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object:1.02 - The Eternal Law
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
author class:Satprem
subject class:Integral Yoga

The proletariat among us is sunk in ignorance and overwhelmed with distress!11 exclaimed Sri Aurobindo soon after disembarking in India.
It was not metaphysical questions that preoccupied him, but questions of action. To act: we are in the world to act. But what action? And above all, what method of action would be the most effective? This very practical concern would remain with Sri Aurobindo from his very first days in India right up to his highest yogic realizations. I
personally recall (if you will excuse the digression) traveling to the Himalayas and enjoying a few wonderful days there in the company of a holy man, lost among the pines and the red laurels, with snow sparkling all around us between sky and valley. It was very beautiful,
and I remember saying to myself how easy it is to have divine thoughts, or perhaps even visions, at that altitude, but what about in the valley below? I was not entirely wrong, although I later learned that one can act and work for the world in the silence and stillness of one's own body. (A clinging illusion makes us confuse agitation with action.) Still, what remains of our divine moments once we are removed from our solitude and brought down to the plains? This is a mirage that Western enthusiasts of Hinduism should consider, for if we merely want to escape the world, a retreat in the Alps or the Yosemite Valley, or even a small whitewashed cell, would do just as well; the Pilgrimage to the Source12 has little, if nothing, to do with the Ganges or the Brahmaputra. What was India going to bring to Sri Aurobindo, then? Did she hold some secret relevant to action in life?
Reading books on Hinduism, it would appear that it is a kind of spiritual paleontology interspersed with polysyllabic Sanskrit words,
as if Indians were a mixture of arcane philosophers and unrepentant idolaters. But if we look at India simply, from within, without trying to divide her into paragraphs of Hinduism (which are necessarily 11

New Lamps for Old, 1:44
A French book on Hinduism by Lanza del Vasto.

false, like the conclusions of the traveler who went to Delhi in May and found India torrid and hot, whereas if he had gone to the south or the east in November or March, he would have found India at once cold, boiling, sodden, desert-like, Mediterranean, and gentle; she is a world as indefinable as her "Hinduism," which does not exist,
moreover, because Hinduism is not a belief or a spiritual longitude;
one does not take bearings there, for all possible bearings are contained in it), we find that India is first and foremost a country of exceptional spiritual freedom. The so-called Hinduism is a creation of the West; Indians speak only of "the eternal law,"; sanatana dharma,
which they know is not an Indian monopoly but belongs also to the Moslems, the Africans, the Christians, and even to the Anabaptists.
What seems to a Westerner to be the most important part of a religion (namely, the structure that distinguishes it from all other religions,
insisting that a person is not a Catholic or a Protestant unless he or she thinks this way or that way and subscribes to this or that articles of faith) is in fact the least important aspect for an Indian, who instinctively seeks to remove external differences in order to find everyone at the central point where all communicates.
This open-mindedness is not "tolerance," which is only the reverse of intolerance; it is a positive understanding that every human being has an inner need, which we may call "God" or by any other name,
and that he needs to love what he himself understands of God at his own level and particular stage of inner development, and Peter's way is not John's. That everyone should love a crucified god, for instance,
seems unnatural to the average Indian, who will bow respectfully before Christ (with as much spontaneous reverence as before his own image of God), but who will see also the face of God in the laughter of Krishna, the terror of Kali, the sweetness of Saraswati, and in the thousands upon thousands of other gods who dance, multicolored and mustachioed, mirthful or terrifying, illuminated or compassionate, on the deliriously carved towers of Indian temples. A God who cannot smile could not have created this humorous universe,13 said Sri Aurobindo. All is His face, all is His play, terrible or beautiful, as many-faceted as our world itself. For this country so teeming with 13

