On man’s path of evolution is it possible that at some time in the future humanity as a whole can attain enlightenment? At what point of evolution is man today?
With man, the natural, automatic process of evolution ends. Man is the last product of unconscious evolution. With man, conscious evolution begins. Many things are to be taken into account.
First, unconscious evolution is mechanical and natural. It happens by itself. Through this type of evolution, consciousness evolves. But the moment consciousness comes into being; unconscious evolution stops because its purpose has been fulfilled. Unconscious evolution is needed only up to the point where the conscious comes into being. Man has become conscious. In a way, he has transcended nature. Now nature cannot do anything; the last product that was possible through natural evolution has come into being. Now man becomes free to decide whether to evolve or not to evolve.
Secondly, unconscious evolution is collective, but the moment evolution becomes conscious it becomes individual. No collective, automatic evolution proceeds further than mankind. From now on, evolution becomes an individual process. Consciousness creates individuality. Before consciousness evolves, there is no individuality. Only species exist, not individuality. When evolution is still unconscious, it is an automatic process; there is no uncertainty about it.
Things happen through the law of cause and effect. Existence is mechanical and certain. But with man, with consciousness, uncertainty comes into existence. Now, nothing is certain. Evolution may take place or it may not. The potential is there, but the choice will rest entirely with each individual.
That is why anxiety is a human phenomenon. Below man there is no anxiety because there is no choice. Everything happens as it must. There is no choice so there is no chooser, and in the absence of the chooser, anxiety is impossible. Who is to be anxious? Who is to be tense? With the possibility of choice, anxiety follows like a shadow. Everything has to be chosen now; everything is a conscious effort. You alone are responsible. If you fail, you fail. It is your responsibility.
If you succeed, you succeed. It is again your responsibility. And every choice is ultimate in a sense.
You cannot undo it, you cannot forget it, you cannot go back on it. Your choice becomes your destiny.
It will remain with you and be a part of you; you cannot deny it. But your choice is always a gamble.
Every choice is made in darkness because nothing is certain.
That is why man suffers from anxiety. He is anxious to his very roots. What torments him, to begin with, is: to be or not to be? to do or not to do? to do this or to do that? ”No choice” is not possible. If you do not choose, then you are choosing not to choose; it is a choice. So you are forced to choose; you are not free not to choose. Not choosing will have as much effect as any other choice.
The dignity, the beauty and the glory of man is this consciousness. But it is a burden also. The glory and the burden come simultaneously the minute you become conscious. Every step is a movement between the two. With man, choice and conscious individuality come into existence. You can evolve, but your evolution will be an individual endeavor. You may evolve to become a buddha or you may not. The choice is yours.
So there are two types of evolution: collective evolution and individual, conscious evolution. ‘Evolution’ implies unconscious, collective progress, so it would be better to use the word ‘revolution’ in talking about man. With man, revolution becomes possible.
Revolution, as I am using the word here, means a conscious, individual effort toward evolution. It is bringing individual responsibility to a peak. Only you are responsible for your own evolution.
Ordinarily, man tries to escape from his responsibility for his own evolution, from the responsibility of freedom of choice. There is a great fear of freedom. When you are a slave the responsibility for your life is never yours; someone else is responsible. So in a way, slavery is a very comfortable thing.
There is no burden. In this respect, slavery is a freedom: freedom from conscious choice. The moment you become completely free, you have to make your own choices. No one forces you to do anything; all alternatives are open to you. Then the struggle with the mind begins. So one becomes afraid of freedom.
Part of the appeal of ideologies such as communism and fascism is that they provide an escape from individual freedom and a shirking of individual responsibility. The burden of responsibility is taken away from the individual; the society becomes responsible. When something goes wrong, you can always point to the state, the organization. Man becomes just a part of the collective structure. But in denying individual freedom, fascism and communism also deny the possibility of human evolution. It is a falling back from the great possibility that revolution offers: the total transformation of human beings. When this happens, you destroy the possibility of achieving the ultimate. You fall back; you again become like animals.
To me, further evolution is possible only with individual responsibility. You alone are responsible! This responsibility is a great blessing in disguise. With this individual responsibility comes the struggle that ultimately leads to choiceless awareness.
The old pattern of unconscious evolution has ended for us. You can fall back into it, but you cannot remain in it. Your being will revolt. Man has become conscious; he has to remain conscious. There is no other way.
Philosophers like Aurobindo have great appeal for escapists. They say that collective evolution is possible. The divine will descend and everyone will become enlightened. But to me that is not possible. And even if it appears possible, it is not worthwhile. If you become enlightened without your own individual effort, then that enlightenment is not worth having. It will not give you the ecstasy that crowns the effort. It will just be taken for granted – like your eyes, your hands, your breathing system. These are great blessings, but no one really values them, cherishes them.
One day you can also be born with enlightenment, just as Aurobindo promises. It will be valueless.
You will have much, but because it has come to you without effort, without toil, it will mean nothing to you; its significance will be lost. Conscious effort is necessary. The achievement is not as significant as the effort itself. Effort gives it its meaning; struggle gives it its significance.
As I see it, enlightenment that comes collectively, unconsciously, as a gift from the divine, is not only impossible but also meaningless. You must struggle for enlightenment. Through struggle, you create the capacity to see and feel and hold on to the bliss that comes.
Unconscious evolution ends with man and conscious evolution – revolution – begins. But conscious evolution does not necessarily begin in any particular man. It begins only if you choose it to begin.
If you do not choose it – as most people do not – you will be in a very tense condition. And present-day humanity is like this: nowhere to go, nothing to be achieved. Nothing can be achieved now without conscious effort. You cannot go back to a state of unconsciousness. The door has closed; the bridge has been broken.
