


Getting Rid of an Unwanted Chain of Thoughts

“There are several methods. Generally — but it depends on people — generally, the easiest way is to think of something else. That is, to concentrate one’s attention upon something that has nothing to do with that thought, has no connection with that thought, like reading or some work — generally something creative, some creative work. …those who have begun to control their thought can make a movement of rejection, push aside the thought as one would a physical object. But that is more difficult and asks for a much greater mastery. …The third means is to be able to bring down a sufficiently great light from above which will be the “denial” in the deeper sense; that is, if the thought which comes is something dark, … if one can bring down from above the light of a true knowledge, a higher power, and put that light upon the thought, one can manage to dissolve it or enlighten or transform it — this is the supreme method.

The first step is to think of something else; … the second is to fight; and the third is to transform. When one has reached the third step, not only is one cured but one has made a permanent progress.”((( The Mother, CWM 6, Question and Answers 1954, p. 23)))


Vital Mind

Stability, preservation and survival are only the first needs of a human being. His other equally valid needs are growth and expansion. Therefore, man is given a vital mind, which is a mind of fantasy and imagination. It is this mind that is dynamically active in the inventor and the adventurer. It rebels against established and fixed patterns of thoughts and conduct. It breaks old forms, so that out of its materials it can build new ones. And even though in its fantasy it seems to escape into uncharted and even dangerous realms, yet its imaginings lean heavily upon the physical mind on whose back it rides. Its images are borrowed from the sensory experiences. Even in its wildest flights it yet cannot escape from earth’s gravitation. It is this characteristic reliance on the bricks of physical phenomena as its building blocks for its castle in the air that distinguishes imagination from deeper and true spiritual experiences. Most of us not knowing the distinction for want of experience tend to pooh-pooh all higher realisations as myths and fictions of a fertile mind. But the fertile vital mind cannot break free from its earth-bound thoughts. True, to an overeager novice, striving for spiritual experiences under this stress of vital desire and demand, this mind can create an image and a replica, an imitative pseudo-reality. This pseudo-reality has nothing subtle about it and is often crude and close to our gross earth forms. Its paradise is full of mist and its hells full of tortures. Its gods are like humans, only different in degree but yet essentially human in form and content. Its titans are a cross between the horned animal and man. But true spiritual experience comes from much higher, from beyond the borders of form where all our ideas and imagination rest in blissful silence. The vital mind is at the service of our desire self and uses every form of logic to rob the reason and make it collude with our lower impulses. It can twist logic to suit its own convenience.

Yet the vital mind has its role in health and illness. It is like a wild horse that can lead us to dark and dangerous territories, but also, if tamed, becomes useful for hunting down predators or making the journey of our life less weary and tiresome. Caught up in false imaginations, it can fabricate illness or even precipitate one. Many an illnesses arise or perpetuate themselves because of our morbid imaginations. But also it can imagine pleasant, beautiful and healthy things, and by doing that create formations and conditions conducive to the restoration of health.

This potential and power of imagination is used in exercises on creative visualisation. One simple form of this is to imagine that a white light full of coolness and peace is entering our body from the head and gradually passing down level by level to the toes. One can further imagine that this white light full of peace is entering each organ, each part, each cell of the body, especially the diseased part and curing it. For instance, in cases of tumours and cancers, one can imagine that this light is actually healing the cancer tissues by its power and pressure. Similar forms of imagination (of white light killing tumour cells) have actually been shown to aid cancer recovery and improve prognosis. Imagination indeed opens the path by admitting a possibility in our mind.

This mind is restless for change sometimes just for the sake of it, at times under an impetus from within or above. Thus, it also counters some of the rigidities of the physical mind in man, and at least allows us a temporary escape out of it! Without this mind, inventions, explorations and works of art would not have been possible. Only it needs to be channelled and given a right orientation, and since it feeds upon imagination for its development, the best way to train it, in children especially, is through stories of light, beauty, joy and the triumph of truth.


The Power of Imagination

“The imagination is really the power of mental formation. When this power is put at the service of the Divine, it is not only formative but also creative. There is, however, no such thing as an unreal formation, because every image is a reality on the mental plane. The plot of a novel, for instance, is all there on the mental plane existing independently of the physical. Each of us is a novelist to a certain extent and possesses the capacity to make forms on that plane; and, in fact, a good deal of our life embodies the products of our imagination. Every time you indulge your imagination in an unhealthy way, giving a form to your fears and anticipating accidents and misfortunes, you are undermining your own future. On the other hand, the more optimistic your imagination, the greater the chance of your realizing your aim. Monsieur Coué got hold of this potent truth and cured hundreds of people by simply teaching them to imagine themselves out of misery. … The imagination is like a knife which may be used for good or evil purposes.”((( The Mother, CWM 3, Question and Answers 1929-1931, ‘The Power of Imagination’, p. 156)))

“Thoughts are forms and have an individual life, independent of their author: sent out from him into the world, they move in it towards the realisation of their own purpose of existence. …. There are some men who have a very strong formative power of this kind and always they see their formations realised; but because they have not a well-disciplined mental and vital being, they want now one thing and now another and these different or opposite formations and their results collide and clash with one another. And these people wonder how it is that they are living in so great a confusion and disharmony!”((( The Mother, CWM 3, Question and Answers 1929-1931, pp. 50, 51)))


The Rational Mind

The next level of mind accessible to us is the rational or mental mind. Many regard it as the mind proper and the human race is supposed to predominantly take its station there. It is, essentially, a mind that seeks balance and some kind of adjustment and harmony between people and events and things. It is the seat of cognition proper and dissonance is what drives this mind to act until the discordant note in our thoughts is resolved in some higher harmony or synthesis of understanding. More often, however, it eliminates the discordant note from its field by denying its existence. This either-or method makes it quite incapable of knowing the truth. For the only way it can know anything is through comparisons and contrast with other known things. This makes it even more hopelessly incapable of judging things that belong to a higher field of the unknown. Even those below it are never known well because of this dependence on other known things for deriving inferences. It can infer but never truly know. It can analyse by comparisons and contrasts but can never really ascertain the true value of things. It can arrive at approximations of the figure of truth, but never at the body of Truth itself. This becomes an even greater handicap when, as in the field of scientific pursuit, it relies heavily on the limited sense data and struggles with premises and limits fixed by our outer senses. That is why all our rational sciences ultimately enter a zone of the inexplicable and do not know how to break the impasse.

This barrier can only be broken by a higher activity of the mind that is more holistic and less dependent upon sensory evidence — the mind of intuition. Unfortunately, an excessive development of the rational mind suppresses the free emergence of the intuitive mind by creating a sort of shield that encases our human mentality. This is also the reason as to why certain ancient civilizations relying less heavily upon reason discovered amazing truths by allowing a freer play of intuition. The fall of these more intuitive and holistic cultures was accompanied by a development of reason, which began to codify their knowledge into fixed systems of unalterable truths! It needs to live within the boundaries of the little known and is uncomfortable to tread into higher domains.

This, however, serves two useful purposes. One, wary of the unknown, this mind curbs the excessive adventurous explorations of the vital mind by regarding it all as imaginative fantasy or a dangerous futility. If left in command, it will never allow the vital in man to venture into unknown territories and set a limit to its exploration. Our body under the stress of the vital can have bursts of activity followed by exhaustion. But the rational mind will have nothing of that sort. It will set a limit to activity and rest alternating with each other. It will not allow extremes but only a balanced approach. Therefore also it is a great neutralizer of the excessive vital excursions and imaginations. Unfortunately, its cautious approach often closes prevents our entry into pure and luminous truth just as it prevents us from dangerous and extreme falsehood. It turns to the past for support and is uncertain of the future, except as much as can be extrapolated on the basis of the present and the past. That is why this mind has no certain means to know and all its knowledge is at best a reasoned guess.

Yet while this mind can never have any final certitude of knowledge, it is yet a great classifier of things. It can create order among the rank and file of the known, even though it is at the expense of losing the fluidity and plasticity of truth. This makes it easy for the mind to handle data by codifying and systematizing it. By dividing things into a so-called clear-cut black and white it also acts as the chief instrument of the moral educator. But since it lacks both an absolute certainty of knowledge and an absolute power of will, its authority is like that of rubber stamps, readymade, on whose seal and behalf and under whose name the different parts of our nature place their signature and endorse their action. Its knowledge, divorced from the greater expanses of our life, remains largely theoretical, unable to take into full account the smaller practical difficulties as well as the larger idealistic tendencies of our complex and many-faceted nature woven with a mixed fabric and tissue. At its worst, it is like the policeman who takes bribes from both the aggrieved and accused and tries to placate and pacify the disputants by keeping them out of each other’s reach. The conflict remains and does not change but gets only partially restrained. The god in us is also not released and the jinn too remains chained! Its great service to man is mainly in preventing him from extremes, bringing some order into our otherwise chaotic life but it cannot bring enlightenment and freedom. It is sometimes used by the life-force to justify its blind and erring passions. At other times, it clips the wings of life and maims its freedom. At still other moments, it becomes absolutely cold, aloof, as if a detached or rather indifferent observer of all the activities of life, so that it may try to understand and classify. But what it cannot observe is its own self and its thought movements.

This rational mind can be a great help in matters of health by disciplining our life-style and bringing moderation into it. Persistent education explaining the effects and consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle helps and its main instrument is the rational mind. If it can turn upwards rather than downwards, it can become a wonderful coordinator between a greater knowledge above and lesser understanding below. The rational mind is not the last summit of consciousness. There are other levels of consciousness above which are concealed, of which it has no inkling. To open to a greater and higher truth above is its great possibility and privilege.


On the Intellect and Its Functions

“Whether the intellect is a help or a hindrance depends upon the person and upon the way in which it is used. There is a true movement of the intellect and there is a wrong movement; one helps, the other hinders. The intellect that believes too much in its own importance and wants satisfaction for its own sake, is an obstacle to the higher realisation.

But this is true not in any special sense or for the intellect alone, but generally and for other faculties as well. … Any part of the being that keeps to its proper place and plays its appointed role is helpful; but directly it steps beyond its sphere, it becomes twisted and perverted and therefore false. … The intellect, in its true nature, is an instrument of expression and action. It is something like an intermediary between the true knowledge, whose seat is in the higher regions above the mind, and realisation here below. The intellect or, generally speaking, the mind gives the form; the vital puts in the dynamism and life-power; the material comes in last and embodies.”((( The Mother, Question and Answers 1929-1931, 5 May 1929, p. 33)))

We could summarise the role of mind in health and illness as follows:

  1. It can fix an illness into the physical body as a repetitive pattern, almost as a habit of nature, of the very cells of the body, to respond to the touches of our physical and psychological environment in a certain way. This way of response may have been adaptive at a certain stage or in certain conditions, yet becomes anachronistic later on. But the cells continue to respond the same way as before. They have to then be literally cajoled into giving up this wrong habit and re-educated to respond rightly and adequately. Of course this naturally takes time and one has to have patience in the process. Besides, the physical mind can throw up repeated doubts and suggestions of fear thereby resisting the action of Grace, especially when these doubts and fears are supported by strong prevalent medical opinions and surface observations about the illness.
  2. The vital mind can enter into morbid imaginations and thereby create symptoms or even actual pathologies. But equally by means of right imagination as in visualization techniques, we can facilitate the healing process and direct the force of a higher consciousness onto the healing spot.
  3. The rational mind can help us in acting prudently and with a certain measure of balance and common sense. But this too can become a barrier if the reason continues to doubt the efficacy of a higher intervention simply because it has neither the understanding nor an experience of higher things. This mind should not be allowed to judge by appearances but rather learn to wait upon a higher truth to dawn and inform itself.


Beyond the Rational Mind

There is a line of human experience down the ages, which cuts across the barriers of time and space. This concerns a whole range of phenomena and experiences that pass beyond (not below) the realm of the reasoning mind, imagination and belief. Ideative and experiential thinking, inspiration, illumination, vision, intuition, knowledge by identity, bliss of union with a supra-cosmic Truth, oneness, transcendent reality, are examples of the same. So also is the experience of silence and stillness of the mind opening itself to the ranges above and the silent communications from soul to soul, the sense of a living presence guiding oneself and the world, the oneness with all beings, the state of total freedom from grief, desire and fear, the peace that passes all understanding, compassion that leans from above taking into itself the grief of all living beings, the material evidence of a marvellous Grace, the change of nature through the action of the Divine in us are a few experiences that bear the stamp of authenticity for all who have them. These and other such phenomena can be broadly placed in the range of higher ‘consciousness’, higher in comparison to our reasoning mind. For want of a better term, they have been called spiritual.

This should not be, however, confused with the ‘spirit’s’ or occult, paranormal regions, which take place as a result of the interaction of subtle forces not ‘normally’ sensed by us but which nevertheless exist in the cosmic consciousness. So too must we carefully distinguish the superconscient and the spiritual from the religious, ethical, moral and philosophical dimensions. In themselves the latter do not represent the superconscient. At best they are doors which lead to the sanctum sanctorum of the spirit. At worst they are bureaucratic corridors, where the files of our life are lost in a meaningless debate over petty rules.

Apart from the relatively large body of accumulated experience of yogis and mystics, there is direct evidence of a higher consciousness available to all human beings. This is, however, so evident that we tend to take it for granted. It lies in the innate aspiration of every human being (irrespective of his or her outer behaviour and beliefs) for light of knowledge, love, peace, bliss, and a perfect life on earth. Even the worst scoundrel on earth aspires for love and peace. The search is there, however small, narrow and ignorant; however obscure; however unconscious; it is always there. And we seek it because something in us glimpses and is aware of it. That something, that little flame of light surrounded by the dense darkness of our ignorant nature, that immortal amidst our mortal poverty, is the soul. Its touch can alter the entire balance of our life. It is very, very unfortunate that much of modern psychology basing itself on the study of rats and lost in the chemical tracts of the brain has no clue of it and refuses to admit it. Fortunately mankind is not dependent on the ‘arrogance’ of the psychologist for its self-discovery and self-knowledge. Thus, despite its absence in textbooks, men continue to come in contact and be transformed by it. We shall come back to the subtle distinction between the soul and the spiritual consciousness at a later point. Suffice it to say that there is much in us that goes beyond the boundaries of our limited mental reason; much that exists beyond the scope of our rational mind; much that surpasses our little humanity. Its touch can alter the inner balance for the better, creating peace where there was anxiety, joy where there was suffering, and love where there was division and hatred.

Now, with this background, we can explore the higher ranges of consciousness. We have already mentioned sources of experiences that arise on contact with these ranges. The higher consciousness is largely free of our inner conflicts and hence contact with it translates in our mind, life and body as an experience of Joy and Peace. It is also free from the dull, mechanical rounds of our earthly life and hence a sense of freedom and lightness accompanies it. Knowledge there is no more the labour of the intellect but self-existent, spontaneous, intuitive and at its highest a knowledge by identity (as opposed to indirect and inferential knowledge). Hence the knowledge of the yogi (one who dwells in superconscient realms) is different from that of the scientist. The seeing of the yogi and his understanding of self, universe, phenomena and events are all very, very different since they arise in a vast background of oneness. What to us is a catastrophe is to the man of such vision, an opportunity to progress. What to us is a storm of events is to him a grain of sand floating in boundless space. What to us is an upheaval is to his vastness just another throb in the cosmic rhythm. What to us is destruction is to him just one mood of the eternal Dancer preparing to create a greater rhythm. What to us is death is to him a brief pause in earthly life. What to us is Himalayan greatness is to him a dot in the universe. These are not just metaphors but realities of a higher consciousness. And what to us is crisis, illness and pain, is to him a door to liberation and a pointer towards the imperfection needing to be transformed. Our idea of cure is to him only a regression of surface phenomena, as the unseen roots of illness still lurk within and spring up one shoot after another. True cure is not only cutting the shoots, but also more importantly removing the roots themselves. How much more our science, psychology and medicine could benefit, if the doors to the superconscient opened to earth and mankind changing our in-look and outlook towards life.

Let us fleetingly glimpse some of the effects on health by the superconscient’s touch through The Mother’s words:

“There are two ways of curing an illness spiritually. One consists of putting a force of consciousness and truth on the physical spot which is affected. In this case the effect produced depends naturally on the receptivity of the person. Supposing the person is receptive, the force of consciousness is put upon the affected part and its pressure restores order…

In other cases, if the body lacks receptivity altogether or if its receptivity is insufficient, one sees the inner correspondence with the psychological state which has brought about the illness and acts on that…

When the action is directly upon the body, that is, on the affected part, it is possible that one is relieved; then, some hours later or even after a few days, the illness returns. This means that the cause has not been changed, that the cause is in the vital and is still there; it is only the effect which has been cured. But if one can act simultaneously upon both the cause and the effect, and the cause is sufficiently receptive to consent to change, then one is completely cured, once for all.”((( The Mother, CWM, Question and Answers 1950-1951, p. 264-265; as quoted in Integral Healing, p. 219)))

This peace and fullness and joy given by the psychic contact … gives an openness towards the true consciousness…So long as the openness is there, the peace, the fullness and the joy remain with their immediate results of progress, health and fitness in the physical, quietness and goodwill in the vital, clear understanding and broadness in the mental and a general feeling of security and satisfaction.”((( The Mother, CWM 12, On Education, p. 45)))

We shall have occasion to return to this most important domain in the course of our study. But one thing needs to be clarified here. We usually speak of the superconscient as a single level. But here too, there are several levels. The first entry into the superconscient is a kind of silence that is vast and impersonal. One can pass from this static silent self into a still deeper stillness where there is a cessation of all motive, action, thought and impulse into Nirvana. It is this aspect of the superconscient, which is most commonly known as well as feared by the individual. Popularly called Mukti, it is a Nihil wherein all enters a void from which nothing returns.

To a still higher and deeper experience, however, this static, silent liberation marks only a transit stage in our growth. Beyond the silence of Nirvana are states of knowledge and power that can radically alter the conditions of our earthly life, individually as well as collectively. If we persist in our ascent, if the fire of our aspiration is not easily quenched with this personal mukti, then we enter into wider and wider fields of light and peace, joy and love, truth and knowledge in an ascending scale of intensities. Thought is progressively replaced by an outpouring of knowledge, which reveals the truth of things against a background of vastness and oneness. The labouring mind and its tumults are hushed and pass into plenary idea and inspiration, illumination, intuition and identity till there is the utter truth-sight, truth hearing, truth-sense and truth in speech and action. This truth is of course not the truth as we understand it by our limited sense. It is not an informational encyclopaedic knowledge which changes and upgrades itself with time. It is the essential knowledge, a knowledge of the movements of consciousness, exact and precise in its details, even as it is in its essence and yet always carrying the truth of oneness within it. This power of knowledge, once acquired, changes our understanding of everything and each event. It illumines whatever it sees awakening in us, not just the thinker but the seer beyond the thinker. Finally, it passes into that sheer shadow-less truth where each particle is held in harmony with all on the breast of oneness like the billion rays of light are held in the sun. That is the origin of our individual and cosmic existence; it has the power to transform all into an image of its light and rapture.







Health – A Dynamic Equilibrium



The past few decades have seen rapidly changing concepts of health. While the ancients could never view health in isolation and a human being as an egocentric special something, standing apart from the world, the last couple of centuries have become obsessed with the illness concept of health almost exclusively. The extreme reductionism of modern life sciences has also led to an overemphasis of such an isolation of ‘a part against the whole’, demanding an exclusive study.

All this has led to an extremely mechanistic or an almost a mechanistic view of life. According to this view, life is a machine, grossly physical with nuts and bolts to be replaced or overhauled, as and when wear and tear takes place. While the wisdom of the past had extended life not only to man’s immediate surroundings but also to the sun, the moon, the planets and the whole cosmos, the current preoccupation has been with a narrower and still narrower view of life. This has been further exaggerated by the modern tendency to specialise and overspecialize, whereby the same symptom means different things to different specialists and albeit even gets cured equally well or equally badly by them. Even among the super-specialists there is such a disagreement that it will be no exaggeration to say that the doctors today are becoming less comfortable with the living patient and are more at ease while dealing with dead tissues, observing their pathologies under the microscope. Let us examine some of these issues.


The Rhythms

The body is one. Indeed all matter, as we know, is one. If matter is taken to be the basis of all life, then physics is its philosophy. But the physics of today has already entered into a dimension of wholeness, whereby all is being viewed as a dynamic interaction between energy and matter. Matter, they say, materializes and dematerializes and changes from one form to another. Forms disappear into energy, energy flows in a vast arena of space, and space itself is valid only on the huge frame of time. Various forces and radiations are visualised that play with one another in an indivisible unity. Modern physics sounds as abstract as the ancient mystic’s metaphor — ‘All is a dance and a rhythm of the universal shakti that manifests the worlds and absorbs them again’. Where is the rhythm in the human body? And if so, what is its nature? Let us turn to the body itself for an answer.

There is an internal rhythm as we know. This is largely constituted by the hormones or the ‘rasa’, the principle of water, that regulates it. The internal rhythm in turn is influenced by the external rhythm of the environmental world around. There is also the rhythm of sleeping and waking, the process of expansion and contraction of the lungs, the beating of the heart and finally the rhythm of life and death — all, internal, dancing in accordance to their own cadence.

Now what determines these rhythms? In fact, the larger outlines of the phenomenal universe do represent an order. But the more one dissects and reaches the narrower and the smaller, the more one observes an apparent chaos — almost a total absence of rhythm. One school of thought says that this rhythm is environmental, as, for example, of light and darkness. But there is one striking anomaly. We have all observed at some time or the other that we can wake up at a certain time, in fact very precisely, if we consciously ‘will’ it before we sleep. This can easily be tested by anyone. Hence our sleep-wake rhythm can be influenced or is linked to our own thought. Why can’t, by the same extension of logic, our secretions (hormones) and other rhythmic functions be so influenced? That this is so is well demonstrated now by the psychological sciences. Our emotions disturb our rhythm but so can they put them right.((( M.C. Moore-Ede, F.M. Sulzman, C.A. Fuller. The Clocks That Time Us. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982. C.P. Richter. Biological clocks in medicine and Psychiatry. Springfield IL: Charles C Thomson, 1965.))) Our thoughts can derail our rhythm, but so can they entrain them. Unfortunately while psychiatrists, though few, believe in the former, they are not yet fully sure about the latter. Physicians and surgeons are largely unaware of the impact of our thought and emotions upon our body rhythms, including perhaps the rhythms of falling sick and recovering!


The External Factors

Coming back to the forces around us (that regulate our inner balance), we know of only physical ones like temperature, light, wind and humidity. But why not the earth and the moon? Indeed Leiber’s observation that lunar cycles do influence the mind is not all that presumptuous. Already a ‘concerted’ thought is emerging that drugs (e.g. lithium and other antidepressants) could be effecting a cure by re-establishing such a bodily rhythm.((( C.F. Stroebel, Biological Rhythms in Psychiatry. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1980.))) And then, why not presume that the everyday human interactions and interaction with plants and animals could also influence our body? All that we experience mentally, consciously, does call for an adaptive integration. But even all that we do not experience consciously by the mind (e.g. radiation, cosmic bombardments) are also detected by a hitherto unknown ‘body consciousness’ and does call for an adaptation. In other words, the body’s equilibrium is not something static. It is constantly being influenced and changed by forces around it and within it, material and immaterial, calling forth at each moment a newer equilibrium. The people, the social matrix, the atmosphere, the environment, the words we read, the smells we experience, the sound signals we receive, the touches that slip past us, nay our very thoughts (if at all they are ours!) and emotions influence us. It is rather surprising that without our being mentally aware of it the body senses all these changes, rejects and eliminates what it should, accepts what it needs, re-organizes and integrates what it has acquired, assimilates the new and then maintains a so-called constancy or ‘homeostasis’ in its milieu interior. That all this is a mechanical, unconscious, unintelligent process arising out of some primordial chance or cosmic necessity at random will is something that would sound like an extravaganza or primitive logic confined to its narrow cave of experience.


The Outer Equilibrium

What are these cosmic forces around us and what are the basic pathways through which the body relates and interacts with its milieu exterior? As regards the cosmic forces, we have just begun to learn that there are several ways of perceiving them. There is a very narrow perception of our crude external senses. These forces are mainly heat, light, sound, electricity, gravitation and finally magnetic or the electromagnetic. Since our organs of observation (with which incidentally all our sciences begin) are grossly limited, it is noteworthy to stress that there do occur two traditional ways of expanding our horizons of observation. The way of the oriental psyche has been to refine these very senses into subtler and sharper grades and develop other means and ways of sensing things. That this is possible is shown not only by the many recorded and living experiences of mystics all over the world but also by the more accepted fact that loss of one sense can be compensated for by another and loss of one area of the brain and its functions can lead to its awakening in other parts of the brain. The other way is that adopted by the occidental psyche. This lays stress on increased refinement of the external aids, the microscopic eye and the radiation sensors. Both have their utilities and limitations. These forces can be broadly divided into the sensible and the supra-sensible. The two may not be exclusive. The sensible and the supra-sensible may and perhaps do coexist, one overriding the other. The sensible exists as a piece of mechanical physicality or substance perceivable by the senses while the supra-sensible exists as a will and conscious intelligence or as an idea behind it. Physics has already started viewing this world as the manifestation of a conscious will. Life sciences too could easily conclude the same. For example, the same form of bacillus can be harmful or useful depending upon the species, the defence system of the body and the environment around. Observing any mechanism in its purely physical aspect without capturing the idea or the will behind it is meaningless. Is a microbe essentially an expression of a kind of harmful will? Is an observed physical change in an organ necessarily a pathology or an adaptive change? Are all the symptoms of illness, namely fever, vomiting, or diarrhoea, signs of illness or an attempt of the body to rebalance itself and thus favourable indications? That these are favourable has been perceived by Ayurveda and Homoeopathy.((( Boericke William, Organon of Medicine Aphorism. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1992.)))

The same form can represent illness or health. Thus, the white blood cells can multiply in defence or in malignancy. Of course, certain markers are useful, like altered forms or excessive quantity, denoting again a type of disequilibrium. But the central theme becomes clearer, the idea and the will are more important than the form. If we see the form alone we may be grossly misled. One form of antibacterial is replaced by another. One symptom is suppressed and another emerges. One illness is eradicated and another makes its appearance. While illnesses due to malnutrition are controlled, those due to rich diet appear. The drugs which control cancer also kill the body. In fact, the overuse of drugs has disturbed our body’s natural adaptations so greatly that now life may become impossible without external aids and props — with caffeine to stimulate and arouse and a pill to sedate. Nothing can be more dangerous than this. Few of us realise it or even give a serious thought to it. Yet this was realised by the occult sciences developed in ancient India and Egypt. Helplessly, thrown amidst the vast array of cosmic forces, with no instruments to aid, these great civilizations captured the truth of the will and idea behind the physical world which was often regarded as symbolic. Elaborate systems were developed to manipulate both the physical symbol and the psychological idea. It worked and still works for those who have eyes to observe or care to experiment.


The Bridge of Essential Forces

All this is about the cosmos around us. What about the mediators between the world within and the world without? It is the senses that open us to the vast influences of the world around us. This is very obvious. The next line of communication is the nerve channels which transmit these sense contacts to local and higher nerve centres. Though each organ has a certain degree of independence, the feedback is regulated through nerves and hormones. The nerves use both chemicals — rasa and electricity — vidyut. The blood, lungs and digestive system usually use and produce the element of heat or agni through the various metabolic processes which supply the energy for the body’s dynamic activities. This energy is drawn from outside through the breath and food. Certain medicines and psychological processes can increase or decrease ‘heat’ or agni in its jada (root) form within us. As of date, this is the most important factor needed for all life: the breath that is prana and the agni that is will. The elements of agni or heat interact with the elements of vayu or air and aid the natural flow of rasa or water within the gross body or the prthivi. All these elements are held together in a coordinated manner in Space or akasa.

This space or akasa is not an empty vacuum but contains electrical forces and magnetic elements as well as light and sound. Heat would also naturally produce the element of light as is seen in the aura photographed using the Kirlian methods. Since the cosmos can be classified into various elements as delineated above, a whole field of research of interdependence of the human organism and his world is opened up. In other words, we breathe and draw air as well as take food. These elements of vayu and prthivi are taken up and converted into agni. The agni in turn changes into vidyut which through nerve channels circulates all around and within the body. This vidyut projects itself within the internal and the external akasa. However the occult vision of India goes still further and to a conversion of vidyut into virya or the spiritual energy. In some way we already see among mystics that the opening of spiritual faculties is often related to the capacity of drawing energies directly from space and also the expansion of their aura or electrical field.

These elements can also be psychologically classified. Prthivi may represent stability, dullness, obscurity, heaviness; jala may represent movement, but also consciousness; agni more clearly the will and dynamics; vayu, speech and thought; akasa, the element of expansion and capacity to grow all around; vidyut, the pure activity of the mind, reason and intelligence. They may have corresponding regions in the body, for example, the base as prthivi, the abdomen for jala, the lungs and vocal apparatus for vayu, the heart for agni, the head and around it for vidyut and akasa. Ancient wisdom saw these forces and ideas not as unconscious forces but as conscious will, which we can consciously contact and influence. Since the whole cosmos is one and symbolic as well as interdependent, it follows that through concentration upon the corresponding centres, one can reciprocally influence the cosmos around.

All this, of course though logical, may not appeal to a scientist shut in the shell of gross substance. One has to experiment, above all upon oneself, to discover the degree of validity of these truths of ancient wisdom within us. The path, in its broad outlines, has been laid down by the ancient seers. It has been verified, experimented and confirmed through 5,000 years of experience by people of all races, sexes, religions, and strata of society. In this not enough to call each of us to rediscover these facts? Is it not a cliché to call it absurd? And, is it not a scientifically rationalized superstition that we believe in methods which within a century or two of their discovery have begun to show their failure and to not even give thought to systems which have helped humanity over thousands of years? Perhaps, if science is a dogma, we may, like the religious fundamentalist close our eyes, and live in our make-believe world. But if science is a search for truth, we need to explore how and with what modes of knowledge and experience our forefathers discovered truths which despite its advances science is only beginning to understand.


The Link Channels

Two important parallel nervous channels need to be considered here as important elements of this homeostasis or dynamic equilibrium. These are the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous systems. They are grouped as the autonomic nervous system because they are usually not under voluntary control. The two systems meet within the brain in a peculiar organ, the hypothalamus, which controls these as well as the glandular secretions of the body. This organ is in turn under the influence of the cortex. The two pathways travel down and influence most body functions which include the blood circulation, digestion, regulation of temperature and metabolism, breathing and the immune system, which establishes a physical basis for mediation between the mind and the body. These systems characteristically form certain plexuses around the important organs. The parasympathetic deals with anabolic or building up processes, generally slows down the heart and has a ‘calming’ effect upon the body in general. The sympathetic stimulates the heart, releases energy by processes of breakdown and has an ‘excitatory’ effect upon the body in general. It is now known that the two systems have a mutual rhythm. There is another interesting observation. The lifespan of a species is inversely proportional to its heart rate and breathing. This in turn is perhaps programmed genetically for a species if it is not altered by accidents (in a broader sense). Now, here again we find a parallel in Indian thought. The ancient books describe two nerve channels, the left-sided and the right-sided, which have different and complementary effects. A balance of these two channels is preferred. In fact, by practice it has been claimed that autonomous functions like the heart rate and breathing can be brought under voluntary control, thus prolonging life. Regular physical exercise undertaken methodically can also decrease our heart rates and so do meditative processes as is reasonably well-established today. This system and its further exploration open yet another field for integrating the concept of dynamic equilibrium as a basis of health.


The Higher Equilibrium

Lastly, for this review, we come to another set of forces around us which calls forth the body’s capacity to equilibrate. These are the evolutionary forces or the evolutionary urges. In fact, the two pioneers in this field, Darwin and Lamarck have shown that evolution takes place both as an evolutionary environmental pressure for adaptation or a ‘random’ change of genes from within. Is there any conscious evolutionary urge and if so can there be a wilful participation in it is a question that needs careful and serious inquiry. Let us examine it, hence, in a little more detail. What are the fundamental principles of evolution? One, as we have already seen, is an adaptation in terms of survival, due to environmental changes, aided by or caused by random mutations. This theory of random mutations would not however explain the following anomalies:

  1. What determined the step between the evolution of life from matter? According to the ‘Primordial Soup Theory’ propounded by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey as well as J.B.S. Haldane in the early fifties, it was chemical interactions due to specific environmental conditions. But this hypothesis has been supported by belief rather than proof. In fact, repeated experiments in this line have failed to produce life in any form whatsoever.
  2. Experiments have demonstrated that a bacillus and an amoeba, though not equipped with a mind, still exercise a choice. Even an atom exercises a choice of the electrons in its orbit and even its smallest elements choose and change as they interact with their observer. This should logically lead us to think that a mind, an intelligent will, and a consciousness is already involved within the so-called elements and evolution only releases them in higher degrees, thus indicative of a directed process rather than random chance. The same is true of the findings of rudimentary emotions in plants and a rudimentary reason in animals.
  3. Mere survival-oriented mutations would not explain the biggest of all anomalies, that is, the advent of the human being, who in terms of adaptive survival was indeed inferior to lions, gorillas, elephants, snakes and the birds.
  4. And finally, why should chance mutations stop now and not evolve different forms?

These are only a few of the glaring anomalies among many others. So let us for a while view the evolutionary urge from a different standpoint — the psychological one.

In principle, all elements seek some fundamental urges — the joy of union, the striving towards immortality (crudely termed ‘survival of the self and the species’), freedom and expansion and an increasing degree of complexity((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 21-22, The Life Divine, ‘The Human Aspiration’, p. 3))). Interestingly, the form changes too to adapt to this. While in the plant life, the basis is at the roots, in the fully developed or yet to develop human being the basis is in the brain (or the head). There is another urge — the urge of growth from darkness to Light, represented in human beings as a need for knowledge (for just as light illumines that unseen in the physical field, knowledge does the same in the subtler fields).

If this be so, then could it be true that repeated interaction with the forces around us is meant or led by a conscious Evolutionary Force towards an equilibrium of a higher nature. So what we view today, as an increase of illnesses in the last few centuries has nothing to do with germs or illness in the conventional sense at all, but are rapid experiments of Nature aided by a release of forces within us towards a higher evolutionary form. What we observe today are beings in transition. All periods of transition have witnessed similar phenomena, the increased threat to survival sometimes leading to the vanishing of the entire species and other phenomena which are outside the present scope of discussion.


The Future Science of Health

We find that gradually as a result of our understanding, in some measure, however small, the terms mental health, spiritual health, a state of perfect health as well as holistic concepts of health are being evolved. Health, in a new science, would be regarded as a state of equilibrium between the elements within and around. This state of harmony would be the right basis of (w)holistic medicine which would regard all illness as a potential or actual disequilibrium and aim its treatment towards moving into a higher state of equilibrium rather than a fall back into the old ways and habits. Here, illness would be a chance for the body to grow with the rest of its being and cosmos rather than a mere threat to survival. And a growth-oriented psychological medicine would be a greater boon than a mere prolongation of life and extension of one’s sickly sojourn upon this earth.



Illness – An Inner Disequilibrium



Our understanding of illness has to move from an excessive preoccupation with structural pathology towards a completer view of the phenomenon. Gross physical illness is only the last and visible end result of a cascading inner misery. The physical organs are the final frontiers and outposts to bear the shock of a deeper inner pathology. Structural pathology is the outermost instrument registering the inner disequilibrium — a last and final call for change. This does not mean it is of any less value. Quite the contrary. The presence of structural pathology does complicate things and therefore it cannot be ignored or belittled. But to keep on correcting the outer body without any meaningful effort to correct the inner fault is like changing the fuse wire each time it blows off without trying to explore the reasons for the fluctuation of the current and the voltage.

In fact, modern medicine itself has moved away from gross anatomical lesions to lesions at biochemical, genetic, molecular and even electro-physiologic levels (as in epilepsy and certain forms of ischemic heart diseases [IHD]). Equally, there is an acknowledgment of the role of lifestyle, personality traits, thoughts and emotions in triggering an illness. It won’t be surprising if, in the next 20 years, we move yet deeper and discover that physical abnormality is only a gross reflection of an imbalance in the pattern of consciousness energy. We may discover, for instance, using techniques of crystallography, that drugs correct molecular aberrations simply by imposing/reminding the diseased part of its healthy pattern, by casting its own unique pattern which somewhere corresponds to the part. This realignment or reorganisation can occur not only with allopathic drugs, but also with other forms of therapy (including water molecules) if the crystallographic or, better, the nature of energy field matches the part. But for this, we may have to wait a little longer. Our infant science has not yet stopped playing with matter. It is still attracted to the molecular toys and their magic. Once, however, it has played to its fullest extent, there is time for higher learning. Once we have explored not only the full potential but also the limits of our toys, we shall be ready for the high school of scientific education.

The limits are already beginning to appear. Even infectious diseases, whose conquest appeared stunningly superb, are beginning to return, and return with a vengeance. How long shall we remain blind to the fact that our look-alike toy is undoubtedly marvellous but not the real thing? The secret of health still eludes us. Death and disease still take their toll and continue to pick and choose their prey. We can only delay death a little. We replace heart for heart and liver for liver; we may replace even the physical body with a robot or a clone. But even a clone is only a look-alike. The experience and consciousness is different. And unless we learn to replace consciousness, replacing the wrong movement with the right, the false vibration with the true one, we shall move in circles, perhaps bigger and bigger circles, but on the same plane, returning to the same mysterious ‘nought’ that swallows our best efforts.


Illness – A Disequilibrium

One thing all healers would agree with is that an illness is essentially a disequilibrium. That is to say, the aberration (whether molecular or subtle) becomes an aberration only in relation to the whole. A crude example would suffice. Certain chemicals can kill humans with toxic levels but not a shark. Even within us, an abnormal function translates into an illness only because it has a cascading effect upon the entire organism. Systems may differ in defining the nature of the disequilibrium, but all agree that there is a disequilibrium. At the physical level it is obvious enough. Thus, there may arise a disharmony within the different cellular groups of a particular organ, or to go still deeper, between the different components of a cell. So too the dysfunction and imbalance may be a lack of harmony between the different organs in the supply and demand of different functions. Thus, the allopathic homoeostasis is seen at the level of the cells and organs. The Ayurvedic physician speaks of disequilibrium at a more fundamental level, an excess or deficiency of the five subtle elements and the three fundamental forces of nature in relation to each other. Homeopaths understand disequilibrium in terms of an imbalance in the vital force and so do many Chinese and Tibetan systems. The flower therapist works out the disequilibrium at a deeper mental and emotional level, whereas the pranic healers discover the disequilibrium at the level of chakras in the energy fields. These systems, therefore, actually complement each other. A day may come when we may understand diagnosis by relating and describing the disequilibrium at each level and prescribe a corresponding therapy.

Thus, we may consider a particular patient with blocked coronaries as reflecting a psychological attitude of blocking his emotions and holding things back. We may go on to see that this has led to congestion of vital force in some parts and depletion in others and also, we may notice, an altered energy field at the ‘heart chakra’ leading to an imbalance. The healing too will follow at multiple levels of which physical intervention through Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery would be only one aspect of the treatment. The other levels also need to be addressed simultaneously. In a strictly physical model of disease, we may mock this whole exercise by simply saying that it makes no difference so long as the clot is removed and the heart has resumed its function. That may or may not be so for the physician, but it makes a difference to the man who returns after a few weeks or months or years with another heartache. In our infant enthusiasm and over-eagerness, we forget that man is not just a body and except for the most crude and animal side of humanity, we cannot be simply satisfied by our heavy bellies and empty hearts. We are more and we need to be more.

From the consciousness point of view, the disequilibrium can take place in the following ways:

  1. A disequilibrium purely at the level of the body between the different organs. This may happen because of overuse of a few and underuse of others or a disparity between demand and supply. This in turn may be at organic or at the functional level, in other words involving the structures or involving only the functions.
  2. To this we may add the disequilibrium due primarily to the vital. This is mainly due to excess desires leading first to an irritation of the organs, and second to false and an abnormal increase in demand upon the body. Along with excess desires come almost as a package deal the other two factors that we know as fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety are perverse wills that attract the object of fear by constantly meditating upon it.
  3. (To these two we may add the disequilibrium due to the mind and its fixed ideas and rigid dogmas and doubts and even so-called rational and scientific beliefs in the causation of illness. There are, in addition, contradictory wills in us that add to the misery. There are even perverse wills that hold on to the illness for various reasons.
  4. Then there is the additional factor of different pace of progress in the different parts of our nature, leading to an internal conflict, quarrel, disharmony and consequent imbalance.
  5. The totality of our being includes an inner and an outer nature. A great disparity between the two movements, inner and outer, can also lead to an internal dislocation translated as an illness.
  6. Finally, we do not exist in isolation and therefore even if we were to isolate ourselves physically and harmonise, we cannot isolate ourselves fully at a deeper level. The disharmony between our being and the physical and psychological environment around us is another factor in the causation of illness. There are even forces of illness and disorder, not only the gross ones that we know of but subtler ones, concealed even to a microscopic sense but revealed to the subtle sense and vision of the yogi. These and other factors contribute to the formation that we call as an illness, an end product of many processes.


Knowledge – A Help and a Hindrance

It is said and rightly so that half knowledge is a dangerous thing. An absence of knowledge can be compensated by a right kind of faith. But an arrogance of ignorance passed off as knowledge is a very dangerous thing, since it closes our doors of higher perceptions. We can, for example, have trust that the All-Knower will pull us out of a difficulty or disease and distress if we understand nothing or know not what do about it. Often it helps, sometimes powerfully enough to look like a miracle. The truth of the matter is simply that by not knowing and therefore opening the doors to the All-Knower we invoke a much greater power and its far-reaching intervention. But by knowing a little we may develop a false sense of security and thereby close the doors to other forms of a higher intervention.

What we often and perhaps unwittingly do by our half knowledge is to instil fear, through the use of terms, which do little good to the patient except creating anxiety. They only help in creating in the patient an even greater sense of helplessness. After all how can one fight an enemy whose very name is a mystery, evoking unknown fears, and whose sword of terror seems to be hopelessly stuck in our cells and our genes or whatever else. The word of the physician only makes our fears grow worse by giving strange powers to this demon of disease. How often do we hear a physician talk about only the negative side of an illness? How often do we hear him blaming it all on the genes and chemicals beyond our apparent control? We need to inspire the faith of the patient in his own abilities to help himself, in the great wisdom and power of Nature that is conscious and not just a blindly driven machine, and in God who is the caretaker of every destiny. By doing these together we may create the best possible conditions for a cure.

Yes, there is a lot more we can do for patients, if we understand the rationale behind an illness and take charge of ourselves. We can and must collaborate in the healing process, provided of course we understand it. And this is a crucial task of the physician. Merely sticking a label and prescribing a pill is not enough. But one can’t blame the physician. Our medical schools based on the reductionist model teach us nothing more than being a dignified and efficient machine. And the patient too is for us nothing else but another machine to be repaired just as we repair a car or a computer without any conscious collaboration from either. But those who have dealt with machines for a long period know better. Machines too respond to us and can and do collaborate. Man is obviously much more.

What we need is to replace our thoroughly mechanical and mechanistic model of man and diseases with a conscious approach to both. Man is conscious, cells are conscious, even germs and elements and the chemicals we use are conscious in their own obscure way. The ancient healer who prepared and dispensed the medicines himself, taking care to invoke a higher presence to aid the drug, knew intuitively a great truth missed by the modern physician. The present-day medico driven as much by the market of drugs and the commercial motives behind it has lost faith in everything except the chemicals and of that too he is becoming increasingly unsure! No wonder the intuitive age saw the healer heal with his pink and green mixtures almost as effectively as our man today armed with a glossary of drugs. Of course he knew less, but he compensated this absence of knowledge by a right kind of faith. Today, we apparently know more but only one-tenth of the truth. The price of this half knowledge, inspiring arrogance, is a loss of faith and that indeed is the real danger. The almost superstitious belief in the omnipotence of germs, in the inevitability of the worst if untreated, is a wrong kind of belief supported by half knowledge that sees only one side of a many-sided reality. The result is the worst kind of dogma, a worse form of material fatalism, a scientifically supported, rational superstition!

