January 17, 1973
Work occupies a unique position in the Integral Yoga and it is as important as meditation. Mother has called work the best prayer of the body to the Divine. The topic before us is how consecrated work can be a living bridge between the dull human hour and the fresh Divine moment.
Everyone who has come here has had some kind of call and that is why we are here. And that means the soul has been touched by the Light in a certain measure. The human parts, mind and vital, have an insistent way of keeping a covering over the aspiring soul. Love of the Divine, meditation and dedicated work are some essential means of tearing the veil and establishing a brief relationship with the Divine. One can be happy if this relationship is everliving.
Theoretically, man is essentially Divine covered by veils of mind, etc. And the manifested Divine is there everywhere in the shape of persons, events, things, covered by an outer crust of something corresponding to the humanity in us. In the movement of aspiration it is our endeavour to release the veiled Divine in us and make it reach the hidden Divinity in things. This attitude in work converts labour into a communion between the inner Divine and the outer Divine. To do so effectively, one has to know what covers his Divine spark. Normally we act out of mere habit. One can see that in doing a fresh act, say handling a machine so far unused, one is not able to bring any habit to bear upon the act. The approach is fresh and hence the act is fresh and lively. At the end of the act there is no tedium. Behind this habit is a certain organized behaviour. Even in fresh situations one puts out a behavioural response of meeting a fresh situation. There are perplexing moments of joy or terror where one does not know how to respond. The situation is entirely novel. One’s reactions are completely original. It can be seen that acting from original impulses brings an extraordinary freshness. Here too one can see one responds from his own character. The Divine element in us lies far deeper than this character and personality and individuality which form successive layers of human inheritance. Acts should issue from that core and especially the responses should issue from the inner Divine. Issuing from these depths it meets in the act corresponding layers of consciousness, and our work lies only inside us, and the response of life and the act can be safely left to itself, as it is self-adjusting.
To start with, we have to observe ourselves very closely and explain the nature of our acts. We always think of the ideal to which we should reach, which is good in itself; but let us know that it is only a thought. And a thought when insisted upon gets the support of a desire. Soon things acquire the dimension of a problem, and worry ensues.
From where we are to where we should go there are a great many steps. Let us know all these conditions and find out what is the immediate next step. If one is to act, if one is to do the right thing in yoga, if one is sincere to himself in yoga, all that one can do is know this next step and take it. Rationally, that is the only thing one can ever do. The rest one can only talk about.
For example, one has a habit of procrastination, and whatever he wants to read, or meditate, or put things in order on his table, he puts it off. If he starts yoga instead of contemplating on the way to arrive at the Supermind and how soon he must find that out, yoga admits of no postponement of duties. It is there he has to start. He must decide clearly to do things on time and see that they are done. For him yoga begins there. Until he makes a beginning there, he makes no beginning at all in yoga.
It is easy for anyone to list the habits that are inimical to yogic consciousness, and set about attacking them. It may be that one may not succeed in a day; but a beginning has to be made. For one who is late half an hour for an appointment, if after this attempt, he is late only by 25 minutes, that is a clear progress. And it has to be maintained. One who, as a policy, lies, and after this effort, gives up the policy of lying and still lies out of old habit, yet has made a progress.
All this is the inheritance of his upbringing over the years. He has to unroll the inheritance and be free. It is as difficult as trying to unspread butter that is spread on a piece of bread. It has to be done. Not only that, all unwanted habits have to be shed mercilessly. It is true. One should not stop there. There are also many good habits and many neutral habits. As all habits are a leveling off, and as yoga permits no functioning through habits, all habits, good, bad, indifferent have to shed in favour of freshness. Here it can be observed that good habits really do greater harm to one who is established in consciousness, than bad habits. Bad habits are frowned upon by others. The person himself is painfully aware of their mischief. Hence there is an awareness possible that leads to their removal, whereas good habits are taken for granted, sometimes lead to satisfaction, or even pride, which is surely a covering of deadwood that one is never likely to be aware of.
