For who could live or breathe if there were not this delight of existence as the ether in which we dwell?
(Taittriya Upanishad, 2.7)
It may seem to be a paradox that, this world of suffering and pain is formed of the substance of Delight. Delight, Ananda pervades the world like ether. In the deepest layers of creation, it is the Delight that constitutes. Delight constitutes and contains our existence.
And it is because of this delight that despite all the suffering and evil in the world that oppresses him, man still wants to live. If all the suffering and pain in life were to be totalled up, it will be found that the sum of happiness is definitely more and that is why there is everywhere the will to live. It is because happiness is the normal state of being that pain affects more than it should.
But this Delight is different from the human sensation of pleasure and joy. These depend upon external excitations while the Delight is self-existent and depends on no outer factors. In fact, one can feel the Delight more when one is not lost in outer circumstances.
This Delight is there not merely in the universe as its pervading ether but in the heart of man, always alive and flowing. The more he detaches himself from external movements of nature and turns inward, the nearer he gets to this fount of Delight in the well of his soul. He feels it intermittently at first, experiences it continually as he learns to found himself in the delight.
Whether man is conscious of this sustaining Delight or not, it goes on vibrating at its level making it possible for him to live. Without this substantial delight nothing could exist. For Delight is the root of all existence.
From Delight all these beings are born, by Delight they exist and grow, to Delight they return.
(Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6)
The creative poise of Sat-chit-ananda, the supreme creative Reality, is in Ananda. It is from the world of Ananda that the birth of the worlds takes place. That is why the Ananda-loka is also known as jana-loka the world of birth. It is in the bursting forth of the Delight of Brahman that the manifestation takes birth. And it is this Delight that upholds all existences. From it flows the sap of life by which all are nourished. It is the stream of this Delight at the core of the being that enables it to withstand all contrary impacts in this world of ignorance and gives the needed strength to overcome them eventually. The vicissitudes of life affect only the instrumental being involved in nature. The central being, the soul, always lives in its innate Ananda. For the very stuff of its being is constituted of Ananda. And when the outer sheaths are shed, the being of man retires and rests in the worlds of blissful peace.
(Source: Legends in the Life Divine – Shri M.P.Pandit – p.34-36 – Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)
BUT EVEN if we accept this pure Existence, this Brahman, this Sat as the absolute beginning, end and continent of things and in Brahman an inherent self-consciousness inseparable from its being and throwing itself out as a force of movement of consciousness which is creative of forces, forms and worlds, we have yet no answer to the question “Why should Brahman, perfect, absolute, infinite, needing nothing, desiring nothing, at all throw out force of consciousness to create in itself these worlds of forms?”
We accept that the Brahman, the pure Existence (Sat) is the absolute beginning and the end. All things are contained in Brahman. The Self-consciousness is inseparable from Brahman. This consciousness throws itself out as a Force of movement of consciousness. This movement creates the forces, forms and the worlds.
We know that Brahman is perfect, absolute and infinite. It needs nothing and desires nothing. Still the question remains, why should such a Brahman throw out a force of consciousness to create the world of forms in Itself?
For we have put aside the solution that it is compelled by its own nature of Force to create, obliged by its own potentiality of movement and formation to move into forms. It is true that it has this potentiality, but it is not limited, bound or compelled by it; it is free. If, then, being free to move or remain eternally still, to throw itself into forms or retain the potentiality of form in itself, it indulges its power of movement and formation, it can be only for one reason, for delight.
We do not quite agree with certain philosophies (Tantric & Sankhya) that Brahman is compelled by its own nature of Force to create. Nor is it compelled by its own potentiality to move into forms. Though Brahman has all the potentiality in Itself, it is not limited and bound by it. It has freedom to move or remain eternally still. It can create forms or retain its potentiality to create forms in itself.
Yet Brahman indulges its power of movement and formation. There can be only one reason for this. That is for delight, Ananda.
