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Dr. Alok Pandey Rediscovering Yoga Article

Dr. Alok Pandey

Rediscovering Yoga

Over a hundred years back, at the turn of the previous century, Sri Aurobindo wrote in a prophetic vein about the important place that yoga was going to take in the sum total of human activities of the future. “We are in an age, full of the throes of travail, when all forms of thought and activity that have in themselves any strong power of utility or any secret virtue of persistence are being subjected to a supreme test and given their opportunity of rebirth. The world today presents the aspect of a huge cauldron of Medea in which all things are being cast, shredded into pieces, experimented on, combined and recombined either to perish and provide the scattered material of new forms or to emerge rejuvenated and changed for a fresh term of existence. Indian Yoga, in its essence a special action or formulation of certain great powers of Nature, itself specialised, divided and variously formulated, is potentially one of these dynamic elements of the future life of humanity. The child of immemorial ages, preserved by its vitality and truth into our modern times, it is now emerging from the secret schools and ascetic retreats in which it had taken refuge and is seeking its place in the future sum of living human powers and utilities. But it has first to rediscover itself, bring to the surface the profoundest reason of its being in that general truth and that unceasing aim of Nature which it represents, and find by virtue of this new self-knowledge and self-appreciation its own recovered and larger synthesis (1).” This prophecy is becoming true. Yoga has indeed become one of the major gifts of India to the world. With its appeal to a wide range of humanity, independent of religious beliefs and secular views, with an increasing validation by scientific research and acceptance in academic circles, Yoga is fast becoming popular among the different strata of society. Yet it is still ill-understood and its far-reaching effects and impacts are far from being understood. And until we discover or rather rediscover it, — for Yoga is as ancient as the hills — we shall remain deprived of its real potential and left unsatisfied with the husks, while leaving the real grain that hides behind its elaborate systems, techniques and processes. What then is Yoga? It is most commonly understood as a set of physical and breathing exercises, meant for physical health and mental well-being. While these things are important for our immediate utilitarian purposes, they are neither the core nor the whole of Yoga. As far as physical health is concerned, its importance lies in the purposes to which we shall put the instrumentality of the body. Besides there are a number of different ways that one can acquire good health. Āsanas are one of them. Though here too there is a need to make a distinction between āsanas and yoga āsanas, as they were once part of the original Hatha yoga. A set of exercises does not automatically become yogic unless it is accompanied by certain attitudes and directed towards genuine yogic ends. Therefore, we see in the Asṣtṭāṅgayoga system of Patañjali, āsanas and prānāyāma occur after the preliminary purification is practised through moral rectitude. It is followed by mastery of the sense-mind, concentration, surrender to and union with God. Of course the idea of God or Īśvara is as wide as the universe, making the system free from the trappings of religion. Yet it brings home the fact that Yoga is not meant for maintaining good health alone but rather the purpose of good health is to ultimately engage in our higher pursuit of the very Highest, the Divine. Good health through āsanas, conservation and right flow of life-energies by mastery over the breath is important for this reason. But Patañjali, a great codifier of the then prevalent yogic practices is not the originator of Yoga. Nor does he exhaust all the possibilities of Yoga. Yoga existed much before his classical treatise on Yoga sūtras and continued or rather continues to evolve after him. If we take the definition given by Swami Vivekananda and endorsed by Sri Aurobindo, Yoga is conscious and concentrated evolution, a compressed evolution instead of the long winding circuitous routes of Nature in her wife wanderings and long preparations and sudden unexpected leaps. Sri Aurobindo helps us. “In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the secret potentialities latent in the being and — highest condition of victory in that effort — a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos. But all life, when we look behind its appearances, is a vast Yoga of Nature who attempts in the conscious and the subconscious to realise her perfection in an ever-increasing expression of her yet unrealised potentialities and to unite herself with her own divine reality. In man, her thinker, she for the first time upon this Earth devises self-conscious means and willed arrangements of activity by which this great purpose may be more swiftly and puissantly attained. Yoga, as Swami Vivekananda has said, may be regarded as a means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life or a few years or even a few months of bodily existence (2).” Where then does yoga begin, both in the life of the individual as well as in the life of the human race? Or perhaps it existed as a subtle principle or force in nature, drawing all things upwards towards the Divine Origin or Source by a natural attraction or as the ‘compelling stuff in things ‘. For evolution is not unique to man. It is the one happening thing, possibly because of the concealed evolutionary Energy hidden within matter or creation itself. Yoga systems If we leave aside the standard academic textbooks about the beginnings of Yoga, we find an interesting account of its beginnings in the