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Yoga and Evolution


       Evolution can, when examined in its inner processes of development, be seen to be basically a process of yoga; and yoga can, when examined from the point of view of the instruments which are selected for application for purification and concentration, be considered to be a process of evolution. However, yoga and its processes aim at acceleration of the processes of natural evolution, and they eliminate more and more effectively the ordinary tardy method of slow and confused growth that we find in the processes of natural evolution. As Sri Aurobindo points out:


        ".. .the natural evolution is at its best an uncertain growth under cover, partly by the pressure of the environment, partly by a groping education and an ill-lighted purposeful effort, an only partially illumined and half-automatic use of opportunities with many blunders and lapses and relapses; a great portion of it is made up of apparent accidents and circumstances and vicissitudes — though veiling a secret divine intervention and guidance. In Yoga we replace this confused, crooked crab-motion by a rapid, conscious and self-directed evolution which is planned to carry us, as far as can be, in a straight line towards the goal set before us."


         There are, according to Sri Aurobindo, three stages that cover the entire process of manifestation that is relevant to evolution. An involution of the spirit in the inconscience is


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the beginning; evolution in the ignorance with its play of possibilities of a partial developing knowledge is the middle; a consummation in a deployment of the spirit's self knowledge and self-power of its divine being and consciousness is the culmination. It may be argued that the two stages that have already occurred seem at first sight to deny the possibility of the later consummating state of the cycle, but it is stressed that logically they imply its emergence. For, it is argued, if the inconscience has evolved consciousness, the partial consciousness already reached must surely evolve into complete consciousness, considering that just as the impulse towards Mind ranges from the more sensitive reactions of Life in the metal and the plant up to its full organization in man, so in man himself there is the same ascending series, the preparation, if nothing more, of a higher and divine life. It is, therefore, contended that it is a supramentalised, perfected and divinized life for which the earth-nature is secretly seeking, and that a progressive manifestation of this kind can only have for its secret or significance, the evolution of a Being in a perfect Becoming.


 The three stages of the development of manifestation and the movements can provide us a clue as to how the processes of evolution can be applied scientifically on the evolutionary process itself. This scientific application constitutes the central principle of yoga. For the development of yoga depends on a scrupulous examination of the level at which evolution has reached in our present human consciousness and whether the psychological workings of the human being can be so handled that the causes of the slowness of the natural functionings can be eliminated for the purposes of introducing into the evolutionary process those principles and methods which would facilitate its hastening or


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acceleration. Yoga, as Swami Vivekananda has said, may be regarded as a means of compressing one's evolution into a single life or a few years or even a few months of the bodily existence.2


       In this light, yoga no more remains as something mystic or abnormal which has no relation to the ordinary process of the World-Energy or the purpose she keeps in view in her subjective and objective self-fulfilment. Yoga reveals itself rather as an intense and exceptional use of powers that Nature has already manifested or is progressively organizing in her less exalted but more general operations. It may be said that all natural evolution and life is subconscious yoga, and all life can become in the human being a conscious yoga, as multisided and as integral as life itself, so that one can say in a more perfect and luminous sense: "All life is yoga". The integral yoga that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have proposed is, indeed, a yoga of evolution, based on the perception that the human being is a transitional being and that the human being can be consciously utilized as a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation a farther evolution can be worked out so as to bring about a willed mutation of the human species. The integral yoga is thus, by its very nature, connected with the progress of humanity, with the problems of humanity, and with the ideals that humanity is developing today towards creation of a new order of the world through the instrumentality of which highest state of humanity's fulfillment can be realized.3


Evolution and Human Progress


      It may, however, be argued that even if there was an


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evolutionary stress in the animal kingdom as a result of which man has evolved, that stress must have sunk back into quiescence as soon as the object was fulfilled by man's appearance. It may further be argued that there is no evolutionary stress in humanity; it may be contended that the idea of human progress itself is very probably an illusion, for there is no sign that man, once emerged from the animal stage, has radically progressed during his race-history. It may be conceded that man has advanced in knowledge of the physical world, in Science, in the handling of his surroundings, in his purely external and utilitarian use of the secret laws of Nature. But it many be argued that despite the developments of science, man is what he always was in the early beginnings of civilization: he continues to manifest the same capacities, the same qualities and defects, the same efforts, achievements, frustrations. Again, even if it is contended that there has been progress, it may be argued that progress has been in a circle, at most perhaps in a widening circle. It may be pointed out that man today is not wiser than the ancient seers and sages and thinkers, not more spiritual than the great seekers of old, the first mighty mystics, not superior in arts and crafts to the ancient artists and craftsmen. It may be further contended that the old races that have disappeared showed their potent and intrinsic originality, invention, capacity of dealing with life and that, if modem man in this respect has gone a little farther, not by any essential progress but in degree, scope, abundance, it is because he has inherited the achievements of his forerunners. In any case, it may be argued that nothing warrants the idea that he will ever hew his way out of the half-knowledge, half- ignorance which is the stamp of his kind or, even if he develops a higher knowledge, that he can break out of the  utmost boundary of the mental circle.4

