April (from The Ascent of the Spirit)
1. The Ideal of Humanity is Spiritual
The ideal of humanity is spiritual. This is a thesis which cannot be set aside by any observant mind. Even where it appears to be the opposite for all practical observations, even in crass materialistic approaches of life, the movements are not really bereft of the spiritual sense, if we are to be psychoanalytically observant of the motive forces behind attitudes to life. Even the worst of men have a spiritual element hiddenly present, and the vicious movements which we observe in humanity in many a circle may sometimes confound us into a doubt as to whether the Spirit which is held to be omnipresent can be the motive force behind these perpetrations. Yes, is the answer. Even the least of events has a hidden purpose and motive, though not visible outside but covertly present—the motive which rightly or wrongly, by various types of meanderings in the desert of life, directs itself towards awakening into the consciousness of what it is really seeking. The errors of mankind are really the products of ignorance, and an ignorance of a fact cannot be equated with a denial of that fact.
2. The Universal Urge is Really the Spiritual Impetus
The Universal Urge is really the Spiritual Impetus, and we need not use the word ‘spiritual’ to designate it. An all-consuming impulse towards a Common Aim is what may be regarded as the spiritual aspiration or the basic urge of the individual. It may not be visible in the proper intensity or proportion at certain given levels of experience, but that an expected percentage of it is not visible on the surface is not a reason why one should not give it the credit it deserves. All that we are inside does not come to the surface of our conscious life, as we all very well know; yet, we are that which is there ready to come to the surface of our mind one day or the other as the motivating force of our lives, whether in this life or in the lives to come. The urges of human nature are really universal in their comprehension; they are not individual, they are not even social in the sense in which we try to define society.
3. What is Gravitation if not a Spiritual Urge?
There is a struggle of every individual structure or pattern to communicate itself with other such centres of force, and it is this tendency within the individual patterns or structures to melt into the being of others that is the beginning of all spiritual aspiration. What is gravitation if not a spiritual urge? What is this force that pulls the Earth round the Sun if it is not spiritual? We may wonder how the force of gravitation can be spiritual, because it is known to be a physical phenomenon. But, it is all a question of nomenclature. We may call it physical, psychological, social, ethical, moral, or spiritual, as we like. The point is, what is it essentially? Why is there any pull at all—the pull of moral force, the pull of psychic contents, the pull of love and affection? What is it that pulls one thing towards another? Why is it that anything should gravitate towards some centre? What is the intention, what is the purpose, what is the motive and what is the secret behind this urge?
4.The Law of Life is Cooperation
Most people come to grief due to the wrong notion that they can succeed by ‘asserting’ themselves. The truth is just the opposite. The false idea that self-assertion can bring success is based on the ignorance of the fact that there are also others in this world who can equally assert themselves and stand against the assertion from any particular individual or centre of action. No one has ever succeeded in life, who confronted the ‘others’ in the world with his ego. All egoism is met with an equally strong egoism from outside. To take always one’s own standpoint, whether in an action, an argument or even in feeling, is to court ‘opposition’, while the law of life is ‘cooperation’. Self-assertion, thus, is contrary to nature’s laws and shall stand defeated in the end. All egoistic action, whether in mind, speech or body, evokes a similar action from other centres of force in the world and to live in such a condition is fitly called samsara, and experience in which perpetually warring elements react against one another and bring about restlessness and pain.
5. Interpreting Everything from the Point of View of the Ideal
A spiritual life is that conduct or way of living and mode of thinking and understanding which enables one to interpret every situation in life—physical, social, ethical, political or psychological—from the point of view of the ideal that is above and is yet to be reached, notwithstanding the fact that it is a remote ideal in the future. The inability to interpret the practical affairs of life, and the present state of existence in terms of the higher ideal immediately succeeding, would make us incomplete human beings and keep us unhappy. It is only the animal nature that is incapacitated in this respect. The animals and even human beings who have the animal nature preponderating in them cannot interpret present situations from the point of view of the ideal that is transcendent to the present state. And once we are awakened to the capacity of being able to understand and interpret the lower in the light of the higher, then it is that we can be called real humans, for the superiority of humans over animals lies just in this special endowment. Merely because one walks with two legs, one need not necessarily be regarded as truly human.