Srimadbhagavad Gītā. Sri Kṛṣṇa explains to Arjuna that he gave the ancient Yoga first to Vivasvā, the sun-god. Vivasvā is the name of the sun specific to this chaturyuga. In other words,Yoga was first given by the Supreme Godhead, immanent in creation to the guardian of the law of Truth, Sanātana Dharma. Subsequently Vivasvā transmitted it to Manu, the original prototype of Man, as the truth that he must abide by. Subsequently, the Yoga is given to the lineage of kings from the Solar Dynasty, the Sūryavankshi king, Ikṣāku. But this original Yoga is lost from time to time. When the Yoga is lost and men begin to live by their own fancies and desires and egoistic selfish interests, then the Sanātana Dharma declines, dharmasya glānihḥ. At each of these points the Divine assumes a human birth to restore the Dharma by giving the Yoga again to mankind, at first to a few who are ready and then to humanity at large. What is the purpose we may ask? As is implicit in the declaration, Yoga is the supreme means to restore the Dharma. And Dharma here is not religion as we understand today, but the means through which we draw nearer to the Law of Truth and by that we grow in oneness with God, with the Origin and Source. Thus seen, Yoga becomes a means to join the creation of the created with the Creator. Secretly and in their essence they are always one since nothing can exist independent in itself, separate from the one Supreme Source. But it seems parted on the surface because of the various distortions and malalignments that come about due to the complex play of countless forces that mediate between the One Creator and the manifold creation. It is difficult for the modern mind, blinded by an extremely materialistic vision of science, to understand what Sri Kṛṣṇa, the Yogeśvara is saying here. It was difficult even for Arjuna to understand this great declaration by Kṛṣṇa. That is why the eye of faith must lead first before the eye of wisdom can open and man must learn to recognise that he is nothing in himself and his greatness, if any, lies in his capacity to unite with the Divine. In fact he is here for that. Man is meant to become the bridge between that which is below him and that which is beyond. Matter and Spirit, World and God, Nature and Soul, Earth and the Heavens can come together and join in him harmoniously fulfilling each other. For it is through this union that matter is fulfilled by being touched by the Light Divine as a lamp lights up as the current passes through its wires. The body is the lamp and the Divine is the Source of Light while the wire that joins the two is the soul of man. True Yoga begins in its real sense only after we discover our secret soul now hidden and covered by our nature. Before that there are various kinds of preparations but the real Yoga has not yet begun in its true sense. On the other hand Yoga also fulfils God in Creation by drawing things closer to the original Divine Plan. Sri Aurobindo reveals the supreme human aim in these powerful words, “To fulfil God in life is man’s manhood (3).” Yogic practices therefore can be either a preparation or else a means of moving towards this great aim. If we take Yoga in this original sense of union with the Divine or our Highest Self or the Source, then it implies at least three main elements. There is of course a fourth element, which is the matrix in which it is taking place. By Matrix we mean the gestalt or sum total elements of Time, Place, Circumstances. None of these elements have an absolute hold on the practice of Yoga but they do play a certain part in the eventual results. These differ from person to person. The rule of standardising everything does not work in psychological matters, — and “Yoga is nothing but practical psychology (4),” as Sri Aurobindo puts it. It works even less in spiritual matters. If we take a vertical axis from Matter to Spirit then we can say that the consciousness involved in Matter ascends or emerges through increasing degrees of freedom. That is why it is never a good idea to outwardly imitate a truly spiritual person. What is important instead, is to ascend to the inner Freedom to which he has climbed by following the path he has been shown. Of course spiritual freedom is different from our ideas of freedom. The freedom that we understand and wish to have is the freedom to do as we like, to get what we like, to be what we like. From the spiritual point of view the only freedom, the true freedom lies in the union with the Divine and thereby manifesting and expressing His Will in and through our life and actions. This Divine Will, like Truth, cannot be fixed into any standard formula. However, what we ordinarily call freedom is in fact bondage to ego and ignorance. Yoga is the way to free ourselves from Ignorance and gives us freedom from all that binds us to desires and attachments and their results — grief, error, suffering, fear, greed, ambition, and lust. The seeker, the sought and the path Coming back to the three main elements or consenting parties, as Sri Aurobindo puts it: “In practice three conceptions are necessary before there can be any possibility of Yoga; there must be, as it were, three consenting parties to the effort, — God, Nature and the human soul or, in more abstract language, the Transcendental, the Universal and the Individual. If the individual and Nature are left to themselves, the one is bound to the other and unable to exceed appreciably her lingering march. Something transcendent is needed, free from her and greater, which will act upon us and her, attracting us upward to Itself and securing from her by good grace or by force her consent to the individual ascension (5).” The seeker is defined by the intensity and sincerity of his or her aspiration. That which is sought for the union, the Divine Source or Origin, is limited by our own conceptions. What stands between the two is the whole field of