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The Evolutionary Leap

Dr. Alok Pandey


The last couple of centuries have been centuries of turmoil and revolutions, wars of an unimaginable magnitude and scale. At the same time, especially the previous century has seen the emergence of powerful ideas and significant discoveries that have the potential to destroy or rebuild the world. All this, from the spiritual as well as the evolutionary perspective, can be seen as the signs of a new emergence. This article explores this possibility of conscious evolution.

Is our evolution over? Is the creative impulsion in Nature exhausted with the appearance of man? Logically this sounds unlikely. Even now species go on finding ways and means to adapt to new challenges. Over a period of time, this adaptation leads to the emergence of a new species or sub-species. So, to believe that evolution is over and now we are here only to pack our bags and go home, — either spiritual home or else find ways and means to land in some new planet, near or far away, or else simply end up destroying ourselves and the planet, defies logic and common sense. It is certainly not the logical extension of what has been happening so far.

Despite the countless challenges, including the wiping-out of dominant species by giant asteroids, life and evolution tends to bounce back. Not only does it bounce back, it returns with a new force and vigour, diversifying and multiplying itself in ways that were unknown before the catastrophe. The catastrophe itself seemed like a blessing in retrospect, since it triggered a chain of inner and outer events that awakened and quickened the nascent evolutionary impulse in creation. We can almost say that each destruction at the end serves only as a feeder to life. It opens the doors to a new creation. Each disorder and dismantling of our fixed positions and comfort-zones of life becomes a means for evolving a new order. The flower that withers away and the plant that dies often serve to enrich the soil for future plants to emerge. Such seems to be the general law of life here. We can extend this to say that the greater the destruction, the greater the possibility of a new creation. Perhaps this is what we seem to be witnessing today.

Faced with the challenge posed by life, we can choose either to revert to the previous status quo or else take the bold leap towards the future. This leap is akin to a caterpillar leaving its safe cocoon and transmuting into a butterfly. On a less drastic scale, it means that the little bird safely resting in the nest takes the challenge of life and spreads its wings and flies into the danger and the delight of the skies. This needs courage and trust, the willingness to face the dangers and the challenges that life brings. Courage comes when it knows that it is better to try the new and the unknown even if it ends in failure and falling than to rest in the old.  After all, failure is never a final point. It serves as a starting-point for a new attempt. Falling is never the permanent resting-ground but a temporary moment to recuperate for the next level of effort. It is only through such successive efforts and attempts that eventual success comes. The first flight, whether of a bird or an aeroplane is limited in its scope and distance. But it is these small efforts that eventually create the possibility of a giant leap. 

The two steps

There are two basic steps to evolution, whether it be the inner or the more visible outer. Inner evolution is the change of consciousness that involves the contact of our limited consciousness.

This giant leap is the evolution that species take after several successive efforts that grope now in one direction, now in another, creating awkward creatures in the process. But the awkward is only the middle term, a temporary resting ground for the new normal. It is the shaky and stumbling stride that nature takes before stabilising on the next level. This is what we seem to be witnessing today. On the one hand, there is a multiplication of the awkward and the abnormal, so much so that one could say without exaggeration, that abnormal is the new normal now. On the other hand, we also see novel thoughts, new ideas, new ways of dealing with life and events. On the one side we see the dance of death while on the other side, as if in parallel worlds, a grafting of two wings on the body of a caterpillar. It is yet to fly but the wings are palpable. With the increasing suffocation and the stifling there is also the stir towards a new leap towards the future. 

But while all this is happening rather unconsciously under the secret evolutionary impulsion of nature, is there something we can consciously do? A section of humanity is busy discussing whether evolution is or is not, whether nature is secretly conscious or only an inert mechanical brute machine, whether man carries something divine within him or he is nothing more than another animal species that may survive or pass off depending upon the random play of chance and the blind forces that govern the earth. Whatever be the temporary conclusions of this longstanding debate, man cannot rest permanently in this halfway home, where he must choose between a blind mechanical determinism of nature or a fatalism that believes we are slaves and pawns in destiny’s hands.

