We have completed our review of the six chapters of The Mother by Sri Aurobindo. This compact book has a tremendous power of transformative energy. While The Life Divine delves into issues in an expansive and comprehensive way, this book has concentrated on the essentials of how the seeker can align himself with the evolutionary change that is taking place.
Whether a seeker is following the path of knowledge, love and devotion, or works primarily, this text provides the understanding and psychological standpoint needed to achieve the desired result.
We are planning to take up the text Rebirth and Karma next–an interesting and controversial subject that nonetheless has profound interest for many people.
In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes the process of “involution and evolution” whereby the supreme powers of existence have become involved in Matter, and then undertake an evolution, a series of steps of self-finding and expansion to integrate Matter with Spirit.
This implies that the development to the next level of consciousness is essentially inevitable in the earth evolution. It becomes then a matter of time and process. Sri Aurobindo describes this at the end of the book The Mother as follows:
“The supramental change is a thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth-consciousness; for its upward ascent is not ended and mind is not its last summit.”
We can participate and cooperate in this change through a psychological process of aspiration and receptivity from our side and a corresponding response from the consciousness operating on the higher planes. “But that the change may arrive, take form and endure, there is needed the call from below with a will to recognise and not deny the Light when it comes, and there is needed the sanction of the Supreme from above.”
It is the power of the Divine Shakti that provides the impetus for this change. Without the Mother’s Force in action, human effort cannot achieve the result on its own. “The power that mediates between the sanction and the call is the presence and power of the Divine Mother. The Mother’s power and not any human endeavor and tapasya can alone rend the lid and tear the covering and shape the vessel and bring down into this world of obscurity and falsehood and death and suffering Truth and Light and Life divine and the immortal’s Ananda.”
It is tempting to the human mind to believe that the Divine Shakti’s action must be extraordinary and miraculous and outside the normal methodology and mechanisms of the world’s functioning. We expect to see divinity in terms of miraculous cures, walking on water, or instantaneous psychological transformations that simply do away with our difficulties.
Sri Aurobindo rebuts this presumption: “Avoid also the error of the ignorant mind’s demand on the Divine Power to act always according to our crude surface notions of omniscience and omnipotence. For our mind clamours to be impressed at every turn by miraculous power and easy success and dazzling splendour; otherwise it cannot believe that here is the Divine. The Mother is dealing with the Ignorance in the fields of the Ignorance; she has descended there and is not all above. Partly she veils and partly she unveils her knowledge and her power, often holds them back from her instruments and personalities and follows that she may transform them the way of the seeking mind, the way of the aspiring psychic, the way of the battling vital, the way of the imprisoned and suffering physical nature.”
The transformational effort needs to be an organic action of natural growth and development. “…the human in us has to be led and prepared to transcend its limits and is too weak and obscure to be lifted up suddenly to a form far beyond it. The Divine Consciousness and Force are there and do at each moment the thing that is needed in the conditions of the labour, take always the step that is decreed and shape in the midst of imperfection the perfection that is to come.”
There is a stage where things can move much more swiftly and effectively, as we overcome the limitations of the mind and the supramental force can begin to act directly on the nature: “But only when the supermind has descended in you can she deal directly as the supramental Shakti with supramental natures.”
It is therefore essential to not be misled by appearances or the limited reasoning and flawed judgments rendered by the mind: “If you follow your mind, it will not recognise the Mother even when she is manifest before you. Follow your soul and not your mind, your soul that answers to the Truth, not your mind that leaps at appearances; trust the Divine Power and she will free the god-like elements in you and shape all into an expression of Divine Nature.”
As mental beings, we try to understand and judge what we see and experience by the power of the mind. For many purposes, of course, this seems to work just fine, particularly when we are looking at practical arrangements in the material world. However, it is not possible to adequately grasp nor judge the powers that operate above the mind by mental parameters. We try to set rules and fixed ways of seeing things, while the spiritual force far exceeds and has far more complexity than it is possible for the mind to comprehend.
We find this whenever the mind tries to grapple with complexity such as the functioning of the human body or the balance of the entire eco-sphere of the planet, or even the subatomic forces of the material plane. When we try to act from the limited mental understanding we invariably find that there are numerous “unintended consequences” that arise, representing the level intelligence of the universal manifestation going beyond the mind’s framework.
Sri Aurobindo makes this same point in relation to the action of the Divine Shakti. “But be on your guard and do not try to understand and judge the Divine Mother by your little earthly mind that loves to subject even the things that are beyond it to its own norms and standards, its narrow reasonings and erring impressions, its bottomless aggressive ignorance and its petty self-confident knowledge. The human mind shut in the prison of its half-lit obscurity cannot follow the many-sided freedom of the steps of the Divine Shakti. The rapidity and complexity of her vision and action outrun its stumbling comprehension; the measures of her movement are not its measures. Bewildered by the swift alteration of her many different personalities, her making of rhythms and her breaking of rhythms, her accelerations of speed and her retardations, her varied ways of dealing with the problem of one and of another, her taking up and dropping now of this line and now of that one and her gathering of them together, it will not recognise the way of the Supreme Power when it is circling and sweeping upwards through the maze of the Ignorance to a supernal Light.”
