LETTERS ON YOGA
Volume 2. Part Three
1. Experiences and Realisations
II III IV V VI VII
Experience is a word that covers almost all the happenings in yoga; only when something gets settled, then it is no longer an experience but part of the siddhi; e.g. peace when it comes and goes is an experience – when it is settled and goes no more it is a siddhi. Realisation is different – it is when something for which you are aspiring becomes real to you; e.g. you have the idea of the Divine in all, but it is only idea, a belief; when you feel or see the Divine in all, it becomes a realisation.
All this is to make unnecessary distinctions. An experience of a truth in the substance of mind, in the vital or the physical, wherever it may be, is the beginning of realisation. When I experience peace, I begin to realise what it is. Repetition of the experience leads to a fuller and more permanent realisation. When it is settled anywhere, that is the full realisation of it in that place or that part of the being.
It is spirituality when you begin to become aware of another consciousness than the ego and begin to live in it or under its influence more and more. It is that consciousness wide, infinite, self-existent, pure of ego etc. which is called Spirit (Self, Brahman, Divine), so this necessarily must be the meaning of spirituality. Realisation is this and all else that the experience and growth of this greater consciousness brings with it.
The yogi is one who is already established in realisation – the sadhak is one who is getting or still trying to get realisation.
There is no law that a feeling cannot be an experience; experiences are of all kinds and take all forms in the consciousness. When the consciousness undergoes, sees or feels anything spiritual or psychic or even occult, that is an experience – in the technical yogic sense, for there are of course all sorts of experiences that are not of that character. The feelings themselves are of many kinds. The word feeling is often used for an emotion, and there can be psychic or spiritual emotions which are numbered among yogic experiences, such as a wave of śuddhā bhakti or the rising of love towards the Divine. A feeling also means a perception of something felt – a perception in the vital or psychic or in the essential substance of the consciousness. I find even often a mental perception when it is very vivid described as a feeling. If you exclude all these feelings and kindred ones and say that they are feelings, not experiences, then there is very little room left for experiences at all. Feeling and vision are the main forms of spiritual experience. One sees and feels the Brahman everywhere; one feels a force enter or go out from one; one feels or sees the presence of the Divine within or around one; one feels or sees the descent of Light; one feels the descent of Peace or Ananda. Kick out all that on the ground that it is only a feeling and you make a clean sweep of most of the things that we call experience. Again, we feel a change in the substance of the consciousness or the state of consciousness. We feel ourselves spreading in wideness and the body as a small thing in the wideness (this can be seen also); we feel the heart-consciousness being wide instead of narrow, soft instead of hard, illumined instead of obscure, the head-consciousness also, the vital, even the physical; we feel thousands of things of all kinds and why are we not to call them experience? Of course it is an inner sight, an inner feeling, subtle feeling, not material, like the feeling of a cold wind or a stone or any other object, but as the inner consciousness deepens it is not less vivid or concrete, it is even more so.
An experience is an unmistakable thing and must be given its proper value. The mind may exaggerate in thinking about it but that does not deprive it of its value.
It is not a question of giving an equal value to everything you do, but of recognising the value of all the different elements of the sadhana. No such rule can be made as that trances are of little value or that experiences are of inferior importance any more than it can be said that work is of no or inferior importance.
In a more deep and spiritual sense a concrete realisation is that which makes the thing realised more real, dynamic, intimately present to the consciousness than any physical thing can be. Such a realisation of the personal Divine or of the impersonal Brahman or of the Self does not usually come at the beginning of a sadhana or in the first years or for many years. It comes so to a very few; mine came fifteen years after my first pre-yogic experience in London and in the fifth year after I started Yoga. That I consider extraordinarily quick, an express train speed almost, although there may no doubt have been several quicker achievements. But to expect and demand it so soon would be taken in the eyes of any experienced yogi or sadhak as a rather rash and abnormal impatience. Most would say that a slow development is the best one can hope for in the first years and only when the nature is ready and fully concentrated towards the Divine can the definitive experience come. To some rapid preparatory experiences can come at a comparatively early stage, but even they cannot escape the labour of the consciousness which will make these experiences culminate in the realisation that is enduring and complete. It is not a question of liking or disliking, it is a matter of fact and truth and experience. It is the fact that people who are cheerful and ready to go step by step, even by slow steps, if need be, do actually march faster and more surely than those who are impatient and in haste. It is what I have always seen.
It [self-realisation] is not a long process! The whole life and several lives more are often not enough to achieve it. Ramakrishna's Guru took 30 years to arrive and even then he did not claim that he had realised it.
14.03.1936 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter see here
Your supposition [that you can't love the Divine until you experience him in some way] conflicts with the experience of many sadhaks. I think Ramakrishna indicated somewhere that the love and joy and ardour of seeking was much more intense than that of fulfilment. I don't agree, but that shows at least that intense love is possible before realisation.
17.03.1936 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter see here
My point is that there have been hundreds of Bhaktas who have the love and seeking without any concrete experience, with only a mental conception or emotional belief in the Divine to support them. The whole point is that it is untrue to say that one must have a decisive or concrete experience before one can have love for the Divine. It is contrary to the facts and the quite ordinary facts of the spiritual experience.
The ordinary Bhakta is not a lion heart. The lion hearts get experiences comparatively soon but the ordinary Bhakta has often to feed on his own love or yearning for years and years – and he does it.
What I meant about the experiences was simply this that you have created your own ideas about what you want from the yoga and have always been measuring what began to come by that standard and because it was not according to expectations or up to that standard, telling yourself after a moment, "It is nothing, it is nothing". That dissatisfaction laid you open at every step to a reaction or a recoil which prevented any continuous development. The yogin who has experience knows that the small beginnings are of the greatest importance and have to be cherished and allowed with great patience to develop. He knows, for instance, that the neutral quiet so dissatisfying to the vital eagerness of the sadhak is the first step towards the peace that passeth all understanding, the small current or thrill of inner delight the first trickling of the ocean of Ananda, the play of lights or colours the key of the doors of the inner vision and experience, the descent that stiffens the body into a concentrated stillness the first touch of something at the end of which is the presence of the Divine. He is not impatient; he is rather careful not to disturb the evolution that is beginning. Certainly some sadhaks have strong and decisive experiences at the beginning, but these are followed by long labour in which there are many empty periods and periods of struggle.
28.05.1933 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter
Sometimes I think that you are giving me a taste of the cup of bliss in very small drops, and at long intervals, but I do not at all despair.
There is no reason1 certainly for despair. The bliss always comes in drops at first, or a broken trickle. You have to go on cheerfully and in full confidence, till there is the cascade.
If you truly decide in all your consciousness to offer your being to the Divine to mould it as He wills, then most of your personal difficulty will disappear – I mean that which still remains, and there will be only the lesser difficulties of the transformation of the ordinary into the yogic consciousness, normal to all sadhana. Your mental difficulty has been all along that you wanted to mould the sadhana and the reception of experience and the response of the Divine according to your own preconceived mental ideas and left no freedom to the Divine to act or manifest according to His own truth and reality and the need not of your mind and vital but of your soul and spirit. It is as if your vital were to present a coloured glass to the Divine and tell Him, "Now pour yourself into that and I will shut you up there and look at you through the colours", or, from the mental point of view, as if you were to offer a test-tube in a similar way and say, "Get in there and I will test you and see what you are". But the Divine is shy about such processes and His objections are not altogether unintelligible.
At any rate I am glad the experience has come back again – it has come as the result of your effort and mine for the last days and is practically a reminder that the door of entry into yogic experience is still there and can open at the right touch. You taxed me the other day with making a mistake about your experience of breathing with the name in it and reproached me for drawing a big inference from a very small phenomenon – a thing, by the way, which the scientists are doing daily without the least objection from your reason. You had the same idea, I believe, about my acceptance of your former experiences, this current and the descent of stillness in the body, as signs of the yogi in you. But these ideas spring from an ignorance of the spiritual realm and its phenomena and only show the incapacity of the outer intellectual reason to play the role you want it to play, that of a supreme judge of spiritual truth and inner experience – a quite natural incapacity because it does not know even the A. B. C. of these things and it passes my comprehension how one can be a judge about a thing of which one knows nothing. I know that the "scientists" are continually doing it with supraphysical phenomena outside their province – those who never had a spiritual or occult experience laying down the law about occult phenomena and yoga; but that does not make it any more reasonable or excusable. Any yogi who knows something about pranayama or Japa can tell you that the running of the name in the breath is not a small phenomenon but of great importance in these practices and, if it comes naturally, a sign that something in the inner being has done that kind of sadhana in the past. As for the current it is the familiar sign of a first touch of the higher consciousness flowing down in the form of a stream – like the "wave" of light of the scientist – to prepare its possession of mind, vital and physical in the body. So is the stillness and rigidity of the body in your former experience a sign of the same descent of the higher consciousness in its form or tendency of stillness and silence. It is a perfectly sound conclusion that one who gets these experiences at the beginning has the capacity of yoga in him and can open, even if opening is delayed by other movements belonging to his ordinary nature. These things are part of the science of yoga, as familiar as the crucial experiences of physical science are to the scientific seeker.