‘The dance of the first world-creating Bliss’
(Savitri: Book XI: 706:1260)
This primary, ultimate and eternal Existence, as seen by the Vedantins, is not merely bare existence, or a conscious existence whose consciousness is crude force or power; it is a conscious existence the very term of whose being, the very term of whose consciousness is bliss. As in absolute existence there can be no nothingness, no night of inconscience, no deficiency, that is to say, no failure of Force, —for if there were any of these things, it would not be absolute, —so also there can be no suffering, no negation of delight. Absoluteness of conscious existence is illimitable bliss of conscious existence; the two are only different phrases for the same thing.
The Vedantins consider Brahman the primary, ultimate and eternal existence. It is not merely a bare existence. We know that it is a conscious existence. But its consciousness is not a crude force or power. The very nature of its existence is bliss; the very nature of its consciousness is bliss.
It is an absolute existence. As it is absolute, the very term implies that it cannot be a nothingness (as perceived by Buddhists). It cannot have the darkness of inconscience. It cannot have deficiency or failure of Force. In the same way there can be no suffering and denial of Ananda.
What does the absoluteness of conscious existence mean? It means illimitable bliss of conscious existence. Both mean the same.
All illimitableness, all infinity, all absoluteness is pure delight. Even our relative humanity has this experience that all dissatisfaction means a limit, an obstacle, — satisfaction comes by realisation of something withheld, by the surpassing of the limit, the overcoming of the obstacle. This is because our original being is the absolute in full possession of its infinite and illimitable self-consciousness and self-power; a self-possession whose other name is self-delight. And in proportion as the relative touches upon that self-possession, it moves towards satisfaction, touches delight.
All illimitableness, all infinity, all absoluteness is pure delight. Even from our human experience we know that all dissatisfaction is a limitation and an obstacle. We feel satisfied when we get something denied to us. When we overcome our limitation and obstacle, we get a sense of satisfaction.
This is because our original being is the absolute. It is in full possession of its infinite and illimitable self-consciousness and self- power. It is not dependent on any outward circumstances. This self-possession is nothing but self-delight.
Our outer being lives in a sense of relativity. When we touch the core of our being where dwells this self-possession (the absolute) we move towards satisfaction and sense delight.
The self-delight of Brahman is not limited, however, by the still and motionless possession of its absolute self-being. Just as its force of consciousness is capable of throwing itself into forms infinitely and with an endless variation, so also its self-delight is
capable of movement, of variation, of revelling in that infinite flux and mutability of itself represented by numberless teeming universes. To loose forth and enjoy this infinite movement and variation of its self-delight is the object of its extensive or creative play of Force.
What is the nature of the self-delight of Brahman? The absolute self-being which possess it is still and motionless. Yet the self-delight of Brahman is not limited. The force of consciousness of Brahman throws itself out to create infinite forms with infinite variety.
Likewise, the self-delight creates infinite movement with infinite variation. It enjoys itself in its infinite flowing out of itself(delight), in its changing into innumerable universes. The universes are formed by the creative play of its Force. The object of this creative play is to free itself and to enjoy this infinite movement and variation of its self-delight. As conscious force creates may forms so also Ananda creates many forms of itself.
In the case of human beings, we know that, all creative efforts (be it creative art, music, intellectual pursuits) bring instant joy.
In other words, that which has thrown itself out into forms is a triune Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Sachchidananda, whose consciousness is in its nature a creative or rather a self-expressive Force capable of infinite variation in phenomenon and form of its self-conscious being and endlessly enjoying the delight of that variation. It follows that all things that exist are what they are as terms of that existence, terms of that conscious force, terms of that delight of being.
We know that it is the Conscious Force that created the forms and movement. The Force that has thrown itself into forms is nothing but Sat-chit-ananda consisting the three aspects of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss in itself. Its Consciousness is in its nature a creative or a self-expressive Force. This Force is capable of infinite variation in phenomenon and form of its conscious being (Existence). Why does it create its infinite variation? It is to enjoy the delight of that variation.
We can conclude that all things that exist in the universe have that aspect of conscious being-Sat. They have the aspect of its conscious Force Chit-Shakti. They have the aspect of its Ananda – delight of being.
Just as we find all things to be mutable forms of one immutable being, finite results of one infinite force, so we shall find that all things are variable self-expression of one invariable and all-embracing delight of self-existence. In everything that is, dwells the conscious force and it exists and is what it is by virtue of that conscious force; so also in everything that is there is the delight of existence and it exists and is what it is by virtue of that delight.