It is through the soul’s receptivity, the psychic being’s openness, that one can feel and experience the inner Truth of the method and action of the Divine Shakti.
Sri Aurobindo outlines three conditions or psychological states that the seeker must adopt to carry out the transformation of the Divine Mahashakti. These conditions are consciousness, plasticity and unreserved surrender. He describes the characteristics of each of them as follows:
Consciousness: “For you must be conscious in your mind and soul and heart and life and the very cells of your body, aware of the Mother and her Powers and their working; for although she can and does work in you even in your obscurity and your unconscious parts and moments, it is not the same thing as when you are in an awakened and living communion with her.”
Plasticity: “All your nature must be plastic to her touch,–not questioning as the self-sufficient ignorant mind questions and doubts and disputes and is the enemy of its enlightenment and change; not insisting on its own movements as the vital in man insists and persistently opposes its refractory desires and ill-will to every divine influence; not obstructing and entrenched in incapacity, inertia and tamas as man’s physical consciousness obstructs and clinging to its pleasure in smallness and darkness cries out against each touch that disturbs its soul-less routine or its dull sloth or its torpid slumber.”
Surrender: “The unreserved surrender of your inner and outer being will bring this plasticity into all the parts of your nature; consciousness will awaken everywhere in you by constant openness to the Wisdom and Light, the Force, the Harmony and Beauty, the Perfection that come flowing down from above. Even the body will awake and unite at last its consciousness subliminal no longer to the supramental superconscious Force, feel all her powers permeating from above and below and around it and thrill to a supreme Love and Ananda.”
It is especially important not to let the limited human mind, emotions. life and body restrict, obstruct or prevent the operation of the Divine Shakti in the nature. Since they cannot judge something so much larger than their capabilities, it is essential to adopt an attitude of receptivity as outlined by Sri Aurobindo here.
In another sense, we can see this as moving beyond the limitations of the three qualities, “gunas”, sattva, rajas and tamas, to respond to the action of the Divine Forces of the Mother.
The four great powers of the Mother are not the only powers that She manifests or that play a role in the evolutionary development. They are the primary forces at work and they carry out the bulk of the transforming effort. Once they have become well established and integrated into the earth nature, and work together in a unity of purpose, it is then possible and essential that additional powers of the Mother should manifest to provide completeness to the transformation that unites the heights of the Spirit with the depths of Matter.
“There are among them Presences indispensable for the supramental realisatino,–most of all one who is her Personality of that mysterious and powerful ecstasy and Ananda which flows from a supreme divine Love, the Ananda that alone can heal the gulf between the highest heights of the supramental spirit and the lowest abysses of Matter, the Ananda that holds the key of a wonderful divinest Life and even now supports from its secrecies the work of all the other Powers of the universe.”
The limitations of the human personality make it difficult for these more rarified and refined powers to come to the front and act openly. Sri Aurobindo sets forth the conditions: “Only when the Four have founded their harmony and freedom of movement in the transformed mind and life and body, can those other rarer Powers manifest in the earth movement and the supramental action become possible.”
The result of this transformation is the ultimate goal of the evolutionary effort: “Then can human nature change into dynamic divine nature because all the elemental lines of the supramental Truth-consciousness and Truth-force are strung together and the harp of life is fitted for the rhythms of the Eternal.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, Chapter Six, pp. 55-57
While the other powers of the Mother simply do not abide in conditions that are inconsistent to them, Mahasaraswati works to raise up and resolve all the incompatible movements in the nature. Thus, she is with us in our sincere efforts during both the best and the worst of times. Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “Therefore of all the Mother’s powers she is the most long-suffering with man and his thousand imperfections. Kind, smiling, close and helpful, not easily turned away or discouraged, insistent even after repeated failure, her hand sustains our every step on condition that we are single in our will and straightforward and sincere; for a double mind she will not tolerate and her revealing irony is merciless to drama and histrionics and self-deceit and pretence. A mother to our wants, a friend in our difficulties, a persistent and tranquil counsellor and mentor, chasing away with her radiant smile the clouds of gloom and fretfulness and depression, reminding us always of the ever-present help, pointing to the eternal sunshine, she is firm, quiet and persevering in the deep and continuous urge that drives us towards the integrality of the higher nature.”
The character of Mahasaraswati’s work is one of perfection in detail. “Moulding and remoulding she labours each part till it has attained its true form, is put in its exact place in the whole and fulfils its precise purpose. In her constant and diligent arrangement and rearrangement of things her eye is on all needs at once and the way to meet them and her intuition knows what is to be chosen and what rejected and successfully determines the right instrument, the right time, the right conditions and the right process. Carelessness and negligence and indolence she abhors; all scamped and hasty and shuffling work, all clumsiness and a `peu pr`es and misfire, all false adaptation and misuse of instruments and faculties and leaving of things undone or half done is offensive and foreign to her temper. When her work is finished, nothing has been forgotten, no part has been misplaced or omitted or left in a faulty condition; all is solid, accurate, complete, admirable. Nothing short of a perfect perfection satisfies her and she is ready to face an eternity of toil if that is needed for the fullness of her creation.”
