As for millennia Spirituality, both in the East and in the West, has been lived away from normal life and all its temptations, in secluded collective places like monasteries and ashrams, or in solitary refuges like caves and mountain-tops, we have all grown with the (usually unconscious) belief that to be an authentic spiritual person one must wear a certain recognizable costume with certain other outer marks of one’s belonging to a certain spiritual group or tradition. Or one must be seen meditating at regular times or doing rituals and other practices that are supposed to be the only outer activities a spiritual person must have: activities that are supposed to be ‘holy’, in opposition to all the other ones that are supposed not to be holy and so are supposed to be shunned.
In India – especially rural India, still more steeped in traditions – one has almost constantly around the sight of some orange-clad saddhu or sannyasin, wandering from place to place, having taken vows of poverty etc like many of the Western monks or nuns still do as well.
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, working for the further evolution of humanity, have recommended a different point of view, in which it is life itself in its entirety that must be lived inwardly as holy, and this, in a way not necessarily recognizable as such by the other human beings watching one’s actions. One example of that different, more invisible way of living for the Divine is well known in the Indian history: it is King Janaka, famous precisely for having been that unique example of such an unusually secret spiritual achievement.
Well, this is the way of the Future.
Here is what Sri Aurobindo explained about this in a few of his ‘Thoughts and Aphorisms’:
103 – Vivekananda, exalting Sannyasa, has said that in all Indian history there is only one Janaka. Not so, for Janaka is not the name of a single individual, but a dynasty of self-ruling kings and the triumph-cry of an ideal.
104 – In all the lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of ochre-clad Sannyasins, how many are perfect? It is the few attainments and the many approximations that justify an ideal.
105 – There have been hundreds of perfect Sannyasins, because Sannyasa has been preached and numerously practised; let it be the same with the ideal freedom and we shall have hundreds of Janakas.
106 – Sannyasa has a formal garb and outer tokens; therefore men think they can easily recognize it; but the freedom of a Janaka does not proclaim itself and it wears the garb of the world, to its presence even Narada was blind.
107 – Hard it is to be in the world, free, yet living the life of ordinary men; but because it is hard, therefore it must be attempted and accomplished.
108 – When he watched the actions of Janaka, even Narada the divine sage thought him a luxurious wordling and libertine. Unless thou canst see the soul, how shalt thou say that a man is free or bound?
281 – Purity is in thy soul; but for actions, where is their purity or impurity?
344 – Be always vigilant against thy human proneness to persecute or ignore the reality even while thou art worshipping its semblance or token. Not human wickedness but human fallibility is the opportunity of Evil.
345 – Honour the garb of the ascetic, but look also at the wearer, lest hypocrisy occupy the holy places and inward saintliness become a legend.
After lifetimes upon lifetimes here or there as a monk or nun – or sannyasi – of some religion or another, I reject for myself all external signs of spirituality and leave it for my life in itself to express my dedication to the Divine in me and everything else. When I meet people who still feel the need of wearing special robes or beads around their neck or marks on their forehead to proclaim whatever path they are following, far from being impressed, I feel that those people haven’t yet realized how unnecessary all this is, and even imprisoning for their soul, as sheer remnants of the religious mentality.
Still, as long as they themselves feel the need of such things, it’s fine with me, I will not reject them for that… unless they try to pull me back also into the same kind of outdated behavior, sometimes even in the name of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, when on the contrary the Mother too insisted, just like Sri Aurobindo, on the luminous fact that “True Spirituality is simple, very simple.”
How much do I love them for stating that utterly liberating fact so plainly, and for stating also this other utterly important fact, that ideally, each of us, being unique as an individual, shouldn’t be moulded by general rules, but should develop step after step our own way of Yoga, our own particular path towards our Divine Realization and, if such is our individual choice, towards our subsequent Divine Transformation here on this Terrestrial Plane where the present Adventure of Evolution is happening. Human Unity is not going to happen, as our mind tends to believe, through Uniformity, but on the contrary through our very Diversity in expressing something of the Divine.
As far as I am concerned, I hope it is clear from the contents of this blog of mine, that my own choice is not to be again a Sannyasin in one form or the other, but to become rather a King Janaka, adding through my own life to that ‘dynasty of self-ruling kings ‘ and to the gradual triumph of that ideal Sri Aurobindo saw as the one leading to the total spiritual freedom needed for the Life Divine upon Earth.