As for the impression of swooning, it is simply because you were not in sleep, as you imagined, but in a first condition of what is usually called svapna-samādhi, dream trance. What you felt like swooning was only the tendency to go deeper in, into a more profound svapna-samādhi or else into a suṣupti trance – the latter being what the word trance usually means in English, but it can be extended to the svapna kind also. To the outer mind this deep loss of the outer consciousness seems like a swoon, though it is really nothing of the kind – hence the impression. Many sadhaks here get at times or sometimes for a long period this deeper svapna-samādhi in what began as sleep – with the result that a conscious sadhana goes on in their sleeping as in their waking hours. This is different from the dream experiences that one has on the vital or mental plane which are themselves not ordinary dreams but actual experiences on the mental, vital, psychic or subtle physical planes. You have had several dreams which were vital dream experiences, those in which you met the Mother and recently you had one such contact on the mental plane which, for those who understand these things, means that the inner consciousness is preparing in the mind as well as in the vital, which is a great advance.
You will ask why these things take place either in sleep or in an indrawn meditation and not in the waking state. There is a twofold reason. First, that usually in yoga these things begin in an indrawn state and not in the waking condition – it is only if or when the waking mind is ready that they come as readily in the waking state. Again in you the waking mind has been too active in its insistence on the ideas and operations of the outer consciousness to give the inner mind a chance to project itself into the waking state. But it is through the inner consciousness and primarily through the inner mind that these things come; so, if there is not a clear passage from the inner to the outer, it must be in the inner states that they first appear. If the waking mind is subject or surrendered to the inner consciousness and willing to become its instrument, then even from the beginning these openings can come through the waking consciousness. That again is a familiar law of the yoga.
I may add that when you complain of the want of response, you are probably expecting immediately some kind of direct manifestation of the Divine which, as a rule, though there are exceptions, comes only when previous experiences have prepared the consciousness so that it may feel, understand, recognise the response. Ordinarily, the spiritual or divine consciousness comes first – what I have called the higher consciousness – the presence or manifestation comes afterwards. But this descent of the higher consciousness is really the touch or influx of the Divine itself, though not at first recognised by the lower nature.
I don't say that these experiences are always of no value, but they are so mixed and confused that if one runs after them without any discrimination at all they end by either leading astray, sometimes tragically astray, or by bringing one into a confused nowhere.
That does not mean that all such experiences are useless or without value. There are those that are sound as well as those that are unsound; those that are helpful, in the true line, sometimes sign-posts, sometimes stages on the way to realisation, sometimes stuff and material of the realisation. These naturally and rightly one seeks for, calls, strives after, or at least one opens oneself in the confident expectation that they will sooner or later arrive. Your own main experiences may have been few or not continuous, but I cannot say that they were not sound or unhelpful. I would say that it is better to have a few of these than a multitude of others. My only meaning in what I wrote was not to be impressed by mere wealth of experiences or to think that that is sufficient to constitute a great sadhak or that not to have this wealth is necessarily an inferiority, a lamentable deprivation or a poverty of the one thing desirable.
There are two classes of things that happen in yoga, realisations and experiences. Realisations are the reception in the consciousness and the establishment there of the fundamental truths of the Divine, of the Higher or Divine Nature, of the world-consciousness and the play of its forces, of one's own self and real nature and the inner nature of things, the power of these things growing in one till they are a part of one's inner life and existence, – as for instance, the realisation of the Divine Presence, the descent and settling of the higher Peace, Light, Force, Ananda in the consciousness, their workings there, the realisation of the divine or spiritual love, the perception of one's own psychic being, the discovery of one's own true mental being, true vital being, true physical being, the realisation of the overmind or the supramental consciousness, the clear perception of the relation of all these things to our present inferior nature and their action on it to change that lower nature. The list, of course, might be infinitely longer. These things also are often called experiences when they only come in flashes, snatches or rare visitations; they are spoken of as full realisations only when they become very positive or frequent or continuous or normal.
Then there are experiences that help or lead towards the realisation of things spiritual or divine or bring openings or progressions in the sadhana or are supports on the way, – experiences of a symbolic character, visions, contacts of one kind or another with the Divine or with the workings of higher Truth, things like the waking of the Kundalini, the opening of the Chakras, messages, intuitions, openings of the inner powers, etc. The one thing that one has to be careful about is to see that they are genuine and sincere and that depends on one's own sincerity – for if one is not sincere, if one is more concerned with the ego or being a big yogi or becoming a superman than with meeting the Divine or getting the Divine consciousness which enables one to live in or with the Divine, then a flood of pseudos or mixtures comes in, one is led into the mazes of the intermediate zone or spins in the grooves of one's own formations. There is the truth of the whole matter.
Then why does X say that one should not hunt after experiences, but only love and seek the Divine? It simply means that you have not to make experiences your main aim, but the Divine only your aim, and if you do that, you are more likely to get the true helpful experiences and avoid the wrong ones. If one seeks mainly after experiences, his yoga may become a mere self-indulgence in the lesser things of mental, vital and subtle physical worlds or in spiritual secondaries, or it may bring down a turmoil or maelstrom of the mixed and the whole or half-pseudo and stand between the soul and the Divine. That is a very sound rule of sadhana. But all these rules and statements must be taken with a sense of measure and in their proper limits, – it does not mean that one should not welcome helpful experiences or that they have no value. Also when a sound line of experience opens, it is perfectly permissible to follow it out, keeping always the central aim in view. All helpful or supporting contacts in dream or vision, such as those you speak of, are to be welcomed and accepted. Experiences of the right kind are a support and help towards the realisation; they are in every way acceptable.
Do not be over-eager for experiences; for experiences you can always get, having once broken the barrier between the physical mind and the subtle planes. What you have to aspire for most is the improved quality of the recipient consciousness in you, discrimination in the mind, the unattached impersonal Witness look on all that goes on in you and around you, purity in the vital, calm equanimity, enduring patience, absence of pride and the sense of greatness – and more especially, the development of the psychic being in you – surrender, self-giving, psychic humility, devotion. It is a consciousness made up of these things, cast in this mould, that can bear without breaking, stumbling or deviation into error the rush of lights, power and experiences from the supraphysical planes. An entire perfection in these respects is hardly possible until the whole nature from the higher mind to the subconscient physical is made one in the light that is greater than the mind, but a sufficient foundation and a consciousness always self-observant, vigilant and growing in these things is indispensable – for perfect purification is the basis of the perfect Siddhi.
As for sadhana what is necessary is to arrive at a certain quiet of the inner mind which makes meditation fruitful or a quietude of the heart which creates the psychic opening. It is only by regular concentration, constant aspiration and a will to purify the mind and heart of the things that disquiet and agitate them that this can be done. When a certain basis has been established in these two centres the experiences come of themselves. Many, no doubt, may get some kind of experiences such as visions etc. before the basis is well laid by a sort of mental or vital aptitude for these things, but such experiences do not of themselves lead to transformation or realisation – it is by the quietude of the mind and the psychic opening that these greater things can come.
It is necessary to lay stress on three things:
(1) an entire quietness and calm of the mind and the whole being.
(2) a continuance of the movement of purification described in the Post Scriptum so that the psychic being (the soul) may govern the whole nature.
(3) the maintenance in all conditions and through all experiences of the attitude of adoration and bhakti for the Mother.
These are the conditions in which one can grow through all experiences with security and have the right development of the complete realisation without disturbance to the system or being carried away by the intensity of the experiences. Calm, psychic purity, bhakti and spiritual humility before the Divine are the three conditions. The experiences in themselves are right and helpful.
I don't think there is any cause for dissatisfaction with the progress made by you. Experiences come to many before the nature is ready to make full profit from them; to others a more or less prolonged period of purification and preparation of the stuff of the nature or the instruments comes first, while experiences are held up till this process is largely or wholly over. The latter method which seems to be adopted in your case is the safer and sounder of the two. In this respect we think it is evident that you have made considerable progress, for instance, in control over the violence and impatience and heat natural to the volcanic energy of your temperament, in sincerity also curbing the devious and errant impulses of an enormously active mind and temperament, in a greater quiet and harmony in the being as a whole. No doubt, the process has to be completed, but something very fundamental seems to have been done. It is more important to look at the thing from the positive rather than the negative side. The things that have to be established are – brahmacaryam śamaḥ satyam praśāntir ātmasaṃyamaḥ: brahmacaryam, complete sex-purity; śamaḥ, quiet and harmony in the being, its forces maintained but controlled, harmonised, disciplined; satyam, truth and sincerity in the whole nature; praśāntir, a general state of peace and calm; ātmasaṃyamaḥ, the power and habit to control whatever needs control in the movements of the nature. When these are fairly established, one has laid a foundation on which one can develop the yogic consciousness and with the yogic consciousness there comes an easy opening to realisation and experience.