We know that Brahman is an Immutable (unchanging) being and an Infinite force. All forms that have manifested in the universe are the mutable forms of Brahman; they are finite results of one infinite force.
Delight is the all-embracing aspect of self-existence. All things we find in the universe are the variable self-expression of this delight. In everything that is in the universe there is conscious force. Everything exists because of that. Similarly, in everything that is in the universe there is delight of existence. Everything exists because of that. But for this delight of existence nothing can exist in the world.
This ancient Vedantic theory of cosmic origin is immediately confronted in the human mind by two powerful contradictions, the emotional and sensational consciousness of pain and the ethical problem of evil. For if the world be an expression of Sachchidananda, not only of existence that is conscious-force, —for that can easily be admitted, —but of existence that is also infinite self-delight, how are we to account for the universal presence of grief, of suffering, of pain? For this world appears to us rather as a world of suffering than as a world of the delight of existence.
We have seen the Vedantic truth that it is from delight the universe is born and it is by delight it exists and grows. Now two questions that come to our human mind seem to contradict this Vedantic truth. One relates to the emotional and sensational consciousness of pain. The other relates to the problem of evil.
We have seen that the world is an expression of Sachchidananda. It expresses Itself in the form of existence that is conscious-force. There is no problem for us to admit the fact that existence is conscious-force. But It also expresses in the form of existence that is also self-delight. When we say the existence is in itself an infinite self-delight how can we justify the universal presence of grief, suffering and pain? For us this world appears rather a world of suffering than a world of delight of existence.
Certainly, that view of the world is an exaggeration, an error of perspective. If we regard it dispassionately and with a sole view to accurate and unemotional appreciation, we shall find that the sum of the pleasure of existence far exceeds the sum of the pain of existence,—appearances and individual cases to the contrary notwithstanding,—and that the active or passive, surface or underlying pleasure of existence is the normal state of nature, pain a contrary occurrence temporarily suspending or overlaying that normal state.
Sri Aurobindo says our view of this world a place of suffering is an exaggeration. It is an error of our point of view. If we look at the world impartially, accurately without emotion we will find that the sum total of happiness far exceeds the sum of pain of existence. Though, from the appearance it may look the opposite. In certain individual cases also, the opposite may be true (exceptions are there in respect of those people who suffer from natural calamities, war etc). However, the fact is that whether it is active or passive, on the surface or underlying, pleasure of existence is the normal state of nature. Pain is a contrary occurrence. Pain only temporarily suspends or overlay that normal state. Pain comes as a black dot on the white page of pleasure.
But for that very reason the lesser sum of pain affects us more intensely and often looms larger than the greater sum of pleasure; precisely because the latter is normal, we do not treasure it, hardly even observe it unless it intensifies into some acuter form of itself, into a wave of happiness, a crest of joy or ecstasy. It is these things that we call delight and seek and the normal satisfaction of existence which is always there regardless of event and particular cause or object, affects us as something neutral which is neither pleasure nor pain.
For the very reason that pain is not normal and is only a contrary occurrence, its lesser sum affects us intensely. Because it is rarer it hits us harder. Pain appears threatening than the greater sum of pleasure. We do not treasure pleasure because it is our normal state. We are so used to it that we take it for granted. We hardly notice pleasure unless it becomes an acuter form of itself – a wave of happiness, a crest of joy or an ecstasy. We take our breathing for granted unless it becomes difficult for us to breathe due to illness.
We call the intense form of pleasure or excitement as delight and we seek for it. There is normal satisfaction of existence which is always present in us. It is present regardless of event or a particular cause or object. This state which appears to us neutral causes neither pain nor pleasure.
It is there, a great practical fact, for without it there would not be the universal and overpowering instinct of self-preservation, but it is not what we seek and therefore we do not enter it into our balance of emotional and sensational profit and loss. In that balance we enter only positive pleasures on one side and discomfort and pain on the other; pain affects us more intensely because it is abnormal to our being, contrary to our natural tendency and is experienced as an outrage on our existence, an offence and external attack on what we are and seek to be.
