Human growth has to be harvested in the soil of consciousness. A synoptic overview of the stages and factors which govern the growth of consciousness.
Three stages of growth; six factors of growth; yoga of the Future.
A human being is in its essence a consciousness. So all human growth has to be viewed in terms of developing the potential of human consciousness. This article examines the principles and process of this growth from an evolutionary perspective.
Stages of Growth
The first step in harvesting human growth is to understand clearly the stages of growth. There are three major stages in human evolution. The first stage of evolution is driven predominantly and compulsively by the instincts, needs and desires of our physical and sensational being. At this stage there is only a modicum of evolutionary progress established by the ordinary experiences of life. And the movement of progress is slow and tedious like a journey in a bullock-cart.
At the second stage there is a more conscious effort by our intellectual, ethical and aesthetic being to understand the laws, aims, ideas and values of life and govern our life according to these higher mental verities. This is the stage of evolution guided by the law, Ideas and Ideals, by knowledge and values, through education, science, philosophy, ethics, art, social organisation, etc. There are two sub-stages in this mental phase of evolution. First, the stage that develops the pragmatic mind, which brings efficiency, productivity, power and prosperity to the outer life of the individual and the community. Second, the phase that develops the ideal, ethical and aesthetic mind and brings a better quality to the inner as well as the outer life of the individual and the collectivity. At this stage of evolution the pace of progress is faster, which means a more conscious and rapid flowering of the human potential and its self-expression in life. If the first stage can be compared to a journey in a bullock-cart, this second stage is like travelling in an automobile.
The third stage is the flowering of the intuitive spiritual mind in religion, mysticism and yoga. With religion, the spiritual aim of human evolution becomes more or less intuitive but the method and process of realisation are not fully grasped. In mysticism, both the aim and method have become more or less fully conscious and clear. In Yoga, we take a further step with the development of a systematic and scientific path and methodology for a rapid, conscious and self-directed evolution towards our spiritual destiny, leading to a further acceleration of the pace of evolution. The Yogi is no longer travelling in the bullock-cart of needs and desires or in the automobile of Ideas, but flies jet-set in his soul towards the divine goal.
Factors of Growth
This brings us to the pragmatic question: what are the factors that bring about this evolutionary progress? We may identify six major factors of growth – Consciousness, Ideals, Concentration, Progress, Liberty, and Wellness.
The first factor is increasing Consciousness . The essence of consciousness is Awareness. Increasing consciousness means growing self-awareness, that is awareness of all the parts and layers of our being, from the lowest physical to the highest spiritual. We have to become fully conscious of our four-fold being – our body, life, mind and spirit and all their powers, faculties, qualities and potential. First is our material base, the physical organism, the body; second, the life-force in us which is the source of our sensations, emotions, desires and vital energy; third, our mental apparatus made up of thoughts, perceptions, ideas, understandings; and finally, the fourth dimension, our spiritual self, the deepest and innermost essence of our being. This growing self-awareness is the basis of self-mastery, which is mastery over the forces and faculties of our consciousness, for we can only master what we know and command what we have mastered. This discipline of self-management is the foundation for managing others. Someone who cannot manage himself cannot manage others and is therefore unfit to be a leader. Thus, someone who has attained self-mastery is a natural leader because he or she radiates a subtle psychological power and authority, which commands spontaneous respect and obedience.
This growth of consciousness should not be confined to the self within but also extend outwards to the world around. An alert, detached, objective, scientific and impersonal awareness of the world within and around us, growing constantly deeper, wider and all-embracing is the nature of the discipline to be pursued to become a totally conscious being.
The second factor is an aim or Ideal, which gives unity of purpose to our life and leads to the integration of the individual and collective organism around a focal point. This ideal can be a standard of perfection or a system of values or a vision, mission or goal. The nature of the Ideal and the path of realisation will not be the same for all individuals or the collectivity. It will vary according to the nature of the human organism and its evolutionary status. For example, an ideal and the path that help the individual to progress from the first to the second stage of evolution will be different when the individual progresses from the second to the third stage.
The ideal for the third stage is again different, requiring some form of inner spiritual liberation and transformation and the path towards it would require internalising of consciousness and a complete elimination of ego and desire, even the moral ego and desire to do good to others. Ideals for the growth from the first to second stage could be the motives of the vital and pragmatic mind like power, wealth, enjoyment, achievement or mastery over the forces of life and the environment but with an emphasis on social responsibility and ethical self-control. And this first stage of growth can be achieved with ego and desire but by subordinating them to a higher mental, moral or social ideal. Similarly, ideals for the different types of organisations – educational, research, religious, commercial, political, social, military or policing – cannot be the same. For example non-violence can be an ethical ideal for a religious organisation, but it cannot be the ideal for a military or policing organisation. However as the human soul passes from the first stage to the second and third stages, the ideals have to be raised beyond mundane and material interests to the mental, moral and spiritual levels.