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       Sri Aurobindo has examined this argument and even formulated it in full sharpness. He has, therefore, provided basic facts of the urge in the mental man towards evolution of the spiritual man and contended that this evolution is marked by a long process of progression in four fields which are directly relevant to the evolution of spirituality: religion, occultism, philosophy and methodized spiritual effort or yoga. He has also pointed out that the very law of the human type manifests the impulse towards self-exceeding, and that the means for a conscious transition has been provided for among the spiritual powers of man. Sri Aurobindo concedes that what man has up till now principally done is to act within the circle of his nature, on a spiral of nature-movement, sometimes descending, sometimes ascending; Sri Aurobindo concedes that the history of humanity does not demonstrate a straight line of progress or any indisputable, fundamental or radical exceeding of his past nature. At the same time, Sri Aurobindo points out that man has, in due course of development of history, sharpened, subtilised, made more and more complex and plastic use of the natural capacities. Sri Aurobindo further points out that, "however great the ancients, however supreme some of their achievements and creations, however impressive their powers of spirituality, of intellect or of character, there has been in later developments an increasing subtlety, complexity, manifold development of knowledge and possibility in man's achievements, in his politics, society, life, science, metaphysics, knowledge of all kinds, art, literature; even in his spiritual endeavour, less surprisingly lofty and less massive in power of spirituality than that of the ancients, there has been this increasing subtlety, plasticity, sounding of depths, extension of seeking."5


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       Sri Aurobindo concedes that there have been falls from a high type of culture, a sharp temporary descent into a certain obscurantism, cessations of the spiritual urge, plunges into a barbaric natural materialism; but he points out that these are temporary phenomena, at worst a downward curve of the spiral of progress. Sri Aurobindo .acknowledges that the spiral of progress has not indeed carried the race beyond itself, into a self-exceeding, a transformation of the mental being, but Sri Aurobindo points out that we have to judge the development of a species in terms of the law of the action of evolutionary Nature and that in terms of that law, the self exceeding and transformation of the mental being cannot be expected until the mental being has sufficiently developed up to its utmost capacity, and unless there has been sufficient integration of the powers of the mind with the powers of the lower phenomena of evolution. The action of evolution in Nature in a type of being and consciousness is, Sri Aurobindo points out,

       "...first to develop the type to its utmost capacity by just such a subtilisation and increasing complexity till it is ready for her bursting of the shell, the ripened decisive emergence, reversal, turning over of consciousness on itself that constitutes a new stage in the evolution."6

      Sri Aurobindo points out that if the animal being of the ape kind evolved into the human being because elements of humanity were already present in that animal being, then the appearance in the human being of a stress of spirituality and the appearance of a spiritual type in mental-animal humanity can be taken as a sign that there is an intention in Nature to evolve a spiritual and supramental being as a next step of the evolutionary movement.


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Evolutionary Appearance of the Supramental Being


      Sri Aurobindo examines also the suggestion that even if the appearance of the supramental being could be admitted as an evolutionary culmination, and even if man is to be the medium of the next species of the supramental being, it will only be a few especially evolved human beings who will form the new type or move towards the new life, and that once done, the rest of humanity will sink back from a spiritual aspiration no longer necessary for Nature's purpose and remain quiescent in its normal status. In reply, Sri Aurobindo concedes at once that there is not the least probability or possibility of the whole human race rising in a block to the supramental level. As Sri Aurobindo points out,

       "...what is suggested is nothing so revolutionary and astonishing, but only the capacity in the human mentality, when it has reached a certain level or a certain point of stress of the evolutionary impetus, to press towards a higher plane of consciousness and its embodiment in the being. The being will necessarily undergo by this embodiment a change from the normal constitution of its nature, a change certainly of its mental and emotional and sensational constitution and also to a great extent of the body-consciousness and the physical conditioning of our life and energies; but the change of consciousness will be the chief factor, the initial movement, the physical modification will be a subordinate factor, a consequence. This transmutation of the consciousness will always remain possible to the human being when the flame of the soul, the psychic kindling, becomes potent in heart and mind and the nature is ready. The spiritual aspiration is innate in man; for he is, unlike the animal, aware of imperfection and limitation and feels that there is something to be attained


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beyond what he now is: this urge towards self-exceeding is not likely ever to die out totally in the race. The human mental status will be always there, but it will be there not only as a degree in the scale of rebirth, but as an open step towards the spiritual and supramental status."7

