* * *
Not many are aware of the part played by Swami Vivekananda in the life and work of Sri Aurobindo. In fact, none at all knew of it till Sri Aurobindo himself revealed this part and its significance in a biographical note written during later years and in his talks with the disciples. Sri Aurobindo, it will be recalled, had no human guru as such, though he received important help from different sources on different occasions. And one of these was the unexpected guidance and direction received from Vivekananda under interesting circumstances, long after he left his body in 1902.
When Sri Aurobindo returned to India at the age of 21, after a stay of 14 years in England, and took to study Indian culture and life, he came – like most educated people of the time – under the influence Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda through their sayings and writings. And though the Adwaita Vedanta expounded and popularized by them was not relevant to the turn of Sri Aurobindo’s mind, he beheld and recognized the mighty spiritual afflatus embodied in the Master.
‘What was Ramakrishna?’ he asks and answers: ‘God manifest in a human being.’
He was an avatara ‘as much an avatara as Christ or Caitanya’ who had a definite purpose to fulfill in the spiritual evolution of humanity, viz. to found and establish the truth of the unity of all spiritual experience and realization. He was bound by no man-made rules, though he chose to manifest his divinity under human conditions. Says Sri Aurobindo: ‘Ramakrishna, having attained by his own internal effort the central illumination, accepted several teachers in the different paths of Yoga, but always showed in the manner and swiftness of realization that this acceptance was a concession to the general rule by which effective knowledge must be received as by a disciple from a guru.’
Giving a considered estimate, Sri Aurobindo observes: ‘In the life of Ramakrishna Paramahmsa, we see a colossal spiritual capacity first driving straight to the divine realization, taking, as it were, the kingdom of heavens by violence and then seizing upon one yogic method after another and extracting the substance out of it with an incalculable rapidity, always to return to the heart of the whole matter, the realization and possession of God by the power of love, by the extension of inborn spirituality into various experience and by the spontaneous play of an intuitive knowledge. ‘
And, ‘What was Vivekananda? A radiant glance from the eye of Siva.’ We do not pause to dwell on the full impact of this cryptic statement. It will need an exposition quite beyond the scope of this paper.
‘Vivekananda was a soul of puissance, if ever there was one, a very lion among men. We perceive his influence still working gigantically, we know not well how, we know not well where, in something that is not yet formed, something leonine, grand, intuitive, upheaving that has entered the soul of India, and we say: “Behold, Vivekananda still lives in the soul of his Mother and in the souls of his children”. Sri Aurobindo mentions of his contact with Vivekananda on two occasions. Note that there was no meeting between them at all during the lifetime of Viveknanda. The first occasion was when Sri Aurobindo was practising pranayama, which started in 1904 and continued for some time. He says: ‘I had direct experience of Vivekananda’s presence when I was practising hathayoga. I felt his presence behind and watching over me. That exerted a great influence afterwards in my life.’
The second was when Sri Aurobindo was in Alipore Jail (1908-09). By that time, Sri Aurobindo had already attained the realization of the Silent, Spaceless, and Timeless Brahman – the state of nirvana. Now let him speak: ‘From the beginning, I did not feel nirvana to be the highest spiritual achievement. Something in me always wanted to go on farther. But, even then, I did not ask for this new experience. In fact, in nirvana, with that peace, one does not ask for anything. But the truth of the Super-mind was put into me. I had no idea of the Supermind when I started, and for long it was not clear to me’.
It was the spirit of Vivekananda who first gave me a clue in the direction of Supermind. This clue led me to see how the Truth – consciousness works in everything. He did not say “Supermind”. ‘Supermind is my own word. He just said to me, ‘This is this, that is that’ and so on. That was how he proceeded – by pointing and indicating. He visited me for 15 days in Alipore jail until I could grasp the whole thing, he went on teaching me and impressed upon my mind the working of the Higher Consciousness – the Truth Consciousness in general – which leads towards Supermind. He would not leave me until he had put it all into my head’. I never expected him and he came to teach me. And he was very exact and precise even in the minutest details.
A host of questions arise. How is it that Vivekananda never spoke of these ranges of Consciousness leading to the Gnosis, during his life time? Did he not withdraw into nirvana or the one Self, after he “spat out the body”? Did he, and does he, still continue to be in the earth atmosphere for the benefit of humanity struggling towards Godhead? These are all pertinent questions, but they touch upon the occult side of manifestation which would require a separate treatment. We can only say there is more in the creation that meets the human ken.
- M. P. Pandit