6. Even Among Human Beings We have Various Grades
According to Hegel, the renowned German philosopher, the lowest level is brute consciousness, which is inseparable from sheer material existence. The second stage, above this, is nature-reactive self-preservative consciousness, observable in plant life. The third stage is of a crude seeking of oneself in others, expressed in the presence of a psychological want, a need and a love which specifically concentrates itself in the reproductive consciousness. The fourth is the stage of self-consciousness which is the special faculty of man, beyond the level of the mere animal satisfaction of self-preservation and self-reproduction in the form of reaction to external stimuli. Yet, human life here is incipient and not fully developed. Even among human beings we have various grades: there is the animal man, the selfish man, the good man, the saintly man and the God-man.
7. The Mind is not Accustomed to Think in an Integral Fashion
Would people realise at least today that existence in the world cannot be bifurcated from the existence of the Central Aim of Life? Gathering the outcome of our thoughts expressed earlier, we may proceed further to the art and the enterprise of blending dharma, artha, kama and moksha into a single body of human aspiration. As was indicated, this is a difficult job, for the mind is not accustomed to think in such an integral fashion. But it has to be done, and one cannot escape it, if life is to have any meaning and not be a mere desultory drifting from one objective to another, every moment of time. Artha, or the material object of one’s pursuit, may be considered first, since it is this that seems to be the primary centre of life’s attraction in the immediately visible and tangible field of experience. The object is naturally the physical something that presents itself before a sense organ—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching.
8. Dharma is the Principle of the Unity of the Self, Spiritually
It is hard to give a dictionary definition of dharma or find an apt synonym for it in the English language; for, dharmais that all-pervasive cohesive principle, which keeps all things in a harmonious state of integration. Now, this harmony and integration is discoverable in every level of life. Physically, it is the energy which holds one’s body in unison and does not allow it to disintegrate; vitally, it is the force which keeps the pranamoving in harmony with the body; mentally, it is the power which maintains the sanity of thought and keeps the psychological apparatus working in an orderly fashion and does not allow it to run riot in a haphazard manner; morally, it is the urge which recognises as much value in others as in one’s own self and regards in them the proper status, which they are occupying in their own places; intellectually, it is the logical principle of coherence of judgment and correspondence of idea with fact. In the external universe, it acts as the force of gravitation, physically; as mutual reaction, chemically; as the principle of growth and sustenance, biologically; as cooperative enterprise, socially. Finally, it is the principle of the unity of the Self, spiritually.
9. Happiness is Nowhere to be Found where Perfection is Absent
Varna does not mean ‘colour’ referring to the Aryan or the Dravidian difference of skin, nor indicating anything like the superior and the inferior in the social organisation of human beings. To think so would be a total misconstruing of fact. Varna is not a ‘colour’ visible to the eyes but a ‘degree’ conceivable by the mind; which means to say that by the term ‘varna’ we are to understand the degrees of expression of dharma in human society in such a way that their coming together or coordination will sustain human society and existence. Though life is a continuous and single whole enshrining in its bosom knowledge, power, richness and energy, it cannot be manifest in any particular human individual in such a comprehensive fashion unless he is a Superman (ati-manava). In ordinary human beings, such a blending of the four factors is impossible. Happiness is nowhere to be found where perfection is absent.
10. Yoga has been Defined as Union with Reality
Yoga has been defined as union with Reality in its different degrees of manifestation, both within and without. Thus, by the fulfilment of one’s functions in life through the laws and disciplines of varna and ashrama, one moves gradually from the outer to the inner—from the external forms to the deeper meaning of things—and rises upward, from the gross to the subtle, and from the subtle to the ultimate essence of existence. The concepts of the four purusharthas, dharma, artha, kama and moksha; of the four varnas, the classes of society wielding spiritual, political, economic and manual power; of the four ashramas, the stages of study and discipline, performance of duty individually as well as socially, withdrawal from attachment to perishable things, and communion with the Supreme Reality; these sum up the total structure of life in its integrality, excluding nothing, and including everything in its most comprehensive gamut. The stages are the orders of life necessitated by the progressive emphasis which it receives in outward evolution.
