Guiding Light of The Month

THERE is a great difference between being in the midst of active work, of external action, while keeping one’s thought constantly fixed on Thee, and entering into that perfect union with Thee which leads to what I have called “absolute Consciousness, true Omniscience, Knowledge”. - The Mother

The human race in light of Sri Aurobindo's integral yoga

Jagannath’s Rath – The Chariot of the Lord of the Worlds

In the 100th year of Sri Aurobindo’s arrival in Pondichery on 4th April 1910, we may recollect his first visions of Divine life on earth and journey of human race towards a higher consciousness.

We need to look at the world scenario to have a clearer glimpse of his vision. The 20th century was a period of greatest transformation, a major shift in the way that vast numbers of people lived, as a result of political, ideological, economic, social, cultural, scientific, technological, and medical progress. Efficient communication and faster transportation paved the way for future global concepts in all spheres.

The early arms races of the 20th century, imperialistic greed of the few to grab the world resources and their conflicting interests of becoming super powers escalated into two devastating world wars involving many powerful nations.( World War I from 1914 to1918, World War II from 1939 to 1945). The Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved in the first half of the century and the British Empire began to disintegrate after World War I. The world had experienced the greatest revolutionary and intellectual changes in their ideologies about governance, economic or social equality, rights and duties, distribution of wealth and religious beliefs. People began to cross the boundaries of their own ethnic surroundings and accept ideas from all corners of the world. The rise of nationalism in several parts of the world after a century of colonial and imperialistic domination kindled aspirations for peaceful coexistence, prosperity and progress. Many new nations were born on democratic, socialistic or communistic principles bridging the difference between the ruled and rulers and thus opening equal avenues of opportunity for all.

It was also at this juncture that Sri Aurobindo first showed to the world the ideals of future humanity in the Divine Plan. ‘The ideal society is the vehicle of the indwelling Godhead of human aggregate, the chariot of the journey of Jagannath. Unity, Freedom, Knowledge and Power constitute the four wheel of this chariot’ In his latter book ‘The Mother’ these four powers are also attributed to the prime forces of Universal Mother as Maheshwari, MahaKali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswathi. Sri Aurobindo’s vision of human unity based on Divine principles of Nature and not external uniformity is being experienced today and its indispensability for the evolutionary growth of human race is equally becoming the need of the day, one century after he wrote those prophetic words in the Dharma Weekly in 1909. We always mention about overcoming the individual ego but Sri Aurobindo adds that group ego too in the form of ethnic communities, race or even nations adversely obstruct the human race on its path towards oneness. ‘The truth that the ego is the obstacle to the Divine fullness applies not only to the individual but holds equally good in the case of the collectivity’.

In the state of Orissa (Jagannath Puri) in India, a festival is celebrated every year during summer by pulling the chariot of Jagannath (Lord of the Worlds) by thousands of devotees. Months in advance the devotees begin to construct the chariot, decorate it until it is ready for taking Lord Jagannath. Sri Aurobindo mentions about this legendary festival to give us the hidden conceptual symbolism behind the external rituals and inspires us to aspire for building a perfect chariot of Jagannath on which the human race needs to continue its future evolutionary journey.

He classifies them into three varieties each built on one of the three Gunas namely Sattwa, Rajas, Tamas. For the first, ‘The Sattwic Ego is the owner-passenger’ and he says that as the temple of God is on a higher plane, the chariot cannot reach there and he has to get down and climb on foot. This may be the renouncing method in which man leaves the world of action for self realization. ‘The ancient Aryan society which came after the Vedic age can be called a chariot of this type’. The second type is driven by the Rajasic ego ‘whenever a new vista is seen not too far away, immediately the owner of the car, the Rajasic ego, drives in that direction shouting’ this is the goal’. One derives much pleasure and enjoyment in riding this car; yet the peril is unavoidable and to reach the Divine is impossible.’ The third type is driven by the Tamasic ego, ‘The name of the owner is Tamasic ego and that of the cart-man, book-knowledge.’ ‘The danger lies in the fact that it is beyond the knowledge and capacity of the Tamasic ego to recognize or admit the time for changing the vehicle’.

Sri Aurobindo further continues’ So long as the chariot of Jagannath is not built, the ideal society will also not take shape.’ Such was the profound vision and assurance from Sri Aurobindo. Humanity is continuously churning through the ocean of life and battling between negative and positive forces. We often become very pessimistic about the disturbing events around the world that are the consequences of actions driven by the expanding individual or group Rajasic egos. Sri Aurobindo has shown us that humanity is standing today at the threshold of the temple of Divine Life and is preparing itself for entry. We, with our limited perception of the hidden purpose and invisible Divine master plan, often tend to believe that humanity is moving towards extinction with its self-destructive tendencies.

Speaking about the true chariot of Jagannath, he gave us an assurance 100 years ago’, Hidden under many layers, this picture shines in the heart of the Universal Godhead. To manifest it, gradually through the effort of many divine Vibhutis, seers and creators and establish it in the material world is God’s intention’. This supreme optimism about the future of mankind by Sri Aurobindo is like a sanction from the Godhead itself. We should never analyze or try to interpret the external world situations negatively but learn to see the Divine purpose behind all. Our faith needs to remain unshaken in all circumstances. We too may contribute in the construction of this Chariot of Jagannath with an attitude of surrender and become conscious tools not only as individuals but collectively as groups of true aspirants.

‘The day of the Self-born unity will come into being by the harmony and integration of knowledge, devotion and work , as impelled by the Will of the Virat Purusha, the Universal Person, on that day the chariot of Jagannath will come out on the avenues of the world, radiating its light in all directions. Satya Yuga, The Age of Truth, will descend upon earth; the world of mortal man will become the field for the play of the Divine, the temple-city, the metropolis of Ananda’.

Let us all make a humble beginning to build the chariot for the Lord of the Worlds, Jagannath, on spiritual principles exceeding the limitations of the Gunas and drive it on the uneven terrains of material world until we reach higher levels of consciousness. Then true human unity and peace will reign upon this earth.

- Sundari KBT(

1) ‘Chariot of Jagannath’ in ‘Dharma O Jatiyata’, Prabhartak Publishing House 1918.
2) ‘Bengali Writings by Sri Aurobindo’.

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