Spirituality, Creativity and Greatness – M.S. Srinivasan

[What is the relationship between spirituality and creativity? Can spiritual development enhance creativity? Can a spiritual man be a great creative genius in whatever field he enters? Can a Yogi know everything including scientific truths? This article examines these questions in the light of Sri Aurobindo’s insights]

If a man rises to a higher plane of consciousness it does not necessarily follow that he will be a greater man of action or a great creator. One may rise to a spiritual planes of inspiration undreamed of by Shakespeare and not be as great a poetic creator as Shakespeare. “Greatness” is not the object of spiritual realisation any more than fame or success in the world-how are these things the standard of spiritual realisation.

Sri Aurobindo

There are many myths about spiritual personalities and great yogi in India. One of them is that since whatever he or she does from a divine consciousness, it will be perfect, flawless, great, or a work of genius or world-class. The other myth is that he or she will be some kind of an omniscient demi-god who can know everything under the sun, solve all problems or answer all questions. These beliefs are not entirely myths. There may be a grain of truth in it but mixed with popular misconceptions. Let us briefly examine these truths and myths.

Spiritual consciousness or spiritual development need not necessarily lead to high creative quality in outer work or action because this outer quality depends also on the condition of the instruments or faculties of consciousness. A great yogi living in the highest spiritual consciousness may write poetry. But if his poetic or aesthetic qualities are underdeveloped, the outer aesthetic quality may not be great or even mediocre; it can never reach the level of great poets like Shelley or Shakespeare with a highly developed poetic faculties. It may have a subtle spiritual beauty or a great mantric power but the outer aesthetic quality may not reach the levels of Shakespeare.

Kalidas and Kabirdas are two interesting examples. Kalidas is a vital man without much of spiritual inspiration. But his literary creation rises to the highest levels of aesthetic and poetic beauty because he had a vital inspiration with very well-developed poetic and aesthetic faculties. On the other hand Kabirdas lived in the highest spiritual consciousness undreamed of by Kalidas. His dohas are made of simple and rustic verses which in terms of poetic beauty may not match the works of Kalidas. But some of Kabir’s dohas, even in a translation, creates a tumult in the depth of your heart and a yearning for the Infinite, like for example this one: “When I walk, Infinite walks with me, within me, above me, around me and beside me, like my bodyguard.”

Similarly a Yogi may have many higher faculties of knowledge which an ordinary man or non-yogi does not have. He may have the higher cognitive abilities to know the deeper truth of mind, life, matter, spirit through a direct insight, inner vision or an identity with the object of knowledge, which may include scientific truth. As the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram explains:

“… the Yogis’s knowledge is direct and immediate… he looks, has the vision of things and this seeing is his knowledge”, or “He knows by his capacity for containing or dynamic identity with things persons or forces”. But not every one who calls himself or regarded as a “Yogi” possesses this knowledge. There are many types of yogis with various levels of inner realisation. In general, a Yogi who lives in the higher ranges of consciousness beyond the rational mind has potentially the capacity to know the deeper truth of things, if he wants to. But he may not be interested in becoming an encyclopaedia of knowledge. He may know or want to know only those things which are needed to execute his spiritual mission or comes to him spontaneously in the course of his spiritual journey or he may have the intuitive knowledge to answer the questions of spiritual seekers or to help them resolve their inner difficulties or guide them in their growth. A true yogi has no desire for mental knowledge. He doesn’t have the acquisitive curiosity of the ordinary intellect seeking for a variety of information or knowledge. So as the Mother elaborates further on the knowledge of a Yogi.

Although it may be true in a general way and in a certain sense that a Yogi can know all things and can answer all questions from his own field of vision and consciousness, yet it does not follow that there are no questions whatever of any kind to which he would not or could not answer. A Yogi who has the direct knowledge, the knowledge of the true truth of things, would not care or perhaps would find it difficult to answer questions that belong entirely to the domain of human mental constructions. It may be, he could not or would not wish to solve problems and difficulties you might put to him which touch only the illusion of things and their appearances. The working of his knowledge is not in the mind. If you put him some silly mental query of that character, he probably would not answer. The very common conception that you can put any ignorant question to him as to some super-schoolmaster or demand from him any kind of information past, present or future and that he is bound to answer, is a foolish idea. It is as inept as the expectation from the spiritual man of feats and miracles that would satisfy the vulgar external mind and leave it gaping with wonder. (CWM, Vol.3, Pg. 92-93)

For example, yogi may have a deep spiritual insight into the unified theory of matter so much sought after in modern physics. He can perhaps even see the truth of it with his inner vision, as concretely as we see the table in front of us with our physical eyes. But he may not be interested in this kind of knowledge and therefore may not talk or write about it. He may not have the scientific or mathematical equipment to express it in the right scientific language which will bring him the Nobel Prize.

If a scientist grappling with this problem asks the yogi to help him to resolve the problem he may throw some vague or luminous hints but may not entirely reveal the secret. He may think it was not his business, dharma, to do so because it interferes with the natural course of evolution or, dharma, of science or the scientist, which is to arrive at the solution through the process of rational and scientific enquiry.

Swami Ramalingam was a great Yogi who lived in a small village in an Indian state. He writes in one of his poetic works that he saw how atoms are formed in subtle space. A modern scientist may spend his whole life to discover it but for Ramalingam it may be something insignificant which deserves only a few minutes of passing inner glance. He moves on to greater things. He describes briefly the higher vital and metal world, many mansions of the spiritual worlds and as he reaches the summits of the creation he says that he saw how all the billions of universes and the many levels of creation are formed from a tiny particle of energy dropping from the legs of the Divine Dancer, Nataraja.

This is probably one of the reasons why in ancient India, physical sciences never advanced beyond a certain level. The best minds turned to Yoga and sought the Infinite where are all worlds appear like ephemeral bubbles in a little corner of its timeless vastness. For them spending one’s whole life in trying to find out what the atoms or molecules of matter are made up of, might have appeared as a trivial pursuit.

This brings us to an important factor of the spiritual quest. The aim of spiritual life is to realise our true self or Divinity within and creativity or greatness are not part of this spiritual aim but a secondary result. Spiritual development may lead to creativity or greatness when it expresses itself in the outer life. But to be creative or great is not the aim of spiritual life. In fact this desire for personal greatness is a vital ambition which is a great obstacle to spiritual growth and sometimes may lead the seeker astray into the hands of dark, asuric forces, which may make use of this ambition to drive and possess the seeker. On the other hand a simple humble and sincere mind and heart, free from personal ambition is a great force for inner progress. As Mother said in one of the conversations, while talking about people possessed by dark forces,

But note, this happens to ambitious people, above all to ambitious people who want to have power, want to dominate others, want to be great masters, great instructors, want to perform miracles, have extraordinary powers… it is to these that this happens most often… those who have a kind of ambition, here, turning in their mind. This is dangerous. It is so good to be simple, simply good-willed, to do the best one can, and in the best way possible; not to build anything very considerable but only to aspire for progress, for light, a peace full of goodwill, and let That which knows in the world decide for you what you will become, and what you will have to do. One no longer has any cares, and one is perfectly happy! (The Mother, CWM, Vol.6, Pg.248)

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