Saturday, September 01, 2007

His interest in siddhis and his conviction that they can become a normal part of a transformed human nature

The Normality of the Supernormal: Siddhis in Sri Aurobindo’s Record of Yoga
by Richard Hartz Science, Culture and Integral Yoga
Of the specific siddhis of power, the one most often mentioned in the Record of Yoga is aishwarya. In pure aishwarya, the will is exerted and then left to work itself out. But Sri Aurobindo observed early in 1914:
“Hitherto aishwarya has usually had to take the help of vashita; this dependence is now disappearing. Ishita is still slow & uncertain in its results.”37
He recorded many examples of the exercise of aishwarya, beginning with some as modest as “Aishwaryam on ant to give up its object and go back, done after a short persistence in the forward movement.”38
Eventually he was able to write:
Successive movements of birds & ants etc can now often be determined for some minutes together with less resistance than formerly & fewer deviations, but in the end the object escapes from control, often however with an after effect inducing the sudden fulfilment of unfulfilled aishwaryas when the actual pressure was withdrawn.39
One of his most elaborately recorded experiments, this time with a human subject, is found in the entry of 8 July 1914 under the heading Typical aishwarya. First the “materials” for the experiment are listed: “the house & shop at the distant corner, the door of the house in one street, the door of the shop in the other. A child of about four going round the corner from the house to the shop. Two bamboo mats at the corner of the pavement.” Next the object of the exercise is stated: “Aishwarya for the child not to go to the shop, but turn aside to the mats.” The effect of the aishwarya is then described:
The child first turned the corner, took two paces, then stopped dead under the influence of the aishwarya, uncertain for a time whether to go on or return. Then it drew back to the corner & stayed there fronting the shop. After a while one of the mats was blown on to the road by the wind, but this was not observed by the child, as its eyes were turned elsewhere. (Contributory circumstance created by pressure of Aishwarya on Prakriti [nature]). It finally turned the corner & went some way to the house then paused & turned again in the direction of the mats, but without observing them. It was seen that it would go into the house, not [to] the mats.
To bring the experiment to a successful conclusion required an exercise of communicative vyāpti and a renewed application of aishwarya:
Sent vyapti to suggest to the mind the idea of the mats. The vyapti had effect; the child observed the mats & began to get the idea that they were not in the right place. After a long hesitation it went on towards the house in obedience to the prior impulse & then, overcome by fresh aishwarya, turned, went to the mats & brought them one by one to the door of the house.40
Sri Aurobindo seems to have conducted countless such experiments, only a fraction of which he noted down. These had a serious purpose despite their frequently playful appearance, which perhaps reflected his vision of the lila (cosmic game) of Krishna (the personality of the Divine associated especially with the ānanda aspect of Sachchidananda). The aim of his experimentation was partly theoretical—he spoke of proving “the theory of the Yoga”,41 if only to himself—but there was also the practical motive of perfecting the siddhis as means of action. At one point he wrote:
Aishwarya increases considerably & rapidly in force & effectiveness, no longer in the old field of exercise mainly (movements of birds, beasts, insects, people around) but in the wider range of life.42
His applications of aishwarya and other siddhis to life included distant healing, the transmission of spiritual experiences to others, and the influencing of world events. Not surprisingly, it was in the attempt to influence large-scale events at a distance that failures were most often recorded. In one entry in 1913 we come across the statement: “The two great disappointments of the aishwarya have been the fall of Janina & Adrianople & the outrages in Bengal; the aishwarya has failed to avoid these disasters.”43 On a “day of baffled aiswaryasiddhi”, Sri Aurobindo observed: “The siddhis of power acted in small things with partial effectiveness, but failed in great.”44 Nevertheless, during a certain period we also find him recording many instances of what he regarded as the fulfilment of aishwarya even in public matters.
In any case, the exercise of this siddhi was always subject to the condition: “Aishwarya has to be utilised only where there is perception of the Divine Will behind.” In the same entry, Sri Aurobindo described his state as one of complete surrender (dāsya) “whether in motion, speech, emotion or thought”, extending even to “such involuntary motions as the closing or blinking of the eyelids”. He added, using the formula of the sixth or brahma chatushtaya: “sarvam anantam jnanam anandam Brahma is seen everywhere.”45
The realisation expressed by the words sarvam anantam jñānam ānandam brahma is the perception of Brahman, the spirit, in its four aspects, by which one experiences “all the universe as the manifestation of the One [sarvam brahma], all quality and action as the play of his universal and infinite energy [anantam brahma], all knowledge and conscious experience as the outflowing of that consciousness [jñānam brahma], and all in the terms of that one Ananda [ānandam brahma].”46 This is another way of describing the realisation that all is Sachchidananda, with sat represented by sarvam brahma and the two sides of chit as energy and consciousness represented by anantam and jñānam brahma.
In Sri Aurobindo’s experience, such a spiritual realisation made the flowering of siddhis virtually inevitable. An especially close connection between jñānam brahma and the siddhis involved in telepathy is indicated by statements such as: “It is the firm basing of the Jnanam Brahma which admits of a more & more complete telepathy.”47 In another diary entry we read:
The whole day has been devoted to a struggle, attended by revived asiddhi [imperfection, the contradiction of siddhi] . . . to establish the organisation of the ritam [truth] in trikaldrishti, telepathy etc on the basis of entire Brahmabodha [Brahman-consciousness] including especially the jnanam Brahma.48
In the awareness of Brahman, if it could be made complete and constant, evidently the separative mentality that is the normal human condition might be replaced by a unity of consciousness in which obstacles to the direct communication and interaction of mind with mind could be largely abolished.
Brahman, Vijnana and Siddhis
If Sri Aurobindo’s diary is taken to be a reasonably accurate account of his experiences, it may lend some support to certain trends that have recently emerged in the field of parapsychology; it may also suggest potentially fruitful directions for long-term future investigation, especially in view of the gradual weakening of Eurocentric biases and a growing willingness to learn from other cultures. Already we find the concept of Brahman invoked by parapsychologists such as Dean Radin, who writes:
The idea that consciousness may be field-like is not new. William James wrote about this idea in 1898, and more recently British biologist Rupert Sheldrake proposed a similar idea with his concept of morphogenic fields. The conceptual roots of field consciousness can be traced back to Eastern philosophy, especially the Upanishads, the mystical scriptures of Hinduism, which express the idea of a single underlying reality embodied in “Brahman,” the absolute self.49
Sri Aurobindo joins the yogis of the entire Indian tradition in affirming the possibility of developing psychic abilities, while cautioning us at the same time against pursuing siddhis for the wrong reasons. Ideally their awakening should be part of a total change of consciousness based on a discovery of our inner or higher self, which must replace the ego if we are to be free from the temptation to misuse our enhanced powers.
Admittedly this is a tall order in our impatient age. Yet the theory of evolution has accustomed the modern mind to the idea that radical change is possible over time. Sri Aurobindo was a pioneer of philosophical thinking on the evolution of consciousness. It was in this context that he proposed an integral yoga as a way of accelerating the process. The next step in evolution, he believed, would depend on transferring the centre of our being and action from the mind to a higher plane he called vijñāna, gnosis or supermind. His interest in siddhis and his conviction that they can become a normal part of a transformed human nature was connected with this primary goal of his yoga... posted by Rich on Fri 31 Aug 2007 09:46 AM PDT Permanent Link

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