The Need for the Guidance of the Guru

The snares of the desire-soul of the vital nature are often subtle and can easily overpower the mind. Thus, motivations that represent the gratification of the ego are frequently justified by the mental processes and thus, can continue even when the seeker believes that he is carrying out the Divine Will and Action. The history of close-minded bigotry, and the wars that have been fought, and the tortures that have been undertaken in the name of God provide vivid examples of the ways that the vital desire-soul gains support and justification in the mind. It is not just these overt situations, however. The subtle workings of desire, greed, hunger for power, lust, as well as expressions of vanity and vainglory are just a few of the types of inner reactions that can continue under the color of some type of mental justification. As the sadhana progresses, and more powers manifest in the individual, the temptations and expressions of these vital drives that result can become even more active and pervasive, and thus, the seeker finds himself in a place of danger without, possibly, the ability to clearly interpret and distinguish these drives from the higher impetus.

The techniques of the separation of Purusha from Prakriti, as well as the mental practice of recognition that the seeker is not the body, not the life and not the mind that he experiences, can aid in keeping the seeker clear of these obstacles and deflected energies, but for most, this is simply not sufficient to navigate successfully through the minefield of the inner psychological experience. For this reason, the role of the Guru becomes important.

In his book The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo describes the role, the nature and the importance of the Guru for the spiritual seeker. The Guru can aid the seeker in cutting through the confusion and subtle webs woven by the vital desire-soul and thereby help the seeker carry out the rejection of the undivine movements and avoid coming under the influence of forces that are actively hostile or inimical to the divine action in the world. If the seeking is sincere and deep, the teacher or Guru will eventually come into one’s life and thus help the sadhana to overcome the difficulties. Sri Aurobindo discusses the nature, qualities and role of the Guru in the chapter titled ‘The Four Aids’.

Sri Aurobindo writes, in the current volume: “One thing more. In this process of the descent from above and the working it is most important not to rely entirely on oneself, but to rely on the guidance of the Guru and to refer all that happens.to his judgment and arbitration and decision. For it often happens that the forces of the lower nature are stimulated and excited by the descent and want to mix with it and turn it to their profit. It often happens too that some Power or Powers undivine in their nature present themselves as the Supreme Lord or as the Divine Mother and claim the being’s service and surrender. If these things are accepted, there will be an extremely disastrous consequence. If indeed there is the assent of the sadhak to the Divine working alone and the submission or surrender to that guidance, then all can go smoothly. This assent and a rejection of all egoistic force or forces that appeal to the ego are the safeguard throughout the sadhana. But the ways of nature are full of snares, the disguises of the ego are innumerable, the illusions of the Powers of Darkness, Rakshasi Maya, are extraordinarily skilful; the reason is an insufficient guide and often turns traitor; vital desire is always with us tempting to follow any alluring call. This is the reason why in this yoga we insist so much on what we call Samarpana — rather inadequately rendered by the English word surrender. If the heart centre is fully opened and the psychic is always in control, then there is no question; all is safe. But the psychic can at any moment be veiled by a lower upsurge. It is only a few who are exempt from these dangers and it is precisely those to whom surrender is easily possible. The guidance of one who himself is by identity or represents the Divine is in this difficult endeavour imperative and indispensable.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 8, The Triple Transformation: Psychic, Spiritual and Supramental, The Spiritual Transformation, pp. 209-229

Introduction to the Yoga of Self-Perfection

Either explicitly or implicitly, the historical tendency of both yogic disciplines and many religious traditions has been focused on the concept of salvation or liberation, or a reward in some other world after death.  This focus has led to abandonment of any attempt to achieve some kind of perfection here in life, and has led to the split between the “materialist” who believes in the life of the world and its benefits, and the “renunciate” who focuses his attention on salvation at the expense of the life of the world.  It is true that many religious traditions have spoken of the eventual raising up and perfection of the outer life, yet their focus and methods have not found a way to accomplish this and thus, the reward for the religious has been deferred to some other place or circumstance, or, if attempted, it has been done through creation of a uniform religious community following strict guidelines and rules that truncate and suppress various aspects of the human being.

Sri Aurobindo unifies the two extremes in what he calls an omnipresent reality.  The solution lies not in abandonment of life, nor in the immersion in life without concern for spiritual development, but in a spiritual focus that, at the same time, embraces life and works on the perfection and enhancement of the human being and all his instruments of knowledge and action, and thereby the perfection of the society and life of man in the world.

The traditional paths of Yoga can help one attain the liberation and spiritual unity that is a necessary basis for any transformation of the life in the world.  Sri Aurobindo adds the Yoga of self-perfection as the next phase that takes up, for the spiritual being, his human instrument and works to enhance, perfect, and prepare it to receive, hold and express the higher spiritual energies of the next stage of evolution, the supramental force.

