Editor’s note: For our guiding light section, we feature three selections from the Mother’s works that speak of courage as one of the fundamental requisites for the path of sadhana. Only a few formatting revisions have been made by the editors for easier online reading. No text has been altered.
A Real Aspiration is Full of Courage
I remember that once we spoke of courage as one of the perfections; I remember having written it down once in a list. But this courage means having a taste for the supreme adventure.
And this taste for supreme adventure is aspiration—an aspiration which takes hold of you completely and flings you, without calculation and without reserve and without a possibility of withdrawal, into the great adventure of the divine discovery, the great adventure of the divine meeting, the yet greater adventure of the divine Realisation; you throw yourself into the adventure without looking back and without asking for a single minute, “What’s going to happen?”
For if you ask what is going to happen, you never start, you always remain stuck there, rooted to the spot, afraid to lose something, to lose your balance.
That’s why I speak of courage—but really it is aspiration. They go together. A real aspiration is something full of courage.
Courage in the Face of Pain and Grief
“Pain and grief are Nature’s reminder to the soul that the pleasure it enjoys is only a feeble hint of the real delight of existence. In each pain and torture of our being is the secret of a flame of rapture compared with which our greatest pleasures are only as dim flickerings. It is this secret which forms the attraction for the soul of the great ordeals, sufferings and fierce experiences of life which the nervous mind in us shuns and abhors.“~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 13, p. 205
Quite naturally we ask ourselves what this secret is, towards which pain leads us. For a superficial and imperfect understanding, one could believe that it is pain which the soul is seeking. Nothing of the kind.
The very nature of the soul is divine Delight, constant, unvarying, unconditioned, ecstatic; but it is true that if one can face suffering with courage, endurance, an unshakable faith in the divine Grace, if one can, instead of shunning suffering when it comes, enter into it with this will, this aspiration to go through it and find the luminous truth, the unvarying delight which is at the core of all things, the door of pain is often more direct, more immediate than that of satisfaction or contentment.
I am not speaking of pleasure because pleasure turns its back constantly and almost completely on this profound divine Delight.
Pleasure is a deceptive and perverse disguise which turns us away from our goal and we certainly should not seek it if we are eager to find the truth. Pleasure vaporises us; it deceives us, leads us astray.
Pain brings us back to a deeper truth by obliging us to concentrate in order to be able to bear it, be able to face this thing that crushes us. It is in pain that one most easily finds the true strength again, when one is strong. It is in pain that one most easily finds the true faith again, the faith in something which is above and beyond all pain.
When one enjoys oneself and forgets, when one takes things as they come, tries to avoid being serious and looking life in the face, in a word when one seeks to forget, to forget that there is a problem to solve, that there is something to find, that we have a reason for existence and living, that we are not here just to pass our time and go away without having learnt or done anything, then one really wastes one’s time, one misses the opportunity that has been given to us, this—I cannot say unique, but marvellous opportunity for an existence which is the field of progress, which is the moment in eternity when you can discover the secret of life; for this physical, material existence is a wonderful opportunity, a possibility given to you to find the purpose of life, to make you advance one step towards this deeper truth, to make you discover this secret which puts you into contact with the eternal rapture of the divine life.
I have already told you many a time that to seek suffering and pain is a morbid attitude which must be avoided, but to run away from them through forgetfulness, through a superficial, frivolous movement, through diversion, is cowardice.
When pain comes, it comes to teach us something. The quicker we learn it, the more the need for pain diminishes, and when we know the secret, it will no longer be possible to suffer, for that secret reveals to us the reason, the cause, the origin of suffering, and the way to pass beyond it.
The secret is to emerge from the ego, get out of its prison, unite ourselves with the Divine, merge into Him, not to allow anything to separate us from Him.
Then, once one has discovered this secret and realises it in one’s being, pain loses its justification and suffering disappears. It is an all-powerful remedy, not only in the deeper parts of the being, in the soul, in the spiritual consciousness, but also in life and in the body.
There is no illness, no disorder which can resist the discovery of this secret and the putting of it into practice, not only in the higher parts of the being but in the cells of the body.
If one knows how to teach the cells the splendour that lies within them, if one knows how to make them understand the reality which makes them exist, gives them being, then they too enter the total harmony, and the physical disorder which causes the illness vanishes as do all other disorders of the being.
But for that one must be neither cowardly nor fearful.
When the physical disorder comes, one must not be afraid; one must not run away from it, must face it with courage, calmness, confidence, with the certitude that illness is a falsehood and that if one turns entirely, in full confidence, with a complete quietude to the divine Grace, It will settle in these cells as It is established in the depths of the being, and the cells themselves will share in the eternal Truth and Delight.
