Inner Transformation of Life
[Yogas of the past are predominantly individualistic aiming at a spiritual salvation and perfection of the individual. Yoga of the future has to include and find ways for the inner progress and spiritual transformation of the collectivity. This series of articles explores the principles, processes and methods of a collective Yoga based on integral psychology]
The Central Difficulty:
The most challenging task in this higher evolution and transformation of the human life will be the transformation of the vital energy and will in man. As we have discussed earlier, in the collective life of man, his higher mind and will or in other words, the rational, ethical and aesthetic intelligence and will is the source of culture. The vital energy made of emotions, desires and passions and the dynamic faculties of action and execution, is the source of his economic, social and political life. It is relatively easy to change the orientation of the higher mind and will through education, philosophy, art or literature and effectuate a corresponding change in the cultural life of the community. But it is much more difficult to initiate and sustain a higher change in the economical, social and political life because its psychological source, the vital energy and will, is the most recalcitrant part in the human being and also much more powerful than the idealistic impulses of the higher mind. It is obstinately attached to the dull and heavy inertia of the body and the petty or aggressive feelings and desires of its ego like anger, jealousy and hatred and its personal ambitions for power, possession or domination.
Most of this physical-vital nature in man is openly hostile to higher values and ideals of the mind or spirit and even when it consents to these higher values, it drags them down to its own muddy depths and tries to use them as a mask or a higher sanction for the satisfaction of its low desires. This part of human nature is the major factor behind the failure of all human idealism to transformal life and human nature.
The Great Indian Attempt:
The ancient Indian civilisation made a great attempt to give a higher orientation to life through spiritual idealism. The main planks of the Indian attempt is a spiritual vision of life at the top trying to give a spiritual direction to life through the religious, ethical and philosophic mind. This attempt achieved a great success in creating a vigorous, creative, tolerant and many-sided religio-philosophic culture. But the attempt achieved only a very limited and partial result in the economic, social and political life. It gave a religious and ethical orientation to society and politics through the concept and practice of dharma. But this could not prevent the outer life from degenerating into a stagnant and caste-ridden society vulnerable to repeated foreign conquest. The religious and ethical mind was not able to conquer and transform the heavy inertia of the physical consciousness and the passions and ambitions of the vital ego in man.
So the net result of the Indian attempt is a formal adherence among the masses to religious and spiritual values and aims; respect and reverence for people with spiritual experience, most of whom looked upon the world as an illusion and a snare and remained outside or indifferent to the world; leaders of thought and action who are in general receptive to the guidance of the spiritual wisdom of the past and the present; a vibrant, creative and spiritually inspired culture which created a deep and widespread religious instinct among the masses; and finally a stable social environment favourable to spiritual aspiration and spiritual development but in later ages lost the freedom, vitality and a progressive dynamism in its outer life and therefore became stagnant.
But this is not enough for the future and for the transformation of the collective life of man. What ancient India was able to achieve is a society receptive to the spiritual values and the guidance of spiritual consciousness. But the actual physical and vital life of the community, that is the economic, social and political life, was ruled by the untransformed mental and vital consciousness, a little sublimated with ethical and religious values and open to the guidance of the seer and the sage, but not fully spiritualised. This may be the first preparatory step but we should not stop here.
Transformation of the vital -Force
For a full transformation of the collective life, we have to proceed further and take the next step, which is to establish the spiritual consciousness as the direct ruler of the physical and vital life of the community. The spiritual consciousness should not remain merely as a guide and mentor of society, but take possession of the physical, vital and mental life of the community, govern it, and ultimately transform it by the light and power of the spirit. For this to happen, the vital and mental being in man has to entirely renounce its ego, desires and preferences and become obedient instruments of the Spirit.
For this spiritual transformation of the outer life, the most crucial point is the conversion of vital energy and will. The dominant motive of the vital will is for power, possession, enjoyment and domination of the vital ego. These ordinary motives of the vital ego have to be entirely renounced and replaced by their spiritual equivalents. The desire for possession and enjoyment is a legitimate need of the vital being. But when ego-base is eliminated, they are transformed into an ego-less enjoyment and possession of the eternal delight of the Spirit, which is in every beat and throb of life. Similarly the desire for power is a legitimate need of the vital energy and will in man. But when the egoic need for personal power and domination over others are eliminated, then it is transformed into a will for self-mastery and effective governance of the outer environment, not in a personal sense, but as an instrument of the universal power and mastery of the Spirit over life. In other words the vital energy and will in man becomes a strong, obedient and enlightened instrument of the Spirit for executing and enforcing the luminous intuitions and inspirations of the Spirit in the outer life, especially in the physical and vital life of man.
