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Books > Philosophy > The Destiny of the Body (The Vision and the Realisation in Sri Aurobindo's Yoga)
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The Destiny of the Body (The Vision and the Realisation in Sri Aurobindo's Yoga)
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Foreword

As the Editor of Mother India, Monthly Review of Culture, published from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, I was happy to bring out most of the essays that make up this book. It is not always that an editor comes across plentiful evidence of an understanding that grows bright Gazing on many truths.

Reading the series of studies contributed by Jugal Kishore Mukherjee I could not help being exhilarated not only by the scholarly thoroughness of its knowledge but also by the wide- ranging vitality of its insight. The theme is one of the most challenging that the mind of man has faced: the evolutionary prospects of the human body. The human body is a bundle of opposites. It combines an ingenious system of interrelated life-serving functions with a fragility of overall balance seeming to invite death through many doors. It has an in-built process of growth, maturity and decline on the one hand while on the other it has the instinct of an interminable existence as if it wanted to wage constant war against its own mortality. Often it has harboured the mood in which Life is a long preparedness for death, but with equal frequency it has sought for an elixir which would banish all frailty from the flesh. Again, although its brain is only one of its numerous organs, it has a concentrated poise there by which it can ponder and affect its own organic processes as well as look behind or beyond them. This curious detachment and freedom shows it to be both subject and object at the same time and therefore the symbolic expression of some truth of physical being which is not exhausted by the present possibilities of living and conscious matter.

There is here a sense of Infinite riches in a little room- riches that could transfigure the limited-looking composite of solids, liquids and gases that ordinarily passes as the human body. Philosophers have attempted to understand the self-view and world-view from the brain-box as the result of a presence other than physical within the confines of that composite. They have also tried to explain away the search for the elixir of eternal youth as a misplacement of extra-terrestrial longings within a terrestrial context. "Not here and now but elsewhere and afar is your fulfilment": such has been the refrain of accredited wisdom. And in- deed the masters of spirituality have found and revealed the Immortal who abides in the mortal and can fight free of his trammels. But a persistent voice rises from what appears to be mortal, crying: "I too am a god waiting to be found and revealed. Who shall free me from the disguise that disfigures my immortality?"

Jugal Kishore Mukherjee brings the legitimacy of this utterance home to us by various interesting and illuminating routes. His exposition is a reminder to the champions of the spiritual life that the inner divinity is meant not to tear away from the outer form but to awaken that form to a natural kinship with it. It is also a reminder to the champions of the physical life that the ultimate source of this life's full flowering lies in that inner divinity and its awakening touch on matter.

Mukherjee's double reminder catches in a fine crystallisation of the intellect the light which Sri Aurobindo sheds in the closing couplets of two sonnets: The Guest and The Inner Sovereign. As I have said in the course of some notes on Sri Aurobindo's poems, these couplets He hears the blows that shatter Nature's house: Calm sits he, formidable, luminous and Nature in me one day like Him shall sit Victorious, calm, immortal, infinite summarise most pointedly, by a technique of varying sound- patterns and a few repeated expressions, the twofold movement necessary to the Aurobindonian Yoga: first the discovery of what the one poem calls "my deep deathless being" which is absolutely independent and then the forceful extension of the inner immortality to what the other poem terms "the blind material sheath" which has so long been accepted as a thrall to limitation and imperfection, mutability and death.

Introduction

This book with an unusual title is offered to the readers with a sense of genuine humility. The author has no pretensions to act the role of an oracle for the future, nor does he seek to put forward his views and reflections in a superstitiously dogmatic way. What he sincerely wishes is to share with kindred spirits the very interesting findings that he has come across in course of his long researches in an area of knowledge rarely touched in the past. The author will feel his labour amply rewarded if he succeeds in communicating to at least a few among his readers the sense of thrill and sustained interest that he himself felt while exploring this untrodden field.

The title of the book may at first appear to be somewhat strange; but the content that we have sought to pack into it may very well seem absolutely preposterous. We earnestly request our readers not to pass any precipitate judgment but glance, instead, through any few pages chosen at random and see for themselves if this book contains or not anything interesting to engage their attention.

