The Sunlit Path of Yogic Practice

The integral yoga works to shift the standpoint from the ego to the divine consciousness. As that is accomplished, the focus on the ego-personality and its suffering and difficulties and the feelings it is experiencing are reduced or entirely removed. The being is absorbed in the divine standpoint, and sees all activities as part of that consecrated expression of its aspiration, its devotion, and its fulfilled surrender to the divine Will. Even obstacles at that point simply become part of the dedicated effort required to manifest the divine intention and thus, the being can move forward with a sense of calm and a sense of quiet joy, rather than a dramatic display of separation, suffering and the cries of an abandoned ego looking for someone to soothe it and acknowledge it.

The vital being of man may actually enjoy the sense of struggle and suffering in a sort of perverse way. It carries this as a “badge” of recognition for how much it cares and how much it is trying and doing despite immense opposition. It is in that sense, a formation of vanity and clearly a sign of the centrality of the ego-consciousness in the being.

Of course, as the seeker begins from the ego standpoint, some periods of such depression and feelings of abandonment are certain to arise from time to time, whenever the quality of Tamas rises in the consciousness. The sense of separation from the play of the Gunas can help modify and mitigate the power these feelings have until the shift in standpoint is fully accomplished.

The shift to the divine standpoint can bring about, then, what Sri Aurobindo calls the ‘sunlit path’ that does not require a show of struggle in order to express its aspiration, dedication and consecration. In the interim, carrying on through all difficulty and doubt with faith and reverence can aid the seeker along the way in gaining and maintaining this sunlit attitude.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Fits of depression and darkness and despair are a tradition in the path of Sadhana — in all Yogas, oriental or occidental, they seem to have been the rule. I know all about them myself — but my experience has led me to the perception that they are an unnecessary tradition and could be dispensed with if one chose. That is why whenever they come in you or others I try to lift up before them the gospel of faith. If still they come, one has to get through them as soon as possible and get back into the sun.”

“The change noted by X evidently indicates a great progress in the vital and physical being. There is nothing spiritually wrong in being glad and cheerful, on the contrary it is the right thing. As for struggles and aspiration, struggles are really not indispensable to progress and there are many people who get so habituated to the struggling attitude that they have all the time struggles and very little else. That is not desirable. There is a sunlit path as well as a gloomy one and it is the better of the two — a path in which one goes forward in absolute reliance on the Mother, fearing nothing, sorrowing over nothing. Aspiration is needed but there can be a sunlit aspiration full of light and faith and confidence and joy. If difficulty comes, even that can be faced with a smile.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, The Sunlit Path, pp. 275-277

The Secret of the Veda, Hymns to the Divine Waters

It is difficult to systematically study and appreciate the Rig Veda other than through audio programs, inasmuch as considerable force of the revelation comes through in the poetic force and recitation of these verses, and thus, we have created a series of audio files which include the recitation of the Sanskrit text of the Rig Vedic hymns chosen, and the English translation provided by Sri Aurobindo. All recordings were created in 1973 at Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Commentary and Translation by Sri Aurobindo. Recitation in Sanskrit by Sri Vinayak. English recitation by Santosh Krinsky. Click on the enclosed links to go directly to each of the audio files included here. Page references to the U.S. edition of The Secret of the Veda by Sri Aurobindo, published by Lotus Press are provided for further elucidation and reading on the subject of each hymn.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “My object has been to show in as brief a compass as possible the real functions of the Vedic gods, the sense of the symbols in which their cult is expressed, the nature of the sacrifice and its goal, explaining by actual examples the secret of the Veda. I have purposely selected a few brief and easy hymns, and avoided those which have a more striking depth, subtlety and complexity of thought and image, — alike those which bear the psychological sense plainly and fully on their surface and those which by their very strangeness and profundity reveal their true character of mystic and sacred poems. It is hoped that these examples will be sufficient to show the reader who cares to study them with an open mind the real sense of this, our earliest and greatest poetry. By other translations of a more general character it will be shown that these ideas are not merely the highest thought of a few Rishis, but the pervading sense and teaching of the Rig-veda.”