Sri Aurobindo writes:  “The divinizing of the normal material life of man and of his great secular attempt of mental and moral self-culture in the individual and the race by this integralization of a widely perfect spiritual existence would thus be the crown alike of our individual and of our common effort.  Such a consummation being no other than the kingdom of heaven without reproduced in the kingdom of heaven without, would be also the true fulfillment of the great dream cherished in different terms by the world’s religions.”

“The widest synthesis of perfection possible to thought is the sole effort worthy of those whose dedicated vision perceives that God dwells concealed in humanity.”

Robert McDermott concludes:  “The key to Sri Aurobindo’s integral vision, then, is the transformation of the lower by the higher reaches of consciousness.  According to Sri Aurobindo’s vision, this transformation, which is the cooperative work of man and the Supermind, is ‘as great as and greater than the change which we suppose evolutionary Nature to have made in its transition from the vital animal to the fully mentalized human consciousness.’  This great change celebrated by Sri Aurobindo and his followers is at once a visionary and a practical message: man can achieve a higher level of life by increased nonattachment, concentration, and liberation.  Further, this achievement is the ultimate goal and value of human and cosmic existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Introduction by Robert McDermott, pp. 13-15

The Ultimate Knowledge of the Three Times Comes With the Supramental Realisation

The development of the intuitive mind, with all its light and power, and its ability to see past, present and future to a far greater degree than the normal human mentality, is still only a transitional phase in the ultimate evolutionary objective towards development of the supramental consciousness in all its fullness.  It remains subject to strict limitations that can only be lifted by the shift in standpoint that accompanies the supramental transformation.

Sri Aurobindo discusses the transitional phase and steps involved, as the supramental action takes on a larger role in the human mentality:  “There is then a double action of the intuitive mind aware of, open to and referring its knowledge constantly to the light above it for support and confirmation and of that light itself creating a highest mind of knowledge, — really the supramental action itself in a more and more transformed stuff of mind and a less and less insistent subjection to mental conditions.  There is thus formed a lesser supramental action, a mind of knowledge tending always to change into the true supermind of knowledge.  The mind of ignorance is more and more definitely excluded, its place taken by the mind of self-forgetful knowledge, illumined by the intuition, and the intuition itself more perfectly organised becomes capable of answering to a larger and larger call upon it.  The increasing mind of knowledge acts as an intermediary power and, as it forms itself, it works upon the other, transforms or replaces it and compels the farther change which effects the transition from mind to supermind.  It is here that a change begins to take place in the time-consciousness and time-knowledge which finds its base and complete reality and significance only on the supramental levels.  It is therefore in relation to the truth of supermind that its workings can be more effectively elucidated: for the mind of knowledge is only a projection and a last step in the ascent towards the supramental nature.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 871-872

Limitations of the Time-Knowledge of the Intuitive Mind

The time knowledge acquired by the intuitive mind is not the complete supramental knowledge of the “three times” *trikaladrishti”, but rather a limited functioning that still relies on focus either backwards, forwards or horizontally in a sequential manner.  There is no immediate and complete “knowledge by identity” but rather, this takes the form of a knowledge that is latent and restored to the seeker through attention when this capacity has been developed.

Sri Aurobindo therefore describes the limitations and concerns related to the use of this faculty: “It will always lean chiefly on the succession of present moments as a foundation for its steps and successions of knowledge, however far it may range backward or forward,– it will move in the stream of Time even in its higher revelatory action and not see the movement from above or in the stabilities of eternal time with their large ranges of vision, and therefore it will always be bound to a secondary and limited action and to a certain dilution, qualification and relativity in its activities.  Moreover, its knowing will be not a possession in itself but a reception of knowledge.  It will at most create in the place of the mind of ignorance a mind of self-forgetful knowledge constantly reminded and illumined from a latent self-awareness and all-awareness.  The range, the extent, the normal lines of action of the knowledge will vary according to the development, but it can never be free from very strong limitations.  And this limitation will give a tendency to the still environing or subconsciously subsisting mind of ignorance to reassert itself, to rush in or up, acting where the intuitive knowledge refuses or is unable to act and bringing in with it again its confusion and mixture and error.”

Avoidance of the development and exercise of this power can protect from the dilution and error that may occur, but for a yoga of self-perfection, the absolute limitation of these developments represents a restriction of the growth.  The seeker must therefore be cognizant of these issues and recognize the potentially mixed and relative action that will occur in this obviously transitional stage of conscious evolution between the human mental functioning and the supramental action.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 870-871

Developing a Remarkable Power of Time-Knowledge

Modern physics talks about innumerable possible lines of development into the future, which narrow down to an actual choice made to determine the direction and next steps.  The development of the understanding of concepts such as quantum mechanics and string theory, the idea of multiple universes each representing a different “choice” from the latent possibilities as they are turned into actualities, all are various ways of seeing and understanding the nature of Time and Causality in our existence.