Nature with a world of forces that help or hinder, assist or resist the journey. The seeker is not defined by the technique, though a faithful pursuance of a given method or technique does indicate the sincerity of effort in his pursuit. But it does not indicate the purpose of his pursuit, the goal he has put before himself, the aim of his efforts. That goal, that aim and the sincerity in pursuing his aim is written in his aspiration. This is known only to the Divine in his heart or, if he is sincere, then to his own awakened consciousness. A given technique may make you an extremely skilful archer, perhaps even the best as far as the science and art of archery goes. That is what Bhiṣma and Droṇācārya and Karṇa are. Yet the crown of victory and the wisdom of the Gītā are given to Arjuna. Though he too is among the best, yet he has something in him that is missing in the others. Others are fighting for the kingdom of their promise or driven by ambition to be proven the best. But what makes Arjuna special is that initially he wants to fight only for the highest Ideal and when that failed him through the insufficiency of light, he fights in obedience to Kṛṣṇa and his trust in the Divine leading. Most modern movements of yoga miss upon this crucial element even as they miss upon the adhikāra bheda. Moved often with a will to enrol and increase disciples, a spiritual ambition so to say, they forget that not all are ready for the spiritual life. Of course, fundamentally none is debarred from the Yoga yet it is equally true that not all are ready for the yoga. It is not a judgment for life but a truth of the moment. One who is not ready today can become ready tomorrow, in fact will become ready someday. But to push someone into Yoga when the soul is not yet ripe is neither good for the person nor for the movement. It is this knowledge of the adhikāra bheda (readiness for the path) that prompted the Vedic Ṛṣis to write in cryptic language. It is also for this reason that there is no concept of outer or forced conversion in Hindu thought. True conversion must happen as a natural need. But wherever it is forced through fear and lure, the Yoga is lost and its spirit escapes, leaving an empty shell, plastered with soulless mechanical rituals and blood-stained thrones, where the heady wine of politics and religion mix in the chalice and destroy both. No doubt politics, like everything, must awaken to its own spiritual possibilities but for that the leaders have to be genuinely and inwardly spiritual rather than merely believers in a doctrine enforced by the sword and the law. The Divine Law that the aspirant for Yoga is called upon to follow is not a rigid narrow dogma, for that would be contrary to the vastness and freedom of the Spirit. It is rather a wide and supple leading, a guidance that takes into account the entirety of things including the individual variations of nature, the stage of development, the real motive of sādhanā, the past formations and present personalities, the inner complexity, the future destiny, above all God’s secret Intent working itself out in the cosmos through the individual. No book or religious injunction can provide this, least of all human interpretation of the Divine Law as revealed in ‘a sacred text’. Since very few minds are supple and vast and discerning enough to feel the true inspiration leading from Above or awakened to the promptings of the secret psychic being rising from within, the safe rule is to follow the guidance of the living Guru. In his absence the priest is supposed to substitute. But to be a priest in the true sense means to be fully awake in the soul and be identified with it. But a priest who is simply echoing scholarly interpretation of ‘a sacred text’ or is caught up in sophisticated dialectics and opinions because the eye of wisdom has not opened is, as the Upaniṣad puts it, like the blind leading the blind towards the abyss via the heavenly route. It is for this reason that the Gītā asks the disciple to go beyond the word of the scripture, sabdabrahma ati vartate. One could equally say to go behind the word and reach out to the inner truth embedded in the body of sound symbols. Sri Aurobindo affirms: “For the sadhaka of the Integral Yoga it is necessary to remember that no written Shastra, however great its authority or however large its spirit, can be more than a partial expression of the eternal Knowledge. He will use, but never bind himself even by the greatest Scripture. Where the Scripture is profound, wide, catholic, it may exercise upon him an influence for the highest good and of incalculable importance. It may be associated in his experience with his awakening to crowning verities and his realisation of the highest experiences. His Yoga may be governed for a long time by one Scripture or by several successively, — if it is in the line of the great Hindu tradition, by the Gita, for example, the Upanishads, the Veda. Or it may be a good part of his development to include in its material a richly varied experience of the truths of many Scriptures and make the future opulent with all that is best in the past. But in the end he must take his station, or better still, if he can, always and from the beginning he must live in his own soul beyond the limitations of the word that he uses. The Gita itself thus declares that the Yogin in his progress must pass beyond the written Truth, — ´sabdabrahmaativartate’ — beyond all that he has heard and all that he has yet to hear, — ´ssrotavyasya ´ssrutasya ca. For he is not the sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a sadhaka of the Infinite (6).” This profound statement, uttered from the lips of two of the greatest yogis of all times, Sri Kṛṣṇa and Sri Aurobindo, are such an antidote to the quarrel and fight we see in different religions over the superiority of one scripture over the other. The true purpose of a scripture