11. What is the Condition of the Educated Man of the World Today?
It is emphatically said that knowledge is power. It is also held that knowledge is virtue. And Indian metaphysics, in its last reaches, proclaims that knowledge is bliss. Now, does education mean acquisition of knowledge? Any sensible person would not deny that it is so. And what is the condition of the educated man of the world today? Has he power? Is he virtuous? Is he blissful? We would, on an enquiry, discover that our men of knowledge are not really men of power. They need not necessarily be virtuous persons, too. And bliss, of course, is far from their reach. If education is the process of the acquisition of knowledge, that is, if education is the same as knowledge, and if knowledge is defined in the above-mentioned manner, how is it that there is a gulf between education and its expected fruits? We find that the men of power are either the political leaders or the possessors of enormous wealth. On a scrutiny it would be found that it is not true.
12. The Predominant View is that Knowledge is a Means to an End
The predominant view is that knowledge is a means to an end. In the case of some, this end is economic welfare and gaining of wealth in the form of money, particularly, or power in society. This is the reason why educationally qualified persons seek employments in institutes, organisations, firms, the government, etc. This ‘end’ which is in view clubs within itself a subtle notion of a simultaneous acquisition of prestige and authority in society. A person in some socially valued employment would at the same time be regarded as a valuable person, whether the nature of this value is clear to anyone’s mind or not. Why should an employed person be a person of prestige and dignity? The notion is very vague. Evidently, there is, underlying it, a feeling that such a person can be utilised as a means to some other ends covertly creeping within the minds of people. Also, prestige itself is something very nebulous and cannot stand scrutiny.
13. Knowledge and Activity are the Fruits of Education
The problem of human existence and activity is really the problem of the human consciousness. Or, to put it more precisely, the problem is that man is not able to realise that this is the problem. Knowledge and activity are the fruits of education. But neither knowledge nor activity is unconcerned with an object outside. This would mean that our relationship with external things is the deciding factor in judging the worth of our knowledge and the value of our activities. This, again, suggests that the worth and value of our education lies in the meaning attached to our relationship with the objects of our study. The whole question is one of subject-object relation. There is no such thing as either knowledge or effort unrelated to an aim or objective. If this aim is to be missed, if the purpose is to go out of one’s mind, if the object is to be separated from the subject, if the content of consciousness is to be cut off from consciousness, then the result is obvious. And this is exactly what has happened to our educational methods, to the entire process of education today.
14. The Faith of the Ignorant is not to be Shaken
The basic psychology behind education should be “not to disturb the degree of reality involved in any state of experience.” The Bhagavadgita exhorts: “The faith of the ignorant is not to be shaken” while the wise one performs the function of imparting knowledge to the ignorant. The standpoint of the student in any stage of education cannot be ignored, though it may be regarded as an inadequate standpoint in comparison with a higher level of knowledge. Education is similar to the artistic process of the blossoming of a flower bud, gradually and beautifully. The bud is not to be opened suddenly by exerting any undue force; else, it would not be a blossom, but a broken structure serving no purpose. The teacher is always to be hidden behind the student, though he is with the student at all times. He is not to come to the forefront, either as a superior or an unpleasant ingredient among the constituents that go to form the feelings, aspirations and needs of the student at any particular level.
15. An Indistinguishable and Subtle Mass of Mystery
The solution to the problem of the relation between the mind and the body is perhaps to be sought in a deeper study of the sources of the human organism itself. Investigations in the field of astrophysics and the science of life at the biological level have revealed that the human individual is a developed form of what was originally a united substance, call it an atom or cell. In this primordial condition of existence it would be impossible to draw a line between matter and consciousness, between body and mind, for here existence appears to be at the stage of an indistinguishable and subtle mass of mystery. Is it not a wonder that poetic genius, scientific acumen and philosophic wisdom, which shake the world of mankind with their force of impact and power of conviction, should be hidden latently in a microscopic cellular form of sperm or gene or chromosome? How could one explain the presence of a mighty and wide-spreading banyan tree in an insignificantly small seed thereof? Could the origin of thought and the origin of the body be identical in its structure and formation?