Thoughts and Aphorisms, 17:138

gods is also, at the same time, the country of a monolithic faith in Oneness: "One, He presides over all wombs and natures; Himself the womb of all." (Swetaswatara Upanishad V.5) But not everyone can at once merge with the Absolute; there are many degrees in the Ascent,
and one who is ready to understand a little Lalita's childlike face and to bring her his incense and flowers may not be able to address the Eternal Mother in the silence of his heart; still another may prefer to deny all forms and plunge into the contemplation of That which is formless. "Even as men come to Me, so I accept them. It is my path that men follow from all sides," says the Bhagavad Gita (IV,11). 14 As we see, there are so many ways of conceiving of God, in three or three million persons, that we should not dogmatize, lest we eliminate everything, finally leaving nothing but a Cartesian God, one and universal by virtue only of his narrowness. Perhaps we still confuse unity with uniformity. It was in the spirit of that tradition that Sri Aurobindo was soon to write: The perfection of the integral Yoga will come when each man is able to follow his own path of Yoga, pursuing the development of his own nature in its upsurging towards that which transcends the nature. For freedom is the final law and the last consummation.15
Nor does an Indian ever ask: "Do you believe in God?" The question would seem to him as childish as: "Do you believe in CO2?"
He simply says: "Have the experience yourself; if you do this, you'll get that result; if you do that, you'll get another result." All the ingenuity, the skill and precision we have expended for the last century or two in the study of physical phenomena, the Indian has brought, with equal exactness for the last four or five millennia, to the observation of inner phenomena. For a people of "dreamers," they have some surprises in store for us. And if we are a little honest, we will soon admit that our own "inner" studies, i.e., our psychology and psychoanalysis, or our knowledge of man, demands an ascesis as methodical and patient, and sometimes as tedious, as the long studies required to master nuclear physics. If we want to take up this path, it is not enough to read books or to collect clinical studies on all the 14

All quotations from the Upanishads, the Veda, and the Bhagavad Gita in this book are taken from Sri Aurobindo's translations.
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:51

neuroses of an unbalanced society: we must implicate ourselves.
Indeed, if we brought as much sincerity, meticulousness, and perseverance to the study of the inner world as we do to the study of our books, we would go fast and far the West also has surprises in store for us but it must first get rid of its preconceptions (Columbus did not draw the map of America before leaving Palos). These simple truths may be worth repeating, for the West seems to be caught between two falsehoods: the overly serious falsehood of the spiritualists, who have already settled the question of God in a few infallible paragraphs, and the not-serious-enough falsehood of the rudimentary occultists and psychics, who have reduced the invisible to a sort of freak-show of the imagination. India, wisely, refers us to our own direct experience and to experimental methods. Sri Aurobindo would soon put this fundamental lesson of experimental spirituality into practice.
But what kind of men, what human substance, was he going to find in that India he did not know? Once we have set aside the exotic facade and the bizarre (to us) customs that amuse and intrigue tourists,
there nevertheless remains something strange; and saying that Indians are a gentle, dreamy, fatalistic people, detached from the world, only describes the effect, not the cause. "Strange" is indeed the word,
because spontaneously, in their very physical substance, without the least "thought" or even "faith," Indians sink their roots very deeply into other worlds; they do not altogether belong here. In them, these other worlds rise constantly to the surface; at the least touch the veil is rent, remarks Sri Aurobindo. This physical world, which for us is so real and absolute and unique, seems to them but one way of living among many others, one modality of the total existence among many others; in other words, a small chaotic, agitated, and rather painful frontier on the margin of immense continents which lie behind,
unexplored.16 This substantial difference between Indians and other peoples appears most strikingly in their art, as it does also in Egyptian art (and, we assume without knowing it, in the art of Central America). If we leave behind our light and open cathedrals that soar high like a triumph of the divine thought in man suddenly to find 16

The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:439

ourselves before Sekmeth in the silence of Abydos on the Nile, or face to face with Kali behind the peristyle of Dakshineshwar, we do feel something; we suddenly gape before an unknown dimension, a "something" that leaves us a little stunned and speechless, which is not at all there in our Western art. There are no secrets in our cathedrals!
Everything is there for every outer eye to see, all neat and tidy, open to the four winds; yet, there are many secrets. The intent here is not to weigh one form of art against the other that would be rather absurd
but simply to say we have forgotten something. If so many civilizations, which were once as glorious and refined as ours, and whose elites were no less "intelligent" than those of our universities,
have seen and experienced the invisible (to us) hierarchies and great psychic rhythms that exceed the brief pulsation of a human life, how has it not dawned on us that this may have had nothing to do with a silly superstition or a mental aberration a strange aberration indeed,
found thousands of miles apart in civilizations totally unknown to one another? True, the Age of the Mysteries is behind us; everything is wonderfully Cartesian and pragmatic, but still, something is missing.
The first sign announcing a new being, probably, is the dawning sense of a terrible lack of something, which neither his science nor his churches nor his garish pleasures can ever fulfill. Man cannot be dispossessed of his secrets with impunity. This, too, was a living testimonial India imparted to Sri Aurobindo, unless he knew it already in his own flesh.
However, if we expect India, the land where ancient Mysteries survive, to give us the practical solution we are seeking, we may be disappointed. Sri Aurobindo, who soon learned to appreciate the freedom, spiritual breadth, and immense experimental knowledge India offers a seeker, did not subscribe to everything there, far from it;
not that there was anything to reject; there is nothing to reject anywhere, not in so-called Hinduism any more than in Christianity or in any other aspiration of man; but there is everything to widen, to widen endlessly. What we take for a final truth is most often only a partial experience of the Truth, and certainly the total Experience exists nowhere in time and space, in no place and no being however luminous he may be; for Truth is infinite, forever marching onward.
But man always takes upon himself an endless burden, said the

