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

The Fourfold Perfection of the Psychic Prana

The powerful action of the prana in the nature is necessary for the fullness of the action of the mind, life and body. The prana permeates all levels of the body, life and mind. At the same time, it is also the hub of what Sri Aurobindo calls the “desire-soul” and is the source of distortions and perversions of the energy through the action of this desire-soul and the cravings, desires, attractions and repulsions that arise therefrom.

Sri Aurobindo has identified four major elements involved in the purification and perfection of the psychic Prana, to allow the full, free and vibrant action of the energy without the distortions: “…the first necessity is a fullness of the vital capacity in the mind, its power to do its full work, to take possession of all the impulsions and energies given to our inner psychic life for fulfilment in this existence, to hold them and to be a means for carrying them out with strength, freedom, perfection. Many of the things we need for our perfection, courage, will-power effective in life, all the elements of what we now call force of character and force of personality, depend very largely for their completest strength and spring of energetic action on the fullness of the psychic Prana. But along with this fullness there must be an established gladness, clearness and purity in the psychic life-being. This dynamis must not be a troubled, perfervid, stormy, fitfully or crudely passionate strength; energy there must be, rapture of its action it must have, but a clear and glad and pure energy, a seated and firmly supported pure rapture. And as a third condition of its perfection it must be poised in a complete equality. The desire-soul must get rid of the clamour, insistence or unequality of its desires in order that its desires may be satisfied with justice and balance and in the right way and eventually must rid them of the character of desire altogether and change them into impulsions of the divine Ananda. To that end it must make no demands nor seek to impose itself on heart, mind or spirit, but accept with a strong passive and active equality whatever impulsion and command comes into it from the spirit through the channel of a still mind and a pure heart. And it must accept too whatever result of the impulse, whatever enjoyment more or less, full or nil, is given to it by the Master of our being. At the same time, possession and enjoyment are its law, function, use, Swadharma. it is not intended to be a slain or mortified thing, dull in its receptive power, dreary, suppressed, maimed, inert or null. It must have a full power of pure and divine passion and rapture. The enjoyment it will have will be in the essence a spiritual bliss, but one which takes up into itself and transforms the mental, emotional, dynamic, vital and physical joy; it must have therefore an integral capacity for these things and must not by incapacity or fatigue or inability to bear great intensities fail the spirit, mind, heart, will and body. Fullness, clear purity and gladness, equality, capacity for possession and enjoyment are the fourfold perfection of the psychic Prana.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 706-707

The Successive Manifestation of the Soul-Power Focused on Will and Force

When the balance of the qualities shifts from sattwa, as in the manifestation of the power of the intelligence as the dominating characteristic in a human individual, to rajas, there arises the development of the man of power, will, forceful action, leadership and dominion. Since the powers are not exclusive, depending on the admixture of tamas and sattwa, we see various soul-types arise. This represents the second of the great forces of the divine in manifestation, and it is essential for the fullness and effectiveness of the divine intention in the universe.

Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “…the turn of the nature may be to the predominance of the will-force and the capacities which make for strength, energy, courage, leadership, protection, rule, victory in every kind of battle, a creative and formative action, the will-power which lays its hold on the material of life and on the wills of other men and compels the environment into the shapes which the Shakti within us seeks to impose on life or acts powerfully according to the work to be done to maintain what is in being or to destroy it and make clear the paths of the world or to bring out into definite shape what is to be.”

While this power may have its positive and necessary formations, such as developing leaders, and those who are destined to begin some new project or phase and push it through to fruition against the resistance and opposition of the status quo, there are also possibilities for the ego, when it takes hold of this force, to pervert it to its own ends. This leads, as Sri Aurobindo notes, to: “…the man of mere brute force of will, the worshipper of power without any other ideal or higher purpose, the selfish, dominant personality, the aggressive violent rajasic man, the grandiose egoist, the Titan, Asura, Rakshasa.”

In its highest manifestations we see the soul of chivalry or nobility: “The high fearlessness which no danger or difficulty can daunt and which feels its power equal to meet and face and bear whatever assault of man or fortune or adverse gods, the dynamic audacity and daring which shrinks from no adventure or enterprise as beyond the powers of a human soul free from disabling weakness and fear, the love of honour which would scale the heights of the highest nobility of man and stoop to nothing little, base, vulgar or weak, but maintains untainted the ideal of high courage, chivalry, truth, straightforwardness, sacrifice of the lower to the higher self, helpfulness to men, unflinching resistance to injustice and oppression, self-control and mastery, noble leading, warriorhood and captainship of the journey and the battle, the high self-confidence of power, capacity, character and courage indispensable to the man of action…”

“To carry these things to their highest degree and give them a certain divine fullness, purity and grandeur is the perfection of those who have this Swabhava and follow this Dharma.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 15, Soul-Force and the Fourfold Personality, pp. 716-717

The Full and Free Action of the Pranic Shakti Is Required

The ascetic paths of Yoga try to achieve liberation and realisation by denying the action of the life-energy and suppressing or abandoning it. The integral Yoga, in embracing action in the world, necessarily has to address the action of the prana in carrying out its developmental process. A weak and easily tired or distracted force cannot achieve the integral realisation. Thus, the pranic force must be marshalled, concentrated, directed, and put to work in the being. Traditional paths of Yoga used various physical and psycho-physical methods, such as Pranayama to gain mastery over and control of the Prana. Sri Aurobindo notes that while this control is necessary, it must be capable of being exercised independent from any specific physical routine or practice.

“The same mastery must be got by the seeker of the integral Yoga; but he may arrive at it by other means and in any case he must not be dependent on any physical or breathing exercise for its possession and maintenance, for that will at once bring in a limitation and subjection to the Prakriti. Her instrumentation has to be used flexibly by the Purusha, but not to be a fixed control on the Purusha.”

The importance of the free and powerful play of the pranic Shakti is emphasized by Sri Aurobindo: “If it is full of strength and swiftness and a plenitude of all its powers, then the mind can go on the courses of its action with a plenary and unhampered movement. But if it is lame or soon tired or sluggish or weak, then an incapacity is laid on the effectuation of the will and activity of the mind. The same rule holds good of the supermind when it first comes into action. There are indeed states and activities in which the mind takes up the pranic Shakti into itself and this dependence is not felt at all; but even then the force is there, though involved in the pure mental energy. The supermind, when it gets into full strength, can do pretty well what it likes with the pranic Shakti, and we find that in the end this life power is transformed into the type of a supramentalised Prana which is simply one motor power of that greater consciousness. But this belongs to a later stage of the Siddhi of the Yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 14, The Power of the Instruments, pp. 705-706