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object:1.08 - Independence from the Physical
class:chapter
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
author class:Satprem
subject class:Integral Yoga


After the mind and vital, the physical the third instrument of the spirit in us plays a special role in Sri Aurobindo's yoga, since without it no divine life is possible on this earth. We will only discuss now some points of preliminary experience, the very ones Sri Aurobindo discovered at the beginning of his yoga; indeed, the yoga of the body necessitates a far greater development of consciousness than the one we have envisioned up until now, for the closer we come down to Matter, the higher the powers of consciousness required,
because the resistance increases in proportion. Matter is the place of the greatest spiritual difficulty, but also the place of Victory. The yoga of the body, therefore, lies well beyond the scope of our vital or mental powers; it is the province of a supramental yoga, which we will discuss later.

Independence from the Senses Matter is the starting point of our evolution. It is confined in Matter that consciousness has gradually evolved; therefore the more consciousness emerges, the more it will recover its sovereignty and assert its independence. This is the first step (not the last, as we will see). We are, however, almost totally subservient to the needs of the body for our survival, and to the bodily organs for perceiving the world; we are very proud, and rightly so, of our machines, but when our machine gets a little headache everything becomes a blur, and when we are denied our array of telegraphs, telephones, televisions,
etc., we become incapable of knowing what is happening next door or of seeing beyond the end of our noses. We are hypercivilized beings who have not physically gone beyond the condition of the savage.
Perhaps our machines are not so much a symbol of mastery as of frightening impotence. The blame for this lies equally with the

materialists, for their lack of faith in the power of the inner spirit, and with the spiritualists, for their lack of faith in the reality of matter.
This impotence, however, is not irreversible, since it is based mainly on our belief that we are impotent; we are somewhat like a person who has inherited a pair of crutches from his ancestors, and hence has lost faith in his own legs. The point is to have faith in our own consciousness; not only does it have legs, but thousands of eyes and arms, and even wings.
Through the very process of our evolution, the consciousness,
submerged in Matter, has grown accustomed to depending upon outer organs and antennas to perceive the world; and since we have seen the antennas appear before the master of the antennas, we have childishly concluded that the antennas have created the master, and that without antennas there is no master, no perception of the world. But this is an illusion. Our dependence upon the senses is merely a habit true, a millenary one, but no more inescapable than the flintstone implements of the Chellean man: It is possible for the mind and it would be natural for it, if it could be persuaded to liberate itself from its consent to the domination of matter, to take direct cognizance of the objects of sense without the aid of the sense-organs.91 We can see and feel across continents as if distances did not exist, because distance is an obstacle only to the body and its organs, not to consciousness, which can reach anywhere it wishes in a second, provided it has learned to expand itself; there is another, lighter space where all is together in a flash point. Here we might expect to receive some "recipe" for clairvoyance or ubiquity, but recipes are just another kind of machinery, which is why we are so fond of them. True, hatha yoga can be effective, as can many other kinds of yogic exercises, such as concentrating on a lighted candle (tratak), evolving infallible diets,
doing breathing exercises and choking scientifically (pranayama).
Everything is or can be useful. But all these methods take a long time,
and their scope is limited; moreover, they are always uncertain and sometimes even dangerous when practiced by people insufficiently prepared or purified. It isn't enough to want power, the receptacle should not collapse when it receives it; it is not enough to "see," one 91

The Life Divine, 18:63


should be ready to understand what one sees. In practice, our task will be made much easier if we can only realize that it is consciousness that uses all the methods and exercises, and works through them; we will therefore save a lot of time by going directly to consciousness,
with the added advantage that consciousness does not deceive. Even with a wooden stick as its only method, consciousness would eventually turn this stick into a magic wand, but the merit would not rest with either the stick or the method. Even if consciousness were imprisoned in a dungeon, it would find a way out. Such, in fact, is the whole story of the evolution of consciousness in Matter.
For the integral seeker, the work on the body has been added naturally to his work on the mind and the vital. For convenience, we have described the various levels of being one after another, but everything works as a whole, and each victory, each discovery at any level has its repercussions on all the other levels. When we worked on establishing mental silence, we observed that several mental layers had to be silenced: a thinking mind, which makes up our regular reasoning process; a vital mind, which justifies our desires, feelings and impulses; there is also a far more troublesome physical mind,
whose conquest is as important for physical mastery as the conquest of the thinking mind and the vital mind are for mental and vital mastery. It would indeed seem that the mind is the scapegoat in integral yoga, since it is being hunted down everywhere. Let us note that it has also been a very substantial aid in the course of our evolution, and it remains, for many, an indispensable agent, but any aid, however high or divine, eventually becomes an obstacle, because it is meant for one step only, and we have many steps to take and more than one truth to conquer. If we accepted this simple proposition throughout our entire value system, including the particular ideal we are currently cherishing, we would progress quite rapidly on the path of evolution. This physical mind is the stupidest of all, the vestige in us of the first appearance of Mind in Matter. It is a microscopic,
stubborn, fearful, narrow, and conservative (this was its evolutionary purpose) mind, which sends us ten times to check if the door is locked when we know perfectly well we have locked it, which panics at the slightest scratch and anticipates the worst illnesses the minute something goes wrong, which is unwaveringly skeptical of anything