This normal satisfaction of existence is a practical fact. It is mainly responsible for the presence of overpowering instinct of self-preservation in the universe. Precisely for this reason no one wants to die (Suicides are exceptions. Even in such cases also people end their lives because of their incapacity to feel this normal satisfaction of life and not because life is painful).
But we do not seek this normal state. What we seek is some excited form of pleasure. Since we do not seek it, we do not account for it in our balance of emotional and sensational profit and loss.
In our balance of accounts, we enter only positive pleasures (excitement or happiness in intense form) on one side. On the other side we enter the discomfort and pain. Pain affects us more because it is abnormal and contrary to our normal state. It is felt as an extremely strong reaction upon our existence. We view it as an offence and an external attack on our normal state.
Nevertheless the abnormality of pain or its greater or lesser sum does not affect the philosophical issue; greater or less, its mere presence constitutes the whole problem. All being Sachchidananda, how can pain and suffering at all exist? This, the real problem, is often farther confused by a false issue starting from the idea of a personal extra-cosmic God and a partial issue, the ethical difficulty.
In philosophical sense it does not matter whether the pain is more or less. That concerns only the human beings. But what really matters is its very presence. Its very presence creates the whole problem.
The question asked is, all being Sachchidananda how can the pain and suffering be present? This is the real problem for which we have to find a satisfactory answer.
This problem gets further complicated by two other issues. We presume a God who is believed to exist outside our cosmos (An extra-cosmic God who created the cosmos and is looking at it and judging it from outside). We believe him to uphold what is good and oppose what is bad in the world. Whatever ethically good for us we expect the God to support. When things that seem to be unethical to us happen in the world, we wonder how such things can be tolerated by God.
This is a false issue which is our own creation.
Sachchidananda, it may be reasoned, is God, is a conscious Being who is the author of existence; how then can God have created a world in which He inflicts suffering on His creatures, sanctions pain, permits evil? God being All-Good, who created pain and evil? If we say that pain is a trial and an ordeal, we do not solve the moral problem, we arrive at an immoral or nonmoral God,—an excellent world-mechanist perhaps, a cunning psychologist, but not a God of Good and of Love whom we can worship, only a God of Might to whose law we must submit or whose caprice we may hope to propitiate.
We may reason that Sachchidananda is God, a conscious Being who creates all existence. Then, logically following questions arise:
How can God create a world in which he causes suffering on His own creatures? How can he approve pain and permit evil?
If we say, the pain is the penance or tough test we have to undergo for our progress, then the question of morality of such a hardship comes. Is it not immoral to subject somebody to hardship? Then, can we conclude that God is immoral, a manipulator of the world or a cunning psychologist? (making you to taste pain so that you will appreciate pleasure more). Is He not a God of Good and Love whom we can worship? Or is he simply a God of Might (Power- dispenser of justice) whose laws we have to obey? Or, are we here to please Him by yielding to his whims and fancies?
For one who invents torture as a means of test or ordeal, stands convicted either of deliberate cruelty or of moral insensibility and, if a moral being at all, is inferior to the highest instinct of his own creatures. And if to escape this moral difficulty, we say that pain is an inevitable result and natural punishment of moral evil,—an explanation which will not even square with the facts of life unless we admit the theory of Karma and rebirth by which the soul suffers now for antenatal sins in other bodies,—we still do not escape the very root of the ethical problem,—who created or why or whence was created that moral evil which entails the punishment of pain and suffering?
If we conclude that it is the God who has invented torture as a means of testing his own creatures, then God is liable to be convicted (found guilty) for his deliberate cruelty. He is to be blamed for his moral insensitivity. If we consider God a moral Being, by this act, he becomes inferior to the highest instinct (Humans) of His own creatures.
To escape this difficulty, we can offer an explanation that pain is the natural punishment for the moral evil committed by man. This theory will not tally with the facts of life, for we come across good people undergoing suffering. This explanation will hold good only if we admit the theory of Karma and rebirth. As per theory of Karma the soul in the present life suffers for the sins committed in the previous births.
Even then the question remains. We have not solved the root of the ethical problem. Who created the moral evil that produced the inevitable result of suffering and pain? When was it created and why was it created?
