Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Mental View of the Supramental

Earth by this golden superfluity

Bore thinking man and more than man shall bear;

This higher scheme of being is our cause

And holds the key to our ascending fate;

It calls out of our dense mortality

The conscious spirit nursed in Matter’s house.

SRI AUROBINDO (In: Savitri Book 2, Canto 1, p. 99)

If there is one word that is unique to Sri Aurobindo’s spiritual philosophy, it is ‘supramental’. ‘Supramental’ refers to a level of consciousness, which is a significant milestone in the evolutionary process. When the all-knowing all-powerful chose to manifest as matter, it was an act of drastic self-limitation, or involution. In the process of involution, the Supreme Consciousness of the Divine did not disappear; it merely hid itself. Thus matter, which seems to lack consciousness, actually has the Supreme Consciousness in a dormant form, exactly as the plant lies dormant in the seed. The creation of matter was followed by evolution, which is the opposite of involution. The process of evolution may be viewed as a progressively better expression, or revelation, of the Supreme Consciousness hidden in matter. The first major milestone in evolution was the appearance of life on our planet. A little better expression of the Supreme Consciousness was achieved through the evolution of the mind. Structure kept pace with the evolution of consciousness. Mental consciousness expressed itself through the brain. As the mental consciousness became richer, the brain grew larger and more complex. It was as if the Master Craftsman kept coming up with better processors in its quest to improve the performance of its computers. Mental consciousness has reached its peak in human beings. But even human consciousness expresses only a very small fraction of the Supreme Consciousness of the Divine. However, looking at the trend of evolution so far, it is only to be expected that man will give way to a creature with a still higher level of consciousness. Human consciousness is not only higher than animal consciousness; it is also radically different in one respect. A human being can rise in consciousness during its lifetime, at least partly through his own efforts. Not only he can rise, he aspires to rise in consciousness. It is as if the evolutionary urge of the Divine, which has so far been worked out entirely by nature, has been planted in a corner of the human mind. That this is not fantasy has been shown by the phenomenal rise in consciousness that has been experienced by Yogis, Sufis and Mystics across religious and spiritual traditions. The highest level of expressed consciousness, as visualized by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, is the Supramental consciousness. Between the ordinary human consciousness and the Supramental, there are many intermediate planes, viz. higher mind, illumined mind, intuitive mind, and over-mind. What do these planes signify in terms of our awareness? The ordinary human consciousness makes us perceive the world as a collection of separate objects and living beings. Plurality and differentiation are the hallmark of mental consciousness. The progressively higher levels of consciousness lead to a perception that the division, as ordinarily seen, is only part of the reality. Behind, above and beyond the reality characterized by division is a higher Reality characterized by unity. The perception of unity is rooted in the fact that the Supreme Consciousness inherent in all forms of manifestation – living and non-living – is identical; it is only the expressed fraction that is different. The highest level of consciousness expressed on earth till recently was the over-mind consciousness. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s goal was to bring the Supramental Consciousness down on earth. Their efforts bore fruit on 29 February 1956, exactly 56 years ago. It was on that day that the Mother saw the door guarding the Supramental, and She used her force to release it. What it means is that the earth’s atmosphere is now charged with supramental consciousness.

What are the practical implications of the descent of the Supramental on earth? It has created the possibility of the next milestone in the evolution of consciousness. Supramental consciousness will not be simply a much higher level of consciousness than any that our planet has seen; it will be a radically different kind of consciousness. According to Sri Aurobindo, the difference between the present mental consciousness and Supramental consciousness of the future will be much greater than that between animal consciousness and human consciousness. Therefore, it is difficult for us humans to visualize what the new consciousness will be like. But one thing seems clear. In contrast with mental consciousness which is rooted in division, Supramental consciousness will be rooted in oneness. Oneness implies collapse of the separative ego. Collapse of the separative ego implies elimination of selfishness and greed. That will be the ultimate solution to all human problems. That will be the beginning of a new world full of love, peace and joy. As Sri Aurobindo has said, “The power of love, of truth, of right will be there, not as a law mentally constructed but as the very substance and constitution of the nature…” The key to the new world order in the Supramental age will be a fundamental change in human nature. Now that the earth atmosphere is charged with the Supramental, we have the choice of waiting for the slow process of natural evolution to work out the next leap of consciousness, or to accelerate it through our efforts. The process of evolution can be accelerated by us because human beings have the capacity for rising in consciousness. If a sufficient number of persons work for raising their consciousness, they would also contribute to building up the critical mass of people that is necessary for influencing positively the way the world runs. Thus each of us can contribute to ushering in a new world order based on compassion, cooperation and contentment. As the Mother said, “The world is preparing for a big change. Will you help?”

