Bringing Harmony Between the Inner Psychic Being and the External Nature

For Sri Aurobindo, truth of the spirit is to be lived, not attained by abandonment of life in the world. He looks at the evolution of body, life and mind as steps along the evolutionary process, and each one of them represents an important stage in an ongoing development. The action of these instruments is to be uplifted and perfected as new evolutionary powers enter into the world. The developed human being can participate consciously in this process, and thereby aid in bringing forth these new powers and transforming the nature and thereby the life in the world.

Sri Aurobindo recounts two primary mechanisms whereby the individual aligns himself with this development. The safest and easiest is the linking of the being with the inner psychic entity, the soul, deep within behind the heart. This brings a sense of devotion, compassion, good will and aspiration that helps to overcome all doubts, fears and uncertainties along the way. For some individuals, however, the path of development and linkage lies primarily through the mental centre. This path involves the shifting of the standpoint to one of the witness of the nature, and then exerting from there the pressure to break through the habitual patterns of the external being. Eventually, either way, there must result a harmony between the inner being, the aspiring soul, and the outer nature and actions so that the outer reflects the sense of the inner.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The other side of discipline is with regard to the activities of the nature, of the mind, of the life-self or vital, of the physical being. Here the principle is to accord the nature with the inner realisation so that one may not be divided into two discordant parts. There are here several disciplines or processes possible. One is to offer all the activities to the Divine and call for the inner guidance and the taking up of one’s nature by a Higher Power. If there is the inward soul-opening, if the psychic being comes forward, then there is no great difficulty — there comes with it a psychic discrimination, a constant intimation, finally a governance which discloses and quietly and patiently removes all imperfections, brings the right mental and vital movements and reshapes the physical consciousness also. Another method is to stand back detached from the movements of the mind, life, physical being, to regard their activities as only a habitual formation of general Nature in the individual imposed on us by past workings, not as any part of our real being; in proportion as one succeeds in this, becomes detached, sees mind and its activities as not oneself, life and its activities as not oneself, the body and its activities as not oneself, one becomes aware of an inner Being within us — inner mental, inner vital, inner physical — silent, calm, unbound, unattached which reflects the true Self above and can be its direct representative; from this inner silent Being proceeds a rejection of all that is to be rejected, an acceptance only of what can be kept and transformed, an inmost Will to perfection or a call to the Divine Power to do at each step what is necessary for the change of the Nature. It can also open mind, life and body to the inmost psychic entity and its guiding influence or its direct guidance. In most cases these two methods emerge and work together and finally fuse into one. But one can begin with either, the one that one feels most natural and easy to follow.”

“Finally, in all difficulties where personal effort is hampered, the help of the Teacher can intervene and bring about what is needed for the realisation or for the immediate step that is necessary.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Awakening the Inner Consciousness, pp. 134-138

Concentration in the Mental Centre Is the Second Major Method to Achieve Liberation

Some people, especially those with a naturally devotional nature, will gravitate toward concentration that is centred in the region of the heart. Others, who have a more intellectual turn, will find it easier in most instances to experience the concentration in the mental centre. This approach actually can itself take several different forms. Classically, the seeker is instructed to concentrate on the area between the eyebrows, the ajna chakra, also termed the ‘third eye’ by many. This is a centre of concentration and mental will. It is also possible, however to shift the concentration upwards to the top of the head region, at the point where the mental consciousness reaches its higher levels, and through which higher forces sometimes descend into the mind. Many who have experienced what is called the “Mother’s Force” while meditating at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram have reported a pressure, or a dripping of force of consciousness, or a powerful descend through this higher mental centre.

