classes ::: Evening_Talks_With_Sri_Aurobindo, A_B_Purani, Integral_Yoga, chapter,
children :::
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Instances, Classes, See Also, Object in Names
Definitions, . Quotes . - . Chapters .


object:2.01 - On Books
book class:Evening Talks With Sri Aurobindo
author class:A B Purani
subject class:Integral Yoga
class:chapter


ON BOOKS AND LETTERSI — On Books
I — On Books

After 1910 when Sri Aurobindo was engrossed in Sadhana he read very few books. But he was in contact with the world through newspapers and magazines. Besides, the disciples living in the Ashram from 1923 used to read books and they brought some of the ideas and opinions from the books to Sri Aurobindo's notice in the evening talks. Here it may be necessary only to state that the initiative in these talks was very often taken by the disciples and that these talks are not complete reviews of the books mentioned. They will be found interesting as revealing a particular side of Sri Aurobindo's personality, — one in which he was speaking freely to disciples with whom he was familiar.
12 SEPTEMBER 1923

Disciple: The Utkal Star has written an article on the 15th of August and the writer points out the absence of Islamic culture in the grand synthesis you have made. I believe the Modern Review also pointed out the same.

Sri Aurobindo: The Mahomedan or Islamic culture hardly gave anything to the world which may be said to be of fundamental importance and typically its own. Islamic culture was mainly borrowed from others. Their mathematics and astronomy and other subjects were derived from India and Greece. It is true they gave some of these things a new turn. But they have not created much. Their philosophy and their religion are very simple and what they call Sufism is largely the result of gnostics who lived in Persia, and they are the logical outcome of that school of thought largely touched by Vedanta.

I have, however, mentioned that Islamic culture contributed the Indo-Saracenic architecture to Indian culture. I do not think it has done anything more in India of cultural value. It gave some new forms to art and poetry. Its political institutions were always semi-barbaric.
10 OCTOBER 1923

The general rule with Sri Aurobindo was that whoever wanted to meet him at Pondicherry should first write to him and only after securing his approval come here to see him. Mr. X came unannounced and wanted to see Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo: This man is quite unfit for taking up this Yoga. I am not going to see him as he has come down here without previous information.

A letter then was sent by X to Sri Aurobindo, to which he replied as follows:

"I do not see those who come without previous information or permission."

"He is not fit to take up this Yoga."

Disciple: He says that he has accepted you as his Guru.

Sri Aurobindo: It is very kind of him! (Laughter)

Disciple: He says he is very poor and has not come to oblige you.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a statement of facts.

Disciple: He says this Yoga is for humanity and so he should be given a chance.

Sri Aurobindo: It may be for humanity but not for him. Besides, that is not the sense of the sentence. He may read The Yoga and its Objects and follow the hints given there.

Disciple: He prays for your Karuna — grace.

Sri Aurobindo: It is only out of Karuna that I do not want to give him this Yoga.

These people have a very crude notion of Yoga. They think it is something like the Guru asking the disciple to repeat the Name, or the Mantra, and then the Guru's Kripa raining down in abundance upon them. All his pleading shows a want of balance and an emotional temperament. If he were in earnest he would have taken my refusal in another fashion. The old Bhakti Yoga seems to have done so much harm. People think that Yoga is very easy and simple.

Disciple: X is very sincere, I don't think he knew about the rule of informing before coming here.

Sri Aurobindo: Sincerity is another matter; but there is no yogic demand in him. He merely got an idea in the mind and some emotion and has run down here.
9 FEBRUARY 1924

Gospel of Swadeshi by D. B. Kalelkar

"Avatar of Swadeshi" and Kalelkar's interpretation of Swadeshi were the subject of talk.

Sri Aurobindo: According to his view, even this "gospel of Swadeshi" is needless. Everybody must produce what he wants and, at the most, inform his neighbour; even that a man who observes strict Swadeshi would not and should not do!

D: I had once a chance of asking Mahatmaji about his using the railways, press, motor-car, telegraph: "How does it all fit in with your opposition to machinery?"

Sri Aurobindo: What did he say?

D: He said, "I am using the machine to fight the machine, as we remove a thorn with a thorn."

Sri Aurobindo: I see. So do the peace-makers say: "We make war in order to end war!" (Laughter)
24 APRIL 1924

Eyeless Sight by Dr. Jules Romains

Dr. Jules Romains demonstrated in Paris that a person with his eyes covered with dough of flour was able to see without using the organ of sight. The book affirms four centres of vision in the body over and above the eyes:

Forehead and nose for seeing colours.

Breast.

Back of the head.

Finger tips.

It appears from the description that the man does not see at once but begins to see after a time. Colour is seen invariably by the nose and by the cheek. Before the sight begins the man sees colours and lights. For small objects he sees the thing dancing and then the sight settles down to the object.

Sri Aurobindo came out with a cutting from a paper about Eyeless Sight. Two articles had been written on the subject. In the first one the writer, as Sri Aurobindo put it, "was wisely foolish", for he characterised the phenomenon as an illusion or due to selfhypnotism etc.

Sri Aurobindo: The second article is better.

The corpuscles in the cells about which he speaks are not the centres of sight. They are general centres of sense-functions and can be used for any purpose of sense-perception. All the senses are everywhere. The ancients knew this truth. One can see from everywhere in the body. In the normal human being the different senses become organised: for example, the eye for seeing. But all the cells are capable of being conscious.

Disciple: But to what is due the phenomenon demonstrated by Dr. Jules Romains?

Sri Aurobindo: In his case it seems to be either a psychic or a psycho-physical phenomenon; because, in the first place, you have to meditate and, secondly, the doctor maintains that sight is all round.

Disciple: But he demands that the coat and the shirt must be removed and that the body must be naked to the waist. This eyeless sight, he says, can see in the dark but not in the light.

Sri Aurobindo: All these ideas are due to Sanskaras — fixed impressions. For instance, you are not able to see with the other parts of the face except the eyes because it is a Sanskara.

Disciple: But his experiment failed in the presence of scientists. And Dr. Romains explained it by saying that the atmosphere there was hostile to his work. He succeeded when he tried again at the house of Anatole France.

Sri Aurobindo: That evidently shows that the power working is either psychic or psycho-physical. This phenomenon is quite possible. In her childhood the Mother was able to see even in the dark and she had developed the power of sight everywhere. She is, even now, able to see from behind and this general sight works more accurately than the physical eyes. It works best when the eyes are closed.

Disciple: I 'saw' Prof. B. from behind my body when he was going away. This power, I then felt, could be developed. Is this psychic sight?

Sri Aurobindo: The psychic vision is between the eye-brows, in front, above the head. In fact not only are all the senses everywhere in the body, but they are even outside the body. You can feel the touch of two different persons and, remaining at a great distance, know how they must be feeling it.

Disciple: Would all these powers come automatically after transformation, or are they to be developed by the sadhak?

Sri Aurobindo: Everything is there, but you have to organise these things. In my case I have to develop each of them. The Power is there and is working but the physical has not the faith and so it has got to work it out.

Disciple: Can it be said that this way of developing each power is part of the general fight with the physical obstacles?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: Is it not dangerous for small Adhars to try to concentrate on these powers, because they may be swallowed by them?

Sri Aurobindo: It may be. I can never understand that stupid fear of acquiring Siddhis — occult powers — which our people are having. Why should everyone be spiritual? Those who want to attain power must do that. I mean if that is the only thing they can do in this life let them do it. H was telling me the same thing this morning. For instance, if a man is capable of writing good poetry why should he be expected to do all things in life? Let one thing be well done. That way the soul develops.

Disciple: But suppose some hostile power gets hold of him?

Sri Aurobindo: That does not matter; one has to take one's chance; risk is always there. The soul develops by undertaking adventures and even stumbling often. Before that you can't hope to win the crown.

It is good to have a certain protection in the beginning and to progress on the spiritual side. But one has to take the risk, reject the lower path and take to the higher truth.

Besides, all these things are necessary for the divine manifestation.

Disciple: Are these things really necessary?

Sri Aurobindo: They are. In society, in politics, in fact in every field progress is like that. That is why a moderate policy is foolish. They believe that by gradually going on they will reach the goal, but that is never the case. You go on to a certain extent and then something comes up and envelops the being. The whole of what you have done is broken up and you have to begin over again.

Disciple: But the physical is simply idiotic.

Disciple: Because it is so, the work becomes interesting.

Sri Aurobindo: Interesting! The vital, you may say, is interesting. But the physical is most idiotically stupid. It is full of Tamas; it wants to go on in its own slow process.

Disciple: The new scientific discoveries which the Westerners are stumbling upon are bound to change their mentality.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course. After the discovery of radium and the theory of light, Science has taken a higher step. Now it can hardly be called materialistic.

Disciple: The phenomenon of eyeless sight reminds me of the case of a man who emitted blue light. The scientists were puzzled and thought that they were hypnotised to see the light. Then they exposed photographic plates and found that the light was being emitted.

Sri Aurobindo (smiling) : All these phenomena — eyeless sight, light-emission or miraculous cures — are psychic and it is absurd to try to explain them away and more absurd to doubt them.

Disciple: There was the reported case of a missionary who cured a blind man. And miraculous cures are also reported from St. Xavier's tomb at Goa.

Sri Aurobindo: Those kinds of phenomena are very common even today. In France at Notre Dame and at Lourdes, lame people are cured. Only, the power that is working there acts very irregularly, some get absolutely cured, while some are not affected. But all those who want to see and be convinced can see them. A friend of the Mother — a lady — was so cured. This working is due to the presence of some psychic power. There are no limits to its capacities. There are authentic cases of people effecting such cures without themselves being conscious of the psychic force working through them.

Disciple: Ramakrishna felt the blows given to a bullock and there were marks of the stripes on his body. Is this action due to the kind of extended sense of which Dr. Jules speaks?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. That kind of story is current about many yogis. It is, of course, due to the psychic sense — which is not limited to the physical body — but the intensity of it is due to something else.
12 JUNE 1924

There was talk about a poem written by Mrs. Maud Sharma, wife of Thakur Dutt Sharma. It was a poem on a "Chair".

Sri Aurobindo: Some of the phrases she used are rather remarkable. There is some poetic capacity in her.

Disciple: Did you read Harin Chattopadhyaya's "Saints Series" recently published?

Sri Aurobindo: I read his Pundalik and Mira Bai. The form of drama does not suit him. It is most undramatic. He should not go in for it.

There was a letter from G. V. Subba Rao containing his correspondence with Gandhiji, V. Hanumantha Rao of Nellore and also his letter to Drummond. In the first letter Mahatmaji said that he had respect for Sri Aurobindo's intellect and that he was open to light from any quarter about Truth and non-violence.

In the second letter he wrote to Subba Rao that Devdas had seen Sri Aurobindo and that he would follow his own light.

He also mentioned in this letter that he knew about Sri Aurobindo from Devdas and C. R. Das.
23 AUGUST 1925

Joan of Arc by George Bernard Shaw.

Sri Aurobindo: These men, Chesterton and G. B. S., try to be clever at any cost. It seems that G. B. S. wants to put in here the idea of evolution.

( After three days)

Sri Aurobindo: I have finished reading Joan of Arc. It is no drama at all. Joan talks like a pushing impertinent peasant girl and Charles VII talks like a school urchin and all the rest talk like London shop-boys except when they talk about high subjects, and then they talk Shaw. There was a certain poetry in Joan's speech, action, etc. But here the whole thing is knocked out and instead you have vulgar modern prose.

