The Soul-Force and the Nature

The ancient psychological system of Yoga developed an insight and understanding into the constitution of our human nature as a marriage of the Purusha, or soul, and the Prakriti, or nature. Western psychology has not clearly understood the concept of the soul, because it has limited its view primarily to the body-life-mind complex of the lower, or animal nature, and has not fully grasped the need and the reality of the soul-nature as a necessary, in fact, essential element in what makes up the significance of each human life. Whether the individual believes in the soul or not, there is no escaping the unique psychological force that plays through that individual, to a greater or a lesser extent. The soul works through the nature and for the most part expresses itself along the lines developed in the particular nature; yet, one can see in certain individuals a strong and movingly powerful force of wisdom, action, compassion that represents a stronger, more prevalent influence of the soul than we see in the ordinary character or temperament of most individuals.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The soul flows into whatever moulds of intellectual, ethical, aesthetic, dynamic, vital and physical mind and type the developing nature takes and can act only in the way this formed Prakriti lays on it and move in its narrow groove or relatively wider circle. The man is then sattwic, rajasic or tamasic or a mixture of these qualities and his temperament is only a sort of subtler soul-colour which has been given to the major prominent operation of these fixed modes of his nature. Men of a stronger force get more of the soul-power to the surface and develop what we call a strong or great personality, they have in them something of the Vibhuti as described by the Gita,…, a higher power of being often touched with or sometimes full of some divine afflatus or more than ordinary manifestation of the Godhead which is indeed present in all, even in the weakest or most clouded living being, but here some special force of it begins to come out from behind the veil of the average humanity, and there is something beautiful, attractive, splendid or powerful in these exceptional persons which shines out in their personality, character, life and work. These men too work int he type of their nature-force according to its gunas, but there is something evident in them and yet not easily analysable which is in reality a direct power of the Self and spirit using to strong purpose the mould and direction of the nature.”

This working need not be what one would characterise as sattwic or saintly! There can be even Asuric or other forms to accomplish some great work or project to which that soul has been dedicated.

“A still more developed power of the being will bring out the real character of this spiritual presence and it will then be seen as something impersonal and self-existent and self-empowered, a sheer soul-force which is other than the mind-force, life-force, force of intelligence, but drives them and, even while following to a certain extent their mould of working, Guna, type of nature, yet puts its stamp of an initial transcendence, impersonality, pure fire of spirit, a something beyond the gunas of our normal nature. When the spirit in us is free, then what was behind this soul-force comes out in all its light, beauty and greatness, the Spirit, the Godhead who makes the nature an soul of man his foundation and living representative in cosmic being and mind, action and life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 15, Soul-Force and the Fourfold Personality, pp. 712-714

The Divine Force and the Master of the Force

The perfection of the instruments of the being provides a foundation for effective action, but in and of itself it does not provide guidance, direction or the action of the higher force. The process of the Yoga requires the seeker to go beyond the limits of the human ego-personality and invoke the Divine Shakti to work through the instrument under the direction of the Master of the Shakti, the Lord of the being, or Ishwara.

Sri Aurobindo observes; “The force at work in us must be the manifest divine Shakti, the supreme or the universal Force unveiled int he liberated individual being,…, who will be the doer of all the action and the power of this divine life…. The One behind this force will be the Ishwara, the Master of all being, with whom all our existence will be in our perfection at Yoga at once of oneness in being and of union in various relations of the soul and its nature with the Godhead who is seated within us and in whom too we live, move and have our being. It is this Shakti with the Ishwara in her or behind her whose divine presence and way we have to call into all our being and life. For without this divine presence and this greater working there can be no Siddhi of the power of the nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 15, Soul-Force and the Fourfold Personality, pg. 712

The Need and Tools For Effective and Progressive Perfection and Transformation of the Nature

We see in every field of human endeavor that perfection is progressive and that continued focus and dedication, patience and persistent effort yield ever-greater results. The integral Yoga requires the enhancement of all powers of human life and activity and, since the goal includes the eventual transformation of the consciousness from the human standpoint to that of the divine standpoint, there must at some point be not only the peak of human perfection, but the transformative movement to exceed this level and be able to hold and utilize the force that eventuates without breaking the instrument or spilling the force.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “This perfection must rise constantly in its capacity for action, the energy and force of its working and a certain greatness of the scope of the total nature. They will then be ready for the transformation into their own supramental action in which they will find a more absolute, unified and luminous spiritual truth of the whole perfected nature.”