16. The Mystery of the Interrelationship
The chemistry of elements and of a living body, known as inorganic and organic chemistry, also may be said to be closely associated with biological functions. This fact is brought to high relief in the effects produced by the administering of chemically manufactured drugs into the human system and the chemical effect of organic substances introduced into the body of a human being. Here again we have revealed before us the mystery of the inter-relationship obtaining among chemical, biological and psychological functions. The bifurcation of these sciences into independent subjects unconnected with one another would thus be not proper. Chemistry is the study of the character of the molecular substances constituting the building bricks of all substances—earth, water, fire and air—whether these are studied in the external world or through the individual bodies they form by different permutations and combinations.
17. The Self-consciousness of Man
The self-consciousness of man is the principle of the ego and individuality. Researches in psychology have revealed that living beings below the human level lack self-consciousness in the intensity in which it blossoms in man. It is this specific reason which explains the incapacity of the subhuman species to conduct logical processes of induction and deduction in daily affairs, or remember the past and anticipate the future in a mathematical and logical form, as man does. But, this special endowment raising man above the subhuman level, also at the same time, acts as a serious obstacle to leading a harmonious life with other people, especially. For, self-consciousness is often blended with egoism of an autocratic nature, which refuses to give due credit to people around and delights in affirming its supremacy over others. Metaphysicians explain that egoism is an unfortunate product of a mutual superimposition between consciousness and the principle of individuality, which on the one side lifts up the banner of the indisputable supremacy of consciousness, and the separatist tendency of individuality on the other.
18. The Happiness of Being Alone
When you are absolutely alone, when there are no things to contact you, no persons to see you, when you are in the solitude of your own room, if your happiness is the most intense, that would perhaps indicate your progress along the spiritual path, your inner growth. But on the other hand, if your joy seems to enhance only by contacts, by seeing people and persons, if your joy expands the more you run about, the more you see things, the more you go about here and there, that will not be the indication of your growth in the spiritual field. The more you are alone, the more are you near to your Spirit. This loneness of your life promises you greater satisfaction than all the contacts that you can make in your social life. The Spirit does not come in contact with anything, and its joy cannot be enhanced by contacts; on the other hand, all contacts are a restriction on its expression. Joys of the Spirit get diminished by sensory contacts; that is why we are unhappy in this world.
19. The Content of Consciousness has to be Related to Consciousness
One can conceive anything but the finitude of consciousness. It is impossible to imagine that consciousness can be limited by anything external to it. In fact, the concept of there being something external to consciousness is itself an unwarranted intervention of a total impossibility, for that which is external to consciousness has also to become a content of consciousness; else, there could not be even a consciousness that there is something external to consciousness. It is also not possible that what is alien to consciousness in character can be its content, for the content of consciousness has to be related to consciousness in order to become its content at all. Now, this relation between the content and consciousness is again a questionable proposition, inasmuch as any relation between consciousness and its content should again be related to consciousness in some way or the other. It is impossible to hold the notion of anything which is unrelated to consciousness, or what is not a content of consciousness or what is dissimilar to consciousness in character.
20. A Total Externality to Consciousness is Inconceivable
If existence and consciousness have to be one and the same, how do we explain the anxiety of consciousness to desire objects which have an existence of their own? If the objects of the world have no existence of their own, it would be impossible for consciousness to desire them. On the other hand, if they have an existence of their own, what is the relation of this existence to the existence of consciousness which desires them? Are these objects external to consciousness, or are they involved in the very constitution of consciousness? On the second alternative, it would follow that it would be meaningless for consciousness to desire objects, because they are supposed to be already involved in its very structure. But, if they are not so involved, the desire of consciousness for the objects would be understandable. And if the existence of objects is not involved in consciousness, it would also mean that this existence is bereft of all consciousness; not only that, this existence would be an external to consciousness. But we have already seen that a total externality to consciousness is inconceivable, and is an indefensible position.