And seeing that moral evil is in reality a form of mental disease or ignorance, who or what created this law or inevitable connection which punishes a mental disease or act of ignorance by a recoil so terrible, by tortures often so extreme and monstrous? The inexorable law of Karma is irreconcilable with a supreme moral and personal Deity, and therefore the clear logic of Buddha denied the existence of any free and all-governing personal God; all personality he declared to be a creation of ignorance and subject to Karma.
The fact is that, moral evil is in reality a form of mental disease or caused by ignorance. If we accept the law of Karma that punishes this mental disease by its terrible after- effects or by its torture which is extremely frightening, then who or what created this law?
The inescapable law of Karma is not reconcilable with our idea of God who is supremely moral. Therefore, Buddha rejected the idea of the existence of any free and all-governing personal God. He said there is no real personality existing in the world. We exist so long our samskaras exist. He said all personality is creation of ignorance and subject to Karma (Buddha taught that the individual has no true existence, the individual person is fictitiously constituted by a bundle of samskaras and can be dissolved by dissolving the bundle – Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga).
In truth, the difficulty thus sharply presented arises only if we assume the existence of an extra-cosmic personal God, not Himself the universe, one who has created good and evil, pain and suffering for His creatures, but Himself stands above and unaffected by them, watching, ruling, doing His will with a suffering and struggling world or, if not doing His will, if allowing the world to be driven by an inexorable law, unhelped by Him or inefficiently helped, then not God, not omnipotent, not all good and all-loving.
As human beings we are faced with the problem of pain and suffering. We often think why should they happen at all if there is a God overseeing the happenings of the world. This difficulty arises because we assume the existence of a personal God outside this cosmos. How do we view the God?
We do not consider God, Himself the Universe. But we see Him the creator of good and evil, pain and suffering for His creatures. We think that He stands above all the pain and suffering, Himself not being affected. We perceive a God who is watching, ruling and executing His will with a suffering and struggling world. Even if He is not executing His will, He is helplessly watching the inescapable law of karma operating in the world. Or whatever help he offers it proves to be inefficient. Ultimately, we consider the God, not all powerful, not all good and all-loving.
On no theory of an extra-cosmic moral God, can evil and suffering be explained, —the creation of evil and suffering, —except by an unsatisfactory subterfuge which avoids the question at issue instead of answering it or a plain or implied Manicheanism which practically annuls the Godhead in attempting to justify its ways or excuse its works. But such a God is not the Vedantic Sachchidananda. Sachchidananda of the Vedanta is one existence without a second; all that is, is He.
We cannot explain the evil and suffering by our conception of moral God existing outside this universe. When we say God is the creator of evil and suffering, we are avoiding the problem by inventing a very deceptive excuse instead of finding the true answer. Or we speak of the Adversary, the anti-Agent who opposes what God does and it is he who has invented the evil. Two Gods are erected in the place of one (one doing and the other opposing- Manichean religion).
But such a God is not what is conceived by Vedanta as Sachchidananda. Sachchidananda of Vedanta says there is no duality. There is one existence without a second. All that is, is Brahman. There is no division between the cosmos and the God.
If then evil and suffering exist, it is He that bears the evil and suffering in the creature in whom He has embodied Himself. The problem then changes entirely. The question is no longer how came God to create for His creatures a suffering and evil of which He is Himself incapable and therefore immune, but how came the sole and infinite Existence-Consciousness-Bliss to admit into itself that which is not bliss, that which seems to be its positive negation.
Since all is Brahman, it is the Brahman who bears all the evil and suffering. Since all creatures contain and represent Brahman, it is the Brahman who undergoes the suffering in His creatures. This truth gives a complete change to the problem raised by us. We will not ask the question any more, how God can create pain and suffering to his creation.
Then the question becomes, how can Sachchidananda – Existence, Consciousness and Bliss – allow something which is not bliss into Itself? How can it admit to Itself something which is Its opposite?
Half of the moral difficulty—that difficulty in its one unanswerable form disappears. It no longer arises, can no longer be put. Cruelty to others, I remaining immune or even participating in their sufferings by subsequent repentance or belated pity, is one thing; self-infliction of suffering, I being the sole existence, is quite another. Still the ethical difficulty may be brought back in a modified form; All-Delight being necessarily all-good and all love, how can evil and suffering exist in Sachchidananda, since he is not mechanical existence, but free and conscious being, free to condemn and reject evil and suffering?
