Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
For the purpose of our ongoing analysis, it is important to emphasise that a process of becoming self-conscious requires us to not only be aware of these different parts of our being, but more importantly to gradually be able to discern which of these parts is responsible for any particular movement happening within us. In other words, it is essential to develop the practice of identifying which of our decisions and actions are guided by which part of our being. Are we being led by our vital, our mind proper, or by something else? Without this growing self-awareness, we do not develop any ability to control and become master of our decisions and actions. The practical significance of this cannot be over-emphasised for both the individual as well as the collective life.
“This means to be conscious of one’s inner truth, conscious of the different parts of one’s being and their respective functions. You must know why you do this, why you do that; you must know your thoughts, know your feelings, all your activities, all your movements, of what you are capable, etc. And to know oneself is not enough: this knowledge must bring a conscious control.
“To be in this state of attentive observation, you must have, so to say, antennae everywhere which are in constant contact with your true centre of consciousness. You register everything, you organise everything and, in this way, you cannot be taken unawares, you cannot be deceived, mistaken, and you cannot say anything other than what you wanted to say. But how many people normally live in this state? It is this I mean, precisely, when I speak of “becoming conscious.” If you want to benefit most from the conditions and circumstances in which you find yourself, you must be fully awake: you must not be taken by surprise, you must not do things without knowing why, you must not say things without knowing why. You must be constantly awake.
“It is thus that gradually, slowly, with perseverance, first of all with great care and much attention, one becomes conscious, learns to know oneself and then to become master of oneself.” [i]
Let us take an example to illustrate our point. During and after the torrential rains and floods in Chennai in December 2015, the city witnessed an outpouring of support from various organisations including business corporations. The various programmes initiated by the business corporations to help their employees and the people of Chennai by providing food, shelter, financial support, interest-free loans, health and legal services, work-from-home benefits, counselling, etc. could be considered a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Such an act of giving by a corporation can be more deeply understood by examining it from the point of view of different parts of the being.
For example, it can be a movement of the vital part because it emerges as an impulse to help others, to be able to help others in distress might also become a means of feeling good about oneself. The same act of giving could be understood simply as a movement from an organisation’s outer physical part when it is done simply for the purpose of tax benefits. For another corporation this act could be just a mental-rational movement — if the company helps its distraught employees effected by the floods to get back to their feet they will then be able to return to work earlier and thus would help the company save money. Another rational calculation could be simply that such an act will help the company create goodwill in the city which can help the company’s future prospects. A genuine feeling of empathy towards fellow citizens’ misfortune could be a movement of higher vital-higher mind. The highest form of giving would be that which arises because of the oneness the organisation feels with the people and community it serves. That would be a movement arising from the organisation’s inmost being.
This example illustrates another important point which will help us move further in our analysis. The deeper an individual or a collective goes within, the clearer is the insight that it is the inmost being alone which can be the source of that Right Inner Voice, the voice that can guide our other parts to their right and true action and way of being. But since ordinarily, this inmost being remains hidden under many thick veils of our outermost physical-vital-mental nexus, we in our ignorance continue to follow the whims and fancies of these parts in their un-illumined forms.
Only when the light of the inmost being shines upon these outer parts can they find their true law of being, their dharmic action. And the extent to which this light can enter is dependent upon the extent to which these parts are open and receptive. The open-ness and receptivity, in turn, are a function of the development and refinement of these parts. The more fine-tuned, shaped up and refined these outer instruments are, the more they will be receptive to the voice of their master, the true being within.
[i] The Mother. CWM, Vol. 4, pp. 34-37.