The third factor is Concentration, the ability to focus our will and all the energies of our consciousness on a single task, activity, aim, or ideal, thereby minimising wastage of energy and resources and maximising the possibilities of self-actualisation. The Mind is also a form of Energy like Matter and when this mental energy is scattered, diffused in uncontrolled and useless chattering it is at the lowest and most inefficient level of functioning. On the other hand when this mental energy is controlled, free from useless, wasteful and disturbing thoughts, focused and concentrated at a point, it functions at its highest potential. The act of focusing the mind increases and multiplies the cognitive and penetrative power of its energy. The other important factor, one not well recognised, is that concentration reduces the time taken to do a task.
The fourth factor is Progress, which means a constant effort towards progressive perfection, or to use the management terminology “continuous improvement”, in the inner being and outer life of the individual and the collectivity. The outer progress is seen in the constant growth of skills, knowledge, efficiency, productivity and professional competence in work and action. The inner progress means a similar growth in the psychological, moral, aesthetic and spiritual realms, measured in terms of values, character, wellness, integration of the personality, and the faculties, powers and potential of consciousness.
Here the main emphasis has to be on values and character. Light and clarity in the mind; kindness, compassion and generosity in the heart; firmness and strength in the will; courage, energy and enthusiasm in the vitality; harmony between thought, feeling, will and action; aspiration for truth, beauty and goodness in the soul and the whole being integrated around this higher aspiration of the soul – these are the contours of character. Inner growth means progress in building character.
The inner foundation of ethics, morality and character is the spiritual source of our being. Ethical and moral behaviour becomes entirely selfless and perfect only when it flows spontaneously from its spiritual source. This is the reason why in Indian spiritual tradition, moral development is only considered a preparation and a means for spiritual growth and perfection. However in our integral perspective, inner growth at the moral or spiritual level should not remain self-contained within. It must express itself in every activity of the outer life so that individual progress becomes the engine driving social progress. For this to happen all the expressive instruments of consciousness, such as the faculties of thought, feeling, will, action, imagination, intuition and communication, have to be fully developed.
The fifth factor is Liberty, both inner and outer. Outwardly liberty means to create an environment in which each individual can grow towards his highest potential, with minimum rules and restrictions and maximum possible freedom or to use the modern terminology, Empowerment. This includes the freedom to think, innovate, express, decide, organise, experiment and learn by making mistakes. But this outer freedom is not enough to realise the full creative potential of human beings. There must also be inner freedom from psychological bondage. There are three major forms of inner bondage – first is the negativities of various kinds like greed and lust, selfishness and jealousy; second is the attachment to people and things and to fixed or biased dogmas, opinions, ideas, ideals, prejudices; third is the compulsive habit of the mind towards dispersion, restlessness, aimless and repetitive or mechanical thinking. We must note here that this inner freedom is not a matter of morality or idealism. It has practical consequences for unleashing the creative energies of people. The inner bondages we have described, confines the psychological energies of people within the narrow grooves of their tiny little ego, throttles their creative energies and prevents the free flowering of the emotional, aesthetic and intuitive intelligence. So, if we can attain a certain amount of freedom from these psychological bonds through inner disciplines like self-control, concentration, inner peace and detachment, it releases the creative energies of people.
The sixth factor is Wellness. Growth without human wellness is unsustainable, for an increasing inner and outer wellness is the sign and index of a true and balanced growth. The corporate world seeks growth mainly in efficiency, productivity, outer expansion and wealth-creation. Though these aims are legitimate for business, when they cause too much stress, strain and tension, turmoil, pain and social disruption then they cannot be sustained in the long run. So corporations have to make as much systematic and planned effort in achieving inner and outer human wellness as they do in achieving bottom-line results like productivity and profit.
Yoga of the Future
These six factors of growth can be applied to any aspect or activity of human life. For example, any activity performed unconsciously and mechanically, with a scattered mind, without any unifying ideal or effort for progress, belongs to the first stage of evolution. Such an activity brings very little progress for the individual or the collective. But the same activity when it is performed with full consciousness, total concentration, with a clear understanding of its evolutionary purpose, with an effort towards progressive perfection and a striving towards a higher ideal of truth, beauty or goodness or any other ideal in harmony with the eternal and universal laws of life, it becomes Yoga and a means for rapid and conscious evolution of the individual. Such an activity brings spiritual as well as pragmatic benefits. It not only leads to the psychological and spiritual development of the person doing the activity, but also enhances the efficiency, productivity and quality of the activity. For, an activity which is done with consciousness, concentration, knowledge and understanding is done better and more efficiently than when it is performed mechanically and with a distracted mind.
This holistic vision of growth, applied comprehensively to the individual and collective life, will be the Yoga of the future. And in this life-embracing vision of Yoga, the distinction between the “secular” and the “spiritual” disappears. It doesn’t ask us to outwardly renounce the world and run to an ashram, mountain top or forest in order to progress spiritually. Every activity of human life – activities of knowledge, production, organisation, relationship, community, work-place, market and the shop-floor – can be a means of yoga, a means for conscious self-development, progress, learning and experimentation in higher evolution. But for this to happen, all these activities have to be given a higher direction by bringing to them the six factors of progress we have described.
The author is a Research Associate at Sri Aurobindo Society and on the editorial board of Fourth Dimension Inc. His major areas of interest are Management and Indian Culture.