Letters of Sri Aurobindo
Volume 2. 1934 — 1935
Letter ID: 513
Sri Aurobindo — Roy, Dilip Kumar
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When I wrote in the Arya, I was setting forth an overmind view of things to the mind and putting it in mental terms, that was why I had sometimes to use logic. For in such a work – mediating between the intellect and the supra-intellectual – logic has a place, though it cannot have the chief place it occupies in purely mental philosophies. The Mayavadin himself labours to establish his point of view or his experience by a rigorous logical reasoning. Only, when it comes to an explanation of Maya, he, like the scientist dealing with Nature, can do no more than arrange and organise his ideas of the process of this universal mystification; he cannot explain how or why his illusionary mystifying Maya came into existence. He can only say, “Well, but it is there.”
Of course, it is there. But the question is, first, what is it? Is it really an illusionary Power and nothing else, or is the Mayavadin’s idea of it a mistaken first view, a mental imperfect reading, even perhaps itself an illusion? And next, “Is illusion the sole or the highest Power which the Divine Consciousness or Superconsciousness possesses?” The Absolute is an absolute Truth free from Maya, otherwise liberation would not be possible. Has then the supreme and absolute Truth no other active Power than a power of falsehood and with it, no doubt, for the two go together, a power of dissolving or disowning the falsehood – which is yet there for ever? I suggested that this sounded a little queer. But queer or not, if it is so, it is so – for, as you point out, the Ineffable cannot be subjected to the laws of logic. But who is to decide whether it is so? You will say, those who get there. But get where? To the Perfect and the Highest, pūrṇaṃ param. Is the Mayavadin’s featureless Brahman that Perfect, that Complete – is it the very Highest? Is there not or can there not be a higher than that highest, parāt param? That is not a question of logic, it is a question of spiritual fact, of a supreme and complete experience. The solution of the matter must rest not upon logic, but upon a growing, ever heightening, widening spiritual experience – an experience which must of course include or have passed through that of Nirvana and Maya, otherwise it would not be complete and would have no decisive value.
Now to reach Nirvana was the first radical result of my own Yoga. It threw me suddenly into a condition above and without thought, unstained by any mental or vital movement; there was no ego, no real world – only when one looked through the immobile senses, something perceived or bore upon its sheer silence a world of empty forms, materialised shadows without true substance. There was no One or many even, only just absolutely That, featureless, relationless, sheer, indescribable, unthinkable, absolute, yet supremely real and solely real. This was no mental realisation nor something glimpsed somewhere above – no abstraction – it was positive, substantial, the only positive reality – it was here in this very so-called physical world, pervading, occupying or rather flooding and drowning this semblance of a physical world, leaving no room or space for any reality but itself, allowing nothing else to seem at all actual, positive or substantial. I cannot say there was anything exhilarating or rapturous in the experience, as it then came to me – (the ineffable Ananda I had years afterwards) – but what it brought was an inexpressible Peace, a stupendous silence, an infinity of release and freedom. I lived in that Nirvana for many months day and night before it began to admit other things into itself or modify itself at all, and in fact fundamentally it remained for years and years together until in the end it began to disappear slowly into a greater Superconsciousness from above. But meanwhile realisation added itself to realisation and fused itself with this original experience. At an early stage the aspect of an illusionary world gave place to one in which illusion6 is only a small surface phenomenon with an immense Divine Reality behind it and a supreme Divine Reality above it and an intense Divine Reality in the heart of every thing that had seemed at first only a cinematic shape or shadow. And this was no reimprisonment in the senses, no diminution or fall from supreme experience, it came rather as a constant heightening and widening of the Truth; it was the spirit that saw objects, not the senses, and the Peace, the Silence, the freedom in Infinity remained always, with the world or all worlds only as a continuous incident in the timeless eternity of the Divine.