is not debating about it but in living it. Life is the mirror that reveals what we have understood about it. It is the mirror that does not lie. The worth of a man or the religion he professes does not lie in a book or many books but in his way of life, his approach towards circumstances, his understanding about himself and others, not only in terms of what one is but what one can become with or without a scripture. The greatness of man is not so much in what he is or in his systems of beliefs and ability to win in an argument and his belief systems but in what he has faith in and wills to be. It is these two psychological powers, faith and will, that determine what we can become. Where we may find ourselves presently in terms of our constitution and capacities is the result of our past but what we yet can become is the result of our faith and will in ourselves, in our destiny and in the Divine Power that moves all things. It is these two central powers that all yoga utilises to the maximum to accelerate our evolution. The universal Path “The Yoga that we practise is not for ourselves alone, but for the Divine; its aim is to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down a divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity. Its object is not personal Mukti, although Mukti is a necessary condition of the yoga, but the liberation and transformation of the human being. It is not personal Ananda, but the bringing down of the divine Ananda — Christ’s kingdom of heaven, our Satyayuga attracting us upward to Itself and securing from her by good grace or by force her consent to the individual ascension upon the earth. Of mokṣa we have no personal need; for the soul is nityamukta and bondage is an illusion. We play at being bound but we are not really bound. We can be free when God wills; for he, our supreme Self, is the master of the game, and without his grace and permission no soul can leave the game. It is often God’s will in us to take through the mind the bhoga of ignorance, of the dualities, of joy and grief, of pleasure and pain, of virtue and sin, of enjoyment and renunciation: for long ages, in many countries, he never even thinks of the yoga but plays out this play century after century without wearying of it. There is nothing evil in this, nothing which we need condemn or from which we need shrink, — it is God’s play. The wise man is he who recognises this truth and knowing his freedom, yet plays out God’s play, waiting for his command to change the methods of the game…. “The first process of the yoga is to make the saṅkalpa of ātmasamarpana. Put yourself with all your heart and all your strength into God’s hands. Make no conditions, ask for nothing, not even for siddhi in the yoga, for nothing at all, except that in you and through you his will may be directly performed. To those who demand from him, God gives what they demand, but to those who give themselves and demand nothing, he gives everything that they might otherwise have asked or needed and in addition he gives himself and the spontaneous boons of his love. “The next process is to stand aside and watch the working of the divine power in yourself. This working is often attended with disturbance and trouble in the system, therefore faith is necessary, though perfect faith is not always possible at once; for whatever impurity is in you, harboured openly or secretly lurking, is likely to rise at first and be repeated so long as it is not exhaustively swept out, and doubt in this age is an almost universal impurity. But even when doubt assails, stand by and wait for it to pass, availing yourself if possible of the satsanga of those who are already advanced on the path, but when that is absent, still holding fast to the principle of the yoga, self-surrender. When distressed within or assailed from without, remember the words of the Gita (7).” This does not mean following one’s whims and fancies, for no sādhanā can mean that, but to discover and discern the illumining fire within the word rather than be caught up in analysing its outer body. Priesthood in this sense is a sacerdocy but now it has become largely a matter of appointment for political and other vested interests. This has further led to the downfall of organised religions that die burdened with the volumes of interpretations, especially when they are tainted with political ambitions. Interpretations as such is philosophical or practical rendering of spiritual truths and unless the interpreter has glimpsed something of the Glory of the Spirit, it is bound to take more and more a dead academic intellectual form rather than the power of the living Word. At best it can be a preparation for the mind and the intellect. At worst it can be a prison fastened with bars of rigid dogma. That is why we see the Mother and Sri Aurobindo cautioning us against the tendency to quote them. Often out of context and without sufficient background in the totality of their writings or the actual journey of Yoga, these powerful luminous words can easily change into misquotes even where the reproduction of the phrase is accurate. The Scripture is no doubt a great help on the path and few if any can dispense with it. It is the living Word-body of the Master and its value and power can never be overstated. But to truly derive the utmost benefit from it there is a need to delve deep into its meaning that far exceeds the dictionary usage of the term. Above all, it must be put into practice. To add to it, especially with reference to the writings of Sri Aurobindo, the Mother advised that to know what he is revealing to us we must understand everything that he has said on a given subject. The same applies to the Mother’s works as well. The second aspect, in terms of recognition by the seeker, is the Divine with whom the disciple seeks to become one. The truer truth hidden at first and often for a long time from the