It is rare to find a person who is utterly uncomplaining and soft in response to rough behaviour. This is a great cultural endowment that presupposes marked growth in consciousness. Such persons coming to this yoga initially find their being enormously open and receptive. They feel wonderful and make steady vast progress. At their first leveling off, they turn themselves off, never to open again. Now, after the strides of their initial progress, they can observe their old habits, temporarily withdrawn, reappearing and asserting themselves. They see many others who are uncultured (which is true) and inversely are satisfied by their own culture. And one is here not to seek satisfaction in cultural endowments, but to shed that culture in favour of higher consciousness, higher than his culture. (If they are lucky, a massive impact of the higher forces sometimes comes their way and rescues them from their cultural cover. These massive descents happen from massive spiritual personalities, massive spiritual scripture or massive events in life. Events that come into contact with many points of the personality, thereby making it possible for him to open up massively, is what is meant by ‘massive events’. By affinity or intimate personal love exchanged through the medium of loving service, the spiritual personality of a realized soul sometimes gets released and moves towards the disciple. This is what is meant by the first reference, ‘massive descents from massive spiritual personalities’. Ancient scriptures of any great religion, and especially those of India, have this character, of a weighty impact on highly soft, cultured persons who are in some sense already initiated persons).
The starting point for most spiritual experiences is the attempt to reconcile the apparent conflict between the manifested and unmanifested Divine, says Sri Aurobindo. In other words, the rediscovery of the spirit in life is such a moment. How to go about it! In work, we assume the work is Divine, the tools we handle are the Divine, we are the Divine (and our weaknesses too!) and the work is a manifestation of the Divine, a divine play. Hence the effort of our will is to seek a greater play of the Divine, i.e. the will must make a progress in spirit. Taking the centre of activity to greater depths makes this possible. If one functions from deeper layers of his being (e.g. from the level of character instead of that of behaviour) correspondingly deeper layers of the act respond and the human intercourse with the outer acts becomes less human and more divine.
If one turns over in his mind the entire details of his life on any given day, he will see much of his being, since the round of daily activities is a perfect cross-section of his entire consciousness. It can be seen, however veiled, that all of his temperamental traits would be revealed during the course of the day. From this study one can make a list, first of unwanted habits. By constantly exposing them to the Divine as and when they show themselves, one finds that they relent. When the habits fall off, behaviour, fairly well organized over a certain area of the consciousness that supplied these habits, reveals itself. This is more difficult to tackle. By perseverance one can bring the Light to bear upon this area, preferably when it is active. The structure will break, the intensity will lessen, the surface will dissolve and later fully disappear. Below this will be revealed the finely-grained organism known as character that will resist the very touch, not by opposition but by subtlety. Character being a fabric of a finely-grained organism, the will that desires to dissolve it cannot be coarse. It is not enough that the will is determined. It must have the subtlety made possible by the knowledge of what character is. Only when the determined will is informed by this finer grain of knowledge does the character allow itself to be touched. Dissolution of character is not an easy job nor can it be done quickly. First, it is a full time job. The intensity of the aspiring will should match the intensity of the character, for only then will it dissolve. It is a very interesting occupation or game, the chance of which few can miss.
When victory over this area is established, the very core of personality, the entity that is moulded in the fabric of one’s character in response to social stimuli, will stand up to be tackled. This is a dynamic aspect. To the earlier effort another dimension in disentangling character must be added, so that this can often be exposed successfully to the new light. This done, individuality remains. Individuality issues more from one’s nature than from the social responses as in the case of personality. Though individuality is not dynamic like personality or finely-grained like character, it has a certain toughness that springs from one’s own nature. When our work is done even here, one is face to face with his own unformed nature, and below that, the universal nature. It must be mentioned that when a habit is lost, what is lost is only the slavery to be dictated by that reflex, not the skill the habit holds in it. So also when we say character, personality, etc. are dissolved, what is dissolved is only the ego-drive. All the skills these faculties make possible are there intact, and are fully, rather more fully, available to us. It is only that they can no longer be commissioned by the ego-centre.
Here, as in life, things do not proceed in a straight line or take this length of time. Around each of the above items there are a hundred supports, each linked to deeper aspects. The moment the central will is dedicated to the Divine, i.e. consecrated, with the dissolution of the successive layers, all the supports loosen themselves and strike a mortal blow on deep levels. That is why when we are in the first stage, some work is commenced in each layer below. If the sadhak is serious during the course of his effort, Grace moves in and a different power begins to work. Results are much swifter than one can anticipate. Still the work must be carried on until the last element, the last strand live or dead, is removed. They are to be removed not only from our life, but from our subtle personalities also, so that their re-entry may be prevented.