In order to write about that age you ought to know about the Roman Catholic Church, feudalism etc. Bernard Shaw has his own views about them and instead of giving a picture of those times he has given his own opinion on them.
4 DECEMBER 1925

There was an article in the Sabarmati by Kishorlal Mashruwala stating: "However great a yogi may be he ought not to say anything against morality."

Sri Aurobindo: What does he mean by 'morality'? So long as you need to be virtuous you have not attained the pure spiritual height where you have not to think whether the action is moral or not. These people hastily conclude that when you ask them to rise above morality, you are asking them to sink below good and evil. That is not at all the case.

Disciple: They believe that a man can advance only by morality, i.e. by remaining moral.

Sri Aurobindo: Nobody denies that. By morality you become more human, but you do not go beyond humanity. Morality has done much good to man, maybe. It has also done much harm.

The question is whether you can rise to something above man by morality. That sort of mental limitation is not conducive to the growth into the Spirit.

Disciple: But they always confuse morality with spirituality.

Sri Aurobindo: Like the Christians to whom there is no difference between morality and spirituality. For instance, take this fast now announced. It is a Christian idea of atonement for sin. All those other reasons which are given make it rather ridiculous.

Indian culture knew the value of morality, and also its limitations. The Upanishads and the Gita are loud with and full of the idea of going beyond morality. For instance, when the Upanishad says: "He does not need to think whether what he is doing is good or bad" — Sadhu, Asadhu. Such a man attains a consciousness in which there is no need to think about morality because the action proceeds from the Truth.

There was talk about Emile Coué's Marvel of Couéism.

Sri Aurobindo: It is so easy to make money in life and yet we don't get any money!

( This remark was the result of his perception that the whole institution of Couéism was being commercialised.)

Disciple: Then that means we don't know how to make money.

Sri Aurobindo: I know how to make money; only, as Coué would say, I have not the 'imagination', or as I would say, I have not the 'will' to do it. I know the easy methods but I prefer to take the more difficult path. That was the main objection of X to myself. He always said that I was impractical because I used to upset all his plans that were most likely to succeed.
14 APRIL — 22 MAY 1926

Cosmic Consciousness by Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke (Madras, 1923).

Précis of the general points discussed.

There are three forms or grades of consciousness:

Simple consciousness which is possessed by the upper half of the animal kingdom. A dog is conscious of things around him.

Self-consciousness. Man is conscious of himself as a distinct entity apart from all the rest of the universe. It is as good as certain that no animal can realise itself in that way.

Man can say: "I know it is true" — and also "I know that I know it is true." Language is the objective side of the phenomenon of which self-consciousness is the subjective.

Cosmic consciousness, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: I know the Western people won't leave aside reason in their dealing with the material sciences, but when they come to Yoga or spiritual experiences they do not seem to keep their heads; they are like children in these things.

For instance, take Dr. Bucke's case. It is evident there has been some experience. It must be the case with many other people in Europe. Immediately they break a little out of their brain-mind they begin to generalise without waiting to see quietly what the experience is about. They do not allow the experience to get settled. If Dr. Bucke had waited and tried to see how what he calls 'cosmic consciousness' comes, what are the conditions of its experience, and what it really is, then he would have found that his generalisation that "the cosmic consciousness must come all of a sudden" is not correct.

Then again it is not necessary that it must come to everyone in that form: "a column of fire"!

If he had waited he would have found that his experience had two elements, the mental and the psychic, to which the vision of fire was due. I do not think that Christ had the same experience or even Edward Carpenter.

When I first got the cosmic consciousness — I call it the passive Brahman — I did not fall into unconsciousness of common things; I was fully conscious on the physical plane. It was at Baroda and it did not go away soon, it did not last only a few moments as Bucke lays down. It lasted for months.... I could see the Higher Consciousness above the mind and I saw that it was that which was reflected in the mind. The world and all people appeared as in a cinema; all these things appeared very small.

What Bucke and some of the other people get is some sense of the Infinite on the mental plane and they begin to think that it is everything.

His whole book is a generalisation from one experience which lasted only a few seconds. One ought not to rush into print with so little.

The division of consciousness into three forms or types is all right in a rough way. But his statement that man has self-consciousness while the animal has not is not quite true. And his argument is: because animals have no articulate speech and because they don't know that they exist, therefore they are not self-conscious. He admits that animals have reasoning power. But it is not true that they have no language. They have some sort of intoned sounds which are like the language of the aborigines and also they have a power of wonderful telepathic communication of impulse.... So, having no articulate language does not imply absence of self-consciousness. Of course, the animals have no intellectual ideas to convey. But they have self-consciousness.

The cosmic consciousness, as he describes it, seems to be the coming down of Light with the intuitive mind. But that is not the whole level of the Higher Consciousness above the mind. There are other truths which are as real as those of which Dr. Bucke speaks.

He got into that higher state and was evidently in exaltation; there must have been some play of the intuitive mind, and the intellect working at great speed. He himself admits that the experience can last for some hours. What he ought to have done is to say to himself: "Let me see whether it can be made normal." It is no use having the cosmic consciousness for a few moments in one's life. And Bucke says that the whole of humanity is going to get it.

If humanity is going to have it, it must be a normal cosmic consciousness. In some cases the experience comes back by itself. One must wait and ask for it and see what it is. In other cases one has to work it out and see whether it can become normal. But these people are soon satisfied.
12 MAY 1926

Ectoplasme et Clairvoyance by Dr. Gustave Geley.

Sri Aurobindo brought the book out from his room and putting it on the table started speaking.

Sri Aurobindo: I tried to read the book. But then I found that it was not necessary to read the whole because I have been able to form an idea about it from the illustrations.

The illustrations are of the lowest vital plane as is evident from the forms which they have thrown out and also from the faces of the mediums. They are most diabolical, what the Christians call 'devilish'.

Disciple: But the book is given the appearance of a scientific work.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not a scientific work. These people, who meddle in these fields of consciousness of which they know nothing, claim to be experts! These forms are created by using the vital force of the mediums themselves. I do not know to what degrading influences these poor mediums are subjecting themselves!

Europe is meddling in these things without knowing what they are. That is the result of a sceptical denial of any higher possibility of spiritual and divine life on the one hand, and a spirit of mere curiosity on the other. If Europe wants something genuine in the spiritual life, it is absolutely necessary for it to throw away all this rubbish.

Disciple: Is it because of its dangers?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, the vital is always a very dangerous plane to open oneself to. It is that which leads one to side-tracks in the spiritual endeavour. Besides, as the writer himself admits, the evidence does not prove anything beyond the fact that supraphysical planes exist. These vital beings can take the substance from the vital plane and also gather stuff from the minds of those present and create a form. It does not prove that they are the persons they claim to be. Not that disembodied spirits don't exist, but this way it can't be proved.

Disciple: Cannot a Yogi do something in this field?

Sri Aurobindo: You can only meddle in this field when you have got some higher power and some real knowledge. Otherwise, you get to it by the wrong end: to get to the vital by the wrong end is the most dangerous thing.

No! If Europe follows this line, it will create a black bar across any descent of the higher Light.

Disciple: Would these phenomena occur if a Yogi — a true Yogi — was present?

Sri Aurobindo: Let anyone who has the true Light be present in these séances and you will see that none of these phenomena will take place. These forces would simply run away.

Scepticism and agnosticism are better than these things. Though they are negative and in opposition they have something which can be turned into a substance of Light. But these forces are positively perverse and in opposition, — they are against the Truth.

No opening must be given to these forces. There is an imposition of ignorance and scepticism which has been introduced or interposed so that the hostile vital world may not break the barrier easily, except in stray cases.

Disciple: But why is there no spiritual opening in Europe? and why do those who are spiritual there not protest against this?

Sri Aurobindo: Why should they?

Disciple: Could one say that there is no spirituality in Europe?

Sri Aurobindo: You mean no spiritual endeavour? It will come in time. In that case these vital forces have to work through the usual psychological opening which the normal man gives: they have to work through desires, impulses, etc. But this kind of work in the occult is an effort on the part of the lower vital forces to break the barrier and gain possession of the physical plane. If they could succeed they would retard the whole course of evolution and the destiny of the race. Therefore, throwing the doors of consciousness open to them, as these people do, is the most dangerous thing. Of course, at a certain point, the Higher Power would certainly intervene and throw them away.

Disciple: The book claims to reveal the future by showing the forms of what is going to happen.

Sri Aurobindo: The sight, the subtle sight, of forms of the future is not knowledge. It is a limited development which allows one to have some knowledge. But the higher knowledge is different; in the vital and the mental the knowledge attained is not the same.

Disciple: This kind of spiritism gives one the knowledge of the future; and that attracts men.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not necessary to know the future. It is better that I should have the spiritual consciousness than know the future.

Disciple: Could one apply the method of science to this field?

Sri Aurobindo: The scientific method is fruitless as applied to these occult subjects or even to life. Dr. J. C. Bose has shown that there is a nervous response in the plants. But nervous response is not vital force. It does not prove the existence of vital force. Vital force is like a pianist who is invisible. You can only see the mechanism of the piano and the playing but not the player.

Also you should not apply the standards which are valid in a higher field to a field of action below. You falsify the knowledge if you do that. It is like trying to prove the existence of God or of the Spirit, by physical means. One can't prove it because it is not a physical thing.

This book only says, "There are some things supraphysical." That is all right. But it does not prove what the author claims.

Disciple: There are some in India who want to try this spiritism here.

Sri Aurobindo: It would only result in bringing those lower forces here. Europe at least is protected by a certain stolidity of mind. The Europeans can develop clairvoyance — it is already there. One can develop such faculties without calling in the aid of these perverse spirits. What is needed is a change in the angle of vision towards spiritualism. Real spiritualism is not ideas about the Spirit or mentalised spiritual knowledge. Also men must lessen their curiosity in these subjects.

Disciple: In explaining life or personality modern science tries to explain everything by the external, i.e., by heredity, by the gland, the nerve, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: In these psychological fields I must study myself and find out the truth. But if science says that everything is glands and nerves etc. then I have to do nothing. I admit glands may have something to say in the matter of life or personality but I say it is very minute. About reaction in the physical my experience is that one has to make the cells conscious, — they again forget and become unconscious, one has to make them conscious time and again.
19 MAY 1926

There was a discussion about Stephan Ossowiecki's book dealing with clairvoyance, telekinesis, seeing different colours, ectoplasmic substance, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: Is he conscious of how and what he is doing, that is the question. If he is not conscious then the action must be mediumistic.

Disciple: How is he able to move an object while remaining at a distance? And how is he able to leave his physical body and with his vital body make himself felt somewhere else?

Sri Aurobindo: Tremendous vital force is necessary to move an object at a distance.

The Mother had such an experience in Algeria when she was there. She left her body and made herself felt to her friends in Paris where she signed her name and even moved an object. At another time she moved up and down a train in her vital body and saw everything.

The Slavs as a race are psychically more sensitive but generally they do not control these occult forces. The Jews, having a longstanding tradition about these powers, seem to know the way of mastering them.

Théon, the Mother's first teacher, had great powers and knew how to use them. Sometimes these powers are gifts.

When one leaves the physical being and goes into the vital world he must know how to protect himself or someone must protect him.

Disciple: Do not space and time exist on the vital plane?

Sri Aurobindo: The vital plane has its own time and space. There is a relation between the physical and the vital planes. There is an Infinite with extension and an Infinite without extension. One creates space and time and the other is caitanya ghana,condensed or self-gathered Infinite.

Disciple: Can an injury in the vital transfer itself to the physical?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, an injury to the vital easily goes through to the physical.

Disciple: Can the vital being get fatigued?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally the vital being does not get fatigued, if you can draw the force from the universal vital or from Above.

Disciple: They say that certain substances like incense, and certain sounds like that of a conch, and objects like a sword can prevent the Asuric forces from acting.