new and sets up mountains of complications whenever it must change its routine ever so slightly; it just repeats and repeats inside us like a droning old mule. We have all made its acquaintance at one time or another, and it is embarrassing enough that we have to reprimand it,
but it is still there, underneath, muttering on all by itself; only the din of our customary existence keeps us from hearing it. Once the thinking and vital minds have been silenced, however, we do detect its presence, and then we realize how terribly unyielding it is. And it is too stupid to be open to reason. Yet, ultimately, it will have to yield,
because just as the thinking mind is an obstacle to the widening of our mental consciousness and the vital mind is an obstacle to the universalization of our vital consciousness, the physical mind puts up a massive wall against the expansion of our physical consciousness,
an expansion that is the basis of all physical mastery. In addition, it jams all communications and invites all disasters; a fact we should never fail to underscore is that the moment we merely "think" of something or someone, we are instantly in contact (most often unconsciously) with all the vibrations representing this thing or this person, and hence receive all the consequences of these vibrations.
Because of its ingrained fear, the physical mind constantly puts us in contact with the direst possibilities; it always contemplates the worst.
This obsession has little importance in ordinary life, where the activities of the physical mind are lost in the general hubbub, and where we are, in fact, protected by our very lack of receptivity, but when we have worked systematically at fostering transparency within ourselves and at increasing our receptivity, the negative interference caused by the physical mind can become quite a serious, and even perilous, obstacle.
This mental, vital, and physical transparency is the key to a twofold independence. First, an independence from sensations: since the consciousness-force is no longer entangled at all the levels of our being but gathered into a maneuverable beam, as it were, it can be disconnected at will from a particular point from cold, hunger, pain,
etc. Secondly, an independence from the senses: since the consciousness-force is now released from its immediate absorption in our mental, vital and physical activities, it can extend beyond the bodily frame and, through a kind of inner projection, contact things,


beings, and events at a distance. Generally, we have to be in a state of sleep or hypnosis to be able to see at a distance, whether in space or in time, and to be free from the surrounding sensations, but these primitive and cumbersome methods are wholly unnecessary when the mental turmoil has ceased and we control our consciousness.
Consciousness is the only organ.92 It is what feels, sees, and hears.
Sleep and hypnosis are simply very elementary means of removing the veil of the surface mind. And this makes sense: if we are full of the noise of our desires or fears, what else can we really see or hear except the innumerably reflected images of those same desires and fears? Just as the silenced mind and quieted vital become universalized, the clarified physical universalizes itself spontaneously.
We are only prisoners of ourselves; the whole world is waiting at our door, if only we would consent to pull aside the screen of our small constructions. To this capacity for expansion of the consciousness must naturally be added a capacity for concentration, so that the expanded consciousness may silently and quietly focus on the desired object, and become that object. But concentration and expansion are spontaneous consequences of inner silence. In inner silence, the consciousness sees.

Independence from Illnesses Once we are freed from the tension and constant buzz of the thinking mind, from the tyranny and restlessness and endless demands of the vital mind, from the stupidity and fears of the physical mind, we begin to appreciate what the body is without all these exhausting encumbrances, and we discover that it is a marvelous instrument
docile, enduring, and full of unlimited goodwill. The body is the most misunderstood instrument of all, and also the most ill-treated. In this newly acquired clarification of our being, we observe, firstly, that the body is never ill; it only wears out though even this wearing-out is perhaps not inevitable, as we will see, with the supramental yoga. It is not the body that falls ill; it is the consciousness that fails. As we advance in yoga, we see that each time we get sick or succumb to an 92