If we take the view that it is the Brahman who suffers in His creatures then half of the moral difficulty (of a God, existing outside the Universe causing suffering to His creatures) disappears. The question, how God can cause suffering, can no longer be asked.
Causing cruelty to others while I remain unaffected or participating in their suffering by subsequent regret or pity is one thing. But I being the sole existence, causing suffering to myself is another thing. Here the ethical question comes in a different form.
Sachchidananda is All-Delight which is also all-good and all-love. He is a free and conscious being and not a mechanical existence. He is free to condemn and reject evil and suffering. Then, how can evil and suffering exist in Sachchidananda?
We have to recognise that the issue so stated is also a false issue because it applies the terms of a partial statement as if they were applicable to the whole. For the ideas of good and of love which we thus bring into the concept of the All-Delight spring from a dualistic and divisional conception of things; they are based entirely on the relations between creature and creature, yet we persist in applying them to a problem which starts, on the contrary, from the assumption of One who is all. We have to see first how the problem appears or how it can be solved in its original purity, on the basis of unity in difference; only then can we safely deal with its parts and its developments, such as the relations between creature and creature on the basis of division and duality.
Here also, Sri Aurobindo says, the issue stated by us is a false issue. We are stating a partial statement and applying it to the whole. The ideas of good and love come from the dualistic and divisive state of our mind. It is our own divisive mentality that calls one good and the other bad. They are based on relations between creature and creature. We live in a world of dualities – pleasure & pain, good & evil, truth and falsehood etc. Sachchidananda belongs to the status of Oneness. How can we apply the law of duality to the status of Oneness?
We have assumed that Brahman is One who is all. Then how can we apply this problem (good and bad, love and hate) which is between one creature and the other to the One (Whole) who is all? For example, how we can call one good and the other bad when all are Brahman.
Brahman is One who is all. This means there is underlying unity among His various creations though apparently, they look different. Based on this fundamental truth with which we have started, we must see first how the problem appears. Then we should see how it can be solved in its original purity. Only then we can come down and deal with the parts, the relations between creature and creature on the basis of division and duality.
We have to recognise, if we thus view the whole, not limiting ourselves to the human difficulty and the human standpoint, that we do not live in an ethical world. The attempt of human thought to force an ethical meaning into the whole of Nature is one of those acts of wilful and obstinate self-confusion, one of those pathetic attempts of the human being to read himself, his limited habitual human self into all things and judge them from the standpoint he has personally evolved, which most effectively prevent him from arriving at real knowledge and complete sight.
Sri Aurobindo says we should not limit ourselves to human difficulty and human standpoint. If we see the operations of the cosmos as a whole, we will recognise that we do not live in an ethical world. What we do is, we force an ethical meaning into the whole operations of Nature. The question of evil, moral responsibility comes up with the entry of human being.
This is one of those acts of our human thought caused by wilful and obstinate (stubborn) self-confusion. How do we see the happenings in the world? Each human being interprets the events in his own way. His understanding of events is limited only to the extent of his capacity. Each one is habituated to his own way of reading into the affairs of the world. His judgement is based on the standpoint at which he has personally evolved. This limited understanding of events of the world from his personal limited self prevents man from arriving at real knowledge and complete sight. Man’s view is always partial not wholistic.
Material Nature is not ethical; the law which governs it is a co-ordination of fixed habits which take no cognisance of good and evil, but only of force that creates, force that arranges and preserves, force that disturbs and destroys impartially, non-ethically, according to the secret Will in it, according to the mute satisfaction of that Will in its own self-formations and self-dissolutions. Animal or vital Nature is also non-ethical, although as it progresses it manifests the crude material out of which the higher animal evolves the ethical impulse. We do not blame the tiger because it slays and devours its prey any more than we blame the storm because it destroys or the fire because it tortures and kills; neither does the conscious-force in the storm, the fire or the tiger blame or condemn itself.
The operations of the material nature are not based on ethics. They are governed by a law. This law is a coordination of fixed habits which does not take into account good and evil. But this law considers only the force that creates, the force that arranges and preserves, the force that disturbs and destroys impartially (creation, preservation and destruction).