Sri Aurobindo: All these are not effective in themselves, but they produce an influence by the power you put into them. In the case of incense, by the power of Agni a psychic influence is produced which these vital beings do not like, but a powerful Asura would not be influenced by sound.
11 JUNE 1926

On Einstein's Theory

Disciple: According to Einstein's theory, although there is a formed independent Reality, it is quite different from what we know about it. Observed Matter and the laws of the physical sciences exist only by our mind. It is all a working in a circle. Our mind defines Matter in order to deal with what exists; it observes conservation of Matter, but that is because the mind is such that in order to observe Reality it must posit conservation first. Time and Space also, in the new physics, seem to be our mind's formations of something which is not divisible or separable into time and space.

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by Mind? You try to appropriate it to yourself. But really there is no my mind or your mind — but Mind or rather movement of Mind. Mind is universal, even the animal has got it. We can only speak of human mind which is a particular organisation of the general principle of Mind. One can speak of ones own mind for the sake of convenience, that is to say, for practical purposes.

Disciple: What then, makes the difference between individuals?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no fundamental difference. The difference is in detail, in the development, evolution and organisation of forces. For instance, I have, by virtue of my past evolution, developed and organised certain forces in me, but the principle is the same.

The human mind in dealing with the universe has to deal with certain relations of objects and rely upon the senses and other instruments and therefore it cannot be sure of what it receives of the universe and the truth of the reality that corresponds to it. This is so because, first of all, the instruments, that is, the senses, are imperfect. Even his reason and the will to know do not give man the knowledge of the Truth; Reason is mainly useful for practical purposes because it enables man to deal with universal facts as they are organised now. That was the view which Bergson took. "Reason," he said, "is an instrument of action, not of knowledge." It is organised knowledge directed to action. When you have taken up a position intuitively, reason comes in afterwards and supplies you with the chain of justification.

Take for consideration a law: what do you mean by a law? It means that under certain conditions the same movement of forces always recurs. It depends on the human mind, — the condition of mental consciousness. But suppose the consciousness changes, then the law also is bound to change and it would be seen from quite a different position. So, all the laws are relative. That seems to be the truth, from our point of view, behind Einsteins theory.

All these ideas about the universe are based on the assumption that the Infinite can organise a universe only on these particular lines with which mankind is at present familiar. But that is purely an assumption.

Disciple: There is a new standpoint reached by Einstein's theory that the laws of the physical universe are related to the law of numbers and as this law seems absolute to our mind, the laws of the physical world are also absolute. They cannot be otherwise. If the law of numbers is different in another universe, or on another plane, then the laws of that world would be different.

It was thought once that laws are restrictions placed by Nature upon infinite possibilities; e.g. a stone has to fall down in a straight line only; it could not take any other course. But now it is seen that this idea of restriction is an imposition from our mind. There is no such thing.

Sri Aurobindo: If your mind is in search of the Absolute then it is a vain search. First of all, it is a question whether there is any reality corresponding to what the mere mind formulates as the Absolute.

Secondly, even if such an Absolute or Reality exists it is doubtful whether you are going to reach it.

Thirdly, even if you could realise it, I don't think it would matter very much.

There are, beyond mind, three Absolutes — the Ananda, the Chit-Tapas, that is, the Consciousness and Power aspect, and the Sat, the Being. These three really are Absolute, Infinite and One.

But when you begin to deal with the movements of Ananda, movements of Consciousness and Force in manifestation here then you have to distinguish and differentiate between high and low, true and false movements.

Now with regard to the law of numbers, it merely states the organisation of the physical part of the universe and even there it gives knowledge of only a part. But, there is not merely the quantitative law of formation, but also a qualitative law which is more important than the quantitative. These laws of Nature you call absolute. But suppose I bring the yogic force into play and am able to overcome the law of gravitation, that is, bring about levitation, then is it not breaking the absolute law?

Disciple: But then another force, quite different from the purely physical, enters into play. If the laws of the physical are not dependable then what is the use of this mental knowledge?

Sri Aurobindo: It is very useful. It is even necessary. It enables man to deal with physical facts and establishes his control over physical phenomena.

Disciple: But that control is not perfect. Another question is whether the scientists would come to believe or accept that the whole truth cannot be attained by mind, or would they turn sceptics like the positivists? Could they come to believe in the possibility of higher knowledge by mysticism?

Sri Aurobindo: Never mind what they accept or don't accept, but the control which science gives is a real control. The knowledge science gives, as I said, is not only useful but is even necessary. The main concern of the scientist is with physical phenomena, — he observes them, he studies the conditions, makes experiments and then deduces the laws.

Disciple: Can one study the planes of consciousness in the scientific way?

Sri Aurobindo: I already spoke one day about occultism which deals with the knowledge of the forces of those planes and the way of mastering them.

Even in Yoga we have to do the same. We have to find out the right Dharma, the right way of functioning, of movement of forces. Not merely the law which is mechanical, but the Dharma of the movement of forces. An ordinary law merely means an equilibrium established by Nature; it means a balance of forces. It is merely a groove in which Nature is accustomed to work in order to produce certain results. But, if you change the consciousness, then the groove also is bound to change. For instance, I observe the forces on the vital plane, I see what they are, and what they intend. If they are hostile they attack me. Then I have to find out how they shall not attack me.

I put forth some force and see how they react; I have also to see how they would react if I put forth the force in a different way.

Even in knowing physical phenomena, the yogi's way of knowing is different from that of the scientist. For instance, when I light a match I do not know the chemical composition of the match, and how it burns when struck. But I feel and know beforehand whether it will light or not, or whether it will do the work intended of it, and that is enough for me. I know it because I am in contact with the force that is in it, the Sat and the Chit in movement there.

The yogi's way of dealing with these physical forces is also different from that of the scientist. Take, for instance, the fire that broke out in Tokyo. What the scientist would do is to multiply means and organise devices to prevent and put out the fire. What the Yogi would do in the same case is that he would feel the spirit of fire approaching and, putting forth his force, he would be able to prevent the fire from breaking out in his vicinity.

These dealings are with quite different orders of facts.

Disciple: There are some people who claim, or pretend, to know the result of a lottery. Cagliostro was such a person, and tradition says that his claim was valid. Is it done by the same way of knowing as in the case of the match-stick?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes.

Disciple: But I know of cases where the man used to put somebody into a clairvoyant state by hypnotism and then know the number that was going to succeed in a speculation. But whenever he had a desire to gain for himself he always failed.

Sri Aurobindo: That was bound to influence the working of forces, because he was not passive. If you remain passive, supposing that you are open to the plane in question, you could get the right number. It is not a moral question, it is a question of disturbing the proper working of a process.

Disciple: Some of the great yogis while dealing with these lower forces feel that they have come down from their spiritual height and have lost some ground. Why do they feel like that?

Sri Aurobindo: Generally the yogis of the traditional school wanted to get away from Nature into a kind of Absolute, either of Sat or Chit or of Ananda. So long as they remained in that experience they felt they were in a high spiritual condition. But they hardly cared to organise anything on the lower planes. So whenever they had to deal with the forces of Nature they had to come down and meet them on the same level. As they came down they felt they had lost their high spiritual condition.

Disciple: It was probably because of this that they were against the use of spiritual power.

Sri Aurobindo: In our Yoga there are two movements of Nature: one is the movement of light and knowledge and the other is the movement of force or will. Generally, it is the movement of knowledge that comes first and is more perfect than the movement of force and action. In the beginning these two movements are separate, and in fact, the will is more effective when the knowledge is shut out.

Disciple: How is it possible for knowledge to be ineffective or less effective?

Sri Aurobindo: I may have the correct knowledge that an accident will happen, but I may not have the power to prevent it from happening.

As one develops the yogic life these two movements approach each other and in the Supermind they are two aspects of the same Truth. The light of knowledge carries in it effective power and the will becomes more and more enlightened in its action. That is why we speak of more and more luminous action and more and more effective knowledge.

Disciple: Why do the lower forces attack the yogi?

Sri Aurobindo: In order to bring him down to the lower level, so as to prevent him from ascending to the higher levels of consciousness and organising anything there. When I go up in consciousness and try to organise something above, these forces come and attack me and I have to come down and meet them. There is some kind of organisation of the Higher Power here in the lower nature with which I have to meet them. For instance, it is possible to prevent people from getting ill, and this organisation is workable in practice and sufficient for us to go on with. But it is not what has got to be done, it is not the highest nor the perfect movement.

It is well known that once you come down in consciousness you find it difficult to go up again. There are two ways of meeting these attacks of the lower forces: (1) Either you have to remain perfectly calm and allow the Higher Power to protect you if it likes, or, (2) you have to come down and fight them with your forces.

Disciple: Is it not true that generally knowledge comes to the sadhak before power?

Sri Aurobindo: No, not necessarily.

Disciple: Even the forces and their attacks are, perhaps, like the working of the left hand of God; it helps the yogi to rise higher. With one hand He holds him up and with the other gives him a slap.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is so. Even what are called hostile forces have to be known and seen as the working of God. If you see what is pushing them from behind you find it is not the hostile force but the divine Power.

But it is very dangerous to accept everything as the working of the Divine, saying, "All is the working of God," like K who says evil and good are both equal. Everything is, in the last analysis, the working of the Divine, but you have not therefore to accept everything. It may not matter very much so long as you are on the mental plane, but on the vital plane if you accept everything as the working of the Divine you are sure to fall. It is a very dangerous movement because the sadhak may justify the play of lower impulses in him on the ground that they have a purpose to serve.

When one knows the hostile forces also as the working of the Divine, the left hand of God, then the movement of exhaustion of these forces is very quick.

Disciple: Was the principle of Varna Marga of Tantra similar to this idea of conquering hostile forces by taking them as the movement of the Divine?

Sri Aurobindo: I have no direct knowledge of the Tantric Sadhana. But most probably theTantrics tried to apply the truth that they saw on some other plane to the physical plane and in doing so nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand fell.

Disciple: Is it not that the movement of meeting the lower forces with one's own power is comparatively inferior? The higher movement would be that the Truth must act direct from Above. Is it not true that the Power becomes more and more impersonal?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no question of Personal or Impersonal in the action of the Truth. It may act through the individual, that is, use him as the channel. Then it may seem Personal. It may even seem to work for what to others would appear personal ends, or for the benefit of an individual. It does not matter so long as it is the Truth that acts.
22 JUNE 1926

Patanjali's Raja Yoga.

There are many persons who believe that 'Yoga' means the Raja Yoga of Patanjali. His Sutras, aphorisms, are well known. It is a scientific method which resorts to:

Physico-vital processes depending on Pranayama and Asanas taken from Hatha Yoga.

Psycho-vital and psycho-mental processes in a gradually rising series: pratyāhāra, dhyāna, dharaṇa and samādhi.

Even though the Gita gave currency to quite a different idea of Yoga and even of Samadhi, the popular mind in India has believed that Yoga means Raja Yoga, in most cases at least. It is apparent that Sri Aurobindo's Yoga is quite different from the Raja Yoga of Patanjali. It does not take the mental consciousness and its condition as the constant point of reference; for, its aim is not to secure a mental state which might reflect the Infinite but to rise above the mind. Besides, it adds the process of descent of the Supramental Consciousness into human nature which necessitates a complete transformation of the ignorant human nature into the divine: it transforms the aparā prakṛti into the parā prakṛti.