        According to Sri Aurobindo, the time has come in the evolutionary story of man when human progress demands imperatively an upward curve of the spiritual progress, and this progress impels the race to be carried beyond itself, into a self-exceeding, a transformation of the mental being and even mutation of the human species so as to establish on the earth the rule of the divine life in the divine body. But before the appearance of the divine body, there will have to come about a radical change of consciousness that can be effected by the ascent to the supermind and the descent of the supermind in the physical consciousness. Even in the previous developments of evolution, even when it appeared that the change in the physical organization preceded the change in the manifested power of consciousness, a change of consciousness, according to Sri Aurobindo, was always the major fact; evolution has, Sri Aurobindo points out, always had a spiritual significance and the physical change was only instrumental, although that relationship was concealed by the first abnormal balance of the two factors, the body of the external Inconscience outweighing and obscuring in importance the spiritual element, the conscious being. "But once the balance has been righted," Sri Aurobindo states, "it is no longer the change of body that must precede the change of consciousness; the consciousness itself by its mutation will necessitate and operate whatever mutation is needed for the body. It has to be noted that the human mind has already shown a capacity


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to aid Nature in the evolution of new types of plant and animal; it has created new forms of its environment, developed by knowledge and discipline considerable changes in its own mentality. It is not an impossibility that man should aid Nature consciously also in his own spiritual and physical evolution and transformation."8


Significance of the Evolution of the Supermind for
Humanity and Its Problems


       Sri Aurobindo contends that the evolution of the Supramental being would imply that the influence of the divine life on earth would fall upon the life of the Ignorance and impose harmony on it within its limits, and much that is disharmonious in human life would disappear. What is true in the mental ideals and dimly figured in them will tend to be triumphantly fulfilled. At the same time, in the light of supramental gnosis, the many mental idols, constructed principles and systems, conflicting ideals which man has created in all domains of his mind and life, could command no acceptance or reverence as a part of the vision of the divine life. Sri Aurobindo visualizes the development of a system of living which demands imperative rule of the principles of unity, perfect mutuality and harmony. Sri Aurobindo states:

        "It is evident that in a life governed by the gnostic consciousness war with its spirit of antagonism and enmity, its brutality, destruction and ignorant violence, political strife with its perpetual conflict, frequent oppression, dishonesties, turpitudes, selfish interests, its ignorance, ineptitude and muddle could have no ground for existence. ...Life and the body would be no longer tyrannous masters demanding nine-

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tenths of existence for their satisfaction, but means and powers for the expression of the Spirit. At the same time, since the matter and the body are accepted, the control and the right use of physical things would be a part of the realized life of the Spirit in the manifestation in earth-nature."9

        That spirituality and the manifestation of the supramental consciousness on the earth could provide solutions to the problems of humanity may be questioned; it may be argued that whatever has been achieved so far in the course of nature's evolution of the spiritual man in the human mental being cannot be regarded as the true evolution of consciousness; the evolution of spiritual consciousness may even be stigmatized as a sublimated crudity of ignorance deviating from the true human evolution. It may be contended that the right direction of human evolution should be solely an evolution of life-power, the practical physical mind, the reason governing thought and conduct and the discovery and organizing intelligence. In the contrast of our present celebration of the life of the mind in Matter, spiritual realization and experience can be discredited as a shadowy mysticism. It may be argued that the mystic turns aside into he unreal, into occult regions of a self-constructed land of chimeras. It may even be argued that the spiritual tendency n humanity has come to very little; it has not solved the problem of life or any of the problems with which humanity is at grips. It may be pointed out that the mystic either detaches himself from life as the other-worldly ascetic or as he aloof visionary and therefore cannot help life, or else he brings no better solution or result than the practical man or the man of intellect and reason. It may even be complained that the mystic by his intervention disturbs the human values, distorts them with his alien and unverifiable light obscure to



the human understanding and confuses the plain practical and vital issues life puts before us.10

        Sri Aurobindo has examined this entire chain of argument in detail. But, in brief, he points to the examination of the significance of the spiritual evolution of man, not  from a judgment that proceeds from a view of things which in itself is bound to pass into discredit. For that judgment depends ultimately on the circular argument that the material is the only reality because reality is exclusively material, and this circularity and its consequent dogmatism stand refuted as soon as we begin to investigate the operations of mind and of supermind in themselves, and without the prejudgment that is dogmatically determined from the beginning to see in them only a subordinate term of Matter. Sri Aurobindo points out that the moment we recognize, as our enlarging experience compels us to recognize, that there are in the universe knowable realities beyond the range of the senses and in man powers and faculties which determine rather than are determined by the material organs through which they hold themselves in touch with the world of the senses, the very basis of the argument of the materialist collapses. Sri Aurobindo points out that not only are there physical realities which are supra-sensible, but, if evidence and experience are at all a test of truth, there are also senses which are supraphysical and can not only take cognizance of the realities of the material world without the aid of the corporeal sense organs, but can bring us into contact with other realities, supraphysical and belonging to another world.11

