8 Oct 2008

Page 245: Record of Yogic Failures

Pages 242-245 is a long section on Sri Aurobindo’s early yogic experiences as noted in his diary notes called the Record of Yoga. The first half gives examples of their wide scope and lists samples of successes and setback largely drawn from one entry dated December 6, 1912. The second half constitutes what is presented as a summary of Sri Aurobindo’s final accomplishments of sadhana as reflected in the Record. Quotations used here are not entire sentences but only short phrases woven into Peter’s own interpretation and mostly listing failures and illness. The casual reader is given the impression that this is all. But the informed reader familiar with the more than 1500 pages of the Record will be struck by the obvious negative bias! The concluding paragraph of this section goes thus:

Page 245: The rest of 1913 was marked by alternating progress and recoil. In September he set aside the Record “because it was found that the habit of miscalculation still persisted … Resuming it in November, he provided an update on the state of his sadhana: “None of the siddhis are yet finally perfect …” “Faith … has been shaken.” He would soon recover his faith “faith in the Yoga siddhi” – his belief that he would achieve perfection in yoga; but he did make a distinction between the “vidya-avidya-siddhi … & the higher Amrita [immortality] in which all limitation is removed & Death, etc. entirely cease. Only the first,” he was forced to conclude, “will in this life be entirely accomplished.”
This, to the casual reader, is presented by Peter as the final result of the entire effort of the Record. The wording, content and context give the impression that this is the highest conclusion of Sri Aurobindo’s sadhana. Nowhere is there any mention or even suggestion that he overcame these limitations, or that his “belief” ever fructified to realisation. This is it and there is no more. In fact Peter uses this false conclusion immediately after in the succeeding section to cast doubt on these very experiences and then relate them to symptoms of schizophrenia!

Peter commits five deceptions here:
  • He presents the diary entries of 1913 as the final result of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. This is a blatant lie, because the portion of the Record up to 1913 covers the earliest phase of the yoga – hardly the first 10% of the recorded journey.
  • The reference to a “faith … shaken” is presented here as a great milestone, when in fact the Record is replete with relapses of various types and degrees, and in various parts of the being, as the process of yoga is known to have. These relapses rapidly reduce in frequency and scope over the years following the quoted passages. But the reader is never informed of this. It is presented to him as if this was a turning point of failure in Sri Aurobindo’s practice.
  • Peter declares that Sri Aurobindo was “forced to conclude” that the higher Amrita will not be realised in this life. Reading the actual entry in the Record one has sense neither of finality of the statement nor the compulsion of it. On the contrary, the Record is full of this style and content of phrasing which frequently emerges from some new insight or new prophetic revelation. Their scope ranges from predictions of things to happen in a few hours to many weeks. In the actual text of the Record referenced here the emphasis is on the distinction between the two parts of the siddhi of Amrita which has just been revealed to him. From this emerges the prophetic and positive perception in a typical Aurobindonian understatement that the “vidya-avidya-siddhi” will be entirely accomplished in this life, while the “higher Amrita” will not be entirely accomplished. Peter deceptively presents this as a final conclusion of the Record of Yoga compelled upon Sri Aurobindo after all his long efforts. In reality it is merely a prophetic insight and revelation clarifying the practical distinctions within the siddhi of Amrita as perceived in 1913 during the earliest phase of the Record.
  • He leaves us with the impression that Sri Aurobindo’s early struggles with unstable experiences are representative of the later years. He never tells the reader that the period of instability passed and was followed by permanent and stable realisations on all fronts of the sadhana as noted in the same Record. This is deliberate. The intention is exposed in the next section where he suggests mental instability.
  • The partial representation of the Record (quotes only from the first 10%) and its false conclusion is used by Peter immediately after as justifying his speculations of schizophrenia.

I will briefly touch upon this next section in the light of the present passage, because Peter rests his arguments suggesting schizophrenia largely on the impressions created in this passage. Read the next example as a continuation of this one, because the text itself continues.

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