This destruction takes place non-ethically according to the secret Will in it. It happens according to the unexpressed satisfaction of that Will in its own self-formations and self-dissolutions.
Animal or vital nature is also non-ethical. Yet, as the animal progresses, it manifests a crude material out of which the higher animal evolves the ethical impulse.
We do not blame the tiger because it kills and eats its prey. Nor do we blame the storm because it destroys or the fire because it tortures and kills. The conscious force in the storm, fire and the tiger does not blame itself for its acts.
Blame and condemnation, or rather self-blame and self-condemnation, are the beginning of true ethics. When we blame others without applying the same law to ourselves, we are not speaking with a true ethical judgment, but only applying the language ethics has evolved for us to an emotional impulse of recoil from or dislike of that which displeases or hurts us.
Blame and condemnation or self-blame and self-condemnation are the beginning of true ethics. Blaming others for something while not applying the same law to ourselves is not a true ethical judgement. It is only our emotional reaction of shrinking from or disliking of that which hurts or cause unhappiness to us. We only apply our language of ethics we have developed over a period of time to our emotional reaction.
(We human beings are self-conscious and our ego divides us from others. We look upon every impact and every contact from outside as something foreign to us and we react to it. Where the outer contact is helpful to the expression of our delight, it is called good, pleasant and is welcome; where outer contact is not congenial and it limits the capacity or the power of our delight of existence to express itself, then we consider it bad, evil and we shrink form it. This is the secret of the recoil (shrinking back) of the individual delight of existence against the contact of other delights of existence. And this recoil develops as the human ego develops, into repugnance (strong disgust), dislike, disapproval. First there is a mechanical shrinking, then intense dislike and then the disapproval – Shri M.P.Pandit – Talks of the Life Divine – p. 67, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry).
This recoil or dislike is the primary origin of ethics, but is not itself ethical. The fear of the deer for the tiger, the rage of the strong creature against its assailant is a vital recoil of the individual delight of existence from that which threatens it. In the progress of the mentality it refines itself into repugnance, dislike, disapproval. Disapproval of that which threatens and hurts us, approval of that which flatters and satisfies refine into the conception of good and evil to oneself, to the community, to others than ourselves, to other communities than ours, and finally into the general approval of good, the general disapproval of evil.
The origin of ethics is dislike or recoil (moving away from something because it offends or hurts) – that which is pleasant and that which is unpleasant. It starts with our senses. But dislike itself is not ethical. The deer fears the tiger. When someone attacks a tiger, it pounces back in fury. This is the vital recoil to any event that disturbs the normal state of delight of existence. This is the reaction at the vital level.
With the growth of egoistic mentality this adverse reaction takes the forms of extreme aversion, dislike, disapproval. We disapprove something that threatens and hurts us. We approve something that flatters and satisfies us. We call that we approve as good and that we disapprove as bad. The conception of good and evil we apply to ourselves and to the community to which we belong. We also apply it to other people than ourselves and to other communities. Finally, we make it into a general approval of what is good and general disapproval of what is bad.
(Kathopanishad 1.2.2: (Shreyas and Preyas): “The good and the pleasant come to a man and the thoughtful mind turns around them and distinguishes. The wise choose out the good from the pleasant, but the dull soul chooses the pleasant rather than the getting of his good and its having” – Sri Aurobindo – CWSA: Vol 18: p. 108 – Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry)
But, throughout, the fundamental nature of the thing remains the same. Man desires self-expression, self-development, in other words, the progressing play in himself of the conscious force of existence; that is his fundamental delight. Whatever hurts that self-expression, self-development, satisfaction of his progressing self, is for him evil; whatever helps, confirms, raises, aggrandises, ennobles it is his good. Only, his conception of the self-development changes, becomes higher and wider, begins to exceed his limited personality, to embrace others, to embrace all in its scope.
How the concepts of good and evil are formulated by man? Man, basically wants to express himself, to develop himself. There is conscious force of existence in man. He desires for the progressing play of this force in himself. The conscious force of existence constitutes his fundamental delight.
