I’m still reflecting on the idea of the Supermind torturing the cat, which sounds to me like the standard objection to the Christian God in Heaven, “He” is up there, created us (and the cat) and if he allows the cat to be tortured, he must be evil.”
So my first thought was how Sri Aurobindo emphasized again and again – with several chapters in “Essays on the Gita,” and several chapters in “Synthesis of Yoga,” on equanimity. He states clearly he is not talking about the resignation of the saint, nor the dry equality of the Stoic. This is where it goes into areas which are so profoundly at odds with our modern (and postmodern – or hypermodern, if you will) sensibility. This equanimity he is talking about (I guess I must add, IMHO/not-seeking-consensus/non-alpha-male/jus-sayin….) something that is the foundation of the Kosmos.
My experience has been, even with an infinitesimal glimpse of this equanimity of which all things are made, one’s perceptions - of oneself, cats, flowers, computers, words, German philosophers, sex, grape juice, 45th presidents, the rings of Saturn, Looney Tunes, etc - utterly and fundamentally changes.
So here is a journal account from a disciple of his, Kapali Sastry, who was a student of Ramana Maharshi for a number of years and later became a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. I suspect it was written initially in Hindi – the translation is odd at points (for example, when he has Sri Aurobindo saying one should “think of the Silence” again and again, I don’t think he meant “think about it” but rather, shift attention from the surface to the depths where the Silence is already present – and “depths” is not geographic; it’s not somewhere else since the Silence is all-pervading, the Silence of Being which is the very substance of the cat; but you know, well, words!).
So here’s Sastry’s transcription – first, his own words, then Sri Aurobindo’s (by the way, Sri Aurobindo’s words in the Life Divine excerpt below are an excellent counter to Sastry’s paraphrase of Sri Aurobindo, recorded in a journal at least a day after he heard Sri Aurobindo speak - I suspect the account is colored by Sastry’s own ascetic tendencies)
(Sastry speaking): The first object of sadhana should be to rise above the normal conditions of restlessness in the being, movements of thought-activity and vital impulsions which hold you their prisoner, and to attain to a certain aloofness and calm. Calm is a condition in which the consciousness is at rest, free from disturbance, whatever be the movements on the surface. This calm can indeed be attained by the rigorous method of the traditional yoga of Patanjali — an incessant suppression of all thought- movements. But the method Sri Aurobindo gives is simpler and more natural. Here it is:
There is a Silence behind every movement
Be open to it. Instead of attempting to get hold of the Silence, be open to it and let it get hold of you.
(transcription of Sri Aurobindo’s “pointing out instructions” continues) There is a background for everything. Every movement moves upon something. And that something is a Silence which upholds everything. It is not only a general background but it is there supporting and containing every individual movement. Conceive mentally, at first, of this Silence at the back of everything, including your own mental activity. All the thoughts and mental movements come and go against a base that is ever stable. That is Silence. Suspend for a moment your thought-activity and you will become conscious of the presence of this Silence. This Silence is at the back of your head, your word, your very being. Think of this Silence again and again and try to become aware of it. By a steady digging in of this idea in your consciousness, this fact will become a reality to you — not merely for the mind but for the rest of the being also. Into this Silence you must learn to relax yourself. You cannot get it by force, what you may get by concentration does not usually last beyond the spell of that concentration. Instead of trying to get at it, simply relax, call and let yourself lie in the folds of the Silence. That will slowly come over you and claim you.
This is the first condition for an effective beginning in sadhana. There should be this calm. But know it that in its true nature it is not a mental calm which is perceived in between two thoughts or experienced when there is a suspension of thought-activity or a reduction of their momentum. It is a spiritual calm which is not dependent upon any outer circumstances and which grows into deeper and deeper intensities as one grows into the higher or deeper states of consciousness. The highest Calm is totally different from the calm conceived by the mind.
And now back to the Life Divine, page 237 in “The Double Soul in Man.” It can seem as if he is explaining a theory, or trying to convince us of something. In my reading (IMHO, etc etc etc) he might be said to be giving his own unique style of “pointing out instructions” (for folks who don’t know the term, the Tibetan Buddhists, particularly the Nyingma sect, have a practice of directing a new student’s attention to the ever-present all-pervading nondual awareness of Rigpa – the Omnipresent Reality of Sri Aurobindo).
“The subliminal soul responds to the rasa , or essence in experience, of these things which the surface desire-soul rejects by distaste and refusal or ignores by neutral unacceptance…The subliminal soul is conscious inwardly of the rasa of things and has an equal delight in all contacts; it is conscious also of the values and standards of the surface desire-soul and receives on its own surface corresponding touches of pleasure, pain and indifference, but takes an equal delight in all. In other words, our real soul within takes joy of all its experiences, gathers from them strength, pleasure and knowledge, grows by them in its store and its plenty. It is this real soul in us which compels the shrinking desire-mind to bear and even to seek and find a pleasure in what is painful to it, to reject what is pleasant to it, to modify or even reverse its values, to equalise things in indifference or to equalise them in joy, the joy of the variety of existence. And this it does because it is impelled by the universal to develop itself by all kinds of experience so as to grow in Nature. Otherwise, if we lived only by the surface desire-soul, we could no more change or advance than the plant or stone in whose immobility or in whose routine of existence, because life is not superficially conscious, the secret soul of things has as yet no instrument by which it can rescue the life out of the fixed and narrow gamut into which it is born. The desire-soul left to itself would circle in the same grooves for ever.”