In fact, a contemporary modern physician is not only brainwashed and conditioned into thinking in terms of physical pathology, he almost comes out with an air of vanity that refuses to admit any grain of truth in any other system. And, by doing so, one closes the doors to truth and knowledge. One isolates oneself in one’s ignorance. One is imprisoned by one’s vanity.

What we need to be cautious about is that we are not substituting one word for another more frightening one, nor adding to the misery by injecting fear and anxiety through the syringes of our medical knowledge. Knowledge is a power, no doubt, but a power that can be turned to good or bad use unless of course it is the highest and total knowledge. A knowledge that leads to a frightening ambiguity is best left unsaid. Besides being an intellectual honesty, it is also practical wisdom and medical diplomacy.


Why Me?

This is one of those yet unanswered questions in medical science. Given the same agent and environment what are the factors in the host that invite an illness. Although there is a preoccupation with outer causes of illness including germs and toxins, we are now beginning to look inward for the inner causes. But are we looking deep enough? Are genes and their regulatory mechanism the last word of life? We have to look beyond the genes into the hidden aspects of our own personality wherein the forces of illness find support and settle down. What is a germ after all but a tiny little physical entity combined with a vital vibration of disorder and a mental suggestion of fear. The physical element alone minus the vital and mental forces of disorder is of little consequence. And to these forces of disintegration we lend further support through fear in the mind and the body, through self-doubt and defeatism, through a selfish turning back upon ourselves that cuts us off from the great streams of Divine energy that can rejuvenate us. When we do that we create a favourable ground for an illness to settle itself.

On the other hand, in the face of an approaching illness we can learn how to enter deep within us, thereby creating in and around us a very quiet vibration, a vibration of peace, of health, of harmony, of light, of goodwill and cheer which creates a sort of protective shield helping us resist the most sinister of attacks. Even if one cannot remain always in this state (it is not an easy affair for many of us) we can try to be on guard as soon as we feel the negative vibration approaching us. Some people know it instinctively, in their bones as they say; others can learn to become aware of this almost material sensation of illness. In fact, it manifests at each level. It may manifest as a strange and disagreeable sensation in taste and smell, or an unpleasant feeling of something touching us at a distance. It may change the very quality of air around, or else manifest itself as a feeling of fear, or even a frank suggestion that one is going to fall ill. And lo and behold the prophecy is fulfilled more often than not!

Finally, of course, there are factors that prolong the malady and allow it to return and recur again and again. The prolongation is usually due to the mind holding on to the malady either due to fear or to some reward. It is almost like falling in love with the illness. One does not want to let it go, one clings to it and wants oneself to be looked after.

Even if one has successfully eliminated these props from active awareness, it remains buried in the subconscient depths and returns at an opportune moment when we are caught unawares. It is this subconscient that needs to be changed if we are to find a permanent solution to the problem of illness, their chronicity and recurrence. This unfortunately is a yet to be achieved thing though a promise for the future. On the successful change of our subconscient nature rests the hope of humanity perfectly immune from illnesses.

“The possibilities of illness are always there in your body and around you; you carry within you or there swarm about you the microbes and germs of every disease. How is it that all of a sudden you succumb to an illness which you did not have for years? You will say it is due to a “depression of the vital force”. But from where does the depression come? It comes from some disharmony in the being, from a lack of receptivity to the divine forces. When you cut yourself off from the energy and light that sustain you, then there is this depression, there is created what medical science calls a “favourable ground” and something takes advantage of it. It is doubt, gloominess, lack of confidence, a selfish turning back upon yourself that cuts you off from the light and divine energy and gives the attack this advantage. It is this that is the cause of your falling ill and not microbes.”((( The Mother, Questions and Answers — 1929–1931, 19 May 1929)))

“…You thought for months perhaps or even for years, you thought you were completely rid of a certain kind of illness which you suffered from, and you no longer paid any attention, and suddenly one day it returns as though it had never gone; it springs up again from the subconscient …. And the method is to change the subconscient into the conscient — if each thing that rises to the surface becomes conscious, at that moment it must be changed.”((( The Mother, Questions and Answers — 1955, 11 May 1955)))


Faith and Will

Faith is the reflex of knowledge known to our deepest self, but concealed to our outer mind and its partial, clouded vision. Also, will is the reflex of power clothing itself in terms of human effort. Seen this way, illness is nothing but a wrong faith and a perverse will. Therefore, it can be seen as a falsehood of the mind and the body which misuse and misapply these two powers in a wrong way. Wrong faith and wrong will are the secret origin of illness just as right faith and right will are the starting points of a truly effective cure. Of course when we speak of faith, we do not mean just a mental faith but a faith that is integral, ingrained in the very stuff of the body cells. Will too does not mean here the mental will alone but the sum total of energies directed towards different ends in life. Thus there may be a faith and will for recovery in the mind but a twist in the vital consciousness perversely willing to fall sick and even having faith in the gospel of sickness and tragedies. These contradictory wills and a self-defeating faith is much more common than we think — only we are not aware of it. Illness, tragedies, suffering comes knocking at our door to make us aware of it. It comes to help us discover and reject the wrong movements and to harmonise the contradictions. In fact, it is like a work we are born to do to become one-pointed in right faith and a right will, to align these from their errant and deviant course till we discover the practical omniscience of knowledge and the omnipotence of will.

Modern medicine has indeed begun to admit, however obscurely and in a limited way, the role of faith and will in health and healing. When we observe in this way, we find that an illness is a pointer. But a pointer to what? Not only of a biochemical imbalance but of a deeper imbalance, a more fundamental disequilibrium, a deeper malady seated in our mind and life. When we are not able to see or stop the malady at these subtler levels, then we have gross pathology, as a reminder to our soul of the ‘yet to be achieved perfection,’ lest we forget to evolve and shut ourselves in the glass-case comforts of our civilisation. The deeper malady is not merely recording an imbalance at the mental-vital-physical levels. It is not even an imbalance in the energy fields and the chakras. All these are only pointers. The subtle imbalance is as much a pointer as the gross imbalance. They are not the source. And unless we correct the source of the problem, the malady will return, under one guise or another. Even intervention at subtle levels would only be temporary, only a help in ‘buying time’, just as our physical remedies do.

The source of the malady is within us, in the many contradicting and conflicting wills, in each element that chooses to cut itself off from its divine origin and so suffers diminution, disease and death. Each element that is thus cut off becomes a free-floater, creating the climate for diseases and even inviting it. It creates the imbalance at the level of consciousness and hence at the energy level and chakras. This in turn results in disease and illness. Our body is like a battlefield of many conflicting elements. In this physical body alone, we find all the planes, forces, movements and energies of Nature trying to manifest themselves. The body is the seat of the difficulty. And the body will be the last crown of victory. Not the body as we understand it today. But the body as a symbol where each force and energy come knocking at its doors to manifest it. The different parts of our nature move at different paces, offering different degrees of resistance to the evolutionary force. The result is an inner dislocation translated in terms of an outer illness.


Illness – Its Inner Causes

“There are internal quarrels among the different parts of yourself. Supposing there is an organ (it happens very often) that needs rest and there is another that wants action, and both at the same time. How are you going to manage it? They begin to quarrel. … And then, at times, if you add to the physical the vital and mental; … well, if there is a dispute between them … you have a battlefield, and this battlefield can become the cause of all possible illness. They fight violently. One wants something, the other does not, they quarrel and you are in a kind of internal whirlwind. That can give you fever — you do get it usually — or else you are seized by an inner shivering and you no longer have any control. For the most important of all causes for bodily illness is that the body begins to get restless; it trembles and the trembling increases more and more, more and more and you feel that you will never be able to reestablish the balance. It eludes you. … [p. 174]

You see there are reasons! — many reasons, numberless reasons. For all these things combine in an extraordinarily complex way. …

But the difficulties that are within are also without. You can, to a certain extent, establish an inner equilibrium, but you live in surroundings full of imbalance. … You give and you receive; you breathe in and absorb. So there is a mixture and that is why one can say that all is contagious, for you live in a state of ceaseless vibrations. You give out your vibrations and receive also the vibrations of others, and these vibrations are of a very complex kind. … [p. 177]

Unhappily there is much bad will in the world, and among the different kinds of bad will there is the small type that comes from ignorance and stupidity, there is the big type that comes from wickedness and there is the formidable one that is the result of anti-divine forces. So, all that is in the atmosphere (I am not telling you this to frighten you, for it is well understood that one should fear nothing — but it is there all the same) and these things attack you, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. … [p. 178]

Therefore most microbes have behind them a bad will and that is what makes them so dangerous. … … The microbe is a very material expression of something living in a subtle physical world and that is why these very microbes … that are always around you, within you, for years together do not make you ill and then suddenly they make you fall ill. There is another reason. The origin of the microbes and their support lie in a disharmony, in the being’s receptivity to the adverse force. [p. 180]

You may have opened the door through spiritual error, through a movement of vanity, of anger, of hatred or of violence … that can open the door.” [p. 185]

— The Mother((( The Mother, CMW 5, Questions and Answers — 1953, pp. 174-185)))

“In the ordinary life of man progressive dislocation is the rule. The mental and vital beings of man follow as best they can the movement of universal forces, and the stream of the world’s inner transformation and evolution carries them a certain way; but the body bound to the law of the most material nature, moves very slowly. After some years, seventy or eighty … the dislocation is so serious that the outer being falls to pieces. The divergence between the demand and the answer, the increasing inability and irresponsiveness of the body, brings about the phenomenon of death.”

— The Mother((( The Mother, CMW 3, Questions and Answers — 1929–1931, p. 87)))

The phenomenon of contradictory wills is therefore not just an individual but also a cosmic phenomenon. There are contradictory wills, bad wills, revolted and resisting wills in the universe to whose influences we may open. This compounds the problem since we do not exist in isolation. We are all (the entire creation, in fact) tied in a knot of oneness for good or for worse. The positive side of this knot of oneness is that a progress in any one element anywhere leads to a corresponding progress in all similar elements across the globe. That indeed is one key towards freeing the earth of the scourge of illness. It is not through slogans and expensive medicines that the victory will be won for this earth, but by the collective effort of each individual to conquer one contradictory element in oneself and to align it rightly. The flip side, however, is that our individual recoveries and temporary cures are illusory and provide only a false sense of security. Here, as elsewhere, the formula is that nothing is achieved till it is achieved for the whole.

An illness, essentially a breach in our equilibrium, can therefore be understood at so many levels, each complementing the other. So seen, it becomes an opportunity to open a door to inner discovery. While one should never welcome an illness, yet when it comes, one can absorb the lesson and move forward. It is almost like the cry of a child (one part of Nature) drawing the attention of his parents (other more developed parts) to help him keep pace with them. It is indeed a cry for help, but as much a cry for inner help as outer. The outer help is sometimes like a milk bottle which an ignorant mother thrusts into the baby’s mouth, at other times like a violent slap, to stop the baby from crying, without really understanding the underlying need. The bottle and the slap do seem to work instantaneously but only for a while. They often confuse the child even more. The need returns and so does the cry. And thus humanity is caught up in a vicious cycle of illness-recovery-illness, rather than the positive cycle of health-illness-greater health.


A New Taxonomy

So far we are studying and classifying illnesses on the basis of outer appearances. Clinical diagnosis is at best syndrome based. The physical appearances and the changes thereof are no doubt more easily observable and recordable. It is easy to handle clear-cut syndromes based on outer symptoms and signs and then launch a search for discovering specific therapies to correct these outer symptoms. Our views however change when we discover that these symptoms and signs are not the illness but only an outer manifestation of deeper pathologies. The same pathology may express itself in very different ways and through very different outer manifestations. Let’s take the case of hypertension. The outer recordable anomaly is the elevated blood pressure. However, even when we reduce the blood pressure, the damage carries on in other systems due to a common underlying cause, say of atherosclerosis. Also the outer manifestation of elevated blood pressure may be due to a number of inner causes. This much is very obvious to all physicians. If we extend the logic a little deeper, it may not be very difficult to surmise three or four common roots for all illnesses and perhaps just one common seed corrupting the tree of human life and afflicting disease and death upon this planet. Tackle this seed of death and we have finally uprooted the whole tree of diseases for the human race. Remove the roots and we have effectuated a lasting cure for the individual. True, it may take a while before the shoots shrivel up, deprived of nourishment, but the surgery is radical and the cure permanent. In contrast, leave the roots and the seed while trimming off the wild and ungainly branches and the problem returns again and again in another form and name.

Thus we have a fourfold progression of illness:

  • The first or the seed state is the common inheritance of the entire race. This inheritance is however not a genetic one but a psychological and spiritual one. It is the seed of falsehood planted deep in the inconscient foundation of life that corrupts everything. This seed is nourished by the soil of ignorance that guards it safely in the dark depths of matter from a too rapid awakening to light.
  • The second level at which the illness manifests are the roots thrown up by this seed of falsehood and ignorance. These roots are in our psychological nature in the form of desire and its accompanying fear, anxiety, greed, agitation, doubt, division, disharmony. Its tentacles spread out from the subconscient to the physical and lower vital nature of man. The poison flowing up from this unhealthy sap can reach even the mind and afflict it with wrong and unhealthy and negative thought patterns.
  • This is the third step leading to formation of wrong patterns of flow of consciousness, energy, physiological and electro-chemical functions, and habits of response of life and body.
  • The last and final step, the fourth level of manifestation of the illness is the physical pathology and organ/system affliction.

From the consciousness point of view there is a need to evolve a new taxonomy classifying illnesses as arising at the different levels of our nature. This will have a practical bearing upon the modes of treatment. However, given the common inheritance of humanity and the unregenerate subconscient and lower vital nature, one may proceed to act without necessarily going into the finer subtleties of the inner phenomenon. That is one big advantage of the consciousness approach. You don’t just tackle individual diseases but the disease. Each disease becomes a door of possibility for getting rid of all diseases. Besides, it can supplement and complement any approach or system of medicine by taking care of other levels and all levels ignored in systems that work in isolation and mutual exclusion. The consciousness approach is therefore not an alternate method, not even an alternate paradigm, but a new approach and a new paradigm that gives us a truly holistic vision of the phenomenon of illness and health. It is a total and integral view of health and illness because it is based upon a total and integral view of man and creation.

Living in an age of appearances, our view of power and control is equated with the capacity to alter appearances. It has its meaning though. For appearance is the last step through which a web is woven by the pattern and design of phenomenon in such a way that consciousness and energy fully hides behind it. It is like the gift-wrapper that gives the impression of the quality of the gift inside. But in reality, an appearance is only a mask. And just as the same psychological type of humanity can hide behind different colours of the skin, cutting across nations and races, so too the same inner disequilibrium can give rise to different clusters of symptomatology. This will explain many things like the variation of symptoms with the same underlying pathology.

Take for instance angina (angina pectoris). The same phenomenon may arise due to coronary blockage (or even no blockage), others with 2 or 3 vessels, still other after 5 arteries are blocked. What is even more surprising is that there are those who live on to old age and die of some other problem despite the post-mortem revealing a triple vessel block. The association is fixed more in our minds than in the human body. For in the body, many more forces and factors are at play at any given time, both in causing as well as in curing a disease. We have to look at these forces, within the individual and in the cosmos, and their relation to the corresponding planes with regard to health and diseases.


Forces of Illness

The human body has been in the habit of responding to all kinds of forces that lead to illness. But it is not yet habituated to open to the One Force, the Divine Force, or even to the forces of a New Consciousness that come to make it grow and progress. The body is unable to respond adequately or even to keep pace with the evolutionary pressure. The result is an increasing dislocation, an increasing inability to respond to the forward-going current of life. This is what translates itself as illness and old age and subsequently death. In other words, disequilibrium can arise within the various planes of our nature. This may happen when one part of nature advances at a fairly different pace than the other parts. This leads to an internal conflict, a locking up and dissipation of energies, a disharmony and consequent illness. The main seat of this difficulty is usually in the vital nature. It pulls us in different directions and leaves us at the mercy of every passing wave. The cosmic forces of illness usually enter through this lower vital door, especially when our consciousness is less vigilant as in sleep, fatigue or in the company of people who lower our consciousness further. An excess of vital movements forces the body to work beyond its normal limits leading to strain and disintegration. Strong movements of greed and desire, anger and fear, ambition and vanity let loose the forces of disintegration through our vital nature. Essentially these forces create turbulence in nature, a restless movement of energies and agitated vibrations that disturb calm and peace, two forces indispensable to cure.

Sometimes these forces of disintegration can enter through sympathy with someone who harbours these forces. The true movement towards the sick is therefore not sympathy or pity but compassion and kindness. Pity and sympathy are weak movements and put us in relation to the forces that we recoil from or attach ourselves to. Compassion and kindness is a higher movement, like goodwill, and understand and help from above without getting caught by the forces they work upon. Compassion and goodwill are essentially soul-movements; sympathy and pity are largely vital and sentimental movements sharing the general obscurity of the vital nature.

Then of course there may be other movements of the mind and vital supporting the illness. Thus, anxiety, worry, doubt, depression, negative preoccupation of thought, etc. prolong the illness and allow the morbid forces to flourish since the mind and vital support it by constantly dwelling upon them. A diversion of the mind and vital from these unhealthy, morbid preoccupation with the disease is a prerequisite to an early cure.

“Disease is needlessly prolonged and ends in death oftener than is inevitable, because the mind of the patient supports and dwells upon the disease of his body.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 12, Essays Divine and Human, p. 474)))


The Fear Factor

“It is through fear that the door is opened and you catch the illness. Those who have no fear can go about freely and generally they catch nothing. But still … you may have no fear in the mind, you may have no fear even in the vital, but who has no fear in the body?… Very few.

A strict discipline is needed to cure the body of fear. The cells themselves tremble. It is only by discipline, by yoga that one can overcome this fear. But it is a fact that one can catch anything through fear, even invite an accident. And, you see, from a certain point of view everything is contagious.”((( The Mother, CWM 5, Questions and Answers 1953, p. 166)))

Disequilibrium may also arise between the inner and outer being. The individual may be in circumstances that do not allow a full expression of his inner being. Or they may retard the possibilities of progress for the inner being despite an urge for the same. This divergent pull within and without may lead to accidents, other forms of illness and in an extreme cases even death. This happens when the inner being decides that staying in a particular form of body and environment is coming strongly in the way of future development and therefore decides to change over. When there is a dispute between the inner and outer being, the choice of the inner being must prevail even if it means a radical psychological surgery for the person. Man suffers not only from a suppression of the subconscious, but much more from a suppression of the inner being and the superconscious.

All this of course relates to the individual. Then there are forces in universal Nature at each corresponding plane. It is these universal forces that keep throwing the dust each time we clear it. The principle here is that each one of us works like a dynamo to generate forces that keep circulating in the universal pool. The forces we generate return back to us sooner or later. The law of a curved physical universe applies to all planes. The curvature is such that each force thrown out comes back multiplied a hundredfold to the point of its apparent origin. This happens often when we no more have its utility for ourselves and we forget that these are the energies that we apparently set into motion. This compounds the difficulty of conquering individual problems. More immediate to us is the environmental consciousness, some forces thrown out by us recently, some attracted by us through secret affinity, some such as bad-will, thrown out by others and catching us unawares because of a breach in our defences. They may also enter our environmental consciousness by default contamination through close association (for example, the sexual act) with those who carry these forces in their atmosphere. The true contagion is indeed a psychological one and we are strangely complacent about it while all the time being worried about physical contagion.

Then there are distinct subtle forces whose very work is to eat up and attack and destroy. Their true function is to test the resilience and the defences of the individual but they often overdo their job and of course with support from us. These forces actively playing their role of disintegration are mainly of two types — the Adverse Forces and the Hostile Forces.

The adverse forces play upon the universal problems and make them appear too magnified and insurmountable. They distort appearances making things of small magnitude appear large and those of real significance appear small. Thus, they may exaggerate the possible consequences of an illness thereby making us feel an increase of symptoms. They may quietly suggest to us that this is an incurable illness and nothing can really help. They may aggravate fear, anxiety, greed, and distress creating a sense of helplessness against formidable difficulties. This state of helplessness makes us fall in our consciousness to a tamasic state. This actually impairs our capability to heal ourselves leading to a vicious cycle of a self-fulfilling negative prophecy and prognostication. On the other side they may create the sense of incapacity of will and faith, thus creating hurdles in our recovery.

The hostile forces are far more vicious and dangerous. They throw heaps of doubt and confusion, truckloads of guilt and depression, perverse thoughts and suggestions, create abnormal fears leading to an utter chaos. They disrupt the smooth functioning of any part that is vulnerable which they choose to attack. They disrupt thought so that the individual can no more think coherently and clearly, disrupt the will and even pervert it to flow towards lower pursuits. They eat up not only the will but also the faith, thereby hammering us thoroughly. Thus battered only those elements can survive that are truly touched by the soul and are under its influence; the rest fragment. Of course something in us opens to their influence, something in us is always vulnerable to their attacks, but they seem to have a special attraction for those individuals and groups who are apparently making an effort to progress. It is as if the sincerity of our effort and readiness could not be perfected without their evolutionary challenge and testing devices!

“The lower nature is ignorant and undivine, not in itself hostile but shut to the Light and Truth. … The forces of the lower nature are often rebellious and resist transformation out of attachment to the familiar movements of the Ignorance, desire, vanity, pride, lust, self-will etc., but they are not in their nature hostile.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Letters on Yoga – IV, pp. 763-764)))

the adverse forces take advantage of any perturbation of that kind, for it opens, as it were a passage to their action. Fear is the one thing that one must never feel in face of them, for it makes them bold and aggressive.

The hostile forces are anti-divine, not merely undivine; they make use of the lower nature, pervert it, fill it with distorted movements and by that means influence man and even try to enter and possess or at least entirely control him. … When this happens there is often a temporary possession or at least an irresistible influence which makes the thoughts, feelings, actions of the person abnormal — a black clouding of the brain, a whirl in the vital, all acts as if the person could not help himself and were drawn by an overmastering force.

The hostile forces have a certain self-chosen function: it is to test the condition of the individual, of the work, of the earth itself and their readiness for the spiritual descent and fulfilment.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Letters on Yoga – IV, pp. 758, 763, 765, 782)))

These then are the forces that we have to tackle in our brush with illness. It is only possible by injecting ourselves with the forces of health and integration. For just as there are forces of disease and death so too there are forces of health and life and upon these we must focus more.


Environment and Illness

We are neither alone nor isolated in the world. Rather there is much more intermingling than we really imagine. Fear enters us through and despite the tightest doors. Desire pours upon us in streams in spite of isolation. The true contagion is not just physical but even more psychological. We have already discussed its role in illness. However, it has a role in accidents as well. Accidents are due to two main reasons. The first and foremost is of course a moment of unconsciousness within. There is, in addition, an atmosphere in which accidents thrive. These may be accident spots as we know already. These spots are not explicable by purely physical reasons. There are mischievous entities that make us blind for one moment, and it is a mischief which is very expensive for the one who is blinded.

Added to this, there are some people who carry this atmosphere of accident within them and are as if not only accident-prone but also attract accidents around them. This collective atmosphere is very important in group tragedies.

“There is a moment for choice, even in an accident. For instance, one slips and falls. Just between the moment one has slipped and the moment one falls there is a fraction of a second. At that moment one has the choice. …. Only, the consciousness must naturally be wide awake and one must be in contact with one’s psychic being constantly. … Between the moment one slips and the moment one is on the ground, if the mental and psychic formation is sufficiently strong, then there is nothing, nothing will happen — nothing happens.” [p. 402]

“Afterwards there is yet another moment. … One has fallen, one is already hurt; but there is still a moment when one can change things for the better or worse … And this — this is the sort of thing one sees all the time, all the time here! There are people who could have been killed and who came out of it unscathed; there are others for whom it was not serious, and it becomes serious.” [p. 403]

“Some have such an awakened consciousness … at the second it is required they call the help. Or they invoke the divine Force. But just at the second it is needed. So the danger is averted, nothing happens. They could have been killed: they come out of it absolutely unhurt. Others, on the contrary, as soon as they have the least little scratch, something gets dislocated in their being: a sort of fright or pessimism or defeatism in their consciousness which automatically comes up — it was nothing, they had just twisted their leg and the next minute they break it … it is an attitude of the being, it is the consciousness reacting in the right way. It goes quite far, very far, it is formidable, the power of this attitude…” [p. 404]

“In collective accidents, what is interesting is exactly the proportion, the sort of balance or disequilibrium, the combination made by the different atmospheres of people.” [p. 406]

— The Mother((( The Mother, CWM 5, Questions and Answers 1953)))


A Shift of Focus

What is necessary, therefore, is to shift our focus from outer to inner causes of health and illness. We have to also shift our focus from ways of curing diseases to ways of inculcating health. We need to be preoccupied more with health and methods to stimulate immunity and boost natural defences rather than spending so much energy in morbid phenomenon. To inculcate health is to keep away every possible disease. To re-establish a state of harmony and health is to cure oneself irrespective of the outer pathology. And when we speak of natural immunity to diseases, we do not wish to confine the vastness and complexity of nature to physical nature alone but include supraphysical and non-material means of immunity as well. There is a means of immunizing oneself against attacks of illnesses that is appropriate to each plane. Just as we use physical means to boost physical immunity so too we can use inner psychological and spiritual means to defend ourselves against these various attacks.

We have already alluded to these means earlier while talking about the various planes. In short, we fall ill when we veil the inner healer or the soul within us. We recover and prevent every possible illness when we awaken and put our troubled nature in contact with the soul. We can take an analogy. Supposing there has been no rain for consecutive years leading to famine. Now one approach is to reach out immediate help by digging deeper wells, shifting water from other places, conserving available water, etc. It has its place in the short term. But this exercise becomes counterproductive in the long run if we do not address the real issue and focus our attention on ways and means of getting back the rain. Health is and should be the natural state of a human being. Disease is an anomaly and therefore our focus should be on getting back this state of health once again. The best way to dispel darkness is to create light rather than struggle with approximations. Consciousness is precisely the key that helps us understand the barriers that obscure and veil the natural state of health in us. We can best understand this with reference to the various planes of consciousness and their relation to our health and diseases.







The Mystery of Death



Death, the great annihilator of the works of time, is the only thing certain about life. Yet we know nearly nothing about this event with any certainty. For all our modern and scientific development, we cannot predict death. It remains as enigmatic as it has always been. All that we know is that death exists but what it is we do not know. We have observed something about the processes of death but not the why and how of it. So too we have learnt something about what happens to the physical body after death but we have little clue about the self and its experience after death. Most do not come back to tell us what happened behind the iron curtain that abruptly ends life. The few who return, remember very little. And the rare ones who both return and remember are ignored by modern science. Thus, a useful body of evidence is lost just because it would shake the very foundations of our theory of material reductionism. For material processes are, in the final analysis, only a last step in a chain and series of events that happen simultaneously or successively on other Time-Space domains of our vast cosmic existence.


The Law and Inevitability of Death

Is death inevitable?

We are so accustomed to observing and therefore believing in the inevitability of death that is taken as a fact never to be questioned. Both philosophy and science would jointly agree on this one issue that all that is born must inevitably die one day.

Let us examine this one settled fact a little more closely. In the plant kingdom, there are some trees that have been alive since the beginning of vegetation. Not only do they live, but they continue to grow fresh shoots with every season. From a holistic and consciousness point of view, we may say that they have arrived at a certain balance and harmony with their environment and therefore they continue to thrive and grow. In other words, these trees are plastic and adaptable to the demands of life around them. Also certain simple unicellular organisms like the amoeba do not die. They may be killed outright by our drugs (that may kill us too!), but left to Nature and themselves they keep on reproducing ad infinitum rather than dying. Here again, the reason for this indefinite survival is a plasticity to change form before death intervenes. What about multicellular organisms, including man? Here too we have interesting observations to make. Groups of cells die (are shed off), but the organism does not die. In fact groups of cells die so as to renew themselves and thereby assist in the overall health and harmony of the body! The cells more exposed to the onslaught of the milieu exterior are shed off more frequently and have evolved a natural way of protecting themselves and the body from external attacks. The internal cells do so less efficiently and have a tendency to succumb once their protective coat is disrupted. All the same, death of a group of cells is more often than not a mechanism to preserve life rather than disrupt it. Indeed, certain species like the lizard and salamander can shed off old organs and grow new ones in their place!

All this is a clear hint that death is used in Nature’s economy, like everything else as a process of life and not as its opposite. The sense of the opposition comes to us when we limit our vision to individual units of life. We cut small sections of the whole and derive hasty conclusions. But in the grand orchestral vision of Nature, all life is one and must grow and progress as a single whole. Any group of cells, organisms or species that loses this sense and tries to grow at the expense of other groups without a return in exchange is inviting death.

This apart, the necessity of death arises from another secret impulse in the individual units of life. Each unit of life, though apparently and outwardly separate, remembers its secret oneness. The material form represents only one of the few facets of the all-life which is potentially infinite in its origin, scope and possibilities of manifestation. This capacity for infinite variation is very evident in Nature. No two patterns of leaf and no two fingerprints are alike (even in identical twins!). Yet each part conceals in itself the whole (potentially). This too we see in the embryonic development of human beings. The foetus repeats the previous stages of evolution anterior to human beings. As recent experiments of cloning suggest, and as is also seen in certain forms of illnesses, the specialisation of cells is only a convenient device of Nature. Even the most specialised cell never fully forgets its totipotent stage of development and can under certain conditions revert to it! Even what we call congenital malformations is nothing but the superimposition of our past animal forms mated with our human present, albeit anachronistically. The anachronism unintelligible to us may however be perfectly intelligible from a consciousness point of view that holds our past and present life in a single thread linked to the yet unmanifest future. This need for individual life to reconstitute its lost oneness, to experience the infinite on a finite basis, is another secret cause of death. An individual consciousness, however vast, needs a succession of lives and corresponding forms to embrace and experience the infinite concealed in life.

All laws, therefore, including the so-called inevitability of death are simply habitual movements of consciousness. Nature has in its wisdom devised these movements as a means to serve its purpose. Change is life, rigidity is death. Whatever is capable of a perpetual change, based upon oneness, can live forever. Whatever remains rigidly fixed in its narrow groove is dislodged one day and dies.


Death – A Collective View

What applies at an individual level applies at a collective level too. A certain influential section of the scientific community has however believed (and made us believe too!) that survival is best ensured by competitive struggle. The more capable one is in outdoing another form of life, the more likely one is to survive and live. Modern society (both capitalism and the present form of communism), built largely on this belief, is already beginning to see the ill effects both at an individual and collective level. So is modern medicine! For modern medicine, unlike our more patient ancestors, is trying to conquer death by violently crushing all that it sees as a threat to the body’s survival. It fails to note that what we see as threat is Nature’s challenge to stimulate and uncover latent potentials. The deer frolicking on the plains of Africa has survived and outlived the tiger, not because of its greater capacity for overpowering the tiger but because of its swifter foot! Nature works on a plan of oneness, and only that group and species which can base itself on this sense of oneness will survive the onslaught of death. Missing this secret led to the downfall, disintegration and eventual destruction of the great Roman, Atlantic, Trojan and other empires. Knowing this secret led to the continuity and preservation of the great Indian spiritual traditions, despite outer conquest and domination. Here too we see the same truth. Rigidity, fixity, narrowness and separateness lead to death. Plasticity, cooperation, interchange and oneness better ensure the group’s survival and growth.


Death – A Sequel to Ageing?

We see that death need not be a necessary sequel to aging. Shedding off the old cells keeps happening in a growing body too. So why does the body gradually become weaker and weaker? Here too we do not find any fixed and unvarying rule. There are people who age relatively early and deteriorate fast. Others retain their youth and vitality for a much longer period. Some simply drop dead in the prime of their youth, while others wither and fade away slowly. There are known instances in the life of certain yogis who have pushed death far beyond the norm of our species; still others have reversed the process, at least for the time being! What are the laws that govern this transition through life?

There is a tendency to pass off our ignorance under the huge umbrella of genes. While we cannot deny the role of genes in fixing much of our physical characteristics, we cannot equally deny the great role our thoughts, feelings, vitality and physical culture, as well as lifestyle and habits have on the aging process. Genes may lay the rough hardware, yet there is a flexibility provided within the species to alter the software we choose. There are people who indulge in every kind of excess yet seem to sail through smoothly enough. Others die soon despite clean living.

That our mind can radically influence matter is now well recognized in medicine, even though many physicians still choose to ignore this. Biofeedback, yoga therapy and meditation are just some of the established means of influencing matter by releasing, focusing and chastening the energies of the mind. How far can we go this way? Can we alter the genetic sequence, mutate the genes, prolong life, retain youth, suppress the harmful elements, etc.? Where are the limits? Perhaps as far as we believe them to be! Yet since all matter is one, and all life one in essence, perhaps the all-consciousness would not allow an indefinite lease to a species lest it disturb the total balance. Also the mind evolves out of life and matter and is therefore dependent on them for action and expression. That is why most of us cannot think clearly when febrile or with a disordered stomach. Even those who can liberate thought from the influence of matter are bound to it the moment they begin to act upon it. A power greater than mind and freer than thought is needed to affect the most radical of changes — the material conquest over death.


Processes of Life and Death

We mistake life for the processes through which it expresses itself in matter. We also mistake death for the cessation of those processes. For example, when the power is switched off, people say that there is no electricity. But electricity exists right there and would still continue to exist as a principle and manifest through the clouds as lightning. So too life exists as a principle, independent of our physical existence. We see life using different instrumentations in different species. What is life-threatening to us is life-giving to another. Even in the same species, we find records of inexplicable modes of living in times of grave life-threatening situations. Thus, in certain exceptionally difficult conditions, like wars or natural disasters, people have lived on despite the absence of external support systems like food, water or even air (buried under debris for days). Again, during certain religious ceremonies and fasting, people are known to draw energy directly without food and water. Instances are also known of a spontaneous return to life (as well as artificially) following cessation of life processes. As an extreme example, there are well-documented records of yogis continuing to live even when the internal processes of life like breathing and effective heartbeat have come to a halt. If this is so, then it is only logical to presume that death is not synonymous with the cessation of the processes of life like breathing, etc. In fact, today we do make a distinction between biological (clinical) and cellular death, the former preceding the latter. This distinction has a lot of practical utility, not only for organ transplant, but also from a consciousness-based approach to death and dying. It means first that death is not a cessation of processes, but a complete withdrawal of the life-force animating the body. Therefore, tampering with the body prematurely following biological death, as if it was just a bundle of matter, may not be correct.


The Self and Its Experience after Death

Is there life after death?

This question has vexed humanity since the beginning. Our allegedly not-so-scientific ancestors were not less informed about the processes of death either. It seems that our knowledge is least certain about the one and only certain event in our life! This in itself would not matter, for ignorance is understandable, especially in a domain as unknown as death. However, what is worrying is the lack of a genuine urge to know. This arises from two sources. One is a problem common to all methods of modern science. It is the belief that material reality is the sole reality. The consequence of this assumption is that our instruments are not designed to pick up and record any phenomenon of a non-material nature. We can take the analogy of dreams. Dream experience is as real to the experiencing consciousness as the waking one is to the awake. Even our body’s physiology responds to the dream experience as more real than the waking one. Thus, we may be sleeping in the most comfortable of beds, in the most secure surroundings, yet the body responds to a nightmare as if it was real! And it is indeed real to the experiencing consciousness, so much so that the fear generated may actually lead to a heart attack or paralysis. The irony, however, is that while our most sophisticated machines can record changes in blood pressure, heart rate, brainwave patterns, respiration and all the rest of our physiology and chemistry, we do not yet have a way of recording our thoughts, feelings, desires and the self-experience of the dreaming phase (unless of course the dreaming person wakes up and tells us himself about his experience). This is often not available in detail and therefore we conveniently reverse the cause-effect relationship. We say that the dreaming phase leads to certain changes in our physiology which are not very good for our heart and circulation. We do not say that the self-experience during sleep leads to the physiological changes. Is the sleep of the average man and the yogi the same in quality, both in terms of self-experience and its effects upon us? Whatever evidence we have today points to the contrary. We do not raise these questions because science deals with the average and generalizes it for the race. But the study of the rare and the exceptional is also important to the total contribution of knowledge. It is the exceptional that indicates the future possibility of the race. The exceptional and odd reptile perhaps opened the doors to the coming of an entirely new family of vertebrates!

This digression was important because the parallels between sleep, dream and death are far too many to be ignored. Sleep is like a miniature death, as far as our self-experience goes, except that we can be woken up from sleep with some memory of our previous day but not from death. In both we seem to enter into an experience whose geography, contours, navigation and sense, is generally not available to us. The maps are quite foreign to our waking state. A large chunk of the experience is invariably lost to our waking mind (or rather inaccessible, for no experience is ever lost to the consciousness). We may therefore conveniently suggest whether death is not yet another altered state of consciousness, so radically different from our waking one that the body cannot follow and hence disintegrates! At least this is what the testimony of yogis and studies of out-of-bod experience (OBE) and near-death experience (NDE) indicate.

If that be so, then we come to the second problem in the study of death. We are perhaps not asking the right questions. Instead of asking if there is life after death, we should ask if there is life after death, as we understand and experience it. If we ask the right question, we are less likely to be misled by the answers. We would not, for example, pass off the dream communications of the departed with their loved ones as sheer imagination or hallucination!

“We have within us many states of being and each state of being has its own life. All this is put together in one single body, so long as you have a body, and acts through that single body; so that gives you the feeling that it is one single person, a single being. But there are many beings and particularly there are concentrations on different levels: just as you have a physical being, you have a vital being, you have a mental being, you have a psychic being, you have many others and all possible intermediaries. … Suppose you were living a life of desire, passion and impulse: you live with your vital being dominant in you; but if you live with spiritual effort, with great good will, the desire to do things well and an unselfishness, a will for progress, you live with the psychic being dominant in you. Then, when you are about to leave your body, all these beings start to disperse. Only if you are a very advanced yogi and have been able to unify your being around the divine centre, do these beings remain bound together. If you have not known how to unify yourself, then at the time of death all that is dispersed: each one returns to its domain. For example, with regard to the vital being, all your different desires will be separated and each one run towards its own realisation, quite independently, for the physical being will no longer be there to hold them together. But if you have united your consciousness with the psychic consciousness, when you die you remain conscious of your psychic being and the psychic being returns to the psychic world which is a world of bliss and delight and peace and tranquillity and of a growing knowledge.”((( The Mother, CMW 5, Questions and Answers 1953, p. 133)))


Immortality and the Conquest of Death

Is it possible?

Both spirituality and science have believed for long in the transience of earthly life. Yet both science and spirituality have also secretly believed in the possibility of immortality. In all ages, science has attempted to discover a technology that can not only prolong life but also in the end conquer death. Spirituality, arriving from the other pole of experience, has affirmed the presence of a consciousness of immortality and the means of arriving at it. There is a state of consciousness within us which is aware that we have always been and shall exist forever. The yogi is consciously in contact with it, while the scientist is unconsciously inspired by it. The whole problem consists in discovering inner and outer means of bringing that consciousness in contact with the physical substance of our body. More than anywhere else, it is here that the yogi and the scientist have to work together. The methods that science has been pursuing so far are to discover the reasons for cellular aging and death. It started with cryonics (freezing the body), went on to amines and errors in metabolism, and finally rests today on genetics (role of telomerase in cell division and aging). There has been simultaneously a parallel science of physical culture working towards an awakening of the latent capabilities of the body. The naturalistic method combines this with certain advice about food and regulation of life energies. All these methods have helped in pushing off the hour of death, but its conquest still eludes us. For all our knowledge, we do not know where the roots of death lie and where are the springs of immortality to be found.

The reason for this is well brought out by Sri Aurobindo:

“As for immortality, it cannot come if there is attachment to the body, — for it is only by living in the immortal part of oneself which is unidentified with the body and bringing down its consciousness and force into the cells that it can come. I speak of course of Yogic means. The scientists now hold that it is (theoretically at least) possible to discover physical means by which death can be overcome, but that would mean only a prolongation of the present consciousness in the present body. Unless there is a change of consciousness and change of functioning it would be a very small gain.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 28, Letters on Yoga vol. 1, p. 314)))

The fact that science has begun to see the possibility of physical immortality is a sign that the mind of the race is turning towards a radical departure, exploring horizons without limits.

A dual approach is necessary to conquer death. First and foremost is the need to discover the principle of immortality within us. That would liberate us from the fear of death and, by application, liberate our inner consciousness from the spell of death. At the physical end it is necessary to awaken the physical consciousness.

Several efforts and intermediary stages may be necessary before the human body reaches a point whereby it can consciously throw away the burden and law of death.

The final conquest will come only when the principle of immortality establishes itself as a natural element in the race.



Life is the first mystery encountered by us, death is the last. We know something about the events in between and also a little about the processes of life and death. But the wherefore of life and the why of death escape our understanding. It is unlikely that a purely physical approach will make us any wiser. Its utility too is doubtful since to conquer death without changing our inner life, prone to suffering and diseases of various kinds, would mean only a prolongation of our present ills. Perhaps death is the last imperfection to be conquered since it reminds us of the transience of every earthly achievement. To conquer death would imply establishing permanence in place of transience. That would be worthwhile only when we are able to arrive at a perfection of our inner consciousness. Yet knowledge advances and evolution continues.







Stress – Helps or Kills?


The Mask of Death

Stress is regarded today as the number one killer disease. The receding frontiers of ignorance in medicine show that almost every known physical and psychological illness is stress related. This growing awareness of the role of ‘stress’ in health and illness has led to a proliferation of anti-stress strategies in the medical market. Many of these, like the stress-fighting pills which contain combinations of vitamins and minerals (the latest fad being antioxidants, especially vitamin E), are pushed for commercial purposes.

Others, capitalizing on the general ignorance combine commerce and creativity in a variety of stress management programs and techniques. The latter ultimately induce a few to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Most, however, give up after the initial thrill of a new experience. Other methods range from dietary manipulation, energy release methods and coping strategies to a variety of exercises, relaxation methods, imagery and visualization, techniques of meditation, etc. Yet what eludes us completely is a proper understanding of stress. It seems that we are fighting against a powerful invisible enemy.

We may learn to cope and handle stress at one level, but it finds us at another. We master stress in one field and find another frontier suddenly exposed before our eyes. We tackle and control, with difficulty, one situation, only to find another more difficult circumstance unfolding in our life. We are perplexed and bewildered by the many faces of stress.

And yet, confusion and bewilderment does not help us. It is essential for us, therefore, to take a clear look at the many masks of stress and see what lies behind it. For knowledge is the first step towards true control.


The Many Faces of Stress

Like everything else, stress can be known and understood at several levels.


At the very physical level (which is most familiar to us) stress is a disease. This may arise either due to an environmental change (e.g. change of weather) or a de novo change in the internal milieu (e.g. viral attack). Incidentally, this change need not always be negative. It may be, for instance, a long awaited promotion, birth of a child, sudden success or victory in a strife situation. Physiologically too it may not only be a reduction and deficiency but an excess of something essential, e.g. the over-activity of a gland. Since the entire body — the milieu interior and the milieu exterior — are one, there is a natural tendency in Nature to harmonise and balance. So even an excess results in stress!