disciple is that He whom he seeks is in fact calling him. It is the Divine who calls the soul when it is ready to heed but in the disciple this call is felt as an aspiration or an irresistible attraction towards the Divine in one or several of His aspects. The choice of the aspect towards which the disciple is drawn depends partly on his past evolution and partly on the ultimate destiny of the soul. The Divine is Infinite but human consciousness dwells in the sense of the finite. It cannot at once conceive of the infinity of God and needs limited aspects through which it is drawn towards the One. It is this profound understanding that we see displayed in the Sanātana Dharma which accepts and caters for a wide variety of approaches to the Divine. Each aspect is often represented by a god through whom the seeker can climb to the One. For what else are the gods but the many aspects of the One Divine. Each is unique in a certain sense and enjoys a certain degree of freedom in his action which yet derives its Knowledge and Power from the One Infinite. Yet the seeker may remain tied to the charm and glory and greatness of one or another aspect for long. To prevent this possibility of getting held back or held within the ambit of a god originally meant to climb through the stairway of the gods to the One Supreme, the Sanātana Dharma placed the Guru above all. We are well aware of the Guru Strotram that explicitly states that one has to see all the gods and even the Supreme Para Brahman in the Guru. While in the Integral Yoga, the relation of the disciple with the Mother and Sri Aurobindo is not confined to the traditional Guru and Śiṣya, yet Sri Aurobindo agrees with the importance given to the Guru in the practice of Yoga. However, it is equally important to understand that not all are Gurus regardless of self-proclaim and not all Gurus are the same, though they all come from the same Source. Each represents some aspect or the other of the Divine. There are Gurus who point the way but do not walk with us. There are others who intervene from time to time, keeping a watch as we go along, as a cowherd keeps a watch over his cattle even while leaving them free to graze in the open ground. Some do not take any responsibility beyond showing the way and giving a teaching. Others take the responsibility and the burden of the disciple, hold him through all his struggles and stumbles and ensures that he reaches the Supreme. Each shows us a facet of the Divine, each point towards a door to the Beyond. The important thing to realise is that though the Divine is infinite, yogis seldom experience the Divine in His totality, samagram mam. Our experience of the Divine is limited by our faith and natural predilection towards one or other aspect of the Divine. The aspect of the Divine we meet depends also on our approach. The seeker after knowledge, approaching through his mind, often finds himself in a vast Impersonal peace of Immobility where knowledge rests in blissful Light. The sadhak who enters through the doors of devotion and love finds his lover waiting for him and even ready to carry him safe in arms of Love and Delight. The worker and servant of God finds the Divine Master who rules over all creatures by His sovereign Will. Each emphasises his own approach and way, thereby leading to cults and groups and sects each of which narrows down to one approach in which the Guru has specialised. This may be fine with those looking for a door of escape, but it is certainly not for the one engaged in the Yoga of transformation. The seeker on the path of an integral yoga is called upon to discover the Divine everywhere and in everything. Not only is he to discover, but also to express, to eventually manifest the Divine in each and every activity. Surely the first contact with the Divine may be conditioned by our unique constitution, faith and approach. That is why we see that there are differences even among those who have realised the Divine in one aspect or the other. There are common elements of the life-changing experience, a reversal of consciousness which completely changes our way of looking, understanding and responding to life. The contact with the Divine in any of His many aspects invariably brings a deep inner peace and a state of felicity. It is often accompanied by an opening to the doors of knowledge that transcend our ordinary reason. One is freed from the false identification of the ego-individuality and the temporary personality built by nature for one brief life. A luminous vastness, a stable permanence is felt behind the flux and flow of nature. But there are also unique aspects of relationship with the Divine. After all, the world was not created for sameness. Unity in diversity and not unity in uniformity is the purpose of existence. It is here that there is a great need for caution. When we force or impose one aspect of the Divine, either as the highest or worse still as the only exclusive truth of the Divine, then we open the doors to fanaticism and bigotry. Even with regard to the Guru in whom the ancient traditions demand absolute fidelity should not be turned into a war of sects and cults to prove one’s Master as the highest or the only one. It is this narrowness which turns a great truth into dangerous falsehood. The great truth is that one must see the Supreme in one’s Master and be faithful and surrendered to him. The dangerous falsehood is to want all others to believe that your Master is the sole Representative of God and the one and only human image of the Supreme. The revelation of the Supreme in a human form is an inner truth which can easily turn into falsehood by misapplying this into a doctrine to be imposed formally and through outer means. It is what turns spiritual teaching into a formal organised religion that traps the human soul into fixed belief systems from which an escape in one life is often difficult.

