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object:1.03 - The End of the Intellect
class:chapter
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
author class:Satprem
subject class:Integral Yoga


Sri Aurobindo had spent fourteen years traveling the Western path; it would take him almost as much time to travel India's path and to reach the "peak" of traditional yogic realizations, the starting-point of his own work. What is most interesting for us, however, is that Sri Aurobindo traveled this traditional path, which we may therefore consider as a preparation, outside all customary rules, as a freelancer,
as it were, or rather as an explorer who does not care about precautions and maps, and hence avoids many unnecessary detours simply because he has the courage to forge straight ahead. Thus, it was not in seclusion or in the lotus position or under the guidance of an enlightened Master that Sri Aurobindo undertook the journey, but just as we might do it ourselves, without any special knowledge, right in the midst of everyday life a life as busy and hectic as ours can be and all alone. Sri Aurobindo's first secret is probably a persistent refusal to cut life in two action vs. meditation, inner vs. outer, and the whole range of our false divisions; from the day he thought of yoga, he put everything into it, high and low, inside and outside, and he set out without ever looking back. Sri Aurobindo does not come to demonstrate exceptional qualities in an exceptional environment; he comes to show us what is possible for man, and to prove that the exceptional is only a normal possibility not yet mastered, just as the supernatural, as he said, is that the nature of which we have not attained or do not yet know, or the means of which we have not yet conquered.20 Ultimately, everything in this world is a matter of proper concentration; there is nothing that will not finally yield to a wellapplied concentration.
When he went ashore on the Apollo Bunder in Bombay, he was overtaken by a spontaneous spiritual experience, a vast calm; but he had more immediate concerns of food and survival. Sri Aurobindo was twenty. He found a position with the Maharaja of Baroda, as 20

Thoughts and Aphorisms, 17:88


professor of French, then taught English at the state college, where he soon became vice-principal. He worked also as private secretary to the Prince. Between the court and the college he was busy enough, but in truth, it was the destiny of India that preoccupied him. He traveled many times to Calcutta, familiarizing himself with the political situation and writing several articles that created a scandal, for he didn't just refer to the Queen-Empress of India as an old lady so called by way of courtesy,21 but he urged his countrymen to shake off the British yoke, and attacked the mendicant policy in the Indian Congress party: no reforms, no collaboration. His aim was to gather and organize all the energies of the nation toward revolutionary action. This must have required some courage, considering the year was 1893, when the British ruled over three-fourths of the world. But Sri Aurobindo had a very special way of dealing with the problem; he did not lay any blame on the English, but on the Indians themselves:
Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our purblind sentimentalism. 22
Already, we see a dominant theme of Sri Aurobindo, who, in the political as in the spiritual struggle and in all circumstances, urges us to look within ourselves for the cause both of our misfortunes and of the world's troubles not outside or elsewhere. Outer circumstances are merely the unfolding of what we are, the Mother, who shared his work, would later emphasize. Sri Aurobindo soon realized that newspaper articles were not enough to awaken a country; he began an underground activity, which would lead him to the foot of the gallows.
For thirteen years Sri Aurobindo would play with fire.
However, this young man was neither restless nor fanatical: "His smile was simple like that of a child, as limpid and as sweet," wrote his Bengali teacher who lived with him for two years (Sri Aurobindo had naturally begun to study his mother tongue). With touching ingenuousness, his teacher adds: "Before meeting Aurobindo, I had imagined him as a stalwart figure dressed like a European from head to foot, immaculate, with a stern look behind his spectacles, a horrible accent (from Cambridge, of course!) and a very difficult disposition.
21
22