Sri Aurobindo anticipated and described this process in the Synthesis of Yoga’s final chapter, long before science and modern philosophy took up this thread and began to seriously consider the meaning of our existence from the starting point of the laws of space, time and causality.  His view however, was not intended to be one of dry philosophy or scientific examination, but was based on the development of capacities and powers within the human individual through a process of a change of standpoint of consciousness from the human mentality to the higher plane of causal knowledge, which he called the supramental, from which an wholistic view of existence becomes accessible.

“It is possible, however, to develop a mind of luminous inspiration which will be more at home among the greater potentialities of the time movement, see more easily distant things and at the same time take up into itself, into its more brilliant, wide and powerful light, the intuitive knowledge of actualities.  This inspired mind will see things in the light of the world’s larger potentialities and note the stream of actuality as a selection and result from the mass of forceful possibles.  It will be liable, however, if it is not attended with a sufficient revelatory knowledge of imperatives, to a hesitation or suspension of determining view as between various potential lines of the movement or even to a movement away from the line of eventual actuality and following another not yet applicable sequence.  The aid of imperative revelations from above will help to diminish this limitation, but here again there will be the difficulty of an inferior power dealing with the materials given to it from the treasury of a higher light and force.  But it is possible to develop too a mind of luminous revelation which taking into itself the two inferior movements sees what is determined behind the play of potentialities and actualities and observes these latter as its means of deploying its imperative decisions.  An intuitive mind thus constituted and aided by an active psychic consciousness may be in command of a very remarkable power of time knowledge.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 869-870

The Limitations of the Intuitive Mind in Understanding the Past, Present and Future

The action of the intuitive mind as it views past, present and future is necessarily limited and circumscribed by a number of factors.  This action of consciousness is still bound within the framework of the existing actualities that come within its range, and there is therefore a serious limitation in projecting the vision backward or forward in time, due to the constant development and insertion of powers, forces, and actions that carry out the greater will of the universal manifestation, exceeding or modifying radically the situation.  This is where the play of potentialities or imperatives come into operation to effect changes in the actualities of the moment.  The further one tries to extrapolate or see along a particular line of actual development with the intuitive mind, the more likely it is that error must creep in and deflect the vision of the true situation.

Sri Aurobindo describes the issue:  “…it can see only what will arrive in the undisturbed process of the actualities and its vision no longer applies if some unforeseen rush of forces or intervening power comes down from regions of a larger potentiality altering the complex of conditions, and this is a thing that constantly happens in the action of forces in the time movement.  It may help itself by the reception of inspirations that illumine to it these potentialities and of imperative revelations that indicate what is decisive in them and its sequences and by these two powers correct the limitations of the intuitive mind of actuality.  But the capacity of this first intuitive action to deal with these greater sources of vision is never quite perfect, as must always be the case with an inferior power in its treatment of the materials given to it from a greater consciousness.  A considerable limitation of vision by its stress on the stream of immediate actualities must be always its character.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pg. 869

The Intuitive Mind and the Vision of the Actualities of the Movement of Time

Sri Aurobindo identifies three aspects or levels of the action of the intuitive mind in relation to the unfolding of things and events through Time.  These are, first, the actual line of development and the unfolding result thereof; second, possibilities that can evolve or influence the action or result; and third, what he calls “imperatives” which operate to create the needed result through the concatenation of forces, people, actions and the pressures of the manifestation in the field of circumstance.

The normal mentality can observe and make projections of likely future events, but these are based on the building up of observations, past experience, and the application of logic or speculation to this basis.  It is however, unable to actually “see” and is therefore subject to error when “unforeseen” circumstances intervene.

Sri Aurobindo describes the vision-process of the intuitive mind observing the actualities of the unfolding reality of the manifestation:  “There is first a primary intuitive action developed which sees principally the stream of successive actualities in time, even as the ordinary mind, but with an immediate directness of truth and spontaneous accuracy of which the ordinary mind is not capable.  It sees them first by a perception, a thought action, a thought sense, a thought vision, which at once detects the forces at work on persons and things, the thoughts, intentions, impulsions, energies, influences in and around them, those already formulated in them and those in process of formation, those too that are coming or about to come into or upon them from the environment or from secret sources invisible to the normal mind, distinguishes by a rapid intuitive analysis free from seeking or labour or by a synthetic total view the complex of these forces, discerns the effective from the ineffective or partly effective and sees too the result that is to emerge.  This is the integral process of the intuitive vision of actualities, but there are others that are less complete in their character.  For there may be developed a power of seeing the result without any previous or simultaneous perception of the forces at work or the latter may be seen only afterwards and the result alone leap at once and first into the knowledge.  On the other hand, there may be a partial or complete perception of the complex of forces, but an incertitude of the definitive result or only a slowly arrive or relative certitude.  These are stages in the development of the capacity for a total and unified vision of actualities.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 868-869