Sri Aurobindo: The aim of Patanjali was to rise to a higher consciousness. He proposed to do it by replacing the general Rajasic movements of nature by the Sattwic. There was no idea of practising morality in it, or of ethics. Besides, Yama and Niyama were never the aim of his efforts; the aim was to rise above the ordinary consciousness and even his idea of Samyama and Nigraha was not dictated by morality. He wanted to gather power for a spiritual purpose and so he discouraged the spending away of forces in the ordinary way.
31 AUGUST 1926

Disciple: There is a difficulty with regard to Time and Space: they are always taken together as if they were inseparable, but space is reversible for man while time is not.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not?

Disciple: One can go back in space but one can't go back in time, physically.

Sri Aurobindo: Because time is not a physical entity, it is supra-physical. It is made of subtle elements and so you can go back only in the subtle way.

Disciple: Space is three-dimensional. The question is: Cannot time have two dimensions, since time for us is in a line?

Sri Aurobindo: Time represents itself to us as movement or rather succession; it is dynamic.

Disciple: Can it have two dimensions?

Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by that?

Disciple: It is very difficult to imagine two dimensions of time.

Sri Aurobindo: You can say that on a plane higher than the mind Time becomes static, — that the past, present and future appear in a line without a break and are static.

Disciple: What is Time?

Sri Aurobindo: 8-30 p.m. (Laughter) I have never bothered myself with these mental definitions. What difference is it going to make to you if you know the definition?

Disciple: But space is something material.

Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be material?

Disciple: Only matter occupies space, consciousness cannot occupy space.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not? How is it that you occupy space? You have a consciousness!

Disciple: But such things like mind etc. do not occupy space.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know? and what is space?

Disciple: Space is the point of intersection of two points.

Sri Aurobindo: Why should it be always material ? When you feel angry, for instance, you also get a disturbance in the physical nerves. It occupies space.

Disciple: But that is not my consciousness; it is only the reaction of anger, not myself.

Sri Aurobindo: That is because it does not suit your argument! How do you know what is your consciousness? What do you understand by consciousness?

Disciple:"I think", "I feel" — that is consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not your consciousness, — that is the result of your consciousness. Do you think consciousness is a mere abstraction so that it exists nowhere?

In a way, you can say that everything exists in consciousness, even space, etc. In fact, everything exists in consciousness and it exists nowhere outside of it. Then you come to Shankara's position: Everything, therefore, is Maya — illusion. That is the most logical conclusion unless you admit, like the materialists, that everything comes from Matter.

Disciple: Well, the conventional idea is that.

Sri Aurobindo: What have you to do with conventions? You have to see the Truth, never mind what people believe. You will find that thought, feeling, etc. take place in a certain space which, of course, is not physical space. It is something like the Ether which pervades everything.

The question may be asked: How far does space extend? You go from earth to the interstellar region, and then? Do you think there is no other kind of space? To my mind Space is an extension of Consciousness.

Disciple: But extension is a property of Matter.

Sri Aurobindo: Do you mean to say that when I get the experience of wide, extended consciousness, my consciousness becomes material?

Disciple: No. But Matter has extension.

Sri Aurobindo: That is what your mind tells you!

Disciple: That is what we see.

Sri Aurobindo: How do you see? Only through your mind, is it not? You can only say that these things — like Matter, etc. — represent themselves in this way to the human mind. And what is Time, when you come to deal with subtler things? It is not a mere abstraction; it is a force, you can say it is the action of a force. It acts and produces effects by itself without any other factor.

Time, you can say, is consciousness in action working in eternity and space is consciousness as being in self-extension.

Disciple: Why are the hostile Vital Powers mistaken for Gods?

Sri Aurobindo: They represent themselves so to the vital being and it is easy to mistake them for true Gods, because the vital being in man lends itself easily to such deceptions. The second reason is that they satisfy, or promise to satisfy, desires of the vital being of man, or if there is vanity they pander to it.

Disciple: In that case it seems that many of the Gods worshipped by men are vital gods.

Sri Aurobindo: I think so; many of the people who get possessed by 'Kali' and such other 'Gods' are only possessed by these vital beings and much of the worship offered to them in the temples goes to these vital beings.

Disciple: Then it is dangerous to worship these Gods.

Sri Aurobindo: If you mean 'spiritually' dangerous, yes.

Disciple: Do the true Gods also harm men?

Sri Aurobindo: Not knowingly. That is to say, they have no himsā-vṛtti — harming impulse. But if a man goes and butts against the Gods then he knocks his head. But no God harms intentionally. It is you who go to get your head broken. It is your folly and stupidity which is responsible for the knocks.

Disciple: The Gods do not care whether a man is killed or not.

Sri Aurobindo: Not in the human, sentimental way. They go on doing their work and if man becomes happy or unhappy, or rich, or poor — they do not care. Do you think that if the Gods were eager to bring about merely human happiness there would be so much misery left in the world? The Gods are merciful because the Divine is merciful.

Disciple: It seems that the Devil is powerful in life.

Sri Aurobindo: You think the Gods are weaker than the devils and they can't destroy the devils? They are merciful and good because the Divine is merciful and good but it does not mean they have no power. They simply go on doing their work with their eyes on the Eternal Law of Truth. To them it is that which matters and nothing else.

Disciple: Are they very busy?

Sri Aurobindo: Not 'busy' in the human sense. They are eternally engaged in doing their work, — but not 'busy'.
15 JANUARY 1939

Dr. R came today and in the course of his talk he said: "Medicines, after all, are not of much value. It is something else that effects the cure." Then Dr. R went away.

Sri Aurobindo: A doctor known to the Mother used to say that it is the doctor that heals, not the medicines. It is chiefly the healing power that works; if it is there then medicines lend their properties to the healing power.

Disciple: The ancients perhaps recognised it as the vital force.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. Even now in some French universities like Montpellier, I hear, they admit the working of this vital force. They seem to have preserved the old tradition coming down from their contact with Spain; Spain got it from Asia when it came under the Arab influence.

Disciple: The same theory may come back to us now.

Sri Aurobindo: At one time the physical sciences claimed to explain everything. But now they seem to realise that Science cannot explain everything. So, they turn round and say: "It is not our business to explain."

Disciple: They have come to admit that the law of causality which had no exception is, now, not without exception. In certain cases the cause cannot be determined because in trying to determine the cause one would be obliged to meddle with the process. This is called indeterminism.

Sri Aurobindo: They can also say that Gods thoughts are indeterminable!

Disciple: There are some scientists who are trying to prove the existence of spiritual and supra-physical truths by science.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a futile effort. You cannot found metaphysics on science. The whole basis of your thought will tumble every time science changes.

Disciple: Can it not be said that there is something in philosophy which corresponds to the truth of science?

Sri Aurobindo: No; all you can say is that certain conclusions of metaphysics agree and correspond to certain conclusions of science.

Disciple: The Continental scientists have refused to build a philosophy of science. They say that it is not their business to explain, but to lay bare the process. Eddington in his Gifford Lectures (1934) said that ultimately it is the human mind, the subjective element, which accepts one conclusion out of a number of possible conclusions. Scientific conclusion does not always depend upon objective reality but upon subjective interpretation. For example, 8 x 2 is equal to 16 and not 61 — it is the mind that accepts this truth.

Sri Aurobindo: In this case it is the accumulated experience or, you may say, invariable experience, that gives the sense of certainty.

Disciple: Scientists study the rainbow and find that it is caused by the difference in the wave-lengths of light and they might say that is the reality of the rainbow. But when the poet exclaims, "My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky," we have no right to say that the knowledge or experience of the scientist is right and that of the poet wrong.

Sri Aurobindo: In fact, the rainbow exists for neither. Only the scientist gets excited over the process, while the poet is excited over the result of the process.

Disciple: Did you read Spengler's Decline of the West?

Sri Aurobindo: I have not read the book. What does he say?

Disciple: It is a very encyclopaedic work. But there emerge a few main ideas: e.g. Spengler says that Time is not a neutral entity, it has got a direction, a tendency — something like a tension. It tends to produce certain events. It points to a destiny, to something towards which the sum of forces seems to lead inevitably.

On the data of human history he believes that there have been cycles in the life of the human race when cultures have arisen, reached a zenith and then declined. From a study of these it is possible to predict the decline of human cultures. European culture at present is full of these symptoms of decline and therefore it is bound to decline. The signs of this decline are the rise of big cities, impoverishment of the countryside, capitalism, etc.

He says that to classify history as Primitive, Mediaeval and Modern is not correct. We must study universal history and that too impersonally. The mathematical discoveries that are seen in a particular culture are organically connected with that culture. The Greeks, for instance, could never have arrived at the conception of the 'series' — regularly increasing or decreasing numbers leading to infinite number. The 'series-idea' is only possible in modern culture.

He even maintains that even if you grant that Napoleon's rise could have been prevented by some causes, still the results that came as a consequence of Napoleon's career would have followed inevitably because they were destined.

Sri Aurobindo: I don't quite understand. Big cities have always existed. And even granting that there is destiny, why could it not be changed? He says about Napoleon that the results of his rise would have followed inevitably. It is a very debatable proposition. I believe the results would have materially varied. If Napoleon had not come at that time European powers would have crushed the French democracy. Napoleon stabilised the Revolution, so that the world got the ideal of Democracy. But if he had not been there it would have been delayed by two or three centuries, perhaps.

As to destiny, what do you mean by destiny? It is a word and men are easily deceived by words. Is destiny a working of inert, blind, material forces? In that case, there is no room for choice, you have to end by accepting Shankara's Mayavada, or else rank materialism.

But if you mean by destiny that there is a will at work in the universe then a choice in action becomes possible.

And when he speaks of cycles there is some truth in the idea, but it is not possible to make a rigid rule about the recurrence of the cycles. These cycles are plastic and need not be all of the same duration. In the Aryan Path Mr. Morris has written an article full of study of facts and historical data in which he tries to show that human history has always run in a cycle of five hundred years. He even believes that there are Mahatmas who manage this world!

I believe the extension of mathematical numbers to infinity was well known in India long long ago.

(After a long pause) No. In a philosopher it is not the process of reasoning that is important; for he blinds himself to everything else in order to arrive at his conclusion. Therefore, what you have to do is to take his conclusions and in considering them you should accept the essentials and not the words or the unessentials. For instance, there is some truth in Spengler's idea of destiny, as also in his idea of cycles of human history. All the rest of what he says is not material to us.

What is destiny? Evidently, it can't be the will of the individual. Then you have to accept that it is the working out of a cosmic will. Then the question is whether the Cosmic Will is free or is bound? If it is free it is no longer a blind determinism; and even when you find there is no 'progress', yet that Will is working itself out in evolution.

If on the other hand you accept that the Cosmic Will is bound then the question is: Bound by whom? and by what?

About the idea of the cycle: it means that there is a curve in the movement of Nature that seems to repeat itself. But that too is not to be taken too rigidly. It is something that answers the need of evolution and can vary.

Disciple: Probably something in the man's mind has already accepted the conclusions unknown to him and it is by his reasoning that he sets them out.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, perhaps something unknown to the surface consciousness. There, again, the human ego comes in. It is so limited that it thinks that the contribution it brings to human thought is the only truth, and all others that differ or conflict with it are false.

We can turn round and say that he was destined to think as he thought and thus make his contribution to human progress. But it is easy to see that the process of evolution is universal and that human evolution cannot be bound down to a set of ideas of philosophy or rules of practice. No epoch, no individual, no group has the monopoly of Truth. It is the same with the religions also.

Disciple: I don't think such a wide view is possible unless man reaches the Universal Mind.

Sri Aurobindo: Not necessarily. One can see that much while remaining human.

Disciple: Wells speaks of something similar, I believe, when he says that all knowledge must now become 'human'.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a different matter. He means 'internationalism'. All sciences are international and most of the literature now-a-days tends to be international.