Mother in a talk about Buddhism. He refuses to let go of anything from his past, and so he stoops more and more beneath the weight of a useless accumulation. Have a guide for part of the way, but once you have travelled that part, leave it and the guide behind, and move on. This is something men do very reluctantly; once they get hold of something that helps them, they cling to it; they won't let go of it.
Those who have made some progress with Christianity do not want to give it up, and carry it on their backs; those who have made some progress with Buddhism do not want to leave it, and carry it on their backs. This weighs you down and slows you terribly. Once you have passed through a stage, drop it; let it go! And move on! Yes, there is an eternal law, but it is eternally young and eternally progressive.
Although India was also able to appreciate that God is the Eternal Iconoclast in his cosmic march, she did not always have the strength to withstand her own wisdom. The vast invisible that pervades this country was to extract from it a double ransom, both human and spiritual; human, because these people, saturated with the Beyond,
conscious of the Great Cosmic Game and the inner dimensions in which our little surface lives are just points, periodically flowering and soon re-engulfed, came to neglect the material world inertia,
indifference to progress, and resignation often wore the face of wisdom; a spiritual ransom also (this one far more serious), because in that immensity too great for our present little consciousness, the destiny of the earth, our earth, became lost somewhere in the deep confines of the galaxy, or nowhere, reabsorbed in Brahman, whence perhaps it had never emerged after all, except in our dreams
illusionism, trance, the closed eyes of the yogi were also often mistaken for God. It is therefore essential to define clearly the goal that religious India has in view, then we will better understand what she can or cannot do for we who seek an integral truth.
To begin with, we must admit that we are faced with a surprising contradiction. India is a country that brought forth a great revelation:
"All is Brahman," she said, all is the Spirit; this world also is the Spirit, as is this earth, this life, these men; nothing is outside Him. "All this is Brahman immortal, naught else; Brahman is in front of us,
Brahman behind us, and to the south of us and to the north of us and below us and above us; It stretches everywhere. All this is Brahman

alone, all this magnificent universe." (Mundaka Upanishad II, 12) At long last, the dichotomy that is tearing this poor world apart between God and the Devil as if one always had to choose between heaven and earth, and could never be saved except when mutilated was healed for good. Yet, in practice, for the last three thousand years, the entire religious history of India has taken the view that there is a true Brahman, as it were, transcendent, immobile, forever beyond this bedlam, and a false Brahman, or rather a minor one (there are several schools), for an intermediate and more or less questionable reality (i.e., life, the earth, our poor mess of an earth). "Abandon this world of illusion," exclaimed the great Shankara. 17 "Brahman is real, the world is a lie," says the Nirlamba Upanishad: brahman satyam jaganmithya.
Try as we might, we just don't understand through what distortion or oversight "All is Brahman" ever became "All, except the world, is Brahman."
If we leave aside the Scriptures for the human mind is so skillful that it can easily dream up sheep grazing on the Empire State building and if we look at the practical disciplines of India, the contradiction becomes even more striking. Indian psychology is based on the very intelligent observation that all things in the universe, from mineral to man, are made up of three elements or qualities (gunas), which may be called by different names depending on the order of reality one considers: tamas, inertia, obscurity, unconsciousness; rajas,
movement, struggle, effort, passion, action; sattva, light, harmony,
joy. Nowhere does any of these three elements exist in a pure state; we are always a mixture of inertia, passion, and light; we may be sattvotamasic, good but a bit dull, well-meaning but a little unconscious; or sattvo-rajasic, impassioned upwardly; or tamaso-rajasic, impassioned downwardly; most often we are an excellent mixture of the three. In the darkest tamas the light also shines, but unfortunately the opposite is equally true. In other words, we are always in a state of unstable equilibrium; the warrior, the ascetic, and the brute happily share our dwelling-place in varying proportions. The various Indian disciplines seeks therefore to restore the equilibrium, to help us emerge from the 17

Shankara (788-820 A.D.), mystic and poet, theorist of Mayavada or the doctrine of illusionism, which supplanted Buddhism in India.