17.08.1934 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter see here
You have had some experiences which are signs of a future possibility. To have more within the first 1.5 years, it would be necessary to have the complete attitude of the sadhak and give up that of the man of the world. It is only then that progress can be rapid from the beginning.
21.08.1934 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter see here
All these [giving up indulgence in food, tea, etc.] are external things that have their use, but what I mean [by "the complete attitude of the sadhak"] is something more inward. I mean not to be interested in outward things for their own sake, following after them with desire, but at all times to be intent on one's soul, living centrally in the inner being and its progress, taking outward things and action only as a means for the inner progress.
But why be overwhelmed by any wealth of any kind of experiences? What does it amount to, after all? The quality of a sadhak does not depend on that; one great spiritual realisation direct and at the centre will often make a great sadhak or yogi, an army of intermediate yogic experiences will not, that has been amply proved by a host of instances.... You need not therefore compare that wealth to your poverty. To open yourself to the descent of the higher consciousness (the true being) is the one thing needed and that, even if that comes after long effort and many failures, is better than a hectic gallop leading nowhere.
Experience in the sadhana is bound to begin with the mental plane, – all that is necessary is that the experience should be sound and genuine. The pressure of understanding and will in the mind and the Godward emotional urge in the heart are the two first agents of yoga, and peace, purity and calm (with a lulling of the lower unrest) are precisely the first basis that has to be laid; to get that is much more important in the beginning than to get a glimpse of the supraphysical worlds or to have visions, voices and powers. Purification and calm are the first needs in the yoga. One may have a great wealth of experiences of that kind (worlds, visions, voices, etc.) without them, but these experiences occurring in an unpurified and troubled consciousness are usually full of disorder and mixture.
At first the peace and calm are not continuous, they come and go, and it usually takes a long time to get them settled in the nature. It is better therefore to avoid impatience and to go on steadily with what is being done. If you wish to have something beyond the peace and calm, let it be the full opening of the inner being and the consciousness of the Divine Power working in you. Aspire for that sincerely and with a great intensity but without impatience and it will come.
Quite correct. Unless the Adhar is made pure, neither the higher truth (intuitive, illumined, spiritual) nor the overmental nor the supramental can manifest; whatever forces come down from them get mixed with the inferior consciousness and the half-truth takes the place of the Truth or even sometimes a dangerous error.
At a certain stage of the sadhana, in the beginning (or near it) of the more intense experiences, it sometimes happens that there is the intense realisation of some aspect of the Divine, a sort of communion with it, and that is seen everywhere and all as that. It is a transitory phase and afterwards one gets the larger experience of the (personal) Divine in all its aspects and beyond all aspects. Throughout the experience there should be one part of the being that observes and understands – for, sometimes ignorant sadhaks are carried away by their experience and stop short there or fall into extravagance. It must be taken as an experience through which you are passing.
The special experiences you are having are glimpses of what is to be and what is growing and preparing and are helping to make the consciousness ready for it. It is not therefore surprising that they change and are replaced by others – that is what usually happens; for it is not these forms that are to be perpetuated, but the essence of the thing which they are bringing. Thus the one thing that has to grow most now is the silence, the quietude, the peace, the free emptiness into which experiences can come, the sense of coolness and release. When that is in possession of the consciousness fully, then something else will come into it which is also essential to the true consciousness and fix itself – it proceeds usually like that. There is nothing strange therefore in the special forms of experience ceasing and being followed by others after you have written about or brought them to the Mother. When the more permanent forms of realisation begin to come, it will no longer be like that.
I do not question at all the personal intensity or concreteness of your internal experiences, but experiences can be intense and yet be very mixed in their truth and their character. In your experience your own subjectivity, sometimes your ego-pushes interfere very much and give them their form and the impression they create on you. It is only if there is a pure psychic response that the form given to the experience is likely to be the right one and the mental and vital movements will then present themselves in their true nature. Otherwise the mind, the vital, the ego give their own colour to what happens, their own turn, very usually their own deformation. Intensity is not a guarantee of entire truth and correctness in an experience; it is only purity of the consciousness that can give an entire truth and correctness.
The Mother's presence is always there; but if you decide to act on your own – your own idea, your own notion of things, your own will and demand upon things, then it is quite likely that her presence will get veiled; it is not she who withdraws from you, but you who draw back from her. But your mind and vital don't want to admit that, because it is always their preoccupation to justify their own movements. If the psychic were allowed its full predominance, this would not happen; it would have felt the veiling, but it would at once have said, "There must have been some mistake in me, a mist has arisen in me," and it would have looked and found the cause.
It is perfectly true that so long as there is not an unreserved self-giving in both the internal and external, there will always be veilings, dark periods and difficulties. But if there is unreserved self-giving in the internal, the unreserved self-giving in the external would naturally follow; if it does not, it means that the internal is not unreservedly surrendered; there are reservations in some part of the mind insisting on its own ideas and notions; reservations in some part of the vital insisting on its own demands, impulses, movements, ego-ideas, formations; reservations in the internal physical insisting on its own old habits of many kinds, and all claiming consciously, half-consciously or subconsciously that these should be upheld, respected, satisfied, taken as an important element in the work, the "creation" or the yoga.
Experiences on the mental and vital and subtle physical planes or thought formations and vital formations are often represented as if they were concrete external happenings; true experiences are in the same way distorted by mental and vital accretions and additions. One of the first needs in our yoga is a discrimination and a psychic tact distinguishing the false from the true, putting each thing in its place and giving it its true value or absence of value, not carried away by the excitement of the mind or the vital being.
Merely to have experiences of the higher consciousness will not change the nature. Either the higher consciousness has to make a dynamic descent into the whole being and change it; or it must establish itself in the inner being down to the inner physical so that the latter feels itself separate from the outer and is able to act freely upon it; or the psychic must come forward and change the nature; or the inner will must awake and force the nature to change. These are the four ways in which change can be brought about.
The difficulty of the yoga is not in getting experiences or a subjective realisation of the Truth; it is in objectivising the Truth, that is in making the outer consciousness down to the material an expression of the inner Truth. So long as that is not done the attacks of the lower Nature can always intervene.
The cosmic consciousness, the overmind knowledge and experience is an inner knowledge – but its effect is subjective. As long as one has that one can be free in soul, but to transform the external nature more is necessary.
Subjective does not mean false. It only means that the Truth is experienced within, but it has not yet taken hold of the dynamic relations with the outside existence. It is an inner experience of the cosmic consciousness and the overmind knowledge.
I have told you once before that your experiences are subjective – and in the subjective sphere they are correct in substance so far as they go. But to enter the supermind, subjective experience is not sufficient. Some sufficient application of intuition and overmind to life must first be done.
What do you mean by true? You have a subjective experience belonging to a higher plane of consciousness. When you descend, you come down with it into the material and the whole of existence is seen by you in the truth of that consciousness – just as when a man sees the vision of the Divine everywhere, he sees all down to the material world as the Divine.
It happens so in the sadhak's own subjective consciousness. Of course it does not mean that the whole world becomes like that – everybody's consciousness.... If your experience were objective, then that would mean that the world had changed, everybody became conscious, no sorrow or suffering anywhere. Needless to say, the material world has not changed objectively in that way, only in your own consciousness subjectively you see the Divine everywhere, all disharmony disappears, sorrow and suffering become impossible for the time at least – that is a subjective experience.
It depends on what you mean by subjective and objective. Knowledge and Ignorance are in their nature subjective. But from the personal point of view, the Force of Ignorance may manifest as something objective outside oneself so that even when one has Knowledge for oneself one cannot remove the environing Ignorance. If that is so, Ignorance is not merely a subjective force in oneself, it is there in the world.
It seems to have been a series of experiences of the different Bhavas of bhakti and it came for experience only – or for a manifold development of the bhakti. These, of course, are purely subjective experiences meant to educate the consciousness and have no definite value for the actual manifestation. It is merely for subjective experience and knowledge.
The golden light is usually a light from the supermind – a light of Truth-Knowledge (it may sometimes be the supramental Truth-Knowledge turned into overmind or intuitive truth). Orange often indicates occult power. You have a strong power of (subjective) creative formation, mostly, I think, in the mental but partly too on the vital plane. This kind of formative faculty can be used for objective results if accompanied by a sound knowledge of the occult forces and their workings; but by itself it results more often in one's building up an inner world of one's own in which you can live very well satisfied, as long as you live in yourself, apart from any close contact with external physical life; but it does not stand the test of objective experience.
In each plane there is an objective as well as a subjective side. It is not the physical plane and life alone that are objective.