Sri Aurobindo provides extensive analysis of the images of the Oceans and the Rivers in Chapter X of The Secret of the Veda (pp. 95-103) and then devotes Chapter XI to The Seven Rivers (pp. 104-117). The translations of the hymns presented here come from Chapter XI.

Hymn to the Divine Waters, Mandala VII, Sukta 47 The recordings were made at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1973.  Sanskrit recited by Sri Vinayak.  English translation by Sri Aurobindo (Riks 1-4) recited by Santosh Krinsky.  (Secret of the Veda, pp. 104-117)

Hymn to the Divine Waters, Mandala VII, Sukta 49 In The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo writes: “The Veda speaks constantly of the waters or the rivers, especially of the divine waters … and occasionally of the waters which carry in them the light of the luminous soloar world or the light of the Sun … .  The passage of the waters effected by the gods or by man with the aid of the gods is a constant symbol. … What can these rivers be whose wave is full of Soma-wine, full of the ghrta, full of urj, the energy?  What are these waters that flow to the goal of the god’s movement, that establish for man the supreme good?  Not the rivers of the Punjab; no wildest assumption of barbarous confusion or insane incoherence in the mentality of the Vedic Rishis can induce us to put such a construction upon such expressions.  Obviously these are the waters of the Truth and the Bliss that flow from the supreme ocean.”

The recordings were made at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in 1973.  Sanskrit recited by Sri Vinayak.  English translation by Sri Aurobindo (Riks 1-4) recited by Santosh Krinsky.  (Secret of the Veda, pp. 104-117)

Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, U.S. edition published by Lotus Press

Overcoming Tamasic Depression in the Practice of Yoga

It is inevitable that as long as the human standpoint remains active, there will be periods of doubt, depression, dissatisfaction, weakness, and self-doubt. The action of the Gunas ensures there will be such periods when the enthusiasm and focus, energy and optimism depart and darkness tries to strangle the spiritual aspiration of the seeker. If the shift to the divine standpoint occurs, such events cannot occur as the seeker is liberated from the small, narrow human egoistic viewpoint which holds these types of concerns and reactions. The way towards achieving this shift of standpoint is, however, long and the progress is variable. Thus, Sri Aurobindo frequently had to aid sadhaks in facing and overcoming the despair and self-doubt when it arose. He provided various affirmations for the seeker to apply when various types of negative thoughts and emotions begin to intrude and impact the mind and resolution.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “All depression is bad as it lowers the consciousness, spends the energy, opens to adverse forces.”

“Never allow this idea ‘I am not able’, ‘I am not doing enough’ to come and vex you; it is a tamasic suggestion and brings depression and depression opens the way to the attacks of the wrong forces. Your position should be, ‘Let me do what I can; the Mother’s force is there, the Divine is there to see that in due time all will be done.”

“When I spoke of being faithful to the light of the soul and the divine Call, I was not referring to anything in the past or to any lapse on your part. I was simply affirming the great need in all crises and attacks, — to refuse to listen to any suggestions, impulses, lures and to oppose to them all the call of the Truth, the imperative beckoning of the Light. In all doubt and depression, to say, ‘I belong to the Divine, I cannot fail’; to all suggestions of impurity and unfitness, to reply, ‘I am a child of Immortality chosen by the Divine; I have but to be true to myself and to Him — the victory is sure; even if I fell, I would rise again’; to all impulses to depart and serve some smaller ideal, to reply, ‘This is the greatest, this is the Truth that alone can satisfy the soul within me; I will endure through all tests and tribulations to the very end of the divine journey’. This is what I mean by faithfulness to the Light and the Call.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Difficulties and Depression, pp. 273-275