Now, that is the whole trouble in my approach to Mayavada. Nirvana in my liberated consciousness turned out to be the beginning of my realisation, a first step towards the complete thing, not the sole true attainment possible or even a culminating finale. It came unasked, unsought for, though quite welcome. I had no least idea about it before, no aspiration towards it, in fact my aspiration was towards just the opposite, spiritual power to help the world and to do my work in it, yet it came – without even a “May I come in” or a “By your leave”. It just happened and settled in as if for all eternity or as if it had been really there always. And then it slowly grew into something not less but greater than its first self. How then could I accept Mayavada or persuade myself to pit against the Truth imposed on me from above the logic of Shankara?
But I do not insist on everybody passing through my experience or following the Truth that is its consequence. I have no objection to anybody accepting Mayavada as his soul’s truth or his mind’s truth or their way out of the cosmic difficulty. I object to it only if somebody tries to push it down my throat or the world’s throat as the sole possible, satisfying and all-comprehensive explanation of things. For it is not that at all. There are many other possible explanations; it is not at all satisfactory, for in the end it explains nothing; and it is – and must be unless it departs from its own logic – all-exclusive, not in the least all-comprehensive. But that does not matter. A theory may be wrong or at least one-sided and imperfect and yet extremely practical and useful. This has been amply shown by the history of Science. In fact, a theory whether philosophical or scientific, is nothing else than a support for the mind, a practical device to help it to deal with its object, a staff to uphold it and make it walk more confidently and get along on its difficult journey. The very exclusiveness and one-sidedness of the Mayavada make it a strong staff or a forceful stimulus for a spiritual endeavour which means to be one-sided, radical and exclusive. It supports the effort of the Mind to get away from itself and from Life by a short cut into superconscience. Or rather it is the Purusha in Mind that wants to get away from the limitations of Mind and Life into the superconscient Infinite. Theoretically, the way for that is for the mind to deny all its perceptions and all the preoccupations of the vital and see and treat them as illusions. Practically, when the mind draws back from itself, it enters easily into a relationless peace in which nothing matters – for in its absoluteness there are no mental or vital values – and from which the mind can rapidly move towards that great short cut to the superconscient, mindless trance, suṣupti. In proportion to the thoroughness of that movement all the perceptions it had once accepted become unreal to it – illusion, Maya. It is on its road towards immergence.
Mayavada therefore with its sole stress on Nirvana, quite apart from its defects as a mental theory of things, serves a great spiritual end and, as a path, can lead very high and far. Even, if the Mind were the last word and there were nothing beyond it except the pure Spirit, I would not be averse to accepting it as the only way out. For what the mind with its perceptions and the vital with its desires have made of life in this world, is a very bad mess, and if there were nothing better to be hoped for, the shortest cut to an exit would be the best. But my experience is that there is something beyond Mind; Mind is not the last word here of the Spirit. Mind is an ignorance-consciousness and its perceptions cannot be anything else than either false, mixed or imperfect – even when true, a partial reflection of the Truth and not the very body of Truth herself. But there is a Truth-Consciousness, not static only and self-introspective, but also dynamic and creative, and I prefer to get at that and see what it says about things and can do rather than take the short cut away from things offered as its own end by the Ignorance.
Still, I would have no objection if your attraction towards Nirvana were not merely a mood of the mind and vital but an indication of the mind’s true road and the soul’s issue. But it seems to me that it is only the vital recoiling from its own disappointed desires in an extreme dissatisfaction, not the soul leaping gladly to its true path. This Vairagya is itself a vital movement; vital Vairagya is the reverse side of vital desire – though the mind of course is there to give reasons and say ditto. Even this Vairagya, if it is one-pointed and exclusive, can lead or point towards Nirvana. But you have many sides to your personality or rather many personalities in you; it is indeed their discordant movements each getting in the way of the other, as happens when they are expressed through the external mind, that have stood much in the way of your sadhana. There is the vital personality which was turned towards success and enjoyment and got it and wanted to go on with it but could not get the rest of the being to follow. There is the vital personality that wanted enjoyment of a deeper kind and suggested to the other that it could very well give up these unsatisfactory things if it got an equivalent in some faeryland of a higher joy. There is the psycho-vital personality that is the Vaishnava within you and wanted the Divine Krishna and bhakti and Ananda. There is the personality which is the poet and musician and a seeker of beauty through these things. There is the mental-vital personality which when it saw the vital standing in the way insisted on a grim struggle of Tapasya, and it is no doubt that also which approves Vairagya and Nirvana. There is the physical-mental personality which is the Russellite, extrovert, doubter. There is another mental-emotional personality all whose ideas are for belief in the Divine, Yoga, bhakti, Guruvada. There is the psychic being also which has pushed you into the sadhana and is waiting for its hour of emergence.