Courage and Karma from Past Lives
This sort of fatality that one sometimes feels weighing heavy on one’s life, which is called Karma in India, is the result of past lives; indeed, it is something that has to be exhausted, something that weighs on one’s consciousness.
This is how things happen: the psychic being passes from one life to another, each life on earth being the occasion and means for a further progress, for a further growth. But it can happen that the psychic takes birth with the intention of going through a certain experience, of learning a certain thing, of developing a certain faculty through a definite experience.
Then, in that life, in the life in which that experience has to be gone through, for one reason or another—there may be several—the soul does not fall exactly on the spot where it should: a displacement of some kind can occur, a set of contrary circumstances—it can happen—and in that case the incarnation miscarries totally and the soul goes away to wait for a better occasion.
But in other cases, the soul simply does not find it possible to do exactly what it wants and finds itself dragged into untoward circumstances—untoward not merely from the objective point of view, but untoward for its own growth. And that makes it necessary to begin the experience again, often under much more difficult conditions.
And if—anything can happen, you see—if this second attempt is also a failure, if conditions make it impossible once again for what the psychic wants to do, if, for example, it is in a body with an inadequate will or a deformation in the thought or too tough an egoism and the attempt ends in suicide, then it is something frightful.
I have seen it many times; it creates a dreadful Karma which may repeat itself life after life before the soul becomes capable of conquering and doing what it wants to do. And each time the conditions become more and more difficult, each time a considerably greater effort is demanded. It has sometimes been said that one cannot get out of it.
Indeed, the subconscious memory of the past creates a sort of irresistible desire to avoid the difficulty and one begins again the same stupidity or an even greater stupidity, and to the difficulty already so great is added yet another. Also, there are moments—moments or circumstances—when nobody is there to help you, to instruct you, to guide you. You are all alone, not knowing what to hang on to. The situation then becomes so terrible, the circumstances are so abominable.
But if only once the soul has made an appeal, if once it has made contact with the Grace, then in the following life, one immediately finds oneself in conditions where everything can be swept away at one stroke. At that moment you need to have a great courage, a great endurance, though at times a true love is sufficient.
And if there is faith—a little, a very very little is enough—then everything is swept away.
But in most cases what you need is a great stoic courage, a capacity to endure and to hold out: the resistance, especially in the case of a previous suicide, resistance to the temptation to again begin this foolishness—because it makes a terrible formation.
There is also this habit of not looking the difficulty straight in the face, which is translated by taking flight. When suffering comes, fly, fly, instead of absorbing the difficulty, instead of holding tight, that is to say, not stirring within, not yielding, yes, above all, not yielding when you feel within: “I cannot bear it any longer.” Hold your head as quiet as possible, do not follow the movement, do not obey the vibration.
That is what is needed, just that: faith in the Grace, perception of the Grace, or else, intensity of call, or better still, the response, the response, the knot opening, breaking, the response to this wonderful love of the Grace.
It is difficult without a strong will, and above all, above all, the capacity to resist the temptation which has been the fatal temptation through all the lives because of its accumulated power. Each defeat gives fresh force to it. A small victory can dissolve it.
The most terrible thing is when you do not have the strength, the courage, something indomitable. How often they come and tell me: “I want to die, I want to run away, I want to die.” They get the answer: “Well, then, die to yourself! You are not asked to let your ego survive! Die to yourself since you want to die! Have that courage, the true courage to die to your egoism.”
But because it is a Karma, you have to do something yourself. Karma is a construction of the ego; the ego must do something, everything cannot be done for it. The truth is this: Karma is the result of the actions of the ego, and it is only when the ego abdicates that Karma is dissolved. You can aid the ego, you can assist it, you can give it force and infuse it with courage, but it must use them.
Get Rid of Fear, Distrust and Despair
There is such a gulf between what we truly are and what we are at present that it turns your head giddy at times. You must not yield to the giddiness. Do not move. Be still like a stone until the thing passes away.
Generally, when the time has come for a Karma to be conquered and absorbed by the Grace, there also comes the image or the knowledge or the experience of the exact facts that are the cause of the Karma, and then at that moment you can start the cleaning.
But it is just at the most painful point, there where the suggestions are the strongest, that you must bear the blow. Otherwise you will always have to start over again, always start over again.
One day a moment comes when the thing has to be done, when one must make the true inner gesture that liberates.
To tell the truth, just now there is upon earth an opportunity which presents itself only after thousands of years, a conscious help with the necessary power. It was once believed that nothing had the power to wipe away the consequences of a Karma, that it was only by exhausting it through a series of purificatory acts that the consequences could be transformed, exhausted, effaced. But with the supramental power, this can be done without the need of going through all the steps of the process of liberation.
~ Design: Beloo Mehra and Biswajita Mohapatra