Prosperity – Spiritual & Material

April 30, 2000

Prosperity is a material ideal, even as idealism is a spiritual efficiency. Efficiency is the means by which the goal of prosperity is realized. The word signifies plenty and abundance and can be extended to mean creation of such plenty. Starting from the very first principles, we start in energy. To be able to produce more by releasing greater energy and achieving higher results by determination and organisation and skills is prosperity. Generation of greater energy in volume of higher energy in quality is achieved by espousing higher ideals. To know that the whole cycle between results and energy is one of self-conception is the highest possible philosophical knowledge. We need a corresponding understanding of the strategy that it is self-initiated and self-sustaining.

Philosophy tells us that there is only one substance that is spiritual substance which appears to mind viewed through its senses as Matter. If that is true, basically there is only one prosperity variously understood. It proceeds further in its discrimination of its substance into two parts, one subtle and the other gross, one above and the other below. The occasion for this article is generated by two statements, one by The Mother and the other by Sri Aurobindo.

  1. Sri Aurobindo has realized the Absolute in his body.
  2. The Westerner has realized Brahman (Absolute) in Matter.

What we know of the evolutionary process is its aspects are developed in various parts at various periods before they all become integrated into a whole. Nature has certainly made Asia mystic and Europe material. She has reached her mental maximum in exploring the spirit. She did so in India. This is not yet realizing the Brahman in the Spirit in the sense of Sri Aurobindo. Though it can be accepted in a partial sense, we know yoga done with the mind as the instrument cannot possess anything fully, much less the Brahman. However, for our argument it can be considered that the Absolute is realized in Matter and Spirit in both the West and the East. The Westerner’s curiosity to know the process of things, their details of measurement, colour or quality extends to the infinitesimal, which is Infinity in material particles. To him, the material findings are God and therefore sacred. Whatever his personal hygiene, he treats his collection of insects, shells, etc. to a high level of cleanliness and raises his own high sense of orderliness to further heights in cataloguing them. A medical doctor writes the thesaurus in the English language. Observation, collection, organisation, and systematization are his living gods and those gods have been vastly adored and worshipped in the West. Gross matter is Brahman to him and it receives greater attention than his own person.

In our own spiritual tradition, realization means to rise to a height of Spirit – e.g. Self, immutable self, mutable self, Sat, Absolute, Non-Being etc. – and know it fully or possess it partially or fully. Sri Aurobindo calls it ascent to the Spirit. Up above there are dozens of spiritual statuses that can be realized. Yogis were most enamoured of different states of Ananda and when realizing them called themselves by that name. Thus, Naren became Vivekananda, meaning he had realized the Ananda of knowledge, as ‘viveka’ means knowledge. To realize something higher up, the yogi must discover a corresponding inner spot in his being – e.g. manomaya purusha, Jivatma, etc.

In Purna Yoga, realization is not in the ascent but in the descent. The descent such as the one of which Sri Aurobindo speaks is not part of our traditional aims, but in view of the mighty souls that attempted YOGA, the strength of their spiritual personalities has invariably led to several unintended or unsought openings. Any descent in their experience was taken as a side effect. With Sri Aurobindo, there were essential differences. They were:

  1. His yoga was an ascent for the purposes of the descent of the higher Force.
  2. His ascent was not partial as a release from the being or its parts, but an ascent of the whole being that was released from ego and falsehood.
  3. Also, the path of His ascent was the same as the path of descent.
  4. He did not exclude the parts of being he exceeded.
  5. Each stage of his ascent is completed by a descent from that height into the entire being, thus completing the transformation at that level.
  6. He ascends to Supermind, trying to bring it down into his being.
  7. His instrument is not mind, though he begins with the soul in the mind, but Supermind.
  8. At every point, as well as every moment, there is a double opening towards the heights as well as depths.
  9. The Brahman is directly reached when he reaches the Supermind, as it is in constant touch with Brahman.
  10. He has gone beyond Supermind, Satchidananda and into the Brahman and realized it not as a partial experience but the Brahman in its fullness. Mind cannot fully grasp the Brahman, but Supermind can.
  11. As descent is the main thrust of his yoga, the Brahman he realized descended.
  12. That descent Mother says, reached his physical body.
  13. Mother went beyond that, BECAME the Supreme and tried for a descent into the very physical substance of her body, not the mere physical consciousness.

His yoga and its tenets are important for us, but for the subject of this article let us limit ourselves to Spirit and not go beyond to Being or Non-Being, much less to the Absolute. Let us take the Indian position as one of “having realized Brahman in Spirit” as against the Western situation that has realized Brahman in Matter.