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Proper Channel

The Proper Channel

A deep of compassion, a hushed sanctuary,

Her inward help unbarred a gate in heaven;

Love in her was wider than the universe,

The whole world could take refuge in her single heart.

Savitri, Book 1, Canto 2, p. 15.

The One who is invariably called The Mother in Aurobindonian institutions the world over was born Mirra Alfassa on 21 February 1878 in Paris. Although she had a contemplative disposition since childhood and had read the Gita in her youth, few would have imagined when she took walks in the Luxembourg Park in Paris, mingled with the artistic and literary circles of France, and studied occultism in Algeria that she would finally become the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry (now called Puducherry) near the southern tip of India. But She and Sri Aurobindo must have known it, and they only had to wait for the right time for the two who were one to be brought geographically closer. When they met for the first time on 29 March 1914, there was instant recognition on both sides. But perhaps the right time had not yet come, and in less than a year Mirra went back, the apparent reason being that her husband was required in France to participate in the First World War. She came again on 24 April 1920, this time to stay in Pondicherry till she left her body in 1973. Soon after her second arrival in Pondicherry, She came to be called The Mother, a name that stuck because nothing else could have described her better. The first six years of her stay in Pondicherry were those of intense personal seeking of the Divine in solitude. However, this exclusive focus on inner work was interrupted after Sri Aurobindo went into seclusion on 24 November 1926. This was also the formal beginning of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and right from its inception, Sri Aurobindo entrusted its full material and spiritual charge to the Mother.

Starting with just twenty-four disciples, it was under the care of the Mother that the Ashram grew and developed to house hundreds of seekers. As and when the need arose, she created different departments and a school, and set up systems, and into all these she brought the admirable Western traits of precision, punctuality, order and discipline. Perfection in outer work is an integral part of the life-affirming spiritual philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. Thus, the Mother gave a practical shape to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy. As Sri Aurobindo has said, “All my realisations – Nirvana and others – would have remained theoretical, as it were, so far as the outer world was concerned. It is the Mother who showed the way to a practical form. Without her, no organized manifestation would have been possible.” Her vision of the Ashram was to create a place where spiritual seekers could pursue their highest aspirations without having to worry about basic physical needs such as food and shelter. And it was here that her maternal role was an asset to the inmates of the Ashram. Not only is there none better than a mother to take care of the physical needs of her children, on the spiritual quest also it is much more comfortable to have a mother who guides and protects than a teacher who instructs and evaluates. Spiritual quest is a seemingly endless journey, the requirements are stringent, and the seeker is a mere human riddled with weaknesses and failings (as goes a song: pankh hain komal, aankh hai dhundhlee; jaana hai saagar paar, i.e. the baby bird’s wings are weak and the vision is blurred, but its mission is to cross the ocean). Hence, it is very difficult to be the disciple of a guru; it is much easier to be her child. The Mother, with infinite maternal patience, answered all the questions of the seekers, even questions that were too simple, or simply silly. What the disciples saw in Her eyes was immense unconditional love, what they felt in Her lap was comfort of the carefree, and what they experienced under Her protection was abundant Grace. But above all, what the seeker seeks is communion with the Divine. It is the Divine to whom the seeker turns with all his aspirations. It is the Divine to whom the seeker turns over all his weaknesses for transformation. It is the Divine will to which the seekers surrenders his personal will. It is the Divine to whom the seeker can reveal all. It is the Divine to whom the seeker gives all. It is the Divine for whom the seeker does all. It is the Divine whom the seeker adores. Such communion is difficult to establish with the impersonal Divine. To the inmates of the Ashram, the Mother was the Divine in flesh and blood. And, what is even more significant is that her leaving the body has made no difference. To devotees all over the world, the Mother continues to be not only an indulgent all-providing mother but also the proper channel for communicating with the Divine.

You have only to aspire, to keep yourself open to the Mother, to reject all that is contrary to her will and to let her work in you – doing also all your work for her and in the faith that it is through her force that you can do it. If you remain open in this way, the knowledge and realisation will come to you in due course.

– Sri Aurobindo