But what does Spengler say about the future after the decline of Europe?

Disciple: He dismisses China and India as countries whose cultures are useless now.

Sri Aurobindo: Then you have the Arabs!

Disciple: Not even the Arabs because they have already declined and are effete.

Sri Aurobindo: Then your only hope is Africa. The Abyssinians! (Laughter)

Disciple: I think it is in the Americans and the Africans!! (Laughter)

Disciple: No, the Americans are gone with the Europeans. So we have only the Africans to save us!

Disciple: It is very curious that Spengler misses the fact that there can be national resurgence and reawakening.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, take, for instance, China. China has cities from most ancient times. It is a peculiar race always disturbed and always the same! If you study Chinese history one thousand years back, you will find they were in disturbance and yet they had their culture.

The Tartar king who tried to destroy their culture by burning their books did not succeed. I would not be surprised if, after the present turmoil, two thousand years hence you find them what they are today. That is the character of the race.

When you follow the course of history you may find that there is a certain destiny which represents the sum of physical forces; that is one destiny. And you find that when that tends to go round and round in an infinite circuit then there is a tendency which seems inevitable in movement.

But the question is: Are physical forces the only determinants of destiny? Or, is there anything else? Is there something more than the physical that can intervene and influence the course of the movement ?

We find that there have been such inrushes of forces in history and the action of such an inrush has been to change the destiny indicated by the physical forces; it has even changed the course of human history. As an example, take the rise of the Arabs; a small uncivilized race, living in an arid desert, suddenly rises up and in fifty years spreads from Spain to Asia and completely changes the course of history. That is an inrush of forces.

Disciple: There are thinkers — among them Shaw and Emerson — who believe that man has not made substantial progress in his powers of reasoning since the Greeks.

Sri Aurobindo: It is quite true. Of course, you have today a vaster field and more ample material than the Greeks had; but the present-day mind is not superior to the Greek mind in its handling of its material.

Disciple: Writing about Plato, Emerson says that he is the epitome of the European mind for the last 2000 years.

Sri Aurobindo: It is true; the European mind got everything from and owes everything to the Greeks. Every branch of knowledge in which human curiosity could be interested has been given to Europe by the Greeks.

The Roman could fight and legislate, he could keep the states together, but he made the Greek think for him. Of course, the Greek also could fight but not always so well. The Roman thinkers, Cicero, Seneca, Horace, all owe their philosophy to the Greeks.

That, again, is another illustration of what I was speaking of as the inrush of forces. Consider a small race like the Greeks living on a small projecting tongue of land: this race was able to build up a culture that has given everything essential to your modern European culture and that in a span of 200 to 300 years only!

Disciple: And the number of artists they produced was remarkable.

Sri Aurobindo: They had a sense of beauty. The one thing that modern Europe has not assimilated from the Greeks is the sense of beauty. One can't say the modern European culture is beautifull

The same can be said of ancient India; it had beauty, much of which it has since lost. And now we are fast losing more and more of it under the European influence.

It is true that the Greeks did not create everything, they received many elements from Egypt, Crete and Asia.

And the setback to the human mind in Europe is amazing. As I said, no one set of ideas can monopolise Truth. From that point of view all these efforts of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin to confine the human mind in a narrow circle of ideas are so absurd!

We had thought, during the last years of the 19th century, that the human mind had reached a certain level of intelligence and that it would have to be satisfied before any idea could find acceptance. But it seems one can't rely on it. We find Nazi ideas being accepted; fifty years back it would have been impossible to predict their acceptance. Then again, the intellectuals have gone down almost without fighting. The ease with which even the best intellectuals accept psycho-analysis and Freud's ideas is surprising.

Disciple: Some of the intellectuals even preach the Nazi gospel. If psycho-analysis is a science many who believe in it do not see that the subconscient or the inconscient has no scientific foundation. Now they seem to believe anything that is uncommon.

Sri Aurobindo: These Nazi ideas are infra-rational; they are not at all rational. That is why they call them inspirations, and they turn everything into falsehood. The infra-rational also has a truth; you can't know the world unless you know the infra-rational, it is necessary for perfect understanding.

Disciple: You mean by the infra-rational all that man has inherited from the animal?

Sri Aurobindo: Man has been abusing the animal for nothing. The infra-rational is not merely the Animal — the Pashu, it includes the Rakshasa and the Asura.

Man has been always speaking of the animal in a superior way. But take for instance, the dog. Faithfulness and love are quite universal among dogs. But even when those qualities are found in some men you can't say the same of mankind.

Disciple: A friend told me that he was surprised to find that the cow in India is so mild and docile. In England, it seems, it attacks men.

Sri Aurobindo: Most animals kill only for food; there are very few animals that are ferocious. There was a variety of maneless lions in America that would have been friendly to man. Of course, it wanted to live and therefore used to kill animals. But the Americans have been killing it, — they have nearly exterminated it.

In Africa they had to legislate to prevent extermination of some animals. So, you can't say that man kills when he is compelled.

This is not to say that man has not made progress. It is true that the philosopher of today is not superior to Plato but there are many who can philosophise today. Also there are many more today who can understand philosophy than in the time of Plato.
17 JANUARY 1939

The Vishnu Purana

Disciple: Are the incidents related in the Purana about Krishna's life psychic representations created by the poet, or do they correspond to facts that had occurred in his life on earth?

Sri Aurobindo: From the reading itself of the Purana you can know whether the killing of the Asura is a physical fact or not. You can't take all literally, — in the physical sense. There is a mixture of facts, tradition, psychic experience as well as history.

The poet is not writing history, he is writing only poetry: he may have got it from the psychic intuitive plane or from his imagination, from the psycho-mental plane or from any other.

What on earth does it matter whether Krishna lived on the physical plane or not? If his experience is real on the psychic and spiritual plane, it is all that matters. As long as you find Krishna as a divine Power on the psychic and spiritual plane, his life on the physical plane does not matter. He is true, he is real. The physical is only a shadow of the psychic.

Disciple: I find the Vishnu Purana very fine.

Sri Aurobindo: In the Vishnu Purana all the aspects of a Purana are nicely described. It is one of the Puranas I have gone through carefully. I wonder how it has escaped the general notice: it is magnificent poetry.

There is a very fine and humourous passage in which a disciple asks the Guru whether the king is riding the elephant, or the elephant the king?

Disciple: The king must be Ramamurthy if the elephant was on him! Besides, this may be the theory of relativity in embryo.

Sri Aurobindo: The method of reply adopted by the Guru is original. He jumps upon the shoulders of the disciple and then asks him whether he is on the disciple's back or the disciple is on his back?

There is also a very fine description of Jada Bharata.

Disciple: Did Jada Bharata exist?

Sri Aurobindo: I don't know, but he appears very real in the Purana. It is also the most anti-Buddhist Purana I believe.

Disciple: Then it must have been composed very late!

Disciple: Buddha lived about 500 B.C. Is it true?

Sri Aurobindo: This Purana is not so early as that. All the Puranas, in fact, are post-Buddhistic. They are a part of the Brahmanic revival which came as a reaction against Buddhism in the Gupta period.

Disciple: They are supposed to have been written in or about the 3rd or 4th century A.D.

Sri Aurobindo: Most probably. In the Vishnu Purana, Buddha is regarded as an Avatar of Vishnu who came to deceive the Asuras. He is not referred to by name but is called Mayamoha. The reference to Buddha is very clear; it repeats "Buddhyaswa! Buddhyaswa." This Purana is a fine work.
18 JANUARY 1939

Ends and Means by Aldous Huxley

A long quotation from Ends and Means was read out to Sri Aurobindo. He did not seem impressed. Then the following passage was read: "More books have been written about Napoleon than about any other human being. The fact is deeply and alarmingly significant.... Duces and Fuehrers will cease to plague the world only when the majority of its inhabitants regard such adventurers with the same disgust as they now bestow on swindlers and pimps. So long as men worship Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable."

Sri Aurobindo: That is mere moralising. If Caesar and Napoleon are not to be admired then it means that human capacity and attainment are not to be admired. They are not to be admired because they were successful; plenty of successful people are not admired. Caesar is admired because it was he who founded the greatness of imperial Rome which is one of the greatest periods of human civilization; and Napoleon because he was a great organiser who stabilised the Revolution. He organised France and through France Europe. Are not his immense powers and abilities great?

Disciple: I suppose men admire them because they find in them the realisation of their own potential greatness.

Sri Aurobindo: Of course. Huxley speaks of Caesar and Napoleon as if they were the first dictators the world had ever seen. In fact, dictatorship is as old as the world. Whenever the times have required him the dictator has come in answer to the necessity. When there is a confusion and muddle in the affairs of men or nations the dictator has come, set things right and pulled out the race from it. Huxley will have to take all the dictators in one line for condemnation, e.g., Kamal (a different type from Hitler), Pilsudski, Stalin and the kings of the Balkan states. Even Gandhi is a type of dictator.

A portion from the book in which Huxley blames the Jacobins was read out.

Sri Aurobindo: He finds fault with the Jacobins, but I think Laski is right in saying that they saved the Republic. If the Jacobins had not taken power into their hands the result would have been that the Germans would have marched to Paris and restored the monarchy. It is because of the Jacobins that the Bourbons even when they came back had to accept the constitution. All the kings in Europe were obliged, more or less, to accept the principle of Democracy and become constitutional monarchs.

It is true that in Napoleon's time the Assembly was only a shadow, but the full Republic, though delayed for a time, was already established, because politics is only a show at the top. The real changes that matter are the changes that come into society. From that point of view, the social changes introduced by Napoleon have continued to this day without any material alteration. The equality of all men before the law was realised then for the first time. His Code bridged the gulf between the extremely poor and the rich. It is now very natural, but it was revolutionary when it was introduced. It may not be democracy governed by the masses, but it is democracy governed by the middle-class, — the bourgeoisie....

The portion containing Huxleys ideas about war was noticed.

Sri Aurobindo: Huxley writes as if the alternative was between war — that is, military violence — and a non-violent peaceful development. But things are never like that; they do not move in a perfect way in life. If Napoleon had not come the Republic would have been nipped in the bud and there would have been a setback to Democracy. The Cosmic Spirit is not so foolish as to allow that. Carlyle puts the situation more realistically when he says that the condition was, "I kill you, or you kill me. So, it is better that I kill you rather than get killed by you!"

All this criticism by the intellectuals does not take into consideration the immense complexity of the problem.

Disciple: He says that war is avoidable.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no objection to that, — but how is war to be avoided? How can you prevent war when the other fellow wants to fight? You can prevent it by becoming stronger than he, or by a combination that is stronger than he, or you change his heart, as Gandhi says, by passive resistance or Satyagraha. And even there Gandhi has been forced to admit that none of his followers knows the science of passive resistance. In fact, he says, he is the only person who knows all about Satyagraha. It is not very promising for Satyagraha, considering that it is intended to be a general solution for all men. What some people have done at some places in India is not Satyagraha but Duragraha.

Disciple: One day you spoke of the inrush of forces during periods of human history — for example, the Greek and the Arab periods. Can we similarly speak not of an inrush of forces that influences the outward life and events but of a descent of some Higher Force in the case of men like Christ and Buddha?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, it is a descent of a Higher Force which at first works in one man, then in a group of men and then extends its influence to mankind. In the case of Mahomed, — and that is another dictator! — the descent corresponded with the extension in outer life. But the descent may be only an inner descent in the beginning and may only gradually spread to other men.