The great success of Western civilization is due to its values. The West’s values have been work ethic, truthfulness, honesty, organisation, and values of organisation, e.g. punctuality, standards, systems, word of honour, etc. In our vocabulary, values are spiritual skills. Their success is really and essentially a success of the Spirit in life and particularly in MATTER. As they start with matter and collect FACTS, but do not see their origin in the higher plane of Life, they are unlikely to arrive at the truths for which those facts stand. Again, as they base themselves on facts, facts collected without sentiments, fully weaned away from sense impression, when they do stumble on a truth of life, they get an infinite treasure of life. Their success always had those two sides. For them, to move towards spirituality, to discover the greater treasures of life, they need to do the following:

  1. Agree to study LIFE as they have studied MATTER.
  2. See the truth of life in their past discoveries of matter.
  3. Consider the laws of life subtle civilisations have developed long, long ago.
  4. Put their practical discoveries on a sound theoretical basis.
  5. Examine the direction of their enquiries form the points of view of a) unfailing success as well as b) the real source of energy.
  6. Understand their other external successes in terms of their inner disposition.

They have succeeded in organising material life. They had better discover that the material life has its own in-built organisation as a consciousness base. When material life is to be organised further, it must be only on this basis and no other. Every historical event will confirm this view as well as episodes in great literature. I would want them to take a great look at all theories of creation before they proceed further. To extend the thought of Sri Aurobindo to the Westerner, we can very well say that they who have discovered Brahman in matter now must come to discover Brahman in life.

Mother’s statement that Indians have knowledge implies that what knowledge the Westerner has to discover in the future, the Indians now have. If they have this knowledge, it is now not being used to increase their material comforts, but only to defend themselves negatively and to build up their cherished superstitions.

Should they recognize the knowledge they have and know its value for organising their material prosperity, they can advance from 2000 AD to 3000 AD. They do knot know that such a knowledge is there with them NOW.

In this sense, it is true that the above average Indian villager knows for certain as intuitive knowledge what the greatest of Western minds has not yet discovered. From the point of view of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, these are no aims. If they are called aims, they are puny ones that make the street light the Sun. Sri Aurobindo wants the Aryan balance of forces at the physical level to be taken directly to that of the Supermind. The vast treasures of material plenty the world in the West as well as the East face lie in the same balance at the level of life. Maybe the East needs material prosperity and the West spiritual prosperity if the phrase can be watered down to mean happy home, mental peace, civil life free of crime and violence, etc.

In any great endeavour, no beginning is too small and this can very well serve that purpose. Some face saving devices to prevent appearing meaningless can be thought of.

  • The enormous FACTS of divine knowledge the West has accumulated over the centuries can be organised into a systematic SCIENCE, as no subject today is on any comprehensive framework of theoretical validity. The very first step is to recognize that knowledge is ONE and finds various expressions in various subjects. Scientists should come to look for that organisation of knowledge; rather science must become a field of rational, organised, coordinated knowledge.
  • To go down to lesser fields, one needs to think of world affairs and ponder whether the problems of peace, prosperity, and stability can be solved on the basis of this knowledge. This leads the enquiry from outside to inside. The true center of the world is MAN, the highest evolved instrument of Nature and NOT his physical environment.
  • The East has infinite benefits facing it from this new point of view, as this view will put into their hands one thousand times greater social and individual power than they are now seeking.

Going beyond the present benefits to the society of material benefits or relief in the moral field or even organising knowledge, it should be right to look for a metaphysical or philosophical justification of what we are. The Life Divine was written to explain the mystic secrets of creation to the intellect, particularly the European intellect. Coming down from the heights of realizing Satchidananda, Sri Aurobindo addressed that point in the mind where it can still see its original relationship with Supermind. In every explanation, at least one in each chapter, Sri Aurobindo goes straight to this point and expands on both sides of the Truth which are the opposite facts of mind. He does so until the branching sides join to create the original whole. And that point can be explained in more than one way.

  • A point at which ego disappears.
  • That point in the part that enables us to reach the other part without deserting it.
  • Those contraries that are really complements.
  • The point where Time and Timelessness meet.
  • The point where reversal of consciousness begins.
  • The fulcrum of the evolving Spirit or evolving God, etc.
  • That point where the finite is revealed as the infinite.

Subatomic particles are known to change with observation indicating that they are not inert. Punctuality, followed in the West as the manners of kings, is a great social value which no one will break. Look at it not as a social value, but as a work value. What do we find? 1) It is a strategy for one man to respect every other man and 2) Man, through punctuality, relates to Time, the field of work. Moving from society to work is great. Moving further from work to Time is to move from the gross material plane to the subtle plane of knowledge. Punctuality was originally discovered by men who perceived the subtle truth of gross work. At heights of perfection, any vibration reaches the Absolute. Perfection in punctuality moves work from the subtle plane to the causal plane of Supermind, which retains the constant presence of the Absolute.

Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days possesses an equality that is spiritual. That equality wins him the wager. He has taken punctuality and made it into an article of faith. His punctuality that was physical, taken to the extreme of perfection gave him the spiritual equality that rendered him immune against any failure in life. Did he know the origin of his strength? He passed through catastrophe, storms, fights, and unforeseen obstacles of every kind and still the spiritual power issuing from the physical skill of punctuality ensured him the success. If Fogg had understood the life value of a physical skill as a spiritual endowment, his success would have been ensured without all those obstacles cropping up on the way. That is the opportunity that awaits the Westerner.

India remains backward just as England was in the 18th century. She goes to IMF for five billion dollar loans while there is $200 billion gold at home. She has all the technology needed for another one hundred years and can raise hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees internally, but her energies are spent in border conflicts, in corruption, fighting droughts, etc. The result is, she is where she was in 1950 or 1980. What about the KNOWLEDGE Mother says she has? How can she use it? She, with her life-knowledge of the spirit, must see the signals of life. What happened in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand, all countries which do not have half the spiritual knowledge she has? Her food crisis of 1965 was overcome by one man, by his own inspiration, who left that post very soon after. How could such a great achievement be done in such a short period? Wherefrom does the energy or power come? Why did the Britisher leave India on his own and why were ten million refugees uprooted from their homes and millions massacred? Freedom and the Green Revolution point to her strength. Communal carnage and refugees show the shortsightedness.

The problems India faces are not political. They are municipal problems of national magnitude. What is lacking is an appreciation of one’s own strength and a clear headed commitment to prosperity.

Suppose each Indian village invites a Westerner to live there for some years so that he can create some model of Western efficiency – a farm, or a school, etc. – and during the course of his stay learn for himself the knowledge of subtle life as it prevails here, the intermixture of cultures can accomplish the goal of East and West benefiting from each other.

Our efforts must lie in the direction of recognizing the deeper spiritual potentials of every culture and organising life in such a fashion that they will fully blossom. For example, we know women are neglected, illiterate and treated as objects. Spiritually, through such neglect, characters like Aouda are born. In her, we see the strength of delicacy instead of fear of weakness. This is an example of spirit organising itself into higher values even in apparently cruel circumstances, the spiritual truth here being, “In spite of appearances, the potentials everywhere are the same.”

Theoretically, all values are spiritual. The Westerner who lives by values does not know their origin. He should know their spiritual origin which gives him access to their full spiritual power. The Indian has neglected Indian values. The Western values are really universal values which have been upheld in India at one time. The Indian should accept all the Western values as original Indian values or at least as imitations. He should endeavour to restore all his values of spirit in life and work, which will indirectly make him use all present Western values. That would offer him multiple rewards.

Water and electricity are scarce. To us they are sacred, gods. Let us value water and electricity as sacred. Electricity is Agni, water is Varuna. By paying the attention they need, the scarcity of these items will disappear overnight. The forecast for the year is a monsoon that will be ten percent less than the normal. It can be overcome if the population pays its spiritual due to water, through attention.

Western values are industry, cleanliness, orderliness, efficiency, punctuality, honesty, honour, organisation, self-respect, and independence. All of them are universal values. A self-respecting individual acts not from the surface but from his depth. Hence it is spiritual. Hard work is exercising the substance of the body. Cleanliness is to give holy attention to objects. Efficiency is to enhance the volume of results. Organisation makes the mind work on the physical. Respect for the other man is supramental. Job satisfaction the Westerner demands is a higher value than money value. He understands, we memorize.

The Indian can use his knowledge of omens to a great advantage, especially when he sees them as an indication of inner insufficiency. Of course, the Indian can never be tense, must be equal. He is not to go after the Form, but must seek the content. No one need teach him that duty must be done. The tradition is the boss is god. Let him follow it as in the military. Women are not abject objects. Woman is Shakti. Register is sacred as writing gives the thought a greater form.

The Vedic story of Satyakama enunciates the final values of Truthfulness. This alone can put India out of poverty. There was, of course, a time when Indians spoke the truth. Let us complete the story of the brahmachari and the elephant and discover the true Brahman is neither the brahmachari nor the elephant, but the common sense in that context.

Nalayini ordered Time by her chastity. Anusuya humbled the gods by obeying them, having first reached the Supreme through her husband. Instead of saying Islam is blind, let us discover Brahman in the blindness.