The Mother’s Force to Effectuate the Change of Consciousness

Practitioners of Yoga speak of the opening of the Kundalini and the energy rising up from the base of the spine, through the various chakras and issuing out of the 1000 petalled lotus at the top of the skull. The experience of the rising of the Kundalini is a core development in many yogic practices. One of the disadvantages of this, however, is the potential for all kinds of unrefined energies from the lower chakras to be released and put in motion while the seeker is not yet fully prepared to deal with and manage them. This has led to some unfortunate consequences for many people.

The integral Yoga, however, starts with a different concept. The focus here is to develop the psychic opening of the heart, the purity, devotion and dedication needed to keep the aim true and the opening above to the higher Force which is then experienced as a descent from above, first impacting the mind, then the heart and eventually proceeding to open up the energies of the lower chakras. The opening of the mind and the heart help the seeker to maintain balance and perspective and thereby manage the energies that arise more effectively.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It [the Mother’s Force] is the Divine Force which works to remove the ignorance and change the nature into the divine nature. … When I speak of the Mother’s force I do not speak of the force of Prakriti which carries in it things of the Ignorance but of the higher Force of the Divine that descends from above to transform the nature. … The Power above the head is of course the Mother’s — it is the power of the Higher Consciousness carrying in it a sense of wide and boundless existence, light, power, peace, Ananda etc. is always there above the head and when something of the spiritual Force comes down to work upon the nature, it is from there that it comes. But nothing like the full descent of the peace, bliss etc. can come so long as the being is not ready.”

“What you feel streaming down must be the Mother’s overhead Force. It flows usually from above the head and works at first in the mind-centres (head and neck) and afterwards goes down into the chest and heart and then through the movement of the whole body. … It is the effect of this working which you must be feeling in the head up to the shoulders. The Force that comes down from above is the one that works to transform the consciousness into that of a higher spiritual being. Before that the Mother’s Force works in the psychic, mental, vital and the physical plane itself to support, purify and psychically change the consciousness. … The Mother’s Force is not only above on the summit of the being. It is there with you and near you, ready to act whenever your nature will allow it. … All has to be done by the working of the Mother’s force aided by your aspiration, devotion and surrender.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, The Mother’s Force, pp. 90-91

The Mother: Supreme Nature That Manifests All Existence

The Supreme Divine is “One without a second”. Yet we can still make mental distinctions between the Transcendent, the Universal and the Individual aspects of the Divine, as that is the nature of the mental consciousness, and we can focus on one or another of these aspects without forgetting the unity and oneness that contains, constitutes and supports each aspect. To do this, we recognise that we cannot limit the Divine by any specific aspect or identification. “Not this, not that” is intended to remind us that these definitions cannot limit the Divine.

Similarly, the active nature in the individual, in the world, and in the cosmos, Prakriti, can be looked at as separate aspects of the Divine Shakti, but without limiting the Shakti through these identifications. There is the supreme nature Para Prakriti, which exceeds any limits or definitions we create to identify the action of nature in the universal creation.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “It is a mistake to identify the Mother with the lower Prakriti and its mechanism of forces. Prakriti here is a mechanism only which has been put forth for the working of the evolutionary Ignorance. As the ignorant mental, vital or physical being is not itself the Divine, although it comes from the Divine — so the mechanism of Prakriti is not the Divine Mother. No doubt something of her is there in and behind this mechanism maintaining it for the evolutionary purpose; but what she is in herself is not a Shakti of Avidya, but the Divine Consciousness, Power, Light, Para Prakriti to whom we turn for release and the divine fulfillment.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, The Divine Mother pp. 88-90

