Change and progress are some of the eternal laws of life. But for sustainable progress, outer progress has to be a spontaneous expression of a corresponding inner progress.
We are part of an evolutionary world. Change, Evolution and Progress are some of the eternal laws of life. That which doesn’t evolve and progress either disintegrates or becomes extinct or has to remain subordinate to those who surge ahead. So to progress constantly and continually in all the levels of our being and life is indispensable for sustainable development. However, there are limits, laws and conditions of progress. An exclusive and reckless progress in a single domain or dimension of life ignoring the laws or limits of that domain or other related dimensions is unsustainable. Similarly, unlimited progress in the outer life without a corresponding progress in the inner dimensions of consciousness is also unsustainable. So our ideal of progress has to be balanced development in all the dimensions of life – material, mental, moral, aesthetic and spiritual; ecological, economic, social, political and cultural.
The ideal approach will be to strive for a parallel and simultaneous progress in all the dimensions with a priority focus on a particular domain of life in each stage of evolution depending on the present needs and aims of that stage. All the individual members of a community have to be educated and made aware of the highest ideals and aims of human development in the individual and collectivity. However, for practical purposes the predominant focus has to be on the immediate and present needs of each stage of evolution.
The Outer Progress
In the initial stage of development a solid foundation has to be laid for the physical, vital and mental development of the individual and the material, economic, social and political development of the community but without ignoring or neglecting the moral, aesthetic and spiritual aims of development.
In this stage a social framework has to be created for the fulfillment of the basic material needs of the people for food, clothing and shelter, health, nutrition and gainful employment and the vital and emotional need for wealth, power, enjoyment, harmonious relationship in the family and community, achievement, success, expansion, adventure.
But at the same time people have to be educated and motivated to seek for knowledge, control their physical and vital impulses and desires by the mental and moral will and subordinate self-interest to some higher mental, moral social or aesthetic ideals like for example charity, social responsibility, service to the community. And the collectivity as a whole has to strive for efficiency, productivity, prosperity, innovative diversity and richness, ecological sustainability, distributive justice, individual liberty, initiative and empowerment, social cohesion, vital vigor, strength and energy of life, pragmatic mastery over the forces of life, ability to convert ideas into material reality and a certain amount of moral sanity and balance.
The Inner Progress
In the second stage focus of attention should shift more and more from the development of the outer life to inner progress in the mental, moral, aesthetic, psychological and spiritual realms of life; from the physical, vital and pragmatic mind to the fuller development of the potentialities of the thinking, ethical, aesthetic, subliminal and spiritual mind. In the mental level, there must be a quest for a deeper, wider and a more inclusive, ecological and holistic understanding or vision of life. In the moral domain the next step requires a search for a more inward and broader vision of ethics in the light of an integral spiritual vision of life. In the aesthetic realm, we have to break the boundaries which confines aesthetic to art and music and poetry and strive for the aesthetic refinement of life as a whole and for a beautiful and harmonious organisation of the inner and outer life of man.
In the integral perspective the concept of Beauty and Harmony have to be universalized by including three other ideals. The first one, harmonious linking together of individual and collective members of the human fraternity in a mutually complementing and symbiotic relationship. The second is a harmonious integration of the physical, vital, mental and spiritual dimensions of the individual and collective being and life of man; with all the faculties, powers and potentialities of the four-fold being of man fully integrated, actualized and expressed in the outer life of man in a rich and harmonious diversity; and with the spiritual self governing the body, life and mind of man. The third is the harmonious attunement of human life with the laws of universal Nature, not only in the material level, but also in the psychological and spiritual levels of our being. When all these three ideals are fully actualized then it transforms the whole of life into a music and an art. This is the ideal of universal Beauty towards which we have to strive for in our future evolution.
In the social and ecological plane, we have to make the attempt to understand the psychological and spiritual dimensions of social organisms like the family, community, organisation, nation and the inner significances of social values like liberty, equality and fraternity. We have to apply this understanding for the inner psychological and spiritual evolution of the collectivity.
But the most important task of progress in this second stage, which will determine its fate or success, will have to be in the psychological and spiritual realms. In the psychological sphere, what is needed is a psychological pragmatism which can bring about a concrete experiential realization of the social, ecological, moral, aesthetic values and ideals in our consciousness and the capacity for organizing, implementing and materialising these values in the outer life. For example, this new psychology has to discover the inner sources of our psychological energies and the methods for enhancing the inner efficiency, productivity, or creativity of our faculties of knowledge, feeling and action.
Here the main task is two-fold: first is to minimise waste and maximise the efficiency of our psychological energies; second is to enter into the deeper subliminal realms of our consciousness in which our inner faculties acquire a much greater power and range than at the surface levels of our being. Similarly we have to find a path for the inner realisation of liberty, equality and fraternity in the consciousness of the community. These inner realisations require a great progress in the field of psychology, especially in applied psychology and in understanding the laws and process of our collective psychology.
The Task Ahead
In the spiritual domain, the task ahead is to evolve a system of education which can lead to the awakening of the spiritual self in man and the harmonious integration of the entire being of the individual around this spiritual core of our being. This spiritual and psychological awakening has to proceed simultaneously. Otherwise without moral and spiritual awakening, the growth of psychological and occult powers will be misused and misapplied in the same way material powers of modern science and technology are now being misused for war and other selfish purposes of the individual and corporate ego.
The third stage of progress commences when the psychological and spiritual awakening which begins in the second stage gets diffused, generalized and established in the human consciousness and the humanity as a whole begins to live more and more from within outwards and in conscious communion with the innermost spiritual source of creation.
However, what we have sketched here is an ideal pattern of progress under ideal conditions when humanity is fully aware of its destiny and the path towards it. But the actual path of progress in the present and for a long time in the future will be a more difficult and less ideal journey because we, homosapiens, are still an ignorant, immature, egocentric and arrogant race of beings who are not yet fully aware of the total truth, laws or aims of life or Nature.
So we progress like the half-blind man who gropes in the dark, sees a small strip of light which illumines a tiny corner of life and mistakes it for the whole of life. We walk slowly and cautiously or else rush forward in this narrow strip of light until we bump into some obstacle, get hurt and learn, and again move forward a little wiser, until we bump again into another obstacle.
We are at present somewhere in a transitional sphere in between the first and the second stage. It is in a crucial stage at which we have to progress less blindly and more consciously with a fuller understanding of the aims and intention of Nature. Nature has given us this understanding through her prophets, seers and sages like Sri Aurobindo and Teil-hardour-Chardin. If we refuse to listen out of some intellectual, scientific, secular or religious ego, we will be heading dangerously to the precipice and the fatal possibility of a civilisational disaster looms large in the horizon. The global warming is also a global warning of our inner inadequacy and imbalance. If we can correct this inner balance through psychological and spiritual education, then there will be a corresponding positive response from material Nature, which will have its beneficial effect on the material environment.
The author is a student and practitioner in the path of integral yoga.