Man is much too conscious to accept this position for long. He is bound to search, is already searching for a way to master nature and conquer the forces that weave his fate. He carries within him the intuition of greater and higher worlds from which he came or from where he fell. He has within him an inbuilt faith of a deeper and higher possibility, that eons of scepticism and the stark refusals of a strictly rigid materialistic thought has been unable to curb, let alone destroy. This faith and intuition embedded within man is bound to take over our current paradigms, leading to the emergence of a new and higher species or sub-species out of man, a being less burdened with animality and beginning to show up even on the surfaces of life the torch of divinity hidden within his cloak of a dense, obscure body.   

Conscious collaboration

The question still remains: is there something we can do about this or else will it all happen automatically as with other species? Well, each species must follow its own law of evolution. While evolution in animals is largely an unconscious process driven by instincts, the law of man is to choose and grow consciously. For him is given the greatest of all burdens, the urge to improve and progress without knowing well the means and the process. He is given this urge, he is born with this thirst to know and seek the meaning of life, to probe and explore the beyond. He is therefore the most dissatisfied of all creatures, yet, and for this very reason he is the greatest of all. In the fragile heart of man, so prone to hurt and pain, there is the might of a Love that knows not defeat, a love that can bear the pain of a million creatures and return them hope and strength and joy and peace, a love that can uplift and transform.

Within the grey groves of his mind driven by uncertainty and fear, there flash sometimes the lightning of an intuitive ray and the splendour of the occult flame that reveals the truths hidden to reason. In his ignorant, unsure, precarious life, there runs as an undercurrent a luminous force that can overtake in moments of intense crisis and transmute the dangerous game into a game of Delight. Hidden to his surface view and the bitter wine of love-hate, there is the deep well of sweetness and joy and the nectarious wine of immortality.

Yoga is a means to thus exchange and upgrade our old version of life, that which we presently are, into a new and diviner version. Yoga teaches us how to live beautifully, luminously, peacefully, joyously, above all harmoniously. It also teaches us the science behind life, the subtle laws that govern our existence, the occult forces that move our thoughts and speech and feelings. These forces push us from behind, implanting suggestions in the mind or stinging the heart with jealousy and hate, igniting in the fuel reserves of our life the crude and polluting fire of anger and lust. They enter stealthily in our house of life through the backdoors of subconscient nature. Identifying with them, we think we are these impulses and impulsions. We erroneously believe that this is our identity, to think and feel and act like these hidden prompters is our nature.

But our true nature is divine in essence and is covered up by these surface movements of restless agitation and the feverish pursuit of desires. To discover our true nature and express it through a developed and perfect instrument is therefore the main aim towards which all our secondary aims are preparing us. Yoga gives us back our true identity and true nature. This process of self-discovery, the discovery of our true Self or the secret soul and, the process of manifesting it through a flawless instrumental nature, growing more and more perfect by the action of the Divine Grace, is what we call as transformation.   

A New Birth

The process of transformation is akin to dying to our old self and the progressive emergence of the new from within. The New is already there within us as a seed, just as the butterfly is there in the caterpillar and the child is already there in the fertilised cell that has bound itself to the womb of darkness. For a long time, the change takes place within this womb of darkness, just as a seed grows inside the earth unnoticed by anyone since it is yet to emerge to the surface. But the gardener who has prepared the soil and planted the seed knows the inevitable destiny. He waters it patiently with Love and spreads over it the light of the sun to quicken the process. So too, the mother who holds the foetus in her womb feeds it with her heart’s strength and blood until it is strong and ready to emerge. This is the sacrifice that the Divine performs while we are still labouring in the darkness. We may not know it or understand it, others may not even be aware that something is happening within the soil or the womb but the changing seasons will bring out what is held back within.

This is the journey of man. It takes place first under the shroud of ignorance. We live mechanically as it were, knowing not what purpose our life serves or where the caravan of life is taking us. We know not our destiny or our aim. We live according to the plan imposed upon us by our equally ignorant surroundings. Our physical parents bring in their own ambitions, the society has its own expectations, the schoolteachers have their own assessment and judgments. But each plant must blossom according to its own inbuilt design or programming. Our wants and desires and ignorant hopes cannot decide whether a seed will bloom into a thorny beautiful rose or the tall and shade-less palm tree that yet quenches the thirst of a desert traveller.