The Divine Mother — the Consciousness-Force of the Divine

In his book The Mother, Sri Aurobindo writes: “In all that is done in the universe, the Divine through his Shakti is behind all action but he is veiled by his Yoga Maya and works through the ego of the Jiva in the lower nature.” The Divine Shakti, the creative force of the universe, the power that manifests all, is the Divine Mother. There are both static and dynamic aspects of existence. The static aspect is Eternal, Absolute and unmoving. It supports and contains all, but does not create. The dynamic aspect is the force of creation that acts in the universe. The Divine Mother is this dynamic power of creation.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The Divine Mother is the Consciousness and Force of the Divine — which is the Mother of all things. ..– or, it may be said, she is the Divine in its consciousness-force. The Ishwara as Lord of the cosmos does come out of the Mother who takes her place beside him as the cosmic Shakti — the cosmic Ishwara is one aspect of the Divine. … The Supreme cannot create through the Transcendent because the Transcendent is the Supreme. It is through the Cosmic Shakti that the Divine creates.”

“it is the Divine who is the Master — the Self is inactive, it is always a silent witness supporting all things — that is the static aspect. There is also the dynamic aspect through which the Divine works — behind that is the Mother. You must not lose sight of that, that it is through the Mother that all things are attained.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, The Divine Mother pp. 88-90

Overcoming Doubt, Fear and Depression Which May Arise During the Practice of Yoga

The changes sought in the integral Yoga are of such magnitude and detail that they will naturally take a considerable time to work themselves out in all the levels and aspects of our being. Along the way, there come periods of difficulty which may challenge one’s faith or determination, what is known in some spiritual traditions as the “dark night of the soul” when the higher and deeper experiences recede and one is left with the struggle in the physical and vital areas that are so resistant to change. This can bring about feelings of hopelessness, depression, and doubt.

It is important at this point to recognise that the human individual is more of a focal point for expression of universal forces and that these feelings do not originate within the individual. This is true both in ordinary life and in the life of the yogic practitioner. It then becomes a matter of recognition and tuning of the awareness away from the channels that undermine the effort and towards those that support the effort.

Sometimes this refocusing can be accomplished by simply shifting the awareness to positive forces and directions, through thought, through devotional practices, through uplifting interactions whether interpersonal, or with nature, or through reading or other methods. In some cases, undertaking a journey to a place that holds uplifting vibrations, or undertaking the difficulties of a “vision quest” may aid the seeker in overcoming depressing forces.

It is easy to fall into a well of negativity when one looks around at the state of the world, the way people abuse one another or wreak havoc on the natural world. One antidote to this is to recognise that through the course of human civilisation, change has been inevitable, but also takes time and that measuring progress by the length of one’s own lifetime is an impossible task. If one lengthens the viewpoint to recognise change over longer time-spans, the depressing effect of the immediate circumstances can be offset by the realisation that progress is both inexorable and inevitable.

It is true that basic human nature remains, for the most part, unchanged, but these basic drives are among the most difficult to change, and thus, any progress in this area must be incremental and appear to be glacial. Yet we see changes in values and focus across society that lead us to believe that such change can occur. The drives of the vital-physical being are sublimated to some degree by the mental being. Yet the mental being does not have the ultimate power to truly change human nature into something else beyond; that change can only come with a next phase of the evolutionary process and the powers that come with that phase. The signs of the advent of that next evolutionary phase are there for us to see, and thus, the depressing effect of the slow pace of past change can be offset by the faith and hope for the future that the evolutionary forces are placing before us as the future development.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “If there are always forces around which are concerned to depress and discourage, there are always forces above and around us which we can draw upon, — draw into ourselves to restore, to fill up again with strength and faith and joy and the poewr that perseveres and conquers. It is really a habit that one has to get of opening to these helpful forces and either passively receiving them or actively drawing upon them — for one can do either. It is easier if you have the conception of them above and around you and the faith and the will to receive them — for that brings the experience and concrete sense of them and the capacity to receive at need or at will. It is a question of habituating your consciousness to get into touch and keep in touch with these helpful forces — and for that you must accustom yourself to reject the impressions forced on you by the others, depression, self-distrust, repining and all similar disturbances.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, Invisible Forces and the Divine Force pp. 85-87

The Divine Force Active in the Practice of Yoga

We all generally understand the concept of force at the material level. Our entire world is driven by this force as the sun energizes the planet, as the wind, the water and the power of fire in the depths of the earth create our material environment. We understand the concept of force at the vital level as we move to the impulses of hunger and thirst, fear and greed, domination and submission and the consequences of these impulses. We understand even the concept of force at the mental level, when an idea helps transform our lives and changes the way we see and respond to the world around us. It is therefore not difficult to understand that there is also a spiritual force that acts upon the world and each of us with its own power.