The author may be excused if he feels like introducing himself before his readers. He is a man of science by formal education and training; his fascination for metaphysics, the science of sciences, has been deep and entire even from his young days; finally, he is a humble seeker of the spirit walking with faltering steps on the path of self-perfection shown by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. With these meagre credentials - if they are credentials at all - he has ventured to approach and study in depth the evolutionary world-vision of these great spiritual Masters, in so far as it bears upon the ultimate glorious transformation of man's body and his physical life upon earth.

As is by now well-known, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo has for its objective among other things:

(i) to make spiritual experiences real to the whole consciousness of man including that of his outer being;

(ii) not only to experience the truth subjectively and in one's inner consciousness alone, but to manifest it even in full activity;

(iii) an integral possession of the internality of the Divine in the life of this world and not merely beyond it.

In' the words of Sri Aurobindo: "It is the object of my Yoga to transform life by bringing down into it the Light, Power and Bliss of the Divine Truth ana its dynamic certitudes. This Yoga is not Yoga of world-shunning asceticism, but of divine life. It aims at a change of life and existence, not as something subordinate or incidental, but as a distinct and central object."

Elsewhere Sri Aurobindo asserts emphatically: "I am concerned with the earth, not with the worlds beyond for their own sake; it is a terrestrial realisation that I seek and not a flight to distant summits."?

Thus, this Yoga of Integral Self-Perfection as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo aims not at a release from embodied existence nor at a departure out of the terrestrial manifestation into some supraterrestrial world of heavenly bliss and spiritual enjoyment, but at a supreme change of earthly life and existence and at a divine fulfilment of life here upon earth. Also, "the object sought after is not an individual achievement of divine realisation for the sake of the individual, but something to be gained for the earth-consciousness here."!

Now, since Matter is the foundation of all evolutionary efflorescence, our body obviously assumes a great importance in the total scheme of the achievement - the divine fulfilment of earthly life - that Sri Aurobindo envisages.

No doubt, the human body with its anatomy and physiology is a marvellous product of biological evolution. The anterior shifting of the eyes coupled with the adoption of the vertical station, the complete freeing of the hands from the task of loco- motion, the possession of a fine array of ten supple fingers, the unique endowment of the human cerebrum, the greatest tool yet developed by Nature in her long course of organic evolution- all these and many other unique attributes have turned man into the summit product of evolution so far.

But are we not at the same time poignantly aware that in many of its basic features and dispositions the human body and man's physical being are not whits better than any other animal body or existence? The grossness and limitations of our present physical life, the various inconveniences of our animal body, its proneness to diseases and to the decaying process, its constantly recurring subjection to fatigue and inertia, its total dependence for its very viability on material alimentation procured from outside, its final dissolution and disappearance at death, also its unregenerate earth-nature and impulses and appetites that tend to drag down man's soaring spirit and frustrate the winged visions of his soul - all these seriously detract from the glory of man the mental-spiritual being.

But the question is: Are these limitations and impediments of the body to be considered as something permanent and in- superable?

The Seer-Vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother assures us on the contrary that the disabilities of the body and the animal frailties of physical nature need not and will not be there for all time to come. For, the terrestrial manifestation being progressive and evolutionary, the present spectacle of earth-life afflicted with its heavy load of miseries and indignities cannot in any way represent the unalterable last act of the drama. Thus, with the further elaboration of this evolutionary process leading to the descent and concomitant emergence in earth- nature, of a supreme power and light of the spirit, of what Sri Aurobindo calls Supermind or the divine Gnosis, all these obscurities and ambiguities will be radically transcended and the transfigured human body will shine in the glories of a 'pure and spiritualised physical existence'. "The transformation of the physical being might follow [an] incessant line of progression and the divine body reflect or reproduce here in a divine life on the earth something of [the] highest greatness and glory of the self-manifesting Spirit."!

At this point the critic may interject: Is it 'practical politics' after all? As an ideal it may be alluring, but has it not been posited that at their best, ideals are fictions, being no more than abstract, purely conceptual absolutes; and at its worst, what is an ideal if not 'a malady of the mind' and 'a bright delirium of speech and thought'? Anyway, has not evolution come to an end with the appearance on the earth-scene of man the mental being ?