The Synthesis of Yoga, 21:833


external "accident," it is always the result of unconsciousness, a wrong attitude, or a psychological disorder. These observations are all the more fascinating because the moment we set foot on the path of yoga,
something in us becomes alerted, constantly pointing out our mistakes, indicating the real cause of everything that happens to us,
and leaving nothing in the dark, as if "someone" were taking our search in earnest. Thus we come to witness, at times with amazement,
a perfect correlation between our inner state and the outer circumstances (such as illnesses, for example, or "accidents") that befall us, as if life were no longer unfolding from outside in but from inside out, the inward molding the outward, to the most trivial circumstances; though in fact, nothing is trivial anymore, and everyday life appears as a network filled with signs waiting to be recognized. Everything is connected. The world is a miracle. We may make a childish mistake when we imagine spiritual life to be full of visions and apparitions and "supernatural" phenomena. The Divine is nearer to us than we think, the "miracle" less pompous and more profound than all this primitive imagery. Once we have deciphered one of those little signs that pass us by, or even once seen the imperceptible link that ties all things, we are closer to the great Miracle than if we had touched some heavenly manna. Indeed,
perhaps the real miracle is that the Divine is also natural, but we do not know how to look.
Thus, the seeker will become aware of this reversal of the life current, from the inside out (indeed, since the psychic Master has come out of its confinement); he will read these everyday signs and see that his inner attitude has the power to mold outer circumstances in both directions, good and bad. When we are in a state of harmony and our action conforms to the deeper truth of our being, nothing seems to resist even "impossibilities" dissolve, as if another law came to supersede the "natural" one. (This is actually the true "nature"
emerging from beneath the mental and vital complications.) Then we begin to enjoy a royal freedom. But when there is inner disorder,
whether mental or vital, we notice that this disorder irresistibly invites detrimental outward circumstances, some accident or illness. The reason for this is simple: when something goes wrong within us, we send out a particular type of vibration that automatically elicits and

contacts all other vibrations of the same type, at every level of our being; there is total jamming, and all external circumstances are upset and disrupted. Not only does the negative inner state create chaos, but it also weakens the circumconscious protective envelope mentioned earlier, which means that we are no longer protected by a certain intensity of vibration; we are open, vulnerable for there is nothing like a vibration of disorder to poke holes in our protective envelope, or to disintegrate it and then anything whatsoever can enter. We should also remember that a bad inner state is contagious; associations with certain people always tend to attract accidents or troubles. After we have had the same experi- ence ten times or a hundred times which might be anything from catching a cold to tripping on the stairs to having a serious accident, depending upon our inner state we will finally realize that neither our own self no so-called chance has anything to do with all this, and that the remedy lies not with any drug, but with restoring the true attitude, the inner order in other words, with consciousness. If the seeker is conscious, he can live in the midst of an epidemic or drink all the filth of the Ganges River if he pleases; nothing will touch him, for what could touch the awakened Master? We have isolated bacteria and viruses, but we have not understood that these are only external agents; the illness is not caused by the virus but by the force behind that uses the virus. If we are clear,
all the viruses in the world cannot do anything to us, because our inner force is stronger than that force; the vibration of our being has too high an intensity for that lower vibration to enter. Only like can enter like. Perhaps cancer will be cured or will disappear the way other medieval diseases have, but we still will not have eradicated the forces of illness, which will simply use something else, another agent,
another virus, once their present vehicle has been exposed. Our medical science touches only the surface of things, not the source. The only disease is unconsciousness. At a later stage, when the inner silence is well established and we are capable of perceiving mental and vital vibrations as they enter our circumconscient, we will similarly be able to feel the vibrations of illness and drive them out before they can enter us: If you can become conscious of this environmental self of yours, Sri Aurobindo wrote to a disciple, then you can catch the thought, passion, suggestion or force of illness and

prevent it from entering into you.93
There are two other categories of illness that need mentioning,
which are not directly related to any fault of ours: those that result from subconscious resistance (we will discuss them later with the purification of the subconscient) and those that may be called "yogic illnesses," which result from an uneven development between the higher levels of consciousness and our physical consciousness. For instance, our mental or vital consciousness may widen considerably and receive new intensities, while our physical consciousness still lags behind in old vibratory movements and cannot withstand this increased intensity. This leads to a loss of equilibrium that may bring on illnesses, not through the intrusion of any outer agent, microbe or virus, but through a disruption in the normal relationship among the inner parts of our being; such illnesses may include allergies, colloidal disorders of the blood, and nervous and mental disorders. Here we are touching the problem of matter's receptivity to the higher forces of consciousness, one of the major problems of the supramental yoga.
This is also one of the reasons why Sri Aurobindo and Mother insist so much on the development of our physical body; without it, we may be able to go into ecstasy and soar straight into the Absolute, but we are unable to bring the intensity and plenitude of the Spirit down to our "lower" kingdom the mental, vital, and material realm in order to create a divine life there.