When you have the power of formation of which I spoke, whatever is suggested to the mind, the mind constructs and establishes a form of it in itself. But this power can cut two ways; it may tempt the mind to construct mere images of the reality and mistake them for the reality itself. It is one of the many dangers of a too active mind.
You make a formation in your mind or on the vital plane in yourself – it is a kind of creation, but subjective only; it affects only your own mental or vital being. You can create by ideas, thought-forms, images, a whole world in yourself or for yourself; but it stops there.
Some have the power of making consciously formations that go out and affect the mind, actions, vital movements, external lives of others. These formations may be destructive as well as creative.
Finally, there is the power to make formations that become effective realities in the earth-consciousness here, in its mind, life, physical existence. That is what we usually mean by creation.
Mental realisation is useful at the beginning and prepares spiritual experience.
It can help too at the beginning – but also it can hinder. It depends on the sadhak.
Wordsworth's experience also was mental. Mental experiences are of course a good preparation, but to stop there leaves one far away from the real thing.
It [the realisation of the Divine in the mind] is a certain kind of living cognition – of which there are two parts – the living perception in thought rising as far as intuition or revelation, the vivid mental feeling and reproduction of what is thus known in the substance of mind. Thus the One in all is felt, seen, realised by the mind by a sort of inner mental sense. The spiritual realisation is more concrete than that – one has the knowledge by a kind of identity in one's very substance.
You have to know by experience. The mental perception and mental realisation are different from each other – the first is only an idea, in the second the mind in its very substance reflects or reproduces the truth. The spiritual experience is more than the mental – it is in the very substance of the being that the experience takes place.
A mental or vital sense of oneness has not the same essentiality or the same effect as a spiritual realisation of oneness – just as the mental perception of the Divine is not the same thing as the spiritual realisation. The consciousness of one plane is different from the consciousness of another. Spiritual and psychic love are different from mental, vital or physical love – so with everything else. So too with the perception of oneness and its effects. That is why the different planes have their importance; otherwise their existence would have no meaning.
Your experience is the beginning of the fundamental and decisive realisation which carries the consciousness out of the limited mental into the true spiritual vision and experience in which all is one and all is the Divine. It is this constant and living experience that is the true foundation of spiritual life. There can be no doubt about its truth and value, for it is evidently something living and dynamic and goes beyond a mental realisation. It may add to itself in future different aspects, but the essential fundamental realisation you now have. When this is permanent, one can be said to have passed out of the twilight of the mind into the light of the Spirit.
What you have now to do is to allow the realisation to grow and develop. The necessary movements will probably come of themselves as these have come – provided you keep your will single and faithful towards this Light and Truth. Already it has brought you the guidance towards the next step, cessation of the flow of thought, the inner mind's silence. Once that is won, there is likely to come a settled peace, liberation, wideness. The sense of the need of simplicity and transparency is also a true movement and comes from the same inner guidance. That is necessary for the deepest inmost divine element within behind the mind, life and body to come forward fully in you – when it does you will be able to become aware of the inner guide within you and of a Force working for the full spiritual change. This simplicity comes by a separation from the manifold devious mental and vital movements which lead one in all directions – a quiet, a detachment in the heart which turns one singly towards the one Truth and the one Light till it takes up the whole being and the whole life.
Put your trust in the grace of the One and Divine which has already touched you and opened its door and rely on it for all that is to come.
I have read the record of X's experiences. It appears from it that he has made the right start to a certain extent and has been able to establish the beginning of a mental calm and some kind of psychic opening but neither of these has as yet been able to go very far. The reason probably is that he has done everything by a strong mental control and forcible stilling of the mind and emotional and vital movements, but has not yet established the true spiritual calm which can only come by experience of or surrender to the higher being above the mind. It is this that he has to get in order to make a foundation for a more substantial progress.
1. He is right in thinking that an inner calm and silence must be the foundation, not only of external work but of all inner and outer activities. But the quieting of the mind in a mental silence or inactivity, although often useful as a first step, is not sufficient. The mental calm must be changed first into a deeper spiritual peace, Shanti, and then into the supramental calm and silence full of the higher light and strength and Ananda. Moreover, the quieting of the mind only is not enough. The vital and physical consciousness have to be opened up and the same foundation established there. Also the spirit of devotion of which he speaks must be not merely a mental feeling but an aspiration of the deeper heart and will to the truth above, that the being may rise up into it and that it may descend and govern all the activities.
2. The void he feels in the mind is often a necessary condition for the clearing of it from its ordinary movements so that it may open to a higher consciousness and a new experience, but in itself it is merely negative, a mental calm without anything positive in it and, if one stops there, then the dullness and inertia of which he complains must come. What he needs is, in the void and silence of the mind, to open himself to, to wait or to call for, the action of the higher power, light and peace from above the mind.
3. The survival of the evil habits in sleep is easily explained and is a thing of common experience. It is a known psychological law that whatever is suppressed in the conscious mind remains in the subconscient being and recurs either in the waking state when the control is removed or else in sleep. Mental control by itself cannot eradicate anything entirely out of the being. The subconscient in the ordinary man includes the larger part of the vital being and the physical mind and also the secret body-consciousness. In order to make a true and complete change, one has to make all these conscious, to see clearly what is still there and to reject them from one layer after another till they have been entirely thrown out from the personal existence. Even then, they may remain and come back on the being from the surrounding universal forces and it is only when no part of the consciousness makes any response to these forces of the lower plane that the victory and transformation are absolutely complete.
4. His experience that whenever he gains a conquest in the mental plane the forces of past Karma, – that is to say, really of the old nature, – come back upon him with a double vigour is again a common experience. The psychological explanation is to be found in the preceding paragraph. All attempt at transformation of the being is a fight with universal forces which have long been in possession and it is vain to expect that they will give up the struggle at the first defeat. As long as they can, they seek to retain possession and even when they are cast out they will, as long as there is any chance of response in the conscious or subconscious being, try to recur and regain their hold. It is no use being discouraged by these attacks. What has to be done is to see that they are made more and more external and all assent refused until they weaken and fade away. Not only the Chitta and Buddhi must refuse consent but also the lower parts of the being, the vital and physico-vital, the physical mind and the body consciousness.
5. The defects of the receiving mind and the discriminating Buddhi spoken of are general defects of the intellect and cannot be entirely got rid of so long as the intellectual action is not replaced by a higher supra-intellectual action and finally by the harmonising light of the supramental being.
Next as regards the psychic experiences. The region of glory felt in the crown of the head is simply the touch or reflection of the supramental sunlight on the higher part of the mind. The whole mind and being must open to this light and it must descend and fill the whole system. The lightning and the electric currents are the (vaidyuta) Agni force of the supramental sun touching and trying to pour into the body. The other signs are promises of the future psychic and other experiences. But none of these things can establish themselves until the opening to the higher force has been made. The mental yoga can only be a preparation for this truer starting-point.
What I have said is merely an explanation of these experiences but it seems to me that he has advanced far enough to make a foundation for the beginning of the higher yoga. If he wishes to do that he must replace his mental control by a belief in and a surrender to the Supreme Presence and Force above the mind, an aspiration in the heart and a will in the higher mind to the supreme truth and the transformation of the whole conscious being by its descent and power. He must, in his meditation, open himself silently to it and call down first a deeper calm and silence, next the strength from above working in the whole system and last the higher glory of which he had a glimpse pouring through his whole being and illuminating it with the divine truth-movement.
Yes, so long as the attitude is mental it is insecure because it is something imposed on the nature – a mental direction and control. But with the spiritual experience what begins is a change in the stuff of the consciousness itself and by that, as it proceeds to settle and confirm itself, begins naturally what we call the transformation of the nature.
No, the phrase ["stuff of consciousness"] simply means "substance of consciousness", the consciousness in itself.
As the yogic experience develops, consciousness is felt as something quite concrete in which there are movements and formations which are what we call thoughts, feelings etc.
Your feeling is quite correct. All spiritual experience is a substantial experience – consciousness, Ananda even are felt as something substantial. It is also true that it is felt so by something deeper than mind; it is the mind that turns concrete realities into abstractions.
These disadvantages of mental knowledge no doubt exist. But I doubt whether anybody could mentally simulate to himself the experience of the One everywhere or the downflow of peace. He might mistake a first mental realisation for the deeper spiritual one or think the descent was in his physical when it was in his mental influencing the body through the mental sheath of the subtle body – but those who have no mental knowledge can also make these mistakes. The disadvantage of the one who does not know mentally is that he gets the experience without understanding it and this may be a hindrance or at least retardatory to development while he would not get so easily out of a mistake as one more mentally enlightened.
Usually they [who do not have the mental knowledge about the universal Self] feel first through the psychic centre by union with the Mother and do not call it the Self – or else they simply feel a wideness and peace in the head or in the heart. Previous mental knowledge is not indispensable. I have seen in more cases than one sadhaks getting the Brahman realisation and asking "what is this?" – describing it with great vividness and exactness but without any of the known terms.
