What is progress? Where movement is towards psycho-spiritual welfare it is called progress. Where movement is not associated with such welfare it is retardation. For instance, going up the hill or down are both movements, but in different directions.
What is progress in the real sense? Normally, people associate the word progress with scientific progress, but actually, scientific progress may or may not be true progress. The essence of progress is movement towards psycho-spiritual welfare. Human existence is trifarious. It has the physical, the intellectual and the spiritual aspects. There is movement in all three spheres, and therefore there can be progress in all three spheres. The main consideration, however, is what is the goal or the aim of movement? Or in other words, what is the summum bonum of life? The movement which leads from psycho-spiritual welfare to final emancipation is progress.
Let us examine in what sense the word progress is commonly used in the physical sphere. People think that the use of a motor vehicle in place of a bullock cart, the use of an aeroplane in place of a motor vehicle, or the use of a rocket in place of an aeroplane is progress. To take another example: At first people used to sleep on the ground, then they used stringed bed (charpoy) and now they sleep on spring mattresses. This is also considered as progress. In olden days, people used to write on palm leaves. Nowadays, they write on paper. The prerequisite of progress in all these examples appears to be the attainment of more pleasure in the use of things. In other words, progress is considered synonymous with the enjoyment of more pleasure. There is greater convenience in sleeping on a spring bed than on the ground. Similarly, the aeroplane takes away much of the tedium of travel. So progress is considered as the harbinger of material enjoyment. This enjoyment is not necessarily limited to the physical sphere. It is also available in the intellectual and spiritual spheres. Who is the subject of the enjoyer? It is the mind. The mind experiences physical as well as intellectual pleasure. The experiences of spiritual happiness is psycho-spiritual. There, also, it is partly mental. If all experience of pleasure is through the mind, it follows that pleasure is born within the vibrational scope of the mind. Progress, then, cannot go beyond the vibrational principle.
All existence in this universe is vibrational. Physical and intellectual happiness, both of which are enjoyed by the mind, are therefore both vibrational. In the vibrational field, equipoise and equilibrium are only maintained by the balance of the two opposites, i.e. the positive and the negative. In other words, unhappiness and happiness increase proportionately. Thus, we see that in the physical stratum, the so-called progress of science is responsible for an equal degree of happiness and unhappiness. The use of motorcars in place of bullock carts involves not only greater comfort for the body, but also involves far greater risks of accidents. The use of aeroplanes increases the comfort of travel and the risks in almost equal proportions. Thus, we find that the enjoyment of material pleasure in the physical sphere is neutralized by the negative side of pain.
The experience of pleasure through the mind can be divided into five varieties:
- Comfort (anukulavedaniiyam in Sanskrit)
- Discomfort (pratikulavedaniiyam)
- Denial (avedaniiyam)
- Psychic suppression or repression (nirapeks’avedaniiyam)
- Psychospiritual movement (aplutavedaniiyam)
These are the five forms taken by feelings. All development is through the experience of these feelings. Wherever there is development, one or more or all of the expressions of these feelings are present. In the realm of physical development, we mainly find only two of these expressions, and they are primarily physico-psychic. There is no experience of pleasure in the physical body as such. The experience of pleasure in the physical body means relaxation of nerves. The relaxed nerves emanate the peculiar mental vibration, which is called comfort. Where there is tension or the striking on the nerves, another kind of vibration is generated which is expressed through discomfort. The other three expressions of feelings are not present in the physical stratum. What we call progress in the physical stratum is only the awareness of comfort in the physical world. We either fail to see or purposely ignore the corresponding discomfort.
There is sometimes a conscious effort to forget this opposite side, and therefore we add the positive marks for comfort and place zeros on the debit side and proclaim that we are making progress. In fact, if we could see both sides, we would find that the balance is nil and as a result, we would realize that there is no progress in the physical stratum. It is like a government accepting the recommendations of a commission to increase the pay scale of the employees and to recover the increased expenditure through higher taxation. Will this be called economic progress? Certainly not, for it fails to increase purchasing power. The acceptance of progress in the physical field is only wrong mathematics.