James Anderson on Integral Yoga Practices

James Anderson

Going Beyond Desire & Aversion

Sooner rather than later, desire and aversion must be addressed if one is on any path of growth. In Integral Yoga, they cannot be tackled in isolation, but only within context of the whole. Desire and aversion are two parts of the same thing. This article is written especially for those in the process of developing their practice in Integral Yoga. It explores ways of short-circuiting the onset of desire in the first place. It looks at ways of transforming its vibration the divine counterpart, which is aspiration. We struggle with desire because we fail to find a true place for it. The force demands our understanding. We have to fully understand its nature and know where it comes from if we are to direct it to its proper home. It is a universal force, first of all, so wrestling with it is not going to get us very far. It is everywhere! It is a cosmic force, a favourite weapon of the adverse forces. If we choose to wrestle with it, then what do we have at our disposal? The very choice indicates a lack. The soul doesn’t wrestle, only the vital ego, which lies at the heart of the problem in any case. It is a problem because it is a state that ultimately causes intense suffering. I cannot claim to have conquered it myself and I don’t believe I’m unique on this. I have made wrong turnings in my life. I still find myself painfully burrowing my way (sometimes painfully) through a dark tunnel towards the Light. We are all work in progress. We even hear of self-proclaimed gurus being exposed while dipping their toes into the mire. For much of society however, it is barely a struggle at all: most just succumb and give their consent. No questions are asked. It is a fact of life and most just ‘live with it’. This force is buried under countless layers of human insincerity. Not surprisingly then, desire is a major wheel in the world system and economy. A conventional response sometimes intervenes, urging moderation. This will be self-imposed and a fragile compromise might be reached. A limit and a check are constructed, with the intention not to ‘transgress’ any further. Such is the notion of sin in everyday life. It is a response of the rational mind. On entering yoga, it becomes imperative to find a more permanent solution to the malaise, but one has to evolve quite far in one’s practice to dispense with the leverage of the ordinary mind. The traditional yogic practices do not address the roots of desire. When one is attempting to rise above them into a state of complete transcendence one has to climb a mountain-top of spirituality, which leaves the woes of the ordinary life far below. Many are inspired to join the Masters in their ascent but the roots of ordinary human suffering and dissatisfaction are left unobserved and untouched. It is only by knowing the root that an affliction can be transformed. Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga addresses the integrality of the human being, every facet of the nature, not just the roots of desire. We have to work on ourselves. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes for desire: the whole of our being has to be addressed. Every part of our self is interrelated. Integral Yoga aims at transforming the source of every human ignorance and suffering. The whole nature must be divinised in its comprehensive sweep. Everything has to be illuminated; nothing can be taken out of context and no detail can be ignored. Nothing can be achieved until everything is done. A perfect and true integer is the aim of its practice. The duality of desire The truth is, desire is part of a duality. At the flipside of desire stands aversion. In truth, just as with pain and pleasure, which Sri Aurobindo identifies as “the same thing (1)”, desire and aversion have the same source. They come from the same universal force, though they find expression in different conditions and guises. Desire is the foundation and the trigger; aversion is the consequence. The two operate in a cyclical fashion. Desire sets aversion in motion. In cases of sexual violence though, the two states seem to be horribly mangled together. More typically though, they operate in sequence. As soon as we accommodate a desire and attempt to satisfy it, one spits it out in aversion. As soon as a desire is satiated, one feels pain and anguish. This pain can also manifest on a gross physical level: it is not just a psychological phenomenon, our whole being is affected. It comes from a sense of overload and the knee-jerk way of dealing with the pain is through the sense of repulsion. Once a desire is ‘satiated’, one will hold onto this state of aversion for a certain period of time. The intensity and length of this experience depends on the individual nature and also the level and mode of the desire. The interval may even bring a semblance of relief. However, unhealthy morbid patterns and habitual tendencies will also come up with the recoil of aversion. One may experience a huge weight of guilt and self-blame for having succumbed to the desire in the first place. We shrink and any feeling of self-worth may get shot to pieces. One may slump into depression. Just as desire inflates, the resulting aversion brings with it psychological emaciation. It twists the lower vital into uncomfortable contortions; it might even turn this side of our nature in upon itself in an atmosphere of self-harm. Our journey This article is not really written for the curious. It is addressed to those sincere about transforming their entire way of living. It is not only about desire and aversion because it is my understanding that Integral Yoga can offer a panacea for all human woes. So, why stop at one single affliction? They are all interconnected. The yogic practice is valid for the full range of human afflictions. But we need to engage vast resources of aspiration and apply effort to overcome them. Put simply, desire is just a consequence of not living one’s Truth. It is a sign of wrong living; desire is not in its true place. But very few can claim to be clear of it. Desire’s tentacles spread over virtually every living being on the planet, not just human. It is the chief moving-force behind the animal kingdom. But the mental side to man gives the state its lethal twist and provides an additional cause of human suffering. We are