Just after writing this I read a letter from a sadhika in which she writes "I see that my head is becoming very quiet, pure, luminous, universal, viśvamaya." Well that is the beginning of the realisation of the universal Brahman – Self in the mind, but if I put it to her in that language she would understand nothing.
Even imagined experiences (honestly imagined) can help to mental realisation and mental realisation can be a step to total realisation.
When one is living in the physical mind, the only way to escape from it is imagination. Incidentally, that is why poetry and art, etc. have so strong a hold. But these imaginations are often really shadows of supraphysical experience and once the barrier of the physical mind is broken or even swung a little open, there come the experiences themselves, if the temperament is favourable. Hence are born visions and other such phenomena – all those that are miscalled psychic phenomena.
As for prayer, no hard and fast rule can be laid down. Some prayers are answered, all are not. The eldest daughter of my Mesho, K. K. Mitra, editor of Sanjibani, not by any means a romantic, occult, supraphysical or even imaginative person, was abandoned by the doctors after using every resource, all medicines stopped as useless. The father said "There is only God now, let us pray". He did, and from that moment the girl began to recover, typhoid fever and all its symptoms fled, death also. I know any number of cases like that. Well? You may ask, why should not then all prayers be answered? But why should they be? it is not a machinery: put a prayer in the slot and get your asking. Besides, considering all the contradictory things mankind is praying for at the same moment, God would be in a rather awkward hole if he had to grant all of them; it wouldn't do.
There is no impossibility in the purification of the heart which was the thing you were trying for, and when the heart is purified, other things which seemed impossible before become easy – even the inner surrender which now seems to you impracticable.
It is the usual experience that if the humility and resignation are firmly founded in the heart, other things like trust come naturally afterwards. If once the psychic light and happiness which is the boon of these things is founded, it is not easy for other forces to cloud that state and not possible for them to destroy it. That is the common experience.
Purification and consecration are two great necessities of sadhana. Those who have experiences before purification run a great risk: it is much better to have the heart pure first, for then the way becomes safe. That is why I advocate the psychic change of the nature first – for that means the purification of the heart: the turning of it wholly to the Divine, the subjection of the mind and the vital to the control of the inner being, the soul. Always, when the soul is in front, one gets the right guidance from within as to what is to be done, what avoided, what is the wrong thing or the true thing in thought, feeling, action. But this inner intimation emerges in proportion as the consciousness grows more and more pure.
The stumbling-block of X was ambition, pride, vanity – the desire to be a big yogi with occult powers. To try to bring down occult powers into an unpurified mind, heart and body – well, you can do it if you want to dance on the edge of a precipice. Or you can do it if your aim is not to be spiritual but to be an occultist, for then you can follow the necessary methods and get the help of the occult powers. On the other hand, the true occult spiritual forces and mysteries can be called down or can come down without calling, but this must be made secondary to the one true thing, the seeking for the Divine, and if it is part of the Divine plan in you. Occult powers can only be for the spiritual man an instrumentation of the Divine Power that uses him: they cannot be the aim or an aim of his sadhana. Many people have a habit of doing yoga according to their own ideas without caring for the guidance of the Guru – from whom, however, they expect an entire protection and success in sadhana even if they prance or gambol into the wrongest paths possible.
What I mean by subtle methods is psychological, non-mechanical processes, e.g., concentration in the heart, surrender, self-purification, working out by inner means the change of the consciousness. This does not mean that there is no outer change: the outer change is necessary but as a part of the inner change. If there is impurity or insincerity within, the outer change will not be effective, but if there is a sincere inner working, the outer change will help it and accelerate the process.... The most important thing for the purification of the heart is an absolute sincerity. No pretence with oneself, no concealment from the Divine, or oneself, or the Guru, a straight look at one's movements, a straight will to make them straight. It does not so much matter if it takes time: one must be prepared to make it one's whole life-task to seek the Divine. Purifying the heart means after all a pretty considerable achievement and it is no use getting despondent, despairful, etc., because one finds things in oneself that still need to be changed. If one keeps the true will and true attitude, then the intuitions or intimations from within will begin to grow, become clear, precise, unmistakable and the strength to follow them will grow also: and then before even you are satisfied with yourself, the Divine will be satisfied with you and begin to withdraw the veil by which he protects himself and his seekers against a premature and perilous grasping of the greatest thing to which humanity can aspire.
The automatic tendency is a good sign as it shows that it is the inner being opening to the Truth which is pressing forward the necessary changes.
As you say, it is the failure of the right attitude that comes in the way of passing through ordeals to a change of nature. The pressure is becoming greater now for this change of character even more than for decisive yoga experience – for if the experience comes, it fails to be decisive because of the want of the requisite change of nature. The mind, for instance, gets the experience of One in all, but the vital cannot follow, because it is dominated by ego-reaction and ego-motive or the habits of the outer nature keep up a way of thinking, feeling, acting, living which is quite out of harmony with the experience. Or the psychic and part of the mind and emotional being feel frequently the closeness of the Mother, but the rest of the nature is unoffered and goes its own way prolonging division from her nearness, creating distance. It is because the Sadhaks have never even tried to have the Yogic attitude in all things, they have been contented with the common ideas, common view of things, common motives of life, only varied by inner experiences and transferred to the framework of the Asram instead of that of the world outside.2 It is not enough – and there is great need that this should change.
I do not know what X said or in which article, I do not have it with me. But if the statement is that nobody can have a successful meditation or realise anything till he is pure and perfect, I fail to follow it: it contradicts my own experience. I have always had realisation by meditation first and the purification started afterwards as a result. I have seen many get important, even fundamental realisations by meditation who could not be said to have a great inner development. Are all yogis who have meditated with effect and had great realisations in their inner consciousness perfect in their nature? It does not look like it to me. I am unable to believe in absolute generalisations in this field, because the development of spiritual consciousness is an exceedingly vast and complex affair in which all sorts of things can happen and one might almost say that for each man it is different according to his nature and that the one thing that is essential is the inner call and aspiration and the perseverance to follow always after it, no matter how long it takes, what are the difficulties or impediments, because nothing else will satisfy the soul within us.
It is quite true that a certain amount of purification is indispensable for going on, that the more complete the purification the better, because then when the realisations begin they can continue without big difficulties or relapses and without any possibility of fall or failure. It is also true that with many purification is the first need, – certain things have to be got out of the way before one can begin any consecutive inner experience. But the main need is a certain preparation of the consciousness so that it may be able to respond more and more freely to the higher Force. In this preparation many things are useful – the poetry and music you are doing can help, for it all acts as a sort of śravaṇa and manana, even, if the feeling roused is intense, a sort of natural nididhyāsana. Psychic preparation, clearing out of the grosser forms of mental and vital ego, opening mind and heart to the Guru and many other things help greatly – it is not perfection or a complete freedom from the dualities or ego that is the indispensable preliminary, but preparedness, a fitness of the inner being which makes spiritual responses and receiving possible.
There is no reason therefore to take as gospel truth these demands which may have been right for X on the way he has trod, but cannot be imposed on all – the law of the spirit is not so exacting and inexorable.
14.11.1936 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter see here
X has... a day or two ago had the experience of the ascent above and of the wideness of peace and joy of the Infinite (free from the bodily sense and limitation) as also the descent down to the Muladhara. She does not know the names or technicalities of these things but her description which was minute and full of details was unmistakable. There are three or four others who have had this experience recently so that we may suppose the working of the Force is not altogether in vain as this experience is a very big affair and is supposed to be, if stabilised, the summit of the old yogas, for us it is only a beginning of spiritual transformation. I have said this though it is personal so that you may understand that outside defects and obstacles in the nature or the appearance of unyogicness does not necessarily mean that a person can do or is doing no sadhana.
It is a mistake to dwell too much on the lower nature and its obstacles, which is the negative side of the sadhana. They have to be seen and purified, but preoccupation with them as the one important thing is not helpful. The positive side of experience of the descent is the more important thing. If one waits for the lower nature to be purified entirely and for all time before calling down the positive experience, one might have to wait for ever. It is true that the more the lower nature is purified, the easier is the descent of the higher Nature, but it is also and more true that the more the higher Nature descends, the more the lower is purified. Neither the complete purification nor the permanent and perfect manifestation can come all at once, it is a matter of time and patient progress. The two (purification and manifestation) go on progressing side by side and become more and more strong to play into each other's hands – that is the usual course of the sadhana.