play of the three gunas, which rock us endlessly from light to dark,
enthusiasm to exhaustion, gray apathy to fugitive pleasures and recurring sufferings, and to find a poise above in other words, to recover the divine consciousness (yoga), the state of perfect equilibrium. In order to achieve this goal, they try to take us out of the state of dispersion and waste in which we live daily, and to create in us a concentration powerful enough to break our ordinary limits and,
in time, to propel us into another state. This work of concentration can be done at any level of our being physical, vital, or mental.
Depending on the level we choose, we undertake one kind of yoga or another: hatha yoga, raja yoga, mantra yoga, and many others,
countless others, like so many stages of our effort. We won't discuss here the great value of these methods, or the remarkable intermediate results they can lead to; we will examine only their goal, their final destination. The truth is, this "poise above" seems to have no relation with real life whatsoever; first, because all these disciplines are extremely demanding, requiring hours and hours of work every day, if not complete solitude; secondly, because their ultimate result is a state of trance or yogic ecstasy, samadhi, perfect equilibrium, ineffable bliss, in which one's awareness of the world is dissolved, annihilated.
Brahman, the Spirit, appears therefore to have absolutely nothing to do with our regular waking consciousness; He is outside all that we know; He is not of this world. Others who were not Indians have said the same.
In fact, all the religions of the world have said it. And whether we speak of "salvation" in the West, of "liberation," or mukti, in the East,
whether we speak of paradise or ending the cycle of rebirths, makes little difference, since ultimately the common goal is to "get out." Yet,
things were not always this way. Between the end of the Age of the Mysteries and the advent of the great religions, both in the West and in the East, a chasm appeared, a Knowledge that did not make such a formidable distinction between God and the world was obscured; all the traditions, all the legends testify to this. The conflict between Matter and Spirit is a modern creation; the so-called materialists are really the offspring, legitimate or not, of the spiritualists, much as prodigal sons are begotten by miserly fathers. Between the first Upanishads of about three or four thousand years ago themselves

heirs to the Veda, which saw God everywhere in this "marvelous universe" and the last Upanishads, a Secret was lost; it was lost not only in India but in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in Greece, and in Central America. It is this Secret that Sri Aurobindo was to rediscover,
perhaps because his being combined the finest Western tradition and the profound spiritual yearning of the East. East and West, he said,
have two ways of looking at life which are opposite sides of one reality. Between the pragmatic truth on which the vital thought of modern Europe enamoured of the vigour of life, all the dance of God in Nature, puts so vehement and exclusive a stress and the eternal immutable Truth to which the Indian mind enamoured of calm and poise loves to turn with an equal passion for an exclusive finding,
there is no such divorce and quarrel as is now declared by the partisan mind, the separating reason, the absorbing passion of an exclusive will of realisation. The one eternal immutable Truth is the Spirit and without the Spirit the pragmatic truth of a self-creating universe would have no origin or foundation; it would be barren of significance, empty of inner guidance, lost in its end, a fire-work display shooting up into the void only to fall away and perish in midair. But neither is the pragmatic truth a dream of the non-existent, an illusion or a long lapse into some futile delirium of creative imagination; that would be to make the eternal Spirit a drunkard or a dreamer, the fool of his own gigantic self-hallucinations. The truths of universal existence are of two kinds, truths of the spirit which are themselves eternal and immutable, and these are the great things that cast themselves out into becoming and there constantly realize their powers and significances, and the play of the consciousness with them, the discords, the musical variations, soundings of possibility,
progressive notations, reversions, perversions, mounting conversions into a greater figure of harmony; and of all these things the Spirit has made, makes always his universe. But it is himself that he makes in it,
himself that is the creator and the energy of creation and the cause and the method and the result of the working, the mechanist and the machine, the music and the musician, the poet and the poem,
supermind, mind, and life and matter, the soul and Nature.18

The Problem of Rebirth, 16:241

But for Sri Aurobindo it was not enough to reconcile Spirit and Matter on paper. That the Spirit is or is not of this world does not make much difference, after all, knowledge of the Spirit in life is not associated with a power over life:
For truth and knowledge are an idle gleam,
If Knowledge brings no power to change the world.19
The lost Secret was not a theoretical truth, it was an actual power of Spirit over Matter. It is this pragmatic Secret that Sri Aurobindo was to find again, step by step, experientially, by daring to go beyond his Western background as well as the Hindu religious tradition; it is indeed true that the real essence emerges when all else is forgotten.


Savitri, 29:664

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