what we are, in our present status within time and space. We have to acknowledge that we are vessels in transition. We are applying effort to grow and we are consciously practising at changing our nature and our lives. The Divine has summoned us and we are heeding her call. We are evolving souls on the same path, aiming to bring harmony and true fulfilment into our existence. Finally, we have realised that there is no longer any space for desire or any other wrong movement in our lives. But one has to progress very far to become desire-less and free. We have to work at bringing the psychic being forward and establishing the true consciousness, whose dynamic alignment with Force gives it the capacity to transform and change. “The first condition for getting rid of desire is therefore, to become conscious with the true consciousness; for then it becomes easier to dismiss it than when one has to struggle with it as if it were a constituent part of oneself to be thrown out from the being. It is easier to cast off an accretion than to excise what is felt as a parcel of our substance. “When the psychic being is in front, then also to get rid of desire becomes easy; for it has only aspiration and a seeking and love for the Divine and all things that are or tend towards the Divine (2).” It is a long and difficult voyage to the harbour of the psychic realisation. The journey is impossible without surrender. It is our love for the Mother that makes it worthwhile. The psychic being alone can show us the true context for desire and aversion. Every human distortion finds its true place through the psychic influence. The psychic being exists in a different dimension and its realisation is surely the greatest achievement one can make in a lifetime. Such ‘achievements’ produce more than just a ripple effect on the world around. Indeed, they auger and herald the promised terrestrial transformation. The psychic does not work through coercion, but through its innate power of harmony. Its reach is sublime and subtle and it is only there that we will ever find the true solution: the transformation of all desire. So, given our present condition, what is the best way of tackling this problematic energy? Clearly, we need to look at this state in a true but realistic light. Firstly, I don’t believe desire can be tackled head-on. Neither (as discussed) can it effectively be dealt with in isolation. The whole of our nature has to be placed under the lens of our observation and practice. Our trust in the Mother and the process gives us the capacity to do this. Next, we cannot sit on these kinds of tendencies any longer. We are using an inferior instrument when we try to do this. The ordinary mind can only address superficialities and even that, to a very limited extent. Looking back, suppression has been the usual means, but truly, it does not even offer a halfway solution. Sometimes this course will arouse even greater mental anguish. Its parsimony creates nothing but greyness inside and we might emerge dry and drained of life. Every effort has its use, but a better way has to be found. The true answer is inside us. Even if we don’t actively indulge and (perhaps even more so!), we might carry this atmosphere around us wherever we go. Bottling a thing often exacerbates the problem. These tiny little vital entities will swarm around us for a lifetime. They become part of our consciousness because our preoccupation is continually there. Once we identify with desire, we only become it. It’s what we relate to but cannot even begin to understand. The lack of true understanding is the crux of the problem. It has a deadly and deleterious effect on our entire being. Our balance and mental health get disrupted and the very part that is feeding it, the vital, will become worthless and ineffectual through persistent misuse. Desire plagues and fatigues the body. The final result amounts to a travesty of the tenets of Vital Education, so clearly and explicitly described by the Mother1. Desire can even become the catalyst for our spiritual downfall. So, the question is, how should we address desire, given our present condition? It is imperative we find a way. I n truth, it sometimes seems that we are embarking on a path of pain. Whichever way we turn, there is pain. It might take a while to fully embark on the ‘Sunlit Path’. In Integral Yoga, we have to confront our shadows. With the effort comes the pain. We will suffer when trying to resolve our desires but it helps to look at this pain as just a process. It can also bring out the hero in us. So firstly, we need to access our Warrior Self. It is in all of us. It is a Self that is full of courage and makes light of any difficulty and pain. The warrior comes to us through aspiration, because aspiration is the fuel for all meaningful progress. Whatever obstacles facing him or her, the Aryan will pierce below the surface in search of the Truth. Pain is always giving us a message. Once we live in alignment with the Truth, pain will go. The true consciousness won’t allow it. If we don’t liberate ourselves from the shackles of desire, the pain will persist and perhaps even grow over countless lives. We are on a path of transformation and we are here to deal with desires and everything else in this life. Catching desire before ignition So, we come to the practice. There is always a spark of resonance which ignites desire. This spark needs to be snuffed out before it becomes a blaze. The force spreads by contagion and is all around us. The energy is manipulated by adverse forces that search for the slightest fissure to invade and activate their imprint. There is some part of our nature that covertly invites it. Once it lodges inside, it can spread to our external behaviour. Once desire is entertained, it is very difficult to annul it. The very effort to clear one’s way through it will engender pain. It needs to be resolved as soon as we notice it, because the chain-reaction may be instantaneous. It may sometimes subtly simmer and accumulate waiting for the chance to explode at a future date. Anyway, it has been invited and won’t willingly go away. We need to stay awake to all these inner movements. This implies that a considerable amount of sincerity and vigilance is required. We have to try to become conscious of these vibrations if we don’t want to become their slave. At the very least, we