Contents

  Foreword IX
  Introduction XXIX
  Part One: Prolegomena  
I The Challenge 3
II The Seeking And the Escapist Urge 8
III The Vision 10
IV The Evolutionary Destiny 20
V The Double Denial 24
VI Theories of exstance and Attitude towards the Body 31
  Part Two: The Spiritual Destiny of the waking State  
I The Bane of Oscillation 55
II The Traditional Challenge 61
III The Waking State and The 'Why' of The Samadhi- Plunge 70
IV What is Samadhi or Yogic Trance? 77
V The Critique of The Trance-solution 86
VI The Critique of the 'Jivanmukti'- Solution 93
VII The Issue: Status or Dynamis 101
VIII The Mind- Consciousness: Its Achievements and Failures 108
IX The Inwardization and the Ascension 123
X The Descent of the Supermind 135
XI The Conquest 142
  Part Three: The Problem of Sleep and Fatigue  
I The Problem of Sleep 155
II The Universal Sleep 162
III The Sleep and the Waking 169
IV The Involutionary Sleep 177
V The Evolutionary Waking 184
VI The Role and Function of Sleep 191
VII Dreams and The Dreamland 198
VIII The Mastery of the Nights 205
IX The Conquest of Sleep 212
  Part Four: The Problem of Material Alimentation  
I The Probleme 225
II A Semblance of Victory 232
III Metaphysics of Hunger: The Mystery of 'Anna'and ' Annada' 239
IV Metaphysics of Hunger: The Universel 'Yajna' 246
V The Evolution of Hunger 253
VI Supermind The Master-Key 260
VII Why Meterial alimentation? 269
VIII The Universal Choice 276
IX The Evolutionary Clues 283
X Life's Ingenuity and Supermind 291
XI The Ascending Scale of Energy 299
XII The mystery of Matter 307
XIII Conclusion 314
  Part Five: The Physical Conquest of Death  
I The Age-Long Quest 325
II The Ineluctable Guest 331
III Survival Beyond The Tomb 337
IV Mortality and Immortality: The Real Issue 341
V The Misgiving and The Frown 350
VI The Basal Immortality: The Evolution of Death 357
VII Attempts at 'Kayasiddhi' and Rejuvenation 364
VIII The Vision of the Divine Body 369
IX The Mystery of Life and Death 373
X Death at the Service of life 379
XI The Physiology of Senescence and Death 388
XII Metaphysics of life and death 396
XIII Metaphysical Factors of Death 400
XIV The Conquest of Mortality 407
XV The Physical Conquest of Death 414

Sample Pages














The Destiny of the Body (The Vision and the Realisation in Sri Aurobindo's Yoga)

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Foreword

As the Editor of Mother India, Monthly Review of Culture, published from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, I was happy to bring out most of the essays that make up this book. It is not always that an editor comes across plentiful evidence of an understanding that grows bright Gazing on many truths.

Reading the series of studies contributed by Jugal Kishore Mukherjee I could not help being exhilarated not only by the scholarly thoroughness of its knowledge but also by the wide- ranging vitality of its insight. The theme is one of the most challenging that the mind of man has faced: the evolutionary prospects of the human body. The human body is a bundle of opposites. It combines an ingenious system of interrelated life-serving functions with a fragility of overall balance seeming to invite death through many doors. It has an in-built process of growth, maturity and decline on the one hand while on the other it has the instinct of an interminable existence as if it wanted to wage constant war against its own mortality. Often it has harboured the mood in which Life is a long preparedness for death, but with equal frequency it has sought for an elixir which would banish all frailty from the flesh. Again, although its brain is only one of its numerous organs, it has a concentrated poise there by which it can ponder and affect its own organic processes as well as look behind or beyond them. This curious detachment and freedom shows it to be both subject and object at the same time and therefore the symbolic expression of some truth of physical being which is not exhausted by the present possibilities of living and conscious matter.

There is here a sense of Infinite riches in a little room- riches that could transfigure the limited-looking composite of solids, liquids and gases that ordinarily passes as the human body. Philosophers have attempted to understand the self-view and world-view from the brain-box as the result of a presence other than physical within the confines of that composite. They have also tried to explain away the search for the elixir of eternal youth as a misplacement of extra-terrestrial longings within a terrestrial context. "Not here and now but elsewhere and afar is your fulfilment": such has been the refrain of accredited wisdom. And in- deed the masters of spirituality have found and revealed the Immortal who abides in the mortal and can fight free of his trammels. But a persistent voice rises from what appears to be mortal, crying: "I too am a god waiting to be found and revealed. Who shall free me from the disguise that disfigures my immortality?"