What are you going to do with all these people? If you want Nirvana, you have either to expel them or stifle them or beat them into coma. All authorities assure us that the exclusive Nirvana business is a most difficult job (duḥkhaṃ dehavadbhiḥ, says the Gita), and your own attempt at suppressing the others was not encouraging – according to your own account it left you as dry and desperate as a sucked orange, no juice left anywhere. If the desert is your way to the promised land, that does not matter. But – well, if it is not, then there is another way – it is what we call the integration, the harmonisation of the being. That cannot be done from outside, it cannot be done by the mind and vital being – they are sure to bungle their affair. It can be done only from within by the soul, the Spirit which is the centraliser, itself the centre of these radii. In all of them there is a truth that can harmonise with the true truth of the others. For there is a truth in Nirvana – Nirvana is nothing but the peace and freedom of the Spirit which can exist in itself, be there world or no world, world order or world disorder. Bhakti and the heart’s call for the Divine have a truth – it is the truth of the divine Love and Ananda. The will for Tapasya has in it a truth – it is the truth of the Spirit’s mastery over its members. The musician and poet stand for a truth, it is the truth of the expression of the Spirit through beauty. There is a truth behind the mental Affirmer; even there is a truth behind the mental doubter, the Russellian, though far behind him – the truth of the denial of false forms. Even behind the two vital personalities there is a truth, the truth of the possession of the inner and outer worlds not by the ego but by the Divine. That is the harmonisation for which our Yoga stands – but it cannot be achieved by any outward arrangement, it can only be achieved by going inside and looking, willing and acting from the psychic and from the spiritual centre. For the truth of the being is there and the secret of Harmony also is there.
1 CWSA, volumes 29, 35; SABCL, volume 22: positive, the
2 CWSA, volumes 29, 35; SABCL, volume 22: although not a spatial
3 CWSA, volumes 29, 35; SABCL, volume 22: Nirvana day
4 CWSA, volumes 29, 35; SABCL, volume 22: and the inner heart of experience, a constant memory of it and its power to return remained
5 CWSA, volumes 29, 35; SABCL, volume 22: disappear into
6 (Sri Aurobindo’s note:) In fact it is not an illusion in the sense of an imposition of something baseless and unreal on the consciousness, but a misinterpretation by the conscious mind and sense and a falsifying misuse of manifested existence.
7 CWSA, volumes 29, 35: and do
8 CWSA, volumes 29, 35: That
9 CWSA, volumes 29, 35: the most radical way
10 CWSA, volume 29: or can point
11 CWSA, volume 29: this
12 CWSA, volume 29: own fatal attempt
[A letter: ] Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo to Dilip / edited by Sujata Nahar, Shankar Bandyopadhyay.- 1st ed.- In 4 Volumes.- Volume 2. 1934 – 1935.- Pune: Heri Krishna Mandir Trust; Mysore: Mira Aditi, 2003.- 405 p.
Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga // SABCL.- Volume 22. (≈ 28 vol. of CWSA).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971.- 502 p.
Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Himself and the Ashram // CWSA.- Volume 35. (≈ 26 vol. of SABCL).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2011.- 658 p.
Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga. II // CWSA.- Volume 29. (≈ 22-24 vol. of SABCL).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2013.- 522 p.
Sri Aurobindo. Letters of Sri Aurobindo: In 4 Series.- Forth Series [On Yoga].- Bombay: Sri Aurobindo Sircle, 1951.- 652 p.