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Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo

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I have to resume the thread of work vs. meditation, because of some fresh questionings in my mind. It is quite evident that you give the preference to Karma, but is it possible to attain the highest realisation in your Yoga through work alone, or is work to be used only as a means up to a certain stage and then left aside, as Ramakrishna said in his well-known analogy of a pregnant woman and the gradual falling off of her work with the nearing of her full term?

Am I Ramakrishna or is there no difference between my Yoga and his?

If I remember right, you wrote to me that work is only1 a means for the preparation of the spiritual life; otherwise, it has no spiritual value.

Lord God! when did I make this stupendous statement which destroys at one fell swoop the two volumes of the Essays on the Gita and all the seven volumes of the Arya? Work by itself is only a preparation, so is meditation by itself, but work done in the increasing Yogic consciousness is a means of realisation as much as meditation is.

In Dilip's letter also you say that work helps to prepare for the direct contact with the inmost. In another; you say that work prepares for the right consciousness to develop – which means the same thing...

I have not said, I hope, that work only prepares. Meditation also prepares for the direct contact. If we are to do work only as a preparation and then become motionless meditative ascetics, then all my spiritual teaching is false and there is no use for supramental realisation or anything else that has not been done in the past.

My own impression is that work is an excellent means as a preparation, but the major experiences and realisations are not likely to come in during work. My little experience corroborates me, because whatever drops of Ananda descended on me, were mostly during meditation. Only once did I have 2 minutes Ananda during work.

I see. When the time for preparation is over, one will sit immobile for ever after and never do any work – for, as you say, work and realisation cannot go together. Hurrah for the Himalayas!

Well, but why not then the old Yoga? If work is so contrary to realisation! That is Shankara's teaching.

The main difference between the two, is that in work the attention is bound to be diverted. While working with the hand, utter the name of Hari with the mouth – this attitude is quite possible, but only as a preparation, and not effective for the realisation – which meditation alone can bring; because the whole being is absorbed into the engrossing meditation of the Beloved.

In that case I am entirely wrong in preaching a dynamic Yoga ― Let us go back to the cave and the forest.

My theory about work hampering one-pointed concentration finds some support, I think, from your own example. (I proceed very cautiously,2 though).

You have said that 9/10 of your time is spent in doing correspondence, works, etc., whereas only 1/10 is devoted to concentration. One naturally asks, why should it not be possible for you to do concentration and work at the same time!

For me, correspondence alone. I have no time left for other “works etc.” Concentration and meditation are not the same thing. One can be concentrated in work or bhakti as well as in meditation. For God's sake be careful about your vocabulary, or else you will tumble into many errors and loosenesses of thinking.

If I devoted 9/10 of my time to concentration and none to work – the result would be equally unsatisfactory. My concentration is for a particular work – it is not for meditation divorced from life. When I concentrate I work upon others, upon the world, upon the play of forces. What I say is that to spend all the time reading and writing letters is not sufficient for the purpose. I am not asking to become a meditative Sanyasi.

Did you not retire for five or six years for an exclusive and intensive meditation?

I am not aware that I did so. But my biographers probably know more about it than I do.

If the Supramental Divine himself differentiates between work and concentration and finds it difficult to radiate his force among the few sadhaks contemporaneously with his work of  correspondence,3 etc., what about undivines and inframentals like us?

Between concentration on correspondence alone and the full manysided work – not between work and correspondence.

It does not mean that I lose the higher consciousness while doing the work of correspondence. If I did that, I would not only not be supramental, but would be very far even from the full Yogic consciousness.

Say “by correspondence alone”. If I have to help somebody to repel an attack, I can't do it by only writing a note. I have to send him some Force or else concentrate and do the work for him. Also I can't bring down the Supramental by merely writing neatly to people about it. I am not asking for leisure to meditate at ease in a blissful indolence. I said distinctly I wanted it for concentration on other more important work than correspondence.

The ignorance underlying this attitude is in the assumption that one must necessarily do only work or only meditation. Either work is the means or meditation is the means, but both cannot be! I have never said, so far as I know, that meditation should not [be] done. To set up an open competition or a closed one between works and meditation is a trick of the dividing mind and belongs the old Yoga. Please remember that I have been declaring all; an integral Yoga in which Knowledge, Bhakti, works – light of consciousness, Ananda and love, will and power in works ― meditation, adoration, service of the Divine have all their place. Have I written seven volumes of the Arya all in vain? Meditation is not greater than Yoga of works nor works greater than Yoga by knowledge – both are equal.

Another thing – it is a mistake to argue from one's own very limited experience, ignoring that of others, and build on it large generalisations about Yoga. This is what many do, but the method has obvious demerits. You have no experience of major realisations through work, and you conclude that such realisations are impossible. But what of the many who have had them – elsewhere and here too in the Ashram? That has no value? You kindly hint to me that I have failed to get anything by works? How do you know? I have not written the history of my sadhana – if I had, you would have seen that if I had not made action and work one of my chief means of realisation – well, there would have been no sadhana and no realisation except that, perhaps, of Nirvana.

I shall perhaps add something hereafter as to what works can do, but no time tonight.

Do not conclude however that I am exalting works as the sole means of realisation. I am only giving it its due place.

You will excuse the vein of irony or satire in all this – but really when I am told that my own case disproves my whole spiritual philosophy and accumulated knowledge and experience, a little liveliness in answer is permissible.



1 Sri Aurobindo underlined “only” and put an interrogation mark above it.


2 Sri Aurobindo underlined “cautiously”.


3 Sri Aurobindo underlined the words “contemporaneously with his work of correspondence”, in my letter











1934 12 16 Exact Writting Letter Nirodbaran