Jugal Kishore Mukherjee brings the legitimacy of this utterance home to us by various interesting and illuminating routes. His exposition is a reminder to the champions of the spiritual life that the inner divinity is meant not to tear away from the outer form but to awaken that form to a natural kinship with it. It is also a reminder to the champions of the physical life that the ultimate source of this life's full flowering lies in that inner divinity and its awakening touch on matter.

Mukherjee's double reminder catches in a fine crystallisation of the intellect the light which Sri Aurobindo sheds in the closing couplets of two sonnets: The Guest and The Inner Sovereign. As I have said in the course of some notes on Sri Aurobindo's poems, these couplets He hears the blows that shatter Nature's house: Calm sits he, formidable, luminous and Nature in me one day like Him shall sit Victorious, calm, immortal, infinite summarise most pointedly, by a technique of varying sound- patterns and a few repeated expressions, the twofold movement necessary to the Aurobindonian Yoga: first the discovery of what the one poem calls "my deep deathless being" which is absolutely independent and then the forceful extension of the inner immortality to what the other poem terms "the blind material sheath" which has so long been accepted as a thrall to limitation and imperfection, mutability and death.

Introduction

This book with an unusual title is offered to the readers with a sense of genuine humility. The author has no pretensions to act the role of an oracle for the future, nor does he seek to put forward his views and reflections in a superstitiously dogmatic way. What he sincerely wishes is to share with kindred spirits the very interesting findings that he has come across in course of his long researches in an area of knowledge rarely touched in the past. The author will feel his labour amply rewarded if he succeeds in communicating to at least a few among his readers the sense of thrill and sustained interest that he himself felt while exploring this untrodden field.

The title of the book may at first appear to be somewhat strange; but the content that we have sought to pack into it may very well seem absolutely preposterous. We earnestly request our readers not to pass any precipitate judgment but glance, instead, through any few pages chosen at random and see for themselves if this book contains or not anything interesting to engage their attention.

The author may be excused if he feels like introducing himself before his readers. He is a man of science by formal education and training; his fascination for metaphysics, the science of sciences, has been deep and entire even from his young days; finally, he is a humble seeker of the spirit walking with faltering steps on the path of self-perfection shown by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. With these meagre credentials - if they are credentials at all - he has ventured to approach and study in depth the evolutionary world-vision of these great spiritual Masters, in so far as it bears upon the ultimate glorious transformation of man's body and his physical life upon earth.

As is by now well-known, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo has for its objective among other things:

(i) to make spiritual experiences real to the whole consciousness of man including that of his outer being;

(ii) not only to experience the truth subjectively and in one's inner consciousness alone, but to manifest it even in full activity;

(iii) an integral possession of the internality of the Divine in the life of this world and not merely beyond it.

In' the words of Sri Aurobindo: "It is the object of my Yoga to transform life by bringing down into it the Light, Power and Bliss of the Divine Truth ana its dynamic certitudes. This Yoga is not Yoga of world-shunning asceticism, but of divine life. It aims at a change of life and existence, not as something subordinate or incidental, but as a distinct and central object."

Elsewhere Sri Aurobindo asserts emphatically: "I am concerned with the earth, not with the worlds beyond for their own sake; it is a terrestrial realisation that I seek and not a flight to distant summits."?

Thus, this Yoga of Integral Self-Perfection as envisaged by Sri Aurobindo aims not at a release from embodied existence nor at a departure out of the terrestrial manifestation into some supraterrestrial world of heavenly bliss and spiritual enjoyment, but at a supreme change of earthly life and existence and at a divine fulfilment of life here upon earth. Also, "the object sought after is not an individual achievement of divine realisation for the sake of the individual, but something to be gained for the earth-consciousness here."!

Now, since Matter is the foundation of all evolutionary efflorescence, our body obviously assumes a great importance in the total scheme of the achievement - the divine fulfilment of earthly life - that Sri Aurobindo envisages.

No doubt, the human body with its anatomy and physiology is a marvellous product of biological evolution. The anterior shifting of the eyes coupled with the adoption of the vertical station, the complete freeing of the hands from the task of loco- motion, the possession of a fine array of ten supple fingers, the unique endowment of the human cerebrum, the greatest tool yet developed by Nature in her long course of organic evolution- all these and many other unique attributes have turned man into the summit product of evolution so far.