In the novel Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, we can see an example of a powerful spiritual force at work. The convict Jean Valjean escapes from the galleys after having been enslaved, and brutalized, for theft of a loaf of bread to feed his family. He was, in the eyes of society a “lost cause” and he acted in line with that expectation. After spending a night at the home of a priest in a small town, he stole the silver candlesticks and was soon caught. When the gendarmes brought him to the door of the priest, they were told by the priest that he had given the candlesticks and was wondering why Jean Valjean had not also taken the silver plate that went with them. After the gendarmes had left, the priest told Jean Valjean, in response to his query, that he had bought his soul to do good in the world and not continue his depraved life. This event transformed Jean Valjean and he acted in an exemplary way even at the risk of his own freedom and comfort in the coming years. This example was not based on some mental or religious idea, but on a powerful experience communicated to him by the priest.

We hear of similar stories such as Saul on the road to Damascus, or Valmiki being converted from being a notorious thief to living a life of spiritual purity and eventually writing the Ramayana. The story of the spiritual transformation of the worldly Prince Siddhartha into the Buddha, or the story of Milarepa, who went from being a vengeful youth, then a practiced black magician who wreaked vengeance on his oppressors, to eventually practicing yoga and transforming his life into one of deep spiritual realization, both show us the impact of spiritual force. When one reads the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, the power of the Spirit infuses the mind and heart.

In our own lives, as we take up the spiritual practice, we find that sometimes slow and steady, sometimes dramatic changes take place, which change our mode of thought, our way of life, our very physical being, based on the spiritual influence and force. Those without any experience of spiritual force will try to deny it, but the same could be said of those who have had no serious mental development who scoff at the power of mind to transform the vital and physical world, as it has done in the last centuries.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “By Force I mean not mental or vital energy but the Divine Force from above — as peace comes from above and wideness also, so does this Force (Shakti). Nothing, not even thinking or meditating can be done without some action of Force. The Force I speak of is a Force for illumination, transformation, purification, all that has to be done in the yoga, for removal of hostile forces and the wrong movements — it is also of course for external work, whether great or small in appearance does not matter — if that is part of the Divine Will. I do not mean any personal force egoistic or rajasic.”

“…it is part of the experience of those who have advanced far in Yoga that besides the ordinary forces and activities of the mind and life and body in Matter, there are other forces and powers that can act and do act from behind and from above; there is also a spiritual dynamic power which can be possessed by those who are advanced in the spiritual consciousness, though all do not care to possess or, possessing, to use it, and this power is greater than any other and more effective.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, The Gods and the Divine Force, Invisible Forces and the Divine Force pp. 85-87

Hidden Powers in Life and Yoga

There is an interesting contradiction in the way humanity deals with unseen, or invisible forces at work. We believe wholeheartedly nowadays in gravity, electricity, wireless communications, magnetic transportation vehicles, and, despite the fact that all of these represent invisible forces, we recognise that they both exist and have their effect and can be manipulated according to our need or intention. On the other hand, when it comes to the development of further applications of unseen forces, forces of the vital plane, forces of the mind, or powers of intuition, inspiration, hypnotic suggestion or even advances such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy or telekinesis, we tend to look askance at these powers and doubt their existence. Part of this is due to a healthy skepticism that needs must sort out the true from the false as people set up elaborate scams to pretend to these forces in order to fleece ignorant people of their money, or to acquire a form of power over others.