So too, the world and our selfs, when plunged in a state of ignorance, know not the purpose for which we are born. But a time comes when we wake up to the call and start packing our bags for the intended purpose and the great adventure and climb that summons us from the summits of nature. The right moment has arrived, the season has changed and slowly or suddenly there bursts out of the soil of human nature a new shoot, tender and small, yet carrying within it hope and new possibilities of the future. It is yet a hint, still misread by the ignorant eyes, but the trained observer sees the secret and knows what fruits or flowers and leaves the plant shall bear. This emergence of a new consciousness out of the old is called in yoga a new birth.

The silent revolution

Unseen by the human eyes that conceal more than they reveal, unmeasured by the surface mind, unfelt by the heart shut up in narrow formulas, a silent revolution is stirring the depths of creation, whose outer results are manifested in various ways. These outer events are a clumsy way of reproducing what is going on within. On the one hand, it is taking the form of physical upheavals of which man is certainly a part-author. On the other hand, it is taking the form of psychological disorders as well as carving out new ways of living. The third aspect that we see is massive social changes.

Many sections of humanity are not only aligning and realigning themselves along new groupings that are based on something deeper than physical birth, social environment, and outer conditions. Even religious and ideological groupings are losing their charm as sections of humanity are getting disenchanted with the limitations of these groupings and how they are being misused for political purposes and to further their personal ambitions. At the same time, a larger impulse towards unity and fraternity is beginning to seize mankind. Though the old falsehood still continues to hold and even resist strongly, yet it is slowly but surely losing its iron grip upon the mind of man, that is sick and tired of the old ways that have failed and is looking for new ways to express its evolutionary angst. A New World is not being created by an act of parliament or external force and outer methods but by an inner change. As with all authentic change it is emerging from within and spreading around through an inner contagion. 

The secret commerce of life

Here is the secret of the inner commerce that yoga teaches us. Whatever we may believe, the fact of the matter is that we are not closed containers. The ego-sense makes us feel as if we are separate like closed boxes and what happens within us is known to others only through our speech and actions and outer behaviour. However, there is a whole inner commerce that is going on all the time with everything and everyone else around us. We do not know the laws that govern these subtle intimacies and occult transactions and hence this happens most of the time unconsciously.

It is a vast subject, but for the moment suffice it to say that just as visible and invisible physical forces govern the formation of matter so also tangible as well as invisible forces and energies govern the formation of our inner being, our character, in fact our complex psychological existence. Most of the time, this happens unconsciously. with results that are often undesirable. Yoga makes us increasingly conscious of these hidden domains and forces. As we grow in yoga, we not only become conscious of these hidden forces and the secret interchange with life and our surroundings, but also learn to eventually master them. It is thus, through an increasing growth and change of consciousness that a yogi is able to master his fate to a large extent.         

The uniqueness of Yoga

In other words, the unique thing about Yoga is that it believes in progress and evolution. Unlike religion that is a fixed belief-system with little scope of going beyond the framework that is given; unlike ideologies that are stuck in fixed grooves of thought with little chance to go beyond the system and principles and the articles: unlike even Science (as it is largely understood) with its fixed assumptions and premises that cannot be questioned or challenged, Yoga admits that our consciousness can change and with the shift and change of consciousness, our vision, understanding, power of action and the natural capacities and faculties everything changes. To use an analogy, it is idle to teach mathematics to a monkey unless you can find a way to change it into a man. 

Yoga precisely takes up this position that the natural man is still evolving and has a lot more to evolve. All that it requires is to have faith in this possibility of conscious evolution, – not even faith in God or any religion (that can be a path but not the only one). This faith in conscious evolution is in fact consistent with the logic of earthly change which is a series of evolution and transmutation. It is also consistent with the intuition, ingrained in our inner being due to which humanity is always impelled towards progress, new discoveries, education, creativity, self-reflection and change. It is also implicit within us as a genuine need, due to which we are never satisfied fully and constantly strive towards making things better and better. Yoga simply takes this urge and need to its next logical level. To put it simply, it implies to break free from every bondage to habit, conditioning and limitation. Out of the limited to the limitless, out of the finite to the infinite, out of the transient and the temporal to the Permanent and the Eternal. And this too, it does not ask us to believe in as an article of dogma but confirm and realise it through practice.

Yoga is in essence conscious evolution. 

Dr. Alok Pandey, an editor of NAMAH and a member of SAIIIHR, is a doctor practising at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

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A New Birth