The Isha Upanishad points out ‘the face of Truth is covered by a brilliant golden lid”. It is possible for the seeker to experience what seems to be such a ‘lid’ at the higher reaches of the mental level. At some point, when this lid is breached upwards, or through descent of the Force downwards, it can open up the seeker to yet higher realms of mind, those in which intuition, illumination, etc. become active and overtake the plodding action of the mental centre in its native state.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “That other way is the concentration in the head, in the mental centre. This, if it brings about the silence of the surface mind, opens up an inner, larger, deeper mind within which is more capable of receiving spiritual experience and spiritual knowledge. But once concentrated here one must open the silent mental consciousness upward to all that is above mind. After a time one feels the consciousness rising upward and in the end it rises beyond the lid which has so long kept it tied in the body and finds a centre above the head where it is liberated into the Infinite. There it begins to come into contact with the universal Self, the Divine Peace, Light, Power, Knowledge, Bliss, to enter into that and become that, to feel the descent of these things into the nature. To concentrate in the head with the aspiration for quietude in the mind and the realisation of the Self and Divine above is the second way of concentration. It is important, however, to remember that the concentration of the consciousness in the head is only a preparation for its rising to the centre above; otherwise, one may get shut up in one’s own mind and its experiences or at best attain only to a reflection of the Truth above instead of rising into the spiritual transcendence to live there. For some the mental concentration is easier, for some the concentration in the heart centre; some are capable of doing both alternately — but to begin with the heart centre, if one can do it, is the more desirable.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Awakening the Inner Consciousness, pp. 134-138

Occult Experience of Visualization Applied to Contacting the Soul

Many people have reported the experience of visualizing, either in deep meditation, or in what may be called a dream state, or a lucid dream state, a house, or building, or even in some cases a cave, and when one enters into that space, there are numerous passages or doors, and if one follows it up, all kinds of information and awareness is revealed. C.G. Jung explored what he called the “collective unconscious” and others report visualizing a massive repository of scrolls or books that each open up a branch of knowledge about oneself, about the past, the future or about some other time, place or event. These represent occult or mystical experiences of realms of consciousness transcribed to our external mental faculty as moving through and exploring rooms and tapping into the knowledge contained therein. These are in fact symbolic experiences of actual events in consciousness for the person undergoing the experience.

The Mother builds on this to show how one can contact the soul through conscious process of deep meditation and the use of visualization techniques to explore and open the door, behind which the soul-consciousness, the psychic being deep within the being, awaits.

The Mother observes: “When I ask you to go deep down within yourselves, some of you will concentrate on a sensation, but others may just as well have the impression of going down into a deep well, and they clearly see the picture of steps going down into a dark and deep well, and they go down farther and farther, deeper and deeper, and sometimes reach precisely a door; they sit down before the door with the will to enter, and sometimes the door opens, and then they go in and see a kind of hall or a room or a cave or something, and from there, if they go on they may come to another door and again stop, and with an effort the door opens and they go farther. And if this is done with enough persistence and one can continue the experience, there comes a time when one finds oneself in front of a door which has… a special kind of solidity or solemnity, and with a great effort of concentration the door opens and one suddenly enters a hall of clarity, of light; and then, one has the experience, you see, of contact with one’s soul….”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Visualization for Discovering One’s Being, pp. 131-134

Visualization as an Aid for Entering into Contact with One’s Psychic Being

For those who have the power of visualisation and who are ready and willing to concentrate in this way, there can be tremendous progress in developing the relation to the psychic being. The mind transcribes the energetic relationships of the various parts of the being into different rooms and forms of energy and action, and thus, using the power of visualisation, the seeker can enter into a specific part of the being and relate to its action by moving through the visualisation process into the appropriate room or space involved.

The Mother describes one such palpable experience that results from such a visualisation process to come into contact with the psychic being.

The Mother writes: “To sit in meditation before a closed door, as though it were a heavy door of bronze — and one sits in front of it with the will that it may open — and to pass to the other side; and so the whole concentration, the whole aspiration is gathered into a beam and pushes, pushes, pushes against this door, and pushes more and more with an increasing energy until all of a sudden it bursts open, and one enters. It makes a very powerful impression. And so one is as though plunged into the light and then one has the full enjoyment of a sudden and radical change of consciousness, with an illumination that captures one entirely, and the feeling that one is becoming another person. And this is a very concrete and very powerful way of entering into contact with one’s psychic being.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Visualization for Discovering One’s Being, pp. 131-134

The Power of Visualisation Can Aid in Overcoming the Limits of the Logic-Bound Mental Consciousness in Achieving Realisation in the Spiritual Endeavour and the External World

The mental being tends to accept that if it has an intellectual understanding of something, that it has ‘accomplished’ that thing. It does not tend to concern itself with the vital or physical world per se, and thus, if it ‘knows’ that it is one with the rest of the universal creation, or if it ‘knows’ that it has had an experience of liberation from the ego-consciousness, it accepts that it has ‘accomplished’ the task at hand, even though the external nature, and particularly the physical and the vital consciousness, remains mired in duality and the sense of being ensnared in the material world.