It is here that we can understand stress at another level. What Darwin saw as ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘natural selection’ was actually a stress that the lower species faced in trying to sustain themselves and grow. Actually in ‘survival of the fittest’ the less fit do not die out, since the lesser forms do not disappear with the appearance of the higher. Rather they are strangely strengthened. This is so, since in Nature, there is a spontaneous tendency to harmonize and balance. The emergence of a higher form immediately leads to an interdependence of the higher on the lower. If anything, it is the more developed and complex forms that face a greater threat of extinction and not necessarily the less developed ones, e.g. the primitive fish survive in the deep while the whale is under threat.

The law, we may say therefore, operating in Nature is not ‘survival of the fittest’ but rather, ‘evolution of the fittest’. In fact, the competitive and aggressive type is in the end self-destructive and the one that is plastic, co-operative and integrative survives. Evolution operates through a process of natural selection. A series of hurdles are placed before us to overcome and march forward or to fall back and persist or perish. And each individual crossing over opens the possibility for all to overcome the bars. These bars are the various forms of crisis — physiological or otherwise — that arise when the consciousness is on the way to further growth.


This insight makes stress a little less terrifying. We can say that it is a game that Nature plays with us to make us strong, not only as an individual (for an individual may break under the duress), but as a race. This brings us naturally to the third level of understanding stress — the psychological one. At the psychological level, we may say that all stress is a challenge and an invitation. An invitation to assimilate all that we regard as not ourselves. We are, psychologically, as if closed, shut up in a small and narrow hole or prison of our own making. The bars of the prison are the so many conditions and conditionings we have put in between us and the delight that actually governs the world. We are as if challenging the vast to enter into the little test tube of our life. No wonder things crash and break to liberate us from the black hole. And we call it stress!

All life is essentially one. To speak in terms of the latest ‘systems theory’, we may say that all living beings are open systems. That is why living forms grow and evolve. There is a constant interchange of forces through sense and skin, through sight and sound, through thought and feeling and will. We are only one narrow centre through which the universal forces move. We have to learn or rather we are led to identify with a whole range of forces of which we are hardly aware. All stress becomes to this view a stress of consciousness to grow and expand, to assimilate and integrate, and to recover consciously once again the wholeness that always exists. In other words, psychologically all stress is a means to arrive at the perfection of oneness in each individual. It comes to widen our frame of reference in which we customarily move and habitually live. The wider the frame, the lesser the stress we perceive and experience.

A corollary to this would be that all stress is essentially liberating. It attempts to free us from a narrower mould. If the mould is too rigid, it sometimes does break under the duress. The consciousness imprisoned in such a small and rigid frame is released at the cost of the form itself. At other times, the consciousness escapes psychologically or widens, heightens and deepens its self-awareness and progresses, therefore, in the same body as a result of stress.

In either case, stress then becomes the stress of a new birth — a birth into a greater and larger state of consciousness, a birth into a greater freedom of the self and the spirit. We may also add that all illness then is an attempt of Nature to work out a greater equilibrium and perfection. All that resists and fails to respond falls ill. That is why illnesses increase during periods of great transition and social upheaval. Stones do not grow. They do not fall ill either! Living beings grow and the price they pay for life is disease and death. When we have learned to live and collaborate consciously with the evolving forces in Nature, then illness and death can disappear. This of course is self-evident in the evolutionary chain. We see the fact that organisms evolve through a series of challenges.

It is as if the stress brought out from within them a greater potential, latent but unmanifested. The result is a new emergence, a new form, new faculties and a more powerful action. This aspect of stress as having a positive side is now being recognized the world over as ‘eustress’. It is one of the means to grow and develop (though not the only one nor the best one). We can then move away from the killer mask of death to an evolving force of love that heals the pain of separation in the gulfs of creation.


Coping with Stress

Yet, the question arises — how can we use stress to go beyond? This then is what we have to do when faced with stress — to widen, heighten and deepen our consciousness.


To widen is to look at the problem or the threatening situation from a ‘transpersonal’ viewpoint, and not a personally preferential attitude. Preferences limit us. They bind us to ‘conditions of living’ to which we transfer our happiness or sadness. Looked at from another angle, we may say, that each condition we set for our peace and happiness is actually a barrier between ourselves and universal delight. A simple example is a child four or five years of age. There is a natural happiness in him. Even in rags he runs about happily. Yet as he grows up the mind gets conditioned through society, parents, media, everything. He is made to believe that happiness consists in possessing this or that. So strong is the belief that happiness lies in possessions that he doesn’t even question it! He doesn’t even look back once (as an adult) to reflect why he felt spontaneously happy as a child. The simple and candid trust in life and the feeling of being at home everywhere is gone. This notion of ‘yours’ and ‘others’ has emerged. So he can enjoy only by buying and possessing. He begins to compete, to expect, to desire, to ‘seek’ what was already and always there. The result is stress which forces one to make choices: a global outlook or a limited awareness? So the work of widening is to remove our consciousness from the difficulty.


But then, an outlook alone is not sufficient. It may relieve us of the stress of suffering, but not of the problem itself. The difficulty persists, even though it no more touches us in a personal way. To solve the difficulty, it is not always enough to take a certain attitude and then sit passively. Sometimes we may be called upon to act. And to act is to concentrate, it is to focus and channel our consciousness in a certain direction. Would this not narrow us and bind us again? This is what is called ‘karma’, i.e. each energy loosened from us binds us to a certain determinism or a chain of cause and effect. But we become narrow only if we channel our consciousness towards a desired result. Instead, if we learn to open our consciousness to the height, we can consciously lessen the binding effects. This is demonstrated in life by a simple example. When a person kills another for material gain, he calls the law of revenge upon himself. Besides he is haunted by fear and suspicion and lives in a nightmare. Whereas, if a soldier kills with the thought of safeguarding his nation, it brings a sense of joy, glory and fulfilment. This is so because in one case the act was motivated by desire, while in the other it was done from an ideal, in a sense of sacrifice. To rise is to act with freedom and force.


So, to widening is added heightening. That is to act always from the summit of one’s consciousness. Additionally comes a deepening of the consciousness. In fact, it is possible to widen and lift ourselves, only if we step back. Our surface activity is full of restlessness and we have to detach ourselves from this habitual superficial nervous thing that has its hold on us. Most of our thoughts, feelings and impulses are a reflex reaction determined by pure habit. The result is that we are all the time open to every shock and passing wave, driven by each casual circumstance and event and become like a cork on the sea, tossed and kicked about. The reflex reaction has to change into a conscious and deliberate action. This is possible if we learn or habituate ourselves to detachment before action. So after some time it becomes spontaneous. Then we have a clarity of thought and a clarity of the direction we ought to take. Our emotions remain clear and peaceful. We are at ease in every situation, however nerve shattering it may appear to be.


A Technique or a Process?

To widen, heighten, deepen is therefore the key to true relaxation. But for this inner change we have to first learn to quieten our surface activity. And it is here that some of the relaxation techniques and exercises find their true utility. All these techniques, including breath regulation, imagery, meditation, are meant to help quieten our outer activity so that we have a chance to open to our own larger dimensions. The same result can be arrived at through other even more powerful and radically effective means, like the devotee who surrenders to the will of God or a man who lives for a high and noble aim and ideal, or a poet, philosopher, musician and artist who in moments of self-forgetfulness loses his narrow personality in creative work. To those who are closely attuned to Nature, this relaxation can arrive suddenly through a spontaneous identification with a vast landscape, an ocean or the sky. At times, a noble act done in a moment of true love can open us to a large source of joy, peace and strength. These are things we can experience practically in our life. Thus, as many persons, that many methods. And each one has to choose the means that come naturally to him. A technique pursued for its own sake, as a mechanical routine, soon loses its value and becomes invalid. To be genuine and sincere is much more important than to be ritualistic. Sincerity liberates, ritual binds.

This is the greatest limitation of stress management techniques. Most of us carry them out for some time moved by a faith in them. This faith, either in the technique or its founder, helps us for a while. It draws our attention for a time to our own hidden depths. But soon we fall back into the narrow round of habitual ways of living, seeing and reacting. What we try to do in one hour, we undo in the next twenty-three hours! Still, it is a marvel that even that little touch helps us. Just a brief glimpse of our larger Self has a liberating effect upon us. After some time, however, the technique itself becomes cumbersome. The passage to our higher self is lost or closed again and we suffer the effects of stress once more.

It is necessary, therefore, to discover what really makes us suffer. Is it an outer situation or our own limitation of perception? Next, we must try to widen ourselves and understand the problem from another perspective, disregarding our ideas and preferences. Then we must act from the summit of our consciousness. For this we should study the law of our being. We should try to understand what constitutes us and seek our own deeper truth through the path or method consistent with our aspiration. The rest then is merely a matter of persistent practice. This may be slow but it is more permanent, as it manipulates not only our surface but changes our cognitive structure, our emotional nature, the movement of life-energy in us. Any outer technique too, when done with this deeper purpose, opens an inner door somehow. Once done, the technique itself can be discarded, provided we learn to now live and act from this perennial source. Sometimes only a strong and persistent aspiration to discover our inner strength can force open the door. And there we find ourselves born to a new freshness and light. We walk in freedom, joy, mastery and peace. Stress is taken away from us. The burden of life disappears. The fetters of our narrow personality fall away. The bondage of ignorance that seals the eye of wisdom is removed. Our hearts are relieved of suffering and grief. Awake and conscious, all in us becomes glad, pure, wide, tranquil and free.


Behind the Mask of Death

To sum up, we may say that what appears as a stress-related disease at the physical level is at the biological level a stress-related challenge to evolve. And what appears as a crisis and a challenge at the biological level is a pressure for liberation and transformation at the deepest psychological level. All that resists this transformative pressure of evolutionary change — fear, suspicion, greed, desire — leads to disease, disorder and eventually death. All that responds to the evolutionary urge — plasticity, love, faith, courage — grows and develops into a higher perfection.

To collaborate with this force of transformation, i.e. stress, is to strive towards oneness and integration. The mask of stress is thus torn. The law of death would then cease to exist replaced by the law of transformation and uninterrupted progress.



Facing Stress — The Ordinary
Way and the Spiritual Way


The Two Faces of Stress

Whether the stressor is physical or psychological, real or imaginary, the individual passes through a characteristic response. The response at the physical level is primarily in the form of an increased metabolic activity through release of ‘hormones’ and ‘enzymes’ that accelerate the metabolism. The result is an increase in the amount of physical energy available to the individual to meet the perceived threat. At the psychological level, the response is translated usually as anxiety, agitation and fear.

Essentially, this response is a habit of Nature meant for the purpose of adaptive growth. Accordingly, the individual makes one of the three choices based upon his constitution and cognitive evaluation of the stressor. These three responses are the fight response, the flight response and the freeze reaction.

The ‘fight response’ takes place when the stressor is perceived as a ‘challenge’ which one must master. Once mastered, it makes the individual better equipped for the future. In other words, stress for him becomes a ‘growth experience’.

The ‘flight response’ is usual when the stressor is seen as a ‘threat’ which one is unable to meet. It ensures ‘survival’ rather than growth.

There are instances when the stressor is regarded as ‘overwhelming’. It may be the response to a novel and unusual situation or an environmental change perceived as far beyond one’s coping resources. During these moments, the individual can go into a ‘freeze reaction’. The freeze response can be itself considered as restorative when the individual may be silently accumulating inner resources and energy for a future fight or flight reaction.


The Response

Whatever be the response, it can lead to one of the two results. If the stressor is short lived and of lesser magnitude, the individual masters. He is better geared to meet a similar demand in the future.

On the other hand, if the stressor is prolonged and severe, the individual may succumb to it. His psycho-physiological system may break down under the constant pressure and demand to adapt. The result may be illnesses of various kinds and/or eventually death.


Coping with stress

We have seen the three methods Nature uses to equip an organism to cope with stress. To be effective, therefore, we have to consciously supplement and/or complement the processes Nature uses.

  1. Supplementing Nature

The fight or flight reaction, as we have seen, is basically a matter of (a) individual perception and (b) the balance of energy between the stressor and the organism.

Perception belongs to the domain of ‘knowledge’ and energy to the domain of ‘power’. Stress management would therefore include:

  1. Means to increase knowledge
  2. Means to enhance power

(i) Enhancing Knowledge

The ordinary way is correct appraisal, understanding and evaluation of a situation.

Knowledge to be effective has to be experiential. It is not enough to merely read books or hear the experiences of others. It is also necessary to practise that knowledge for it to be effective.

Anybody can be a hero in fantasy life. But to be a hero in real life demands something more. It is here that we have the role of training. Training transmits the brain’s knowledge into those cells of the body which need to respond in a given situation. The knowledge of the mind becomes a knowledge of the body, leading to perfect coordination between the mind and the body in a particular circumstance. Practice is the basis of expertise in handling stress.

Another important thing in correct appraisal is to be able to observe precisely and judge accurately without interference from unconscious fears, biases and emotional preferences. All these reactions distort the observation and understanding, leading to inaccuracies in appraisal. One can quieten the emotional or nervous being through the science and art of breath regulation or ‘pranayama’ and ‘a dynamic meditation’ to build peace into the system. A mind at peace sees better and understands better. Thus, it becomes more effective for right action than a mind ruffled by every touch.

Sometimes we are overwhelmed by problems and we do not know how to go about it. Here, we have to try and see things in the light of the highest reason available to us, for most of us do not really develop the true reason and hence are readily swayed by impulses and emotions or weighed down by problems over which we have little control. The basic principles of ‘rational problem solving’ are as follows:

  1.  To place the problem in the correct perspective, that is, to see it clearly. Especially to prevent the enormous colouring by sentiments and desires which further cloud our vision by exaggerating things out of proportion and making us feel ‘done for’ and helpless.
  2. The problem/problems can be broken into sub-parts, primarily to segregate them into those over which one can exercise some control and those over which one cannot at present. In the latter case, reason itself tells us that it is no use lamenting over things which are not in one’s immediate control. Rather what may help is to take step (c).
  3. To gather as much information about the problem and its different aspects. The essential thing here is that awareness gives us a greater chance of mastery than denial, blindness or confusion. If necessary, step (d) should be followed.
  4. A hierarchy can be made based upon one’s needs, aim and aspirations. The problems can then be attended to in a prioritized manner.

Finally, there are other dimensions of knowledge and power about which we can speak a little later.

(ii) Enhancing Power: The Ordinary Way

Power comes by the capacity to receive, conserve and direct energy towards a desired end. If thought is an instrument of knowledge, the will is the corresponding instrument of power.

Will can be developed like muscles. By putting the pressure of will persistently on the body, it can be made to do things that it is ‘normally’ not capable of. So too, we can develop psychological capacities by persisting in the application of will in that direction. The tendency to give up or seek an easy escape is the way of the weak will which is still largely governed by inertia. It is a recognized fact that all our body organs, including the master organ brain, work much below their full potential. Much of our body capacities remain asleep but can be woken up and made to function by a persevering will to consciously control the body organs. This is the basis of biofeedback. To explore and develop our full power and potential is therefore a necessary part of training in stress coping.

If ‘work and use’ develops power, it also causes wear and tear if we ‘overdo’ and ‘overuse’. Therefore, periods of rest and relaxation and a balance between energy output and input are required. Ideally, these periods of rest must be phases when we receive energy, recharge ourselves and restore what we have for future use. Unfortunately, however, we have come to associate relaxation today with a further dissipation of energy in a chaotic and disorganised way. The result is a ‘quick thrill that kills’ soon by exhaustion and tires us out. Television, clubs, discotheques and late-night parties are such so-called relaxations which make the will even more weak and inert. So too drugs, like sedatives and alcohol, give us an illusion of rest but actually lull the organs to sleep, creating a loss of capacities and bring us a step closer to death. A subtle trap here is the many ‘push-button’ comforts which money can buy off-the-shelf. What we buy is sweet poison which tastes sweet to the outer consciousness but makes the body and mind more and more dull since a little stimulus and struggle are necessary for growth.

The science of food that can provide wholesome nourishment, the science and art of a qualitatively good sleep, the role of meditative methods that use positive imagery to relax us, the many relaxation techniques are all essentially restorative and recuperative. It is thus that they indirectly help in the increase of power. The direct method is to learn to conserve energy by not letting it flow out in aimless activities or purely hedonistic pursuits. Speech and sex are two such activities which, if not regulated, dissipate energy. To conserve speech is to grow in the power of thought and knowledge. To conserve the sexual energy is to grow in the power of creativity and execution.

And yet, these ‘let go’ sessions sometimes have their place. In fact, they point to the difficulty of the human being who in the course of evolution has become extremely complex. Man contains in him many habits and movements which are an atavism of the past. These ‘habits’ are part of the ‘herd/cave instinct’ and though they are somewhat anachronistic now, they persist tenaciously through millenniums of conditioning. It is part of our physical inheritance we share with the earth. Though past and outdated, even harmful in the present context, these subconscious elements were once useful to the developing beast and the early life forms. The mind is unable to handle them and the only method it knows is to coerce and suppress. Yet, coercion and suppression is only to chain and maim but not to dissolve them. And at the limit of suppression, they are released in spirits, in forms socially acceptable to the mind or in forms truly hideous and monstrous. The mind is unable to conquer them. Thus, a gap arises between what we mentally know as the right thing and in our doing or executing it. It is here that we begin to reach the limits of our mind and its capacity to equip us in facing life. And it is here that we can choose to linger with this imperfect balance and compromise of sorts or else break free out of the mental limits into the spiritual dimension. If we choose to break into the spiritual way of living, we can arrive at a still greater degree of perfection and mastery.

2. The Spiritual Way

The spiritual perception recognizes that man is more than the body and the ego. It sees man as a soul that is upon earth for a progressive experience towards a higher perfection. Thus, it does not cancel the evolutionary law but gives it a higher meaning and purpose that transcends the limited scope of the ego and its self-preservation. Above all, it sees and feels that a Power and Consciousness exists that far exceeds our limited consciousness and thus opens the possibility of help and intervention from a higher dimension. Further, the spiritual vision does not confine life to the narrow cabin of one body but lives in a wide universal vision of the same ‘I’ in all beings and the same ‘I’ assuming many forms and bodies for growth and experience through lifetimes. Therefore, the spiritual view of life is a radical departure, ‘a reversal of view’, from the ordinary mental and narrow egoistic way of seeing, understanding and living.

One thing needs to be clarified. The spiritual way of life is not just the usual ‘passive and quietist self-negating way’. True, the inner poise of the spiritual man is full of peace and quiet which comes naturally to him as he begins to live impersonally and universally. But externally, he can engage himself in the most demanding work, included, as is asserted by the Gita, in the bloodiest of war. This peace in fact becomes the basis of a much more powerful action than the person would be otherwise capable of. So too, the self-effacement of the spiritual person is not at the altar of the collective ego or the social norms of civilisation or to satisfy the ego of significant others. This self-effacement is at the one altar of the Divine. And this self-effacement becomes for him the way for a greater self-fulfilment. For by annulling the lower self of the ego in God, he discovers the higher self of the spirit in humanity. Thus, his actions become at once large and powerful and his ability to combat and cure the anomalies of life more authentic.


Knowledge – The Spiritual Way

We have already seen that knowledge and power are the two ways of facing stress. This applies to the spiritual domain also. However, just as knowledge and power change qualitatively from the beast to the human, so too they change as we ascend from man human to the man divine. The spiritual way of knowledge is not so much through analysis as by intuition, inspiration, illumined revelation. It is holistic and synthetic. It does not weigh the pros and cons of one possibility against another as much as it chooses by an intuitive discernment. Its stress of choice is not based on what will satisfy desire but rather on what is true, the thing to be done even if it involves what men call ‘personal loss’. And though to the outer appearance, ‘this personal loss’ and the frustration of desire may appear as a tragedy, to the sincere man of the spirit, it may even be a cause of delight since it is a liberation and the removal of fetters from his feet. The pursuit of desire which is so much emphasized by present society is in fact a major source of stress to modern man. The stress of the spiritual man is, on the contrary, towards growth and progress — individual and collective. He replaces ambition by personal excellence, competition by co-operation, individual happiness by the collective salvation.

The spiritual understanding, evaluation and appraisal is, therefore, very different. And even in its method, it uses ‘brain stilling’ rather than ‘brain storming’. Faced with a problem or difficulty, the spiritual man does not rush to collect all available data and strategies. He rather remains quiet and still, very still and attuning himself to a deeper truth within, he waits to receive the inner guidance, the subtle indication from his own higher consciousness. Here is a method for receiving of knowledge from above and within as given by Sri Aurobindo where the two methods (brain storming and brain stilling) are clearly compared and contrasted:

“Difficulties and perplexities can never be got rid of by the mind brooding on them and trying in that way to get out of them; this habit of the mind only makes them recur without a solution and keeps up by brooding the persistent tangle. It is from something above and outside the perplexities that the solution must come. The difficulty of the physical mind — not the true thinking intelligence — is that it does not want to believe in this larger consciousness outside itself because it is not aware of it; and it remains shut like a box in itself, not admitting the light that is all round it and pressing to get in. …

“It is not a theory but a constant experience and very tangible when it comes that there is above us, above the consciousness in the physical body, a great supporting extension as it were of peace, light, power, joy — that we can become aware of it and bring it down into the physical consciousness and that that, at first for a time, afterwards more frequently and for a longer time, in the end for good, can remain and change the whole basis of our daily consciousness. … The need is to have an aspiration towards it, make the mind quiet so that what we call the opening is rendered possible. A quieted mind (not necessarily motionless or silent, though it is good if one can have that at will) and a persistent aspiration in the heart are the two main keys of the yoga. Activity of the mind is a much slower process and does not by itself lead to these decisive results. It is the difference between a straight road and an approach through constant circles, spirals or meanders.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Letters on Yoga 4, pp. 739-740)))

This letter which obviously refers to inner difficulties and the inner change can very well apply to outer difficulties since the one constant factor required to deal with all difficulties (inner and outer) is an inner change. An inner poise of quiet strength and a cheerful optimism full of trust and confidence puts us in a much better state to face life than a state constantly ruffled by a thousand things, restless as a leaf driven by the storm or a rudderless boat tossing over the waves without any moorings.

Naturally, this ‘referring to a light above and receiving the inspiration’ is an experiential truth which the ordinary mind conditioned to the analytical approach finds difficult to grasp and hesitant to accept. But as one begins to live and grow in it, the full implications, of this new kind of knowledge begin to dawn.


Power – The Spiritual Way

In the ordinary way, one develops knowledge and power by training and straining the thought and the will. We can use the same way to go above and deep within. As we do that, we find a progressive evolution in our capacities to think and will. We link ourselves to a greater force and source of knowledge and power in our own being. The usual ‘spiritual’ process advocated for this is to concentrate and focus the consciousness above the head or deep within in the centre of the chest, i.e. the solar plexus, with a will to discover our own highest/deepest/truest self. Such a straining may initially appear abnormal and difficult since we are so accustomed to the opposite way of constantly reacting from our superficial, narrow, limited, surface consciousness which if seen dispassionately is little more than a bundle of pell-mell nervous sensations, thrills of the moment, escapades into fantasies and ‘virtual reality’.

Unable to enter into any greater sense of our self, we make the situation worse by labelling all efforts to go within as ‘imaginations’ and ‘other worldly’. True, in the beginning such efforts to exceed ourselves may cause us to lose our hold on the world as other people see it. But, in reality, it is a losing of our hold on the world as ‘we know it’ (conventionally and habitually conditioned by mind and senses) and in the ‘way we meet it’ (through the egoistic reaction of desire self). But if we have the courage and will to persist in our adventure we touch a point or a source of light and power from where the whole consciousness returns upon the world with a greater knowledge and power. That in itself justifies the uncertainty of the intermediate stage of our spiritual self-endeavour when we seem to be losing sight of the earth and are not yet in sight of the sun.

Yet, the whole process can be facilitated by what is known as ‘surrender’. Surrender is not a self-annulment as some believe it. It is rather a self-fulfilment. Or rather it is a self-loss for a greater self-finding — a loss of the small and limited narrow egoistic self for a larger and vaster self with a surer and truer understanding and grasp of life. This greater Being that is our own highest and true Self is what is called by different names by different people. This surrender and faith which is more of an inner attitude is the spiritual way of power. The smaller and narrower our aim, the less is ‘the power’ released into our system by the one source of power. For essentially there is only one power, but it reduces itself to its own different self-formulations or limited self-formations. We can, by enlarging ourselves spiritually and annulling our ego sense, enter into this one power and allow our life to be governed by that.

Thus, the spiritual way recognizes the ‘power of attitudes’. An attitude of faith and surrender to That which exceeds and transcends us and the world. Along with it, if we can cultivate peace and equality in our being, a regulation of desires, a cheerful optimism and confidence born out of trust, we can create the best possible psychological conditions to meet, face and master the challenges of life. When this inner state is combined with inner and outer knowledge, it makes us nearly invulnerable to the various trials and tribulations that hold our human life at stake — a victim in a sacrificial ceremony. And yet this holds the key to the secret. To sacrifice the lower for the higher, the lesser for the greater, the narrower for the wider is the whole sense and significance of the spiritual way of existence.



Stress Management – A Different Approach



Sheikh Saadi was passing across a wasteland when he saw someone sitting under a solitary tree. ‘Who is he?’ enquired the Sheikh, surprised to see someone at noon in a desolate spot.

The court philosopher accompanying him replied, ‘None of any consequence, sir.’

But the Sheikh was curious. They went closer only to find a hermit eating gruel in solitude. The court philosopher now recognized the man whose wisdom was praised by many in distant lands.

Pitying his condition, the court philosopher turned to him and remarked, ‘If only you had learned to please the king, you would not have to eat gruel for the rest of your life.’

The hermit looked up quietly, and said, ‘If only you had learned to eat gruel, you would not have to please the king for the rest of your life.’

Though the situation appeared stressful to the court philosopher, the hermit was perfectly at ease.

In any stress, one has to deal with the response of the organism and the mind’s perception of the problem.


The Response of the Organism

Whatever be the external circumstances, once the organism perceives it as stressful, it responds habitually. The response itself is atavistic, a carryover of a collective past which we find difficult to outgrow. The cave man and the beast still linger in our consciousness and come out in moments of real or imaginary threat. What is interesting is that in the modern age the danger may not be physical at all. It may be, for instance, the threat of losing one’s face or one’s job, or failure in an examination. Yet the body is involved. The limbs tremble, the heart pounds, the mouth dries up, the muscles cramp, the whole system is tense, frightened and fidgety. And even when the threat is over, the body may react to any associated stimulus or even the thought of the problem. Though no longer externally apparent it still lurks in the consciousness. A memory, imagination or foreboding can draw it out. The organism suffers, the balance of life is disturbed and sickness results.

Techniques have been developed to help the body cope with stress. The market is flooded today with sophisticated gadgetry and innumerable methods to relax. Each helps a little but none cures. These methods can work in various ways: they give us a sense of widening through imagery, habituate the body to stressors through repeated exposure, develop the right response, etc. The physiological responses can also be stabilized with the help of asanas and pranayama. But the roots of the problem remain. They surface again in sleep through dreams and nightmares when our waking consciousness is quiescent and one may wake up with a headache or a tired feeling. Even worse, one may unexpectedly find oneself face to face with a heart attack or paralysis.


Perceiving the Problem

True, the body functions best when it is introduced to certain healthy habits. Yet this also is not sufficient.

For the roots of the malady lie in our psychology, i.e. the peculiarities of our preferences, value systems, attitudes and beliefs, hopes and ambitions, perception and cognition.

It is we who give the value to an event. In itself, a happening has no absolute value. It is our past learning, associations, preferences and a host of other factors that determine our evaluation of the event and thereby its capacity to produce stress.

We often say that attitudes should change. Little do we realize that it is no use talking about changing attitudes unless one changes the aim. Attitudes are only certain standpoints taken by the mind based upon its beliefs. These beliefs translate themselves to our mind as an aim or an ideal that we pursue. Thus, for a soldier living for the nation’s glory, it is an honour and a pride to die on the battlefield. To another who has joined the armed forces for mercenary reasons, such a death means the end of all hopes and ambitions and is an extremely stressful situation.

The aim itself is something that changes as we evolve. At a certain stage of our life we may feel that amassing wealth, becoming a writer, a doctor, an executive, a musician, etc., is our aim. Later as we grow, we realize that these occupations providing comfort, knowledge, fame, happiness, etc., are not really fulfilling. The true source of fulfilment lies within us. The profession, chosen as an aim, may not give what we truly want. Thus, the comfort of money is often mixed with the curse of an illness; the knowledge gained through books is often shadowed by error and doubt; the price of being a top executive may be too high and the fall as steep as the ascent; the happiness through music may be marred by our incapacity and limitation. In more complex personalities, we often find a many-sided seeking, a branching out into many aims and pursuits, making the problem still more complicated, even though the rewards of success are richer.

Here we may ask, how is the aim related to our practical life, its many situations, the baffling problems and their solutions? We have already mentioned that what is danger to one is an adventure to another, what is rest to one is boredom to another, what is learning to one is conditioning to another, what is ease to one is stress to another, what is sacrifice for one is freedom for another.

We often associate quality of life with the comforts of living. But the quality of life actually depends upon the intrinsic values rather than external successes. A cultivation of such intrinsic values helps one to spontaneously outgrow many stressful situations.

To understand how the quality of life is linked with our aim and motivation it would be interesting to study the interaction of our temperamental predisposition with the environment.

Indian psychology understands this through the concept of svabhava and gunas.

The svabhava or temperamental predisposition is influenced by gunas (universal determinants of behaviour) to produce personality types.

The gunas are:

Sattva — the mode of harmony, balance and intelligence;

Rajas — the mode of action and movement; and

Tamas — the mode of inertia.

These three gunas are present in every individual in varying degrees but one or the other predominates in a particular personality type.

The tamasic character denotes inertia, resistance to change and indolence; the rajasic signals qualities of courage, kinesis, dynamism, high ambition, need for activity, urge to accomplish, strength, swiftness, etc.; the sattvic points to qualities of benevolence, goodwill for all, sympathy, compassion, just dealings, fairness, etc.

In human nature, each movement may be oriented towards the height or the abyss. Thus, a capacity for immobility has peace and calm on the positive side while indifference, apathy, inertia, dullness, sloth, bondage on the negative side. Similarly, dynamism has courage and strength as its positive aspects while possessiveness, vanity, arrogance, desire and ambition are its negative aspects. In a nature turned to ideals, harmony, humility, benevolence, sympathy, clarity of understanding, righteousness, freedom, wisdom are the positive aspects whereas pride of knowledge, cunning, deceit of logic, doubt and deception are the negative echoes.

The idea in the Indian psychological perspective was to match the personality type not only with action but also with the aim and motivation associated with the action. When one’s actions are in conflict with one’s temperament or svabhava the dissonance precipitates stress.

According to the Indian tradition, a spiritual seeker has another source of stress. He strives to replace his ego-centred personality by a soul-centred personality. In this process, not only his action but his svabhava too undergoes a change.


Facing Stress

All stress is not necessarily bad to be avoided or escaped from. Instead one can understand its meaning and message through introspection. Once observed, it can be rightly oriented. As long as we are identified with the surface foam, we are bound to the mercy of each passing wave. At best we can only manipulate the surface reactions and responses of our nature but cannot change them. Hence the different techniques to manipulate our nature cannot fundamentally alter its course.

A workaholic ambitious executive suffered stress and had a nervous breakdown in his mid-forties (a period when there is a natural reorientation of life’s goals termed as ‘mid-life crisis’). The treating psychiatrist prescribed some medications, gave a few relaxation techniques and counselled him to divert his mind from work by playing tennis regularly. The man was happy and felt relieved for a couple of months. But he soon came back with the same problem. He was stressed after playing tennis. This time, he was asked to take off from work and go on vacation. He returned with depression added to his anxiety. A deeper probing revealed that the executive faced an inner conflict. He realized that he often felt that he would fail. Tennis diverted his mind for some time but he began competing and wanted to win every match. The vacation could have helped him but being away from work confirmed his foreboding of failure. Believing that he had ultimately failed, he suffered depression. This person basically had a rajasic character which helped him to be a successful executive and later helped him to recuperate, albeit temporarily, through playing tennis. He suffered from stress in the following circumstances:

  1. When the negative effects of dynamism (namely, arrogance, possessiveness, vanity, etc.) outweighed the positive effects (namely, courage, strength, etc.) as happened in his job and later in his game of tennis
  2. When, instead of conforming to his rajasic character, he drifted into tamas (doubts, despondency and inertia). In addition, his mid-life crisis brought in another element — the necessity to reorient himself. This in turn came into conflict with his character and preoccupations.

The first need, therefore, was to give a positive turn to his mid-life crisis by looking from within and facing the challenge. This man was gradually led towards a new orientation and aim. With that, his phenomenal formations of thought, patterns of desire, feeling and action changed and he felt much relieved.


The Precipitant

Do we mean to say that the outer circumstance or situation precipitating the crisis has no value at all? From one standpoint the outer circumstances are not the primary or main thing. They can be viewed as an objectification of our inner state. Essentially an external event appears disagreeable and stressful when the inner urge does not match with the environment. Thus, pursuits of pleasure in a hedonistic society may appear stressful to someone whose nature is oriented inwards. Yet the external circumstance then becomes an occasion to unmask one’s conflicts and potentials.

One may understand it by the analogy of a TV set. The picture that is displayed represents the event of one’s life. The channel can be likened to the station one attunes to out of many universally relayed vibratory modes. The channel button serves to draw a particular set of images. The images displayed give an indication of the channel we have knowingly or unknowingly selected. To change the image, we have to change the channel. If we identify with the scenes and images too much, it becomes difficult to shift to other channels. It is a subtle law of Nature that difficulties aggravate unless we detach ourselves and open to higher possibilities.

Often the shock of painful external events wakes us to a deeper inner life. We question and seek to understand what we never felt necessary or important. We arise and move towards a new possibility which was earlier nearly impossible. All stress, therefore, also has an evolutionary perspective.

It comes to liberate us out of the bounds of narrowness to wideness, out of the limits of senses to a higher and larger horizon of faith and experience, out of the dullness and sloth to a higher and truer life, out of the chaos and turmoil of the surface to a deeper reality and awareness. The more rigid and resistant we are to change, the greater the stress. The more plastic and clay-like we are to the evolutionary nisus, the easier it is to cope with stress.







An Integrated Approach to Healing



An illness is the external expression of an inner disharmony. The disharmony comes about because something in us does not move apace with the other parts, or something in us rings a discordant note with the universal rhythms, or else something in us simply clings to old habits and we refuse to let go its hold upon our being and even if we wish to we may feel powerless before it. The disharmony may also arise because of a constitutional inability or weakness in some part of our nature whether as a factor of heredity or as a backlog burden of our past lives. We may, in addition be open to forces of disorder that throng this universe. The part that has fallen ill, the nature of the symptoms, sometimes even our dreams and experiences just preceding the illness give us a clue to the inner malady. At other times no such clue is offered to our surface inquiry or experience and only a deeper sight or a flexible intuition, if developed, can provide the needed clue. Besides, at any point of time there may be a number of internal and external factors at play. Thus, for example, there may be a bad heredity, a constitutional weakness, a hostile environment along with a resistance in some part of the vital refusing to change. Each has its own contribution to the illness which simply records on the surface the sum and net result of a complex play of forces. We can, for the sake of understanding classify this play of forces into those that arise due to internal factors and those that arise due to external factors.

Let us first examine how each part can contribute to an illness and a programme to work upon it with a view to bolster the natural defences.


The Physical

The physical is the first line of defence against invasion by cosmic forces. Besides providing stability to the form, it also creates a sharp line of demarcation between one form to another, a fixity that does not exist so sharply in other planes. Its role in health and illness is primarily through heredity and constitution. There may be an organ predisposition or else the nerves may be weak in transmitting the current, thus obstructing the smooth flow of prana through the human system. Or else they may be hypersensitive and easily open to outside influences and attacks. The nerves are also feeders to many organ systems and are a crucial interface between the gross body and the subtle pranic current in its more material parts. Another problem of the physical body may be an abundance of tamas or the principle of inertia to which the body is so easily prone. Fatigue, lack of adequate work, boredom, absence of exercise may all predispose to an increase of tamas in the system. This in turn may make the physical instrument passive to outer attacks, bring up habitual movements of our vital parts closely linked to the physical such as greed for food, excess and mechanical movements of sex, sleep disturbances (which may also arise due to hypersensitive nerves), all of which may further predispose one to illnesses and attacks of various kinds. The body’s resistance goes down when is sinks into tamas as happens often during heavy sleep and is the natural occasion or excuse for many illnesses to arise in us.

The body works best through habits since fixity is its very nature. But the flip side of habits is that they can create a rigidity that is not conducive to progress. Nevertheless, we must start with the laws that govern the body and then try to overpass them. What the body needs is a certain amount of exercise and rest, food and energy. Of course work itself can be a good exercise if it is done consciously and one can also derive benefit from everyday activities such as walking, climbing the stairs, reaching out to objects physically away, cycling to the workplace, cleaning and washing. Our ancestors enjoyed a robust health despite the lack of modern medicine and its new principles of healthy living precisely because of their naturally healthy lifestyle. Science and technology has disturbed this balance in two ways. First by providing comfort at our doorstep, an increasing mechanization of life, the ease of travel, etc., and this has taken away whatever natural exercise we could get including the exposure to sun and rain and earth which are so nourishing in their own way. Life has now become like a jack-in-the-box who is tightly and neatly shut in its little comfortable corner yet desperately seeks to release itself from this prison house. Each technological advance becomes a kind of biological amputation by eliminating the need of exercising an organ. The result is a robotic life driven by robotic means where one needs chemicals to escape from drudgery and boredom. Fortunately there is an increasing recognition of this fallacy, for instance, in the recent trend for fitness routines, etc. If only we could use all the organs of the body for what they are meant for, but consciously, without overuse or underuse or misuse, we may not perhaps need an extra dose of exercises.

But there is another reason for the disturbance of balance. That relates to the aim and pace of life. The modern entrepreneur is a man driven by extreme vital ambition. He is the modern titan striving to swallow the world if he could. This vital overdrive puts an extra burden upon the body and constantly driven by this impure stream of some lower vital energies, the body engines soon begins to clog. The impure vital is a mixed fuel and throws up a lot of smoke which sooner or later blocks our arteries. Added to this is the unhealthy food and eating habits to which we may turn later. In addition, the mere development of the mind increases the demand of vital energy and disturbs the neat balance of the animal life and the life of early humanity which had to cope only with a limited balance of supply and demand. Whatever it may be, there is one good result that all this has done. This pace, this exposure to extremes, had in a way thrown new challenges upon the body which has to perforce cope with so far unknown and unexpected stresses including travel through rapidly changing time zones, inhaling industrial and other pollutants (not to speak of the many medicines/chemicals and forms of radiation/waves that we swallow), wide flexibility of food and environment necessitating quick adaptation. Perhaps this extreme difficulty and challenge will bring out an extreme possibility and strength from within the body cells.

A balance between rest and exercise/work is one side of the story. An equally important side is the attitude behind our work, the consciousness behind the exercises we do and the state in which we rest. As long as the body runs in the ego-mode and is at the service of the vital desires it will be prone to diseases and damages of various kinds. Desires, when moderate and regulated by reason, act as stimulants, but when the demand is in excess to the supply or disproportionate in one organ with regard to the rest of the body, then it becomes an irritant and the organ can easily fall sick. The particular organ involved is determined by the constitutional weakness/vulnerability as well as its symbolic function. Each organ is a certain condensation of energy of a particular type. It represents a certain level of consciousness and is affected by an imbalance in that domain.

In other words, to work upon the body does not mean only doing a certain set of exercises, controlling our diet and sleep, measuring our calorie input and output, etc. There are people who play vigorous sports, do the strictest diet control and yet do not escape illnesses. Equally there are examples of those who followed some simple basic rules of healthy living, led a quiet and simple life free from diseases and left their bodies peacefully when the hour arrived. There is evidently more to the body than the physical alone. In fact in the ancient image of the sages, the body was compared to a chariot carrying the soul. It was yoked to the mind through the senses and was driven by the vital force. If the vital energy driving it is gross or crude, unregenerate and barbaric, if the mind that is yoked to the body is a slave to the senses, the senses themselves driven blindly by every passing touch, then it is unlikely that the person would enjoy a long and healthy life just because he does vigorous exercises every day. What helps however is that those who choose to follow a methodical physical culture are fairly disciplined in themselves. They have taught the body to obey the orders of the mind, they have perchance learnt not to be an utter slave to the senses and it is that which helps from behind and not merely the fact of doing a daily workout. The physical plane is not to be treated as if it existed in isolation, no part or plane of the being can be treated or dealt like that since all is linked to all, including the individual physical organism to the mass of collective vibrations around it. So while there is an undeniable importance of teaching the body to shake off its tamas and inertia through a rational and methodical physical education (for which there are many books and one can pick and choose, or even combine according to one’s taste, opportunity and possibilities), yet the physical education itself is incomplete if it is not followed or combined with an education of the nervous vital parts, the mind and most importantly of the soul in us. For without that divine element, man is little more than an animal, or perhaps even worse, since if to his physical prowess he adds an abundance of vital energy, which some of these methods of pranayama provide and intellectual powers of an inferior outgoing mind, then he adds cunning and evil to his acts and if not adequately supported by the soul from behind, he can easily become the rakshasa or the asura. Such a man is a menace and a sickness to humanity as a whole even if he enjoys a long and disease-free life!

One may say, but how is it possible for him to enjoy good health? We must here understand that health, as a disease-free state and not in its true and integral sense, is a question of balance of energies. A man who is closer to the animal existence may well enjoy a better apparent health than his intellectual counterpart because he has less elements to harmonise within himself and is more at harmony with the outer world as it is today with its animal appetites. Obviously if a survival fitness test was conducted on a swan straying in a colony of look-alike kingfishers and forced to live like them, then it would perhaps fail miserably. In other words, a truly integral working on the physical plane is possible only when we work on the other planes simultaneously and we do whatever we do with the body — whether singing or dancing, bathing or climbing, working or resting, eating or sleeping, isotonic or isometric exercises — ’consciously’ with a consecration to the Divine Presence within us and as an offering with an aspiration to make of our physical body a means and an instrument for the fulfilment of a higher diviner living, for the fulfilment of dharma. Sariram khalu dharmasadhanam, goes a famous Sanskrit phrase by the mystic poet Kalidasa.

In an illness or affliction of the body we can facilitate the healing process in the following ways:

  • By giving rest to the part that is diseased.
  • By discovering the symbolic nature of the movement that has gone wrong and correcting it. Say, for example, various forms of greed leading to an excess which causes tumours of various kinds; or unkind thoughts and repressed anger being responsible for hyperacidity and stomach ulcers.
  • By adopting a healthy lifestyle where there is neither an excess of strenuous demand or an underuse of any faculty or part, neither an excess or an undue diminution of the normal requirements and functions such as food and sleep. The famous injunction of the Gita regarding observing moderation in everything, including food, rest and recreation is echoed in the texts of Ayurveda as well as modern medicine.
  • By opening the part that is diseased to a deeper and higher Light and Peace. This can be done in several ways such as guided imagery, visualization techniques, or by simply opening the physical consciousness directly to the higher Light and Peace of the Divine Consciousness provided one is conscious in these domains.
  • By rejecting the illness from the body through the help of mind or the vital will or even the will of the body.
  • By inducing faith in the cells in their recovery. One can even talk to them to come out of their diseased state. One of the roles of the physician and the medicine is to induce this faith in the body. It may be interesting to note here that in each epoch there are certain formulations that help which strangely become defunct at a later date. The reason could be a collective faith of humanity in a certain prescription or a way of therapy. These things circulate as vibrations and affect us unknowingly.