21. The Study of Man is the Study of Consciousness
The processes of life are, broadly speaking, those which are studied in the fields of politics, world history, sociology, ethics, economics, aesthetics, psychology, biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy. Everything connected with man can be said to be comprehended within this outline of the framework of life’s activity. But all this has to be related to consciousness; else, they would not exist even as subjects of study or objects of experience. The problem of man is therefore the problem of consciousness. The study of man is the study of consciousness. Since it is impossible to conceive a real division of consciousness within itself, it is also not possible to imagine that there can be real objects of consciousness. If there are no such real objects, the whole of life would be a drama played by consciousness within itself in the realm of its infinite compass. There cannot be a greater joy than the identification of existence and consciousness.
22. The Truth is Non-Relative
When we say that Truth is non-relative, we have said everything about it. For, to say anything else about it would be to make it relative. And to maintain a consciousness of this non-relativity without any adjectives—for adjectives create again a sense of relativity—would be to live in Truth. This is life-absolute, which steers clear of all references to the outside, and stands supreme in the strictest sense of the term. It is this that people call God, a word whose meaning has not become clear to us, still. The magic works by a single stroke of mental effort, and this magic is the realisation of Truth. Hands and feet do not help us here, nor do the traditional modes of thinking. This transfiguring process deals a deathblow to all that man holds as dear and near in the darkness of his ignorance, for its function is to enlighten him rather than please him, to light the lamp of understanding rather than feed his passions, to wake him from sleep rather than serve him a meal in dream.
23. What is Sexual Beauty?
The beauty that the sexes feel between each other is the glamour projected by this super-individual urge in the form of the sexes so that it may be safely said that sexual beauty which is visible to the male in the female and to the female in the male is the form of that lost identity of unisexuality which preceded the subsequent manifestation of bisexual individuals. Then, what is sexual beauty? Does it really exist? Yes, it does, and it does not. It exists because it is seen; it does not exist because what is seen is not beauty but something else which is mistaken for what is known as beauty. The beauty of the sexes that is visible is the consequence of a similarity of vibration that takes place in the vital and physical organisms of the personality which gets pulled magnetically towards the opposite sex, since it sees in the opposite sex not merely a person like oneself but a strange meaning which is read into the body of the person, this meaning being the cause for the perception of beauty more than the person as such.
24. The Path of Return to the Absolute
Self-preservation and self-reproduction are the spatio-temporal forms taken by the absolute character of the eternity of Consciousness. The ‘fall’ is a single act with the threefold downward pressure of psychic self-affirmation, physical self-affirmation and the urge for self-perpetuation. The threefold instinct acts simultaneously, only manifesting a particular phase at a particular time attended with favourable circumstances, so that the psychophysical affirmation and the sex urge, though they are present in the individual at all times hiddenly or expressedly, assume special emphasis under given conditions alone, even as a seed thrown into the soil germinates only when the conditions suited to its sprouting manifest themselves in the course of time. Here is a crucial point which has to be taken notice of particularly by those who have dedicated their lives to tread the ‘path of return’ to the Absolute, on which subject a little dilation of understanding is called for.
25. The Foundation of the Philosophy of Law
Law is a transcendent, connotative significance or force which demands a gradational integration of consciousness, both in quantity and quality simultaneously, until it reaches its culmination, which is known as the Absolute. Law is, thus, an operation of the system of the Absolute, in different evolutionary degrees of comprehensiveness and perfection, right from the Ultimate Causality of the universe down to the revolution of an atom or the vibration of an electron. Social laws and political systems of administration cannot, therefore, be separated from the requisitions necessitated by the law of the Absolute. It is just this Universal Transcendent Principle that either rewards or punishes individuals by its gradational actions and reactions, and it is this, again, that is the basis of all human behaviour, looking so inscrutable, and this is the explanation as to why individuals strive for mutual love and cooperation, and, at the same time, keep themselves ready with a knife hidden in their armpits. Here we have, perhaps, the foundation of the philosophy of law. Ethics and morality have, thus, a necessary value. Law has a meaning, and it points to a truth beyond itself.