When we research the matter, however, we find that there is a real substance to these powers, and others that arise during the practice of Yoga or other forms of spiritual seeking, and that their effect cannot be denied. Even in the mental realm, when we ask inventors, artists or creators of various sorts where their ideas came from, or how they create something new, we find they respond with statements that imply that some external force entered into them and presented them with the direction or the idea.

The practice of Yoga, taken up by the sadhak over a number of years, will clearly yield results when looked at across the course of the practice through time. People find that they are not the same person they were when they started. They may find their diet changing, their way of looking at their lives and their action in the world taking on a new direction, and their reactions to events becoming radically different than they were at a much younger stage of life prior to the advent of their conscious yogic practice. This signals clearly that forces are at work to work on the inner psychology of the being.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The invisible Force producing tangible results both inward and outward is the whole meaning of the Yogic consciousness. Your question about Yoga bringing merely a feeling of Power without any result was really very strange. Who would be satisfied with such a meaningless hallucination and call it Power? If we had not had thousands of experiences showing that the Power within could alter the mind, develop its powers, add new ones, bring in new ranges of knowledge, master the vital movements, change the character, influence men and things, control the conditions and functionings of the body, work as a concrete dynamic Force on other forces, modify events, etc., etc., we would not speak of it as we do. Moreover, it is not only in its results but in its movements that the Force is tangible and concrete. When I speak of feeling Force of Power, I do not mean simply having a vague sense of it, but feeling it concretely and consequently being able to direct it, manipulate it, watch its movement, be conscious of its mass and intensity and in the same way of that of other, perhaps opposing forces; all these things are possible and usual by the development of Yoga.”

“It is not, unless it is supramental Force, a Power that acts without conditions and limits. The conditions and limits under which Yoga or Sadhana has to be worked out are not arbitrary or capricious; they arise from the nature of things. These including the will, receptivity, assent, self-opening and surrender of the Sadhak have to be respected by the Yoga-force, unless it receives a sanction from the Supreme to override everything and get something done, but that sanction is sparingly given. It is only if the supramental Power came fully down, not merely sent its influences through the Overmind, that things could be very radically directed towards that object — for then the sanction would not be rare. For the Law of the Truth would be at work, not constantly balanced by the law of the Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, Invisible Forces and the Divine Force, pp. 85-87

Invisible Forces in Our Lives and in Our Evolutionary Growth

We do not consider, for the most part, the reliance we have for all things in our lives in the world, upon invisible forces that are at work. We basically take these things for granted, give them names and treat them as a reality that we do not have to think about or reflect upon. No one can “see” gravity. It is an invisible force in the physical world, but we utilize this force and respond to this force and its effects. Similarly with electricity, we cannot see it, but we can see its effects when we flip the switch and the lights go on. We take for granted nowadays the use of cell phones for wireless communication through use of invisible forces.

At the level of our vital nature, there are invisible vibrations that move from one being to another. We sometimes feel some response to an environment or another being that is the work of an invisible vibration that acts upon us. Thus, we can feel a sense of peace or joy or devotion in certain circumstances or locations that arise without any observable cause. Similarly, there are times when we experience fear or trepidation and even have the hair on the back of our necks stand up. People frequently report feeling that someone is “observing” them, although they have not at that moment seen the individual. There are documented cases of people feeling vital vibrations in an atmosphere that convey anger or rage, such as in a mob of people, and again, this is due to invisible forces that move between people. At the mental level, as well, there are thought-forms that communicate between people and lead to people suddenly thinking about or knowing something that they were not consciously trying to think about. Teilhard de Chardin spoke of a “noosphere”, a belt of mental vibrations in the world that would be similar to the physical ionosphere or the vital atmosphere that encircles the world.

At the spiritual level, there are also invisible forces at work. Many people report on entering a spiritual location, whether a temple or an Ashram, and feeling a sense of deep peace and abiding joy. These feelings are due to the invisible forces that permeate those places.