The Vital

The vital is the seat of vitality, the force of life in us whose currents set to motion the various physiological and psychological functioning and processes. It is the main feeder of energy for living beings. Of course due to our bodies still being built in the animal way, we depend largely upon physical means to draw the vital energy involved in the living world. But there are other ways to draw vital energy as well. Some people habitually do this in certain favourable circumstances. Some do it directly from the living world without actually taking in the life form physically. Some can do it by tapping into higher regions of our consciousness through prayer, meditation, aspiration, etc. Nevertheless, some form of physical intake of food is necessary for embodied life as it is today for the form to grow and replace itself and not just be nourished vitally. This is because evolution has proceeded from matter to life and is on the basis of matter therefore everything here has become so heavily dependent upon material means and processes except for short periods and occasional instances. Naturally when we draw vital energy from animal forms, we also partake along with energy some form of the animal consciousness and its propensity to fear and rage and all the rest. Plant products do not have this disadvantage since they embody mainly the sap of life or that aspect of the vital which is necessary just to nourish matter and provide it food for growth.

The role of the vital in health and illness is considerable and goes far beyond the food we eat for our vital and physical nourishment. It is the vital that often disturbs the healthy habits of the body and coerces it to obey an excess demand of passions and desires and greed, etc. The effect of these vital movements such as anger, lust, etc. is to open the doors of our nature to harmful forces that take advantage of our unconsciousness that often follows the exhaustion subsequent to these activities. Besides, an excess of desire irritates the concerned organ leading to an overuse and thus an imbalance. On the other hand, a non-fulfilment of desire and subsequent propensity to depression in some leads to a lowering of the vital force and a weakening of the body’s protective nervous envelope. The forces of illness can then easily enter and take hold of our body or create various forms of disturbances.

The vital is the energy feeder for the body as well as the mind. It is the vital with its urges and impulsions, desires and ambitions, feelings and emotions, sentiments and passions, its seekings for joy or strivings for mastery that provides the motive force for most human beings. That is why if the vital parts in us are on strike due to any disappointment or frustration, there is at once a depression of the vital energies of life in us. The result is, on the one side, fatigue and easy exhaustion, a general depression of the body’s natural defences or the will to live; and, on the other hand, a psychological state of depression, lack of interest or enthusiasm in anything. All kinds of illnesses, physical or psychological can steal into the system in this state which is most conducive to ill-health and predisposes us to attacks of various kinds.

To prevent the possibilities of such vital strikes at a later age, it is best to train the consciousness from an early age. Much that is being written these days in the name of emotional quotient or EQ is actually about vital education. Essentially, it involves three things:

  • Teaching ways and means to enhance the vital energy. This is done through various means which can augment the normal supply of vital energy through food, etc. One of the most commonly used means to enhance the vital energy in the system is through the type of breathing exercises called pranayama. Tested and retested down the ages by various sages and physicians alike, these exercises are meant to draw vital energy through the breath, which is essentially a physical vehicle for drawing in, along with the oxygen we need, the force of prana. The oxygen molecule carries this prana everywhere through the circulatory system, to each and every cell. A set of physiological processes are then activated, directed by the prana currents into the human body which provide the energy needed for the body and mind. This process can be augmented by consciously adding more prana to each breath that we take in. But apart from this there are other ways of drawing prana in the system. For instance, through the occult processes, through the sun, through flowers, through an opening to higher regions of the being, through the subtle breath as when a yogi is able to suspend his breathing for long hours without dying, etc. Perhaps a similar hitherto unknown process is responsible for the survivors of earthquakes and such catastrophes where the victim was left buried under a heap of rubble for days or was cut off from food and water, yet survived. Certain mentally sick people and so also some frequent fasters know this trick instinctively and draw prana without eating or drinking, facilitating survival for days and even weeks, a feat that would seem impossible to logic given the make-up of our human physiology.
    Prana is a universal force and can be drawn practically from everywhere and everything, but the most unfortunate aspect of this is that some people draw the force of prana from other human beings. These are almost life-suckers who leave their companions weaker and exhausted, vulnerable to disease and death, just as there are others who are natural life-givers and spread life and hope and enthusiasm everywhere. However, it is not enough to simply learn how to draw prana and increase its influx into the system. It can even be dangerous if the source of prana is impure or the body and nerves weak to bear the excess load. The nerves especially are vulnerable to such an increase in the pranic load, which is why most pranayama practices are advised to be done under an expert’s guidance and usually after the initial nerve purifying pranayama (nadi suddhi) is done to facilitate the smooth flow of currents through a set of strong and healthy nerves. Whatever be the claims made, the exercises of pranayama presume a balanced and strong physical-nervous basis. If that is not the case, then it is best to achieve the same through asanas or some such exercises.
  • What we also need is a purification of the nerve currents. This purification is achieved by first regulating the source of prana. The best source is of course the spiritual one. To draw the higher energies through aspiration, through a concentration and an opening to the Divine Consciousness is the best thing. We have already spoken of nadi suddhi. Then there are the various disciplines aimed at rectifying the vital movements such as adopting the right attitude towards events and circumstances, being cheerful and full of trust and confidence in the Divine, doing the appointed action without claim to the fruits or worrying about the results, calling peace into the system, turning one’s emotions and will towards the Divine, etc. Without these complimentary movements, it is dangerous to simply augment the prana force as some so-called new-age methods seem to advocate. Besides, there is nothing new about pranayama and to do these exercises as a means to satisfy one’s desire for enjoying a longer life, or fulfilling one’s ambition by increasing the energy output, is pointless and terribly egocentric. The purification of prana is even more important to health as its augmentation by mechanical and other means.
  • Finally there is the necessity of regulating and refining the flow of pranic force through channelization in exercises and other creative activities. The best of course is a channelling of the prana into spiritual and higher pursuits on the one side, and on the other to provide a healthy and strong physical base by methodical exercises so that the body and mind do not break down when the higher consciousness awakens in our system.

In an illness, the vital can facilitate recovery by getting rid of the wrong movements that have been the cause of illness. One can also use the vital will to reject the illness, remain vigilant that the illness is not supported by something in the vital in the form of feelings, especially of depression. There is in the human vital a perverse love for tragedy. The vital loves drama, it even creates them; sometimes it holds an illness just as a grudge, at other times it fabricates it for oneself. The best antidote to this is the power of sincerity and of purity but that is seldom freely available to human beings. For, sincerity and purity are not loose terms. It means to remain exclusively open to the Divine, to rely fully with confidence and trust on the Divine for everything, to want nothing from anyone but seek all one’s joys and satisfaction only from the Divine, to want only the Divine and to be exclusively under the Divine Influence in each and every part of one’s consciousness. If one can use an illness to detect the wrong movement and next to develop and cultivate the right state and responses in the vital, then the illness itself would become a doorway for progress and the crisis a means to one’s liberation. Then we would have nothing else but gratitude for all our ordeals, for indeed they are the shortest route to the Divine. Short of this, if one can in some way remain cheerful and positive, optimistic and full of hope and trust, then automatically the subtle protective envelope is reinforced and the healing forces activated in the system, just as fear and depression cut holes in it and invite forces of illness and disintegration to enter into the bodily house.


The Mental

The role of mind in health and illness is phenomenal. We are only beginning to recognize a little of it. We are as if led by the mind, so much so that if the mind believes in something, the rest of the parts almost instinctively follow. The mind can create formations for good or for worse. It can exaggerate or minimize the symptoms or even add new ones. Through thoughts full of anxiety and fear we can actually attract the illness or make the existing one worse. Again it is well known that depression depresses our immune system, predisposing us to various illnesses. Most often the mind colludes with the vital and its fears and phobias, giving a material shape to our anxieties which in turn affects us powerfully.

The mind is a mediator divinity. It can serve as an intermediary link between the higher domains of consciousness and our lower existence here. But to serve as a link, the mind has to be freed from its ego-centric outlook and its smallness turned only to the outward and the immediate, dwelling only upon the surface appearance of things. At least it needs a certain degree of trust in something higher that can help and relieve, support and succour. In an illness, the mind can be a great source of help to facilitate recovery. First, it must stop turning itself around the illness by constant thoughts about it. This is not easy for someone who has not practiced thought control to a certain extent. So one way out is to simply turn the mind away onto something else, some healthy preoccupation such as reading or going about the usual routine of work, etc. (within limits of course so that adequate rest is provided to the part). But reading should not be about the illness (unless it is a positive and useful reading) since unregulated information may do more harm by inducing fears and anxiety.

Secondly, the mind can be exercised to creatively visualize the healing process. There are plenty of techniques available and one can choose according to one’s taste and preference and with a little ingenuity even devise one’s own. The essence of all these techniques is to use the faculty of imagination to create positive images of the state that one wants to achieve. Thus, one can use positive affirmations that one is healthy, or, for instance, as has been proved in certain forms of cancer, imagine the white cells and the healthy cells actually fighting and destroying the cancer cells.

Thirdly, the mind can create formations that can act as a shield against illness. The mind can also invoke the higher powers of Peace and call upon Grace through prayers to heal and cure oneself. Finally, the mind can be taught to fall quiet and thereby allow the healing forces to work. This quietening can be achieved through meditation of various types including vipassana or witnessing consciousness, or through the powerful agency of japa, which besides helping the mind to fall quiet and getting rid of unwanted thoughts, can also be a powerful aid to the body by acting upon the physical consciousness through the vibrations of sound. Finally, the mantra can be used to invoke certain higher powers and beings for healing purposes if the person and the part are receptive to their influence and have the necessary faith in the process. For, whatever road or means we may adopt, the one common thing is the factor of faith.


The Subconscient

The subconscient is the passive receptacle of all that has ever entered into the arena of our experience, however fleetingly or momentarily and without conscious attention through the doors of our senses. This part is one of the most difficult to deal with in relation to illness. An illness is a disordered pattern that may become a habit if it recurs and persists. The subconscient mind then stores it as passive memory throwing it up again at some later date. It is the reason why not only habits of thought and reactions but also illnesses recur, especially when our waking guard is lowered as in sleep. A mastery over this part is quite essential though difficult if we are to make ourselves immune from recurrences.

But this is by far the most difficult task. The things that lie buried in the subconscient as seeds are below the reach of our conscious waking mind, their influence and hold upon the human nature very powerful, especially since they are often supported by the collective suggestions that are prevalent in the atmosphere and sink into our subconscious mind quite unconsciously. When most unsuspected, they spring a surprise upon us. It is the same with illnesses and their cure. The prevalent beliefs of the times are like collective suggestions that linger in some dark corners of our subconscious mind. And if they are supported by the so-called scientific facts, then it becomes even more powerful.

Only a Light greater than the mind can annihilate the difficulties of the subconscient and conquer it for good. That indeed is part of the programme of the future. But till that happens and spreads as a general influence in the subconscient mind of the race, one can somewhat work upon the subconscient part by auto-suggestion, especially during the twilight zone where wakefulness and sleep embrace each other.


The Circumconscient

The circumconscient is the surrounding consciousness that envelopes us from two sides. Part of it comes from within us and is made up of the vibrations emitted by us due to our present psychological state. Once let free from us, these vibrations can attach themselves to those around who are receptive and trigger similar psychological states in them through a sort of subtle contagion. Thus, desires or anger or fear thrown in the environment circulate in the subtle atmosphere and have a short or long life depending upon the force and intensity, the strength of projection, the formulation in words, and the play of other supporting or contradictory vibrations. This occult commerce is the source of much unwanted malady and misunderstandings between human beings. Each human being is thus a transmitter as well as a receiver and depending upon what he is attuned to within or without, he becomes a channel to receive or project certain forces in the atmosphere.

But apart from human beings there is another source of these vibrations. The world is indeed full of subtle forces and beings, helpful and harmful, which constantly surround us. There are also certain times when forces of one type or the other are active. In fact one can charge the atmosphere of the place one lives in through a conscious invocation of the forces one wishes, for example, forces of peace and light, health and harmony. But equally, one may throw all kinds of self-destructive vibrations in the atmosphere which harm others and ultimately fall back upon oneself. The role of forces in health and illness, especially with regard to the vibrations emitted by the physicians and the nurses and of the place where the patient rests, is obvious.

It is important, therefore, that those around the patient not only speak positive but also think positive. Our thoughts and feelings circulate in the atmosphere and enter others even without the awareness of their waking minds. It is not only that we should not think negative but that we should think positive in the atmosphere of those who are unwell. It provides a quiet support to the person and strengthens him from within. Above all, the patient should be nurtured in an atmosphere of love and peace, a harmony of vibrations, whether in the surroundings or the psychological atmosphere of people and this is the best way to facilitate the healing process.


The Psychic Being and Health

The mind, vital and the body can be afflicted by illnesses. They are subject to falsehood and to the attacks of forces of disruption, disharmony and disequilibrium. But there is in us a part that is immune to these things, a part that is open to Light, Truth, Peace, Harmony and Balance. It is the inner wire connecting us to the source of Light and Peace and Truth of the higher regions. The mystics know of it as the secret soul seated within the depths of our being, at the centre of our heart, in the occult cave of the spirit where no falsehood or wrong and evil could come, where no force of disorder and disharmony could enter. This is the part that can grant us spiritual and all other forms of health if we can open to its influence from within and listen to its voice and respond to its powers. But we must not mistake it with the voice of conscience or the idealistic sentiment in us. The true soul is much deeper and fully authentic. It has a ring of truth in it. Its touch liberates the streams of an inner joy and peace, the ambrosia of the gods that heals and fills our limbs with the strength of the immortal in us.

But it is not so easy to find this part in us. Our nature resists since it would mean that the mind and the vital lose their hold and abdicate their rule in favour of this diviner element. We have neither the faith nor the patience to pursue this great inner discovery, without which we are little more than an intelligent savage, and for that matter less healthy than the less intelligent barbarian.

And so will it be till we have discovered this divine alchemist within us and graduated from chemistry to alchemistry, that the soul can do wonders by invoking the higher powers of health and healing, by calling down the peace and joy of a higher sphere into our little plot of sorrow and suffering, by freeing us from the fear of death and eventually one day from death itself by discovering our innate immortality and reproducing it in the other parts and levels of our being. It is only when we have turned to this inmost healer within us that man shall open the doors to true healing. Not that the discovery of the psychic being within would automatically ensure a freedom from diseases but it would do a great deal towards that. It would, for instance:

  • Ensure that the different parts spontaneously reject illness. Not only would it reject illness but by reinforcing our subtle envelope prevent the forces of illness from entering and settling down within our body and mind.
  • Naturally there would be moments when one is not only not in contact with this diviner element but rather drawn away from it, lured by the powers of Ignorance that hold earth-nature in their sway. But then the psychic being would bounce back and help us open to the forces of healing and by making our nature receptive to them, facilitate the healing process.
  • By progressively spreading its influence upon the other layers change their habits into healthier ones, moderate and even eliminate the corrupting force of desire, and gradually awaken us to the Light and Peace of the Divine which would eventually ensure a complete immunity from most illnesses.
  • In the course of time, the psychic being, assisted by the Divine Will and Consciousness that is at work upon earth, will open the earth-nature and our bodies to the absolute Light and Power of the Supramental Truth-Consciousness, thereby creating a body that is not only completely immune to every form of illness and decay but also luminous and plastic to the spiritual Truth within us. This would eventually carry man beyond the reach of diseases and even death.


An Integrated Approach to Healing

As we have discussed earlier, disease is not something that exists in isolation. Even when a part is sick, it is the whole harmony that has been disturbed. A common example is that when we suffer from one type of problem, we often find other problems that had apparently been cured erupt or surface again. Several seen and unseen factors and forces are at play in illness and the approach to cure has also to be accordingly multi-tiered. In a general way, we can say that the kind of therapy that would suit best in a person depends upon the level of consciousness, more accurately the subtlety and receptivity of his consciousness to the various healing methods and forces, and the faith in this or that method or system. A method works best if we have full faith in it, or at least a central faith that it works. It is not a question of this or that specific remedy; often it is more a question of faith in a particular system that is much more important. But faith itself has three components which are interconnected with each other and contribute to the healing process. Of crucial importance of course is the patient’s faith in the system, the medicine and the physician. Next is the faith of the physician in the treatment he is using, its efficacy and the possibility of bringing about a cure. Finally, perhaps even more importantly and powerfully than the individual’s faith is the collective faith of a generation and a people in a way of life. For most of humanity this collective faith is often a greater power than the individual faith since it works through the subconscious mind of the race and overtakes the individual by surprise.

Nevertheless, depending upon the level of operation we could broadly classify the various methods of healing into four major categories:

  • Physical therapies which rely on chemical formulations (medicines, herbs, etc.).
  • Occult and Energy therapies which work upon the vital body, such as pranic therapy, homeopathy, acupressure, etc.
  • Psychological therapies, such as meditation, guided imagery, creative visualization, rectifying attitudes, etc., which take into account the mind and its powers in assisting the healing process.
  • Spiritual therapies which activate the higher healing forces such as Peace, Purity, Grace to heal and to succour. Prayer, invocation, faith, surrender belong to this mode of healing.

There is another factor to be considered in the choice of therapy. It is the degree of penetration of the illness into the human system. An illness, before it affects the gross body has to pass through a subtle vital-physical layer. When the vibration of illness touches this layer, it can be perceived if one is sensitive enough to a little odd sensation of touch or taste or smell. If one can detect the illness at this stage, it is easy enough to get rid of it by simply rejecting the suggestion or the sensation by a clear and strong ‘No’ from within. But if it manages to get a little deeper and we begin to feel a little chill or some cold or fever or some other sensation related to the gross body such as pain then one has to sit quietly and concentrate, invoke the Light and Peace of Truth or the Grace, opening that part and the body to Its action and influence. At this level there is also the role of various energy therapies which can clear the energy-body of the illness. If the illness goes past this stage and settles into the gross body, then it would usually run its course and physical methods are useful here since the body responds more readily to physical means given that they are more akin to its natural constitution. The other means such as spiritual and occult can hasten the course or sometimes cut it off, but still many would need some material support to facilitate the action of the higher forces as well. Finally, where the illness has taken a chronic form or where the mind has a large role to play, then one can use psychological therapies in addition.

What one has to remember is that the field of medicine is not like mathematics and one has to figure out what suits one best through an intuitive feel and a wider understanding of human nature that neither puts people and things into rigid slots, nor assumes a strict either-or position, both of which hamper a judicious combination of healing processes. Finally, one has to remember that all our present knowledge of man and medicine is based upon our present understanding of life which itself is very limited. As we grow in consciousness, as we grow in capacities, as we grow in true wisdom and authentic power, we may well realize that all our present methods and systems were a child’s play, that illness is not what we thought it to be, that there is more to man than biology and chemistry and even psychology, that we have the power to act directly upon matter without any intermediary instrumentation and heal from a distance. That will be the real victory of man over diseases — an authentic victory and not a precarious control as we now try to establish by balancing the different parts while walking the tight rope of the enigma called ‘life’.



Manipulating Human Nature



All said and done, the human being remains an enigma. The over-simplistic comparisons with a machine that the reductionists made in the twentieth century have been found to be a grossly misrepresented fact, yet its repercussions are being felt to date. Modern medicine in fact developed largely with this view that the body is just like a machine, and since the machine cannot do anything by itself except the functions for which it has been made, its role in healing is next to negligible. It is someone outside the machine, the expert physician or surgeon, technicians of the body, who must study its fabric and make and set it right. The process of setting it right is also much the same as one would do to something like an unconscious machine. One has to only spend a little time in the Intensive Care Units and see how much the body is being made to endure and perhaps suffer under all our modern medical care. Whether all this highly sophisticated medical care has actually helped man even in terms of reducing morbidity and suffering is a debatable point, one to which there are no easy answer. In fact, critical care has raised many more uncomfortable questions than it has solved. Most physicians would admit that most critically ill patients would like to be left free to die (or recover!) gracefully and peacefully, preferably in their homes in good surroundings with their loved ones around, especially once they age, rather than kick the bucket with a terrible row and clatter, tubes in one orifice or another, with the wrists tied to a monitor and the mouth to a breathing machine! Yet they are forced to do the contrary for their patients, especially since the relatives carry a false impression that all this will miraculously cure suffering. Again the use of stronger and stronger medicines that often do a lot of violence to the body has already damaged and diminished the natural healing capacities of man. The emerging science of Psychoneuroimmunology is increasingly recognizing that disease is not something we have to fight violently as an enemy or correct mechanically as one does a machine, but to be used as a means to understand something about the dynamic processes of our existence, a symbolic language clumsily trying to tell us something that we just will not listen to otherwise, allowing us to use this knowledge for an evolutionary transformation and for better adaptation to the universe we inhabit.

In fact even the body hardly behaves like a machine. No man-made machinery can evaluate and manipulate itself, evolve new patterns that would heal, find novel ways to meet challenges and apply itself with such an amazing accuracy and rapidity to an external assault that would put even the best of armies to shame. What to say of the fine-tuned dynamic and brilliant ever-changing yet ever the same coordination between billions and billions of cells performing diverse and complex functions that cannot be equalled by the most harmonious orchestra or the most efficient organization, given the duration for which this brilliant cellular concert lasts without much wear and tear. The body is not so unconscious after all, much though we have made it appear so. It can and indeed it does collaborate in the healing process and perhaps its role is the maximum, for the body is healed when it wants to be healed. Many are the secrets of the body consciousness that we are yet to discover, secrets whose application may well change all our concepts of the so-called curable and incurable diseases. For, logically there is nothing to which the body can say that it is incurable, if only our mind does not come in with its dogmas and opinions and the vital with its excesses that disturb its natural rhythm and healing ability. Given time and patience, rest and support, trust and an opening to Grace, most bodies should be able to heal themselves provided we can keep the mind and vital silent. But herein lies the added complexity of our human nature.

For, the body is not all. In fact the body is more like a transmitter and a receiver through which many forces flow and find a field for their movements. Or we can compare it to a faithful barometer of sorts that records all the changes that take place at the different levels of our being. There is in us the life-force which animates the cells through nerves and the breath. It has its own complex pathways. In fact one of the principal Upanishads describes that the force of life and our being is tied to the body by a hundred and one subtle nerves that enter through the heart which is like a central point of our being. And it is this wrench when the strings of life are rent asunder during death that constitutes the pain of dying. Whatever it be, one thing is certain, that the bodily appearance is not all and there are other powers of being, other forces than purely physical ones that move us, powers of life and mind and soul, forces subtle and occult from this world and from energies and worlds of other dimensions. The body can be rather seen as a symbolic representation of these other planes and worlds that are mirrored in its movements and that also control its specific functions. There is, so to say, a world of subtle correspondences. Thus, the region of the head and the brain can be regarded as the seat of mental consciousness and a malfunction in this area reflects a malfunction in our mental apparatus, a fact often seen in an inverted way by the neuropsychologist. The area of the throat represents the force of expression or that aspect of the life-energy where it rises up and meets the mental consciousness. The region of the chest (lungs and heart) represents emotions and the force of life in its centrality, manifesting in movements of expansion, whether through ambition where the life-force is strong or through dependency and attachment where the life-force is relatively weak. Then there are the lesser and lower movements of the life-energy — desire and anger and bitterness, jealousy and other small sentiments — over which man makes so much hullabaloo. The still lower movements of fear, that were originally self-preservative, have assumed a different meaning and form in human beings and its excess is reflected as a disturbance in the corresponding abdominal organ. For instance anger and unkind thoughts affect the stomach, bitterness affects the liver, impatience and fear affects the intestines and kidneys, lust affects the urinary bladder, prostate or uterus. The lowest parts are of course the seat of the most obscure movements of the life-force, such as lust and greed.

Now this makes the issue already fairly complex since different parts in us may respond differently to the healing process and the healing energies — material or otherwise. This is so because though our physical being and bodies have evolved through millions of years (another reason not to undermine its powers and possibilities), our psychological being is yet evolving and progressing. The different aspects of our intricate psychological apparatus — thought, will, emotions, desire, passion, instincts and all the rest — are yet to discover their secret law of harmonious rhythm that can resolve their mutual discords. Perhaps illness is one way that Nature is using to accelerate this resolution by throwing a challenge of disharmony at it. These different parts are often terribly mixed with each other, only adding to the confusion. We cannot even distinguish movements of lust and love and our reason is often clouded by emotion and covered by passion and imagination. As if this were not all, there is the admixture of the different psychological influences that flow in and out of us from the environment in the form of vibrations. How easy it is to get caught in a fit of anger when we are with someone who is full of it and how easy it is to get trapped into a wave of desire when we venture into a mart.

Added to this are the hidden subconscious influences, the submerged parts, the lingering shadows of our bygone past in this life and others, the subtle and occult influences that are thrown at us from diabolic sources and ill-will. How are we to handle all this? The first necessity is of course to learn how to stand back from this chaotic field. Secondly, to find that point of support in us that carries in itself the possibility of a real mastery, not only of our confused present but also of our phantom past. Such a role cannot be played by the ego since it is a temporary formation of Nature itself, nor can it be played by reason since it is so heavily dependent upon the limited field of known experience on the basis of which it tries to find the unknown. Besides reason has no certain way of knowing things, its best word is a reasonable guess and its highest search is an agnosticism. Least of all can any mere surface manipulation — whether through drugs or genetic alteration or even behavioural methods — help us since they do not tackle the root issues. They may be helpful in temporary respite much as other therapies, including psychotherapies and breathing techniques and even meditation techniques or exercises are only temporary devices that can become a ritualistic farce or a temporary tool if they do not lead us to something deeper and more intrinsically true. It is not enough to simply increase the powers of Nature, whether through material or occult means, though it has its place, but even more important is to discover in us that which transcends Nature and its means, that which is untouched by death, disease and decay, for that alone can then transmute our fallen nature and rescue it from time’s vagaries. All other parts in us are themselves blind and to rely on them alone is like relying on the blind to lead the blind.

This discord can only be resolved by discovering the true psychological centre of our being, the inmost soul. Once discovered it can act as a true centre of Light to organise our being, and as a source of authentic power to change our nature and its intricate machinery, even rescue it from the past and its influences. However, it is not easy to discover this most intimate part of us since it is so much covered by the thick and obscure material of life and our dense bodies that trap our consciousness. However, even a little sincere effort in this direction is amply rewarding. Even a little of its touch can liberate us from much fear, give us the right inner and outer balance, show us that which needs to be changed, open us to higher and deeper forces of healing such as Peace and Joy and most of all to Grace. It is the central point, having found which we can touch everything else directly and lead each part to its own harmonious fulfilment. In fact illness and in general any suffering can be a great and powerful lever to open the doors to the psychic since it is in pain that we find our whole being concentrated in such a way as if nothing else existed. Only, instead of letting this concentration become a means of oblivion, if we can turn it inside as a sword to cut through the knots that tie us and are the source of limitation and ignorance and pain, we would find in pain often a greater Grace than in pleasure and things that give us happiness. But till that happens there is a lot more we can do by way of manipulating human nature to our advantage with a view to facilitate the healing process. These methods can be broadly divided into the following groups:


Standing Back from the Body

It is well known that all suffering has a physical and a psychological component. A man in coma does not suffer even if one were to inflict deep pain upon him. So also we have a higher threshold to pain when we are in deep sleep. The reason is that the mental factor is withdrawn in these states. The mind is the master sense and if one can control it then one can master the other sense experiences and even alter the response we give to the world contacts. We can de-condition and recondition our responses by imposing the mental will upon the body. But for this to happen effectively, the first requirement is to learn to detach the mind from the body and get the vantage point of support from which we can manipulate our physical nature. This detachment happens automatically when we are mentally engaged with something other than our illness and it certainly helps, especially if that something other is an interesting thing. The mental factor is thereby eliminated for a while and the body can better heal itself since it is unobstructed by the anxiety and fears that the mind often tends to have about the illness. Or else the mind factor is silenced when the patient gets reassuring words from the physician, his anxiety allayed and his faith strengthened; the rest is taken care of by the body which is far more conscious and capable than we can imagine. But in these two methods, the mind withdraws passively from the physical scene and thereby does not interfere.

The same withdrawal can be done consciously by learning to stand back in consciousness from the body and watching it as something outside us, as one would watch someone else’s body. By practicing one can perfect it to any extent, including remaining motionless and unmoved within in spite of conditions that would normally make someone writhe in pain. This detachment, when done as an active process, gives us the additional possibility of manipulating the body by the mental will. This too we normally do when we force the body to keep awake simply because something interests our mind even though the body is tired and wants to sleep. This same possibility can be extended to the extent of training the body to give a contrary reaction to afflictions and even to facilitate the healing process by stimulating the desired response, say the secretion of a certain hormone or chemical that is deficient or is required, but of course the physical basis must be there for this to happen. The mind has its limits, it can make a sleepy organ wake up and work, it can stimulate cells that are functionally slow, it can create new cells out of old ones, but it cannot make a dead cell come alive or reshape the body’s anatomy! Nevertheless detaching the mind from the body eliminates the mental factor and greatly facilitates the healing process.


Power of Suggestion

The power of suggestion is really a faith in the mind. If the mind has faith in something, it can induce the body to develop faith and that helps tremendously. Usually, the mind develops this faith when it gets the suggestion from informed sources. People whom the mental man trusts as knowledgeable or the methods in which there is belief are those that the mind can hold on to as powerful suggestions and these can in turn activate the chain of healing processes. But even when the mind gives a suggestion mechanically, the body may read it as a positive signal and get activated in a certain direction. This may work well when the rational mind is bypassed as in the twilit zone just before sleep. This is especially useful to penetrate into the subconscient parts. These subconscious suggestions can be very powerful and it is through these that the media and the prevalent beliefs enter the human mind and influence us. When it is supported by a collective faith — whether localized or a general faith — a group or epoch puts in a particular form of therapy, its power of influence can be enormous. Much of the healing that takes place once the patient has shown himself to a qualified physician and has been prescribed ‘good’ medicines is due to the activation of this faith. The rest automatically follows.


Mental Formations

It is a common error to believe that only the physical things exist as real whereas those that belong to the domain of thought and idea are not real. Nothing can be farther from the truth and we have everyday proof of it. The sense of fear evoked through imagining horror has concrete physical effects and so also the contrary. Unfortunately, we are never allowed to develop this faculty and what is worse is that it is left at the mercy of all kinds of forces and influences so that given the first opportunity most people imagine the most horrible things. But we can instead direct this faculty to good effects by consciously creating mental forms that are beautiful and healthy. Mental imagery has already come in a big way in alternate healing. We can, for example, imagine an extension of Peace and Light and Force above our head (that such an extension actually exists has been affirmed by the yogis) and then we can slowly pull it down through the head and to each and every part right up to our feet. We can visualize it as a column of transparent white Light entering us through the crown and bringing Peace and Force and Health to heal us. We can even direct this Light to the afflicted part and imagine it entering the cells and opening them to the Light that heals, through thought suggestions. This imagination can be very powerful if done properly and by someone with an especially evocative power. Of course it is understood that not all can do it equally well and not all have the same affect. In such matters there is a great flexibility and even in the image certain spontaneity is needed. To make it too mechanical takes away much of their strength. Also there is a great degree of difference of response in different people due to receptivity and openness to these subtler influences. And knowing the extent to which we are glued to the physical dimension it may not be advisable to dispense with all physical support, especially in instances where the mind is full of fears due to suggestions of seriousness of the illness. It is ideal in that case to use these means as adjuvants rather than as the mainstay therapy.



Hypnosis is closely allied to suggestion and faith except that the faith of the patient is substituted by the therapist’s will in which the patient puts an implicit faith while in a state of hypnosis. But even auto-hypnosis, much like auto-suggestion, helps because it bypasses the rational mind. The power of auto-hypnosis can be easily understood through the example of TV viewing. We know that what is being projected are simply images, yet we laugh and sing and cry based on the hypnotic effect of the TV image. Hypnosis is a kind of identification and can also work if one can feel and live in the consciousness of the cure. This is not denial but simply identification with a state of consciousness that slowly begins to affect the physical body by percolating into it.


Charged Objects

Can physical objects be charged with healing forces? This is a question which the casual scientist, overconfident of his knowledge may well ridicule. But is it so unscientific after all? If there are ranges of consciousness beyond the physical world, as indeed modern science is itself beginning to speculate, then it is not at all surprising that the laws and vibrations of a higher world or a lower one — or if we wish to avoid the terms higher and lower, then the vibrations of a more harmonious consciousness and those of disorder — can be superimposed upon material objects that can be used as mediums to transmit a positive and negative influence. Though such things are today termed as either ‘occult’ or ‘superstition’ based upon the position that we take, a day may well come when we may view them under the purview of a higher science. Flowers especially are extremely receptive and can be readily charged by vibrations and forces of a higher order. The healing power of some herbs and objects such as Rudraksha beads may well be related to a capacity of being charged this way. But uncharged they may be like any other object. Even the material of buildings may have this capacity to absorb and transmit certain kinds of forces that may help in healing. It is widely believed, for instance that Marble has this inherent capacity to absorb spiritual vibrations and retain it for a long time, justifying its use in places of worship.


Healing Vibrations

The healing power of music is now well known and it may be related to a mechanism similar to the one cited above. Even the plants and water crystals are supposed to respond to music. And of all the harmonics known to man perhaps the best is a charged mantra. Of course certain mantras like the syllable AUM do not need to be charged, and if recited with faith, they have sufficient power to evoke the healing forces.


Relaxing and Widening

A part that is afflicted tends to be in a state of strain. It is as if doubled up and therefore closed to the healing action of Grace. The contrary movement of relaxation, whether done through the help of simple mental suggestions or through imagery, helps to open it and make it receptive. If to this one can add an exercise in widening by incorporating an image that widens one, then it is excellent and makes a part immediately receptive. This can be done by imagining one is lying on a plank and floating upon a huge body of water like the sea. One can then identify oneself with either the sea or the sky and slowly feel oneself becoming physically vast. Or else, one can widen oneself psychologically by contemplating the endlessness of Time and the boundlessness of Space, imagining that one has always existed before and shall always exist, and before that eternity of becoming and unfolding, this one life and its pains and troubles are like a fraction of a second.


Change of Lifestyle

An illness is basically a cry for change. The body is like an end point in a long chain of cause and effects that show themselves up as symptoms of illness. If we can work backwards and see where things have gone wrong within us, correct the movements that the illness symbolically represents, then we may be able to undo the formation of illness. Though not always so, since once the pathology settles in the very physical stuff, it becomes concretized and takes a lot of patience to undo it. Still if we can utilize this opportunity to change our lifestyle from an unhealthy to a healthy one, then the illness would itself become a boon. These lifestyle changes relate mainly to food, sleep, rest, work, exercise and above all attitudes, which we have already discussed elsewhere.


Physicians and Health Personnel

It is important to choose one’s doctor and the best one is he who is not only technically knowledgeable (that is indeed necessary) but also one who can inspire faith and confidence. The concept of family physician had this advantage that one knew not only the patient’s case history but also his psychological make-up. He could inspire trust most readily. The concept is now being revived again after suffering a period of eclipse under a heavy techno-savvy and commercially driven modern hospital setting. In such a setting it is often the machine that speaks rather than a doctor and healing is replaced by repairing a part or even simply changing it much as a mechanic would do with a car! The result is that patients keep returning again and again with one problem or the other and we keep playing the juggler rather than the doctor. It is also necessary to emphasize that this trust is more difficult to develop if one keeps changing the physician and does doctor shopping. The link that forms itself between a healer and a patient is more than that of prescribing medicines. There is invariably an interchange of the personalities and if we change the physician too frequently, it confuses the consciousness of the patient. Besides, even at a pragmatic level, it is simple to understand that medicine is not an exact science and unlike mathematics there may be and often is a divergence of opinions between two physicians. This divergence may cause confusion and loss of trust in the patient if he consults two or more doctors who give different advices.


The Atmosphere of Hospitals

Finally, something needs to be said about the atmosphere of hospitals which often become harbingers of diseases rather than of health. These places are often full of a sticky atmosphere, subtle yet concrete enough to be felt by anyone even slightly sensitive to these things, full of fear and pain and grief and suffering coupled with the formations of diseases. Since it is beyond the scope of a patient to change the atmosphere of a hospital, the best he can do is to choose at least a cleaner place, to create his own little corner of fresh air and healing vibrations and above all to keep the stay at a minimum.


Opening to Grace

All our methods — physical, psychological, occult — rely on the powers of the mind, vital and body. They have their utility and sometimes seem more effective, but their utility is a limited one. Their powers are derivative much like the light of the moon that is derived from the sun. The One original power that stands behind all these, the One original power that these other powers draw sustenance from or seek to imitate is the power of the Spirit, the power that flows from that mysterious fiat of Grace that leans down upon earth to heal and to succour. The Supreme Grace spreads its wings upon earth as a healing balm amidst the evolutionary stress and strain of our all too frail and fragile human life. It often works unseen, masked by other powers, since few and rare are those who can withstand its direct intervention. For, the Supreme Grace not only heals but also helps us to progress through the door of difficulty to a higher consciousness. It uses our crisis for liberation, our weakness to foster strength, our pain to break the resistance to Light within us. Once allowed to intervene, it not only cancels our present destiny but can also alter the balance of our future destiny. The Grace can completely annul the law of Karma. The action of the highest Grace, however, cannot be bound to any rule or frame or system or method. It does not necessarily favour the believer and leave the sinner for It acts with another vision than our dualistic mental consciousness. Yet there are certain things that can move It to act with a rapidity and lend a certain intensity to Its action. These things can be considered as individual factors that facilitate the action of Grace within us. In a general sense these factors are helpful to facilitate the healing action of any higher consciousness, including that which comes from the lesser ranges of the spirit, yet those that go beyond the human mind and its present capacities and powers.

Faith: We have already alluded to this before. It is the single common factor that underlies all healing processes, whether they be physical, psychological, occult or spiritual. Faith can cure in itself and alone, provided it is an integral faith right down to the very cells of the body. Such a faith is rare except in very young children who have not yet been corrupted by adult experience. That is one reason why healing is faster in children and even why sometimes they can be immune under circumstances which would ordinarily be fatal for others. This does not mean that faith can alter the cosmic law or grant immortality to children. Yet it is one of the most potent factors to activate and receive the Higher Will. In fact, an unshakable faith that one will be cured may well be the sign that the thing has been sanctioned by a Higher Power since true faith is a spontaneous and instinctive knowledge in the soul. This faith can be cultivated, even asked for. However, one should not confuse this faith with religious beliefs and non-beliefs which are something very outward, often mechanically professed without a soul touch and therefore with a very limited utility. Yet even this little can be used by the Grace to heal and help. This must not be mixed up with mass healing rituals of certain sects or religions which raises a lot of optimistic expectation and denial, releases a lot of vital energy in the atmosphere supported by a collective belief in the efficacy of healing that is common in such gatherings. The action of Grace, even when seemingly instantaneous and miraculous carries with it always an atmosphere of Peace and Calm, a deep certitude that is not based on any show or propaganda of a cult. The Divine surely does not need that. Yet for those who have felt It, Its action can be felt as something concrete, like a relaxing balm that suddenly opens up that part that is doubled up and penetrates it and cures it in a very palpable way.

Openness and Receptivity: The Grace is there with all but few are open to Its undiminished action. We close ourselves with doubt, with our so-called scientific knowledge that sees a very small slice of truth and takes it for the whole. We close ourselves by harbouring subconscious suggestions and resistances to the contrary. We close ourselves through fear and anxiety. We close ourselves through impatience and lack of trust. For not always can the action be instantaneous. Very often the action of a higher consciousness may even apparently worsen the symptoms initially, since its touch raises the hidden resistances within us. We have only to become just a little conscious of our thoughts and our fears and anxieties to understand how much resistance we offer ourselves to the healing action of Grace. To open ourselves to Grace and the higher consciousness we must first learn to relax and widen the affected part. We can do this by conscious suggestion or mental imagery or simply by putting a gentle will to relax and open the part to Light and Grace. We can open ourselves through a certain intensity of faith and trust. We can open ourselves by a certain prayer that wells up spontaneously from the heart as a cry for help just as a child would call his mother with full trust and confidence that the mother will come. It does not matter what language or arrangements of words that the seeker uses, for the Divine is not bound by any such mechanical law or formulation and knows Himself in the heart of the seeker. We can open ourselves through aspiration that rises up as a quiet but intense flame and carries with it the certitude of response. We can open ourselves through loving surrender, placing the entire responsibility of our life and death in the Hands of the Divine so that His Will may be done in us. But whatever be the method we use, we must know how to wait and not grudge the time taken. To learn to wait is to put time on one’s side. This is especially necessary with regard to the action of Grace since no matter how much we may grow in wisdom and clarity of thought, we will never be able to comprehend the All-seeing action of Grace that does for us what is the very best, indeed the very best given our present inner and outer circumstances. And this very best is from every possible point of view and not merely from the point of view of our transient ephemeral existence to which we are so terribly and so ignorantly attached.

Will and Effort: A common confusion is whether to use our will or not or any other method or system of therapy when we invoke Grace. The answer is actually very simple. It is true that if our faith and receptivity is integral, then nothing else may be needed. Nevertheless we must not deceive ourselves, that is, on the one side be full of fear and anxiety inwardly while outwardly profess that we have faith. No one else can know but we ourselves if we look carefully. And even when we have faith in the one part, we may lack it in another, especially the unconscious parts in us, the many hidden areas of doubt such as the subconscious will that resist the action of Grace. For, the body especially has evolved through much struggle and therefore has upon it the stamp of a certain defeatist that lurks in its subconscious memory. It anticipates trouble and apprehends the worst, especially the physical mind of man. In such cases, there is no harm in taking some material support, some gentle medicine or use a method as a support to the action of a higher Will. The only caution is that if the medicine or the method has wrong effects, then the higher Force has to do an additional work. It is necessary, therefore, to choose even this material support from a right source including the physician who works best when he is not only one with a sound knowledge of his subject but also open to the Grace and has faith.

To conclude we may say that there is a lot more that we can do about our illness than we imagine or medical science would make us believe. What we need to understand is that first illness is a call for change. It provides us with valuable information that we can use for our evolutionary transformation. Instead of fighting it violently, if we can learn from it, then we can even turn it to our advantage. An illness only indicates our present imperfection, our present ignorance and limitation, and not any law of punishment from God. It is a spur to change just as death and suffering are spurs to change. Illness like suffering holds out before our sight the points that need to be shaped and reshaped under the transforming action of Grace. The final remedy also lies in this — to respond whole-heartedly to the pressure of transformation and to consent willingly in all our parts to the action of Grace. Illness is only the point of resistance that comes out in the process — the transcript of inner conflict between parts that are open and respond to the Light and parts that do not. Or to put it differently, our body is the field in which the great battle of the future is being fought out. Disease and death are merely passing events of this battle. But its result is inevitable victory. Once purified of all the subconscient dross, humanity shall emerge into the greater Light of consciousness, into a greater knowledge and power and with it there shall come the end of suffering and ignorance and also as a consequence the end of disease and death. But till that happens and even as we strive for the true conquest through growth of consciousness, we must labour through whatever means to keep this earth free from suffering, from the pangs of illness, push the frontiers of ignorance and of death and carve a path for the victory of Truth. For indeed Truth cures.