He goes on to note the psychological tools that can be applied to this effort: “…the principal conditions are will, self-watching and self-knowledge and a constant practice…of self-modification and transformation. The Purusha has that capacity; for the spirit within can always change and perfect the working of its nature. But the mental being must open the way by a clear and a watchful introspection, an opening of itself to a searching and subtle self-knowledge which will give it the understanding and to an increasing extent the mastery of its natural instruments, a vigilant and insistent will of self-modification and self-transformation–for to that will the Prakriti must with whatever difficulty and whatever initial or prolonged resistance eventually respond,–and an unfailing practice which will constantly reject all defect and perversion and replace it by right state and a right and enhanced working. Askesis, Tapasya, patience and faithfulness and rectitude of knowledge and will are the things required until a greater Power than our mental selves directly intervenes to effect a more easy and rapid transformation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 710-711

The Fourfold Perfection of the Intelligent Thinking Mind, the Buddhi

The intelligent thinking mind, known as Buddhi, has several types of deficiencies or limitations that need to be addressed in order to gain the highest and most perfect form of action of this instrument. The first major limitation is due to the infiltration of the vital force of desire and preference into the action of the intelligence. The second is due to a narrowness in the construction of the mind’s own action, so that it becomes dogmatic, inflexible and rigid in its views, thereby preventing any more comprehensive or wider truth from manifesting through it. In order to address these limitations, Sri Aurobindo has identified four lines of the perfection of the intelligent thinking mind:

“Purity, clear radiance, rich and flexible variety, integral capacity are the fourfold perfection of the thinking intelligence….”

“The first need is the clarity and the purity of the intelligence. It must be freed from the claims of the vital being which seeks to impose the desire of the mind in place of the truth, from the claims of the troubled emotional being which strives to colour, distort, limit and falsify the truth with the hue and shape of the emotions. It must be free too from its own defect, inertia of the thought-power, obstructive narrowness and unwillingness to open to knowledge, intellectual unscrupulousness in thinking, prepossession and preference, self-will in the reason and false determination of the will to knowledge. its sole will must be to make itself an unsullied mirror of the truth, its essence and its forms and measures and relations, a clear mirror, a just measure, a fine and subtle instrument of harmony, an integral intelligence. This clear and pure intelligence can then become a serene thing of light, a pure and strong radiance emanating from the sun of Truth. But, again, it must become not merely a thing of concentrated dry or white light, but capable of all variety of understanding, supple, rich, flexible, brilliant with all the flame and various with all the colours of the manifestation of the Truth, open to all its forms. And so equipped it will get rid of limitations, not be shut up in this or that faculty or form or working of knowledge, but an instrument ready and capable for whatever work is demanded from it by the Purusha.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 709-710

The Highest Perfection of the Heart

The heart is the center of our emotional nature and is normally subject to the winds of passions such as love and hate, courage and fear, joy and sorrow, which have such a profound influence on the decisions and actions we take as human beings. Sri Aurobindo addresses the necessary steps to bring about the perfection and highest action of the heart. The goal is not to dull or deaden the heart, but to have it respond to the highest possible impulses and focus its natural power of passionate dedication on achieving in life the fulfillment of those impulses.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Another necessary element is a faith in the heart, a belief in and will to the universal good, an openness to the universal Ananda. The pure psychic being is of the essence of Ananda, it comes from the delight-soul in the universe; but the superficial heart of emotion is overborne by the conflicting appearances of the world and suffers many reactions of grief, fear, depression, passion, shortlived and partial joy. An equal heart is needed for perfection, but not only a passive equality; there must be the sense of a divine power making for good behind all experiences, a faith and will which can turn the poisons of the world to nectar, see the happier spiritual intention behind adversity, the mystery of love behind suffering, the flower of divine strength and joy in the seed of pain. This faith …, is needed in order that the heart and the whole overt psychic being may respond to the secret divine Ananda and change itself into this true original essence. This faith and will must be accompanied by and open into an illimitable widest and intensest capacity for love. For the main business of the heart, its true function is love. It is our destined instrument of complete union and oneness; for to see oneness in the world by the understanding is not enough unless we also feel it with the heart and in the psychic being, and this means delight in the One and in all existences in the world in him, a love of God and all beings. The heart’s faith and will in good are founded on a perception of the one Divine immanent in all thins and leading the world. The universal love has to be founded on the heart’s sight and psychical and emotional sense of the one Divine, the one Self in all existence. All four elements will then form a unity and even the Rudra power to do battle for the right and the good proceed on the basis of a power of universal love. This is the highest and the most characteristic perfection of the heart….”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 708-709