For the most part these forces work without the conscious knowledge of the individual. It is possible however, particularly if one is actively seeking to understand how the occult powers and forces of the world act, to become conscious and thereby experience the impact of these forces as they impinge upon the consciousness and attempt to drive an action forward. This allows the seeker to either accept the action, direct its action, or reject it outright if it is not useful to the purpose of the seeker at that time.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Anyone with some intelligence and power of observation who lives more in an inward consciousness can see the play of invisible forces at every step which act on men and bring about events without their knowing about the instrumentation. The difference created by yoga or by an inner consciousness — for there are people like Socrates who develop or have some inner consciousness without yoga — is that one becomes conscious of these invisible forces and can also consciously profit by them or use and direct them. That is all.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 Invisible Forces and the Divine Force, The Gods pp. 85-87

Specific Incarnations of Gods and Their Powers in the Hindu Tradition

In spiritual and religious traditions around the world, we see a proliferation of names and personalities of God. This has engendered much confusion for people who talk about monotheism versus polytheism. When one looks deeper into the question, however, it becomes clear that in most cases, these are not competing “Gods” to determine which one should be dominant, as we saw in the wars recounted in the Old Testament, or even in the later history of Christianity as Christians tried (and are still trying in many instances) to convert people to their religion, or else, destroy them, to achieve the victory of their God over all the “heathen” Gods.

The Hindu tradition provides a good example of the interaction and relationship between the various Gods and it becomes clear in that tradition that there is one Supreme of which there are numerous aspects or partial manifestations or expressions of specific powers, who are then called Gods. The Kena Upanishad refers to Agni, Vayu and Indra, but later the names of Shiva, Krishna and the Divine Mother become more prominent. Sri Aurobindo briefly describes these aspects of the Supreme and the powers with which they are identified.

We can extrapolate similarly to the incarnations or forms of God that appear throughout the world and through time. These great powers and presences are all aspects of the One, similar to the idea of the Holy Trinity in Christianity. As humanity evolves and progresses, different aspects and powers become prominent as they take on the needs of the Time-Spirit in the evolutionary process. We thus can identify times and places where one form or another takes precedence, without thereby overthrowing the overarching reality of the Oneness of the Supreme.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva are only three Powers and Personalities of the One Cosmic Godhead. … Shiva is the Lord of Tapas. The power is the power of Tapas. Krishna as a godhead is the Lord of Ananda, Love and Bhakti; as an incarnation, he manifests the union of wisdom (Jnana) and works and leads the earth-evolution through this towards union with the Divine by Ananda, Love and Bhakti. … The Devi is the Divine Shakti — the Consciousness and Power of the Divine, the Mother and Energy of the worlds. All powers are hers. Sometimes the Devi-power may mean the power of the universal World-Force; but this is only one side of the Shakti.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, The Gods pp. 82-85

Understanding the Role and Nature of the Gods in the Universal Creation

It is quite natural for human beings to extrapolate the nature of the universe and the meaning of existence from the limited set of facts and information that we perceive and organize in our normal mental-logical process. Yet there is so much that falls outside the scope of these perceptions and modes of understanding that we clearly miss the much wider significance that the creation holds. In our limited view, we judge everything by the way our world appears to work. Yet when we look at the immensity of the star systems, galaxies, and universes of which we are an infinitesimal part, it becomes clear that many of our assumptions are simply inaccurate or outright wrong.

Because we see an evolutionary world of dynamic interchange we assume the entire creation operates this way. Yet there is no reason why all worlds and all galaxies must function on the very same principle. There can easily be “static” worlds that express a “type” rather than “dynamic” worlds that include a mixing of types and the change and evolutionary potential that such a dynamic world would provide.