Of Systems and Beyond Systems


The recent controversy over the unlabelled ingredients of a traditional medicine has stirred up an old discussion — the validity of ancient healing systems vis-à-vis the modern medical set-up. The votaries of the former believe that Allopathy, the child of modern science, is risky and dangerous, that it merely suppresses the symptoms rather than curing the illness and that its side effects are too many and can even be life-threatening. Those who side with the latter believe that all other systems of healing other than Allopathy are unscientific and unproven, that they do not have any effect or perhaps only a minimal effect, that it is dangerous to use them in serious illnesses since their non-effectiveness simply leads to a natural worsening, and that whatever cures are claimed are simply the result of a natural resolution of the illness rather than the effect of the medicine. Since either side holds to its beliefs, people are left to decide for themselves and choose whatever system they prefer. One thing is clear and that is we seldom see things as they are but rather as they are coloured by the lens of our beliefs and non-beliefs. And even when we claim to discard our beliefs as some of the scientists pretend to do, we still follow our belief in the methods of science and reason and the disbelief in things other than what our limited science or reason can dream of! Neither reason nor a superficial belief can show us the real nature of things or the truth. It is only by an ascension to a consciousness greater than reason and deeper than belief that we can find the truth of things. It is only the eye of wisdom that can give us true knowledge that is gained by identity with the object and it is only the deeper eye of faith that can point out the way to seek this wisdom.

If it is simply a question of each one’s belief, then there is no real issue. Each camp is left to fend for itself, each one is free to choose, and there is enough space for one and all. But the issue is much deeper than it appears on the surface and that is why Nature is raising this issue repeatedly before the modern mind so that it can be cleared of all the cobwebs of ideas and thoughts and cleansed of our scientific prejudice and spiritual dogmas, in order to arrive at a higher and greater reconciliatory synthesis. This synthesis of healing systems cannot be arrived by an indiscriminate combination since apparently each of them has a different rationale (or non-rationale), a different mode of action, different requirements from the patient, and perhaps suits different clientele. It is necessary to see these differences before we can go still deeper and discover the essence of healing that is common to all and thereby attempt a truer synthesis. Of course, it is a little hazardous to club and combine all traditional systems together. Nevertheless, for purposes of brevity one can do so taking care not to undermine the points of difference between each:

LEVEL OF OPERATION Apparently works through known material processes and physical pathways. Apparently the mechanism of action is unknown. Possibly works on material as well as non-material energies — like the vital (prana), subtle physical, psychological, etc.
ORIENTATION Disease and pathology oriented in the sense that it identifies the illness and acts upon it directly without much consideration of individual patient factors. Patient and health oriented in the sense that it takes into consideration the patient’s constitution and works to strengthen his natural resistance.
RATIONALE OF WORKING Believes that there is only physical reality and therefore origin, cause and cure must all be physical. Believes that there are other levels and systems of energy and consciousness and therefore origin, cause and cure may be subtle as well as physical.
ACTION Precise and quick since it acts directly on the physical. Action possibly more general and diffused since it acts on other levels as well, but also possibly more comprehensive or holistic.
DEVELOPMEN-TAL FORCE Developed through observation, testing, experimenting under the stress of rational sciences. Developed through intuition, empirical evidence and observation.

Let us for a while leave aside these differences that are well known now to all except the few who refuse to see. Let us also for a while set aside the commercially driven motives behind the R&D search for new molecules. Let us for a while even forget the issue of side-effects: the issues are even deeper. For, gone are the days when Science was a bridge between the forces working behind Nature and their application upon earth for the betterment of mankind. It is a moot question whether mankind has truly been bettered by the rickety crutch provided by the vegetal kingdom polished to good looks, shape and size in the pharmaceutical industry.

It may be however noted that not all allopathic drugs have serious side effects. On contrary, though most have some unwanted effect on organs other than the targeted one, yet they are usually mild, remain unnoticed and seldom serious enough to take cognizance. In fact, one of the trends in allopathic drug research, where it is genuinely done, is to create molecules specific to the target cells so as to act with maximum precision and minimum side effects. Equally, it would be preposterous to say that medicine in traditional systems have absolutely no side effects. Though, because the latter acts upon the person as a whole, it is only natural that the medicine while correcting one point of problem does not ignore the rest and also because they tone up the natural reserves of the body and vitality, the possibility of side effects is largely reduced. What Allopathy is trying to achieve through an increasing precision, the traditional system achieves through a holistic balance.

Yet, in the whole process man is being increasing crippled from within. His natural defences have become increasingly weak and, even though he can prolong his life through artificial external support, his resistance to illness and his ability to master his body by the powers given to him by Nature have come down markedly. The difference is too obvious to go unnoticed and it is becoming increasingly more obvious in the health and illness pattern spread over the rural-urban divide. It is a strange paradox that our so-called primitive ancestors had a much more robust health and natural immunity and could enjoy a relatively healthy life despite unhygienic conditions of water and living when compared to our more informed, well-bred and medically cared for modern city dwellers.

Of course, the reason for a decline in natural health and vigour is not only due to the excess use of modern medicine but several other associated factors such as overcrowding, industrial pollution, lack of fresh air, a life with a feverish pitch and restless pace, the exposure and consequent addiction to crippling comforts, little time for rest and exercise, the disturbed sleep-wakefulness cycle, prevalent fondness of junk food, the poisonous chemical admixtures in everything from insecticides and food preservatives to cosmetics and fabric, and added to this the unseen invasion of electromagnetic fields, noises and radio waves from all sides into our homes and heads. That apart, there is the imbalanced lifestyle with an overstress on the almost exclusive development of certain parts and faculties of the mind and crude vital enjoyment that titillate and exhaust as well as drain the vital energy that would otherwise go into keeping the balance of body and mind intact. We could almost say, without fear of any exaggeration, that modern science and among its offspring, modern medicine reflects a certain self-view of man and as an extension his worldview. In contrast, most traditional methods reflect another kind of self-view and worldview. This divide is clearly seen in the road map of development of the two modes of approaching the human problems of illness, suffering, death and pain. We can briefly turn to some of these differences now:

MAN Man is just a body, a by-product of genes and chemicals developed accidentally under the stress of chance mutations. Man is a spirit evolving in and through Nature. His body is an instrument for a higher design and he has within him several other layers and levels of consciousness apart from the physical.
HUMAN BODY The human body is a machine and like any other machine, it is unconscious and incapable of rectifying itself on its own without any external support. The human body is an instrument, that is a purposeful machine. It is permeated with consciousness in an ascending scale that acts upon it and influences it from within. It is itself not so unconscious and is capable of becoming more and more conscious.
LIFE Is all about struggle for survival and preservation of self and the species. Life is an evolutionary journey towards a greater and greater self-exceeding and self-finding.
AIM OF LIFE To be somehow more and more comfortable and happy. To achieve inner perfection of ‘itself’, self-transcendence and self-mastery.
ILLNESS The result of chemical imbalance, genetic aberrations, infections and other such physical causes. Apart from physical causes, there are other subtler moral, psychological and spiritual causes.
DEATH The end of our existence since we are the body and die with it. A passage, a beginning of another journey on another plane of existence or in another body.

True, much of modern research and discoveries of science themselves refutes its own previous view of an unconscious mechanical universe where the world and we have somehow come into existence. Our bodies respond and react to any external insult or injury, even without our conscious mental intervention, with a precision and perfection that may well put even some modern armies to shame. The life and structure of a cell and the coordination between cell to cell, organ to organ, and even between the human body and its environment, the elaborate and complex network of neurons and blood vessels, the ceaseless ticking of the heart from birth to death, ability of brain to modify learnt behaviour through self-corrective insights can be a model for a modern town-planner, a model yet to be replicated. Men working with Artificial Intelligence know how difficult it is to create even an elementary system functioning somewhat like a rudimentary human intelligence. Why only human beings, lower-order animals and even plants reveal the functioning of a Supreme Intelligence that is working as if from behind the living cell even though limited by the limitations of the instrumental organism or species. Yet within its limitation of range it is precise, accurate, well informed and perfect. Could it then be that this Supreme Creative Consciousness-Force or Intelligence is working to evolve higher and higher forms that are more and more capable of expressing It completely? Could it be that birth and growth, decline and death, illness and all the rest including evolution is not a meaningless story of chance mutations, accidents and errors with struggle for survival as the last word? Could it be that each of these events serves a purpose in the grand evolutionary design, a purpose that our ordinary outward-looking mind cannot fathom but which an inward sight released by an ascent of the mental consciousness to its own sublime heights can see? Could it be that evolution has a double purpose — an outer evolution of forms and, through this, a greater and greater capacity to manifest a higher and higher quality of Consciousness-Force or the Supreme Intelligence? Could it be that we have misread the whole story of life and our hasty attempt at rescues are like an ignorant man’s cutting off and removing the constricting cocoon of a caterpillar prematurely and rashly, ignorant that this constriction was the birth pang of a butterfly?

Much of the help given by modern medical science is of this nature. It maims us while healing our hurts, it limits us while liberating us from pain, and it psychologically amputates us while supporting us biologically. This it does inadvertently by focusing on the isolated organ pathology alone or at best on man as a body and brain alone. And even though, as we have just seen, scientific discoveries themselves point to a hidden (to our senses) but sensible (to our reason) fact of a Supreme Intelligence or Conscious Force behind the brute machine, yet in practice it still refuses to see or admit it. For whose benefit, we do not know. For the drug companies perhaps or maybe for the sake of comfort that Ignorance provides, absolving us of all inner labour. Yet, if admitted, this could be a fresh breaking ground and meeting point of the diverse systems. Most of the traditional systems, especially Ayurveda, intuitively know it and trust the greater plan. As a result, they have not developed very aggressive or intensive modes of therapy. Even the emergency medicines work simultaneously on the peripheral pathology as well as the central body-consciousness to stimulate its defences. If these cannot be stimulated, then one accepts the transit gracefully. But instead, it has focused much more on health and longevity (Ayurveda literally means that), on promoting means and ways to tone us up so that the body becomes naturally immune and healthy. Here again the methods are different from what is done in Allopathy. Thus, for example, inoculation vaccination as done in Allopathy is through a strong and almost violent challenge to the body against a precise and specific antigen. The reaction can be sometimes overwhelming leading to other disturbances, including, who knows, the immune cells destroying the body’s own tissues. Ayurveda and Homeopathy, in contrast, would stimulate the body’s vitality in general rather than in a specific way. What we forget in our over-attention to a single detail is that this detail has a relation to the whole.

An illness does not exist in isolation as if cut off from the rest of the patient and his personality, his socio-cultural backdrop, his characterological strengths and weakness. Yet the whole stress of Allopathy has been to focus on one point first and ignore the rest. It is only natural, since that is the direction of its R & D — to isolate a pathology, to isolate a molecule and to see how they interact with each other. Thus, we have here a linearity and specificity of cause and effect. In Ayurveda, there is a generality and wholeness. To put it simply, if someone has a sore throat, the allopathic approach is to find out which organism caused it and what drug can blast the organism out of the system. The Ayurveda approach would rather be as to what lowers the human being’s defences and resistance to illness leading to these afflictions and how can we boost him in a way so that he can fight out and throw away the illness. A clean line of demarcation can be seen leading to a single practical guideline of action as follows:

  • Use simple remedies made by plants and herbs or flowers for most illnesses so long as they do not run out of control.
  • However, in an emergency situation where a specific targeting is required and one cannot wait for the body defences to tone up, then one can opt for Allopathy. Such emergency situations may comprise hardly 10% of all illness-related symptoms of an acute nature and sufficient severity to qualify for an emergency.
  • Also, subsequently and even concomitantly, there should be no fundamental harm in combining at least some of the systems.
  • Ayurveda and Allopathy, for instance, since both approach the same problem differently but not opposingly, can well complement each other.

The problem thus seen goes beyond either-or. There is enough place, scope and field of work for both and each should have a healthy respect for the other. But one thing is sure — to develop only along the lines of modern medicine or Allopathy is to subsequently end up by progressively weakening the resistance of the race. This is already becoming apparent within less than half a century since the first antibiotic was ‘serendipitously’ discovered. There are already plenty of mutant strains whose full impact and effect on living systems we do not yet know. While longevity has increased, what has also increased is man’s dependence upon drugs. The economically and scientifically more developed countries or sections of society have a weaker body and mind resistance. The toll has been worse on the economically deprived. Due to a progressive decline (lack of funding/out of fashion/no more glamour in career/proliferation of modern hospitals almost at war footing) in the traditional system the average man has been forced to load himself with new chemicals prepared artificially in MNC labs. The result — on one hand he has lost his balance of natural health and faith in established traditional systems that helped him so far, on the other hand, the modern system is itself becoming increasingly expensive, almost unaffordable for the common man’s pocket. These are all relevant issues and not merely a superficial talk about which system is better.

In fact, the question about systems is itself a complex one. Just as different people have different dietary habits that suits their climate but may not suit another group or in another climate, so also each system has its maximum validity and utility in the land where it has originated and evolved and in those people who have put their trust in it, have depended upon it for millenniums and have deep memories of its efficacy traced in their subconscious. The climatic conditions, the physical constitutions, the psychological make-up of a group, and above all, its faith in the system and its unique worldview all go into the healing process. Modern science and its aggressive marketers have unfortunately jilted this faith by producing scores of ‘impressive’ statistics. But it has carefully hidden the data of failures that comes out subsequently when a ‘new and better’ drug or method is marketed. The traditional systems have their own rationale and science. It has evidence but it has not been written on paper (a serious lapse no doubt) but written on the tablet of the heart and mind like the Vedas themselves. The very fact that some of them, like Ayurveda, have persisted for millenniums is proof enough, to say the least, of its efficacy. Some of them, like certain yoga practices, are even more ancient and their benefits scientifically proven beyond doubt right up to modern times. Of course, there are sometimes exaggerated claims made by the protagonists of traditional systems which is another marketing strategy that capitalizes on people’s beliefs to popularise themselves. Nevertheless, no system can claim to be a sole panacea for anything and everything. This is as much true of traditional systems as for Allopathy.

Perhaps there are no panaceas. Perhaps Nature does not intend to give away its last secrets lest instead of using them for our total growth, we turn it into yet another means for generating comfort and wealth and power domination. Perhaps man still needs the goad of sickness, suffering, pain and death to spur him on in his evolutionary journey. For if there is an external cure for illness, why would one grow inwardly to develop his own healing capacities? Perhaps, and this is most likely, the last secret is not to be found in systems and methods or drugs and pills, but within us. That is what we need to explore, for Nature is the all-round healer and each system, however effective and powerful within its limits, has caught only one window glimpse and process, perfected and uses only one line of its working. Thus, modern medicine or Allopathy uses the principle of ‘concentration and elimination’ found in Nature. When there is an infection or injury the body resources and defending cells rush to the spot to kill the offending agent or else to provide relief to the injured part. The body can do it at the expense of an immediate depletion of its resources. It reads it as an emergency situation and its forces rush to rescue and salvage. Later it may feel exhausted by the effort and if due care is not taken to supplement its reserves in time, it may begin to show unwanted effects in the other organs. Allopathy uses this principle of selective concentration found in certain natural healing processes, only it substitutes them by external chemicals and mechanical aids. But equally, in some other instances, the body simply holds the illness at bay, not allowing any effects upon the body, by boosting its overall natural resources and resistance — a principle used well in Ayurveda. There is yet another principle Nature uses in certain other illnesses, that which we refer to as an illness running its full course and then suddenly disappearing after a crisis. In olden times, as well as in the present day, physicians recognized it and provided support to the body till Nature healed certain maladies like typhoid and pneumonia. Viral fevers still heal this way. It is as if the body purges itself of deep possibilities of a disorder but when it is finally healed, the cure is radical and there is a long lasting immunity. Homoeopathy works in a very similar way by bringing out a suppressed disorder into the open and then eliminating it in toto.

Thus, each has its place. Allopathy is very effective for acute emergency situation while homoeopathy is effective for radically curing certain recurrent and chronic ailments provided their momentary acute exacerbations do not become life threatening. Ayurveda is excellent both as a supplement to other systems and on its own to increase the life-energy and natural resistances and thereby facilitates Nature’s healing in conditions which defy allopathic control or which modern medicine can at best contain rather than cure. So also with other systems. Interestingly, one could say that most medicines are hardly a healer apart from emergency situations. They are perhaps useful only in less than 10% of conditions. But it would not be right to say that other systems do not have any side effects. Only, it may be technically inaccurate to term it as side effect since they are either effects of illness brought in increasingly in the open (as in homoeopathy) or effects of illness continuing till the body takes over (as in Ayurveda). Reiki and Pranic healing utilise certain other occult principles of Nature, that is, illness is due to an imbalance in the passage of the life current through the body. This imbalance is purported to be set right by projecting the universal life-force from within through the help of a Reiki channel or opening the inner channels through which the life-force runs as by acupressure, acupuncture and many other similar techniques such as breathing exercises and asana posture, etc.

But all these are inadequate means and temporary measures. These are glimpses of a mighty Force that works in and through Nature. That ‘Force’ is hidden deep within the secret heart of Nature itself. It is manifest everywhere in all the workings of Nature as a vast and complete Intelligence at once operating in minute details through its million-trillion processes as well as comprehending and uniting each of these smallest elements and processes into a simple harmonious whole. So wonderful and detailed is its organization that even the smallest change is not left unnoticed or unattended. Likewise, in its organization of the whole, it links up the distant stars and the smallest particle of dust through a subtle unseen link that yet allows them to mutually influence each other in however an infinitesimally small way. All that escapes our senses, all that our minds cannot fathom, all that even the most brilliant human intellect cannot seize or capture is nevertheless recorded and worked upon by It. All this science itself reveals, even though it has discovered only a small fraction of the marvel, probing only the surface of the words. The scientist (modern or traditional) believes erroneously that our human mind can study, understand, know and utilize all of Nature’s processes! Perhaps the traditional systems were more humble and knowing how little they could actually do, left it to Nature’s mighty force to work out the rest. But modern science in its period of rash adolescence believed that it can conquer Nature by studying its processes and solve all problems by the might of human intelligence. In its stumbling pride, it forgot that human intelligence is itself only a small wave from the vast and complex ocean of consciousness. So how shall the part comprehend the whole, unless by some mechanism in Nature it can transcend itself and become one with the whole? For then alone it can see and be as Nature and do what Nature does.

Modern science does not admit this possibility of the part growing into the whole even though it has found luminous hints that point towards a deep subtle truth that each element of the universe contains, as if in a miniature state, the entire universe. In fact that is how it is interlinked with the whole and everything has an effect on everything else, however small it may be. The traditional sciences (at least some of them) admit this possibility that through ‘Yoga’((( Yoga, not as we understand it today to mean certain physical exercises, but rather essentially ‘a means’ by which man can grow into his diviner possibilities by Transcending himself. The fact of transcendence is the real thing, the methods (and there are quite a few) are subordinate elements. Unfortunately, modern mind is too preoccupied with phenomenon and curiously watches and sometimes studies the outer techniques but misses the real issue. It forgets the inner psychological movement of Yoga by its overstress on the outer technique, bartering the spirit for the form, the truth for the symbol, the end for the means. ))) one can open oneself directly to a Oneness with the vast and mighty Force and Intelligence (or Consciousness) behind Nature. The Ayurvedic physician was supposed to be dwij or twice-born, an initiate into the mysteries of the spirit as much as in the mysteries of the physical universe to which he outwardly belongs and amidst which he is physically born. Of course what have taken over now are commercial and other interests and so-called ‘alternate healers’ and ‘yoga-experts’ and ‘new-age gurus’ are no exception to this gross misrepresentation. Nevertheless, the inner possibility exists in man to go beyond himself, beyond his limited human intelligence, beyond the laws and systems, whose framework he has accepted, beyond suffering and pain and finally, beyond death.



Re-establishing Health



‘Cure’ is a complex issue. It is not just relief of one symptom to be replaced by another. Relief of symptoms is like cutting off the shoots. The roots of the malady lurk unseen in the secret recesses and throw up their bitter fruit again. The roots, the soil that nurtures them and the climate, all need to be addressed, along with the shoots, for a total cure. But symptom removal is what most remedies do. And in this respect, there can be little doubt about the rapidity of action with which the symptom complex is contained. The effect in a few cases at least can appear as dazzlingly miraculous, creating a sudden turn of events thwarting the immediate threat to life. And that indeed is the real place of modern medicine, in the handling of life-threatening emergencies, provided we use it judiciously. In this sense they can buy time for us to tackle deeper issues and allow intervention at levels that are subtler.

Homoeopathy and acupuncture are two examples of remedies acting at a deeper level. But precisely for this reason, there may be time taken to change appearances. It is quick and easy to detoxify drinking water by putting two tablets in the glass before drinking. This used to be (and perhaps still is) part of the standard kit of a soldier. But the source of water remains polluted. Detoxifying at the source necessarily takes longer and may need alternative water arrangements during that period. But once done, it is more complete. Allopathy provides us with that stopgap alternative.


Collaborating with Nature

An ideal remedy should collaborate with Nature. That is to say, it must either boost Nature’s line of defence (immuno-stimulants, for example) or else supplement it (as do antibiotics). But strong and violent remedies (including early use of heavy antibiotics) simply suppress the information of disease from reaching physical consciousness. In fact, it may even confuse it. That makes it difficult for Nature to respond appropriately. Imagine a frontline battalion, not sending the correct picture of the battle to its rear party. What for us is a disease with symptoms is for Nature a valuable pattern of information. Nature reads the pattern thrown up by its other wave of movement. It reads it dispassionately, without fear of death, without any shrinking recoil (as is the case for our ego-bound human consciousness). It then corrects the movement by reintegrating it in a more harmonious way with the whole. So long as the aberrant movement is not reintegrated, it throws itself up again in another form.

Collaborating with Nature is to acknowledge this deep intent of Nature first, and next study the lines of processes it uses towards fulfilment of this purpose. And since there is not one or two, but many lines of force through which Nature works at each level, so we have many systems of therapy. Each system chooses to observe one line of Nature’s movement, works upon it, studies it in the manner appropriate to that level, discovers the principles behind it and formulates it into a method of practice. Often these diverse systems try to convey the same thing but use different languages since each works at a different level. At a point of time when medicine had not parted from holism by diving into details, there were almost similar descriptions of personality types (seen from a physician’s point of view) and their relation to diseases in Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and Allopathy. The pranic healer readjusting the flow of energy through the body often speaks of congestion and shrinking. The modern allopath perhaps uses similar language but does not refer to the energy pattern (of which he has no clue) but rather to the physical condition of the organ. There are therefore points of meeting, even as there are important points of divergence. Modern medicine in this case appears more like a divergent member from the rest of the group, which can fairly well complement each other. The main problem of modern medicine is that it has lost sight of the holism from which it was born. It has deviated far and deep into the woods, labelled trees and studied their colours and tasted their fruits, but in the process lost sight of the forest and direction of the path. It is like a child lost in the woods through an excess of curiosity. The result is that in trying to correct one problem, it creates another. It is like the process of industrialisation, which undoubtedly gave us many useful things, but when it came to be driven by excess of vitalistic, commercial interests (rather than a quest for genuinely making things better) it disturbed the whole ecological world. One can nightmarishly imagine a day when we will live only indoors, where each house has an oxygen-generating plant while the air outside has become dangerously polluted. So too, one can envisage a day when bombarded with chemical bullets (called medicines) mankind as a race loses its natural ability to fight disease. And then, we need just one little virus (which also has been manufactured in the arsenal of weapons) to destroy an entire race, much as plague did in the so-called Dark Ages.


Relief versus Cure

We forget too soon that man, the virus, bacillus, cholesterol, and sugar, and everything else has lived, survived and evolved for millions of years without our one or two or three hundred years’ old modern medicine. And before man, countless forms of life have thrived upon this planet and more species face the risk of extinction from man than that inflicted by an entire cycle of Nature. Most of all, man threatens his own existence as a race, albeit with apparent help. The comfortable cure, the handy pill, all of them make our physical consciousness a little more obscure, inert, dull and less responsive, even though they may alter appearances. Thanks to these wonderful remedies that save our bodies, we are losing faith in our own powers to heal and recover. And it is never a healthy trend to become so dependent on external machinery, whether physical or chemical. The challenge of life is lost, the stress to adapt and thereby evolve through assimilation and harmony is taken away; what is left is a static humanity, perfectly secure but perfectly helpless (despite all the material powers at its disposal) like the paralysed child who never falls.

But what about the alternative systems, do they really cure us? All that we can say is that just as modern medicine has its place in ‘buying time’ in emergencies, so too these systems also ‘buy time’ and also help to a certain extent, though at a deeper level. Flower essences for instance help us reorganise the mental/emotional parts of our nature. Lifestyle changes can put our vital-physical parts into better rhythm. Psychotherapeutic interventions can help us change unhealthy attitudes and thereby clear the soil of those elements on which the roots of malady thrive. But none of these dissolve the seed of falsehood buried deep within human consciousness, so deep that before it, even the might of Nature is helpless. It is as if there was a second, reverse side of Nature, as powerful as the obverse side, which cancels everything, mocks at every effort, negates every ‘cure’. It is this that must be tackled for a radical and permanent cure.

“A theory is only a constructed idea-script which represents an imperfect human observation of a line of processes that Nature follows or can follow; another theory is a different idea-script of other processes that also she follows or can follow. Allopathy, homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, Kaviraji, hakimi have all caught hold of Nature and subjected her to certain processes; each has its successes and failures. Let each do its own work in its own way. I do not see any need for fights and recriminations. For me all are only outward means and what really works are unseen forces behind; as they act, the outer means succeed or fail — if one can make the process a right channel for the right force, then the process gets its full utility — that is all.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 35, Letters on Himself and the Ashram, p. 514)))


The Problem and the Solution

The remedy indeed lies where the problem is. It is not found outside or elsewhere! The problem and its solution coexist. If there is a weakness within us, the strength to conquer it always exists within and in an exact proportion. The weakness is the shadow that stimulates the emergence of the light from within. In the very heart of the seed of death is the seed of eternal life awaiting its hour of discovery. In the densest darkness lies concealed the brightest light. In the slumber of the cells sleeps an almighty power. Surrounded by falsehood thrives the eternal truth waiting to be born when the earth is ready. Disease is one means to awaken the earth and its aspiration towards the highest light. It is one means to prepare the soil of earth for the fruition of the seed of eternal life. It is a call for the inner healer to step forward, remove the weeds and thorns in our nature and clear the soil of matter and the atmosphere of our mind, so that the tree of life can bear the fruit of health and its flowers spread the fragrance of love upon earth.

The remedy and the solution indeed coexist. It is seen in operation in the wonderfully precise ecological balance of Nature where weeds grow with the harvest and so protect it from preying birds. So too we find that the trees and fruits of each region are meant to nourish and nurture the people living in those areas taking into account their specific problems (palm trees in humid places, for example). So too, one often finds ‘antidote’ herbs to poisonous plants and reptiles growing in very close vicinities. The Ayurvedic physician utilises this principle in an interesting way. The herbal extracts (as opposed to the active ingredients), as in the opium plant, ‘digitalis’ tree and sarpagandha, do not usually exhibit the side effects known to their active ingredients. It is as if Mother Nature mixes things in just the right proportion so as to balance the adverse effects in herbs needed for diseases. Our modern civilisation has often played the role of thief, stealing the active chemicals (oil, medicine cosmetics, salts, sugar, etc.) while throwing away the rest of the plant. But stealth has its own untoward consequences and the side effects of this ‘plunderer’s approach’ are only beginning to become apparent. Homeopathy utilizes this principle effectively in its famous dictum of ‘like cures like’. The martial arts use this principle in a negative way by using the energy of the opponent to defeat him. So too in some tantric traditions, it is held that if one can hold within (without giving way) a negative energy for a sufficient period and apply to it the power of will (tapasya = heat) it can undergo a powerful transmutation to its positive counterpart, much like coal turning to diamond. The same principle applies to our psychological being and its growth.

The Mother reveals:

The nature of your difficulty indicates the nature of the victory you will gain, the victory you will exemplify in Yoga. Thus, if there is persistent selfishness, it points to a realisation of universality as your most prominent achievement in the future. And, when selfishness is there, you have also the power to reverse this very difficulty into its opposite, a victory of utter wideness.

When you have something to realise, you will have in you just the characteristic which is the contradiction of that something. Face to face with the defect, the difficulty, you say, “Oh, I am like that! How awful it is!” But you ought to see the truth of the situation. Say to yourself, “My difficulty shows me clearly what I have ultimately to represent. To reach the absolute negation of it, the quality at the other pole — this is my mission.”

Even in ordinary life, we have sometimes the experience of contraries. He who is very timid and has no courage in front of circumstances proves capable of bearing the most!

To one who has the aspiration for the Divine, the difficulty which is always before him is the door by which he will attain God in his own individual manner: it is his particular path towards the Divine Realisation.

There is also the fact that if somebody has a hundred difficulties it means he will have a tremendous realisation — provided, of course, there are in him patience and endurance and he keeps the aspiring flame of Agni burning against those defects.

And remember: The Grace of the Divine is generally proportioned to your difficulties.((( The Mother, CWM 3, Questions and Answers 1929-1931, p. 143, ‘Difficulties in Yoga’)))

The difficulty therefore is an opportunity, like a door refusing to open, even though it is the gateway to a new world. It is our conditioned blindness (or ignorance) which prevents us from seeing the remedy even when it is extremely simple and staring us in the face. It is absolutely true that if the seeds of illness are within our subconscient parts, then the fire to burn them lies concealed in our superconscient nature. If the forces of division, disintegration and disease move within us, then the forces of unity, harmony and health also lie dormant in us. If we are doomed to go through the gates of death, then we are also destined to taste the consciousness of immortality. If fear, doubt and worry create in us the conditions for illness, then within us we have a storehouse of faith, trust and peace that can rejuvenate us and bring back the climate of cure. If we seem to be hopelessly condemned to succumb and fall, then we are also being made ready for the Grace that uplifts us, giving a new birth into a new light and freedom. If there are forces of illness, disease, and death then there are also forces of health and healing and harmony and life.

“It may be said in an absolute way that an evil always carries its own remedy. One might say that the cure of any suffering coexists with the suffering. So, instead of seeing an evil ‘useless’ and ‘stupid’ as it is generally thought to be, you see that the progress, the evolution which has made the suffering necessary — which is the cause of the suffering and the very reason for its existence — attains the intended result; and at the same time the suffering is cured, for those who are able to open themselves and receive. The three things — suffering as a means of progress, progress, and the cure of suffering — are coexistent, simultaneous; that is to say, they do not follow each other, they are there at the same time.”((( The Mother, CWM 11, Notes on the Way, p. 43)))


Treating the Illness

For each plane of consciousness, there is a right law and process of development and growth. Similarly, there are ways to deal with the persistent problems of the subconscient nature. There are also means to equip ourselves against the onslaught of the universal adverse and hostile forces. But first of all we must discover the forces of health and healing within us. These forces are like an armour against every kind of disease. At the same time they are also therapeutic against illnesses in general. From an inner point of view, the type of illness does not matter so much as other factors within our constitution that help or hinder the action of these forces. We define an illness by its outer manifestation and therefore focus too much on specific therapies. This is only natural since outwardly we find a great deal of difference in the signs and symptoms, in pathology and altered physiology. But the deeper we go, we discover that these distinctions are nothing more than playthings of Nature. The mind, however, caught up so much in the world of division, gets enamoured by these surface distinctions and makes a whole science of it. It lacks the total view, the ultimate vision. As we grow in sight and insight we discover the very futility, or else at best a temporary utility, of making so much fuss about the different pathologies.

From a deeper point of view, we trace the roots to a few common problems that set into motion a whole world of different illness patterns. It is like (as in the case of our physical appearances) a few common genes deciding by their mutual combinations the endless variation of the phenotype. The actual classification therefore becomes redundant. The real necessity is to get a clue about the predominant plane involved, the activity of different forces, the receptivity of the body and mind to the energies of health and healing, the choice of the soul including its need for a particular experience and finally the evolutionary necessity of the illness and the utility of cure in our growth. The balance of all this plus the secret account of our destiny decides the final outcome and not the actual therapy given. The outer treatment is at best an occasion, even may be a useful occasion but never the final cause. As humanity evolves beyond its present limited self, it is bound to progressively discard these outer methods and rely more and more upon inner ones.

“There is a sort of protection round the body which we call the nervous envelope….They (the subtle forces of illness) first weaken or break through the nervous envelope, the aura. If that is strong and whole, a thousand million germs will not be able to do anything to you. The envelope pierced, they attack the subconscient mind in the body, sometimes also the vital mind or mind proper — prepare the illness by fear or thought of illness.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 31, Letters on Yoga IV, pp. 558, 569)))


Forces of Health and Harmony

The forces within the individual that help in re-establishing the lost harmony are faith, will and peace. Along with these and as an aid come sincerity, purity, perseverance, strength, and receptivity of the body and mind to the positive forces. A third aspect is to remove the hurdles of negative energies that stand in the way of healing at each respective plane. Finally, and above all, it is the supreme mystery of Grace that cures. Let us now turn to these one by one.

(i) Peace: If faith and will are like the right and left hand of an effective power, then peace is its very body. Peace is the first requirement for re-establishing harmony whether at the psychological or at the physical level. A harmony established in the absence of peace turns out very often to be temporary and illusory. Just as fear and agitation are the climate in which the lower forces of disintegration readily thrive, so too the higher forces act best in an atmosphere of peace. When we have outgrown our excessive curiosity about material processes, we may discover that ultimately everything can be reduced to an understanding of vibrations. Everything that exists in the phenomenon world is fundamentally differentiated on the basis of difference in the quality and intensity of vibrations. Vibrations are the first stir in the infinite and stable extension of Self. All creation starts with this stir. Therefore, the secret of manipulating substance truly lies in discovering ways and means of replacing one vibration with another. Once we understand this we begin to see the great significance of peace, for peace is the power that can truly decondition our nature and put it in the original resting and stable mode. This is no small achievement for it immediately opens the doors to momentous possibilities. It gives us freedom and a chance to reconstitute ourselves on a new and better basis. It creates conditions for a new orientation of towards higher forces, enhances receptivity to them and gives us the best chance for Grace to act. Illness is nothing else but a vibration of falsehood supported by the vibrations of agitation, fear, etc. Peace dissolves these vibrations irrespective of their outer effects and thereby effectuates a cure. Most illnesses would be cured by merely this process of undoing the twisted knot of falsehood under the pressure of peace. The immunity lasts as long as peace stays within us. Unfortunately we get tired of peace and the restless nature surfaces again leading to lapses and relapses! A subsequent replacement of this false vibration by a true one immunizes us against further relapses. To dwell in peace in all the parts of Nature is to create an immunity of sort against illnesses.

Yet peace is not easy to get and even more difficult to retain. Most of us confuse peace with external environment. But peace is a power that exists independent of all outer circumstances. Our associative conditioning of peace with outer circumstances is used to advantage by many of the health resorts that provide expensive purchase of peace by creating a virtual reality that keeps us away for a while from the humdrum and anguish and the struggle of life. It does help by removing some of the hurdles against the advent of peace. Being however a virtual reality, it does not last long. We return to the world of struggle and with it returns our pain and suffering. The first thing we have to understand is that peace is not an abstract thing suitable for books of philosophy. Nor is it a mere negative thing that comes by an absence of outer distractions and movements. That may be a dead man’s peace but not a peace of a healthy living being. Peace is a concrete reality, a solid positive force, as real to the inner sense and as true in its effects as a block of ice is real to the outer senses. True, it may require an initial period of temporary isolation for a while to discover this power within us. But once discovered it can be made to develop and stay under all circumstances. It can even be projected onto others in need of it just as one directs a stream of water towards a row of plants. Peace, like every other psychological quality is contagious and can be injected and transmitted from one person to another thereby aiding recovery. To bring down peace into the unhealthy part that is twisting in pain is to heal it.

Peace and stillness are the great remedy for disease. When we can bring peace in our cells, we are cured.

Catch hold of a peace deep within and push it into the cells of the body. With the peace will come back the health.

The imperative condition for cure is calm and quietness. Any agitation, any nervousness prolongs the illness.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Peace and Quiet, Faith and Surrender’, p. 151)))

(About means of getting peace)

“First of all, you must want it.

And then you must try and must persevere, keep on trying.

… You sit quietly, to begin with; and then, instead of thinking of fifty things, you begin saying to yourself, ‘Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace, calm, peace!’ You imagine peace and calm. You aspire, ask that it may come: ‘Peace, peace, calm.’ … Do not look at the thoughts, do not listen to the thoughts, you understand. …

And then repeat all the time … ‘Peace, peace, peace.’… Do this on getting up in the morning, do this in the evening when going to bed. … if you want to digest your food properly, you can do this for a few minutes before eating. … and there comes a time when you no longer need to sit down, and no matter what you are doing, no matter what you are saying, it is always ‘Peace, peace, peace’.”((( The Mother, CWM 6, Questions and Answers 1954, 8 September 1954, p. 313)))

“Besides, there is always a way of isolating oneself by an atmosphere of protection, if one knows how to have an extremely quiet vibration, so quiet that it makes almost a kind of wall around you. But all the time, all the time one is vibrating in response to vibrations which come from outside. … You are never in an absolutely quiet atmosphere which emanates from you, that is, which comes from inside outward … something which is like an envelope around you, very quiet, like this — and you can go anywhere at all and these vibrations which come from outside do not begin to do this around your atmosphere.”((( The Mother, CWM 7, Questions and Answers 1955, 11 May 1955, p. 144)))

(ii) Faith: We have already alluded to the power of faith. It is recognized by modern medicine in what is known as the placebo effect. Thus, about 30-40 percent of the therapeutic effects of any drug are known to be due to the placebo effect or faith in the drug. If faith in a drug administered externally can have this much effect, then how much more would the effect be if we could awaken the faith in our inner abilities to heal and cure ourselves? Indeed it is so as is demonstrated in so many instances of the so-called miracle cures. Studies have revealed that faith can give attributes to a chemical that apparently did not exist! Thus a commonly used sweetener, saccharine, that is otherwise innocuous can act as a powerful immuno-suppressant if the patient believes that he is being administered a drug that suppresses his immune system. The phenomenon of denial is also well known and is nothing else but the obverse side of faith. Simply stated it means that if you deny the illness either due to lack of awareness or a means of defence, it does delay in the progression of the illness. Instances are also on record wherein a person carried on despite a poisonous snake’s bite as long as he was unaware but went down rapidly once told about it. Such extremes may be few and isolated yet they open doors to a possibility and call upon us to revise our attitudes towards the inevitability of certain prognostications that we commonly make. We may well say that if fear is the ally of death, then faith is the ally of life. In the last analysis we may well discover that it is not so much the drug and the physician but finally faith that cures us.

The mechanism through which faith works may be in opening doors to the higher, unseen and subtler powers, denied by our vision that is fixed upon material means and physical reality. It creates conditions for the impossible to happen in us for the sense of the impossible is only related to our present possibilities. There are always higher possibilities and forces for which impossibility does not exist. The monkey’s impossibility is also man’s possibility. What a child cannot do today will be perfectly easy and natural for him to do when he grows into adulthood. A belief in the inevitability of results and the fixity of fate may be the stage of infancy of the growing soul but to the adult soul of faith nothing is impossible.

To be fully effective this faith must be dynamic and integral. It is not the faith of a man helplessly resigned to faith, nor is it a divided faith hanging between may-be and may-not-be. Faith, to be fully effective, must be total and absolute, capable of preserving itself in the face of every contrary evidence and despite setbacks, disappointment and apparent failures. It may appear blind and irrational to our limited vision unaccustomed to any other law than that of a fixed and unalterable world but to a deeper vision faith is a cry of the soul and the sanction of Grace. It is this that makes faith irresistible in the end.

It is not easy to have this faith. Some exceptionally fortunate persons have it as a result of their past development, stage of evolution and above all Grace. But like any other quality it can be developed. The best means known to mankind for developing faith is through prayers and the intervention of Grace. Faith also flowers out naturally as we get closer to our soul and live in and by it. It is only our outer nature that doubts and believes in the fixed sequence of things. And while it may be useful to follow the rules of the play so as not to disturb the joy of others yet the soul knows that there are no ineluctable laws and all can be altered if the soul so willed it. To get in touch with one’s soul through whatever means is one of the most natural ways to grow in faith.

“Have faith. There is no disease which cannot be cured by the Divine Grace.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Cure by the Divine Grace’, p. 151)))

“It is true that the faith cures more than the treatment.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Doctors and Medicines’, p. 157)))

“The body only has trust in material methods and that is why you have to give it medicines — but medicines have an effect only if the Force acts through them.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Doctors and Medicines’, p. 158)))

“Finally it is Faith that cures.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Messages for Ashram Medical Services’, p. 159)))

“You must have heard something of the method of Coué in healing diseases. He knew some secret of this power and utilised it with considerable effect; but he called it imagination and his method gave the faith he called up too mental a form. Mental faith is not sufficient; it must be completed and enforced by a vital and even a physical faith, a faith of the body. If you can create in yourself an integral force of this kind in all your being, then nothing can resist it; but you must reach down to the most subconscious, you must fix the faith in the very cells of the body.”((( The Mother, CWM 3, Questions and Answers 1929–1931, 5 May 1929, p. 36)))

(iii) Will: The role of will is being increasingly recognized in health and healing. Physicians do speak nowadays about the will to recover. Patients may find it strange since it is taken for granted that everyone who is sick obviously wants to recover. While this may be true of our outer being, it is not true of the totality of human nature. Even our outer being sometimes wills to die rather than suffer a prolonged and painful malady. Fortunately the will of the outer being counts little. The real effective will is the will of the inner being. It is here that many a surprise awaits us. We may discover that a part of the vital may have a love for tragedies. Another part of the mind may be a diehard pessimist. There may be a defeatist hiding in yet another part of our nature. Then of course there are gross and subtle gains that illness may bring, thereby prolonging it. The phenomenon of contradictory wills has already been discussed. Even these defeatist wills that align with the forces of illness may not count finally. For what ultimately matters is the central will, the will of the secret soul in us. It is this that finally decides our need for a particular experience or even a final change. The soul in us always has a final say even when we are not aware of it. However, the delay in executing its sanctions depends upon the sum total of the wills of our inner and outer being together.

Our will can therefore be likened to a central switch that sets into motion a cascade of events moving in one direction or the other. Human will, even though a fragment of the All-Will, has its role and temporary utility. If it can align itself to the All-Will or make a gesture of true surrender to the Divine Will, then it can create the best possible conditions for a cure. To hand over the responsibility of our life to the Divine without fear of death is one of the most powerful ways to align our little personal will to the All-Will. One can also use the will to reject the illness at the level of body and mind. This can be done by literally pushing out the vibration of illness, or else by refusing to accept the suggestions of disease. Every illness, before it manifests, presents itself as a suggestion of disorder. We may accept this suggestion out of fear, sense of helplessness, or simply unconsciousness. But also we may fight it out, driving out the suggestion as well as the force of illness. We may also aspire to the Divine to aid in our efforts.

A whole world of possibilities exists. Of course all this presumes that we have developed our will. For most of us have unfortunately learned to live and be driven at the mercy of circumstances. The result is a disuse or atrophy of will. All the same our will can be developed like muscles through methodical exercises. In fact, each part of our consciousness, and each plane, has a will of its own and can be developed methodically. Thus, the body can be trained to endure beyond belief (as happens for those engaged in severe physical work or in austerities). The life-energy in us can be trained to give an almost inexhaustible output without fatigue and strain. The mind in us can be trained to think always in a positive way and direct the energies of thought in a concentrated and effective way. Not only our own, but a truly powerful will can effectuate recovery in others as well. It is a concrete force and can be directed towards ends outside our limited physical being. This in fact forms one of the bases of hypnosis where in a state of semi trance we suspend our will and leave it in the hands of others. A developed will is a very effective instrument against the vibrations of illness, provided of course we use it that way. Unfortunately, like any other power, will too can be used for making life upon earth better or worse.