To change the nature is not easy and always takes time, but if there is no inner experience, no gradual emergence of the other purer consciousness that is concealed by all these things you now see, it would be almost impossible even for the strongest will. You say that first you must get rid of all these things, then have the inner experiences. But how is that to be done? These things, anger, jealousy, desire are the very stuff of the ordinary human vital consciousness. They could not be changed if there were not a deeper consciousness within which is of quite another character. There is within you a psychic being which is divine, directly a part of the Mother, pure of all these defects. It is covered and concealed by the ordinary consciousness and nature, but when it is unveiled and able to come forward and govern the being, then it changes the ordinary consciousness, throws all these undivine things out and changes the outer nature altogether. That is why we want the sadhaks to concentrate, to open this concealed consciousness – it is by concentration of whatever kind and the experiences it brings that one opens and becomes aware within and the new consciousness and nature begin to grow and come out. Of course we want them also to use their will and reject the desires and wrong movements of the vital, for by doing that the emergence of the true consciousness becomes possible. But rejection alone cannot succeed; it is by rejection and by inner experience and growth that it is done.
You say that all these things were hidden within you. No, they were not deep within, they were in the outer or surface nature, only you were not sufficiently conscious of them because the other true consciousness had not opened and grown within you. Now by the experiences you have had the psychic has been growing and it is because of this new psychic consciousness that you are able to see clearly all that has to go. It does not go at once because the vital had so much the habit of them in the past, but they will now have to go because your soul wants to get rid of them and your soul is growing stronger in you. So you must both use your will aided by the Mother's force to get rid of these things, and go on with your inner psychic experiences – it is by the two together that all will be done.
Once these experiences begin, they repeat themselves usually, whether the general condition is good or not. But naturally they cannot make a radical change until they settle themselves and become normal in the whole being or at least in the inner part of it. In the latter case the old movements can still come, but they are felt as something quite superficial and the sadhana increases in spite of them. There is no question of good or wicked. If some part of the being even has been opened the experiences come.
Yes, that is the truth of the working. At first what has to be established comes with difficulty and is felt as if abnormal, an experience that one loses easily – afterwards it comes of itself, but does not yet stay; finally it becomes a frequent and intimate state of the being and makes itself constant and normal. On the other hand all the confusions and errors once habitual to the nature are pushed out; at first they return frequently, but afterwards they in their turn become abnormal and foreign to the nature and lose frequency and finally disappear.
The up and down movement which you speak of is common to all ways of yoga. It is there in the path of bhakti, but there are equally alternations of states of light and states of darkness, sometimes sheer and prolonged darkness, when one follows the path of knowledge. Those who have occult experiences come to periods when all experiences cease and even seem finished for ever. Even when there have been many and permanent realisations, these seem to go behind the veil and leave nothing in front except a dull blank, filled, if at all, only with recurrent attacks and difficulties. These alternations are the result of the nature of human consciousness and are not a proof of unfitness or of predestined failure. One has to be prepared for them and pass through. They are the "day and night" of the Vedic mystics.
As for surrender, everyone has his own first way of approach towards it; but if it is due to fear, "form" or sense of duty, then certainly that is not surrender at all; these things have nothing to do with surrender. Also, complete and total surrender is not so easy as some seem to imagine. There are always many and large reservations; even if one is not conscious of them, they are there. Complete surrender can best come by a complete love and bhakti. Bhakti, on the other hand, can begin without surrender, but it naturally leads, as it forms itself, to surrender.
You are surely mistaken in thinking that the difficulty of giving up intellectual convictions is a special stumbling-block in you more than in others. The attachment to one's own ideas and convictions, the insistence on them is a common characteristic. It can be removed by a light of knowledge from above which gives one the direct touch of Truth or the luminous experience of it and takes away all value from mere intellectual opinion, ideas or conviction and removes the necessity for it, or by a right consciousness which brings with it right ideas, right feeling, right action and right everything else. Or else it must come by a spiritual and mental humility which is rare in human nature – especially the mental, for the mind is always apt to think its own ideas, true or false, are the right ideas. Eventually, it is the psychic growth that makes this surrender too possible and that again comes most easily by bhakti. In any case, the existence of this difficulty is not in itself a good cause for forecasting failure in yoga.
The reason why there are these alternations of which you complain is that the nature of the consciousness is like that; after a little spell of wakefulness it feels the need of a little sleep. Very often in the beginning the wakings are brief, the sleeps long; afterwards it becomes more equal and later on the sleep periods are shorter and shorter. Another cause of these alternations, when one is receiving, is the nature's need of closing up to assimilate. It can take perhaps a great deal, but while the experience is going on it cannot absorb properly what it brings, so it closes down for assimilation. A third cause comes in the period of transformation, – one part of the nature changes and one feels for a time as if there had been a complete and permanent change. But one is disappointed to find it cease and a period of barrenness or lowered consciousness follow. This is because another part of the consciousness comes up for change and a period of preparation and veiled working follows which seems to be one of unenlightenment or worse. These things alarm, disappoint or perplex the eagerness and impatience of the sadhak; but if one takes them quietly and knows how to use them or adopt the right attitude, one can make these unenlightened periods also a part of the conscious sadhana. So the Vedic Rishis speak of the alternation of "Day and Night both suckling the divine Child." What you feel in the head is probably the first conscious descent into the body of the divine Force from above. Up to now it must have been working unfelt by you from behind the heart. If the concentration takes place naturally in the head you must allow it to do so, but the possibility of this has been prepared by the previous concentration in the heart, so that also need not be discontinued unless the force working in you insists on the upper concentration only. Aspiration can be continued in the same way until the conduct of the sadhana by the Mother's power is clearly felt and becomes to you the normal thing.
Yes, it is right. Everyone has these alternations because the total consciousness is not able to remain always in the above experience. The point is that in the intervals there should be quietude, at least in the inner being, no restlessness, dissatisfaction or struggle. If that point is attained, then the sadhana can go on smoothly – not that there will be no difficulties but there will be no disquietude or dissatisfaction etc. etc.
The Vaishnava Bhajan is one that easily excites the vital being and if there are people there of a low nature, all sorts of dark and low forces come in to feed upon the excitement.... The spiritual fulfilment will come in its time by a steady development of the being and the nature. It does not depend on seizing upon this or that opportunity.
There is another thing which you must learn. If you are interrupted in sadhana... you must simply remain inwardly quiet and allow the interruption to pass. If you learn to do this, the inner state or experience will go on afterwards just as if nothing had happened. If you attach undue importance and get upset, on the contrary, you change the interruption into a disturbance and the inner state or experience ceases. Always keep the inner quiet and confidence in every circumstance; allow nothing to disturb it or to excite you. A steady inner calm and quiet will and psychic faith and bhakti are the one true foundation for your sadhana.
A quiet and even basis means a condition of the sadhana in which there is no tossing about between eager bursts of experience and a depressed inert or half inert condition, but whether in progress or in difficulty there is always a quiet consciousness behind turned in confidence and faith towards the Divine.
An occasional sinking of the consciousness happens to everybody. The causes are various, some touch from outside, something not yet changed or not sufficiently changed in the vital, especially the lower vital, some inertia or obscurity rising up from the physical parts of nature. When it comes, remain quiet, open yourself to the Mother and call back the true conditions and aspire for a clear and undisturbed discrimination showing you from within yourself the cause of the thing that needs to be set right.
There are always pauses of preparation and assimilation between two movements. You must not regard these with fretfulness or impatience as if they were untoward gaps in the sadhana. Besides, the Force rises up lifting part of the nature on a higher level and then comes down to a lower layer to raise it; this motion of ascent and descent is often extremely trying because the mind partial to an ascent in a straight line and the vital eager for rapid fulfilment cannot understand or follow the intricate movement and are apt to be distressed by it or resent it. But the transformation of the whole nature is not an easy thing to accomplish and the Force that does it knows better than our mental ignorance or our vital impatience.
25.06.1937 ▪ Nirodbaran ▪ Full text of the letter
Everything once gained is there and can be regained. Yoga is not a thing that goes by one decisive rush one way or the other – it is a building up of a new consciousness and is full of ups and downs. But if one keeps to it the ups have a habit of resulting by accumulation in a decisive change – therefore the one thing to do is to keep at it. After a fall don't wail and say, "I'm done for," but get up, dust yourself and proceed farther on the right path.
The entire oblivion of the experience means merely that there is still no sufficient bridge between the inner consciousness which has the experience in a kind of samadhi and the exterior waking consciousness. It is when the higher consciousness has made the bridge between them that the outer also begins to remember.
Fluctuations of this kind cannot but come and when they come, one has to remain very quiet and detach oneself from the surface condition and wait for it to pass while calling the Mother's force. A neutral condition of this kind serves a certain purpose in the economy of the purification and change – it brings up things that have to be transformed or rejected, lifts up some part of the being in order to expose it to the transforming force. If one can understand, remain quiet and detached from the surface movements, not identified, then it goes sooner, the Force can quickly clear out what rises and afterwards it is found that something has been gained and a progress made.