must become aware of them. Whatever affliction one deals with, this practice of ‘catching’ a wrong movement as soon as it appears is a key to changing one’s nature. “To catch each thing that should not be done, catch it like that, and then hold it firmly in front of the light until the light can act upon it to transform it: this is the work one can do all the time. No matter what one is doing, one can always do this work. Each time one becomes aware that there is something which is not all right, one must catch it like this, prevent it from hiding, for it tries to hide: catch it and then keep it like this before the light of one’s conscious will, and then put the light upon it so that it changes (3).” This takes practice. We apply our attention onto the vibration as soon as we become conscious of it. As soon as we catch it, we place a light upon it. At the same time, we remember to offer. Try to make these three responses simultaneous. There must always be a thread connecting us to the Divine. It is the psychic which births the true aspiration which is essential to this process. We must try to cling onto this entity at all times. There needs to be something; our consciousness has to stay awake. We must concentrate upon this presence, but even when engaged in daily activities; hold it always within our consciousness. Allow it to radiate and grow. Make it the most important thing in your life. The true consciousness has the capacity to embrace every detail without losing sight of the whole. We need to keep a continuous stream of practice in all circumstances. The practice of japa For this, I find japa invaluable: it maintains this continuity of practice. It has a natural way of keeping us aligned inside. It exerts a power that helps us stay within. With aspiration and persistence, the flow of our practice can then be sustained. The sādhanā should be round-the-clock, 24 x 7, and vibrate inside us even when asleep. That is our aim, at least. We sometimes move inch by inch towards this goal but with japa, as long as it is sincerely maintained, we will always move forward without risk of reversal. It fosters a continuity of practice, something inside us that never sleeps. It is an exercise in purification. The practice of japa can be ingrained into the very depths of our being. With practice, our entire being starts to vibrate in tune with the sacred Word. Once the mantra is established, there will be no seizure or interruption. The continuous thread will always be maintained. We are accessing a way to always operate from inside. Whenever we live in surface-mode, the thread will be lost. Indeed, it only invites more of these adverse vibrations to appear. They will come and go without our attention. Any opportunity to transform them is lost. So, the moment we catch the vibration, we offer it. Try to synchronise this with the japa. We can offer always, the good and the bad, because everything inside us is just a mixture. We can offer in our meditation and we can offer when immersed in our daily chores. Always remember to offer your desires: offer them when they are germinating inside your being and offer after you lapse and seek satisfaction. It is never too late to offer. With conscious practice, you will learn to short-circuit the onset of desire. The response becomes more efficient and effective. We can offer it to the Fire of Purification that burns inside our heart. Be conscious of this Fire and make sure your aspiration is always present to tend to it. The Mother has lit it but we must always look after it. The more we practise, the more this Fire will grow. Catch the adverse vibration with your consciousness and toss it onto the Fire. A tangible shift will occur and we move to a realm of dynamic change. Of course, we can offer and leave all our movements directly at the feet of the Mother. This Fire holds identity with Her. This simultaneous practice works to transform all our movements. Desire is but one of many different vibrations. But the remedy can be the same. Try not to segregate the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’, because even what we regard as our virtues need to be transformed. Every part of our nature can be swept up in the psychic embrace. That is our path. We are also on a collective yoga. You, the microcosm, by changing your nature can help to influence the entire yoga collective. Address the wholeness of your being and it will leave an imprint on others around. Don’t let the mind select what needs to be addressed: the process can be applied to every one of our movements. Take anger for instance, its onset can be diffused and transformed immediately by this practice. So, as soon as the movement is recognised, follow the same procedure and step back, catching it with our consciousness, put a light on it and offer. The human being is a creature of habit, so as one consciously observes, one can eventually interpret those cues that are feeding this pattern. Desire is subjected to habit like anything else. Observation is an art and, with sustained practice, we begin to read and follow the signals so that our consciousness can more readily catch these repetitive patterns. Allow the foresight to seamlessly integrate into your sādhanā. The transformation of desire We must always seek to refine and purify our consciousness. Armed with sincerity, it will heighten and expand through stages. Each experience is a benchmark. Just allow the Divine to set the pace for you. It all comes from our relationship with the psychic being. The true consciousness identifies exclusively with the psychic being. Because of that, “The Divine Consciousness is not only aware but knows and effects (4).” It transcends the Witness poise and can transform all our movements. The true consciousness is the executor of this Will and transforms desire and aversion into the sublime poise of aspiration. The present state of desire is only a deformation of aspiration and there is no space for it in the New World. Infuse your desires with your highest consciousness and see if their orientation can change, “.... what you have to do is shift the objective of desire: instead of turning it to something towards things that are external, artificial, superficial and egotistical, you must join it as a force of realisation to the aspiration to the truth (5).”

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