The Role of the Inner Standpoint in Overcoming Depression and Ambition in the Practice of Yoga

Many people, not just those who practice yoga, experience times when they feel like their lives are meaningless, they are helpless to change, and the round of daily life, with its little wants and needs, and fulfillment of desires, is empty and distasteful. They experience in some cases a sense of what is known in yogic terminology as vairagya, renunciation, even if it is for them a fleeting emotion. The practitioner of yoga, who has set before himself an objective to go beyond the round of ordinary life and embody some higher form of consciousness, may actually feel such a movement quite intensely. The sense of renunciation does not always come from frustrated desire, but for those already attempting to go beyond, the actual fulfilling of the desire can rebound on the psychology as a failure and a setback, and a weakness.

This can set off a round of depression as tamas rises, followed by rajas when the ambition asserts itself. There is no real way out of this ‘endless loop’, which is why some seekers choose to avoid living the life of the world entirely and, abandoning all superficial goals of life, they depart for the forest, the desert or the monastery to devote themselves to their calling. Yet this does not also solve the issue. The round of depression and ambition follows them wherever they go and whatever their endeavours, although the excuse for the reactions may change as one changes one’s surroundings and daily actions.

Sri Aurobindo provides a way of resolution from this cycle, which involves engaging sattwa and developing the separation of Purusha and Prakriti, such that one takes the standpoint of the witness consciousness and is not disturbed by the ever-changing moods and energies of the outer nature. As the seeker draws back into his inner being, he takes the poise of the psychic being, the central flame of devotion that aligns him to the higher consciousness, and these superficial actions and reactions begin to lose their significance.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The rule in yoga is not to let the depression depress you, to stand back from it, observe its cause and remove the cause; for the cause is always in oneself, perhaps a vital defect somewhere, a wrong movement indulged or a petty desire causing a recoil, sometimes by its satisfaction, sometimes by its disappointment. In yoga a desire satisfied, a false movement given its head produces very often a worse recoil than disappointed desire.”

“What is needed for you is to live more deeply within, less in the outer vital and mental part which is exposed to these touches. The inmost psychic being is not oppressed by them; it stands in its own closeness to the Divine and sees the small surface movements as surface things foreign to the true Being.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Difficulties and Depression, pp. 273-275

Depression and the Influence of the Gunas in Spiritual Development

There is a strong inclination for those spiritual practitioners who particularly follow a way of devotion, regardless of religious tradition around the world, to cry out for the presence of the Divine and to lament any feeling of separation. Depending on the play of the Gunas, this can take either a tamasic, a rajasic or a sattwic form, and does so at different times and circumstances for each seeker, as the Gunas keep changing their balance and expression. Similarly, those who are actively seeing spiritual experiences within, and who then have a period where those experiences recede and they are then thrown out into the “ordinary” daily life and awareness, also react according to the Gunas, and similarly may respond with either tamasic, rajasic or sattwic energy. The tamasic response is one that can bring about a state of depression and despair, the ‘dark night of the soul’ as some call it. This is not a permanent state, and does not occur all the time. The seeker who is aware of the manner in which the Gunas shape the response can learn to stand back from these feelings and work to change the dynamic.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Thirst for the Divine is one thing and depression is quite another, nor is depression a necessary consequence of the thirst being unsatisfied, that may lead to a more ardent thirst or to a fixed resolution and persistent effort or to a more yearning call or to a psychic sorrow which is not at all identical with depression and despair. Depression is a clouded grey state in its nature and it is more difficult for light to come through clouds and greyness than through a clear atmosphere. That depression obstructs the inner light is a matter of general experience. The Gita says expressly, ‘Yoga should be practiced persistently with a heart free from depression.’ …. Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress symbolises it as the Slough of Despond, one of the perils of the way that has to be overcome. It is, no doubt, impossible to escape from attacks of depression, almost all sadhaks go through these attacks, but the principle is that one should react against them and not allow them by any kind of mental encouragement or acceptance of their suggestions to persist or grow chronic.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Difficulties and Depression, pp. 273-275