There also what happens is that forces in life, at first, resist any such movement of descent. When they find that they can't resist then they accept the new element and, in accepting, turn it into something else than what it was intended to be! For example, you find that Christianity was at first opposed, and when it was afterwards accepted it became an oppressive religion. Why? Because, it was the lower forces of nature that came in with the acceptance. It means there must have been something in the very beginning, that gave an opening. I believe many of the Christian martyrs did not suffer in the genuine Christian spirit. Most of them were full of the spirit of revenge. So, in the beginning there was passive resistance but when Christianity came to power it turned oppressive. Thus, by accepting Christianity the lower forces occupied the place of the genuine spiritual force of Christ. They had thought, "Let us establish a new religion and the thing will be done." But the problem is not so simple.

There is a spiritual solution which I propose; but it aims at changing the whole basis of human nature. It is not a question of carrying on a movement nor is it a question of a few years. It cannot be done unless you establish spirituality as the basis of life. It is clear that Mind has not been able to change human nature radically. You can go on changing human institutions infinitely and yet the imperfection will break through all your institutions.

Disciple: Huxley suggests that you must have "non-attached men" who must "practise virtue disinterestedly".

Sri Aurobindo: No doubt, no doubt; but how are you going to get them? And when you have got them how are the 'attached' people to accept the leadership of the 'non-attached' ? How is the 'non-attached' person to make his decisions accepted and carried out by the 'attached' ?

Disciple: Many people in the past have tried to do the same thing, have they not?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, they have. But, as I said, it has always got mixed with the powers of Falsehood. That is why I want to try, if possible, to embody a Power, which I call the Truth-Consciousness that will not admit of any mixture or compromise with the powers of Falsehood. By the Truth-Consciousness I mean the dynamic Divine Consciousness. That Power must be brought to govern the minutest detail of life and action. The question is to bring it down and establish it in men and the second question is to keep it pure. For, we have seen all along in the past, there is the gravitational pull of the lower forces. It must be a Power that can not only resist but overcome that downward pull. If such a Power can be established in a group, then, though it may not change the entire humanity at once, still it will act as a potent force for turning human nature towards it.

It was because of the difficulty of changing human nature, which Vivekananda calls the 'dog's tail', that the ascetic path advocated flying away from Nature as the only remedy. Those people could not think it possible to change human nature, so they said, "Drop it."

One can see how necessary it is to keep the power pure once it is established even in the case of ordinary movements like Communism in Russia. There were about one and a half million men in the whole of Russia who believed in Communism. Under Lenin they refused to allow any compromise with Capitalism. It is they who were the backbone of the Revolution.
27 FEBRUARY 1939

Disciple: Promode Sen in his biography mentions that you knew Hebrew. There are other points in the book also which require clarification.

Sri Aurobindo: Why not say that I know Amhari and other African languages? (Laughter)

Disciple: There are people who believe that you know twenty-eight languages.

Sri Aurobindo: You have not perhaps read the account of the miracles I am supposed to have worked in Motilal Mehta's book!

One of them impressed me so much that I was never able to forget it. It happened when I was staying in Rue St. Louis. The British Government sent the police to arrest me. It seems I was standing at the top of the staircase when they came. They climbed up the staircase but immediately afterwards they found themselves at the bottom! They repeated the performance several times and finding themselves at the bottom of the staircase every time they left me and went away in utter disgust. (Laughter)

Disciple: There are many people who believe that you are not staying on the ground.

Sri Aurobindo: Then where am I staying?

Disciple: They believe you always remain one or two feet above the ground. They even think that you live in an underground cellar. Perhaps, it is in this way that legends gather round great names.

Disciple: M used to describe the visit of a Calcutta Marwari who came to Pondicherry on business. He came to the Rue de la Marine house and met M. He asked him: "Where is Sri Aurobindo? I want to see him." M replied: "You can't see him."

Then with an air of inviting confidence he asked M, "Does he fly away?" (Laughter)
20 DECEMBER 1939 (Evening)

Disciple: Did you read Dr. S. K. Maitra's article on Kant and the Gita?

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. He seems to be confused: he has overstressed the ethical and tried to explain the spiritual idea from the ethical standpoint. The Gita's idea of doing work without desire is too subtle for the modern mind and so he has made it "duty for duty's sake". The Europeans do not make any distinction between the true self and separative ego; for them it is one. Take the case of doing work without desire for the fruit. Now, if there is a separative self, then, from the rational point of view, why should not one expect the fruit of his action?

Disciple: Perhaps, it is due to the influence of Christianity in which the idea of serving the poor finds a place.

Sri Aurobindo: But the Christian idea of service from disinterestedness is quite different from that of duty for duty's sake which is a rational standpoint. Christian service is done as God's will, that is a religious law. When Reason got the upper hand over religion it began to question the foundation of religion and then the rationalists advocated the doing of duty for the sake of society, as a social demand. The rationalists have fragmentary ideas about these things. It has become difficult now to study philosophy — there are so many new ones, like the poets!
25 DECEMBER 1939 (Evening)

Disciple: According to Einstein there is no gravitation. That is to say, there is no force of attraction exerted between objects. He says that what we call gravitation is due to curvature of space.

Sri Aurobindo: What is all that?

Disciple: He says that Euclidian geometry is not applicable to the material world. That is to say, space is not flat, a three-dimensional analogue of a two-dimensional flat surface. Euclidian figures like the square and solid and straight line are abstract, not real or actual. He also says that material space is "boundless but not infinite".

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know? Perhaps it is not space that is limited but our capacity to measure space that is limited. Besides, how can you say that space is limited to matter? There is a non-material space beyond this material universe. A being can live beyond our material space.

Disciple: Einstein began his contribution by proving that simultaneity of events, constancy of mass and length etc. are all relative and not absolute. If the same length is measured from a body moving with great velocity at a distance the length would change. Besides, he showed that in a system of reference if the whole frame of reference moves uniformly then no measurement within the system can give you the proof of the uniform motion.

He has also shown that time is an indispensable factor in the measurement of the dimensions of an object.

Sri Aurobindo: Time is not an indispensable factor of dimension. Movement is absolutely necessary to feel time. When an object is stationary the consideration of time does not enter in measuring the dimensions unless you move it to some other point. Really speaking, one has to know space as the extension of being and time as an extension of energy.

Disciple: According to science everything is moving. Earth is going round the Sun and revolving on its axis. If we tap on the same place twice Einstein would say we have not tapped on the same place, for the earth has moved 18 miles per second in the meantime.

Sri Aurobindo: But the taps do not change the dimensions of the board! Only, you can say that a consideration of time is necessary to complete your measurements of space.

Disciple: Einstein has introduced a fourth dimension — of time, in addition to length, breadth, and height; their combination he calls the time-space continuum. It can be conceived as a cylinder over which a spiral is wound.

Sri Aurobindo: It is only a phrase! Time cannot be relegated to the position of a mere dimension of space, it is independent in its nature; time and space may be called the fundamental dual dimensions of the Brahman.

Disciple: Ouspensky has an idea in his Tertium Organum that our three-dimensional world is a projection from a subtler fourth-dimension which is supra-sensual but real. He means to say that to each solid form we see here, there corresponds a subtler form of it which is in the fourth dimension.

Sri Aurobindo: That is perfectly true, the cube would not be held together and therefore would not be a solid if something in the subtle dimension did not maintain it. Only, it is not visible to the physical eye but can be seen with the subtle eye.

Disciple: Sir Arthur Eddington in his Gifford Lectures (1934) says that science began with the aim of reducing the complexity of the material world to a great simplicity. But now, it seems, science has not been able to keep its promise and no model of the material universe is possible. A good deal of mathematics and specialisation is necessary now to understand what science says about the material world. Eddington says that the table on which he is writing is not merely a piece of wood. Scientifically speaking, it is a conglomeration of electrical particles, called electrons, moving at a very great velocity, and even though the particles are moving, his hands can rest on the surface and not go through.

He has also argued against the scientists who insist that the so-called objective view is the only view that is permissible or intended. The rainbow is not intended only to give man the knowledge or experience of the difference in the wave-lengths of light. The poet is equally entided to his experience when he says, "My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky."

So also a 'ripple' in water is not meant only to give man the knowledge of the pressure of the air, and the force of surface-tension.

Sri Aurobindo: Validity of human knowledge is not dependent on physical science alone. Physical science is only one side of knowledge. The poets and the mystics and the artist's experience have equal validity.

Disciple: Eddington argues that even in so-called objective scientific knowledge it is mind that is asked to judge ultimately: 8 x 4 is 32 and not 23. Why?

Sri Aurobindo: It is by an intuition and repetition of experience and not merely by reason that man finds that one is right and the other wrong.

Now even the scientists have been forced to admit that their conclusions are not all based on reason. Their formulas have become like magic formulas.

Disciple: They say that they can demonstrate their conclusions.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes, demonstration to the mind again.
26 DECEMBER 1939

Disciple: N was puzzled about time and space because it is not clear whether time and space are properties of matter.

Sri Aurobindo: Time and space can't be properties of matter, at least time is not material. Space and time are the extensions of the Brahman. For instance, you feel when you go deep in meditation that there is an inner space — cidākāśam which extends to infinity, and our material space is only a result of it. So time also is an extension of Brahman in movement.

You can see that time and space both are not the same for man every time. When your mind travels from Calcutta to London it is not in the material space and not in the time that you feel with the outer mind. It is in the mind itself that you move.

Space also is a movement of the Brahman inasmuch as it is an extension, but there is a difference as far as time is concerned.

Disciple: We are conscious of the movement of Brahman as time because we live from moment to moment and we can feel time only by events. So also the world is an extension.

Sri Aurobindo: In that way everything is an extension — expression, projection, manifestation — of the Brahman. It is only a way of saying.

Disciple: Some say that time does not exist at all.

Sri Aurobindo: Who says it? It depends upon the point of view and state of consciousness from which you say it, i.e., whether one says it only intellectually, or from an experience.

Disciple: Time may not exist in a consciousness where the universe does not exist.

Sri Aurobindo: Quite so.

Disciple: The scientists define gravitation as only a curvature of space — and, as we know matter only by weight, matter is curvature of space.

Sri Aurobindo: But what about matter being the same as energy?

Disciple: Einstein admits their identity and says that energy has weight.

Disciple: How can energy have weight?

Disciple: If you wound your watch and unwound it — there would be a difference in the weight? (Laughter)

Sri Aurobindo: But what you have to ask is: What is Energy?
16 MAY 1940

Sri Aurobindo: Even after the war is finished the Germans might present a difficulty of making it last. They easily allow their instincts to express themselves.

Disciple: Spengler even maintains that instinct is superior to culture and civilization. When a culture culminates in a civilization, its decline has begun. In the last phase of a civilization the village will be depopulated, all men will be drawn to the cities; all the cities over the world will be similar; life will be organised on mechanical principles, money will rule supreme. Then the instinct of man will assert itself and culture will start again.

Sri Aurobindo: He does not believe in human progress, then?

Disciple: No. He only seems to believe in the repetition of the same cycle.

Sri Aurobindo: Then it is a futile repetition of the same cycle!

Disciple: He says as much.

Sri Aurobindo: Then it comes to the failure of the race — that there is no higher possibility for mankind. But then, how does he explain the rise of man? If man has come from the lower condition of life to his present state it is necessary that either he must make the progress necessary, or he must be replaced by a higher species than man.
26 AUGUST 1940

Charu Chandra Dutt's review of The Life Divine in the Vishva Bharati was read out to Sri Aurobindo.

Sri Aurobindo: He may continue it, it may be for some people an introduction to The Life Divine.

But you may draw his attention to the following points.

He states: "There can be no escape for the Spirit embodied in matter except through an integral yoga."

If we accept that position then the goal set forth by the Adwaitawadins becomes impossible of realisation. What I say is not that it is impossible but that such an escape could not have been the object for which the world was created.