“Wake up in yourself a will to conquer. Not a mere will in the mind but a will in the very cells of your body. Without that you can’t do anything; you may take a hundred medicines but they won’t cure you unless you have a will to overcome the physical illness.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Illness and Health’, p. 146)))

“To separate yourself from the thing and call in the Mother’s Force to cure it — or else to use your will force with faith in the power to heal, having the support of the Mother’s Force behind you. If you cannot use either of these methods then you must rely on the action of the medicines.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 31, Letters on Yoga IV, p. 578)))


Exit Illness, Enter Health

There are doors within us through which we allow the forces of illness to enter. We have already alluded to these cracks in our lower vital and subconscient nature that attract the forces of illness. These cracks need to be sealed and made termite proof. There are three ways of handling these internal pests. One way is not to pay too much attention to these forces of fear, anxiety, etc., since they increase with the attention. A way to keep our mind off from them is to divert it towards some gainful activity. That is why, unless there are compelling reasons, it is best not to sit idle and brood when one is sick. It is also one of the reasons (there are other subtle ones) as to why most pains and problems aggravate during the night when there is little to preoccupy oneself. One needs to defocus oneself from the pain and the problem. That helps.

“Turn your mind completely away from your difficulty, concentrate exclusively on the Light and the Force coming from above; let the Lord do for your body whatever He pleases. Hand over to Him totally the entire responsibility of your physical being. This is the cure.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Illness and Health’, p. 150)))

(About conquering pain)

“The method is almost the same for all parts of the being. To begin with, the first condition: to remain as quiet as possible. You may notice that in the different parts of your being, when something comes and you do not receive it, this produces a shrinking… There is a stiffening and this hurts, one feels a mental, vital or physical pain. So, the first thing is to put one’s will and relax this shrinking…

The method of relaxing the contraction may be different in the mind, vital or the body, but logically it is the same thing. … after having relaxed this contraction, begin trying to widen yourself — you feel you are widening yourself. There are many methods. Some find it very useful to imagine they are floating on water with a plank under their back. Then they widen themselves, widen, until they become the vast liquid mass. Others make an effort to identify themselves with the sky and the stars, so they widen, widen themselves, identifying themselves more and more with the sky.

…When one does that one becomes really receptive. … One can act through thought, by calling peace, tranquillity… Many discomforts, even physical… can disappear thus.”((( The Mother, CWM 4, Questions and Answers 1950 – 1951, 31 March 1951, p. 265)))

“An unselfish work always cures you of your petty personal maladies. Naturally, if you are really compelled to be in bed without being able to move, with a terrible fever or a very serious illness, then that’s quite different. But otherwise, if you are just a little indisposed: ‘I am not feeling quite well, I have a little headache or I have indigestion, or I have a bad cold, I am coughing’, things like that — then doing your work, not thinking of yourself, thinking of the work, doing it as well as you can, that puts you right immediately.”((( The Mother, CWM 5, Questions and Answers 1953, 24 June 1953, p. 120)))

“If the consciousness is turned upwards, the pain vanishes. If it is turned downward, the pain is felt and even increases. … I say ‘turned upward’ because to turn towards the Divine is the best method, but what can be said in general is that if the consciousness is turned away from the pain to one’s work or anything that interests one, the pain ceases. And not only the pain but whatever damage there may be in an organ is set right much more easily when the consciousness is taken away from the trouble and one is open to the Divine.”((( The Mother, CWM 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Illness and Health’, p. 145)))

The other method is to reject or throw out the vibration of fear. It is a more active process and requires a strong will to do so. What is relatively easier is to take refuge in the Divine Grace and offer this unhealthy part to the Light above. This latter has the double advantage of not only closing the door to the vibration of illness but also of opening it to the vibration of truth and to the healing touch of the higher consciousness above. To open the doors to this higher consciousness through an inner aspiration and to cultivate the harvest of peace, trust, cheerfulness, harmony, goodwill is to seal the doors against these disruptive forces that come to create havoc within us.

(Ways to remove fear)

“By bringing down strength and calm into the lower vital (region below the navel). Also by will and imposing calm on the system when the fear arises. It can be done either way or both together.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 31, Letters on Yoga IV, p. 280)))


The Consciousness of Cure

A consciousness approach is not an exclusive either-or method. The method that would best suit an individual depends upon his state of consciousness. Equally, the method a doctor can best use also depends upon the physician’s state of consciousness. This is a fact that is not yet fully realized or practiced in the field of modern medicine. No doubt, in the physical domain especially, all is a question of method and procedure, what is known as the course of the illness. One can hasten or hinder this course with the help of forces drawn from other domains but all the same, the cure is worked out over a period of timekeeping the balance of forces in view. This needs time, unless of course through a strong and an integral faith one can enter the consciousness of cure. But the condition in every case is to be fearless and calm.

“The method by which you will be most successful depends on the consciousness you have developed and the character of the forces you are able to bring into play. You can live in the consciousness of the completed cure or change and by the force of your inner formation slowly bring about the outward change. Or if you know and have the vision of the force that is able to effect these things and if you have the skill to handle it, you can call it down and apply it in the parts where its action is needed, and it will work out the change.

Or, again, you can present your difficulty to the Divine and ask of It the cure, putting confidently your trust in the Divine Power. But whatever you do, whatever the process you use, and even if you happen to have acquired in it a great skill and power, you must leave the result in the hands of the Divine. Always you may try, but it is for the Divine to give you the fruit of your effort or not to give it. … You question if it is right to ask the Divine for these things.

But there is no more harm in turning to the Divine for the removal of a physical imperfection than in praying for the removal of a moral defect. …….. This must be your attitude, — ‘I aspire, I try to cure my imperfections, I do my best, but for the result I put myself entirely into the hands of the Divine.”((( The Mother, CWA 3, Questions and Answers 1929 – 1931, 23 June 1929, pp. 96, 97)))



The Elusive Magic Potion


Since the time man began his adventure upon earth he has been in search of a magic potion, or call it a wonder pill or a perfect recipe for health and vitality and youth — something that can prevent disease, delay or halt, if not actually reverse the inevitable deterioration of his physical condition. In fact, he has tried to go even a step further, to ward off diseases, to conquer death, to secure immortality. Each age of mankind has been a witness to these efforts and the effort itself has been in accord with the type of humanity representative of that age. These methods can be broadly categorized as spiritual, occult, psychological or psychophysical, and physical. The categorization is of course a broad one and there is often an interlacing of the different dimensions and methods whose ranges can be astonishingly wide and varied. Many of these, whose mention we find in myths and legends such as sanjivani vidya, parkaya pravesha, kayakalpa, etc., have been possibly lost in antiquity. Others, such as the healing sciences of Atlantis, the rituals of the Shamans and the Mayan civilization, or the occult rites of Egypt and the magic potions of ancient Greece, have vanished without leaving a trace. Still others are being reborn in a new form and name. Thus, the ancient science of pranayama has been reborn and is being marketed under attractive brand names. So also with surya chikitsa, pranic healing, working with energy body, vipassana, etc. In addition, the market of alternative medicine and new-age spirituality is being flooded each year with new techniques, new gadgets, new magic potions, new diet recipes for perfect health and of course new gurus claiming their branded product as the best, their method the sole panacea, their practice and technique superior to all else, their potion the most magical, their following the maximum in number.

To deal with the details of each and every technique, method, gadget, recipe and pill that claims to save us is beyond anybody’s scope. These are specialized things (when genuine of course and not motivated by commercial and other interests) and require a lifetime of dedicated and sincere search and research. Such a search and research is often lacking and its need is lost amidst the noise and din of the crowd that often throngs around the dramatic and the charismatic and is easily attracted to what appears to it as instantaneous and the miraculous. But in our hurry and haste, we often forget that the instantaneous is not necessarily the miraculous and that which dazzles our eyes too much is also that which blinds us. It is the devious attractive recovery that has led to the development of so many pills, some of which do act like common magic. Take a Paracetamol tablet and be free of the fever in a short while; take a strong painkiller and the pain is gone as if it never existed. But as allopathic practitioners know only too well, thanks to some sincere research at least, the magic wears off and the malady returns. The cause is deeper and needs a deeper cure. The magic was an illusion created by a duping of the senses, by stunning the nerve endings that convey pain sensations into a stupor or else by fooling them biochemically. The instantaneous was not necessarily the miraculous. It had a process, or to put it the other way, a miracle does not hang in thin air — it has a process, physical or supra-physical, gross or subtle, sensible or occult. And it is as necessary to know the process as it is to observe the effects. By observing the effect, we discover a practical tool or our immediate purpose. By observing the process we can evolve many more and better tools for the future.

The same is true of what dazzles us. For the dazzle is simply a showcase packaging, not the product inside. It is something external, something that acts like an advertisement which presents a false picture of the product or at least a one-sided picture and by doing so plays upon our sense-bound mind or our nervous sentimentality which gets excited and titillated. It compels us to buy the product suspending all rational judgment or even an intuitive discernment or a higher discrimination. It is like a wave of vital charm rather than the authentic psychic feeling that carries us on a roller-coaster ride. And we enjoy it, till we crash land one day and discover that the joy and strength that we experienced was a conjuring trick of the vital; the calm, a crude caricature of authentic peace built by the mind; our experience of relief a mere imitation of the true lasting relief that comes when we are liberated from the prison of the ego and find our home in the freedom of the Infinite.

This is not to say that miracles do not happen or that all miracles are false and every dazzling light an imitation. Quite the contrary. Miracles do happen; the Light of a Self-existent Truth very much exists and is the very basis of all existence here. And precisely because It exists, it can be imitated, not in its essence and quality since that is impossible, but in its appearance. And for this very reason it is necessary to be vigilant and on one’s guard lest we land up in the valley of false glimmer rather than the Home of the True Light; we need to be careful that in our over-eagerness to hastily cross the wastelands of misery, suffering and pain we are not duped by the hijackers that intercept the caravans of light by fabricating signs of the Real in our ignorance. One thing is true and that is miracles are not made to order; that instant gratification of man is neither the way of the world’s evolutionary struggle nor the way of God in us; that which titillates us with an instant and mass appeal is that which clouds our higher and deeper parts of discrimination and calm discernment. Such a short-lived or prolonged suspension of judgment is well-known and is easy enough to understand. It happens because ‘reason’ and ‘judgment’ in us is still heavily dependent upon the senses and therefore can easily be lulled into sleep or tilted in favour of one or the other by the so-called results which are usually nothing more than passing and temporary appearances. And these appearances too are often created not by the technique or the method but by our own wishful thinking, even a subconscious expectation (which is a kind of faith) created by the ‘hype’ and ‘hoops’ of a mass movement.

This is again not to discourage the new-age experimentation which is part of God’s plan in our infant striving to bridge the evolutionary curve that would take us to Future Next. But we should not mistake our first infant strivings to grip and grasp as if we now have a hold of the world in our palm. Perhaps we do hold the world but a small little world, a tiny private corner of our vast existence.

This indeed is the real issue, the core issue. Is there a panacea for all our ills, a perfect recipe for our all too frail and fragile human state, a master key to a predestined change that would make us pass beyond our present life of Ignorance and Falsehood and Suffering and Disease and Death through a golden door to Light and Bliss and Freedom and Immortality? Or to put it in an obverse way and a little bluntly — do we really believe that a ten-day or a ten-month spirituality course or health camp or yoga workshop is going to set right everything for us? Or even one or many ‘techniques’ of meditation or pranayama liberate us from the bonds of our human nature, if there is not, as an accompaniment, this thirst, this need, this aspiration for self-exceeding and self-transcendence?

Or else, can food regulations such as milk-free diet, or a raw vegetable and fruits diet, or fasting fads or sun-gazing and moon-gazing and star-gazing free us from our ego and ignorance? Perhaps the contrary, since these ‘techniques’ when done solely as a ‘technique’ release certain energies in our system which are not only not necessarily the very best ones but often crude ones. The various forms of pranayama (it does not matter what name we give them — people often create a little variation here and there and sell it as a brand product), if not accompanied by the other preliminary and subsequent steps of Rajayoga may simply release a lot of vital energy of a mixed nature in our system. So also fasting can release this vital energy by first eating upon our body’s reserves and next drawing pranic energy as a compensation from around. The result is a rather quick weight loss, a feeling of being energetic and full of life which makes one ‘feel good’, etc. This in turn also helps in keeping away certain afflictions which are due to low vitality and a reduction of vital force. These are the immediate effects of both pranayama (when done as a technique alone and in isolation) or of various forms of extreme diets. But the effect stops here. It often leaves us with the illusion of ‘being helped’ and ‘all is well’ syndrome. But this is only 10 percent, if not less, of the real work.

If we do not simultaneously work upon our ego and desires, then this abundant vital energy, impure and ignorant, can be like an unbridled wild horse. It can create in us the figure of a titan rather than that of a God. Therefore, as the legends go, such forms of practices of breath and body exercises or forced excesses (Hatha) upon the body were the favourite forms of ‘yoga’ for the demon kings such as Ravana and Hiranyakashyapa. That may be an extreme case. But there is always a ‘mini Ravana’ concealed and waiting in us to feed upon an excess of vital energy so as to expand the empire of its ego and the kingdom of its ambition. It subordinates one form of appetite only to create an excess of another. If fast we must, then let us first let our egos fast, let us first go on desire-free diets and the rest will follow suit if necessary and at its proper time. If sun-gaze we must, then let us first discover the inner sun of Truth-Light which our nature hides for it is That Light alone which can free us from the bonds of obscurity and the chains of ignorance of our earth nature.

So also with ‘techniques’ of meditation and japa. In our haste to find and adopt a technique we forget the aspiration which is the soul of any process. To take an example from the life of the great ones: Buddha did not first discover the techniques and then arrive at the gates of nirvana. His was rather a thirst for freedom; he was like a being of fire trampling upon desire and putting his ego as a dead shell or an empty cloak below his feet as he walked over to the gates of the Beyond. Would we have his fire or simply his technique? If we have the fire, then techniques will come and go, grow and evolve, for Buddha is bound by nothing least of all to a technique. But if we have only a technique and not the authentic fire, then we are like cheap imitation jewellery which invites robbers but is unfit for the body of the gods. And who or what can ignite the fire within us — not a ritual of meditation but a sincere and genuine search?

We see in the life of another great one, the princess Meera, who lost her crown and found the Delight and Love of God. What was her cherished mantra? The Name of Krishna! But Krishna was not a name to her but a living Presence whom she saw with her eye of faith and loved with all her heart. Would we have the faith and love of Meera or simply her mantra that our tongue can repeat mechanically as a parrot while our hearts wander in every direction pulled by so many strings tied to countless objects? If we have the faith and love, then are we ever in meditation and japa as a lover is ever mindful of his beloved. But if we do not have these but simply the ‘techniques’ then we are like an artificial fruit that looks delicious but is unfit to be served as a nourishing food even to man, let alone gods. Like the technique of body and life, so also meditation as a technique simply releases certain mental energies in us that can, if not accompanied by surrender and humility, breed spiritual pride and the arrogance of a powerful and brilliant but a hard, cold, dry and soulless mind.

It is even worse when it comes to applying physical means alone such as diet, medicine and herbs for making our life free and perfect. For the roots of our problem lie deeper than the physical, in our subconscient nature. It is in the recurrent pattern of habits, which the force of life has developed in its material embodiments, that we find the proneness to decay, disease, limitation and death. Life has evolved in matter through a constant stress and struggle and a clash of forces that have left their unique stamp and a perpetual sense of suffering, fear, doubt and denial. No outer remedy, no mere physical discipline and change of lifestyle, no mere adjustment of diet and drugs, no mere wonder herb or a power-packed pill, no simple energy tablet or a health drink can help us win the fight against this formidable subconscient adversary. Or perhaps we do not know what we are talking about. For if there was a perfect physical or even a vital and mental solution to the human problem, then mankind should and or in any case would abandon the evolutionary adventure and its limited possibilities and be content in perfecting its limited circle of Ignorance, that is to say, continue its round of life based on ego, division and desire plus a few herbs and exercises to bring in some extra vital and mental force in our system. Naturally, our impatience seeks such a quick-fix solution and is readily attracted to whatever such a thing is promised — or shall we say advertised through well-packaged crash courses! Well, these things do have their utility, but a short term and temporary one. They are not solutions but patchworks and their role is a small fraction in the required sum of human effort and its underlying potentials.

That required effort is for man to ascend beyond his mind, break the barriers of his ego, transcend desires and go deeper into his soul. It is this ‘need’ to exceed himself and his small life, centred around petty goals of the ego and the satisfaction of the dwarf desires, that will carry man beyond the barriers of his mortality, beyond the limiting hedge of his senses, beyond his divided consciousness. For this ‘need’ is like a fire that will burn the lid separating the mortal from the immortal sphere. No mere technique, no method alone, no outer changes of life and its activities can save us if this ‘need’ is not present as an aspiration at its core. And if it there, then the rest matters little except as a supporting power of faith. Thus, if someone has this, he or she puts their faith in a certain method, technique, process, or path and Master, then one goes through and gets the desired result. Of course it is subject to the sincerity put into the effort, the receptivity and other preparatory elements of the recipient consciousness and to Time, that great cosmic weaver who works out the results of efforts through the intricate pattern of energies that we have woven through many lives. And finally, it depends upon the supreme sanction of Grace whose inexpressible mysterious ways are beyond all human calculations and override the law of causality.

In other words, though outer methods have their limited usefulness, yet they are not the primary thing, least of all the source of our change. It is the faith that we put in them, the aspiration that is behind them, the hope or expectation that we have from them that brings the results since the Divine Grace chooses that means to help us and pull us out of the suffering abyss of the human condition. The sincerity of our effort and the faithful and persistent practice of a given method becomes an indicator of our aspiration. The outer effort — the technique or the method — then becomes merely an excuse for the Divine Grace and Its Force to act. Of course, these is something like a drvyaguna, the quality of the substance or the herb taken, just as there is some truth of occult process behind every technique. But that truth is relatively small and a subordinate one. The Divine and His Truth are free and infinite. He is not subject to a fixed technique, not bound to a school of philosophy or a sect, not limited to our narrow beliefs and non-beliefs in this or that method or medicine. It is we who choose these things to be our intermediaries. And for a time it is natural that it be so, for the human consciousness is so narrow, so bound by its smallness that it is difficult for it to emerge all of a sudden into the vastness and freedom of the Infinite. It is as if shut in a small hole which does not allow any light to enter there. It needs an enticement, or a little rope to hold and come out of its life built almost on a subconscious pattern of habitual ideas, formulas and beliefs about life. Once pulled out of the hole, it is willy-nilly exposed to the Light which was always there above and around him. The rope was simply one form of contrivance to expose him to the Light from which he had deliberately or ignorantly hidden himself out of fear or resistance, out of love for his limitations. The necessity of the rope arises because one is stuck out of habit and is unwilling or fearful to come out. It is like teaching swimming to a baby and to an adult. Even animals are known to develop defences instinctively out of ‘need’. In fact, training often corrupts them since, though specialized in one form of activity, they lose the overall adaptability and plasticity according to the ‘need’ of the moment. A similar thing applies to man. Too much reliance on method and technique takes the soul out of truth, turning it over a period of time into a lifeless ritual. Those who have followed a technique solely as a technique know very well how the returns begin to diminish unless one takes care to revitalize it with the same enthusiasm as at the beginning or adapt it to life’s ever-changing and evolving patterns. One even becomes the slave of a method rather than the servant of Truth. One clings to the rope that was held down into the hole and forgets the Sun that is the goal.

The wonder pill, the magic rope is within us and not outside. This has been the wisdom of the ages. Whatever helps us in finding that inner Truth is fine. If anything helps us individually in that discovery — diet, exercise, breath control, mind control, japa or whatever else, we must keep ourselves clean of two errors: to mistake the means for the end and a stage for the goal. The method we use today at one stage of our progress may become redundant or even a hindrance at another stage. So also we must not linger with the experiences that arise at a certain stage whether by the help of certain methods or without them. The other mistake is an almost innocent need in us to want everyone to think alike. But what has helped one may not help another. People are at different stages and also each has his own unique destiny and unique path paved by the footprints of his past energies. It is puerile to want others to think like us or convert others to our belief. No doubt Truth is One but this One is not a solitary point but an infinity that holds in its oneness the incalculable complexity of this and many other universes that derive from the One! We best serve the cause of Truth in humanity when we recognize this law of variation in humanity. Then we stress only on the essential points, the core or real issues, the Truth behind appearances while leaving each one free to figure it out in their own way. For, God moves simultaneously along many paths and on all paths. He draws the human soul through countless ways, even ways that the human mind does not recognize since they are so drastically different to what we traditionally call as ‘the path’. He enjoys the differences since it is through multiplicity that we find His Infinity best expressed. For in the last analysis it is not our journey but in each one it is the journey of the Eternal One.



The Healer Within



Sri Aurobindo leads us at the turn of this millennium:

Or we may find when all the rest has failed
Hid in ourselves the key of perfect change.”((( Sri Aurobindo, Savitri Book II, Canto X, p. 256)))

All life is a discovery of this hidden key, all outer difficulties a push to discover an inner door. All illness, all pathology, is nothing but a mask of God that hangs around our soul as the chrysalis covers and hides the beauty of an as yet incognito butterfly hidden in a caterpillar. Where is the butterfly hidden in the body of a caterpillar we may ask? For no amount of its anatomical or psychological dissection reveals to us any semblance, however remote of an emerging butterfly. How can one even imagine that a would-be lover of nectar is hiding within the skin of an insect which is busy devouring everything it can lay its feet upon? How can one even imagine that a flying wonder could emerge out of a crawling insect? But the wonder and the beauty emerge, we know it for sure. And if a child who has not seen it nor known it were to ask us how, the closest answer we could give is that we know it because we have seen it. Were the child to insist we could very well explain the stages but that too would be imperfect since we still would not know how or why this metamorphosis takes place. All that we could again say is that we know it is there, the butterfly inside a caterpillar, as a possibility but do not ask us to show you where it is sleeping inside. The same is true of the human soul. No amount of physical or psychological dissection can bring out or explain where this sleeping child of beauty and wonder hides or resides. But to those that have had a contact with it even for a few moments know that it is there and will emerge one day despite our habit of crawling and devouring, despite all that contradicts it in our human nature. For just as the butterfly waits for its hour inside the caterpillar, so too the soul waits for its hour inside the cocoon of matter that it has woven around itself. And the more the cocoon presses and pains, the closer is the hour of emergence, only and if only, we know how to wait and do not try to help wrongly by cutting off the painful cocoon prematurely with our surgical wisdom that sees only a part while missing the whole! In fact the only true help, if one there is, is to use the crisis and pain for hastening the process of our soul’s emergence much as a midwife helps by assisting the struggling child to emerge.


A Window of the Soul

This is the secret of all pain and suffering, the secret of death and difficulties — it is to assist in however devious or unseemly a way, the rapid emergence of the secret soul within us, our true self, the healer within. This is the first thing that we have to understand as an integral healer. That illness like everything else is an opportunity, even death is an opportunity, a means that Mother Nature in her deep wisdom has created to hasten the delivery of the secret soul. Just as difficult moments can bring out the best in us (or the worst) so also every obstacle of life is a means to bring out the best in us, if only we care to. It is a method to awaken our sleeping strength, to make it grow and take charge of our body-life-mind, which so far rule our nature. It is a cry for change. It is said, and rightly so, that small minds hastily judge and rapidly condemn while the wise in soul and the truly great minds patiently observe and deeply understand. They observe the many hidden lines along which our nature moves, through the obstacles towards a greater emergence of its powers and possibilities. The integral healer is accordingly not a judge who is busy pointing out mistakes, but a patient observer, who through his own awakened spiritual self, assists in the emergence of the client’s deeper and higher possibilities. In other words, he is at best a catalyst for this metamorphosis that hides behind the cloak of suffering and pain. This is true as much of our physical problems as it is true of our psychological problems.

In fact this is precisely what the integral healer sitting within us does. He uses difficulties of Nature as means of growth and ascension much as an adventurer and explorer uses the travails of his travels to develop in him skill and strength and wisdom. The soul within us does not judge, it does not condemn or criticize; it simply sees and heals, observes and puts a gentle pressure here and a little there for the desired change. Here we have to understand the role of time in healing. It is said that time heals, and rightly so. But how does it heal. It heals by readjusting the forces in the individual’s field. Therefore, coercion and excess use of force to change things without a readjustment of the total balance or without taking into account the totality of things is an exercise in futility. True and radical healing is a patient process. It cannot be otherwise. All impatience is therefore not only useless but in the end even harmful. Human nature contains in it many elements, some are ready for efflorescence, some are only buds and shoots, some yet in seed forms. All these have to be simultaneously taken into account and readjusted. This is a feat impossible for the human mind unless it has learned to subjugate itself to a growing inner light of the soul. For it is only the soul within us that knows each element of our nature and each issue of our life in the total perspective, and not as a thing cut off from the whole as the mind sees. The soul sees not only the present but also the past and the future; it sees not only the knot of the difficulty but also its temporal necessity. Therefore, all holistic and integral healing can come only through a contact with our soul. All other methods, sensible and insensible, are temporary. In fact no other part in us and no power or system as such can take into cognizance the entire complexity of human nature and its diverse forces in a single sweep. Therefore, the emergence in us of this inmost soul, called Psychic Being by Sri Aurobindo, is crucial.


The True Self

So what is this psychic being? What is its method, system and rationale of healing? How can we assist in its emergence? These are the crucial questions that an integral healer needs to ask or rather more importantly needs to aspire for. For just as the caterpillar cannot understand the butterfly, which is an intimate part of it, so too the human mind, however brilliant, cannot understand the soul within. The only way to know and truly understand is to live and be. That is why in days of old this knowledge was kept secret and revealed only to the ready initiate. But we have moved further since then. The human mind itself is bursting along its seams and seeking to know and grow beyond itself. Besides, a mental understanding of things that is beyond the mind need not necessarily be harmful. It may indeed be a help, provided it is received freely in a fertile mind ready to leap beyond itself. Mental understanding becomes a hindrance when it remains at the level of theory only or when the mind is too complacent to make the necessary effort along the lines suggested to discover this deeper principle. It is also a hindrance when it is forced prematurely upon a mind that is not ready and one sign of its readiness is the need to know. Seeking is itself a sign of the growing emergence of the soul, since it is only when the light of the soul falls upon the dark chambers of our mind that it begins to helplessly turn towards the deep and unseen source of this light. Until then, it is too content with itself and accustomed to the darkness, calls it light since that is the only light which it knows. The mind becomes also a hindrance when instead of seeking to grow by the contact of the soul, it tries to bind this deeper and freer truth into its fixed formulas and begins to hastily judge it by its own limited standards. To know about the soul requires a very patient effort and cannot be done in a trice. It is like discovering a new and far off continent where each failure only paves the way to a subsequent victory if we know how to persevere.

Therefore all our mental judgments are not only useless but also harmful when it comes to matters of the soul. The soul of an apparent atheist may be more developed than the soul of a so-called believer. The soul need not express itself in that dubious garb of religiosity, or through the curtains of a brilliant intellect. It need not show an interest in matters of social duty and be conventionally moral, things that our mind constantly confuses with the spiritual. It is not the voice of our conscience either, that close imitator of the soul. The soul is concerned with the truth of things and that is why it is often compared to a swan that can separate milk from water. It sees the truth behind religiosity but also the truth behind atheism and therefore can use both as means and materials of its progress. It sees the utility of reason but also its many limitations. It sees the truth of social and moral conventions but equally and simultaneously the truth of defying conventions and revolt against existing norms.

Therefore, it can truly help since it alone holds the key to our integral change. And therefore its moods and methods cannot be understood by the mind that tries to tie up everything into an either-or formula, simplistically, but nevertheless like all over-simplistic truths, partial and one-sided and therefore not true. The soul within us, that which we truly are, is the only part in us that makes a straight response to the truth of things. By truth we mean the fundamental, stable, one Reality that is at the base of all things and behind the manifold appearances of this world. By truth we also mean the force and law of evolution, the Consciousness Energy that is secretly leading all things towards their secret good. Finally by truth we mean the ways and processes, the outer and inner means and methods by which we can come in contact with this twofold truth (the truth of our stability and the truth of a progressive and evolutionary change) and grow in its law and likeness. This three-in-one formula of truth is single in a higher consciousness but in the human mental consciousness it is separated. This separation of the energy of stability and the energy of progressive transformation is the fundamental imbalance that lies at the root of all our maladies, including disease and death. And it is the inmost soul within which is the first of all powers to reset this lost balance spontaneously. This it can do with relative ease since the soul is the evolutionary element in us that survives death and transcends the limited formation of nature and personality that is put forward by itself in a single lifetime. We may say that it alone knows the hidden links and kinks of our nature since it has witnessed them all through the ages. All other witnesses disperse with the change of form, but the soul keeps the record of what is essential for growth and uses it as material for the future.


Balance of Forces

Most illnesses arise as a result of an energy imbalance between the forces of tamas (inertia), rajas (kinesis), and sattva (harmony and balance). An excess of tamas leads to an increased rate of destruction (catabolism) since the cells are unable to keep pace with the evolutionary pressure. An excess of rajas depletes the reserves since the demand is much more than the supply. The cells and body tissues are stimulated to build (anabolism) beyond their limits. This excess stimulation leads to an irritation of the organs and consequently a disturbed balance. Besides, an excess of rajasic activity is almost invariably followed by a recoil and relapse into tamas. The outer consequence of this is that people with an excess of one or the other energy have a matching lifestyle. Thus, people with an excess of tamas are the proverbial couch potatoes for whom the favourite pastime is sleep. They wake up only to sharp sensations and therefore resort sometimes to crude habits like alcohol to make themselves feel alive. Now we attribute many an illness to this sort of lifestyle but the lifestyle is itself the result of an excess of tamas in the system! That is why many of our well-meaning advices and do’s and don’ts fall flat on the face. Even the ‘all-knowing’ physician bound by his own nature finds it difficult to follow, unless thanks to some deep crisis of illness, he is pushed to the wall. Again, an excess of rajas leads to a type a lifestyle with much hype and fury. Picture the busy executive and the workaholic corporate boss crushing their hearts and coronaries in a blind race to move faster and faster. The heart begins to give up and we are told it is due to the lifestyle and attitudes. But what has determined this attitude? Genes, heredity, learning — or something more intrinsic? We have dealt with the relative influence of these factors elsewhere. But here again we find the inner imbalance due to an excess of rajas leading to energy flowing into unhealthy channels. But what about the sattvic man and his lifestyle? It is indeed full of balance and moderation, and that comes naturally to him. He leans and tends towards harmony. But since the three forces are divided in a human being (not yet in a unified harmony) the sattvic man strives for harmony by trimming down, denying or suppressing the excess rajas. This has its backlash though — for example, the easy fall into tamas, the reduction of life-force that can fight against problems and difficulties, the sudden outbursts of suppressed rajas upsetting the system not built or tuned to run in a hyper mode. The problem is further complicated by the fact that different parts of our nature may respond to different forces. Thus, the body may be full of tamas but the mind may respond to sattva. Or the body may be predominantly rajasic but the mind is in a state of tamasic inertia.

Still, there is a general level of the human consciousness and of all the three, sattva is the best bet as of now. We say now, because in the not so distant future, when man has learned to consciously handle these forces and the force of evolution leads him to higher and higher energies than these primal three, he will be able to recover their spontaneous unity and harmony in a transformed nature. Tamas then will be transformed into its original force of Peace of which tamas is a degradation. Rajas will be transformed into Consciousness-Force of which it is a lower derivation. And so also sattva will change into its higher counterpart of Light and Ananda, the Light that creates harmony by knowing the right place of everything, and the Ananda that is the natural result of this harmony. In other words, to use a significant ancient Indian terminology, tamas-rajas-sattva will change into their original higher counterparts Sat-Chit-Ananda or ‘Sacchidananda Consciousness’ of the Divine within us. That is what is meant by the mystic saying that man will be free from all afflictions when the kingdom of heaven descends upon earth and man grows into the likeness of God. If that be the radical cure presupposed by Nature, the cure towards which evolution is secretly leading us, then we need to discover the mediating philosopher stone that can work out the miracle swiftly rather than slowly in the natural course for us. This cannot happen by advices and conventional health education, which can at best only propagate a more moderate and sattvic lifestyle with its precarious balance. More is needed and this more and this mediation of transfer from the lower to the higher can only be done by the inmost soul, the psychic being in man. For it is only the psychic being, which is a child born of the energies of the higher hemisphere, but which has descended into the little room and plot of our mortality, that knows both, the Divine parentage and the fallen nature. And therefore once awakened it can lead man gradually and progressively out of darkness, bondage, falsehood, suffering, and death towards light and freedom and truth and bliss and immortality.


Healing from Within

Finally, the psychic consciousness puts us in touch with the healing forces from above, forces from beyond the frontiers of form, forces of peace and joy, harmony and love, health and trust. The role of these deeper forces in health and healing is yet to be recognized, though we have at least begun to admit one of them, that is faith. These forces, normally not accessible to our narrow and closed ego-bound life begin to naturally enter a person who is open to the soul within, effortlessly, just as butterflies are attracted to a flower. The psychic touch therefore not only balances the lower nature and its forces but invites and invokes and opens the doors to a higher nature for which illness and suffering is impossible.

The Mother puts it very simply and directly:

This peace and fullness and joy given by the psychic contact … gives an openness towards the true consciousness … So long as the openness is there, the peace, the fullness and the joy remain with their immediate results of progress, health and fitness in the physical, quietness and goodwill in the vital, clear understanding and broadness in the mental and a general feeling of security and satisfaction.”((( The Mother, CWM 12, On Education, ‘An International University Centre’, p. 45)))

This does not mean that the psychic contact will free us from all illnesses. That cannot be till the energies that move our nature are transformed into their divine counterparts. But it will surely reduce the frequency and blunt the edge of it all. Besides, the emergence of the soul in a rajas prone person will encourage a tendency towards sattva from within even without any imposition from outside by putting our nature into an accelerated evolutionary mode of which sattva is a significant step. Finally, it will open the doors definitively towards the not so distant future transformation, which is also the true and definitive road to radical healing. It is only in a transformed human nature that immunity will be spontaneous.

Is there some evidence to suggest that the psychic touch truly heals from within? There is indeed the everyday evidence in the form of sleep. Our everyday contact, even if for a few moments, takes place during the deepest phase of sleep. It is this that heals us so often of our daily anxieties and troubles. How often do we wake up with a fresh mind and body ready for a new start as if the load of the previous day has been taken off? Taken off indeed, partly by the psychic contact setting things right and partly by the impressions sinking down into the subconscient as seeds of the future. Equally, many illnesses are preceded by a phase of disturbed sleep, or else start during our prolonged sojourn in the vital worlds, where straying too long and too far, we have little time left for the psychic contact. The release of our consciousness from the grip of our outer mind facilitates this reverse process of going within. In other words, to discover the inmost soul consciously, we have to do the reverse concentration of going within in the heart where in the silent depths beyond thoughts and emotions and desires, in the cave of God there dwells our secret soul. One of the methods of contacting is given below. There are others and one may choose according to one’s temperament. But whatever the method chosen, one must be armed with patience and sincerity. It takes time and persistence. Radical breakthroughs have their price and this one is the most radical of all efforts, with results and effects that would last beyond a lifetime and for all future lives to come.


A Method of Spiritual Self-discovery

“Every human being carries hidden within him the possibility of a greater consciousness which goes beyond the bounds of his present life and enables him to share in a higher and a vaster life. Indeed, in all exceptional beings it is always this consciousness that governs their lives and organises both the circumstances of their existence and their individual reaction to these circumstances.

What the human mental consciousness does not know and cannot do, this consciousness knows and does. It is like a light that shines at the centre of the being, radiating through the thick coverings of the external consciousness. Some have a vague intimation of its presence; a good many children are under its influence, which shows itself very distinctly at times in their spontaneous actions and even in their words. Unfortunately, since parents most often do not know what it is and do not understand what is happening in their child, their reaction to these phenomena is not a good one and all their education consists in making the child as unconscious as possible in this domain and concentrating all his attention on external things, thus accustoming him to think that they are the only ones that matter.” [p. 30]

“The starting-point is to seek in yourself that which is independent of the body and the circumstances of life, which is not born of the mental formation that you have been given, the language you speak, the habits and customs of the environment in which you live, the country where you are born or the age to which you belong. You must find, in the depths of your being, that which carries in it a sense of universality, limitless expansion, unbroken continuity.” [p. 32]

“The psychic being is also a great discovery which requires at least as much fortitude and endurance as the discovery of new continents. A few simple words of advice may be useful to one who has resolved to undertake it. The first and perhaps the most important point is that the mind is incapable of judging spiritual things. All those who have written on this subject have said so; but very few are those who have put it into practice. And yet, in order to proceed on the path, it is absolutely indispensable to abstain from all mental opinion and reaction.

Give up all personal seeking for comfort, satisfaction, enjoyment or happiness. Be only a burning fire for progress, take whatever comes to you as an aid to your progress and immediately make whatever progress is required.

 Try to take pleasure in all you do, but never do anything for the sake of pleasure.

 Never get excited, nervous or agitated. Remain perfectly calm in the face of all circumstances. And yet be always alert to discover what progress you still have to make and lose no time in making it.

 Never take physical happenings at their face value. They are always a clumsy attempt to express something else, the true thing which escapes our superficial understanding.

 Never complain of the behaviour of anyone, unless you have the power to change in his nature what makes him act in this way; and if you have the power, change him instead of complaining.

 Whatever you do, never forget the goal which you have set before you. There is nothing great or small once you have set out on this great discovery; all things are equally important and can either hasten or delay its success. Thus before you eat, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the food you are about to eat may bring your body the substance it needs to serve as a solid basis for your effort towards the great discovery, and give it the energy for persistence and perseverance in the effort.

Before you go to sleep, concentrate a few seconds in the aspiration that the sleep may restore your fatigued nerves, bring calm and quietness to your brain so that on waking you may, with renewed vigour, begin again your journey on the path of the great discovery.

 Before you act, concentrate in the will that your action may help or at least in no way hinder your march forward towards the great discovery.

 When you speak, before the words come out of your mouth, concentrate just long enough to check your words and allow only those that are absolutely necessary to pass, only those that are not in any way harmful to your progress on the path of the great discovery.

 To sum up, never forget the purpose and goal of your life. The will for the great discovery should be always there above you, above what you do and what you are, like a huge bird of light dominating all the movements of your being.

 Before the untiring persistence of your effort, an inner door will suddenly open and you will emerge into a dazzling splendour that will bring you the certitude of immortality, the concrete experience that you have always lived and always shall live, that external forms alone perish and that these forms are, in relation to what you are in reality, like clothes that are thrown away when worn out. Then you will stand erect, freed from all chains, and instead of advancing laboriously under the weight of circumstances imposed upon you by Nature, which you had to endure and bear if you did not want to be crushed by them, you will be able to walk on, straight and firm, conscious of your destiny, master of your life.”((( The Mother, CWM 12, On Education, ‘Psychic Education and Spiritual Education’, pp. 30, 32)))

“…This is the first thing necessary — aspiration for the Divine. The next thing you have to do is to tend it, to keep it always alert and awake and living. And for that what is required is concentration — concentration upon the Divine with a view to an integral and absolute consecration to its Will and Purpose.

Concentrate in the heart. Enter into it; go within and deep and far, as far as you can. Gather all the strings of your consciousness that are spread abroad, roll them up and take a plunge and sink down.

A fire is burning there, in the deep quietude of the heart. It is the divinity in you — your true being. Hear its voice, follow its dictates.”((( The Mother, CWM 3, Questions and Answers 1929 – 1931, 7 April 1929, p. 1)))


Spiritual Cure

The very mention of spiritual cure raises eyebrows in the scientific community. It is however doubtful if even the most sceptic of scientists would absolutely refrain from turning to a higher power for help when all doors appear closed at the human plane to which we seem to be so helplessly tied in our understanding and action. The limits of our sight are not the limits of light and the absence of material evidence is not an evidence of absence. But spiritual cure does have sufficient evidence if we are to trust the testimony of many patients all over the world. What is missing is a concrete measure of spiritual force in terms of quantum and even quality. That in fact is true of many forces in the world. The force of love, the force of beauty, the force of peace and of joy, and of their obverse side, the forces of hate and jealousy are all experiential realities and yet they escape measurement. Perhaps it is a divine irony that some of the best things and some of the most powerful and useful forces cannot be quantified! Of these the one and perhaps the most indispensable of all is the spiritual force.

We can take an analogy, an analogy that is nevertheless close to a deep psychological truth of our nature. Imagine a state where people live only in darkness. They have never seen light (just as we do not perceive many important areas of the visual spectrum) and therefore do not have the faculty to experience it. How would these people react to the news that there is light? Some would react with belief, others with disbelief. Many may remain simply unconcerned. A few among the scientific community may try to experiment in order to find out. Since the faculty of sight is missing (light blinds them), they will try using other well-developed faculties like that of hearing, smelling, touching, etc. Some may even try to hold it in the hands and feel it and measure its shape and weight, etc. The result is anybody’s guess. All the measures and methods of a blind man’s exploration are perfectly useless for discovering light and its power. What is needed is to temporarily suspend these known methods and try developing the faculties of sight. Once developed, then light becomes self-obvious, even when one is unable to measure or describe it. Something of this truth applies in our exploration of the spiritual consciousness and its effects upon our mind and body and life. Animals cannot understand the human ways of knowing and working even if they have all the organs and functions of the human body including the genes and the brain. This lack of understanding is because they do not have a developed mental consciousness. We see the same difference between a human child and an adult. So too one needs to first develop the spiritual consciousness and then and then alone can one hope to study, understand and utilize the spiritual consciousness for making life better upon earth.

Scientific blindness apart, there are other confusions as well regarding the existence and use of spiritual force. First is the common misconception of its absolute omnipotence under all circumstances. This confusion is mainly because to the limited human consciousness all that exceeds our understanding is labelled as spiritual and there is even a tendency to equate the spiritual action with the instantaneous and the miraculous. But there are many tiers and levels of the spiritual consciousness itself and it is only the very highest Forces that can be considered as being practically omnipotent. But this highest Omnipotence is also endowed with a widest Omniscience. It sees things in a way that is very different from our limited human seeing and concerns. Therefore this Force is not at the mercy of human consciousness. And even if it were to be moved by some touch of our misery, there is not one in a million human beings whose consciousness can receive, support and hold the action of this very Highest Force. We would break down under its pressure just as a small vessel would be washed away if kept for a refill under the Niagara Falls. A great inner purity and strength, a great inner sincerity, courage, faith and surrender are needed for its unequivocal action. Such qualities are unfortunately rare in most mental beings, even among the most developed ones. They are paradoxically found either in those with a simple childlike heart that has not yet entered into the complex mazes of the mind or else, on the other pole, in those who have gone beyond the mind and live in the luminous simplicity of the Spirit itself. It is this that makes the sceptic argue that spiritual consciousness and healing is nothing but faith healing. In reality, faith supports the action of the spiritual consciousness just as faith supports the action of medicines. No force can act with certainty without the support of faith in one form or another. The intermediate ranges of the spiritual consciousness can hasten the recovery, aid the action of medicines or whatever system is used, or act independently on its own, but there are conditions to be satisfied and the result is often a net result of the action of all the forces of harmony and disintegration put together.

Beyond all the forces, even the very highest one is the supreme mystery of the Divine Grace ready to act in its own ineffable and mysterious way, if we allow it to do so. But Grace cannot be understood or explained by any process of the human mind and its logic. Even those who have been exceptionally fortunate to receive It and experience Its action in their life cannot speak about It. And yet no discussion on healing can be complete without speaking about Grace. For in the last analysis, all healing is an act of Grace and indeed all creation, including the sweet and bitter fruits of life, are nothing else but a constant unfolding of Grace.