The Three Gunas and Spiritual Practice

Spiritual aspirants, just as all others in the world, are impacted by the play of the three Gunas the qualities of Nature. These qualities are always in movement, constantly combining, jostling one another, becoming predominant, and then being suppressed as the next movement arises. We can see this play in the spiritual sadhana quite clearly. When there are constant spiritual experiences and a feeling of progress, the vital being in the seeker has enthusiasm, energy and joy. We see here a predominant strain of rajas, tempered by sattwa. When various forms of obstacles arise, however, the rajas is thwarted and there is a tendency to fall into tamas, with the rise of discouragement, lack of energy, depression and a lack of motivation. In these moments, the seeker can feel like there is no way forward, and identifies the difficulty with himself and feels unprepared, unqualified, and weak. If the seeker perseveres, and particularly if he is able to maintain a certain amount of calm, clear sattwic energy, eventually the tamasic phase passes and the sense of forward movement in the sadhana can be regained. The eventual success is assured if one rises above the play of the gunas and recognises them for what they are, short-term modulations that do not truly affect the longer-term direction or eventual reaching of the objective. The seeker is encouraged not to give up through tamasic discouragement, nor to get caught up in a rajasic phase of ambition or self-seeking or self-aggrandisement. The sattwic receptivity, clarity, and lucidity provides an initial basis for allowing the higher force to work in the being, eventually moving the seeker to a psychological space that observes the play of the Gunas without being overwhelmed by them.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “All who enter the spiritual path have to face the difficulties and ordeals of the path, those which rise from their own nature and those which come in from outside. The difficulties in the nature always rise again and again till you overcome them; they must be faced with both strength and patience. But the vital part is prone to depression when ordeals and difficulties rise. This is not peculiar to you, but comes to all sadhaks — it does not imply an unfitness for the sadhana or justify a sense of helplessness. But you must train yourself to overcome this reaction of depression, calling in the Mother’s Force to aid you.”

“All who cleave to the path steadfastly can be sure of their spiritual destiny. If anyone fails to reach it, it can only be for one of the two reasons, either because they leave the path or because for some lure of ambition, vanity, desire, etc. they go astray from the sincere dependence on the Divine.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Difficulties and Depression, pp. 273-275

Two Ways to Meet the Resistance of the Nature to the Divine Force: the Way of the Self and the Way of the Psychic

When we reflect on the difficulty of changing basic human nature, and overcoming the general habits and patterns of universal nature expressing itself in us, we may easily recognise that none of the characteristic powers of mind, life or body will be sufficient to accomplish real and lasting change. The question arises as to whether real change can be effected. If we look at the real changes that took place when life manifested in matter, and when mind manifested in life, it becomes obvious that the evolutionary cycle will eventually bring forth the next power of consciousness which indeed has the capacity to effectuate real change. The next question then is how we go about preparing ourselves, as conscious participants in a speeded up evolutionary process, to aid in this manifestation. Sri Aurobindo describes two methods that can aid in this endeavour.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “There are two ways to meet all that — first that of the Self, calm, equality, a spirit, a will, a mind, a vital, a physical consciousness that remain resolutely turned towards the Divine and unshaken by all suggestion of doubt, desire, attachment, depression, sorrow, pain, inertia. This is possible when the inner being awakens, when one becomes conscious of the Self, of the inner Mind, the inner Vital, the inner Physical, for that can more easily attune itself to the divine Will, and then there is a division in the being as if there were two beings, one within, calm, strong, equal, unperturbed, a channel of the Divine Consciousness and Force, one without still encroached on by the lower Nature; but then the disturbances of the latter become something superficial which are no more than an outer ripple, — until these under the inner pressure fade and sink away and the outer being too remains calm, concentrated, unattackable. There is also the way of the psychic, — when the psychic being comes out in its inherent power, its consecration, adoration, love of the Divine, self-giving, surrender and imposes these on the mind, vital and physical consciousness and compels them to turn all their movements Godward. If the psychic is strong and master throughout, then there is no or little subjective suffering and the objective cannot affect either the soul or the other parts of the consciousness — the way is sunlit and a great joy and sweetness are the note of the whole sadhana. As for the outer attacks and adverse circumstances, that depends on the action of the Force transforming the relations of the being with the outer Nature; as the victory of the Force proceeds, they will be eliminated; but however long they last, they cannot impede the sadhana, for then even adverse things and happenings become a means for its advance and for the growth of the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, The Resistance of the Nature, pp. 271-273