These fluctuations in the force of the aspiration and the power of the sadhana are unavoidable and common to all sadhaks until the whole being has been made ready for the transformation. When the psychic is in front or active and the mind and vital consent, then there is the intensity. When the psychic is less prominent and the lower vital has its ordinary movements or the mind its ignorant action, then the opposing forces can come in unless the sadhak is very vigilant. Inertia comes usually from the ordinary physical consciousness, especially when the vital is not actively supporting the sadhana. These things can only be cured by a persistent bringing down of the higher spiritual consciousness into all the parts of the being.
Fall of the concentration happens to everybody – it has not to be taken as if it were something tragic or allowed to be the cause of depression.
These variations in the consciousness during the day are a thing that is common to almost everybody in the sadhana. The principle of oscillation, relaxation, relapse to a normal or a past lower condition from a higher state that is experienced but not yet perfectly stable, becomes very strong and marked when the working of the sadhana is in the physical consciousness. For there is an inertia in the physical nature that does not easily allow the intensity natural to the higher consciousness to remain constant, – the physical is always sinking back to something more ordinary; the higher consciousness and its force have to work long and come again and again before they can become constant and normal in the physical nature. Do not be disturbed or discouraged by these variations or this delay, however long and tedious; remain careful only to be quiet always with an inner quietude and as open as possible to the higher Power, not allowing any really adverse condition to get hold of you. If there is no adverse wave, then the rest is only a persistence of imperfections which all have in abundance; that imperfection and persistence the Force must work out and eliminate, but for the elimination time is needed.
That is a frequent experience, (though I suppose it is not general) – not only with peace, but other things; there is a tendency towards a lowering of the consciousness in the evening. On the other with some it is the opposite. I don't know that it actually depends on work and mixing, though these may have a wearing effect – I find more often that it is a sort of rhythm of rise and fall in the consciousness during the day. Even when peace is perfectly established, there may be this rhythm for other things that are being developed.
There is no mentally definite and rigidly effective reason for the thing [the fall into inertia] coming in the evening rather than at 2 p.m. or in the midnight or in the morning. For some people the fall comes in the evening, for some in the morning, for some at other times, and so too with the rise. But the alternations happen to most people in one law of rhythm or another. The times vary with people and even can vary with the same man. There is no definable reason for it being at a particular time except that it has made itself habitual at that time. The rest is a question of the play of forces which is observable but the reasons of which escape mental definition.
[Reason for fluctuations in sadhana:] I don't know. Time and seasons vary according to the poise and flux and reflux of the forces in the consciousness. It is not a thing to which you can affix a rationalised and systematised explanation. One can feel it and understand in the essence of the consciousness, but not formulate precise cause and effect.
I can only say as before, that there is "no specific" reason [for fluctuations in the working of the Force] which the mind can determine. It depends on the total condition and interaction of the forces. One has to hold on to the aspiration and look steadily towards the goal without being disturbed by these inequalities and fluctuations.
There are no fixed rules [for fluctuations in the working of the Force]. There are simply a mass of tendencies and forces with which one has to become familiar. It is not a fixed machinery which one can manage by devices or by pulling this or that button. It is only by the inner will, the constant aspiration, by detachment and rejection, by bringing down the true consciousness, force etc. that it can be done.
The falling down of consciousness comes usually by some inertia coming in the consciousness through fatigue or through mere habit of relaxation or it comes through some vital reaction which one may or may not notice or it comes through a wrong movement of the mind. These are the positive lowering causes, but at the back of them is the fact that these alternations are almost inevitable so long as the consciousness is in any way subject to the old nature. The intervals of non-sadhana may, however, be long or short according to inner circumstances (mainly the power of the will or the psychic or the higher being to restore quickly the true poise).
The depression is not the only cause of suspension of experiences. There are others such as inertia etc. If one can have experiences continuously in spite of these things, that means that a part of the consciousness has definitely separated from the rest and is able to go on in spite of the outer resistance.
Yes – if the peace is established, then the falls are only on the surface, and do not affect the inner consciousness.
Even if there is physical fatigue sometimes, it is not inevitable that it should interfere with the sadhana. The inner movement can always go on.
Usually it is when something in the mind and vital accepts and indulges the lower forces that this inability to re-enter the true consciousness remains so obstinate. Physical tamas can produce long interregnums of obscure consciousness, but not usually with such a violent obstruction, but it is usually dull and obstinate.
Intensities like that do not remain so long as the consciousness is not transformed – there has to be a period of assimilation. When the being is unconscious, the assimilation goes on behind the veil or below the surface and meanwhile the surface consciousness sees only dullness and loss of what it had got; but when one is conscious, then one can see the assimilation going on and one sees that nothing is lost, it is only a quiet settling in of what has come down.
The vastness, the overwhelming calm and silence in which you feel merged is what is called the Atman or the silent Brahman. It is the whole aim of many yogas to get this realisation of Atman or silent Brahman and live in it. In our yoga it is only the first stage of the realisation of the Divine and of that growing of the being into the higher or divine Consciousness which we call transformation.
After one has got to a certain stage the things gained are never lost – they may be covered over but they return – they have only gone inside and come back to the surface.
When the physical consciousness prevails, often one does not feel any sign or effect even if the experiences are there.
How do you expect anything so obtuse and forgetful as the physical consciousness to have the effect if the experiences are not repeated? It is as when you learn a lesson, you have to repeat it till the physical mind gets hold of it – otherwise it does not become a part of consciousness.
The emptiness that you described in your letter yesterday was not a bad thing – it is this emptiness inward and outward that often in yoga becomes the first step towards a new consciousness. Man's nature is like a cup of dirty water – the water has to be thrown out, the cup left clean and empty for the divine liquor to be poured into it. The difficulty is that the human physical consciousness feels it difficult to bear this emptiness – it is accustomed to be occupied by all sorts of little mental and vital movements which keep it interested and amused or even if in trouble and sorrow still active. The cessation of these things is hard to bear for it. It begins to feel dull and restless and eager for the old interests and movements. But by this restlessness it disturbs the quietude and brings back the things that had been thrown out. It is this that is creating the difficulty and the obstruction for the moment. If you can accept emptiness as a passage to the true consciousness and true movements, then it will be easier to get rid of the obstacle.
All in the Ashram are not suffering from the sense of dullness and want of interest, but many are because the Force that is descending is discouraging the old movements of the physical and vital mind which they call life and they are not accustomed to accept the renunciation of these things, or to admit the peace or joy of silence.
Emptiness is not in itself a bad condition, only if it is a sad and restless emptiness of the dissatisfied vital. In sadhana emptiness is very usually a necessary transition from one state to another. When mind and vital fall quiet and their restless movements, thoughts and desires cease, then one feels empty. This is at first often a neutral emptiness with nothing in it, nothing in it either good or bad, happy or unhappy, no impulse or movement. This neutral state is often or even usually followed by the opening to inner experience. There is also an emptiness made of peace and silence, when the peace and silence come out from the psychic within or descend from the higher consciousness above. This is not neutral, for in it there is the sense of peace, often also of wideness and freedom. There is also a happy emptiness with the sense of something close or drawing near which is not yet there, e.g. the closeness of the Mother or some other preparing experience. What you describe is the neutral quiet. There is no need for anxiety. When it comes, one has only to remain quiet and open and turned to the Mother till something develops from within.
To be an empty vessel is a very good thing if one knows how to make use of the emptiness.
If it is only emptiness, there is nothing wrong. Alternations of emptiness and fullness are a quite normal feature of experience in sadhana.
The voidness (if by that you mean silence and emptiness of thoughts, movements etc.) is the basic condition into which the higher consciousness can flow.
The voidness is the best condition for a full receptivity.
Voidness can come from anywhere, mind, vital or from above.
Emptiness usually comes as a clearance of the consciousness or some part of it. The consciousness or part becomes like an empty cup into which something new can be poured. The highest emptiness is the pure existence of the self in which all manifestation can take place.
Emptiness as such is not a character of the higher consciousness, though it often looks like that to the human vital when one has the pure realisation of the Self, because all is immobile, and for the vital all that is not full of action appears empty. But the emptiness that comes to the mind, vital or physical is a special thing intended to clear the room for the things from above.
An emptiness in the mind or vital may be spiritual without emptiness being an essential characteristic of the higher consciousness. If it were, there could be no Force, Light or Ananda in the higher consciousness. Emptiness is only a result produced by a certain action of the higher Force on the system in order that the higher consciousness may be able to come into it. It is a spiritual emptiness as opposed to the dull and inert emptiness of complete tamas which is not spiritual.
Emptiness is a state of quietude of the mental or vital or all the consciousness not visited by any mind or vital movements, but open to the Pure Existence and ready or tending to be that or already that but not yet realised in its full power of being. Which of these conditions it happens to be depends on the particular case. The Self state or the state of pure existence is sometimes also called emptiness, but only in the sense that it is a state of sheer static rest of being without any contacts of mobile Nature.