He says that I derived my technique from Shankara.

That is not true. I have not read much of philosophy. It is like those who say that I am influenced by Hegel. Some even say that I am influenced by Nietzsche because I quoted his sentence: "You can become yourself by exceeding yourself."

The only books that have influenced me are the Gita and the Upanishads. What I wrote was the work of intuition and inspiration working on the basis of my spiritual experience. I have no other technique like the modern philosopher whose philosophy I consider only intellectual and therefore of secondary value. Experience and formulation of experience I consider as the true aim of philosophy. The rest is merely intellectual work and may be interesting but nothing more.
4 SEPTEMBER 1940

Disciple: In a text-book of the Benares Hindu University for the B.A. degree there is a selection from Tagore in which he states that Kalidas was very much touched by the immorality of his age and he deplores it in the Raghuvamsha.

Sri Aurobindo: That is a new discovery — if he says so.

Disciple: Kalidas we know as one who is not particular about morality. His Malavikāgnimitra depicts the king Agnimitra falling in love with a dancing girl who turns out to be a princess. So also, in his other poems like "Rati Vilap" he mentions women in the state of drunkenness and is not shocked.

Sri Aurobindo: He is one who is attracted by beauty; even when he is attracted by a thought or philosophy it is the beauty of the thought that appeals to him.

Disciple: Tagore has said in reviewing Shākuntala that the love which Dushyant felt for Shakuntala at the first sight was only passion, a result of mere physical, at most vital, attraction. But when he met her again after separation in the Marichi Ashram his love had become purified and there was no element of passion in it.

Sri Aurobindo: That is not at all true; all that one can put from ones own imagination. But Dushyant is not shown outgrowing his vital passion in Shākuntala he was made to forget it by the power of the curse. That does not mean that his attraction has lessened.

Disciple: I am reminded of the controversy about the date of Kalidas's works. Bankim took part in it. The question was whether Raghuvamsha was written first or Kumāra Sambhava.

Bankim decided that Raghuvamsha must have been a later composition. In support of his contention he referred to two slokas: One in "Rati Vilap" in Kumāra Sambhava and the other in "Aja Vilap" in Raghuvamsha. He argued that in the former the expression of grief was that of a young man, while the latter shows a more mature temperament.

Sri Aurobindo: It does not follow at all, because the subject matter is different. In the one the physical bereavement is to be described according to the nature of Rati. A poet uses expressions suitable to the occasion and the character.

In fact, Kumāra Sambhava seems later than Raghuvamsha, though Raghu is more brilliant; Kumāra is more deep and mature. If you grant the common belief that Kalidas wrote only the first eight cantos of the Kumāra then it does not seem logical that a man like Kalidas would complete Raghu leaving Kumāra unfinished.
17 SEPTEMBER 1940

Disciple: According to science there is no empty space anywhere, that is to say, there is no emptiness in space. There are two schools of physicists: Some believe that there is what they call 'cosmic dust' in all space. Others say that the ray of light being material can pass through 'nothing' — there is no necessity to imagine anything between.

Sri Aurobindo:'Nothing' means what? Does it mean non-existence, or nothing that we can or do sense? If you say it is non-existence then nothing can pass through it; you empty a tube or a vessel of the air or gas it contains and say it is a vacuum. But how do you know there is nothing in it?

Disciple: If there was anything in it, there would be resistance.

Sri Aurobindo: Why should you assume that everything must offer resistance? If nothing means non-existence then if anything enters non-existence it becomes non-existence. If you enter non-existence you cease to be. A ray can only arrive at nowhere through nothing.

Disciple: That may be occult knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo: It is not merely occult knowledge but occult knowledge and common sense.

Disciple: What is space?

Sri Aurobindo: The question remains: either it is a conception or an entity. If it is a conception only, then your observations can also be only conceptions, that is to say, they happen in you only. Then you come to Mayavada: nothing but you exist.

Disciple: The latest idea is that space is curved.

Sri Aurobindo: What is the meaning of space being curved? Einstein speaks of curvature of space round the sun and when a body gets near it it goes down the curve. But the question is: What is that curve and in what does it exist?

For instance, some say the universe is expanding. In what? There must be something in which it is expanding. And why is a ray of light deflected in the sun's neighbourhood? You say: Because there is a curve. But why is there a curve? And in what is that curve?

And then, what is expanding? Is it Matter? You will say: No. Then Energy? You say: Yes. But the energy is expanding into what? You say space is bent. The question is: Is matter bent or space?

Disciple: The amount of matter in the universe is limited — it is finite. Matter has weight and the weight of all matter is known.

Sri Aurobindo: But what is matter? Is it a wave or a particle?

Disciple: According to the quantum theory it is a particle which is matter and energy at the same time.

Sri Aurobindo: If you say that matter is finite then there must be some medium which supports matter and which is infinite. You say matter has weight, — what is weight?

Disciple: Some of the scientists say that the sun is losing weight at a certain rate and the time when it will be exhausted is calculated!

Sri Aurobindo: How do you know that the sun is not renewing its weight ?

Disciple: What else can science do? It must take the data and make a hypothesis.

Sri Aurobindo: In the real science you must have the right data. Then you should draw the right inference. The difficulty is that you can never be sure of having all the data for any phenomenon.

Disciple: There are so many calculations: earths age, the rate of the expanding universe, the suns birth, the age of the sun etc.

Sri Aurobindo: I agree with Shaw who says: "They don't know what it really is." Something escapes from their calculations like the fish from the fishermans net.
14 DECEMBER 1940

Anilbaran Roy's article "The Advaita in the Gita" had appeared in the Calcutta Review.

Sri Aurobindo: He finds the idea of transformation of nature in the Gita and also other things contained in The Life Divine. I don't see all that in the Gita myself.

Disciple: His contention is that there are hints and suggestions in the Gita that can mean transformation. For instance, it says that one must become the instrument in the hands of the Divine. Then it says: pūtā madbhāvam āgatāh — Those who strive become pure and attain to my nature of becoming. Also: nistraiguṇyo bhava — become free from the three modes.

Sri Aurobindo: There is no transformation there. The supramental transformation is not at all hinted at in the Gita. The Gita lays stress on certain broad lines of the integral supramental Yoga. For instance:

Acceptance of life and action.

Clarification of the nature of the Transcendent Divine.

The Divine Personality and its Transcendence.

Existence of two Natures — parā and aparā.

Disciple: It speaks of the Para Prakriti and says that advanced souls attain to the Para Prakriti.

Sri Aurobindo: The Para Prakriti there is used in general terms.

Disciple: Yes. I don't find the transformation in the Gita. The exposition of the levels of consciousness beyond mind, their functions, a dear, rational statement of intuitive consciousness, inspiration, revelation, and the ascent of the consciousness through the Overmind to the Supermind — these things are quite new and not found even in the Upanishads.

Sri Aurobindo: I think so. The Gita only opens out the way to our Yoga and philosophy. Among the Upanishads only the Taittiriya has some general idea of the higher terms. The Veda treats symbolically the same subject.

Disciple: Suppose there is transformation in the Gita, one can ask what kind of transformation it is, — spiritual, psychic or supramental?

Sri Aurobindo: It does not speak of transformation; it speaks of the necessity of action from a spiritual consciousness — according to it all action must proceed from a certain spiritual consciousness.

As the result of that action some change may come about in the nature which might amount to what may be called transformation. But in the Gita the instruments of action remain human throughout (the Buddhi etc.). It does not speak of the intuitive consciousness.

In our ancient works there is no conception about the evolutionary nature of the world, or rather, they do not have the vision of humanity as an evolutionary expression of the Divine in which new levels of consciousness gradually open up, or are bound to open up. There is no clear idea of the new type of being that would evolve out of man.

If all that is contained in The Life Divine is found entirely in the old systems then it contradicts the claim that this Yoga is new, or at any rate, different from the traditional methods. Perhaps A was trying to synthesise the Gita and The Life Divine. (Laughter)
1942

Disciple: What exactly is meant by Pralaya?

Sri Aurobindo: In the Puranic sense everything comes out of the Brahman and is withdrawn into it. And the popular idea is that it will be projected in the same way as before.

Disciple: If dissolution is a fact, what is the relation between it and the new creation which follows ? Tantra believes that after Mahapralaya, the great dissolution, the new creation builds itself upon the Sanskaras — impressions and moulds of the past.

Whether we believe in the scientific theory of material evolution, or in the material-spiritual theory, as soon as we take matter as the basis or one of the bases we come to believe in a beginning and it seems to me that it is impossible to avoid this conclusion of the mind. It seems the ancients answered this demand of the mind by this dissolution-creation theory. Even if there be no absolute beginning there must be some satisfying knowledge which reveals the secret of creation. The theory which calls the manifestation God's Play or Lila seems to answer only one side of the question. It explains the purpose; but what about the process? Perhaps the mind may not demand a clear cut answer if it once has the experience that everything is a play of the Spirit. Is that so? Or, is there an answer to this? What is a cycle and a Yuga?

Sri Aurobindo: There is no time at which it becomes this world. These are mental questions and the solutions will be mental and many — each equally true.

The Power of creation is eternal in the Divine and so there is no point of time at which it acts. It is more rational to grant that it is eternal and always active.

Whether it will put out the same form, or some other form — it depends. It can be the same, in which case it will come into being at a higher stage of evolution opening up new possibilities and powers for mankind. It may not be a mere repetition of this material formation.

Or it can be quite another formation. "Why this Lila ?" you can ask. The questioner seems to think that on the higher level there will be a mental answer to this mental question. That is not true.

And this idea that Matter is something different from the Spirit is also not true. It is One thing. Even science now finds it so. It is the One Spirit. You can say: "In Matter the condensation of consciousness takes place. At each stage of manifestation there is a different vibration giving rise to different elements. Man is not a pure mental consciousness. He is a product of evolution from Matter to Life, from Life to Mind."
10 MARCH 1943

Yogi Aurobindo Ghose: A biography in Marathi by P. B. Kulkarni with an introduction by Mr. K. G. Deshpande. Published at Bombay, 1935.

When Mr. Kulkarni thought of writing a biography he wrote to me asking for my help. I sought permission of Sri Aurobindo. He declined to comply with my request, writing: "I don't want to be murdered by my own disciples in cold print!" That was why I did not help him. But Sri Aurobindo could not prevent others from attempting his biography.

When the book was published, I, who had a very keen and lifelong interest in determining the authenticity of the external events of his life, went through the book — as I went through almost all biographies of his, and then took the controversial points to him. I reproduce here his general observations on the book and in a separate note I enumerate the details that require correction.

Sri Aurobindo:

[ Chapter I]

Everyone makes all the forefathers of a great man very religious-minded, pious, etc. It is not true in my case at any rate. My father was a tremendous atheist.

[ Chapter II]

The general impression he creates is that I must have been a very serious prig, all along very pious and serious. I was nothing of the kind.

He also states I must have been attracted by the Fabian Society started by Bernard Shaw and others. I was not, and I had no leaning to the Labour Party which in fact was not yet born.

[ Chapter III]

His treatment of my life in England is more conjectural than real. He is trying to give the picture of what a budding yogi should be like. I was rather busy with myself and took interest in many things, whereas he tries to make out that I was interested in the Fabian Society and was very moral.

[ Chapter IV]

There are inaccuracies such as his statement that I was introduced to the Gaekwad by Henry Cotton. It was not Henry Cotton but his brother, James Cotton, who knew my brother (and was being helped by him in his work) who introduced me to the Gaekwad because he took interest in us.

