To find the Divine is indeed the first reason for seeking the spiritual Truth and the spiritual life; it is the one thing indispensable and all the rest is nothing without it. The Divine once found, to manifest Him,–that is, first of all to transform one’s own limited consciousness into the Divine Consciousness, to live in the infinite Peace, Light, Love, Strength, Bliss, to become that in one’s essential nature and, as a consequence, to be its vessel, channel, instrument in one’s active nature.
Letters on Yoga, II
Sri Aurobindo was one of the greatest proponents and teachers of Vedic knowledge of the 20th Century. English educated–his father wanting him and his brother as far-removed from being ‘Indian’ as possible–a scholar, author, professor, philosopher, and Indian freedom fighter. He was the first political figure publicly to call for India’s independence from England, and he was arrested three times for sedition and conspiracy. Though he was eventually acquitted of all charges, he spent a year in jail during which time he meditated and studied Vedic texts and, in his words, ‘received inner teachings on the finer points of yoga.’ When he emerged from jail, he no longer was interested in politics; rather, his revolutionary zeal had been translated to the realm of the spirit.
Sri Aurobindo’s writing is dense and somewhat dated–his English is exacting and precise–but wise and brilliant and obviously the work of a man whose life was the laboratory for his exploration of consciousness.
On my first trip to India I spent hours poring over his major writings, sometimes spending an hour on one paragraph, reading and re-reading it until I was able, at least partially, to follow his thought process. This reading was done in books printed nearly in miniature, their pages only three inches by five inches, my theory being that spiritual work should be difficult. This was my introduction to the ideas of the Veda. I had not yet learned Vedic meditation, and my intellect was the only tool I had at my disposal. I was able to follow, however slowly, the logic of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings; and I was able to hear his reassurance that there was more to be experienced in life than what can be seen. There was hope, even for someone like me.
What really allowed me to trust Sri Aurobindo as a teacher (I did not trust easily in those days) was his humanness. He in no way set himself apart from others in the world. He was a man, first; and then, realizing there was more, he dedicated his life to finding that something more.
There are several references to Sri Aurobindo’s lack of patience with students who treated him as if he had been born enlightened; that as this enlightened soul, he hadn’t had to work to grow spiritually. To this, Sri Aurobindo responded that if he had not had to work for it, it would not be worth anything as a teaching. What would he have to give if he didn’t know from first-hand experience the cost of growth? How could he show others the path if he hadn’t had to walk it himself.
‘All life is Yoga.’
This is the epitome of Sri Aurobindo’s teaching. No matter what we may find ourselves doing, there is a spiritual aspect to it. No matter the situation, there is a way for us to practice our use of spiritual tools.
In the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, everything is an opportunity to find God in the world; and to find God in the world is the work of life.
Today I will remember that God is in each moment, and when I think of it, I will remind myself to look for evidence of this truth in the eyes of another, the words of another, in my ability to let go of my resentment or my fear or my need to control a situation.
Study Session, village cafe in Auroville, Tamil Nadu, South India
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober