NAMAH, the Journal of Integral Health organized a workshop on the topic ‘Aging Is a Myth, Dying a Bad Habit’ facilitated by Ms. Gitanjali and nearly 30 participants actively joined this online workshop.
The first steptowards immortality comes when we understand who we really are. We are not mind, life or body encased in ego but the eternal Spirit involved and expressed in all three. Once we realise this, we then need to discard false notions about aging: that it is fatal, that it is irreversible, that it is genetic and that it is painful.
Our concepts on aging and death are misplaced because we have a materialistic view.We only see matter and not beyond. At a quantum level, all is energy, 99.99% being empty space. The “essential stuff is non-stuff” according to Deepak Chopra, but it is “thinking non-stuff”. The stuff achieves what it believes in, so we need to change our beliefs first. In Integral Yoga, to be physically immortal we need to first open to and believe in the power of transformation. This necessitates an unfailing aspiration from below being met by the answer of the Grace from above.
Throughout the workshop, Gitanjali brought us continually back to the story of Nachiketas from the Katha Upanishad. It was if each one of the participants was also a part of the sameprocess.
Alchemy is the process through which physical immortality can be achieved. It has 2 components: outer and inner alchemy. Outer alchemy refers to life-style changes like food, sleep, exercise and work whereas inner alchemy refers to attitudinal changes. For inner alchemy, we find the psychic being and experience a part in us which is independent of our nature and conditioning. It carries a sense of eternity and universality. Through it, we feel connected to Truth and Oneness. We aspire for the true, good and beautiful in everything. It is the embodiment of sweetness and strength. We feel love, understanding and empathy for all.
The process of psychicisation, in Nachiketas’ story, is the igniting of the psychic fire and with its help the igniting of the three fires (mind, life and body). In this journey, preyas (the worldly) need to be replaced by sreyas (spiritual); judging is replaced by love and understanding and more and more equality must enter our life, creating an abiding calmness in the face of all circumstances.
For the physical to be transformed by this fire, the right food is mandatory, good sleep is essential; exercise and work arealso indispensable aids for the preparation of the body.Physical alchemy turns inertia into stability and triggers extraordinary energies that giverise to emergent properties beyond the normal human range.
As for the vital, it is to not be discarded, starved or mortified but its aberrationsare rejected, purified, educated, widened and made powerful and enjoyed, but not for egoistic pleasure but for experiencing the divine Delight. Our vital nature should be refined and made open to aesthetic and creative influences.The alchemy of the vital transforms our desires into the Will of the Divine and aspiration for the Divine.
Mental alchemy proceeds with control of speech and by purifying our mental atmosphere, by widening the mind and developing the power of observation. The greatest requirement is a mental silence. The seat of ego is in the mind. Mental alchemy transmutes the ignorance of the ego and the separative consciousness into the unitive Knowledge of the Brahman.
A purified mental, vital and physical invites the play and the expression of the psychic in every thought, will and action.
However, the alchemy of the nature would be incomplete without the process of spiritualisation. We need to enlarge our consciousness. First of all we need to become conscious of our subliminal being denoted by the U of AUM, the dream state. There are untapped resources which seek fruition in our inner subliminal being. We move into these realms by working on our desires, attachments and fears. We start to enjoy ourselves more by the very act of renunciation. When we do this we move into greater dimensions and edge towards immortality.
Behind these inner realms stand the purushas themselves. If we identify with these purushas, we find that we attain a greater equanimity to the aberrations of our surface nature and from impacts from outside. It is the next stage after psychisation.
The subliminal parts and purushas open to a greater vastness because, through them, one can access universal planes which are the frontiers of true spirituality. Separate and apart, standing above all these, is the Atman, the Unborn, Witness Consciousness which supports but does not engage. Whereas the Atman and our own Jivatman support, the psychic being guides and, if allowed, truly orients our unique journey.
The traditional way in yoga is to bypass everything, the waking consciousness and subliminal being and aim straight for the Atman. When we do that we move outside the manifestation because the truest link we have to our terrestrial surroundings is through the psychic being itself. It also leaves our own egoistic nature (mind, life, body) untended. We can achieve liberation but one will not attain transformation, let alone immortality. We just leave our brothers and sisters to struggle behind in the world-play.
The first step of immortality is psychisisation, to become aware of the psychic being. The second, Spiritualisation in Integral Yoga implies that one is conscious of the Unborn but has not lost contact with that unique divinity that lies within. There is no escape offered by Integral Yoga and, in a sense, it is the psychic being which keeps us anchored onto the ground. We search and finally realise Oneness but not lose sight of the multiplicity. We go through Avidya to Vidya. Through the psychic being we realise Oneness within the multiplicity.
The aim in Integral Yoga is to realise Oneness and all that it represents but in our unique and individual way. What makes us unique is our psychic being. This realisation is prerequisite to attaining the Supramental consciousness and finally immortality.
To be immortal the first requirement is to know oneself. That means realising the different parts and planes of the being. When we experiencesomething, just observe which part of the being is stirred by what we perceive through thesenses. It see is a practice which helps us understand ourselves better.