[ Chapter V and VI ]

About Swami Hamsa I don't remember his name. It was in the Gaekwad's palace that he gave two or three lectures. I was invited. But it is not true that I went and saw him. At that time I was not interested in Yoga. I did not ask him about Pranayama. I learnt about Pranayama from the engineer Devdhar who was a disciple of Brahmananda.

I do not remember any yogic cure by Brahmananda; at any rate, I did not take any servant with me.

I first knew about yogic cure from a Naga Sannyasi. Barin had mountain fever when he was wandering in the Amarkantak hills. The Sannyasi took a cup of water, cut it into four by making two crosses with a knife and asked Barin to drink it, saying, "He won't have fever tomorrow." And the fever left him.

He creates an impression that I was seeking satsang, holy company, during my stay in Baroda. It is not true. It is true I was reading books, but on all subjects, not only religious books.

I gave money to one Bengali Sannyasi who was quarrelling with everyone and who used to hate Brahmananda. His boast was that he killed Brahmananda!

In the Introduction by Sj. K.G. Deshpande, who was Sri Auro-bindo's contemporary at Cambridge and later on joined Sri Aurobindo in 1898 in the Baroda State service, there are some corrections to be made. He was the editor of the English section of the Induprakash and it was he who persuaded Sri Aurobindo on his return to India in 1893 to write a series of articles on Indian politics under the heading "New Lamps for Old" which made a great stir in the Congress of those days.

Sri Aurobindo did not attend any grammar school at Manchester — as is stated in the introduction.

He mentions that Shivram Pant Fadke taught Sri Aurobindo Marathi and Bengali. He did not learn these languages from Mr. Fadke.

It is asserted that one "Bhasker Shastri Joshi gave him lessons in Sanskrit and Gujarati." Sri Aurobindo did not learn Sanskrit from anyone at Baroda. He read the Mahabharata by himself and also read works of Kalidas and one drama of Bhavabhuti as well as Ramayana.

It is stated that Sri Aurobindo's patriotism got the religious colour by his contact with one Swami Hamsa. Swami Hamsa had nothing to do with his nationalism. He was a Hathayogi and Sri Aurobindo attended his lecture in the palace on invitation. He did not meet him at his place.

Mohanpuri did not give him daivi upāsanā — introduction to spiritual life. It was for a purely political purpose that Sri Aurobindo took a Shakti Mantra from him. He performed a certain Yajna for the same purpose. But it was not Yoga.

6. Bhawāni Mandir: There is a similarity to the Ananda Math in that both envisage spiritual life and politics together. The temple of Bhawani was to be there for initiating men for complete consecration to the service of Mother India. It was for preparing political Sannyasins. But this scheme did not get materialised. Sri Aurobindo took to politics and Barin to revolution. The latter tried to find a place in the Vindhya mountains for the Bhawani Mandir. But he came back with mountain fever.

Norton's eloquent advocacy in the court, or the government's repression, had nothing to do with the failure of the scheme. In fact it was never tried.

He states that Sri Aurobindo resigned from the National College because of the differences with the members of the committee.

It is true he had his differences, but he never spoke about them. He sent in his resignation when the first trial was launched against him in August 1907. But on his acquittal they reappointed him. When he was again tried in the Alipore Bomb Case in 1908, they accepted his resignation.

So, the committee members had no open difference with him, there was no clash. They wanted to make the National College a place of learning, Sri Aurobindo wanted to make it a centre of life.

These very inaccuracies of the introduction have been dwelt upon by Mr. Kulkarni in his book, so no separate list is being given for the mistakes in the latter.

One may only add that Sri Aurobindo did not meet Madhavdasji of Malsar; at least, he did not remember having met him.
25 MARCH 1943

Swami Jnanananda's[1] book contains the following points.

The material world is made to answer, or suit, our senses.

There is a higher world of the super-ego where things are quite differently arranged.

One has to break through these two to reach the Absolute.

He believes in bringing down the Absolute into Life.

After hearing these points Sri Aurobindo said: "It is quite interesting. I don't know whether you can explain Raja Yoga as he does. But what is his Super-ego? I don't know. Sometimes it seems what I call the subliminal self, and sometimes the psychic being. It may be something like the Over-soul."
27 MARCH 1943

Disciple: Jnanananda says that the sense-world is created by the sense-ego. The so-called real world is created by the Super-ego. This Super-ego has a personality which has to be dissolved.

Sri Aurobindo: So, it is not the cosmic consciousness or the Purusha or the Over-soul.

Disciple: Then there is the Absolute. One has to break through the sense-world, the real world, and then one can enter into the Absolute Divine.

Sri Aurobindo: How is this to be done?

Disciple: Through one of the four Yogas: Raja, Jnana, Karma and Bhakti. One has to see this sense-world and the Super-ego-world in the light of the Absolute Divine.

Disciple: He believes this is the spontaneous Purna Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo: But he does not indicate how the Absolute Divine is to act at all in life — unless he discovers something like the Supermind.

At any rate, it is an original book, quite interesting — the man has intelligence above the average.

Disciple: But there are people who, having intelligence, steal passages from your writings and I know the case of a Swami who is famous throughout India and the world who has plagiarized passages from your books.

Sri Aurobindo (with a smile) : The Unconscious might have played a part. (Laughter) Or, he might turn round and say that it was taken by me from him! (Laughter) Or, that it was independently written! (Laughter)
6 APRIL 1943

Collected Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

A review of his poems appeared in a Christian monthly magazine, New Review. The reviewer there writes that Gerard Hopkins had tried a kind of quantitative verse in English. Bridges has written notes on the 2nd edition of these poems.

Sri Aurobindo: The poem on "Mary" is very fine. Hopkins nearly becomes a great poet in his sonnets. He is not a mystic poet but a religious one. In all Catholic poets there is a note of acute suffering which he also shares. Christina Rosetti is better in that respect.

It is not that his subject is always great, but the force which he brings into his poems. In one he simply says in effect: "O God, I grant that you are just, but I don't understand why I should be made to suffer while others who do not care for any higher values of life get all the good things of life."

There is no sign of quantitative verse, he depends on 'accent' for his verse.
8 APRIL 1943

Poetry of the Invisible by Mehdi Imam.

Sri Aurobindo: His idea that the beings of the subtle worlds are mere creations of human imagination, or of the human soul, would only mean that they have no independent existence, which is not quite true.

I believe he has been influenced by Sufism. But his general thesis is quite tenable: that is to say, right up to the beginning of the modernist period the poets, at least most of them, seem to have some perception or experience of other subtler worlds. They admit the existence of those worlds in some way. They sometimes even assert that this world is an illusion.

Only, his estimate of Bridges is one-sided. Probably, he wrote it at a time when Bridges was the craze, or when the Testament of Beauty was enthusiastically welcomed. I never thought much of his poetry, even in those early days, from what I saw of quotations from him. He is never rhythmical except when he rhymes. In his blank verse he is intolerable. Even the quotations given in this book are prosaic. Hardy is very good at times, at others he slips into want of rhythm.

Mehdi Imam's interpretation of Shelley and other poets as having the experience of cosmic unity or unity with the Spirit is not quite true. With Shelley it is sublimated eroticism. Shelley used to fall in love with almost every woman thinking her to be an angel and ended by finding her to be a devil.

He goes too far in his theory when he asserts that the "mists" of which Tennyson speaks in his Morte d' Arthur is the "ectoplasm".
5 MAY 1943

The talk began with a reference to an article on Kathopanishad by Dr. S. K. Maitra.

Disciple: The opposition between Shreyas and Preyas has been interpreted by him as an opposition between 'Existence' and 'Value'.

Sri Aurobindo: What is 'Value'? He has not defined it. I do not know what he means by saying: "God or the ultimate Reality is the highest value." He almost seems to imply that there is no 'being' in God, only 'value'.

Disciple: He also speaks of the opposition between the first two and the last two lines of Yama's speech: "One cannot attain the Permanent — Dhruva — by means which are transient." And then he speaks of his having attained the Eternal — Nityam— by means of things impermanent.

Sri Aurobindo: His interpretation seems a little far-fetched. It is the Fire that makes the attainment of the Eternal possible. The first two lines only mean that: If you are attached to the ephemeral you can't attain the Eternal. The last two lines mean that: If one offers the impermanent things into the Fire then it can make one attain the Eternal.
11 MAY 1943

Bharati Sarabhai's poetical work The Peoples Well was received.

Sri Aurobindo: The English is good and the diction poetic — but the poetry is mostly lacking.

She is not clear about what she wants to say. India seems to be the old woman in the poem and the idea is that she has something very precious which nobody knows about and which she may discover some day.
20 AUGUST 1943

"Mayavada" — An article by Prof. Malkani.

Malkani's contention seemed to be: 1. That Sri Aurobindo had tried to answer Shankara in some of the chapters in The Life Divine. 2. That Mayavada is true if one grants its premises, etc.

Sri Aurobindo: I am not answering Shankara's Mayavada in particular in The Life Divine. I had to examine the stand taken up by all those thinkers who consider the world an illusion for various reasons. I have examined their grounds.

As to Mayavada being true, each philosophy is true on its own basis. So is Mayavada if you accept its premises. In my examination I was trying to see whether there was anything in any of the possible positions of Mayavada which would make it obligatory on the human mind to accept it. I find that there is no such obligation, at least I don't find any on my mind. What I say amounts to that.

Besides, the position of Mayavada has been taken by many even in Europe, and the Christian religion took a similar position even before Shankara. It considers this world as almost unreal.

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of the Spirit." This world is a mistranslation of the world of the Spirit. They also make a distinction between Soul and Spirit. They maintain that this world is necessary for the Soul, but another world belongs to the Spirit.

Plotinus takes up a position in which the true world is not here but above.

Schopenhauer thinks this world a kind of delirium — which almost comes to the theory of illusion. There are others in the West who have taken a similar stand.
20 NOVEMBER 1943

Homage to Sri Aurobindo by Dr. K. R. S. Iyengar.

The manuscript was submitted to Sri Aurobindo. The following corrections were suggested and they were carried out in the text by the author. The items are given here as an illustration of Sri Aurobindo's scrupulousness for exactness and detail.

"He ascribes certain writings of Shyam Sundar Chakravarty to me. He closely imitated my style."

"He makes me an apostle of non-violence. The quotation he gives from the statement in the court I don't remember at all, because I made no statement."

About a district political conference — which was broken up — and about a separate meeting held by the nationalists over which Sri Aurobindo presided — "I do not remember whether it was Midnapore or Hugli."

Then on 29-11-1943 Sri Aurobindo said: "There was a stormy meeting at Midnapore. It was the storm that preceded Nagpur and Surat. But there was no split at Hugli."

Regarding letters to Mrinalini Devi he said: "He has made so much rhetoric and lecturing out of them that they cease to be letters."

"He mentions that I was ill in jail. I do not remember to have had any illness in jail, except perhaps eczema-trouble in the foot, due to dirty blankets and germs."

"I did not take the B.A. degree; I only took double Tripos at Cambridge. It was Oscar Browning as Provost who spoke highly of me as a student. He was well known at Cambridge. He examined the Latin and Greek papers."

"I was not appointed in the Khangi [Interior] Department at Baroda and I was not the Private Secretary though I acted as one in the absence of the secretary. It was only during the Kashmere tour that I was the Private Secretary to the Maharaja. But I had several tussles with him and he did not want to repeat the experiment."

"He states that I was invited to all the dinners and banquets — well, I never went to any State-dinner or banquet. Only I used to be called privately to dinner and I attended."

[1] Swami Jnanananda was originally the son of a Zamindar in Andhra. After Sannyas he went to North India and became a scientist. He went to Prague and Liverpool and was in the National Physical Laboratory, Delhi.
***
III II — On Letters



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