This power is necessary for the fulfillment of the other aspects and powers of the Mother, as they “…lean on her for its completeness; for she assures the material foundation, elaborates the stuff of detail and erects and rivets the armour of the structure.”
The fourth aspect of the Mother is essential for the wholeness and completion of any effort–it is the power to accomplish detailed work and carry it out with perfection. In terms of fulfilling the actions of the other 3 powers, “…Mahasaraswati presides over theri detail of organisation and execution, relation of parts and effective combination of forces and unfailing exactitude of result and fulfilment. The science and craft and technique of things are Mahasaraswati’s province.”
This power is focused, not only on external work detail, but also on the rebuilding of the inner nature that is the object of the yogic sadhana. While we tend to seek the powers of Wisdom, Force or Love for their immediate satisfaction, it is really the patient, steady and relentless efforts of Mahasaraswati, systematically taking up each element of detail in the nature, modifying, adding, rejecting and guiding to the eventual solid foundation of the permanent changes being sought, that provides the basis for true and effective transformation. “When she takes up the transformation and new-building of the nature, her action is laborious and minute and often seems to our impatience slow and interminable, but it is persistent, integral and flawless. For the will in her works is scrupulous, unsleeping, indefatigable; leaning over us she notes and touches every little detail, finds out every minute defect, gap, twist or incompleteness, considers and weighs accurately all that has been done and all that remains still to be done hereafter.”
Each of the divine Powers has its own conditions and requirements for effective action and manifestation. The power of Mahalakshmi preconditions its action on a receptivity in the environment, hearts and minds in which it is being asked to manifest. Sri Aurobindo provides a clear idea of what is needed:
“Harmony and beauty of the mind and soul, harmony and beauty of the thoughts and feelings, harmony and beauty in every outward act and movement, harmony and beauty of the life and surroundings, this is the demand of Mahalakshmi.”
Mahalakshmi does not remain in an environment where the action or motives are mixed or where the action of love and beauty are being distorted for individual self-satisfaction or aggrandisement. “But all that is ugly and mean and base, all that is poor and sordid and squalid, all that is brutal and course repels her advent. Where love and beauty are not or are reluctant to be born, she does not come; where they are mixed and disfigured with baser things, she turns soon to depart or cares little to pour her richdes. If she finds herself in men’s hearts surrounded with selfishness and hatred and jealousy and malignance and envy and strife, if treachery and greed and ingratitude are mixed in the sacred chalice, if grossness of passion and unrefined desire degrade devotion, in such hearts the gracious and beautiful Goddess will not linger.”
Similarly, those who follow the path of asceticism and avoidance do not provide a welcome environment for her action: “Ascetic bareness and harshness are not pleasing to her nor the suppression of the heart’s deeper emotions and the rigid repression of the soul’s and the life’s parts of beauty. For it is through love and beauty that she lays on men the yoke of the Divine.” Those who believe that spirituality implies renunciation of the richness and beauty of life push away the operation of Mahalakshmi’s power.
For those who find the way to open to this power, however, there is a wonderful opening possible that integrates the spiritual and material into a harmonious Oneness. “Admitted to the heart she lifts wisdom to pinnacles of wonder and reveals to it the mystic secrets of the ecstasy that surpasses all knowledge, meets devotion with the passionate attraction of the Divine, teaches to strength and force the rhythm that keeps the might of their acts harmonious and in measure and casts on perfection the charm that makes it endure for ever.”
Many of us tend to see the Divine influence in wisdom or power, but overlook the subtle forces of harmony and beauty. Sri Aurobindo reminds us that this aspect of the Divine Force, called Mahalakshmi, is essential to the divine manifestation.
“Wisdom and Force are not the only manifestations of the supreme Mother; there is a subtler mystery of her nature and without it Wisdom and Force would be incomplete things and without it perfection would not be perfect. Above them is the miracle of eternal beauty, an unseizable secret of divine harmonies, the compelling magic of an irresistible universal charm and attraction that draws and holds things and forces and beings together and obliges them to meet and unite that a hidden Ananda may play from behind the veil and make of them its rhythms and its figures.”
While we may find the calm wideness of Maheshwari too distant from us, or the force of Mahakali too intimidating, “…all turn with joy and longing to Mahalakshmi. For she throws the spell of the intoxicating sweetness of the Divine: to be close to her is a profound happiness and to feel her within the heart is to make existence a rapture and a marvel; grace and charm and tenderness flow out from her like light from the sun and wherever she fixes her wonderful gaze or lets fall the loveliness of her smile, the soul is seized and made captive and plunged into the depths of an unfathomable bliss. Magnetic is the touch of her hands and their occult and delicate influence refines mind and life and body and where she presses her feet course miraculous streams of an entrancing Ananda.”