The mind tends to work using the logical thought process and thus processes its activities most of the time in a linear, sequential fashion based in language. When a seeker recognises these limitations and tries to shift the mental paradigm, a number of paths have recommended and described a process of visualisation as a mechanism to aid in making the consciousness take hold of external forms more precisely and powerfully. The Tibetan Buddhist path, in particular has highly detailed visualisation exercises, using mandalas or thangkas or detailed constructs that the mind has to build to visualize certain forms, forces, deities and specific locations within oneself, specified colors and shapes, etc.

Some people have determined that the power of visualisation also aids in the realisation of actions in the external world. Modern-day science has applied this concept in particular to various sports, where the participant is asked to visualize the steps, the strokes, the development of the process, and thereby to create a formation for the eventual action to be realized.

Others have recognised this power and used visualisation to achieve success in many fields of outer endeavour, even though the best use of this power is to apply it to the spiritual activity, to use it to, for instance, move the awareness to the psychic being, or to visualise the rising of the coiled force at the base of the spine through the various chakras to join the individual human consciousness with the divine consciousness residing above the head in the 1000-petalled chakra that can be experienced there.

The Mother notes: “Some people are just intellectuals; for them everything is expressed by ideas and not by images. But if they were to go down into a more material domain, well, they risk not touching things in their concrete reality and remaining only in the domain of ideas, remaining in the mind and remaining there indefinitely. Then one thinks one is making progress, and mentally one has done so, though it is something altogether indefinite.”

“The mind’s progress may take thousands of years, for it is a very fast and very indefinite field, which is constantly renewed. But if one wants to progress in the vital and physical, well, this imaged representation becomes very useful for fixing the action, making it more concrete. Naturally it doesn’t happen completely at will; it depends on each one’s nature. But those who have the power of concentrating with images, well, they have one more facility.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Visualization for Discovering One’s Being, pp. 131-134

Visiting the Symbolic Transcription of One’s Inner Being As Displayed to the Conscious Awareness

For those who are anchored in their outer external awareness of the world and of themselves, there is no understanding or acceptance of the reality of inner occult states of awareness. Thus, they deny the reality of the inner experiences, until perhaps they happen to have a near death experience, or an out of body experience of their own, and recognise that there are depths and realms within that they were simply not attending to. They treat dreams as something random and generally meaningless as well.

Even if one is receptive to these inner states of awareness, they may come simply as a feeling or perhaps as a vivid dream of some sort. Some dreams come with such a sense of reality and significance that people intuitively feel like they are sending a message to the outer consciousness, and this has brought about the craft of dream interpretation, which has developed for thousands of years across the entire world. Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh in Egypt is an early documented example of the power and need for understanding dreams. Oracles, shaman and occultists have filled this role in other times and places. Freud and Jung developed the modern Western approach to understanding the psychology of the dream state and interpreting the symbols that appear there.

What we recognise from this, is that the inner imagery, the symbolic representation of some inward state of awareness, is a means by which the inner psychology tries to establish a link and relationship to the outer external being. To the extent that the link is rudimentary, we try to interpret what the meaning is.

The question arises: what if we could link up the external consciousness and awareness of the being with these inner states of consciousness and experience and thereby begin to understand directly and carry the significance back with us into our waking state. Those who practice various forms of occultism or mysticism attempt to do this very thing. C.G. Jung in his Red Book documented his own extensive explorations in this process with drawings, paintings and symbolic representations that came to him. At some point, it becomes clear that the various parts of the being are represented with imagery that appears as a house with many rooms, while the subconscient levels are frequently represented as a huge library with books or scrolls that contain the information encoded at that level, each one of which able to be opened, and ‘read’ and thereby release the encapsulated knowledge, information or experience to the seeker who goes there and is conscious enough to bring back that information in what may appear to be a conscious dream, a waking dream-like experience, a trance state or an intense visualisation.