So, the upward transference of our vital energy and will from the egoic to the universal and spiritual level is the great and difficult task to be accomplished for the complete transformation of our human life. But how to achieve this ideal? What is the path and the discipline? This task of transformation of our vital force of life cannot be achieved by ascetic disciplines which reject life, or by immobile “meditations” shutting off the world in trance. It requires a dynamic spiritual discipline, which embraces life and can be put into practice in the midst of our day-to-day worldly life.
For the traditional meditation effects only the higher mind in us but it has very little impact on our life-force made of relationship and action. So for the transformation of the life – force we need a discipline which can transform action and relationship. It must be a discipline by which even while participating fully in the life of the world around, we can open our life-energies and the faculties of action to the transforming light and power of the Spirit.
This discipline or education of the vital force has three aspects, a triune culture of consciousness, emotions and actions. First is a culture of consciousness, which brings increasing self-awareness to the mostly unconscious or unconscious activities of the life-force in us. We have to become more and more conscious of our life-energies and the hidden motives and springs of our actions and acquire a progressive mastery over our life. We must learn to live more and more consciously and in control of our life. However this consciousness or awareness should not be confined to the life within us but also extend outwards to embrace the life around us. An alert, vigilant, objective and non-judgemental awareness of the life around us, which lead to a deeper understanding of the larger movement of life of which our individual life is a part, is also an important of the culture of consciousness. The highest aim of this culture of consciousness is to know concretely though inner experience the unity, interdependence and wholeness of all life and how our outer life is a mirror and expression of the condition of our inner life. As we have explained, when we are able to see and feel this unity and interdependence of the inner and outer life, it gives us the inner key for the transformation of the outer life.
The second aspect of the discipline is a culture of emotions which leads to a more and more healthy, harmonious and kindly relationship with the life around us, with people, nature, things and the environment. The first part of the discipline is to consciously cultivate all feelings which purifies, clarifies, elevates, widens and enlightens our emotional being like for example kindness, generosity, tolerance, understanding, compassion, forgiveness; reject all feelings which darkens or debases our heart and mind like violence, anger, greed, lust; learn to love truly without seeking for anything in return and without egoism, attachment, self love and the urge to possess, dominate, use or exploit others. The other part of the discipline is to discover by careful observation and introspection the inner spiritual source of the human feeling of love. When we are able to do this we will find that our human feeling of love is only a wave of the universal divine feeling of Love which is everywhere and within everything. If we are of the religious type and believe in God and His divine Love, visualizing this divine Love in a symbol form and try to feel, see and worship it with devotion within us, and also in everything, helps in progressing towards this universal Love, which is the highest aim of the culture of emotions.
The third part of the discipline is a culture of action. The most powerful and potent discipline for the spiritual transformation of work and action is Karma Yoga of the well-known Indian scripture Bhagavat Gita. The main principles of Karma Yoga are, first equanimity to all the dualities of life like success and failure, praise and blame, happiness and sorrow and the wild swings of moods; second, renunciation of the fruits of action or in other words the renunciation of the anxiety for the future result of action and focusing all our energies of action in the present; third is a consecration of all our actions as a sacrifice to the Divine Power who is the source of all energy and action in the individual and the Universe. The other important part of Karma Yoga to develop strength and courage in the will and vital force to confront and conquer all dark force which are opposed to this transformation of life, within and around us. We have mentioned harmonious relationship with the world around as one of the aims of the culture of emotions. But this does not mean a weak and saintly reluctance to face the battle of life. So to possess the inner power and strength in the will and vital force to conquer all difficulties, obstacles and opposing forces in our inner being and outer life, and for the execution or empowerment of higher values in life is an integral part of the transformation of life. And wherever needed, this inner strength can make use of outer instrument of power¾economic, social, political or technological¾to manifest its will force in the material life.
As we progress in the path of Karma Yoga, our dynamic faculties of will, vital force and action will become more and more conscious of its divine source and begins to be guided, inspired and ultimately driven directly by the divine force. We begin to see concretely and experientially how our individual energy and action is an integral part of the universal and indivisible Energy and Action of the divine power. The highest aim of Karma Yoga is to become a perfect and fully conscious instrument of the divine power.
When this triune culture for the transformation of life becomes an integral part of education, and put into practice widely by individuals, especially leaders in every section of the society, then it will create leaders with spiritual intuition and intelligence not only in the religious and cultural life of the community but also in the secular and worldly life like for example in business, politics, commerce, industry, health, administration. When this happens and the spiritual consciousness remains no longer as a mere guiding light, but a living force sitting on the thrones of power and action and rules society, then we can say that human society is on its way safely and surely towards its spiritual destiny.