        But even if the extreme materialistic view of things can be rejected in the light of experiences of various levels of existence, and even if in the light of the science of yoga, truth

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of spirituality may be admitted, it may still be argued that spirituality implies detachment from the world and has therefore no possibility of presenting solutions to the problems of human life. In reply, Sri Aurobindo points out that while there has been a strong tendency in mysticism towards asceticism and other-worldliness, that is not the total account of mysticism. It may even be argued that asceticism or other-worldly tendency can be looked upon, in the context of evolutionary experiments of Nature, as an experiment to examine how far the spiritual consciousness can transcend the world; and it can even be affirmed that the ascetic has succeeded in proving that he can transcend the limitations of the body-life-mind complex and can gain the capacity of voluntary escape from the limitations imposed by material Nature. It is true that this proof does not amount to the proof of the power of the Spirit to transform Nature; but it can be argued that the capacity of the Spirit to transcend Nature can serve as a basis for a farther possibility of transforming Nature and even of solving the problems of humanity. In the total view of spiritual history of humankind, it can be said that the spiritual man has not stood back altogether from the life of humanity. On the contrary, the sense of unity with all beings, the stress of a universal love and compassion, the will to spend the energies for the good of all creatures, are central to the dynamic out-flowering of the spirit.12

        Spiritual leaders, seers, prophets and saints have turned to help and to guide, and they have even produced results which can be considered to be prodigious. It is true that human life has not come to be transformed, and the spiritual tendency has been to look more beyond life than towards life. It is also true that spirituality has been successful in the life of individuals but not in the field of collectivity. At the same

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time, it needs to be underlined that the solution of the problems of human life which spirituality offers is not a solution by external means, though these also have to be  used, but by an inner change, a transformation of the consciousness and nature. Humanity normally expects political, social or other mechanical remedies; but these remedies succeed in altering outward environment, and the human beings continue to be moved by ego and governed by vital desires and passions of the needs of the body; and these are the basic causes of pain and suffering, and they cannot be remedied except by spiritual methods. To discover the spiritual being in oneself and to help others towards the same evolution is the real service that the spiritual leader can render to the race; outward help can indeed succor and elevate, but that is not enough; humanity needs a more radical help, but for that help to be effective, humanity itself has to develop much more than it has done so far. On the other hand, spirituality itself has to develop a higher instrumental dynamic power than what the mind can provide.

       As Sri Aurobindo points out, the spiritual evolution of Nature is still in process and incomplete; its main preoccupation has been to affirm and develop a basis of spiritual consciousness and knowledge and to create more and more a foundation or formation for the vision of that which is eternal in the truth of the spirit. Sri Aurobindo, therefore, points out:

        "It is only when Nature has fully confirmed this intensive evolution and formation through the individual that anything  radical of an expanding or dynamically diffusive character can be expected or any attempt at collective spiritual life, —


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such attempts have been made, but mostly as a field of protection for the growth of the individual's spirituality, — acquire a successful permanence."13

       Again, Sri Aurobindo points out that if it were the sole intention of Nature in the evolution of the spiritual man to awaken him to the supreme Reality and release him from Nature or Prakriti of the three gunas, or from the Ignorance in which Nature as the Power of the Eternal has masked herself, then the task of spiritual evolution has in essence been already accomplished. The ways have been built, the capacity to follow them has been developed, and all that is left is for each soul to reach individually the right stage and turn of its development, enter into the spiritual ways and pass by its own chosen path out of this inferior existence. But then the collectivity of humanity will have to remain confined to the perpetual conflict between the individual and the collectivity, within the circle of the ego and its dualities, and the evolutionary stress in humanity will have to be denied its urge to complete what is intended in the involution of the supermind in the Inconscience. That would mean at the present stage of evolution, a constant state of crisis and ultimate recourse to the transition to a new supramental species by means of leaving humanity aside and not fulfilling the human urge to exceed the limitations of humanity as an open passage. But as against this possibility, Sri Aurobindo points out that there is in Nature a farther intention, — not only a revelation of Spirit but a radical and integral transformation of Nature. According to Sri Aurobindo, this farther intention can be read in the evolutionary process itself, and from the point of view of that intention, it becomes obvious that not only is the Spirit to be liberated from Nature but Nature herself is to be liberated from her own limitations.


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What is to be attained is to secure a complete and radical ,of Nature which 'can establish a secure and settled  new principle, a new creation, a permanent new order of being in the field of terrestrial Nature. The mind has evolved, but not the supermind, the spiritual man has evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thence forward be the leader of that Nature.14 According to Sri Aurobindo, the unaccomplished task has now to be worked out, and it is that unaccomplished task, in the process of its progression and high levels of accomplishment, that holds out the promise of an invaluable and indispensable aid to the solution of the problems of humanity.

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