The Mother observes: “As when one goes on the discovery of one’s inner being, of all the different parts of one’s being, one very often has the feeling that one is entering deep into a hall or room, and according to the colour, the atmosphere, the things it contains, one has a very clear perception of the part of the being one is visiting. And then, one can go from one room to another, open doors and go into deeper and deeper rooms each of which has its own character. And often, these inner visits can be made during the night. Then it takes a still more concrete form, like a dream, and one feels that he is entering a house, and that this house is very familiar to him. And according to the time, the periods, it is internally different, and sometimes it may be in a state of very great disorder, very great confusion, where everything is mixed up; sometimes there are even broken things; it is quite a chaos. At other times these things are organised, put in their place; it is as though one had arranged the household, one cleans up, puts it in order, and is always the same house. This house is the image, a kind of objective image, of your inner being. And in accordance with what you see there or do there, you have a symbolic representation of your psychological work. It is very useful for concretising. It depends on people.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Visualization for Discovering One’s Being, pp. 131-134

The Process of Effectuating Real Change in Human Nature

Honest observation without mental bias is the first step the Mother outlines. This is accomplished by setting up the ideal as a screen or filter against which to compare each action. Those that do not compare entirely favorably represent things that can be identified as subjects for the change process. The standpoint of the uninvolved witness of the nature does not have any obligation to intervene, and many paths of yogic development that utilize this method counsel non-intervention as a basis of achieving liberation.

If the goal, however, is not ‘liberation’ but ‘transformation’, different criteria emerge and as a result, at some point, intervention is required and becomes phase 2 of the process. Eventually the observational mode is able to identify specific areas of ‘conflict’ between different parts of the being, their various needs, drives, motives, habits and directions, and begin to organise each of these elements around the highest aspiration representing the purpose the psychic being has as the life-objective.

The Mother writes: “And I am so convinced that anybody who does it in that way, with the same freshness and sincerity, will obtain exhilarating results…. To put all that on a screen in front of yourself and look at what is happening. And the first step is to know all that is happening and then you must not try to shut your eyes when something does not appear pleasant to you! You must keep them wide open and put each thing in that way before the screen. Then you make quite an interesting discovery. And then the next step is to begin saying: ‘Since all that is happening within me, why should I not put this thing in this way and then that thing in that way and then this other in this way and thus wouldn’t I be doing something logical that has a meaning? Why should I not remove that thing which stands obstructing the way, these conflicting wills? why? And what does that represent in the being? Why is it there? If it were put there, would it not help instead of harming me?’ And so on.”

“And little by little, little by little, you see clearer and then you see why you are made like that, what is the thing you have got to do — that for which you are born. And then, quite naturally, since all is organised for this thing to come, the path becomes straight and you can say beforehand: ‘It is in this way that it will happen.’ And when things come from outside to try and upset all that, you are able to say: ‘No, I accept this, for it helps; I reject that, for that harms.’ And then, after a few years, you curb yourself as you curb a horse: you do whatever you like, in the way you like and you go wherever you like.”

“It seems to me this is worth the trouble. I believe it is the most interesting thing.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Self-Observation and Self-Organisation, pp. 126-131

Organising One’s Life Around the Ideal

Observation and reflection eventually can lead to focus of the life and attention to achieve a specific aspiration. The process of reviewing with care in the light of the higher aspiration allows the individual to then choose which things to do, and which things to avoid, sculpting, if you will, the future life and activity. As one undertakes this process, the individual finds that life-circumstances begin to align and take on a coherence and inner organisation around that fixed goal. It is similar to the alignment one finds in gemstone crystals as opposed to ordinary rocks! At the atomic level, the crystals show a clear organised form that allows energy to flow smoothly and in one direction, and it is that alignment that creates the value and beauty of the gemstone itself.

The Mother notes: “And then, after a while, when you are quite accustomed to seeing you can go one step further and take a decision. Or even a still greater step: you organise, arrange, take up all that, put each thing in its place, organise in such a way that you begin to have a straight movement with an inner meaning. And then you become conscious of your direction and are able to say: ‘Very well, it will be thus; my life will develop in that way, because that is the logic of my being. Now, I have arranged all that is within me, each thing has been put in its place, and so naturally a central orientation is forming. I am following this orientation. One step more and I know what will happen to me for I myself am deciding it….’ I do not know, I am telling you this; to me it seemed terribly interesting, the most interesting thing in the world. There was nothing, no other thing that interested me more than that….”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Self-Observation and Self-Organisation, pp. 126-131

The First Step In Organising One’s Life Around a Central Will or Aspiration

Those who have an aspiration for spiritual growth, for the change of human nature within themselves, eventually find that they cannot live haphazardly, at the mercy of whatever forces, impulses, ideas or thoughts happen to be moving within them at any point in time, regardless of the source or the intention behind those movements. The aspiration becomes a will to grow, a will to change, a will to progress, and this involves several steps to ensure that the being is coalescing around the aspiration and not random vital impulses or ideas.