After all this is done, we discover it has been done only on ourselves, while we comprise an area made up of ourself, the other person, and the act. So much remains to be done on the other items too. Each act has so many parts of existence, each having its own character and personality. In acting one has to know everything about every bit of the act, its mode of behaviour, its insistences, etc. It is true that each item is related to the corresponding parts in our existence. Work in us will go on and it will move the different parts of the act. This is true, but that is not all. It is necessary to sift the act to the same degree that we have examined ourselves, and the other person to whom it relates must also be examined in sufficient detail. Last of all, one has to examine the plane in which the three are effectively related. Our functioning, prayers or consecration must be centred on this plane so that the sacrifice of the act is effectively made to the Divine.
We all know how intensely we are devoted to Mother. Subjected to a close scrutiny, one can find that this devotion is either confined to a part of our being or a plane of our existence. Simultaneously, we can look for a reserve, a conscious reserve, where one is like a rock, unyielding, where one refuses to let the Divine in. As a matter of fact, this reserve is counterpart to the devotion in the other part. One need not be alarmed by its presence. What one should do is observe the intense relation between the devotion and the reserve, and endeavour to function in such a way that the fresh linking of these parts enable the devotion to dissolve the reserve little by little. It is by this means that we integrate our existence. We can see that the integration is infectious and proceeds to spread to other parts.
During the course of our effort we can set ourselves a few tasks which might enlighten us. A few are given below:
A dull hour: Our consecration may be intense or not; our progress may be fast or slow, but a dull hour should not enter our day. It is a warning. If a dull hour comes, it is time to look seriously at ourselves and remove the roots from which the dullness issues. The progress can have a maximum and minimum intensity. Naturally it has a range. But it should never be allowed to fall below a minimum. That means the work done has not yet been established properly. Once this crack appears a total loss of consciousness too is possible.
Expectation: We can be enthusiastic, eager to accomplish the Divine work. But a sense of expectancy reveals the fact that all is not well with the nerves. The moment that is noticed, one should set about building patience and dissolving the vibration at its centre.
Second line of thought: During reading or work, if a second line of thought shows, we can work in concentration and slowly get the better of it.
Need for company: One spends time with others either for work or something else. One can enjoy other’s company, but if you notice that you crave for company and the need is there, it is certainly an area that needs attention and a real danger signal.
Discipline of yoga: It is possible that some of the yogic disciplines like purity, concentration, self-giving are yet to play a permanent part of our lives. If that is so, one can make a list of them and bring one after the other into permanent possession.
Freshness: How often does freshness enter our life? This can be observed and its frequency increased.
Original ideas: When Silence enters the mind, yogic consciousness is established in us. In a mental character, original ideas would frequently occur in the silence. This is an indication of the right line of development.
Habits: We are loaded with habits; but fresh habits too are forming, as we have the habit of habit-forming. This must be called to a halt. Unless we put a stop to fresh habit-making, how are we to get rid of the earlier habits?
Observation: Each act that is initiated by habits will have an area that is uncovered by the habit, even as each fresh act will have a foundation governed by habits. It pays to learn the skill of perceiving in each act the two different areas.
Annoyance: One can make a list of persons and things that are annoying. That way one can get enough material for homework. Annoyance is, after all, a nervous incapacity to meet the created situation.
Satisfaction: Satisfaction is an invisible deadwood. One has to activate this area and convert satisfaction into fulfillment.
Results: We act; results issue. When expected results issue, we forget everything. When the unexpected happens, we react or worry. In either case, we have to teach ourselves to discover the Yoga in the receiving of the results.
Problem: Whether one is capable of solving the problems confronting him, he must work out a yogic solution for each of his problems. To be unable to arrive at a solution is not desirable. It is possible to arrive at a solution. To know the solution is to be ready for yoga mentally. To solve it accordingly is to have one’s vital fully submitted to one’s mind.