The Nature of the Resistance of Universal Nature to the Pressure of the Divine Force

We tend to accept issues we are having in our lives as something personal to ourselves and thus, we struggle and either consider ourselves to be weak, or sinful, or otherwise unfit. This happens both generally and for those who practice yoga, and the result is, in many cases, some form of depression or disturbance or suffering associated with the struggles and the failure. We usually fail to take into account that there is one pervasive and permeating consciousness in the entire creation and that there are forces larger than our individual egoistic selves at work, in us and through us. We are like a drop of water in the ocean, that thinks it can make its own independent choices, decisions and bear its own consequences, without realizing that the entire force of the ocean is driving it forward!

When we begin to recognise the universal nature of the forces at work in the creation, and the fact that our individuality is a nexus, not a source, for the action of this energy, we begin to realize that it is not sufficient to try to solve the issues of the mind, life and body solely within our individual existence — we have to respond also to the universal reality that is the actual source of these energies and forces that impinge upon us.

The other issue that arises is that the universal creation has a certain inertia or stability to it which is not subject to immediate changes, but which works out change through the instrumentality of Time, in fact, from our perspective, long periods of time. This ‘conservative principle’ in the existence tends to stability. We may actually see the points of resistance as being what we conveniently label ‘laws of nature’. This does not imply they cannot change or be changed, with the advent of a new evolutionary principle; but it does imply that this change will be, in most cases, slow and deliberate, working itself out in evolutionary time, not human time scales.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “There is, moreover, the resistance of the Universal Nature which does not want the being to escape from the Ignorance into the Light. This may take the form of a vehement insistence in the continuation of the old movements, waves of them thrown on the mind and vital and body so that old ideas, impulses, desires, feelings, responses continue even after they are thrown out and rejected, and can return like an invading army from outside, until the whole nature, given to the Divine, refuses to admit them. This is the subjective form of the universal resistance, but it may also take an objective form, — opposition, calumny, attacks, persecution, misfortunes of many kinds, adverse conditions and circumstances, pain, illness, assaults from men or forces. There too the possibility of suffering is evident.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, The Resistance of the Nature, pp. 271-273

The Nature of the Resistance of the Mind-Life-Body to the Pressure of the Divine Force

Each aspect of the human instrumentality provides its own characteristic forms of resistance when a new, higher evolutionary force tries to engage them and redirect them along the lines it proposes. The underlying issues relate to the action of Tamas in the physical level, Rajas in the vital level, and Tamas again in the mental level. It is also likely that the mind is influenced by the vital to create mental arguments that support the vital desires. Every form of resistance leads to conflict and internal suffering as the aspiration wants to guide the being in a new direction, and faces the resistance of the mind, the opposition of the vital and its desires, and the lack of motivation and will to change in the very physical substance. Each of these needs to be addressed along the way. If the mind can be cleared of its doubts and confusion, it can become a supporter to aid in managing the vital and the desire-soul. Together, if a converted mind and vital being act upon the physical, a certain amount can be done there as well, although the opposition tends to be so dense at that level, that a more direct action of the higher force will eventually be needed.