The first step is to learn how to observe one’s own being, so that one can see those impulses, thoughts and drives in action, see where they come from, how they impact the being, and what result they bring about. After some time of observation, it becomes clear that these impulses, actions and reactions do not really have a coordinated goal, but in many cases are actually opposed to one another and thus, create internal conflict within the being, or a sense that one is unable to succeed in one’s goals or aspirations because of drives, habits, tendencies, etc. that drive the being in a totally different direction. This observational stage needs to occur without the mental bias or overlay that tries to explain away or justify all these things. Rather, it needs to more and more shift the standpoint away from the ego-centre to that of the independent witness consciousness.

The Mother responds to the following statement: In oneself, there are contradictory wills.

The Mother observes: “Yes, many. That is one of the very first discoveries. There is one part which wants things this way; and then at another moment another way, and a third time, one wants still another thing! Besides, there is even this: something that wants and another which says no. So? But it is exactly that which has to be found if you wish in the least to organise yourself. Why not project yourself upon a screen, as in the cinema, and then look at yourself moving on it? How interesting it is!”

“This is the first step. You project yourself on the screen and then observe and see all that is moving there and how it moves and what happens. You make a little diagram, it becomes so interesting then.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Self-Observation and Self-Organisation, pp. 126-131

Alleviating the Greater Part of Human Suffering

In the opening chapter of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo sets forth the proposition that “… all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony.” We can see the reality of this statement both in the way we respond internally to circumstances, events and our reactions to them, as well as in the way we, collectively, address our common human needs and relate to the environment within which we live.

The Mother takes up both of these levels in her discussion about how to organise and harmonise both our inner process and the relations of nations and communities with one another. The imbalance inwardly comes from over-emphasis on either the physical, vital or mental levels without an offsetting view that tries to find the common need and meet it appropriately, and without the core focus of the needed psychic being connection to the Divine.

We can see everywhere around us at the level of society the impact of imbalance and the disruptions, disharmony and suffering this causes. There is an enormous imbalance of access to resources, income inequality, and energy usage. Certain societies create more waste and pollution, including development of greenhouse gases, while other societies suffer the greatest impact and are thus subject to famine, drought, flooding, and dislocations due to fighting over limited resources, or mass migrations caused by the underlying imbalances and the fights and wars they cause.

We see also in our relation to the environment that we are upsetting the harmony of the atmosphere, the temperature of the oceans, and the mix of toxic pollution that is systematically destroying the ocean environment and the food chain dependent on it, as well as creating further disruptions on the societal and individual human levels.

If we can begin to put everything in its right place and create a balance, find ways to equitably provide humanity access to the resources available, and work to restore harmony and balance in our environment, we can begin to solve the problems that create and accentuate human suffering.

The Mother writes: “You may be five years old or twenty, fifty or sixty and yet transform yourself in this way by putting everything before this inner light. You will see that the elements which do not conform with your ideal are not generally elements which you have to throw wholly out of yourself (there are a few of this kind); they are simply things not in their place. If you organise everything — your feelings, your thoughts, your impulses, etc. — around the psychic centre which is the inner light, you will see that all inner discord will change into a luminous order.”

“It is quite evident that if a similar procedure were adopted by a nation or by the earth, most of the things which make men unhappy would disappear, for the major part of the world’s misery comes from the fact that things are not in their place. If life were organised in such a way that nothing was wasted and each thing was in its place, most of these miseries would not exist any longer. An old sage has said: ‘There is no evil. There is only a lack of balance. There is nothing bad. Only things are not in their place.’ “

“If everything were in its place, in nations, in the material world, in the actions and thoughts and feelings of individuals, the greater part of human suffering would disappear.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Exercises for Growth and Mastery, Self-Observation and Self-Organisation, pp. 126-131