Prelude to Sri Aurobindo-how his teaching poked my life

Spiritual life? What the hell is that? Do-gooders? Have they changed this evil old world one iota?

My quest for spiritual insight, for spiritual “progress”, has ruined my life. I might have been somebody, but I gave up early, and retired early, to finish this thing, this “quest.” But I am not able to tell you what it is, exactly. It’s a mystery,  and I’m a fool.

Wait. A said it was the “art of conscious self-finding.” Is that helpful? No?

As I write this, mail is being delivered. I see my alumni magazine, which has found me wherever I have gone. I look at the alumni class notes, and I see everybody is doing very well. Lots about promotions, and publications, and grandchildren. This time, though, nothing from the Class of ’76. And no entries from fellow alumni about consciously finding themselves. A laughable quest, really. You want to do what? (laughter)

I first learned about Sri Aurobindo from Satprem’s book in the summer of 1976. It was called Aurobindo, or the Adventure in Consciousness. I have worn out 3 copies since then. I was working the night shift at Hussmann Refrigerator in New Jersey, and spent the days prior to work reading it. In the Fall I was headed to New Orleans to enroll at Tulane University’s Graduate School of Business.  I couldn’t take the MBA program seriously, and dropped out after a year. And I think the book has ruined the lives of many others in a similar way, because if you read it you will never look at your life and the world in the same way. Some books really are dangerous.

When Aurobindo arrived in India after his sterling Cambridge education, he was employed by the government of Bengal, which was under the yoke of the British Empire. Soon he became a subversive, a terrorist really, bombs and all.  His western education infused him with the ideal of individual and national freedom. Freedom is the final law and the last consummation (Aurobindo, Synthesis of Yoga). Not what you would expect from a “spiritual” leader, is it? By the way, this all happened way before Gandhi, and Gandhi eventually sought advice from him.

The message that I got out of it, obscurely, was: For truth and knowledge are an idle gleam, if knowledge brings no power to change the world.(Aurobindo, Savitri). That was it. What is the spiritual life but entering into and possessing a power that will change the world?

Change it into what? Well, that’s another question.

Aurobindo was charged with sedition in 1907 I think, and imprisoned for a year, spending much of the time in solitary confinement. A guilty verdict would have ended his life. During that time, in prison, he began to see the Reality behind the appearance.

It is this Reality which is the substance of the spiritual life, toward which we need to evolve as a species. It is the change that is the Divine life on earth.

But what in hell does that mean?










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