The psychic sphere
Let us now examine the psychic sphere. In this sphere there are four expressions of feelings: comfort, discomfort, denial and psychic repression or suppression. One more distinction from the physical sphere is to be noted. In the psychic sphere, the relaxation or strain of the nerves is not the primary cause of feelings. In the psychic sphere, the main feature is that the sense of mental pabulum increases. The food of the mind increases but not its dimensions. So comfort in the psychic sphere would mean that state of the mind that provides more food for it. It would naturally result in a corresponding increase of discomfort, also, so that the balance of the pendulum may be maintained in the vibrational sphere. By way of illustration, it may be noted that in ancient times, when human beings were intellectually backward, they also had less emotional disturbances. One who is intellectually deficient is also less receptive to emotional disturbance. Highly intellectual people are extra sensitive in the emotional sphere. They create unnecessary problems out of nothing and waste sleepless nights over them. Thus, as far as comfort and discomfort are concerned, they balance each other in the intellectual sphere, also.
Relatively speaking, absence of pain or pleasure is in effect psychic suppression or repression. This is an unnatural state of mind and whether it lasts five minutes or ten minutes, five days or ten days or even a period of years, when the control is removed it again bursts forth in the form of comfort or discomfort. Psychic suppression or repression, therefore, does not lead to progress.
What is denial? In ordinary circumstances, denial of crude physicality is most unnatural. Under this condition, either the function of nerve cells stops or is forcibly stopped. In other circumstances in the mental sphere it may amount to refusal to admit the existence of the mundane world. It is an attitude which holds that whatever exists is only illusory. This is a form of self-deception. It is a state comparable with death. Such an attitude promotes nihilism. It is not the property of life to promote nihilism. Therefore, the ultimate effect of denial is also visible in the form of comfort or discomfort. The expression of this effect will emerge when there is either an internal or external blow on the mind.
Thus we notice that so far as the mental sphere is concerned, there is no progress in it. For instance, it may be true to say that people in India were intellectually backward a thousand years ago as compared with today. The same mental pleasures were not available to them as are enjoyed by the present Indian population. But it is also true that the mental agonies to which the present day population is subjected were not so acute in the past. Thus, after taking into account all the pluses and minuses, we will notice that there cannot be any progress in the realm of intellectuality.
The spiritual sphere
Now, let us examine the spiritual field. There is no comfort, discomfort, denial or psychic suppression or repression in the spiritual field. The reason is that as the goal is not finite, the states described as comfort, discomfort, denial, and psychic suppression and repression do not exist. Only one form of feeling is expressed in the spiritual realm and this is psycho-spiritual movement. This expression is either non-lateral or multilateral. Being non-lateral, it does not allow the formation of reactive momenta, and being multi-lateral, it is immune from the effect of reactive momenta.
The multilateral expression, which is in the nature of Cosmological vibration, can be called samismrta vedana in Sanskrit. The non-lateral expression, i.e. the non-subjective vibration, may be called bahuprajina’na vedana, or bha’sottara vedana. Psychospiritual movement functions through pointed psychic existence, which is a non-subjective vibration. The specialty of non-subjective vibration is that to maintain the equilibrium of the pendulum in this phase negative speed is not required. In the absence of negative speed, every movement is progress. Thus, there is no question of minuses; there are only pluses. This is a movement from negativity to positivity and this, therefore, is the real form of progress.
Multilateral vibration is psycho-spiritual: the event happens in the psychic sphere but comes in contact with the spiritual sphere. There can be no progress in the physical sphere as the pluses and minuses there cancel each other out. Similar is the condition in the intellectual sphere. But in the intellectuo-spiritual sphere progress is possible. It can also be measured to some extent, but progress in the purely spiritual sphere cannot be measured, as we have no measuring scale for that realm. So-called physical progress is termed ka’ma in Sanskrit. So-called intellectual progress is termed artha. Artha has a dual meaning: it is used in the sense of purport, as well as in the sense of wealth which solves a pending problem. Progress in the psycho-spiritual field is termed dharma. And pure spiritual progress, which is progress in the real sense, is called moks’a. The only difference between the intellectuo-spiritual progress and spiritual progress is that the former can be measured where as the latter cannot. The combined term for ka’ma, artha, dharma and moks’a is caturvarga. People should aim at dharma and moks’a and not ka’ma and artha, as only through the medium of dharma and moks’a is real progress possible.