26. The World Needs the Leadership of a Superman
The leadership of a tremendous genius and capacity for mustering in universal forces is called for. And these forces are neither material ones minus the spiritual, nor the spiritual minus the material. Truth is a fusion of both spirit and matter, of divinity and humanity, of God and the world. Will man be able to awaken this vision of himself? Then, there is hope for him, and then there can be peace, not only on Earth but also in heaven and everywhere. Else, the object sought for is far to seek, and difficult to find. The world needs the leadership of a superman, whose eyes can see God and world at the same time, whose personality will be at once the sacred temple of the Almighty and the active thoroughfare of human business. The world did see the realisation of such an ideal in the personality of Sri Krishna, who was an outstanding specimen of the world’s greatest statesman in the sense we have defined above as an urgent need for the welfare of mankind.
27. A Relationship between Two Persons
Social security and friendship cannot be assured as long as social relationship remains merely an external connection operating independent of the individuals so connected, and not intrinsic to the nature of the individuals themselves. A relationship between two persons hasto enter into the very substance of which the two persons are made; it is only then that the relationship between them becomes friendly, secure and permanent. But if this relationship is only a form taken by a pressure exerted by something else upon the individuals appearing to be related, then the individuals so related by an extrinsic power foreign to their own nature can fly at the throats of each other the moment this extrinsic pressure is lifted. This is what happens if the State enforcing the laws of the society is a machinery rather than an organism. With Hobbes we may think the State cannot be anything more than a machine externally operating upon the individual, whatever be the necessity felt to operate this machine.
28. Psychological Gulf
There has been through the history of time a visible irreconcilability, though looking apparent, between the values spiritual and the values temporal. This psychological gulf that has been persistently managing to interfere with the practical life of the individual has many forms which are partly personal and partly social. But, whatever be the nature of this insistent feeling subconsciously operating in the minds of people, it has, obviously, far-reaching consequences. The usual demarcation that is traditionally made between the life religious and the life secular is an outstanding example of the roots of this phenomenon which has manifested itself not only in the private lives of individuals but also in the social and political levels of life. It is this feature inextricably wound up in the thought of man that makes him feel occasionally the rise of a fervour of a renunciation of Earthly values for those that are religious, or even spiritual in the sense that he is able to comprehend within the limitations of his own psychological being.
29. The Spiritual Way of Life
The spiritual way of life is perhaps the most intriguing and enigmatic of all arts and sciences. The reason behind this difficulty in understanding and living the life spiritual is that this arduous adventure on the part of an individual is connected with so many subtle factors and calls for such dextrous adjustments from moment to moment that the entire process or effort is practically beyond the reach of the common man who is used to what we may call a happy-go-lucky attitude of total abandon to instincts, prejudices, routines and movements along beaten tracks of stereotyped conduct and behaviour in his personal and social life. It is by a rare good fortune, we should say, that a person gets fired up with the spiritual ideal, sometimes by causes which are immediately visible and at other times for reasons not clearly intelligible even to one’s own self.
30. Our Actions Determine the Future
The resultant force of an action has one’s future determined by it. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, says that the class of society into which one is born, the length of life which one is to live, and the nature of the experiences through which one has to pass, are all determined by the residual potency of past actions. These potencies become active in this life itself or in a life to come. A famous verse proclaims: “The nature of one’s life, action, wealth, education and death are all fixed up even when one is in the womb of the mother.” Human effort has a relative value and forms a part of this universal law of self-completeness, displaying the manner in which the impersonal reality behaves when it is cast in the moulds of personality and individuality. The doctrine of karma, therefore, is not a belief in fatalism as is often wrongly supposed, but the enunciation of a scientific law that operates inexorably and impartially everywhere in the universe, like the principle of gravitation.