Shri Aurobindo, 342
New Lamps for Old, 1:8


Who could have thought that this tanned young man with gentle,
dreamy eyes, long wavy hair parted in the middle and falling to the neck, clad in a common coarse Ahmedabad dhoti, a close-fitting Indian jacket, and old-fashioned slippers with upturned toes, and whose face was slightly marked with smallpox, was no other than Mister Aurobindo Ghose, living treasure of French, Latin and Greek?"
Actually, Sri Aurobindo was not yet through with books; the Western momentum was still there; he devoured books ordered from Bombay and Calcutta by the case. "Aurobindo would sit at his desk,"
his Bengali teacher continues, "and read by the light of an oil lamp till one in the morning, oblivious of the intolerable mosquito bites. I
would see him seated there in the same posture for hours on end, his eyes fixed on his book, like a yogi lost in the contemplation of the Divine, unaware of all that went on around him. Even if the house had caught fire, it would not have broken this concentration." He read English, Russian, German, and French novels, but also, in ever larger numbers, the sacred books of India, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, although he had never been in a temple except as an observer. "Once, having returned from the College," one of his friends recalls, "Sri Aurobindo sat down, picked up a book at random and started to read, while Z and some friends began a noisy game of chess. After half an hour, he put the book down and took a cup of tea.
We had already seen him do this many times and were waiting eagerly for a chance to verify whether he read the books from cover to cover or only scanned a few pages here and there. Soon the test began. Z
opened the book, read a line aloud and asked Sri Aurobindo to recite what followed. Sri Aurobindo concentrated for a moment, and then repeated the entire page without a single mistake. If he could read a hundred pages in half an hour, no wonder he could go through a case of books in such an incredibly short time." But Sri Aurobindo did not stop at the translations of the sacred texts; he began to study Sanskrit,
which, typically, he learned by himself. When a subject was known to be difficult or impossible, he would refuse to take anyone's word for it, whether he were a grammarian, pandit, or clergyman, and would insist upon trying it himself. The method seemed to have some merit,
for not only did he learn Sanskrit, but a few years later he discovered

the lost meaning of the Veda.23
The day came, however, when Sri Aurobindo had had enough of these intellectual exercises. He probably realized that one can go on amassing knowledge indefinitely, reading and learning languages,
even learning all the languages in the world and reading all the books in the world, and yet not progress at all. For the mind does not truly know, even though it may appear to it seeks to grind. Its need of knowledge is primarily a need for something to grind. If by chance the machine were to come to a stop because knowledge had been obtained, it would soon rise up in revolt and find something new to grind, just for the sake of grinding and grinding; such is its function.
That within us which seeks to know and to progress is not the mind,
but something behind it which uses it: The capital period of my intellectual development, Sri Aurobindo confided to a disciple, was when I could see clearly that what the intellect said might be correct and not correct, that what the intellect justified was true and its opposite also was true. I never admitted a truth in the mind without simultaneously keeping it open to the contrary of it. . . . And the first result was that the prestige of the intellect was gone!24
Sri Aurobindo had come to a turning point; temples did not interest him and books were empty. A friend advised him to practice yoga, but Sri Aurobindo refused: A yoga which requires me to give up the world is not for me,25 he moreover added: a solitary salvation leaving the world to its fate was felt as almost distasteful. 26 Then one day Sri Aurobindo witnessed a curious scene, though not uncommon in India (to be sure, banality is often the best trigger of inner movements),
when his brother Barin was ill with a severe fever. (Barin, born while Sri Aurobindo was in England, was Sri Aurobindo's secret emissary in the organization of Indian resistance in Bengal.) One of those halfnaked wandering monks appeared. He was probably begging for food from door to door as is their custom, when he saw Barin rolled up in blankets, shivering with fever. Without a word, he asked for a glass of 23

The Vedic Age, prior to that of the Upanishads, which was its heir, dates back before 4000 B.C.
24
Evening Talks, 199
25
Life of Sri Aurobindo, 102
26
On Himself, 26:12


water, drew a sign, chanted a mantra, and had Barin drink the water.
Five minutes later Barin was cured, and the monk had disappeared. Sri Aurobindo had heard about the strange powers of these ascetics, but now he had seen it with his own eyes. He suddenly realized that yoga could serve other purposes than escape from the world. And he needed power to liberate India: The agnostic was in me, the atheist was in me,
the skeptic was in me and I was not absolutely sure that there was a God at all. . . . I felt there must be a mighty truth somewhere in this yoga. . . . So when I turned to the yoga and resolved to practise it and find out if my idea was right, I did it in this spirit and with this prayer to Him, "If Thou art, then Thou knowest my heart. Thou knowest that I
do not ask for Mukti [liberation], I do not ask for anything which others ask for. I ask only for strength to uplift this nation, I ask only to be allowed to live and work for this people whom I love." 27 That is how Sri Aurobindo set out on the road.

27

Speeches, 2:7




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