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Correspondence with Sri Aurobindo

The Complete Set

I wrote some time back that behind any difficult endeavour of an individual there is the seeking for Ananda which acts as a motive power. I got a rebuff from you: “Not that I know of!” The curt reply didn't satisfy me, as my little brain couldn't agree with your mighty one.

That is an easily made psychological proposition which can exist only by ignoring facts. If you say that it is the Ananda behind the veil which makes one act, as a moving power, not as a “motive”, – that may be so, but this is a metaphysical, not a psychological generalisation. When a Communist faces torture in a Nazi concentration camp, he is not doing it for the sake of Ananda or happiness, but for something else which makes him indifferent to Ananda or happiness or else compels him to face the loss of these things and even their very reverse, however painful it may be.

I have always seriously thought that all men are after happiness1 which is a deformation of Ananda. Their acts of desires, sin, lust, striving after power, – in one word, all their activities, are guided by that one principle: seeking for Ananda, or happiness, if you like...

A mistake; many men are not after happiness and do not believe it is the true aim of life. It is the physical vital that seeks after happiness, the bigger vital is ready to sacrifice it in order to satisfy its passions, search for power, ambition, fame or any other motive. If you say it is because of the happiness power, fame etc. gives, that again is not universally true. Power may give anything else, but it does not usually give happiness; it is something in its very nature arduous and full of difficulty to get, to keep or to use – I speak of course of power in the ordinary sense. A man may know he can never have fame in this life, but yet work in the hope of posthumous fame or on the chance of it. He may know that the satisfaction of his passion will bring him everything rather than happiness – suffering, torture, destruction – yet he will follow his impulse. So also the mind as well as the larger vital is not bound by the pursuit of happiness. It can seek Truth rather or the victory of a cause. To reduce all to a single hedonistic strain seems to me very poor psychology. Neither Nature nor the vast Spirit in things are so limited and one-tracked as that.

I shall quote the following remarks of Roman Maharshi, recorded by Paul Brunton: “All human beings are ever wanting happiness, untainted with sorrow. They want to grasp a happiness which will not come to an end. The instinct is a true one...”2

All? It is far too sweeping a generalisation. If he had said that it is one very strong strain in human nature – it could be accepted. But mark that it is in human physical consciousness only. The human vital tends rather to reject a happiness untainted by sorrow and to find it a monotonous, boring condition. Even if it accepts it, after a time it kicks over the traces and goes to some new painful or risky adventure.

“... Man's real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true self. His search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true self. The true self is imperishable; therefore, when a man finds it; he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.”3

The true Self is quite a different proposition. But what it has is not happiness but something more.

“... Even they [the wicked and the criminal] sin because they are trying to find the self's happiness in every sin they commit. This striving is instinctive in man, but they do not know that they are really seeking their true selves, and so they try these wicked ways first as a means to happiness...”4

Who is this “they”? I fear it is a very summary and misleading criminal psychology. To say that a Paris crook or apache steals, swindles, murders for the happiness of stealing, swindling, murdering is a little startling. He does it for quite other reasons. He does it as his metier just as you do your doctor's work. Do you really do your doctor's work because of the happiness you find in it?

People will not seek a sorrowless, untainted, everlasting happiness, even if shown the way – because they will consider it beyond their power to attain, or so it seems to me.

It is also with many because they prefer the joy mixed with sorrow,5 and consider your everlasting happiness an everlasting bore.

About the criminals. I don't obviously include those types who are born with a criminal instinct: idiots and imbeciles.

Why not? If your generalisation is good for all, it must be good for them also.

Roman Maharshi says that if one meditates for an how or two every day, then the current of mind induced will continue to flow even in work. Of course he speaks of meditation “in the right manner”.

A very important qualification.

“It is as though there are two ways of expressing the same idea; the same line which you take in meditation will be expressed in your activities.”6 And its result will be the gradual change of attitude towards people, events and objects. Your actions will tend to follow your meditation of their own accord.

If the meditation brings poise, peace, a concentrated condition or even a pressure or influence, that can go on in the work, provided one does not throw it away by a relaxed or dispersed state of consciousness. That was why the Mother wanted people not only to be concentrated at pranam or meditation but to remain silent and absorb or assimilate afterwards and also insisted on avoiding things that relax or disperse or dissipate too much – precisely for this reason that so the effects of what she put in them might continue and the change of attitude the Maharshi speaks of will take place. But I am afraid most of the sadhaks have never understood or practised anything of the kind – they could not appreciate or understand her directions.

Of course, he adds that setting apart time for meditation is for spiritual novices... You too wrote to me to meditate at least half an how a day, if only to bring a greater concentration in the work.

It does bring the effects of meditation into work if one gives it a chance.

You know that meditations are not always successful.

You forget that with numbers of people they are successful.

Even if they were, how does this affect the whole day's work?

It doesn't, if one does not take care that it should do so – if one takes care, it can.

Is it something like charging a battery which goes on inducing an automatic current?

It is not exactly automatic. It can be easily spoilt or left to sink into the subconscient or otherwise wasted. But with simple and steady practice and persistence it has the effect the Maharshi speaks of – he assumes, I suppose, such a practice. I am afraid your meditation is hardly simple or steady – too much kasrat7 and fighting with yourself.

Roman Maharshi seems a real Maharshi.

He is more of a Yogi than a Rishi, it seems to me. The happiness theory does not impress me, – it is as old as the mountains but not so solid. But he knows a lot about Yoga.



1 Sri Aurobindo drew an arrow indicating “happiness”.


2 A Search in Secret India, p. 157.


3 ibid., pp. 157-158.


4 ibid., p. 158.


5 Man's laughter and tears.


6 ibid., p. 156.


7 Physical exercise.











1936 02 09 Exact Writting Letter Nirodbaran