Whatever helps, confirms, increases and ennobles his self-expression, self-development, satisfaction of his progressing self is for him good. Whatever does the opposite is for him evil. As one evolves and progresses the concept of self-development changes to include one’s family and then one’s society. When it comes to the community or other communities his conception of the self-development becomes higher and wider. He begins to exceed his limited personality to embrace others and to embrace all in its scope.
The key to the solution of this problem is our self-limitation in our ego shell, regarding everything else as outside us, as foreign to us. When that is so, every contact from outside hurts us or helps us.
In other words, ethics is a stage in evolution. That which is common to all stages is the urge of Sachchidananda towards self-expression. This urge is at first non-ethical, then infra-ethical in the animal, then in the intelligent animal even anti-ethical for it permits us to approve hurt done to others which we disapprove when done to ourselves. In this respect man even now is only half-ethical. And just as all below us is infra-ethical, so there may be that above us whither we shall eventually arrive, which is supra-ethical, has no need of ethics.
What does ethic really represent? Sri Aurobindo says it represents a stage in evolution. We know that all that exist in the universe is the manifestation of Sachchidananda. This Sachchidananda is present from Matter up to the Superconscient. Sachchidananda has the urge to express itself at all these levels. This urge is the common link at all stages of evolution.
This urge is present in inanimate force and objects. We do not bring their acts under the banner of ethics. Hence, they are non-ethical. The acts of animals are considered below the norms of ethics applied to man. Hence, we call them infra-ethical. There is no label of evil attached to their acts.
In the case of man (Sri Aurobindo calls, “intelligent animal”), it becomes anti-ethical. Because it permits us to hurt others while we disapprove it when it is done to us. In this respect man is only half-ethical (because he is ethical to himself only, not to the other man). As all things below him are infra-ethical, so all things above him are supra-ethical – the stage man will eventually arrive which has no need of ethics. This sense of moral responsibility, moral evil according to our human standards has no relevance before the stage of man and possibly no relevance above his.
The ethical impulse and attitude, so all-important to humanity, is a means by which it struggles out of the lower harmony and universality based upon inconscience and broken up by Life into individual discords towards a higher harmony and universality based upon conscient oneness with all existences. Arriving at that goal, this means will no longer be necessary or even possible, since the qualities and oppositions on which it depends will naturally dissolve and disappear in the final reconciliation.
What is the purpose behind ethical impulse and attitude? We, human beings consider this all-important. The fact is, it is the means by which we progress from lower harmony to higher harmony, from lower universality of inconscience to the higher universality of conscient oneness.
At the lowest level there is inconscience in matter. This inconscience which is present everywhere at the level of matter also brings harmony at that level. From the level of matter life emerges. At the level of life there is conflict among various individual existences. The harmony that exists at the level of matter is broken up with the emergence of life.
At the super-conscient level above life, there is conscient oneness among all existences. This conscient oneness brings higher harmony and universality at that level. The ethical impulse serves this purpose.
At the super-conscient level all discords are resolved. Complete reconciliation is achieved at this level. At this level the ethical impulse and attitude will no longer be necessary and possible. Here there is oneness and duality disappears. The opposition between good and evil disappears.
If, then, the ethical standpoint applies only to a temporary though all-important passage from one universality to another, we cannot apply it to the total solution of the problem of the universe, but can only admit it as one element in that solution. To do otherwise is to run into the peril of falsifying all the facts of the universe, all the meaning of the evolution behind and beyond us in order to suit a temporary outlook and a half-evolved view of the utility of things. The world has three layers, infra-ethical, ethical and supra-ethical. We have to find that which is common to all; for only so can we resolve the problem.
We cannot apply this ethical stand point to the total solution of the problem of the universe. It is only an element in the solution. It is only a temporary solution which helps us to move from one universality to another (matter to life, life to superconscient).
If we take a stand that we can apply the principle of ethics to the total solution of the problem of the universe we run the danger of falsifying the facts of the universe. We will miss the truth of the evolution that has already taken place and that is going to take place. That can only suit our temporary outlook and an incomplete view of utility of things in the universe. The real solution to the problem can be found only when we find what is common to all the three layers of the world – infra-ethical, ethical and supra-ethical.
Continued in next post…