But are we not at the same time poignantly aware that in many of its basic features and dispositions the human body and man's physical being are not whits better than any other animal body or existence? The grossness and limitations of our present physical life, the various inconveniences of our animal body, its proneness to diseases and to the decaying process, its constantly recurring subjection to fatigue and inertia, its total dependence for its very viability on material alimentation procured from outside, its final dissolution and disappearance at death, also its unregenerate earth-nature and impulses and appetites that tend to drag down man's soaring spirit and frustrate the winged visions of his soul - all these seriously detract from the glory of man the mental-spiritual being.

But the question is: Are these limitations and impediments of the body to be considered as something permanent and in- superable?

The Seer-Vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother assures us on the contrary that the disabilities of the body and the animal frailties of physical nature need not and will not be there for all time to come. For, the terrestrial manifestation being progressive and evolutionary, the present spectacle of earth-life afflicted with its heavy load of miseries and indignities cannot in any way represent the unalterable last act of the drama. Thus, with the further elaboration of this evolutionary process leading to the descent and concomitant emergence in earth- nature, of a supreme power and light of the spirit, of what Sri Aurobindo calls Supermind or the divine Gnosis, all these obscurities and ambiguities will be radically transcended and the transfigured human body will shine in the glories of a 'pure and spiritualised physical existence'. "The transformation of the physical being might follow [an] incessant line of progression and the divine body reflect or reproduce here in a divine life on the earth something of [the] highest greatness and glory of the self-manifesting Spirit."!

At this point the critic may interject: Is it 'practical politics' after all? As an ideal it may be alluring, but has it not been posited that at their best, ideals are fictions, being no more than abstract, purely conceptual absolutes; and at its worst, what is an ideal if not 'a malady of the mind' and 'a bright delirium of speech and thought'? Anyway, has not evolution come to an end with the appearance on the earth-scene of man the mental being ?

Contents

  Foreword IX
  Introduction XXIX
  Part One: Prolegomena  
I The Challenge 3
II The Seeking And the Escapist Urge 8
III The Vision 10
IV The Evolutionary Destiny 20
V The Double Denial 24
VI Theories of exstance and Attitude towards the Body 31
  Part Two: The Spiritual Destiny of the waking State  
I The Bane of Oscillation 55
II The Traditional Challenge 61
III The Waking State and The 'Why' of The Samadhi- Plunge 70
IV What is Samadhi or Yogic Trance? 77
V The Critique of The Trance-solution 86
VI The Critique of the 'Jivanmukti'- Solution 93
VII The Issue: Status or Dynamis 101
VIII The Mind- Consciousness: Its Achievements and Failures 108
IX The Inwardization and the Ascension 123
X The Descent of the Supermind 135
XI The Conquest 142
  Part Three: The Problem of Sleep and Fatigue  
I The Problem of Sleep 155
II The Universal Sleep 162
III The Sleep and the Waking 169
IV The Involutionary Sleep 177
V The Evolutionary Waking 184
VI The Role and Function of Sleep 191
VII Dreams and The Dreamland 198
VIII The Mastery of the Nights 205
IX The Conquest of Sleep 212
  Part Four: The Problem of Material Alimentation  
I The Probleme 225
II A Semblance of Victory 232
III Metaphysics of Hunger: The Mystery of 'Anna'and ' Annada' 239
IV Metaphysics of Hunger: The Universel 'Yajna' 246
V The Evolution of Hunger 253
VI Supermind The Master-Key 260
VII Why Meterial alimentation? 269
VIII The Universal Choice 276
IX The Evolutionary Clues 283
X Life's Ingenuity and Supermind 291
XI The Ascending Scale of Energy 299
XII The mystery of Matter 307
XIII Conclusion 314
  Part Five: The Physical Conquest of Death  
I The Age-Long Quest 325
II The Ineluctable Guest 331
III Survival Beyond The Tomb 337
IV Mortality and Immortality: The Real Issue 341
V The Misgiving and The Frown 350
VI The Basal Immortality: The Evolution of Death 357
VII Attempts at 'Kayasiddhi' and Rejuvenation 364
VIII The Vision of the Divine Body 369
IX The Mystery of Life and Death 373
X Death at the Service of life 379
XI The Physiology of Senescence and Death 388
XII Metaphysics of life and death 396
XIII Metaphysical Factors of Death 400
XIV The Conquest of Mortality 407
XV The Physical Conquest of Death 414

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