“There are two ways of curing an illness spiritually. One consists in putting a force of consciousness and truth on the physical spot which is affected. In this case the effect produced depends naturally on the receptivity of the person. Supposing the person is receptive; the force of consciousness is put upon the affected part and it restores order.

In other cases, if the body lacks receptivity altogether or if its receptivity is insufficient, one sees the inner correspondence with the psychological state which has brought about the illness and acts on that. But if the cause of the illness is refractory, not much can be done. Let us say the origin is vital. The vital absolutely refuses to change, it clings terrifically to the condition in which it is; then that is hopeless. You put the force, and usually it provokes an increase in the illness, produced by the resistance of the vital which did not want to accept anything. I am speaking of … the vital but it can be the mind or something else.”((( The Mother, CWM 4, Questions and Answers 1950 – 1951, 31 March 1951, p. 264)))


The Art and Science of Inner Alchemy

Diversion, rejection, aspiration, surrender are all useful and complimentary processes that help us grow towards an integral health. Yet they are not the permanent remedy. The final solution lies in a radical transformation of the human consciousness and all the forces to which it is now open so that immunity becomes effortless and natural to it just as speech and thought are natural to man. If illness is a vibration of falsehood, then the final remedy is not just throwing out this vibration but transmuting it into its original figure of truth. This power is not available to our human consciousness and it is only the highest Grace that can perform this radical alchemy. Therefore to invoke this Grace through prayers, meditation or whatever means and to create within oneself the best possible conditions for this Grace to act is the highest wisdom. Faith, will, peace, etc. are nothing else but a preparation for the Grace to act. In the final analysis it is Grace alone that cures and that can redeem our fallen nature and save mankind from suffering. The mystery of grace is obviously beyond the domain of science and reason and all our limited or vastest intelligence. If it were not so, then Grace would be something below the mind subject to its analysis and our all too human laws. Fortunately there are few things at least that are beyond the purview of our mind. These are the intangible mysteries of the universe, which no law can bind, and no formula claim. That is why there is hope and that is why there is possibility of change. And of all these intangible mysteries Grace is no doubt the highest of the highest!

The human body as well as the inner being is as we have seen a melting pot for many a forces. These forces have evolved over millenniums and have had their temporary utility. All these forces exist within us in so many layers of our psychological being. What is however useful at one point of evolution may not be so at another stage. An attempt to rise beyond the domain of these turbulent forces is often met by a dragging resistance from them. Illness is one of the prices we pay for this evolutionary drag. The urge to evolve therefore adds a greater burden to mankind and calls for the need for a much greater vigilance against these forces. To be truly free of this drag we need to find some way of tackling these violent energies in us. Our body is like an antenna tuned to these forces for long. We attract these forces or are attracted to them as iron to magnet. All that we do is to paint the iron which thereby prevents it for a while from the attraction of the magnet. But as the paint wears off, the inner element emerges unchanged. And with this re-emergence we have a return of the illness.

The final solution therefore lies in transmuting the iron into something else that is immune to the attraction of the magnet. In other words, if illness is a vibration of falsehood, we need to replace this vibration by the vibration of truth. This power of transmutation, this touchstone is not available to mankind at large, yet is this change the one hope of mankind. Sri Aurobindo discovered this transforming power and termed it the Supramental. It is the transforming touch of the Supramental force that can finally make human nature immune to every form of illness and accident. It is not enough to cure the maladies of man; what is necessary is to cure the malady called man. It is only the very highest Supramental Force that can annihilate the very seed of falsehood buried in our inconscient depths, pluck out the roots of ignorance from our subconscient nature, and create peace where now there is the restless and troubled stress of desire, harmony where now there is only a precarious and uncertain balance of forces, and delight where now there is the troubled mixture of pleasure, pain and indifference. Human nature is incapable of this alchemy on its own. But what is impossible to man is perfectly possible for Grace. To invoke this highest Grace through prayer, meditation, japa, sincere aspiration, and opening oneself to Its action through sincere self-giving is the royal road to this transformation. But for this we need to work upon the different planes and make them increasingly receptive to the action of this highest Supramental Grace. This alone can ensure for us the perfect fulfilment of our dream — ‘health for all’. For health is obviously not just an absence of diseases and provision of hospitals and clean water. That is the first step no doubt. But the final step would be the absence of hospitals and doctors and drugs as there would be perfect natural immunity and therefore no requirement of these.

“Self-defence by these inner means may become so strong that the body becomes practically immune as many yogis are. Still this ‘practically’ does not mean ‘absolutely’. The absolute immunity can only come with the supramental change. For below the supramental it is the result of an action of a Force among many forces and can be disturbed by a disruption of the equilibrium established — in the supramental it is a law of the nature; in a supramentalised body immunity from illness would be automatic, inherent in its new nature.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 31, Letters on Yoga IV, p. 564)))







Healing Communications


In a world largely governed by fast food, cheap thrills, quick success and easy money, it is only natural that the value of life has been reduced to mere figures and numbers. The rise of the machines has been almost coterminous with a second fall of man — first from his heavenly paradise and next from his earthly paradise. Each technological advancement has led to a biological and psychological amputation. We have purchased outer freedom but at a heavy servitude of the soul. We have pills for every ill but little natural resistance. We can replace the physical heart and open blocked vessels but the psychological heart has become empty and blocked. We have become a prisoner of our own achievements, a slave of our material perfection, a materially rich and powerful humanity that is spiritually impoverished and weak. We can control our heartbeats with strong drugs but have no control over our anger. The science of life has been studied in threadbare details, with its biological components and chemical constituents dissected and analysed but the art of life remains vague and obscure, its mystery and wonder, its charm and sweetness and natural laughter lost amidst the noise and din of a senseless crowd.

Yet this need not be so. Man is capable of and must achieve the double perfection that life seeks in him — an outer perfection of his external life and its instruments and an inner perfection of his soul and inner being. He needs to reunite with his soul, reconnect with his true nature, rediscover the lost oneness with All-life and the world around us. We may almost say that this disconnectedness is the primary disease, the root of all other physical, psychological and social ills. Rediscovering his connectedness, he will rediscover the one radical remedy that contains in itself as a seed the cure of all his other afflictions. And of all the means given to man to do this, communication is indeed one of the most powerful ones and also the one most readily accessible to us. When it comes to the art of healing, communication is the therapeutic bridge thrown across the gulf that divides health and illness, especially when an expectant patient meets a doctor investing in his persona the trust that we should otherwise place in God. Yet, it is also a fact, and a sad fact, that this powerful tool given to man to reconnect himself with others has become like many other tools at his disposal, an instrument for further division, to create a greater divide, to inject fear, to infuse anxiety, to transmit anger and intolerance.

The power of communication, like every other power, is in its origin and essence a soul-power. Its purpose is to recreate, in terms of nature, the spiritual oneness we have lost. It seeks to recreate in beings and objects a soul-state. It is like a call of our soul to other kindred souls so as to awaken each element of the universe to the original Spiritual Vibration, the ‘Word’ that cast it forth; or rather cast ‘Itself’ forth in these various forms and names. If it can do that successfully, then the ‘cure’ takes place spontaneously, miraculously as it were, since the source of our malady, the disconnectedness, is healed. But like every other power, it is bound and deformed here, upon earth, as it passes through layers upon layers of obscurity and ignorance and darkness. It is deformed not only in the one who initiates but also in the one who receives the communication. It is only the rare sage, the seer of truth sitting atop the summits of his being, who can receive this ‘Word’ in its original purity and transmit something of its Light and Power and Truth to our earth nature filling us with the effulgence of the soul. The sound rhythms and word rhythms, the harmonics of thought and its frequency (if we may say so) in which he casts his sublime Truth vision and Truth audition is termed as the ‘mantra’. Some mantras need to be charged by the consciousness of a seer, others still are universal in their effect and potency if received rightly in the silent depths of one’s heart and repeated with the force of feeling, with the mind dwelling upon its meaning, the central idea, and the substance. By thus dwelling upon the mantra one can unlock an inner door and enter into contact with the original vibration that is the source and support of all creation, its occult healer and to which all returns.

But it is not easy for man to enter into this highest power of communication which is indeed a highest power of communion with all beings and things. Yet it is within our reach to become some reflector or channel of this ‘Creative Word’. This means that instead of identifying with the ‘Supreme Word’, we become a medium to transmit its power and influence upon earth and men. But here again, to be a channel and instrument of the Supreme Creative Power demands an inner stillness and purity, a receptive inner silence of the being, an all-inclusive concentration turned upwards to its source. That itself is a difficult labour and indeed comes only by a higher Grace. What we can do instead is to prepare in ourselves a ‘state of Grace’ so that our being and nature may be used by the Higher Power at will. This ‘state of Grace’ is prepared by an unfailing trust and faith, a sincerity that loves the Divine for the sake of the Divine, an aspiration that wants ‘That’ and nothing else and above all, a surrender of oneself into the Hands of the Supreme Power so that it can mould our being progressively into its own image. Such a person, by his mere presence can bring healing energies into contact with the earth, at least some touch of the higher levels of consciousness if not of the very highest. The mere presence of such a being liberates us from our fears, instils courage and hope where there was only doubt and despair, shows us by an inner light, the various twists and turns of our nature that resist the touch of Grace and prefer illness, suffering and death, to health, peace, joy and immortality. If to this we can add a good outer instrument and a good knowledge of the work at hand or the system we choose, as the medium between the ‘healer’ and the ‘patient’, then the scope of healing becomes enormous. Of course, there is no hundred per cent panacea for one and all for all times! Such a thing would be absurd since we are dealing with living beings, who have an apparent choice, and not with puppets. Human beings are extraordinarily complex and they can resist the ‘healing’ for various reasons, even if they outwardly say otherwise. Illness has its own rewards for us and there is something in us that has a devious attraction to disorder. There are parts in us that not only hold on to the illness as a priced object or sometimes by force of a mechanical habit but also actively resist all attempts at restoring harmony and health. They resist the pressure of light waking us from our soulless slumber. They resist the invasion of truth that tears away the various coats and disguises of falsehood. Therefore, time is necessary and instant cures, though possible, are often suspect. ‘Truth’ does not cure by a surface manipulation or a forceful superimposition that would trick us into health. It goes deep to the very root of our problem since ‘It’ alone can go so deep. Therefore, one needs faith, receptivity, patience and perseverance for cure to be complete and the more integral these things will be the more complete and lasting will be the cure.

In other words, cure is affected mainly by the Grace of a higher power supported by the faith of the patient. The physician and the system he uses are intermediary mediums and sometimes an important medium to intercede between the patient’s faith and the healing power of Grace. He is the therapeutic bridge thrown across the gulf that separates health from diseases, harmony from disharmony, and order from disorder.

It requires a twofold labour on the part of the healer. On the one side, he has to be open to the healing force above, knowing very well that he is nothing more than a channel and an instrument. On the other side, he has to find a way, a device or a means to ‘communicate’ as perfectly as he can and with the least distortion the Healing Vibration to the sick and the unhealthy. We have already alluded to the inner side of this double communication. We can now turn to its outer and external side. The healing force can of course be transmitted in silence if the patient is extraordinarily receptive and open. Such patients often experience a quick relief, soon after they have come in contact with the healer, often even before they have started the treatment or else soon after it. At other times it is the ‘word of the therapist’, his spoken assurance born, of course, of his inner confidence that passes the influence and sets into motion the process of healing. This ‘power of suggestion’, as it is called, is often underestimated by modern doctors who are fed on the milk of modern medicine and its belief in the omnipotence of material methods and processes alone.

Nevertheless, every physician worth his name knows by experience that it is not just the medicines alone but something else, something ‘more’ that aids and assists the healing process. This ‘something else, something more’ often acts from behind using material processes and our blind belief in their power, but is not limited by it. That is one reason why no two cases are alike. There are delayed responses, there are also near instantaneous cures with the same medicine, there are ‘exceptional’ cases and there are also ‘unexpected’ sudden resolutions even as there are instances of prolonged and protracted recovery. One could almost say — as many cases, as many cures!

The power of suggestion acts not only positively but also negatively, for just as we have mentioned earlier, we can become channels and instruments not only for the pouring of clear and limpid streams of health and harmony but unfortunately also instruments of division and destruction. The ‘Word’ not only creates, but also destroys all that needs to be destroyed. And just as one can distort this power of creation, so also its power of destruction can be distorted and perverted to wrong use. The therapist, for instance, can become a means to inject fear and anxiety and agitation in his patients rather than infusing peace and trust. Secondly, this power of suggestion acts not only through the spoken words which are gross vehicles of ideas and forces but also, sometimes more powerfully, through our unspoken thoughts and feelings. This is so because, although it appears so to our restricted senses, we are in reality not so closed in the physical box called the ‘body’ as we believe ourselves to be. An occult and inner commerce always takes place subtly between us and the world around us. We are bathed as if in a sea of forces that surround us, forces sometimes clashing and cancelling each other while at other times supporting and strengthening each other. Our thoughts and feelings, even though unsaid and unheard, are yet forces that act and are acted upon. They vibrate in ether, that subtle medium of sound which builds our space and gives birth to time. Thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, anxieties, fears are transmitted just as peace and joy and strength and faith are. The patient, often conscious of very little apart from his pain, receives these vibrations not only from the doctors but also from nursing staff, relatives, friends and all those around him. That is why negative prognostications and hopeless pronouncements are best avoided lest they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And each time the ‘prophecy’ fulfils itself, it sets a negative trap since the mind supports it now as a thing ‘proved’ by experience. Yet how many such ‘experiential and statistical proofs’ are merely ‘habitual grooves’ created by our own beliefs and thoughts and fears is a thing that needs a detailed study and may yield results interesting enough to upset all our current views.

Finally, the physician has to counteract not only wrong suggestions from people around but also the much more powerful collective suggestions emanating from our current notions that seep in subconsciously, almost materially with the air we breathe and the books we read and the people we meet. Some examples of such collective suggestions are, ‘cancer is fatal’, ‘such and such illness is incurable’, ‘such and such an illness will lead to serious complications’, etc. And when to this collective atmosphere we find added the pronouncement of doom from a grave-faced, scientifically trained doctor, then its power to damage and diminish the healing capacity becomes enormous. Yet we do all this every day in the name of science. This is not to say that one must be imprudent and throw all caution to the wind. Only the very strong in faith can afford to do that and yet come out unscathed. But we must realize the limits of our ‘so-called scientific knowledge‘ and its ‘so-called facts’ based on the presumption that matter is not only omnipotent but rather, matter alone is, and any talk of anything else such as self-healing, mind healing, spiritual healing is all humbug. Fortunately few physicians today are that arrogant thanks to the newer discoveries in the last couple of decades in the field of Mind-Body medicine. A more flexible multifactorial model that allows many loose links in our otherwise inflexible and unalterable chain of material processes and their strict laws is replacing the materially deterministic rigid model of singular cause and effect. Laws may be there but we know now at least this much that they can be suspended, altered and changed — not only the laws of illness and pathology but even the laws of our conventional normal physiology. We can be more than what we are, and in certain exceptional circumstances, even much more. Who knows then where the limits are? Maybe one day we will discover that not only illness and our belief in its incurability, but also the phenomenon of ageing and death aren’t ineluctable laws but mere habits of Nature that has been preserved carefully through millennia as a convenient device for her own balance. And yet it may not be a law at all but simply a trick of our senses supported by a mass hypnotic belief in the sole truth of what our senses show to us. And if by some means we can learn to disengage ourselves from this strong impression upon our minds created by the flood of sensory images and the swarm of collective suggestions, we may discover within our rigid material case, another, more beautiful and flexible ageless body, eternal youth, timeless mind, the ever playful child soul, the all-triumphant, almighty Spirit!

Thus seen, we find that communication is not only about speech but also about the pauses and the silence. Indeed our whole body and being communicates the contents of consciousness that inhabits and animates it. When we are in a state of inner communion with our soul, or in a state of Grace, a touch or even a look can heal; our thoughts and feelings and goodwill can serve as a protective mantle around those who seek support, or even the mere presence can help when the patient is in a receptive state. We may use a system or medicine that is prevalent at that time and in which the patient and the race put their collective faith. And it helps as a convenient device to reach out the healing energies to the most material parts and constituents of the cells. But the real healing takes place through the matrix of consciousness in which the patient and the healer meet and commune — a matrix built of faith and trust on one side and on the other side open to the limitless power of Grace. Only, this ‘state of Grace’, this ‘soul-power’ must be true and spontaneous, a living reality and not a mimicry or an imitative technique that one can repeat mechanically. Healing is not a performance to be repeated at the caprice and fancy of an onlooker or to please and aggrandise the ego and the crude demand of a miracle by the patient. It is rather an act as natural as breathing, an act of supreme love that in moments of inner communion overtakes and surpasses our limited and ego-bound personality and does what our mortal hearts cannot dare or even think of doing. It is in the sincerity and spontaneity of our inner surrender to Grace that there lies the power to heal. And it is this for which a healer must constantly aspire — a constant inner communion with ‘that’ limitless Beyond and leave it to its marvellous omnipotence and omniscience to decide whether it will heal or not, whether it will help the body to live or to die, for, to its supreme all-encompassing vision, all is an act of compassion, disease and suffering a means to a greater perfection of strength and delight, and death itself a passage to Light and Truth and Immortality.

An integral or true healer in this vision has to constantly progress himself. It is true of any healer in fact. Only, this progress is ordinarily considered to be an updating of current information on the subject. Such a thing has its role, no doubt, but it is far from enough. The integral healer has to, above all, grow inwardly. It is his living inner communion that can make his being a bridge for the healing forces to flow. In other words, in the language of the ancient Ayurveda physician, he should be a dwij, twice born, the second birth referring to a birth in the realm of the spirit. But the realm of the spirit must not be confused with the realm of the occult, which is a field of the powers of mind, powers of life and powers of the inner physical consciousness. These powers, though greater in potency than our material methods, yet belong to the field of cosmic ignorance. Their action is mixed, and even though it may seem miraculous, it is not radical.

What would be his system and method? Well, he may use the system with which he is quite naturally familiar and conversant. But he will not be limited by the system to the point that he cannot admit any other approach or possibility. A wide inner flexibility and plasticity in the application of the system, a liberal common sense, an ability to see things from diverse perspectives, an absolute trust in the healing power of Grace and the humility to depend upon Its power and wait patiently upon Its wisdom.

Having said this, a few simple practical hints can be of help in facilitating the healing process. These can be summarized as follows:

1. Ideally, the healer may have a soul-to-soul communication (if possible and if he is capable) with his patient. The physician would not only be conscious that he is one among many means that the Grace may use but will be humble enough not to have even the pride of being an instrument. A wide and plastic impersonality with a glad opening to the Divine is an excellent condition to facilitate the healing process.

2. It is important to make the patient feel at ease and welcome otherwise he is unlikely to open up and may feel dissatisfied even if the time spent is the same. Let him be seated and keep an eye contact.

3. Listening is an art and most necessary yet most lacking. The first few exchanges should be to strike a rapport. One must deal with a client as a human being and not as a ‘case’. Hear him out even if you feel his symptoms are trivial or do not add to the diagnosis. Most patients feel relieved simply after having been heard!

4. The idea of illness in terms of ‘categories of diagnosis’ though practically helpful, has this great problem of cutting things into bits and parts. It often crystallizes the illness and all that is associated with it in terms of suggestion. Besides, it tends to exclude the person and his unique way of responding to the challenges of existence from the immediate point of concern. When we do so, the relation that develops is between the sick part and the scientific mind of the healer. The other parts are deprived of an active therapeutic contact thereby limiting the therapeutic benefits and the healing process that would take place when two human beings and their energy fields meet.

5. Listening has many benefits as well:

    • Speech is a form of externalization of consciousness. It is like a vehicle through which many inner contents — thoughts, emotions, fears, hopes — pour out. This abreaction itself is a help.
    • It helps to bring awareness and focus on the inner roots of illness so that ‘Light’ and ‘Truth’ can be placed over it.
    • It builds a therapeutic bridge between the client and the healer.
    • And of course, it helps us understand the illness, the patient’s perspective of it and elements in his psychology that help or hinder the recovery. It is an indirect access, often the only one available, to the patient’s mind.
    • By the very act of unburdening oneself, the patient feels relieved. He feels that now that he has told everything to a physician, he will understand it correctly and thereby cure it. This faith does not develop if he has not been heard. The patient feels rather that the doctor has not understood him properly and therefore his treatment cannot be a correct one!
    • By abreacting, one’s [the patient’s] anxiety and fear is reduced and this itself helps the cure. Every physician should develop the art of listening. The patient should feel not only heard but also understood.

6. In return, most patients feel the need of two things:

    • A simple explanation and understanding of their illness.
    • Faith that they can get well, faith that even in the worst events there lies the possibility of some good awaiting fruition when the storm has passed, faith that there is beyond life, death and circumstances, the light of the soul that never perishes nor fades.

7. In other words, the purpose of this information is not just ethical. It is meant to serve as a therapeutic loop so that the patient’s own mind can consciously process it and spontaneously activate the healing mechanisms. This loop can be at two levels. What this loop means is that our own mind collaborates in the heling process. But equally by giving negative inputs and frightening prognostications we may paralyse the mind into a state of helplessness. This impact of positive and negative suggestions on healing is often termed as the ‘placebo’ and the ‘nocebo’ effect. The Grace Itself can work directly upon the sick part or else through the mind of the patient or even the consciousness of the physician. Each of these can in turn offer help or resist the action of the Grace. This loop as we see below can be at two levels:

Certainly the information has to be phased, letting in time for assimilation. What is however equally important is that the nursing and other staff, even other doctors do not give contradictory information and misinformation which would only lead to a confusion and fear. Doctor shopping is an unhealthy practice, firstly, because it implies as such a lack of trust and secondly, it confuses the mind and the physical consciousness as well. And though different systems of medicines may act complimentarily, different physicians may not. It is helpful therefore to stick to a physician who knows you well and in whom you can trust.

8. The issue of inspiring faith has been unfortunately made a complex one by the presumptuous and arrogant type of physician who ‘believes’ that he knows it all, simply because he has read all about the illness and its course. Earlier physicians were more humble and modest, they had less information, greater common-sense and knowledge, deeper wisdom than their modern counterparts. The earlier physician would say, ‘I treat, He (God) cures’. By doing so, he kept the faith of the client open and intact. The modern physician has lent his faith less and less to God or a Higher Power and invested it rather in scientific data that goes by the dubious name of evidence-based medicine. Dubious because it relies for its evidence upon a limited field of observation and for its testimony upon the fallible human instruments. Let us say that a certain illness has a 50% survival rate over a two-year period. Now, what does this mean to a patient? For him it is not 50-50; it is either 0% or 100%. He will either survive or not. And no statistical data can convincingly tell us who will make it on this side of the 50% and who will be on the other side. In such a case, the most practical and rational thing would be to put all our weight (all that would help) on the side of life and then leave the rest to an All-Seeing Will. And among the elements that help the healing process, faith itself is one of the most potent and foremost. In fact, as is self-evident by the placebo-effect, faith is the simple important common factor in all therapeutics. Is it then wise to snatch hope and faith in the name of a doubtful truth?

Of course, the notaries of ‘reveal it all’ to the patient would say that it helps to tell everything about prognosis, so that patients and relatives can prepare themselves, complete the final acts and cooperate better with whatever treatment they are given. Unless it is an emergency, most patients begin to feel deep within and know instinctively that their time is close. It is a knowledge often more authentic than the surface calculations, provided the mind has not been affected much by the illness. As to cooperating with the treatment, most patients would do so if they are explained in a simple comprehensible way about the help the proposed treatment would give towards recovery. The rest should be left to the patient who must make the final choice. The idea that if the patient refuses to take treatment, the doctor must bombard him with all kinds of frightening information is one example of over-identification with the medical man’s ego. Rather, we may tell him, if we wish to, what benefits a particular course of treatment may accrue. But to prognosticate is to play at being a soothsayer. Things may follow a pattern but they also may not. Let us then be hope givers and not soothsayers. Of course, it is understood that giving hope does not mean telling lies or brushing aside everything casually and imprudently by the wave of a hand and a ‘don’t bother’ attitude.

Finally, faith has many aspects and dimensions when it comes to the healing process. Firstly, it should not be merely a mental belief but a dynamic inner conviction. Secondly, it is not enough if the mind has faith though it is a great support to have that. To be truly effective it must be integral, right up to the physical level. And here comes the knot of the greatest difficulty. For, the body is still largely a blind and obscure thing that works more through automatic instincts and mechanical habits. Being largely constituted of matter and based upon it, its natural faith is in material means and physical methods. That is why it responds so fast and so wonderfully to physical remedies, especially if these remedies are supported by the collective faith prevalent in an age. Each age of mankind, each epoch of civilization, each race and culture, each group of humanity puts its faith in a certain medium of healing and it works well for them. The very fact that humanity has survived through several millennia is evidence enough. Therefore, it is necessary, that the physician does not damage a client’s faith in a certain system of therapy or line of treatment. Whatever, he is offering must be as an added supplement rather than an ‘either-or’ choice.

9. A physician who can communicate these things — faith, peace, hope, love — as verbal suggestions or through his unspoken thoughts may well touch a powerful lever to activate the healing process. The important point here is not only about what is said or how it is said but also about what is not said and who says it. What the physician shares with those around him, who depend for help, is not just words or gestures but also his hopes and fears and deeper convictions which emanate from his inner being and are transmitted as vibrations to others much as the unseen radio waves carry signal messages. The inner state of the physician and his personality has a definite role to play in the total healing process. Thus, words, touch, glances and gestures are merely vehicles to transmit these hidden forces. Most physicians are unaware of this deeper interchange though most patients know and feel it. But it is possible that what takes place now unconsciously can be done consciously and even more effectively. The state of consciousness in which we are has a great bearing upon what we do. And while we presently live in a divided and limited state whereby we have to perforce depend heavily upon external instrumentations, it is possible for man to ascend to a higher soul-state from where he can clearly see how our faith recreates us at each moment and also how our fate is nothing but the working out of a complex play of forces which our soul has secretly chosen.

Finally, the question of questions is what constitutes a good healer or in other words what is the difference between a qualified physician, a good physician, and a great physician. For though we believe that all human beings are same and it is indeed true of our essential being, there are great differences in temperaments and capacities and the human nature can house a range of variations from the saintly man to the cold-blooded murderer. Unlike the animal nature, man is not a fixed type. And he is also in constant flux for man is still evolving. Modern medical schools do not take this into consideration and the only requirement of becoming a physician is a good memory that would help him compete for the entrance exam and see him through the medical school. But for all this, one may not be able to inspire enough trust in a patient (a crucial factor in healing). One may not have the art and the tact of communicating with the patients, leading to an unnecessary prolongation of suffering. One may be insensitive to human considerations that are so very important when one is dealing with the complex nature of humanity. Universities such as Harvard are recognizing this and giving their students an exposure to humanities during the medical curriculum. This is only a small but a good beginning. At least it is a recognition of the fact that the meeting ground of the physician and the patient is not just the diseased part and the drug but the whole personality of the therapist and the entire personality of the patient.

Healing takes place in the matrix of the healing environment that includes the nursing staff, the hospital or the home as the case may be; the treating physician and his outlook and approach; and of course the patient’s personality, his attitudes and beliefs about the illness as well as his receptivity to the healing forces, besides the therapeutic medium involved. A general positive outlook, faith in the system and the healing physician, faith in the recovery, enthusiasm, the capacity to inspire trust even amidst dismal circumstances, the ability to exude confidence in the healing process and most importantly, of an openness to Grace in the patient and the doctor, creates a good backdrop to healing. A good physician usually has an abundant vital energy and is by nature generous. He is a natural giver and so can easily transmit something of the abundant vital forces and naturally transfer something of his confidence and enthusiasm to the patient. Of course he must know his science well, he must be well informed not only about the effects but also about the side effects of the treatment mode that he prefers to use, but he must also be something more.
And that something more is a natural ability to transfer trust and inspire confidence, at least in the system and the possibility of cure but most of all in the healing power of Grace. If he can do that, then that is wonderful and can yield exceptional results even as the earlier physicians achieved it with much less information, fewer drugs and means at their disposal, less elaborate tests and techniques but with this simple and singular quality of instilling faith that we treat, God cures. Perhaps, handicapped due to fewer resources, they had to rely more and more on the great miracle of Grace. But the modern arrogant physician is less humble. He has much more information than he can assimilate, while the deeper sense of this information is often lost to him, and most of all wisdom has become a rare and infrequent guest in his chamber. We have installed machines and driven out God and faith from our hospitals and nursing homes. The result is more misery, irrespective of recovery or death. Let’s hope that this is only a passing phase and we shall soon learn the lost lesson of humility, recapture the lost trust in our natural healing and in the power of Grace, be once again able to say, and with a much greater authenticity and wisdom born of direct and conscious experience that, ‘I treat, God cures.’







Health Management



The human being can be viewed from different perspectives. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already included in its definition of health, the dimensions of social, mental and spiritual well-being, in addition to the purely physical state. It is also agreed that health is a positive condition and not merely an absence of disease. However, the concept of what constitutes a positive state is not clear. Today we know that the line between health and illness is indistinct as there is a range of more subtle pre-disease conditions. This is so because the human body is not static but in a continuous flux, a dynamic state of an ever-changing yet ever-precise and precarious balance.

The body has enormous reserves to adjust and accommodate in times of need. For example, the normal heartbeat is 60-100 per minute. But if the need arises, the heart can double its gallop, stretch its muscles and thereby increase its function without much difficulty. In times of emergency, most of the organs can adapt to the increased demand. And once the demand stops, the system reverts back to status quo. Not only that, the body can be methodically trained to exceed its limits. We know, for instance, that athletes have healthier hearts; their average pulse rate is slower and cardiac output higher than ordinary people. Similarly, those who do regular exercise can increase their lung capacity. Muscle bulk too can be increased through regular training. Even without training, the body, in times of severe stress, as in war, can perform nearly miraculous things. Also with proper training, the body can become conscious of its own deeper possibilities.

Yet we still fear that the body is all the time prone to this or that illness. A slight cough, a mild fever, a minor pain is enough to set our minds ruminating about all possible horrors. We contribute to our illness as well as its cure through our thoughts, emotions and attitudes. Our lifestyle has much to do with disease. So we do have a role to play in health and disease.


Body – A Physical Perspective

The body has a consciousness of its own — the body consciousness.

We have to awaken this latent body consciousness because, despite the body’s capacity, something limits and hinders and things go wrong. This is true even for those who have tried to lead a balanced life. Even if diseases are kept away, the process of aging still catches up. There is wear and tear, errors are made so that over a period of decades, the toxins accumulate and the system decays.

Here arises the need for preparing the body and opening it to higher energies. The body works best when a regular routine is fixed. There is a time when our juices flow, a time for sleep and a time for rest, one for repair and reconstitution. There is a time and cycle for everything. One can take advantage of these biological clocks. Whatever new is introduced can be done with a regularity so that it gradually integrates with the other cycles and rhythms of the body and translates into a habit. Let us take a look at some of these activities.



The cycle of sleep and wakefulness has a biological rhythm. A disruption of this natural rhythm upsets the body functions. The quality of sleep is disturbed by common things like a heavy supper; use of substances like tobacco, alcohol, tea, etc.; late-night television; worries, anxieties, self-preoccupying thoughts; and the use of sedatives and tranquillizers (which disturb the cycle of sleep and dream).

If anything, a cup of warm milk, soup or fruit juice are the best sedatives as they do not suppress the dream phase and hence help natural sleep. An additional way of slipping smoothly into good quality sleep is through the use of relaxation techniques or light, gentle classical music played at a low pitch in a well-ventilated room. It is preferable that the bed should be neither too hard nor too soft. A soft pillow should be used. All this is a matter of personal habit and conditioning.

But sleep has another function apart from rest. It is a time for dreams. During sleep, our consciousness withdraws from the surface mind and is left free to explore other states and domains. These states help the process of self-discovery, so one should consciously prepare oneself for a qualitatively better sleep by a regular practice of relaxation and focusing within.

“If before retiring to bed one has talked a lot or had a lively discussion, if one has read an exciting or intensely interesting book, one should rest a little without sleeping in order to quieten the mental activity, so that the brain does not engage in disorderly movements while the other parts of the body alone are asleep. Those who practise meditation will do well to concentrate for a few minutes on a lofty and restful idea, in an aspiration towards a higher and vaster consciousness. Their sleep will benefit greatly from this and they will largely be spared the risk of falling into unconsciousness while they sleep.”

– The Mother3)

The transition between sleep and wakefulness is an important period too. To wake up suddenly with a start or after an alarm call is not pleasant. Another habit that can be avoided is the tendency to stay lying in bed after waking. Even if one needs to relax, it is better to get out of bed and sit in a chair. This prevents ‘tamas’ or inertia.



Among all habits, the one of eating affects the body most. Yet, “In the effect of food on the body, 90% belongs to the power of thought.”((( The Mother, CMW 15, Words of the Mother III, ‘Wrong Thinking and Illness’, p. 114)))

We hardly ever enjoy the food we eat. Most of the time, while eating, either our thoughts are elsewhere or we are motivated by greed. Food should be approached in a spirit of detachment and offering. The Mother has more to say,

“Physically, we depend upon food to live — unfortunately. For with food, we daily and constantly take in a formidable amount of inconscience, of tamas, heaviness, stupidity. One can’t do otherwise — unless constantly, without a break, we remain completely aware and, as soon as an element is introduced into our body, we immediately work upon it to extract from it only the light and reject all that may darken our consciousness. This is the origin and rational explanation of the religious practice of consecrating one’s food to God before taking it. When eating one aspires that this food may not be taken for the little human ego but as an offering to the divine consciousness within oneself. In all yogas, all religions, this is encouraged. This is the origin of that practice, of contacting the consciousness behind, precisely to diminish as much as possible the absorption of an inconscience which increases daily, constantly, without one’s being aware of it.”((( The Mother, CMW 4, Questions and Answers 1950-1951, 19 April 1951, p. 333)))



Next we come to the schedule of exercise. There is much that has been written and spoken about it. The market is flooded with so many books on the subject. However, exercise is not just a specialised activity. Our daily walk, climbing the stairs, taking a bath, the postures we adopt, moving around, all kinds of physical activities, can become fruitful if done consciously. To bring the body under conscious control awakens it to a greater harmony. There is a whole world of literature on body language and the role of specific asanas and mudras in linking us to certain inner states. Then there are specialized forms of isometric and isotonic exercises which can be judiciously combined. Sports and games offer an additional advantage of instilling into us healthy attitudes and psychological qualities necessary for teamwork. Similarly, dance offers the advantage of creating in the body a sense of beauty, harmony and rhythm. Equally important is the inner attitude we have whilst doing a particular activity. The Mother observes:

“Any rational system of exercises suited to one’s need and capacity will help the participant to improve in health. Moreover it is the attitude that is more important. Any well-planned and scientifically arranged programme of exercises practised with a yogic attitude will become yogic exercises and the person practising them will draw full benefit from the point of view of physical health and moral and spiritual uplift.”((( The Mother, CMW12, On Education, ‘General Messages and Letters’, p. 285)))



Work itself has to alter its character by a change of motivation. Work can be made as creative as play.

“It is said that one only does well what one is interested in doing. This is true, but it is truer still that one can learn to find interest in everything one does, even in what appear to be the most insignificant chores. The secret of this attainment lies in the urge towards self-perfection.”((( The Mother, CMW12, On Education, ‘The Four Austerities and the Four Liberations’, p. 53)))



From an inner standpoint, one can say that the energy that goes into procreation or furthering the race is the same that, if conserved, can provide the basis for the evolution of the race. This is the rationale for control or mastery over the sex impulse. In actual practice it implies a regulated sexuality, not an unbridled indulgence. Kept to its right time and place it is fine, but too much or wrong indulgence with this energy can lead to a blocking of the energy system that feeds the general body and mind. It stays at the lowermost level and is not available for a freer expansion of our being. On the contrary, conservation of sexual energy leads to a general increase in the vital energy that can then be used for other purposes such as mental and intellectual activities or even for spiritual pursuits.


The Energy Perspective

Apart from the purely material standpoint, the modern world has entered into the domains of energy and consciousness. So the body should also be viewed from these angles. From the standpoint of energy states, life-energy is a separate principle which shapes and holds the material form. In fact, according to this view, physical matter itself is only a condensation of energy. So a harmonious balance of energy is necessary for health.

From the energy point of view one could characterize different individuals as energy losers and energy absorbers, energy transmitters and energy receivers. The former are generally not healthy companions. Their company tends to make one feel exhausted and tires for no apparent reason. A close intimacy with one such type may make one vulnerable to disease through loss of vitality and vigour. The other type is a natural giver and helps others regain their lost vitality. In their presence people feel up buoyed and strong since they reinforce the protective envelope that we carry around our bodies. These make good physicians and their closeness is conducive to health.

It is also important to be aware of the channels through which we gain and lose energy. Externally, we receive an influx of energy through air, food, thoughts, sensory inputs and subtle vibrations. Nourishing food, positive thoughts, a clear observation of sensory inputs and, if possible, the subtle vibrations, would help us maintain a healthy body. We lose energy through action, speech, elimination and sex.

There is an intricate and complex working of energies in the human body. It is as if the whole functioning is governed by a remarkably precise dynamic force that is supremely intelligent. One approach to health management would thus be to awaken these energies. This is possible partly by a study of energy states and movements with a view to exceed limits. Another way would be to put the pressure of a higher consciousness on the body. This ‘pressure’ brought down by an opening of the body to higher forces through aspiration and surrender will awaken a response in the corresponding level of consciousness now concealed and active only indirectly from behind. As a first intermediary step, the subconscious working of the body has to be brought increasingly under a deliberate control of the mental consciousness. It is here that the role of biofeedback, imagery, etc., can be envisaged. But finally the body has to learn to open itself to higher spiritual forces and be governed by the psychic consciousness. This will create conditions for the physical transformation and the emergence of a new body that is naturally immune to illness, disease and decay.

Another way of balancing the energy states is by bringing peace, detachment from the ego sense and attuning to a higher urge in us through an inner widening.


A Consciousness Perspective

Consciousness expresses itself on the material level as the physical body. At a higher one, it is explicit in the dynamic workings of life-energy. At a still higher level, consciousness expresses itself through the mind and its functions; cognition, imagination, aesthesis, ethics, etc. We have attempted to develop our physical consciousness by a methodical pursuit of physical culture. This led to extending our physical abilities. We have harnessed our life-energy by balancing the energy inputs and outputs. This led to an increased repertoire of life-energy. Likewise, we have to control the functioning of the mind, which involves:

  • (a) freeing the mind from the clutches of physical necessities and demands of life-energy;
  • (b) refining the use of reason and the intelligent will; and
  • (c) silencing the mind so that it is made ready for faculties, like intuition, inspiration and revelation, that surpass reason.

An evolutionary model of health consciousness does not stop at the level of the physical consciousness, but increases the repertoire of life-energy and controls the functioning of the mind so that it is made receptive to higher influences. Such a dynamic view is necessary because health does not denote a mere absence of disease. Rather it is a positive state of harmony that supports a growth in consciousness.

…..; the development of the form and its functioning or its fitness to survive, although indispensable, is not the whole meaning or the central motive. The greater and greater awakening of consciousness and its climb to a higher and higher level and a wider extent of its vision and action is the condition of our progress towards that supreme and total perfection which is the aim of our existence. It is the condition also of the total perfection of the body. There are higher levels of the mind than any we now conceive and to these we must one day reach and rise beyond them to the heights of a greater, a spiritual existence. As we rise we have to open to them our lower members and fill these with those superior and supreme dynamisms of light and power; the body we have to make a more and more and even entirely conscious frame and instrument, a conscious sign and seal and power of the spirit.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 13, Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, ‘Perfection of the Body’, p. 531)))



An Integral Model of Health – Physical
and Psychological Self-Culture



An Integral view of health will include the body, life, mind and soul as one unit. That is to say even in their distinctions, these different elements of our being interact with each other and mutually fulfil. To divorce one from the other is to create an imbalance in the being, the consequences of which may be serious enough. It is for this reason that the well-known but misunderstood ancient Indian system of Hatha Yoga is often misapplied to mean a purely physical culture. At best, we admit the mind, at least the material mind, in this scheme. At worst, we confuse the yogasanas as being a synonym for Yoga — an aim too high and an ideal too lofty to be limited by this or that system and set of techniques, however useful to a few or even the many. The consequences are a whole lot of confusion which is made worse by a rapid increase in popular easy-to-do reading material on the asanas and pranayams with often astounding claims which only serve to excite the glamour-seeking elements in us rather than subtly persuading the nobler parts of our being. A novice often feels (and we all are novices) that by practising a set of asanas for an hour or so, he will find a panacea for life. A panacea it is but not the way it is often believed. For man’s restless mind is often happy if it does ‘something’ concretely visible and seemingly tangible. It finds it difficult and exasperating to sit quietly or, even while in activity, to observe and shift the subtle psychological elements of his being. Even of meditation, it makes a cut-and-dried technique — a ritual of a particular mantra for it appears tangible and relatively easy. But no Yoga is easy. There are no royal roads to wholeness and integration. So the first dictum in any true healthful living is to understand that health is an attitude — a total attitude as much of the body as of the mind and psyche.


Health as an Attitude

The Problem

It is here that we encounter the first difficulty. For, though we all know the healthy habits, it is somehow difficult for man to keep a healthy attitude towards life. Let us take a very small example of tobacco and alcohol. It is now affirmed the world over that they are detrimental to health. Yet, even though reduced, they continue to take their toll and paradoxically more so in the literate population that knows about its ill effects. Thus, it is not enough to merely inform the mind of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ habits. Where then is the heart of the problem? We can make an observation here. We find that the body left to itself in its natural state knows how to adopt healthy habits. To illustrate, one can take two examples. The lungs repel tobacco by coughing and the stomach repels alcohol, as it does all noxious substances, by vomiting. So also animals, particularly those not corrupted by the domestic life, often live their natural lifespan. Thus, our observations lead to the following conclusions:

  1. The body, left to itself, has a hidden knowledge, a kind of intuition regarding what is healthy and unhealthy for it. The first aim of all physical culture should be to awaken this body-consciousness which is occult so far.
  2. The force of life with its preferences, impulses, desires, greed and passions, the mind with its dogmas and fixed opinions and habit of conditioned responses often corrupt this ‘instinct’ and create a precarious chain of health-illness and health-more illness. The ‘resistance’ to any illness goes down and one begins to rely more and more on doctors and drugs.
  3. Even when the mind is informed about what is healthy and what is not, it finds it difficult to convey it to the body, as if there was a gulf between the two. It is as if knowledge and will do not work in tandem in a human being. There is as if a gulf between the mind and life, and the one does not follow the other.


The Solution

If these be the main problems in adopting a healthy attitude toward life, then there must be some ways of circumventing them. For Nature never gives a problem without also giving the solution. Illness is one such problem whose extreme end is death, the eternal problem that mankind seems to have been grappling with. In each age a different solution is given to make humanity advance a little. The solutions of one age alone do not suffice for another. The unique discovery of the Vedic age by which they encountered death was to discover the principle of immortality in the soul.

Here we find one bright hint, for it gives us a glimpse into a secret part of our being for which health and immortality are natural and native, uncorrupted by the mind and has the power and the will to enforce its law upon the mind as well as the body. This is perhaps one of the greatest boons that man has ever received — the boon of getting in touch with his soul, his inmost being, the inner healer and the unerring guide. Any talk of wholeness, integration, even physical health without including this soul principle is a mere waste and an exercise of digging a well in a desert and filling it with water from outside while the secret springs of water below remain untapped. To bring this part, now secret within us, to allow its full play in the physical, (as we shall see later) is to open the inner springs of true health so that health becomes a natural state and an attitude which by repeated impressions upon the mind and body forms into a habit of the being.