Gitanjali gave a description of the planes of consciousness that ascend upwards above the ordinary mind. It is a ladder of the being which connects us to the Supreme. The Higher Mind has a way of joining all the dots together and handling complexities in a deft manner. It sets the stage for the unitive consciousness. The Illumined Mind gives not higher thought but spiritual light, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, “… a fiery ardour of realisation and a rapturous ecstasy of Knowledge.” The Intuitive Mind emits a spontaneous and clear knowledge. The Overmind is a realm of dazzling splendours that sits on the frontiers of true knowledge and the Supermind. These higher regions, for all their illumination, cannot bind and unite the Transcendental into the manifestation. Only the Supermind can do that.
This unity was made certain when the divine Consciousness plunged down into matter and the Inconscient. A divine spark was planted, the first avatar, and evolution then set its course. The very atoms started to coagulate and this growing fusion is preparing for a divine life upon this earth.
The Supermind cannot be accessed directly by the mind. It is a different realisation. One climbs this ladder of the being but cannot achieve a divine life on this earth. One goes from the ego directly to the Absolute and bypasses the necessity of opening our nature to change. We achieve liberation but not transformation. For that, one must go back down again and enter through the heart into the depths of the psychic being. It is only the psychic being which has the capacity to transform our nature and leads us to the threshold of the Supermind. The Supramental knowledge cannot be acquired through the mind but only through experience. This experience has to be felt through the deeper psychic heart.
By experience, we have to embrace and not shun life. That is the only way to immortality. This mean we can refine our consciousness by appreciating the splendour and beauty that is around us. We must carry this atmosphere around us at all times. Like a painter or a poet, we must make our life a picture of colour and beauty.
Finally the workshop looked at the steps to supramentalisation, particularly through the symbolism of Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, Savitri. The poem, which directly captures Sri Aurobindo’s experience, is an essential transcript for understanding the true concept of immortality.
The universe was created so that the Supreme could experience and enjoy Himself through its immersion within the entire multiplicity. The realm of the Supermind is the greatest perfection that can be attained within the manifestation. It offers a bridge between the higher hemisphere (Satchitananda) and the lower hemisphere which presently lies in ignorance. The Supramental consciousness is descending and radiating into the lower hemisphere and just requires our collaboration.
The Supramental world is where ignorance is not. It embodies oneness in knowledge and action. Beyond the reach of the mind, it imbues knowledge by identity. It surpasses all mental understanding. It brings harmony in everything it touches, a harmony between the self and the world, a harmony between the opposites of multiplicity and a harmony that reigns within the individual being. It raises the whole essence of individuality to sublime heights. In this dimension, there is complete Oneness within all its shades of difference.
The steps to this world are one of ascent and descent. What we embrace and embody from up above, we bring down below. We climb to higher planes above the ordinary mind and bring down the knowledge to the lower members.
The approach of Integral Yoga towards it is also horizontal and concentric. It goes deep within. With the central fire of the psychic being we are able to ignite and change our nature. Once our nature is psychicised, it is transformed by the Descent from above. It transforms our mind and vital and, finally, our body.
The triple twist of ego, desire and attachment needs to be transformed. The nexus preventing the supramental descent is particularly wrapped around the physical mind. It is currently needed in our interactions with the world but it is the root of all fear in the physical. This knot has to be loosened and eventually transformed because presently the physical mind holds the body in a vice-like grip due to its attachment. In Agenda, the Mother says that japa is the most effective means of dealing with the physical mind.
The Supramental body possesses the following characteristics: lightness (complete freedom from tamas), adaptability, plasticity and luminosity. Each of our cells must be transformed to augur its arrival.
Such was the content of the workshop. Throughout we were graced by the sincere, articulate and challenging presence of Gitanjali. Years of research had gone into the knowledge that was imparted to us. The last two days became more interactive and experiential, whereby the participants shared their feedback to the proceedings and so they asked relevant questions. Everyone was given a chance to speak. During the five days, we were holding a sacred flame with which we were encouraged to ignite and unify our discordant nature. There were many requests for a follow-up workshop. We will muse on these suggestions. Surely something will manifest!
“Excellent, well researched, worth our time in gold, inspiring.”
“I feel my life has changed since I started Heal Yourself workshop. I love the way you are organising these workshops.”
“I liked the teacher, Gitanjali as someone who has dedicated her life to studying the ancient texts and at the same time applied the teachings continuously in her choices as well as service. The way in which she communicated the foundations of yoga sadhana and the concept of immortality reflected her living philosophy and one could tell that her explanations came from her embodiment of the work. I also appreciated the environment that NAMAH created with bringing together a diverse and sincere group of students together in a calm, warm, studious setting.”
“I felt it was delivered so well, with so much clarity, and taking a lot of personal experience and deep study on this subjects.”
“The clarity of the exposition was outstanding. I have been in many workshops and retreats, and this one was the one that help me to put many pieces together not only in my mind but also fed my heart and my sadhana with new understandings for my personal and collective Yoga.”