Is progress a myth?


The Call Beyond
15 Jul 2020

The rolling cycles passed and came again, Brought the same toils and the same barren end, Forms ever new and ever old, the long, Appalling revolutions of the world.

— Sri Aurobindo (‘Savitri’, book 10, Canto 4, p. 643, SABCL edition)

That material progress is illusory is easy to understand. Sri Aurobindo raises the same question about spiritual progress in ‘Savitri’ by putting in the mouth of the God of Death the words: “Where leads the march, whither the pilgrimage?” A popular idea is that spiritual progress would ultimately lead to merging with the Divine, thereby eliminating the necessity for returning to this terrible world in another body. But Sri Aurobindo and the Mother do not look upon an escape to another world, where there is no sorrow or misery, as the final goal of spiritual life. Here two points deserve emphasis. First, it is not just the individual soul that has to evolve to a level that it merges with the Divine. All parts of the being: the physical (body), vital (emotions) and mental (intellect) should be taken up for transformation so that they are illumined, without any obscuring veil, by the Light of the soul. The physical, vital and mental are our instruments of action. As a result of transformation of the instruments, the person is able to organize outer life around her divine essence, the soul. Thus, an inner change gets reflected in outer life. Secondly, even after the person’s surface has unified around her deepest Self, escaping the cycle of birth and death is not the goal. One can still return to the world for the sake of one’s fellow beings, for the sake of the consciousness of the human race, for changing the character of the world from that of a place of sorrow and suffering to one of peace and harmony. In short, the person should return to the world to contribute to bringing heaven down to earth. That is the vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. And, just imagine the joy of the individual who returns to earth although she need not. This person can experience the delight of being active in the world, and yet can view with total detachment all happenings here like a game (leela) of the Divine. If all ‘serious stuff’ is a game, isn’t spiritual progress also a part of the game? If spiritual progress is just a game, isn’t spiritual progress also, like material progress, a myth? Even if it is a myth, it is a magnificent myth. It is a myth that destroys all other myths. The myth that destroys all other myths cannot be a myth. As Sri Aurobindo says in his Upanishad, jagadapi brahma, satyam na mithyaa: since the Universe is also the Divine, it is Truth, not a falsehood.

The thirst for progress, the thirst to know, the thirst to transform yourself, and above all the thirst for Love and Truth - if you keep that, you go faster. Truly a thirst, a need, you know, a need. All the rest has no importance, what you need is that.

No more bonds - free, free, free, free! Always ready to change everything, except one thing: to aspire. That thirst. The “Something” we need, the Perfection we need, the Light we need, the Love we need, the Truth we need, the supreme Perfection we need - and that’s all. The formulas - the fewer the formulas, the better. A need, a need, a need . . . which only the Thing can satisfy, nothing else, no half measure. Only That. And then, move on, move on! Your path will be your path, it doesn’t matter; any path, any path whatever.

— The Mother