There is no such thing as néant. By "void" is meant emptiness clear of all contents except existence pure and simple. Without that one cannot realise the silent Brahman.
The void is the condition of the Self – free, wide and silent. It seems void to the mind but in reality it is simply a state of pure existence and consciousness, Sat and Chit with Shanti.
Voidness may be of different kinds – a certain kind of spiritual voidness, or the emptiness that is a preparation for new experience. But an exhaustion of life energy is a very different thing. It may come from fatigue, from somebody or something drawing away the vital force or from an invasion of tamas. But I don't know why it should be connected with the English study and happening only then.
The usual result of voidness is to quiet down any vital disturbance although it does not, unless it is complete, stop the mechanical recurrent action of the mind.
If it is a real emptiness, one can rest in it for years together, – it is because the vital is restless and full of desires (not empty) that it is like that. Also the physical mind is by no means at rest. If the desires were thrown out and the ego less active and the physical mind at rest, knowledge would come from above in place of the physical mind's stupidities, the vital mind could be calm and quiet and the Mother's Force take up the action and the higher consciousness begin to come down. That is the proper sequel of emptiness.
I cannot have written that it is only you who feel the silence as empty, as there are plenty who do so feel it at first. One feels it empty because one is accustomed to associate existence with thought, feeling and movement or with forms and objects, and there are none of these there. But it is not really empty.
You have written about the Force coming down – even sometimes of its filling all parts – so what is this "never"? I did not at all mean that there is a mechanical process by which every time there is emptiness there comes an entire filling up. It depends on the stage of the sadhana. The emptiness may come often or stay long before there is any descent – what fills may be silence and peace and Force or Knowledge and they may fill only the mind or mind and heart or mind and heart and vital or all. But there is nothing fixed and mechanically regular about these two processes.
Silence of the being is the first natural aim of the yoga. X and some others do not find satisfaction in it because they have not overcome the vital mind which wants always some kind of activity, change, doing something, something to happen. The eternal immobility of the silent Brahman is a thing it does not relish. So when emptiness comes, it finds it dull, inert, monotonous.
Certainly, the vital cannot take an interest in a blank condition. If you depend on your vital you cannot prolong it. It is the spirit that feels a release in the silence empty of all mental or other activities, for in that silence it becomes self-aware. For the blankness to be real one must have got into the Purusha or Witness Consciousness. If you are looking at it with your mind or vital, then there is not blankness, for even if there are not distinct thoughts then there must be a mental attitude or mental vibrations – e.g. the not feeling interest.
There is no reason why the void should be a dull or unhappy condition. It is usually the habit of the mind and vital to associate happiness or interest only with activity, but the spiritual consciousness has no such limitations.
I really do not know what kind of joy you want. All experiences are not accompanied by joy. Interest is another matter.
It is the tendency of the physical to substitute its own inertia for the emptiness. The true emptiness is the beginning of what I call in the Arya "śama" – the rest, calm, peace of the eternal Self – which has finally to replace tamas, the physical inertia. Tamas is the degradation of śama, as rajas is the degradation of Tapas, the Divine Force. The physical consciousness is always trying to substitute its own inertia for the calm, peace or rest of the true consciousness, just as the vital is always trying to substitute its rajas for the true action of the Force.
The physical does not get tired of the blankness. It may feel tamasic because of its own tendency to inertia, but it does not usually object to voidness. Of course it may be the vital physical. You have only to reject it as a remnant of the old movements.
In the course of the sadhana a state of blankness, of "neutral quiet" like this often comes – especially when the sadhana is in the physical consciousness. It is not that the aspiration is gone, but that it does not manifest for the time being, because all has become neutrally quiet. This condition is trying for the human mind and vital which are accustomed to be in some kind of activity always and regard this as a lifeless state. But one must not feel disturbed or disappointed when this comes, but remain calm in the full confidence that it is a stage only, a ground that has to be crossed in the sadhana. In whatever condition, the faith and the fixed idea of surrender must be kept before the mind. As for the brief movements of restlessness, they will still down if this is kept and the quiet mind and vital reassert themselves quickly.
Blankness is only a condition in which realisation has to come. If aspiration is needed for that, it has to be used; if the realisation comes of itself, then of course aspiration is not necessary.
The "state" I was speaking of was not blankness but something else – I see by reference to the passage in your letter that it was a "state in which aspiration is not needed." Such a state is not blankness but a condition in which the Mother's force is present to the consciousness and doing everything.
Every kind of realisation – infinite self, cosmic consciousness, the Mother's Presence, Light, Force, Ananda, Knowledge, Sachchidananda realisation, the different layers of consciousness up to the supermind. All these can come in the silence which remains but ceases to be blank.
The silence can remain when the blankness has gone. All sorts of things can pour in and yet the silence still remains, but if you become full of force, light, Ananda, knowledge etc. you cannot call yourself blank any longer.
If it is the spiritual emptiness then it will not be felt as interfering with the sadhana.
What you describe is the same neutral condition that you had before. It is a transitional state in which the old consciousness has ceased to be active, the new is preparing behind a neutral quietude. One must take it quietly and wait for it to turn into the spiritual peace and the psychic happiness which is quite different from vital joy and grief. To have neither vital joy nor vital grief is considered by the yogins to be a very desirable release, – it makes it possible to pass from the ordinary human vital feelings to the true and constant inner peace, joy or happiness. I suppose you have no time just now for sitting in meditation. The pressure of sleep is a pressure to go inside and the habit of meditation makes it possible to turn the sleep that comes into a kind of sleep-samadhi in which one is conscious of various experiences and progresses in the inner being.
The condition which you feel is one which is very well known in sadhana. It is a sort of passage or transition, a state of inwardness which is growing but not yet completed – at that time to speak or throw oneself outward is painful. What is necessary is to be very quiet and remain within oneself all the time until the movement is completed, – one should not speak or only a little and in a low quiet way nor concentrate the mind on outward things. You should also not mind what people say or question, – although they are practising sadhana, they know nothing about these conditions and if one becomes quiet or withdrawn they think one must be sad or ill. The Mother did not find you at all like that, sad or ill; it is simply a phase or temporary state in the sadhana that she has experience of and knows very well.
The condition lasts often for a number of days, sometimes many, until something definite begins. Remain confident and quiet.
The usual rule given by yogis is that one should not speak of one's experience to others except of course the Guru while the sadhana is going on because it wastes the experience, there is what they call kṣaya of the tapasya. It is only long past experiences that they speak of and even that not too freely.
The Light left you because you spoke of it to someone who was not an adhikāri. It is safest not to speak of these experiences except to a Guru or to one who can help you. The passing away of an experience as soon as it is spoken of is a frequent happening and for that reason many yogis make it a rule never to speak of what happens within them, unless it is a thing of the past or a settled realisation that nothing can take away. A settled permanent realisation abides, but these were rather things that come to make possible an opening in the consciousness to something more complete – to prepare it for realisation.
I thought it was understood that what I wrote to you about persons was private. Experiences one's own or others' if one comes to know of them, should not be talked about or made a matter of gossip. It is only if there can be some spiritual profit to others and even then if they are experiences of the past that one can speak of them. Otherwise it becomes like news of Abyssinia or Spain, something common and trivial for the vital mass-mind to chew or gobble.
If you want to keep the joy, it will be wise not to speak of it to others. Things spoken about get wings and try to escape.
To show what is written about experiences or to speak about one's experiences to others is always risky. They are much better kept to oneself.
General knowledge is another matter, it is intellectual and the intellect gains by the intellectual activity of teaching. Also if in yoga it were only a matter of imparting intellectually one's mental knowledge of the subject, that rule would perhaps hold; but this mental aspect is only a small part of yoga. There is something more complex which forms the bigger part of it. In teaching yoga to another one becomes to some extent a master with disciples. The yogis have always said that one who takes disciples, takes upon himself the difficulties of his disciples as well as one's own – that is why it is recommended not to take disciples unless and until one is siddha and even then only if one receives the Divine authority to do it – what Ramakrishna called getting the caprās. Secondly, there is the danger of egoism – when one is free from that, then the objection no longer holds. There is a separate question and that is the telling of one's own experiences to others. That too is very much discouraged by most yogis – they say it is harmful to the sadhana. I have certainly seen and heard of any number of instances in which people were having a flow of experiences and, when they told it, the flow was lost – so there must be something in this objection. I suppose however it ceases to apply after one has reached a certain long-established stability in the experience, that is to say when the experience amounts to a definite and permanent realisation, something finally and irrevocably added to the consciousness. I notice that those who keep their experiences to themselves and do not put themselves out on others seem to have a more steady sadhana than others, but I don't know whether it is an invariable rule. It would probably not apply any longer after a certain stage of realisation.
1 room (In the "Letters on Yoga")
2 The censored and omitted passage is italicized (See The Mother's Agenda, vol.10)