The Nature of Mind and the Transitions to the Intuitive Mind

The human mentality is based on a fragmented and isolated view that must acquire and assemble information, facts, impressions, etc. and then use the assembled picture to speculate or infer about what preceded the current situation in the past, and what will follow in the future.  The intuitive mentality is connected to the universal consciousness, and can receive images and information that tie together the individual elements into a more complete picture, which can encompass the three times.  The method of working of the human mentality is based on an arduous process of collection, sorting, and interpretation, and is thus very intensive in its operations, keeping the mind actively at work to try to understand the truth of any situation it views.  The method of working of the intuitive mentality, on the other hand, is best accomplished through a receptive silence in the mind.  The transition, therefore, must necessarily involve steps to desist from the normal mental process and prepare for a new way of receiving knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo extrapolates:  “A transformation is possible because the intuitive mind has to do the same work and cover the same field, but with a different handling of the materials and another light upon their significance.  An exclusion is possible because all is really contained in the truth consciousness above and a silencing of the mind of ignorance and a pregnant receptivity is not beyond our compass in which the intuitions descending from the truth-consciousness can be received with a subtle or strong exactitude and all the materials of the knowledge seen in their right place and true proportion.  As a matter of practice it will be found that both methods are used alternatively or together to effect the transition from the one kind of mentality to the other.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 867-868

Distorting Influences on the True Perceptions of Past, Present and Future

Not every perception or awareness represents the complete and accurate true situation as to past, present or future events, persons or circumstances.  Sri Aurobindo has identified various distorting influences which can reduce the integrity of the received information.  For those who wear eyeglasses in the material world, an analogy can be made to glasses that are fogged up, dust-covered or scratched, or that are subject to the reflected glare of very bright objects.  In each case, the vision is negatively impacted.  Similarly for the inner illuminations and insights, when they enter into the human mentality, they can be distorted due to the action of a pre-conceived will, emotional predilection or desire taking possession and modifying the pure illumination to justify the interpretive bias that arises from these causes.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The personal will must either be put aside or else its suggestions must be kept in their place until a supreme reference has been made to the higher impersonal light and then must be sanctioned or rejected according to the truth that comes from deeper within than the mind or from higher above.  But even if the personal will is held in abeyance and the mind passive for reception, it may be assailed and imposed on by suggestions from all sorts of forces and possibilities that strive in the world for realisation and come representing the things cast up by them on the stream of their will-to-be as the truth of past, present or future.  And if the mind lends itself to thee impostor suggestions, accepts their self-valuations, does not either put them aside or refer them to the truth light, the same result of prevention or distortion of the truth is inevitable.”

Some try to solve these issues by eliminating the active life and retreating into a passive, receptive status that allows the mind to reflect the higher light, but not express it in any form of dynamic action.  “The integrality of the being demands, however, a will action and not only an inactive knowing, and therefore the larger and more perfect remedy is to replace progressively the personal by a universalised will which insists on nothing that is not securely felt by it to be an intuition, inspiration or revelation of what must be from that higher light in which will is one with knowledge.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 866-867

The Mind of Ignorance and the Intuitive Mind

The normal human mentality works on a complete different basis and foundation from the action of the intuitive mind.  The “mind of ignorance” gropes in the dark seeking light.  It gathers facts, perceptions, sensations and tries to build up a picture of truth from the patchwork of data.  Where it has gaps in its data, it tries to fill them in with speculation, imagination or from the basis of memory of past experience to provide guidance.  This methodology clearly has serious limitations.

The intuitive mind works from the basis of its own internal light and connection to the wider universal consciousness, and thus, provides a more comprehensive understanding and deeper sense of the truth of things; yet it is limited by virtue of the fact that it has to, at least initially and for quite some time of transition, work through the mentality and is thereby subject to interpolation, distortion, and mental projections that act as accretions to the intuitive insight, leading to substantial opportunity for error.

The mind works in a frenzy of activity with the development of thoughts and reactions spurred by each new input of data or perception, and this is generally quite jumbled and confusing.  The intuitive mind works in a space of silence and receptivity.  Thus, as long as the frenetic action of the mind remains the basis, it is essentially impossible to have a complete action of the intuition.  This particularly will limit therefore the ability to see the three times, that require the intuitive mind and its untrammeled activity to be brought forward.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “It is because of this obstruction and mixture that the power of time vision, of back-sight and around-sight and foresight, which sometimes marks the illumined mind, is not only an abnormal power among others rather than part of the very texture of the mental action, but also occasional, very partial and marred often by an undetected intermixture or a self-substituting intervention of error.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the Supramental Time Vision , pp. 865-866