Independence from the Body Thus, consciousness can be independent of the sense organs,
independent of illnesses, and, to a large extent, independent of food and sleep, once it has discovered the inexhaustible reservoir of the great Force of Life; it can even be independent of the body. When the current of consciousness-force in us is sufficiently individualized, we find that we can detach it not only from the senses and the objects of the senses, but also from the body. First in our meditations, which are the primary training ground prior to natural mastery, we observe that 93

Letters on Yoga, 22:314


the consciousness-force becomes particularly homogeneous and compact, and, after freeing itself from the mind and vital, it slowly withdraws from the humming of the body, which becomes very still,
like a transparent and weightless mass taking up no space, something almost nonexistent; breathing subsides and the heartbeat grows fainter; then, suddenly, there is a sharp release, and we find ourselves "elsewhere," outside the body. This is what is called "exteriorization"
in technical language.
There are all kinds of "elsewheres," as many as there are planes of consciousness, and we can go out at one point or another, depending upon where we have focused our consciousness (the universal Mind and universal Vital have already been mentioned), but the most immediate elsewhere, the one that borders on our physical world and resembles it except for a greater intensity, is what Sri Aurobindo calls the subtle physical. This knowledge is as ancient as the world and not unique to Sri Aurobindo's yoga, but it is part of our integral development, preparing us for the day when we leave our body for a longer period in what men ignorantly call "death." To make it clearer,
let us listen to a young disciple describe his experience in the subtle physical, when he left his body for the first time: "I was stretched out on my couch, concentrated, when I suddenly found myself at my friend's house; he was playing music with several others. I could see everything quite clearly, even more clearly than in the physical world,
and I moved very quickly, without obstacle. I stayed there for quite a while, watching; I even tried to draw their attention, but they were not conscious. Then, suddenly, something pulled me, an instinct: 'Now I
must return.' I had the sensation of a sore throat. I remember that in order to get out of their room, which was completely closed except for a small opening near the ceiling, my form seemed to vaporize (I still had a form but it wasn't like regular matter, it was more luminous, less opaque), and I went out like a trail of smoke through the open window. Then I found myself back in my room, near my body, and realized that my head was all crooked, stiff against the pillow, and I
was breathing with difficulty. I tried to reenter my body, but I
couldn't. I got scared. I would enter through the legs, and, having come as far as the knees, I would slip back out. It happened two or three times: the consciousness would rise up, then slip back out again

like a spring. I thought, 'If only I could knock over this stool (there was a small stool under my feet), it would make noise and I would wake up!' But nothing doing. And I was breathing more and more heavily. I was terribly afraid. Suddenly I remembered Mother and I
called out: 'Mother! Mother!' And I found myself back in my body,
wide awake, with a stiff neck."94
Thus, after many cycles of confinement and awakening, after innumerable shocks that force consciousness to remember itself and emerge into the open, then shut itself up again in order to grow under cover, it finally becomes a fully formed individuality, breaks through its outer shell, and asserts its independence. This independence, writes Sri Aurobindo, will come to be so much the normal attitude of the whole being to the physical frame that the latter will feel to us as if something external and detachable like the dress we wear or an instrument we happen to be carrying in our hand. We may even come to feel that the body is in a certain sense non-existent except as a sort of partial expression of our vital force and of our mentality. These experiences are signs that the mind is coming to a right poise regarding the body, that it is exchanging the false viewpoint of the mentality obsessed and captured by physical sensation for the 94

Three comments might be made. First, because of a rather amusing lack of experience this boy was trying to reenter his body "through the legs"; no wonder he had trouble! It is generally through the heart center that one leaves and reenters. One can also go out through the top of the head, but this is scarcely recommended. When yogis leave their bodies for good (what is called iccha-mrityu in India, or willed death), they go out through the top of the head. Secondly, during the exteriorization,
the body grows cold, and the circulation is reduced to a minimum; this temperature drop can even become complete catalepsy with all the outer signs of death,
depending on how "removed" the consciousness is from the physical level. This is an opportunity to verify concretely that when consciousness withdraws, force withdraws, because they are one and the same thing. When we faint, the consciousness withdraws also, because we are unable to withstand certain degrees of intensity, and since we have not built a conscious bridge between our various states of being, this involuntary withdrawal results in a void for us. Finally, we notice that remembering his Master, in this case the Mother, was enough to restore order in the disorder of fear, and to enable the young disciple to make the correct movement for reentering his body. By thinking of Mother, he instantly tuned in to the right vibration, which set everything right. This is, roughly speaking, one of the mechanisms of protection or help from Master to disciple.


viewpoint of the truth of things.95 For the true viewpoint is always that of the Master, the psychic, the spirit in us. Each time we feel an impossibility, a limitation, or a barrier, we can be sure that this represents tomorrow's victory, because without perceiving the obstacle we could not conquer it; we are created to conquer all and live all our dreams, for it is the spirit in us that dreams. In a world where constraints are closing in on us like an iron network, the first of these dreams is perhaps to be able to sail out in the open, unhampered by the body and by boundaries. Then we will no longer need passports;
we will be stateless, the visa-less heirs to all the nations of the world.
Then we will be able to enjoy a marvelous expansion of life and freedom: "O Vastness. . . " says the Rig Veda.

95

The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:328




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