When people take up yogic practice, they are not generally cognizant of the struggles that will wind up taking place internally as these various forms of opposition arise and try to carry out their heretofore normal and usual pathways of understanding and action despite the pressure from above. The seeker feels like he is being torn in different directions by these conflicting forces, and there is usually no clear or instant path through this, other than to continue to aspire, call on the higher force and open up the receptivity to accept and follow the higher guidance, come what may.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “When the soul draws towards the Divine, there may be a resistance in the mind and the common form of that is denial and doubt — which may create mental and vital suffering. There may again be a resistance in the vital nature whose principal character is desire and the attachment to the objects of desire, and if in this field there is conflict between the soul and the vital nature, between the Divine Attraction and the pull of the Ignorance, then obviously there may be much suffering of the mind and vital parts. The physical consciousness also may offer a resistance which is usually that of a fundamental inertia, an obscurity in the very stuff of the physical, an incomprehension, an inability to respond to the higher consciousness, a habit of helplessly responding to the lower mechanically, even when it does not want to do so; both vital and physical suffering may be the consequence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, The Resistance of the Nature, pp. 271-273

Rig Veda Samhita, Hymns to the Divine Dawn

It is difficult to systematically study and appreciate the Rig Veda other than through audio programs, inasmuch as considerable force of the revelation comes through in the poetic force and recitation of these verses, and thus, we have created a series of audio files which include the recitation of the Sanskrit text of the Rig Vedic hymns chosen, and the English translation provided by Sri Aurobindo. All recordings were created in 1973 at Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Commentary and Translation by Sri Aurobindo. Recitation in Sanskrit by Sri Vinayak. English recitation by Santosh Krinsky. Click on the enclosed links to go directly to each of the audio files included here. Page references to the U.S. edition of The Secret of the Veda by Sri Aurobindo, published by Lotus Press are provided for further elucidation and reading on the subject of each hymn.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “My object has been to show in as brief a compass as possible the real functions of the Vedic gods, the sense of the symbols in which their cult is expressed, the nature of the sacrifice and its goal, explaining by actual examples the secret of the Veda. I have purposely selected a few brief and easy hymns, and avoided those which have a more striking depth, subtlety and complexity of thought and image, — alike those which bear the psychological sense plainly and fully on their surface and those which by their very strangeness and profundity reveal their true character of mystic and sacred poems. It is hoped that these examples will be sufficient to show the reader who cares to study them with an open mind the real sense of this, our earliest and greatest poetry. By other translations of a more general character it will be shown that these ideas are not merely the highest thought of a few Rishis, but the pervading sense and teaching of the Rig-veda.”

Hymns to the Dawn:

Sri Aurobindo devotes considerable space in The Secret of the Veda to the Divine Dawn. Chapter 13 (pp. 126-131) is focused on the Dawn. In the section titled Selected Hymns, one of the Hymns has been chosen and commented on (pp. 281-286). In a later section titled Guardians of the Light, there is a Hymn to the Divine Dawn (pp. 429-432). Finally, in a section titled Other Hymns, there are Hymns to the Dawn (pp. 524-528)

Rig Veda Samhita, Mandala V, Sukta 79, Hymn to the Dawn (Secret of the Veda, pp. 524-526

Rig Veda Samhita, Mandala III, Sukta 61 Hymn to the Divine Dawn To illustrate the method of interpretation, Sri Aurobindo chose 13 hymns and provided translation and commentary under the heading ‘Selected Hymns’.  This is the sixth of these selected hymns, the Hymn to The Divine Dawn.  (The Secret of the Veda, US edition, pp. 281-286) The English translation was provided by Sri Aurobindo

Rig Veda Samhita, Mandala I, Sukta 113 Hymn to the Dawn In Part I, Chapter 13 of The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo provides an extensive commentary on the significance of the Divine Dawn. Mandala I, Sukta 113 is referenced therein a number of times. The translation of this Hymn was provided by Nolini Kanta Gupta.

Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, U.S. edition published by Lotus Press