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Namah Journal


Evolution Next — VII

Dr. Alok Pandey


The path of evolution opens through the choices we make. As human beings we face choices throughout our life. While there are many choices that compete with each other to preserve our present status, there is one that opens a door to the future. There is of course also a trap-door choice that hurls us back to the past. The present article deals with an overview of the choices we make for our evolutionary journey.

Evolution is a complex process. It is not a simple, linear one. This is so because we are a complex entity. Ages of evolutionary sediments and layers of experience lurk in the hidden terrains and corners of our being. There are hidden capacities that are yet to see the light of day, whereas there are other powers that must now fade away since their days are over. What was useful yesterday is not useful today. The fins of a fish have no more use for an amphibian and are even an encumbrance for the reptile. The many legs of a centipede must be dropped if it must run and fly. The tremendous vitality of the animal world must be subdued if thought, reason and reflection are to emerge. Similarly, the logical faculties and reasoning ability, the power to analyse, must be over-passed if we are to cultivate insight and intuition. This is an extremely challenging task, a full-time engagement so to say. Both Nature and we have invested a lot in our past energies and movements which have moulded and support our present formation of personality. It sticks to us like the safety armour of Karna (the strong and capable warrior and archer of the Mahābhārata legend, who though a Pandava by birth remained oblivious of his true identity, thereby taking sides with the evil forces of the Kauravas). This armour of defence that Nature has endowed us with for a particular purpose at a given point of time must be discarded if its utility is over or if it is being misused. To discard it is not easy. It needs the strongest point of our nature to do this heroic inner surgery. (Karna could do it because of the innate strength of generosity of his character. It is this that immortalised him despite his siding with those who were evil rather than his ability as a master-archer of his times).

Equally evolution is not magic. It has its own process. The process of evolution runs through the maze of choices we make. The would-be giraffe could have chosen to succumb and subdued its neck to crawl and survive. Instead it chose to straighten and lengthen it. One choice would have led to the next species. The second would have led to a fall-back into a past evolutionary mode. It is in the choices of our everyday life and not just some exceptional moments such as during meditation or when we are surrounded by a beautiful landscape that evolution happens.

These exceptional moments serve another purpose though. They come to enrich us, they are like the vivifying breath of Nature that fills us with strength and energy to move ahead. They also serve as reminders so that we can eventually make the right choices when the moment arrives. They are even flashes and glimpses of what we can become. But in itself they are not evolution. At best they are a preparation, at worst simply a lolling into pleasant terrains. Evolution is, on the other hand, fierce. Often it is akin to engaging in a battle, like Arjuna (The hero of the Mahābhārata, the master-archer who became one of the chief instruments of Krrssna to usher in the next age of mankind).

These two stories, two contrasting stories of equally strong and capable master-archers are repeated in our own lives. Both were equally capable of rising to heights of Glory. Karna was perhaps more capable since he proved that outer circumstances cannot stand in the way of what we wish to become. But while he successfully applied it to his outer field, he could not apply it to the inner field where the seed of evolution germinates first. Evolution too has an outer and an inner counterpart. The straining of the would-be giraffe, the gasp of the mud-fish to breath and survive, the refusal of the simian ape to curb its curiosity and the aspiration of man to improve and to progress, to learn and know, his urge and push to discover new possibilities, his faith in these possibilities are the inner side of the story of evolution. The outer side is the actual emergence through the many entangled knots of nature. So too during meditation, reflection, in moments of quietude we strain inwardly or else we simply relax and allow strength to gather, or perhaps even enter into domains of beauty, peace and love that nourish our inner and outer being. Or, in some rare, exceptional moments commune with the purpose of our life and the Source from which we have emerged and to which we belong and towards which we are flowing through the inner and outer evolution. But the actual emergence, the tangible, visible results come while we are engaged in action. And action always implies choices.

Two paths

Open to man are these two paths. The first is the path where one progressively withdraws from the world and actions reducing and minimising it for one’s bare needs, the path of the sannyasin, the anchorite and the monk who have renounced worldly life for spending their time in meditation, contemplation and inner discovery. They evolve inwardly, they make inner discoveries if they are sincere and faithful to their calling. They find peace and rest and bliss in the Eternal, they may even merge into the Source making a hasty return from this complex many-sided, enigmatic world which is perhaps too complex for their natures, too engaging and engrossing for their taste, too dangerous for their strength to tackle. But there is another route, the wide road to evolution wherein the inner and the outer fuse into one journey, the World and its Source, the Creator and the Creation become progressively one as they proceed on the great journey. New capacities develop within to handle the world-forces at play, new faculties develop and new possibilities take birth giving rise to new and novel solutions to old problems and long-standing issues. New ways of seeing and new ways of understanding, even a new mode of knowledge and cognition begins to operate. New emotions begin to stir our heart, refreshing our being and energising it with a powerful dynamic current as we have never known before. New impulses heave in our breast giving impulsion to new idea-forces and sublime energies that are yet to be reckoned and recognised universally. New powers of life begin to show up awakening from some long sleep of nature. Even the body begins to get some kind of foretaste of what it must and will eventually become in Future-time.

If the first path, the path of withdrawal is establishing our contact with the Eternal, the second path is to let the Eternal flow in the flux of Time. The first takes us beyond Space, beyond the grip of nature, beyond our sensory experiences that constantly impinge upon us thereby trapping us in this three or four-dimensional world. The second brings down the Glory of the Beyond into Space, rearranges life and things here on a new logic of creation thereby creating more harmony, more unity, more beauty in our collective life. The first opens a door of escape as we strain inwardly to see the tops of nature and try to soar beyond summits of earth, the second allows more sunlight, more fresh air to enter through the door and rejuvenate and recreate us. The two, so far regarded as opposing paths are really complementary. The first is about the evolution of the inner subjective side of our existence. The second is about the evolution of our outer, visible and tangible, the manifested and expressed side of our life. Together they constitute the evolutionary process and complete each other. The first proceeds by temporarily witholding our choices in the outer field of life and instead directing it solely towards an inner development. The second runs through the multiple choices we make, from minute to minute, as we navigate through the haze and maze of our everyday living.

But a word of caution is needed. We have certain conceptions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Most human beings choose based on these conceptions that they have imbibed while growing up in their social milieu or inherited from their parents. These are not really choices in the strict sense of the word but simply conditioned responses. They are not backed by an inner subjective change but are simply repetitious patterns that have been handed down to us through generations of learning and experience. These are simply accumulated patterns of the past, helpful to preserve us, even to grow up to a point. Yet they cannot help when it is a question of an entirely new emergence. The logic and dharma (law of living) of the animal world, though perfectly natural and entirely useful for itself, becomes an obstacle for the emergence of the human dharma. Even when some patterns need to be kept, either temporarily since they serve some immediate purpose, they must be suitably modified to serve the needs of the future growth. We discover this beautifully in the Gītā (the legendary dialogue between Kṛṣna and Arjuna on the battlefield of the great Bhaarata war, when the hero-warrior faced with conflicting choices, each valid in its space and time, seeks Krrssna’s advice so that he can make the decisive choice). What we discover here is that it is not just the choices we make but much more importantly, the motive and intent, the attitude, the consciousness in which we make them that is of utmost importance. Evolution hinges much more around the why of our actions rather than either the action itself or the how of it. This applies in every field though. To follow a strict outer discipline for staying fit out of fear of diseases and death is quite different from doing the same things or even lesser things with an intent to simply stay healthy since health is desirable rather than illness. The first is contaminated with the virus of fear, it may even become an obsession that narrows the field of our action or fills it with anxieties. We may have a good physique but not a sound health since health is above all a state of balance and harmony between our body and mind to say the least. The second provides a base. Of course what we do with this sound base is another choice we have to make. But at least it is not out of fear (a negative emotion) but out of love for life (a positive emotion) that we undertake the same regimen. The first acts like an inner corrosive even though the outer body appears fit; the second provides an inner lubricant for the smooth functioning of the various parts. This applies as much to the moral disciplines of life. To follow them out of social or religious fears is one thing and to do the same thing since we feel and truly believe that this is the right thing to do, that it will provide a stable basis of our growth, since it make us healthy and wise is quite another thing, to say the least.


We may of course raise an argument, that is it really we who make the choice? This argument is often undertaken for argument’s sake. It is like the argument about fate and free will. Whether we believe in fate or in free will man cannot help making choices! In fact even not making choices is a choice we make! Such is the human predicament that we cannot escape making choices. Nature, Destiny or Fate, call it whatever you will, will itself push us towards it. Therefore a more practical question would be how to make choices and also who or what is it within us that makes choices. There are other related questions such as can we reverse our choices or at least make amends? All this we shall discuss subsequently. What is needed is to acknowledge that we do have a role to play in our own evolution and the evolutionary journey we shall undertake, the experiences we shall have, the doors through which we shall pass; the events and circumstances we shall be surrounded with will depend upon the choices we make, even if it be ‘the choice of inaction.’

(To be continued)

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

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Competing choices


A giraffe


Two paths


Maze of everyday living