To seek, find and identify ourselves with this core of our being is then the first fundamental step towards a beautiful, healthy and wholesome living. There are several ways to approach this central entity in us which have been abundantly clarified in the writings of the Mother. No single method can be taken as hard and fixed for one and all. Yet, the fundamental thing is to seek it and seek it with all one’s ardour. The rest will naturally follow for one would soon discover that the seeker himself is the sought. All life can be a field of such a discovery and action and any particular method or technique has its value only so far as it helps the individual to get into touch with his core. But then a question arises whether at all there is a role of the elaborate systems of physical and mental culture that mankind has developed so far. The answer is a distinct ‘yes’ for nothing is meaningless, only things must have their right place.


The Role of Culture – Physical and Psychological

What then is the role of our outer modes of living and their relation with this true self in us? As we initially brought out, the science and art of healthful living is a two-fold process:

  1. To discover the psychic being and to identify with it is the first fundamental step. It means to live one’s life seeking it and for it.
  2. The second step is to live in and by it, i.e. to allow it to assume control of our life, our mind and body.

It is necessary therefore to link up this inmost psychic part — the soul to our body, life and mind, even to the most outward activity. The process can be regarded as akin to the fitting of a bulb to its source. There has to be a wiring to conduct the electricity of the inmost being with the filament strong enough to bear the ‘load’. It is here that a rational system of physical, emotional and mental culture can be extremely useful. It is precisely to make the body and mind more sensitive, more receptive, more supple and plastic and strong enough to receive, bear and transmit the psychic influence in our lives. Remove this psychic element and all culture becomes meaningless. If exercises alone were enough, most animals would be heavenly creatures since unconsciously they adopt the same postures that a hatha-yogin or sportsman does consciously. The same is equally true of emotional culture as art, music and poetry, as of mental culture through philosophy and meditation. All these techniques and many more can give capacity and strength but are not enough to achieve an Integral health when solely pursued for their own sake. Along with strength and capacity comes an important element: receptivity to the psychic influence. In other words, all human capacity has to be offered back and linked to the psychic consciousness in us so that we can add health to vigour and to strength the sweetness of the soul.

Physical exercises help to increase plasticity, speed and strength. But this is not enough. For if there is no proportionate increase in receptivity, these capacities exhaust themselves. The same is true in the psychological domain. Something more is needed — receptivity. Paradoxically, receptivity increases by the opposite process. Receiving is a twofold process: one, emptying what is already there and two, receiving the new. Exercise partly helps in the first and thus increases the receptivity. But usually, we then pull back the very same forces that have been exhausted. The result is an endless repetition, each cycle of which creates a further groove making matters worse. There is no real progress and ‘fitness’ becomes a static thing rather than a state of dynamic balance. The body and the mind have to learn to receive from higher and higher levels of our being for which the inmost psyche would serve as a nodus. For such a receptivity what is needed is not activity alone but passivity too, not movement alone but immobility as well. We can make a simple observation. If we try to make the body immobile, it becomes restless initially since it is not accustomed to such a receiving. Similarly, the mind too shows an initial increase of restless activity when one attempts to immobilise it. This happens because the body and the mind are accustomed to outer movements and activity.

Immobility has to be practised. In Nature, we find this twofold movement recurring cyclically and rhythmically: activity and rest, wakefulness and sleep. Even subtle biochemical events follow this cycle. This movement of Nature has to be made conscious, purposeful and concentrated. Just as replacing the restless natural activities of life do much more good when replaced by methodical exercises, practised immobility also helps much more than an unconscious dull passivity. The oriental thought has always experimented with the power and mastery of immobility. It knew that the still pause of the tiger before the leap in an in-gathered, concentrated state is as important as its run and the actual attack. It is the former that prepares for the latter. Many exercises of the yoga systems, whether of the mind or breath or the body, tap this power of immobility. But one need not stick to them alone. To remain conscious, concentrated, in-gathered and physically ready to receive from above is the central thing and any movement that helps is effective. Any activity including something as simple as climbing up and down the stairs can become a yogic exercise if done with this attitude.

There is a third approach of rhythmic movement. When more psychologically oriented, it takes the form of dance, music, poetry. Dance combines the body, mind and motion in beautiful rhythms. Among the more physically oriented are gymnastics and certain types of sports. Here again, one may or may not adopt the elaborate forms but use the essential elements. For instance, walking, a common activity may be done consciously and rhythmically with a sense of balance and proportion.


Psychic Culture

These three are then the main approaches to develop the outer instruments so as to make them grow constantly toward higher and higher forms — vigorous activity is the first, stillness is next, and rhythmic activity the third. To combine the three judiciously would perhaps be ideal. But none of these pursued for their own sake would be useful. These must be linked to the indwelling guide constantly so that they receive the newer, fresher, invigorating streams of the nectar of immortality to change their substance into the substance of truth and delight. With practice one can then link up all one’s energies to this soul within us. We can do this by adding to whatever we do with the body and mind or even with our breath and the force of life the sense of offering it to the eternal Source of all things with an aspiration or a prayer that may this activity give us not only health and fitness, clarity and goodwill, but also increase our consciousness and making it grow in receptivity to the Divine forces, unite all in us to the supreme Truth that is also supreme Love, supreme Harmony, supreme Consciousness, supreme Delight.

The more we thus link ourselves, the more will our bodies and mind partake in the nature of this psyche in us which is immortal. Thus, our body shall develop faith where it first had fear, our mind develops a luminous view of the self and world where originally there was pessimism, our life develops a true sense of well-being. It is then alone that health would be a natural attitude of the being. A word of caution is needed here for we are very likely to be led into a belief that under such a condition one would be free from all illnesses. This would be a grand presumption which is not true, because:

  1. Such an ideal state of total psychic influence upon the physical and psychological parts is itself not easy. It needs persistence and sincere effort for which few are ready.
  2. Even when possible, this itself would not grant a total immunity from illnesses but would create an ideal attitude in the body and mind to spontaneously repel illness and regain an equilibrium. This is because the fundamental nature of matter and mind does not change. It is only brought under more direct influence of the healthiest part in us — the soul.
  3. Even when higher and higher levels of energy act, they too are subject to error and falsehood and the chances of ill-health remain though their nature and means of cure may drastically change.

Yet this opening of the mind and body and life to the psychic influence is the most important key to an ascending state of perfection that would eventually lead man beyond the frontiers of our present possibilities to a complete freedom and a total immunity from all illnesses, accidents, poisoning and eventually even death.


Healthy Living

This is the Integral view of health as we understand it. It is less of a conceptual and more an experiential view. Its justification lies not so much in the discoveries of modern science but in the sheer mass of empirical evidence accumulated over the centuries since man first began to walk on earth and lift his head to the sun. The experience has been verified throughout the ages by men and women of all races, education and culture. It is naturally understood that when one uses terms like the ‘psychic being’ or ‘higher levels of energies’, one is likely to locate them in the body and hence they would be identifiable physically. But this is not so. The Integral view does not limit itself to the assumption that matter is the sole reality. The limitations of this view lies in the limitations of the human instruments of sensory experience and narrow logic. Subscribers to these views may presently be few because the mind of humanity is still conditioned by the physical sense-bound mind but it is our conviction that as frontiers of knowledge expand, man’s quest for terrestrial perfection and his inherent dissatisfaction with the little known will inevitably lead him through the doors and portals of his body and mind into vaster territories and larger laws of existence.

Thus we find ourselves far removed from the traditional view of health and body as well as psychological fitness. To discover health one has to discover its source. The need for health and immortality arises from our soul of which we are usually not conscious. The first step then towards a healthy living is to discover this secret soul in us. Next, we have to take each and every activity of our physical-nervous-mental being as an opportunity for linking up the outer instruments to the soul. Depending upon our present need and turn of nature one can take up one or the other of these to prepare and discipline oneself in the ‘right’ direction and with ‘right’ attitude. Gradually, the whole of life has to become a field of action and work of this kind. Finally, with the aid of the psychic, one has to develop an increasing receptivity to higher and higher levels of being till finally, one touches the Truth-substance. It is then that health will be spontaneous and immunity from illness automatic and total. It is then that we shall find the fullest possible justification and the deeper rationale of all physical and psychological self-culture.



Social Health and Man Management



All illness is essentially an outer reflection of an inner disequilibrium. This disequilibrium may be between different parts (psychological and physiological) of the individual himself or between the inner constitution of the individual and the psycho-physical environment in which he has come to dwell. The contact with the outer world can be the catalytic agent inducing an inner disequilibrium. In this sense, we can say that society and human relationships can be a source of stress as well as support and succour. These ‘social pathologies’ may not always throw themselves up as physical illnesses but may inflict an injury even worse than bodily disorder. They may slowly or rapidly corrode the silent spaces of the soul and lead the entire society to the brink of disaster and destruction.


Man and Environment

Unlike the animal mind with its narrow range of needs and desires, man’s mind has become complex and lives in many dimensions at the same time. This complexity is the root of the difficulty in the right relation between the individual and his psychological environment comprising of other individuals. The difficulty becomes even deeper, if we realize that just as each individual has an individual soul and an individual dharma (right law of self-development and self-fulfilment), so too, each group has its own group soul and group dharma. Thus, each nation also has its own evolutionary line of growth, progress, decline and rebirth. This is sometimes vaguely reflected in the history of a nation and its people. If the individual’s dharma and group dharma are at variance or cross purposes or, if the soul of a nation and that of an individual are at different evolutionary stages, there is likely to be great stress. The same is, however, and perhaps even more true (from an immediate practical standpoint) in smaller group units like the family, clan and tribe. The difficulty assumes an even greater proportion in groups which are not stable but temporary like institutions that are built for certain practical, social, economic, administrative and religious purposes. Many of these groups and institutions thrive by rigidly forcing the individual to conform and submit to their rule, norm and law. Those who refuse to conform are regarded as abnormal, deviant or sick. In sociological terms, they become the outcast or the criminal. The only way society has so far learnt to deal with them is through fear and punishment. Punishment is sometimes deceptively subtle, a withdrawal of reward, for example the fear of hell and wrath of God. These are primitive means and reflect our lack of wideness and vastness in understanding man as a totality. Fear, in whatever form, always degrades the consciousness. Any society that need use fear as a means of adherence is still far from the ideal of social health, even if all its members are still lawful and obedient.


The Individual and the Group

We find in fact two separate but simultaneous tendencies in every human being. One is towards isolating himself as an individual with unique thoughts, beliefs, feelings and urges. This can develop to such an extent that he becomes uncomfortable confronted by any encroachment upon his self-formation and self-view. In an extreme case, the individual may completely isolate and shut himself into a private, personal world for better or worse. He becomes extremely sensitive to the smallest contact with the outside world that ‘hurts’ his self-formation. So much so, that he may shut himself in his own castle of thoughts and opinions, encase himself in the glass prison of his ego, and become useless or a nuisance to the world. The other equally strong tendency is that of association and formation into groups. Here again, the individual may try to realize in group life, an extension and projection of himself. This is seen in a need to associate with ‘like-minded’ people with whom he shares common bonds of birth, physical environment, language, custom, culture and religion. At one extreme, the individual may so completely identify with the group that he is willing to immolate himself at the altar of the collective ego by perfect submission and obedience. At another, he becomes intolerant of all groups, ready to destroy and be destroyed to preserve his separate group identity.

Both have their own justification in Nature’s process of self-unfolding and world-unfolding. They are temporary devices, useful in the early stages of human development. In truth, however, these tendencies hide a deeper reality and must be given up if mankind has to take the next higher step in individual and group life. The recoil of the individual from the collectivity, as well as his association with it, is based on formations of thoughts, belief, emotions and impulses. He swings from one side to another. The result is perpetual division, at best an accommodation and adjustment, at worst hatred, intolerance, conflict and strife, or even appeasement.

This dichotomy is permitted as man is still a mental being. However, mind is not his highest truth, so the right relation of individual and world cannot be discovered here. Mind is an instrument of division and its natural tendency is to compare and contrast. At its highest, it can attempt to synthesise two apparent contradictions by going deeper to discover a secret bond of commonalty that gives birth to the divergence. But it cannot apply this principle effectively in life. Hence, it is unable to truly harmonize. For harmony, a higher power, a deeper truth is needed which is found in the depths of the soul or in the heights of the Self above the mind. In both instances, one passes beyond the limitations of the ego self.


The Principle of Harmony: A New Sociology

 The real formula of unity and harmony lies within. It is only when we have lifted the veil of the omnipresent deity within us that we shall be able to discover the same deity in all beings. The basis of union lies in the revelation that God dwells in all bodies. It is not that some are more favoured than others. It is not that He chooses to make a saintly being His abode and discards the sinner.

These are human notions, born of the superiority of the virtuous and the privileged. There is only One Reality and all glory belongs to That alone. To dwell in that ‘Reality’ is to dwell in oneness. To live for ‘That’ in oneself is to live for ‘That’ in the world and all beings. To meet ‘That’ in every contact, to seek and find Him in everybody, to realize ‘It’ in each event is the basis of true harmony. In the world, however, we see a diversity and hierarchy. This is not due to differences of nationality, language, religion, caste, creed or cult alone. They are born of our superficial and limited seeing that cannot penetrate beyond the surface. The result is misjudgement, misunderstanding, wrong expectations, disappointments, quarrels and ruptures. Our understanding of each other is based upon our ignorant and narrow view of man. We often see in others the mistake that is glaring in ourselves. A cunning man looks at everyone with suspicion. A man lusting after power fears everyone in the mistaken belief that others are lusting after power too. A person in love sees the face of his beloved everywhere. Our opinion of others is constantly biased by many prejudices. We form a few sets of beliefs or rules for ourselves: moral, religious, ethical, etc., and we judge others from this self-created pedestal. Such rules may be practicable for one person, on his unique road to self-discovery but cannot be regarded as a rule for all mankind. The more are the rules, the greater the scope for misjudgements. A rule that is perfectly valid and useful for one may be absolutely useless for another. Since no two individuals can claim to have shared an identical evolutionary history, no two paths and no two methods of dealing with human nature can be the same. There may be broad lines of agreement, even broad highways where sub-paths meet, yet each arrives there from a different point through a different route.

It is here that the tendency towards individualization finds its true meaning and significance. Each one manifests, or is destined to manifest, a particular mode of the Infinite and it is his purpose to find it. His full potential cannot be revealed so long as he remains like an animal, a creature of the pack and herd. He has, at one point, to break free from all conventions, rules, laws and norms of conduct to discover his own. He has, at one point, to close his eyes on all outer formulae and formulations of truth so that his eyes may open to the eternal knowledge within his own heart, in freedom and unity: two sides of the same coin.


The Impulse to Freedom

It is here that we also find the justification of the impulse of freedom in man — even a freedom to err. Often this freedom is confused with indulgence in the caprice of fancy and desire.

Such an indulgence in the lowest parts of nature is only a form of slavery. Yet, Nature uses these very base materials to hasten her work of perfection. She uses ugliness to carve beauty and weakness to gather strength. In her vast economy, even error and failure is used as a springboard to leap to a greater height. We are afraid of error. But error is only the first step taken by the infant soul in its ascent towards Truth. Through its stumbles, it learns to walk, run and climb. To fear error is to be stunted and bound in a narrow formula of static perfection. A child afraid of falling never learns to walk.

This is not to say that error and failure are the best way to learn. There are safer ways. Yet, there is a utility of these elements also at a certain stage of growth. The errant units must be led their own way and taught a deeper harmony. To forcibly suppress and mutilate them through fear and coercion is to maim and abort a great possibility even before it is born. The ‘erring element’ has to be understood in the light of the truth that supports it and hence justifies its existence. To use ‘fear’ and ‘force’ does not really change anything. It only covers the seething interior with a false garb that appears well behaved and mannered. But behind this facade dwells the naked ape, unchanged and even worse, for it is now hidden. Yet most of our education, training programmes and behaviour modification techniques teach only this art of self-deception and world-deception. And so arises the need for rebellion and revolt against a system that has fossilized into ritualistic code and conduct.

A social order that has lost the inner spirit that gave birth to it tends to fragment sooner or later. This fragmentation is, however, only an instrument giving birth to a higher order. Conformity leads to stability, non-conformity to change.

“The Mosaic law of religious, ethical and social righteousness is convicted of narrowness and imperfection and is now besides a convention; the law of Christ comes to replace it and claims at once to abrogate and to fulfil, to abrogate the imperfect form and fulfil in a deeper and broader light and power the spirit of the thing which it aimed at, the divine rule of living. And the human search does not stop there, but leaves these formulations too, goes back to some past truth it had rejected or breaks forward to some new truth and power, but is always in search of the same thing, the law of its perfection, its rule of right living, its complete, highest and essential self and nature.

This movement begins with the individual, who is no longer satisfied with the law because he finds that it no longer corresponds to his idea and largest or most intensest experience of himself and existence and therefore he can no longer bring to it the will to believe and practise. It does not correspond to his inner way of being, it is not to him sat, the thing that truly is, the right, the highest or best or real good; it is not the truth and law of his or of all being. The Shastra is something impersonal to the individual, and that gives it its authority over the narrow personal law of his members; but at the same time it is personal to the collectivity and is the outcome of its experience, its culture or its nature. It is not in all its form and spirit the ideal rule of fulfilment of the Self or the eternal law of the Master of our nature, although it may contain in itself in small or larger measure indications, preparations, illuminating glimpses of that far greater thing. And the individual may have gone beyond the collectivity and be ready for a greater truth, a wider walk, a deeper intention of the Life-Spirit. The leading in him that departs from the Shastra may not indeed be always a higher movement; it may take the form of a revolt of the egoistic or rajasic nature seeking freedom from the yoke of something which it feels to be cramping to its liberty of self-fulfilment and self-finding. But even then it is often justified by some narrowness or imperfection of the Shastra or by the degradation of the current rule of living into a merely restricting or lifeless convention. And so far it is legitimate, it appeals to a truth, it has a good and just reason for existence: for though it misses the right path, yet the free action of the rajasic ego, because it has more in it of liberty and life, is better than the dead and hidebound tamasic following of a convention.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 19, Essays on the Gita, ‘The Gunas, Faith and Works’, pp. 478-480)))


The Urge for Unity

But what then would be the guiding principle for the individual in his relation to himself and the world? The first necessity, we have seen, is that the individual must be true to the deepest truth of his being or at least the highest part of Nature active in him, with a will of course to always exceed this. An urge for growth and thirst for progress is the seed that grows into divine perfection one day through all the apparent anomalies and aberrations of human nature. An individual or society that is willing to progress, not merely outwardly, but inwardly in its thoughts and beliefs, is already on the road to perfection. A society that rests content with its achievements, gloating over its advances is on the road to decadence. To seek and search is the first condition to self-finding.

But to seek and search is best done when we are faithful to the leading shraddha (faith) in our nature. To discover this faith, we need to decondition ourselves from the thousand influences that clamour and whisper suggestions to us and learn to listen to the ‘still small voice’ that gently guides us from the silent depths of our heart. It is through this deeper truth (rather than the ego) that we have to learn to relate our self with the world. Above all, in this respect, where we deal with a diversity too complex for our limited physical mind, we must keep this faith or vision that the Truth unfolding itself in us is the same Truth that unfolds Itself in others in a different way. So long as the limited, divided and dividing ego-sense is active in us, our relation with the world (even those whom we call our own) is tainted by the frosted glass of ego and its child ‘desire’. We see and relate to the world through the grid of our ego which falsifies our vision by always adding its own hue and colour to it. This must be abdicated and replaced by finding the Self that is one and in all beings and yet infinite in its scope of Self-manifestation. What changes is not so much our outer relation as our inner attitude. And this inner change begins to create a new meaning and a new purpose in our relationships. The old bases fall away and are replaced by a more secure Truth. Thus, rigid consistency and an inflexible rule gives way to the plasticity of Truth which shows us what is best at a given instance. What matters then is the progressive birth of Truth and Light and Beauty and Harmony and Love in the world. Sometimes this birth is through peaceful means, at other times, through violence when something obstinately resists the pressure of Harmony, Peace and Love. There is a place for everything. And the Divine wisdom indeed uses everything; even the battle of Troy and Mahabharata served the grand purpose for which the world and earth were born. The healthy relations of world and man, in a spiritual sense, are not determined by the ordinary notions of virtue and vice or moral right or wrong. They are governed by the truth of being and world-being. Thus says Sri Aurobindo:

“A spiritualised society would treat in its sociology the individual, from the saint to the criminal, not as units of a social problem to be passed through some skilfully devised machinery and either flattened into the social mould or crushed out of it, but as souls suffering and entangled in a net and to be rescued, souls growing and to be encouraged to grow, souls grown and from whom help and power can be drawn by the lesser spirits who are not yet adult. The aim of its economics would be not to create a huge engine of production, whether of the competitive or the cooperative kind, but to give to men — not only to some but to all men each in his highest possible measure — the joy of work according to their own nature and free leisure to grow inwardly, as well as a simply rich and beautiful life for all. In its politics it would not regard the nations within the scope of their own internal life as enormous State machines regulated and armoured with man living for the sake of the machine and worshipping it as his God and his larger self, content at the first call to kill others upon its altar and to bleed there himself so that the machine may remain intact and powerful and be made ever larger, more complex, more cumbrous, more mechanically efficient and entire. Neither would it be content to maintain these nations or States in their mutual relations as noxious engines meant to discharge poisonous gas upon each other in peace and to rush in times of clash upon each other’s armed hosts and unarmed millions, full of belching shot and men missioned to murder like war-planes or hostile tanks in a modern battlefield. It would regard the peoples as group-souls, the Divinity concealed and to be self-discovered in its human collectivities, group-souls meant like the individual to grow according to their own nature and by that growth to help each other, to help the whole race in the one common work of humanity. And that work would be to find the divine Self in the individual and the collectivity and to realise spiritually, mentally, vitally, materially its greatest, largest, richest and deepest possibilities in the inner life of all and their outer action and nature.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 25, The Human Cycle, ‘Conditions for the Coming of a Spiritual Age’, p. 257)))

Our relationships therefore have to change more and more from a mental-vital basis to a deeper psycho-spiritual basis. It is this fundamental change in the very character of our self and world regard that is the need of the hour. It is by changing ourselves from within that we begin changing the world around us.







The Evolutionary Transformation of the Body



The body can change by the power of consciousness from within. In fact, we see this happening more often than we believe. A blind man performs the function of sight by the development of other organs. The consciousness involved in the organ of sight withdraws itself and puts a pressure on other centres and organs for them to develop.

Even the normal functioning of the body reveals that the seemingly blind and mechanical movements of the organ systems are secret with a tremendous intelligence. There is a conscious manipulation, an intelligent adaptation even at the most minute level, in the molecular dealings. Many organs even directly respond to thought suggestions, feelings, desires and emotions, movements which we associate with a certain degree of developed awareness. Quantitatively too, we have already alluded to the fact that the body can be made to do things which appear impossible. And this happens not only as a result of methodical training but also during moments of intense crises. A sense of danger or an overwhelming emotion (conscious experience) triggers a cascade of physical responses through glandular secretions.

Perhaps the links are there through ‘nadis’ (subtle nerve sheaths) in the energy body. These subtle nerve sheaths serve to mediate between the universal forces and the individual. They are like so many knots or centres through which the physical consciousness and other levels of consciousness pass into the gross body and influence its behaviour and change it. What we observe and record as symptoms are the end point of processes in a chain of events. This was well demonstrated by the famous experiment of Sanger. Two groups of subjects were injected adrenaline. One was shown a pleasant film while the other a horror movie. Adrenaline gave rise to joy in the former group and fear in the latter. Thus, the body processes have common pathways to accommodate many types of experiences and forces and vibrations. The difference is not due to the pathways but due to the intensity of the energy stimulus.

The human body has been designed to interpret certain intensities of vibrations and leave out others. Sight, for example, responds to a very narrow range of visual energies; so also with hearing and touch and other senses. Even the sense of pain, pleasure and indifference are a limitation, necessary for the body in our present stage of evolution but not an absolute truth in itself.

It is possible to neutralize pain by conscious will. Instances are known wherein people could pierce their tongue with needles, walk on burning coal and not get hurt or burnt. It is also known that our conscious will can modify pain by a certain psychological process into joy. One can go as far as changing the action of a chemical upon the body through consciousness. In an experiment, saccharin was paired with cyclophosphamide (an immunosuppressant). Later, cyclophosphamide was removed and only saccharin given. The body still responded with immunosuppression. Such a learning would not be possible if the body was a fixed structure. In fact the body is much more plastic than we usually believe it to be. It responds wonderfully to psychological forces. Only we do not utilise this capacity.


Growth – The Physical Dimension

To learn how to alter the body processes to our advantage is therefore possible. But for this two things are necessary. One, we must be able to disengage, discover and develop the powers of the hidden physical consciousness in us. Second, we must rediscover the now lost knowledge which links the body organ systems to the different levels of consciousness and the effects of their corresponding movements.

All physical culture and discipline is essentially a means to develop the physical consciousness and through it make the body strong and healthy, more plastic and adaptable. It is also a means to infuse consciousness into the very cells of the body.

Many parts of the body are not yet under conscious voluntary control of the mind or will. It is however possible to do so through the power of suggestion and imagery. Over a period of time, through practice, the body can be made to respond to the power of thought-will in those parts also which are normally not under its control. Just as anastomoses develop to meet the increased demands of oxygen, so too new nerve channels can develop to link up the organ.

This is not an impossibility — nerves too are known to respond to necessities of growth. New dendrites are known to develop in the brain to accommodate a greater pressure of information and learning. Yogis, less restricted in approach and less conditioned to the idea of physical fixity, know this very well. Elaborate techniques (pranayama, for instance) have been developed to clear the nerve channels, open them and create new ones. Thus, through rigorous and painstaking discipline and practice even the most autonomous organs can be brought under conscious control. Not only that, but the body can also draw energy directly through the senses and live without food. The art/science of converting this directly drawn energy into gross material substance was however not known and hence a minimal intake of food became necessary to provide the substance for the material stuff of the body.

An instance is known in the life of Sri Aurobindo, wherein during one such experiment with the body consciousness, he took nothing for 21 days and carried on with hours of walking, regular writing and all other activities without the least diminution of energy. One can also learn to conserve the energy normally lost through sex, speech and other forms of restless, incessant, meaningless dissipative activities and transmute it into forms of emotional, vital, mental and spiritual energy for corresponding actions.


Growth – The Spiritual Dimension

But most of all, the consciousness can grow and develop by opening itself to a consciousness higher than the mind. This it can do by two methods. One method is to first bring the body under the control of the mind. Next, one can use the mind as a mediating link by opening it to higher ranges of consciousness through faith, aspiration, invocation or offering. The mind of man can, instead of moving in fixed, narrow circles of conditioning, open to wider and higher movements. Thus, one can bring down the power of ‘peace’ and ‘stillness’ into the body through the mind. Peace and stillness are concrete forces that can actually alter the sense perception, cancel pain, give a sense of rest and well-being, create conditions of harmony and the early return of balance and health, and even effectuate a cure. A disturbance of the body’s normal rhythm can arise due to strong and violent internal forces like anger and fear (observe how our breath becomes irregular under the influence of these movements) or the impact of strong external forces impinging and crowding upon us. Peace, if invoked, restores the inner rhythm by quietening the system and its violent upheaval. But it can also create a wall of stillness that separates us and our senses from contact with strongly violent forces that come from outside.

Whatever enters the atmosphere of peace and wherever peace penetrates, there it creates a quietening effect.

Peace however is only one such higher force which our body-mind conglomerate is not normally aware of. There are other even stronger forces that can help the body consciousness to grow and develop — the forces of Wideness, Harmony, Strength, Love, Beauty, Delight and the mysterious and wonderful power of Grace.

However, the Mind is not the only way through which one can open the body-consciousness to the action of higher forces. The body contains in itself its own principle of divinity and if one can, through practice learn to still the body and concentrate its energy on a point, a moment comes when the physical consciousness is disengaged and can directly open to higher forces. This originally was the principle of Hatha Yoga. But it requires a very arduous, painstaking and time-consuming labour. The method of opening through the mind is easier and swifter.

Apart from these two methods, there is the discovery of the secret soul, the psychic being within oneself. This is the divine principle in man, the secret psychological centre which is the key to everything else. It holds all the movements of our complex nature together. Once discovered, the psychic being can spontaneously bring the body into contact with the highest forces to which even the mind and life in us have no access.

Our body has learned to respond to ignorant forces like fear, desire, pain and pleasure, greed and lust. The price it pays for this contagion is a wearing out, exhaustion, premature decay, disease and illness. But it can also learn to open to the influence of higher forces and develop harmoniously and function smoothly under their pressure.

For a fuller understanding of the process of a consciousness approach to health and healing, we have to turn for a while towards understanding of the principle and power of consciousness itself.


Source of Consciousness

We have been referring to a higher as well as lower consciousness and its action upon the body. All this may present a picture as if there are different types of consciousness and also that the body is different from the consciousness.

This may be true from a strictly pragmatic point of view. It is also easier for our sense-experience born mind to understand things by contrast and comparison. But it is not the whole truth of the matter and leaves many gaps and unresolved questions.

The original truth is essentially oneness, whatever we call it. Yet, right up to the atom we find differentiation and differences (even the constituting charges are not one but two or three or more). This problem arises because we have been working the Creation backwards. But once we open to the other end of the experience we see that the roots of Creation are not in the atomic void but elsewhere. We then begin to discover through hidden faculties that at the origin there is something that nothing can describe. It is supremely undifferentiated, an infinite and eternal, concealing or showing itself through infinite ways. No law can be made of it, no symbol or language or formula describe it. It simply ‘is’ or ‘is not’. The ancients gave it the name of ‘Parabrahman’ — the Reality that transcends all and yet contains all.

Consciousness is the power of this Reality. The One Consciousness becomes many by a process of differentiation and concentration or we may say absorption and involution. Thus, we have the many levels and layers of ‘consciousness’ arising out of the One Consciousness, yet supported by it. Thus is also created a hierarchy of planes and substances and energies and systems of worlds that finally precipitate themselves into the atomic void or gross matter as we know it. Thus, matter and its processes are the last step, in the process of differentiation and involution making them dense and limited. So an emergence out of it brings forth all the hidden possibilities. Each hidden possibility that emerges alters matter, making it more pliable, capable and subtle. This is another process of evolution.


The Evolutionary Transformation of the Body

A perfectly healthy body as we envisage it now is a body fit, open and receptive to higher forces. Short of it there is only an absence of disease or its presence. The concept of health has shifted therefore from a passive to a dynamic one. Passive adaptation is the equilibrium that Nature creates between the organism and the world around it. Evolution follows by a temporary dissolution of this equilibrium! An active adaptation would therefore mean the ability of the body to not only survive but also to evolve by a collaboration with Nature. The stress of survival is born because of a sense of separateness. Each organism therefore tries to overpower or ‘outsmart’ others in the competitive game of life. This leads to an equal adaptive reaction in other forms of life that assert their right to existence. The individual unit holds out for a while against the rest, but, sooner or later succumbs as it must, since no individual form of life can be greater than the whole. But while the individual form cannot be greater than the whole, the individual can rediscover its link with the whole and thus arrive at a new mode of mastery.


Elimination versus Assimilation

If we step back from our excessive preoccupation with the individual forms and their differences, we find that all life is essentially one. So, as evolution proceeds, clash and strife are replaced more and more by assimilation, accommodation and transmutation. Growth, at a lesser level, assumes the appearance of eliminative competition. Growth, at a higher level, assumes the appearance of acceptance and assimilation. At present, our body has developed capacities to fight and reject whatever is to it ‘not self’. In future, the body will develop the capacity to absorb and change the disparate elements into a harmonious element. But for this, we have to discover a new station of consciousness. Out of the strong separative sense, we have to grow into wholeness and oneness. Out of division, and knowledge based upon division, we have to grow into oneness and knowledge based upon unity. Obviously, there will be a period of transition and its attendant difficulties but once the body has discovered the new mode of functioning based upon oneness, there will be the power of spontaneous immunity rather than simply a power to cure.


A Newer Reality

Thus seen, we understand many happenings in this world in a new way. The human body is being forced to bear the onslaught of a large number of toxins and poison as never before. Bacteria and viruses have taken a backseat. There are enough self-generated poisons: the industrial wastes, nuclear fallouts, drugs, insecticides, cosmetics — to name just a few — that threaten to eliminate the entire race. Or challenge it to evolve!

At another level there are scientific studies to work on the oneness of physical matter. Organ transplants, cloning, breaking of biological boundaries through cross-mating are all obscure ways through which a subconscious foundation for oneness is being laid. All this should not be taken to mean that this crisis is a good thing for there are simpler, safer, direct and better ways to evolve towards oneness. But Nature has taken this risky, bumpy course only because man refuses to admit a straight, smooth road to evolution. Everything in us resists the evolutionary pressure and most of this resistance comes from our notion of distinct separateness that makes us blind to everything else in the universe.

Yet, man can collaborate in this great transition and evolutionary transformation of the body. How?

Sri Aurobindo writes,

“The essential purpose and sign of the growing evolution here is the emergence of consciousness in an apparently inconscient universe; ….. As we rise we have to open to them our lower members and fill these with those superior and supreme dynamisms of light and power; the body we have to make a more and more and even entirely conscious frame and instrument, a conscious sign and seal and power of the spirit. As it grows in this perfection, the force and extent of its dynamic action and its response and service to the spirit must increase, the control of the spirit over it also must grow and the plasticity of its functioning both in its developed and acquired parts of power and in its automatic responses down to those that are now purely organic and seem to be the movements of a mechanic inconscience.”((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 13, Essays in Philosophy and Yoga, ‘Perfection of the Body’, p. 531)))





The last chapter of the Book of Life is yet to be written. Man’s evolution is not yet over nor is Creation exhausted of all its possibilities. Whether we take the materialistic paradigm or the spiritual one, we arrive at the same conclusion that evolution is happening, even now, right before our eyes, right under our skins. Whether we see it or not, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are growing under the pressure of Life that always cries for better and better adaptation. It also seeks fullness, the full blossoming of all its possibilities and potentials. The sun and the earth together anticipate and prepare for life as air settles down in the form of earth and water rushes through the empty spaces. The sun supports from afar the great epic drama that takes place upon earth and yet without it life could not be! The earth’s story is written long before the elements emerge. Within the little dumb atomic mass is concealed the superscript of life. Within a small gene is shut the miraculous possibility of a scientist and a sage. Such is the destiny bequeathed to earth and life upon it and its entire struggle and all its paradoxes lead us towards the fulfilment of this great and grand destiny. But what greater destiny is held back within man’s ignorant heart is yet to unfold. It visits him sometimes in dreams and symbols. It scorches his heart and takes away rest and peace from his mind. Man, the eternal seeker, must one day find all that he vaguely or assuredly seeks but ever misses. Ever dissatisfied with his flat earthly state he stares at the sky and dives into the seas. Mastering them, he is still more dissatisfied. Then he turns his gaze within and discovers the wonder of wonders that was always there inside him — his soul. Man must remain incomplete and all his knowledge remain, at best, a reasoned guess or a workable hypothesis until he recovers his lost sight by removing the teguments of his secret soul. This is what the next step of evolution is preparing for him of which all our hopes and achievements are only fleeting facets. But more is there than man has dreamed or dared.

Much more indeed, for just as the life of a caterpillar conceals the beautiful butterfly, so too the present life of man covers the divinity with a crust of outer layer impenetrable to his mortal eyes but clear to the eye of faith and transparent to the vision of his soul. Meanwhile our gaze is turned outside towards the body that is simply the chrysalis of the growing soul within. All that we call good, and all that we call bad, our pain no less than our pleasures, our struggles, our hopes and despairs, all without exception feed this divine child within us until it grows and reclaims this house of mud and turns it into a temple of gold. Till then life must stake its claim and pay the price in the mart of world-forces, the tax of Ignorance and Night. Till then we shall have only palliatives but not the radical remedy, we shall have temporary therapies but not the one needed cure. The panacea lies within us and so do the healing springs of bliss, the nectar of immortality that the gods enjoy as their prerogative. Man too can partake of this nectar if he evolves into and shares the nature of the gods. His pain and his seeking both point in this direction and are a spur towards that. The labour of life, the real labour concealed behind all our troubles and suffering is the evolutionary labour, the effort to release this higher spiritual and divine possibility within us. That is our true resting ground, and the rest is but a half-way home, a temporary inn, however comfortable we may be in it for the moment. Our houses and our hospitals are just such an inn, the ultimate Home and the Hospice is within us.

But besides that, the body is a marvellous instrument evolved through eons of preparations and challenges. Each stage of evolution is imprinted within it; our very cells retain in some mysterious way the memory of past evolutionary efforts that is transmitted to us from our ancestors. We are not only our father’s children but the children of the whole of humanity, nay even more, the children of earth. The primordial sea and the blazing sun as it first shone itself upon earth billions of years ago still lurk in some corner of our collective experience of life. The earliest winds beat their wings still to climb the vast expanse of ether we always carry within us. And through these the whole universe connects with us and speaks to us.

This is the great truth we have to relearn, the truth of our interconnectedness. We are connected with the All, not only in terms of Space but also in terms of Time. Causality is merely a mechanism of unfolding, under certain conditions, of what already is. These conditions are not fixed but the evolutionary adventure fixes them through repetition. These repetitions turn into patterns and habits. We study and read these habits that Nature has formed through previous layers of evolution and we take them as unchangeable laws. Studying these laws and believing in them further fixes it in our consciousness. Thus, we have our great scientific systems and theories with their practical applications. We become trapped in scientific dogmas and the paradigms that emerge through these dogmas. All our truths and proofs are simply the record of these habits that have formed over millenniums of the evolutionary journey. No doubt these habits had and continue to have an advantage at some point of time, they were and still are supported by a Wisdom that works silently in Nature’s depths. But when Nature enters into another mode, when she prepares herself for another evolutionary leap, she breaks these very habits so that new possibilities of life and creation can emerge. She takes away the fins and the gills of a fish but gives it a million feet to glide on the surface of the earth and endows it with the power to absorb the needed energy through air. Next she takes away that wonderful ability to glide on mud but gives it wings to fly across a limited patch of sky. When this too is exhausted, Nature, the great magician and artisan, clips those beautiful wings but replaces them with strong legs and an immense vitality to run and jump in the wilds. Subduing this immense vital force it transmutes the animal life into thinking man. Thus arises man out of the mud and losing the unique abilities of the fish, he yet learns to tame the waves of the ocean and dive into the sea and ply across distant waters. Losing the wings of the bird, he yet travels across far reaches of Space beyond anything that a bird can even conceive.

Yet man is not all. The Wisdom that works in Nature’s breast is not exhausted with man. He is neither the summit of creation, nor its final product. More is there that awaits the great evolutionary adventure upon earth that started some billions of years ago. Man, in this vision, is only a transitional being and his greatness is not so much in what he is, but in what he can make possible. He is, unlike other creatures an ever-evolving being who is never satisfied with his current state. He has already broken through the outer barriers of Space and soon he may break through the barriers of outer Time. But what he needs most and what he must achieve in the next evolutionary cycle is to break and pass beyond the inner barriers of his manhood. He must discover within him the ultimate possibility that is hidden in Nature. That possibility is only hinted at right now, a fleeting partial glimpse breaks through the mud walls of our flesh and slips past the pauses of our brain. The seer, the sage, the mystic, the yogi, and in a lesser sense the inspired poet and hero, the genius and the prodigy, the exceptionally gifted are all simply the great precursors of a grand design yet hidden from our sight. They prepare our earth to receive a greater and mightier influx from deeper founts of Nature, more powerful, more wise.

Such is the transition that is taking place right now, right under our skins and all our stress and strain, our greed and our tensions, are only the swelling of the size of the caterpillar’s cocoon hiding within it the beautifully winged butterfly. All our strivings and our restless passions, our hopes and our attempts, the many maladies of the body and the mind that afflicts us in the present times are the fierce effort at breaking of the walls that limit us as man. The sense of inner stifling and constriction that we experience as the angst of the Age and the expansion of outer horizons and the pushing out of the boundaries, the two that together constitute the paradox of our times, are all merely the labour pains of a greater birth, the birth of a Superman, the evolution of a greater being with a deeper heart, a wider and more luminous mind, a swifter and more stronger life-energy, a truer impulse to action and a vaster faith and will-to-be. The remedies that we discover and patent and advertise as panaceas and miraculous are simply half-way homes to rest awhile, a partial fruit, an imperfect prize of our labour. The real solution is within us and it lies in a conscious evolution from the thinking man that we are to the Gnostic Superman that we are destined to become. Therein lies the real remedy, the panacea of all our ills. Just as man arose from the bird and the beast, this greater being awaits his hour. Hidden under our bones and skin and hidden to the limited range of our sight, there lie unseen tracts of Nature waiting to unfold through a moulding of our bodies by the Breath and Fire of the Soul, the Stress of the hidden Spirit in Nature. That which we experience in our ignorance as stress is the call of the secret spirit within us, the evolutionary leap out of our mortal condition into a state of conscious immortality:

All now seems Nature’s massed machinery;
An endless servitude to material rule
And long determination’s rigid chain,
Her firm and changeless habits aping Law,
Her empire of unconscious deft device
Annul the claim of man’s free human will.
He too is a machine amid machines;
A piston brain pumps out the shapes of thought,
A beating heart cuts out emotion’s modes;
An insentient energy fabricates a soul.
Or the figure of the world reveals the signs
Of a tied Chance repeating her old steps
In circles around Matter’s binding-posts.
A random series of inept events
To which reason lends illusive sense, is here,
Or the empiric Life’s instinctive search,
Or a vast ignorant mind’s colossal work.
But wisdom comes, and vision grows within:
Then Nature’s instrument crowns himself her king;
He feels his witnessing self and conscious power;
His soul steps back and sees the Light supreme.
A Godhead stands behind the brute machine.((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 33-34, Savitri, Book I, Canto II, p. 20)))


This bodily appearance is not all;
The form deceives, the person is a mask;
Hid deep in man celestial powers can dwell.
His fragile ship conveys through the sea of years
An incognito of the Imperishable.
A spirit that is a flame of God abides,
A fiery portion of the Wonderful,
Artist of his own beauty and delight,
Immortal in our mortal poverty.
This sculptor of the forms of the Infinite,
This screened unrecognised Inhabitant,
Initiate of his own veiled mysteries,
Hides in a small dumb seed his cosmic thought.
In the mute strength of the occult Idea
Determining predestined shape and act,
Passenger from life to life, from scale to scale,
Changing his imaged self from form to form,
He regards the icon growing by his gaze
And in the worm foresees the coming god.
At last the traveller in the paths of Time
Arrives on the frontiers of eternity.
In the transient symbol of humanity draped,
He feels his substance of undying self
And loses his kinship to mortality.((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 33-34, Savitri, Book I, Canto III, p. 23)))


Even as of old man came behind the beast
This high divine successor surely shall come
Behind man’s inefficient mortal pace,
Behind his vain labour, sweat and blood and tears:
He shall know what mortal mind barely durst think,
He shall do what the heart of the mortal could not dare.
Inheritor of the toil of human time,
He shall take on him the burden of the gods;
All heavenly light shall visit the earth’s thoughts,
The might of heaven shall fortify earthly hearts;
Earth’s deeds shall touch the superhuman’s height,
Earth’s seeing widen into the infinite.((( Sri Aurobindo, CWSA 33-34, Savitri, Book III, Canto IV, p. 344)))


  1. ( Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, Book I, Canto III []
  2. ( The Mother, On Education, ‘The Science of Living’ []
  3. ( The Mother, CMW 12, On Education, ‘The Four Austerities and the Four Liberations’, p. 52 []