It has been stated above that there is no progress in the physical and intellectual spheres. So should all efforts in these fields be stopped altogether? Should there be no effort to develop physical sciences? No, we shall continue to make efforts in these fields, also. We have only to be cautious about the effects of such efforts on human society, human mind and even human physique. What happens with the so-called progress in the physical sphere is that the speed of life gets a quick momentum that affects the nerves. The effect on the nerves increases the function of the cranium and it results in the weakening of the heart. As a natural consequence, to the extent the physical sciences will advance for physical progress, the diseases of the heart and mind will increase in the same proportion. It will be noted that many so-called civilized people cannot sleep as their nerves are under strain. The diseases which were considered fatal 200 years ago are no longer so nowadays. They have become common diseases today. The fatal diseases in modern times are mostly connected with the heart and nerves. This is the result of so-called progress in the realm of physicality. In the future, the physical structure of human beings will be affected by these factors. The nerves will stiffen and the cranium will become larger. The bones, on the other hand, will become thinner. This will result in a change in the stature of human beings. They will have lean and thin limbs and a disproportionately big head. This change will come soon and fast.
The so-called intellectual progress affects the mind intensely. The nervous system and mind are not the same. The nerve cells are physical and any disease connected with them is, therefore, physical. What we term as madness is either due to nervous disorder or mental disorder or both. Intellectual development will result in a greater clash of emotions and will consequently increase insanity. There will be a noticeable growth of mad people in society. This will make it even clearer that intellectual progress is no progress. The real progress is only spiritual. In the spiritual field, due to the absence of the reactive momenta, there is no retardation; there is only movement forward. This is the nature of true progress.
Spiritual progress can only be attained on a firm physical-mental base. Therefore, this physical and intellectual base has to be progressively adjusted to the changing conditions of time and space. Spiritual aspirants have to devise ways to protect themselves from the reactive momenta in the physical and intellectual spheres. In the age when the nerves of human beings will fatten and the cranium will enlarge, the spiritual aspirants will also be subject to these changes. What, then, is the way to escape? There should certainly be some way to escape the extreme effects of these changes. Subtler waves should consume cruder ones. When the vibrations of pain or pleasure in the physical realm are consumed in the physico-psychic vibrations, the feeling of pain or pleasure will not be so acute, although the physical sphere will remain as large as before. In other words, this process will save the mind from reaction. As there will be no attraction towards pleasure, it will also save one from pain, not fully, but partially. Similarly, in order to escape the reactive momenta, the intellectual waves will have to be transmuted into intellectuo-spiritual ones. This will protect one from the reactive momenta in the psychic sphere to some extent – neither pain nor pleasure will overwhelm the mind. This stage is described in the (Bhagavad) Giita as Dukhesu anudvigna manah, sukhesu vigatasprahah. To the extent the desire for pleasure is less, one escapes from the reaction of pain.
The only true progress for human beings is spiritual progress. The wise will, therefore, concern themselves only with the spiritual sphere. The only concern with the physical and intellectual spheres will be adjusting the base on which spiritual progress will thrive. While concerning themselves with the adjustment in the physical and intellectual spheres, the wise should also continue to consume cruder waves in subtler ones according to the process described above. The absence of such consumption or transmutation in the physical and intellectual spheres is bound to lead to retardation. The wise, remembering that the goal of life is the subtlest goal, will make efforts to reach supreme blessedness.
This is the only way to progress. Nanyapantha vidyate ayanaya. “There is no other way.”
PROUT In a Nutshell 6
The sign of life of everything in this universe is dynamism. It was said in an earlier discourse that progress actually does not take place in the physical and psychic strata. Progress takes place only in the spiritual stratum. Of course, while there is no progress in the physico-psychic sphere, movement is there. Had there been no movement, the physico-psychic world would have met its doom. Thus there is movement but no progress or pragati.
Prakstha gati ityarthe pragati.
“That which leads to betterment is progress, but that which causes movement without development, is not progress.”
For example, suppose one bull moves along a road and another one walks round and round in a grinding mill. The former is able to freely cover a few miles but the latter moves without getting anywhere.
From “The Three Causes of Sin”, PROUT In a Nutshell 8
Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2011