Developing the Perfection of Power of Action in the Integral Yoga

Just as the development of a harsh, dominating and aggressive force represents an imperfection in the being, the opposite reaction of weakness of the vital being, pure passivity and incapacity also represents an imperfection that should be addressed. Sri Aurobindo encourages the type of balanced development that does not, like the ascetic, deny the power of action in life, nor, like the self-seeking and self-centred egoistic type of materialist, strive to develop power at the cost of other values; rather, the perfection of the integral Yoga seeks a powerful expression that is in harmony with the total spiritual development of the individual and in balance with the universal manifestation and its divine intention in existence.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Laxity and weakness, self-indulgence, a certain flabbiness and limpness or inert passivity of the psychical being are the last result of an emotional and psychic life in which energy and power of assertion have been quelled, discouraged or killed. Nor is it a total perfection to have only the strength that endures or to cultivate only a heart of love, charity, tolerance, mildness, meekness and forbearance. The other side of perfection is a self-contained and calm and unegoistic Rudra-power armed with psychic force, the energy of the strong heart which is capable of supporting without shrinking an insistent, an outwardly austere or even, where need is, a violent action. An unlimited light of energy, force, puissance harmonised with sweetness of heart and clarity, capable of being one with it in action, the lightning of Indra starting from the orb of the nectarous moon-rays of Soma is the double perfection. And these two things…must base their presence and action on a firm equality of the temperament and of the psychical soul delivered from all crudity and all excess or defect of the heart’s light or the heart’s power.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pg. 708

Perfection of the Chitta or Basic Human Consciousness

Yogic psychology defines the instruments of the human being differently than Western psychology. One clear difference is in the concept of “chitta” or basic human consciousness that has been found so useful in various practices of Yoga. The Chitta is the field or repository for impulses and impressions to come in, and provides a reservoir that can respond to those impressions with all the stored impulses of the past. The Chitta has been compared to a sea or large lake which can be set to vibrating when an impulse strikes it. In the science of Raja Yoga, special attention is paid to the effort to quiet the waves of the Chitta and bring it to a status of total stillness. Obviously, this cannot be the goal for the integral Yoga, although the ability to quiet the Chitta remains essential. Sri Aurobindo has provided an enhanced definition for his review of this instrument: “…within the complete meaning of this expression we may include the emotional and the pure psychical being. This heart and psychic being of man shot through with the threads of the life-instincts is a thing of mixed inconstant colours of emotion and soul vibrations, bad and good, happy and unhappy, satisfied and unsatisfied, troubled and calm, intense and dull. Thus agitated and invaded it is unacquainted with any real peace, incapable of a steady perfection of all its powers.”

The methodology for perfecting the action of the Chitta is described: “By purification, by equality, by the light of knowledge, by a harmonising of the will it can be brought to a tranquil intensity and perfection. The first two elements of this perfection are on one side a high and large sweetness, openness, gentleness, calm, clarity, on the other side a strong and ardent force and intensity. In the divine no less than in ordinary human character and action there are always two strands, sweetness and strength, mildness and force…, the force that bears and harmonises, the force that imposes itself and compels…. The two are equally necessary to a perfect world-action. The perversions of the Rudra power in the heart are stormy passion, wrath and fierceness and harshness, hardness, brutality, cruelty, egoistic ambition and love of violence and domination. These and other human perversions have to be got rid of by the flowering of a calm, clear and sweet psychical being.”

The need to remain active in the world means that the classical focus by Raja Yoga on stilling the Chitta cannot possibly be treated as the solution to the issues of the unreformed Chitta. Sri Aurobindo’s methodology raises up the action of the Chitta rather than suppresses it, and thus provides a foundation for the interaction between the individual and the world.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 707-708