Sri Aurobindo views the creation from the wider perspective that can accept both static and dynamic processes, systems and worlds, and thus opens up the potential for the action of beings that exercise specific powers in very directed ways without the mixing or dilution entailed in a common, shared world. This becomes relevant when we consider the role of those beings we call “gods” and the process and significance of the creation in its own right.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The dynamic aspect of the Divine is the Supreme Brahman, not the Gods. The Gods are Personalities and Powers of the dynamic Divine. You speak as if the evolution were the sole creation; the creation or manifestation is very vast and contains many planes and worlds that existed before the evolution, all different in character and with different kinds of beings. The fact of being prior to the evolution does not make them undifferentiated. The world of the Asuras is prior to the evolution, so are the worlds of the mental, vital or subtle physical Devas — but these beings are all different from each other. The great Gods belong to the overmind plane; in the supermind they are unified as aspects of the Divine, in the overmind they appear as separate personalities. Any godhead can descend by emanation to the physical plane and associate himself with the evolution of a human being with whose line of manifestation he is in affinity. But these are things which cannot be very easily understood by the mind, because the mind has too rigid an idea of personality — the difficulty only disappears when one enters into a more flexible consciousness above where one is nearer to the experience of One in all and All in one.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, The Gods pp. 82-85

God, Gods, Goddesses and Human Perceptions

Does God exist? Are there more than one God? Is God a figment of human imagination? These questions have confounded humanity for aeons and, even today, they are hotly debated. Some believe there is only one God and that anyone who worships a different form or name of God is deluded. Some experience God in one form or another and believe that the form they see is the only true God. Some believe that all of the Gods are representations of specific Nature powers. Some believe that the various names and forms of Gods are simply aspects of one God. Some believe that there is no God and that the idea of God or Gods has been conjured up by the human mind to provide some explanation about our existence and the significance of our lives.

We observe powerful forces in the world and impacting our lives and we attribute to them both agency and specific powers. The sun, the moon, the lightning, fire, the wind, the rain and the oceans, among others, seem to have a primary action that is independent of other forces. The Upanishads remind us that there is “One without a second”, which implies that there is one Supreme Reality within which each of these apparently separate forms operates; at the same time, the Upanishads mention the individual Gods and their respective powers of action within this framework.. This aligns with the Judeo-Christian tradition of One God, but without the negative connotation that any specific Gods are somehow wrong or heretical. The Kena Upanishad takes up the theme of the individual Gods asserting more power than they have in reality. Each one boasts of his unique power to devour or burn, to move, etc. only to find that there is a greater Power that is beyond their scope. This is also a hint to human beings about our boasting about powers we utilize when they, in reality, come from a greater source and depend on that for their results. The powers are real and operate independently of us, and yet they are part of a unified, universal whole and move under the greater impulsion of the force behind the entire manifestation and which transcends it.

Whatever specific form they take for human beings, they exist independent of those specific forms, which explains how the Divine Mother Goddess can be seen and known in different cultures under a variety of names and forms, for example. A manifestation at a particular time and place, for a specific purpose may lead to humanity identifying a particular name and form with the Divine Presence.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “God is, but man’s conceptions of God are reflections in his own mentality, sometimes of the Divine, sometimes of other Beings and Powers and they are what his mentality can make of the suggestions that come to him, generally very partial and imperfect so long as they are still mental, so long as he has not arrived at a higher and truer, a spiritual or mystic knowledge. The Gods already exist, they are not created by man, even though he does seem to conceive of them in his own image; — fundamentally, he formulates as best he can what truth about them he receives from the cosmic Reality. An artist or a bhakta may have a vision of the Gods and it may get stabilised and generalised in the consciousness of the race and in that sense it may be true that man gives their forms to the Gods; but he does not invent these forms, he records what he sees; the forms that he gives are given to him.”

“As to the gods, man can build forms which they will accept but these forms too are inspired into man’s mind from the planes to which the god belongs. All creation has the two sides, the formed and the formless, — the gods too are formless and yet have forms, but a godhead can take many forms, here Maheshwari, there Pallas Athene. Maheshwari herself has many forms in her lesser manifestation, Durga, Uma, Parvati, Chandi, etc. The gods are not limited to human forms — man also has not always seen them in human forms only.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, The Gods pp. 82-85