The conscious choice to evolve is a great adventure, the only adventure there is for a human being. The path is arduous; it is bound to be so. Errors are bound to be there, failures, because nothing is certain. This situation creates tension in the mind. You do not know where you are, you do not know where you are going. Your identity is lost. The situation may even reach such a point that you become suicidal.
Suicide is a human phenomenon; it comes with human choice. Animals cannot commit suicide, because to choose death consciously is impossible for them. Birth is unconscious, death is unconscious. But with man – ignorant man, unevolved man – one thing becomes possible: the ability to choose death. Your birth is not your choice. As far as your birth is concerned, you are in the hands of unconscious evolution. In fact, your birth is not a human happening at all. It is animal in nature, because it is not your choice. Only with choice does humanity begin. But you can choose your death – a decisive act. So suicide becomes a definite human act. And if you do not choose conscious evolution, there is every possibility that you may choose to commit suicide. You may not have the courage actively to commit suicide but you will go through a slow, prolonged process of suicide – lingering, waiting to die.
You cannot make anyone else responsible for your evolution. To accept this situation gives you strength. You are on your way to growing, to evolving. We create gods, or we take refuge in gurus, so that we will not have to be responsible for our own lives, for our own evolution. We try to place the responsibility somewhere else, away from us. If we are not able to accept some god or some guru, then we try to escape from responsibility through intoxicants or drugs, through anything that will make us unconscious. But these efforts to deny responsibility are absurd, juvenile, childish. They only postpone the problem; they are not solutions. You can postpone until death, but the problem still remains, and your new birth will continue in the same way.
Once you become aware that you alone are responsible, there is no escape through any type of unconsciousness. And you are foolish if you try to escape, because responsibility is a great opportunity for evolution. Out of the struggle that is created, something new may evolve. To become aware means to know that everything depends on you. Even your god depends on you, because he is created by your imagination.
Everything is ultimately a part of you, and you are responsible for it. There is no one to listen to your excuses; there are no courts of appeal, the whole responsibility is yours. You are alone, absolutely alone. This has to be understood very clearly. The moment a person becomes conscious, he becomes alone. The greater the consciousness, the greater the awareness that you are alone. So, do not escape from this fact through society, friends, associations, crowds. Do not escape from it! It is a great phenomenon; the whole process of evolution has been working toward this.
Consciousness has come to the point now where you know that you are alone. And only in aloneness can you attain enlightenment. I am not saying loneliness. The feeling of loneliness is the feeling that comes when one is escaping from aloneness, when one is not ready to accept it.
If you do not accept the fact of aloneness, then you will feel lonely. Then you will find some crowd or some means of intoxication in which to forget yourself. Loneliness will create its own magic of forgetfulness. If you can be alone even for a single moment, totally alone, the ego will die; the “I” will die. You will explode; you will be no more. The ego cannot remain alone. It can exist only in relation to others. Whenever you are alone, a miracle happens. The ego becomes weak. Now it cannot continue to exist for long. So if you can be courageous enough to be alone, you will gradually become egoless.
To be alone is a very conscious and deliberate act, more deliberate than suicide, because the ego cannot exist alone, but it can exist in suicide. Egoistic people are more prone to suicide. Suicide is always in relation to someone else; it is never an act of aloneness. In suicide, the ego will not suffer.
Rather, it will become more expressive. It will enter into a new birth with greater force. Through aloneness, the ego is shattered. It has nothing to relate to, so it cannot exist. So if you are ready to be alone, unwaveringly alone, neither escaping nor falling back, just accepting the fact of aloneness as it is – it becomes a great opportunity. Then you are just like a seed that has much potential in it. But remember, the seed must destroy itself for the plant to grow. Ego is a seed, a potentiality. If it is shattered, the divine is born. The divine is neither ”I” nor ”thou,” it is one. Through aloneness, you come to this oneness.
You can create false substitutes for this oneness. Hindus become one, Christians become one, Mohammedans become one; India is one, China is one. These are just substitutes for oneness. Oneness comes only through total aloneness.
A crowd can call itself one, but the oneness is always in opposition to something else. Since the crowd is with you, you are at ease. Now you are not responsible any more. You would not burn a mosque alone, you would not destroy a temple alone, but as part of a crowd you can do it, because now you are not individually responsible. Everyone is responsible, so no one in particular is responsible. There is no individual consciousness, only a group consciousness. You regress in a crowd and become like an animal.
The crowd is a false substitute for the feeling of oneness. One who is aware of the situation, aware of his responsibility as a human being, aware of the difficult, arduous task that comes with being human, does not choose any false substitutes. He lives with the facts as they are; he does not create any fictions. Your religions and your political ideologies are just fictions, creating an illusory feeling of oneness.
Oneness comes only when you become egoless, and the ego can die only when you are totally alone. When you are completely alone, you are not. That very moment is the moment of explosion.
You explode into the infinite. This, and only this, is evolution. I call it revolution because it is not unconscious. You may become egoless or you may not. It is up to you. To be alone is the only real revolution. Much courage is needed.
Only a Buddha is alone, only a Jesus or a Mahavir is alone. It is not that they left their families, left the world. It looks that way but it is not. They were not negatively leaving something. The act was positive; it was a movement toward aloneness. They were not leaving. They were in search of being totally alone. The whole search is for that moment of explosion when one is alone. In aloneness there is bliss. And only then is enlightenment achieved. We cannot be alone, others also cannot be alone, so we create groups, families, societies, nations. All nations, all families, all groups are made up of cowards, of those who are not courageous enough to be alone.
Real courage is the courage to be alone. It means a conscious realization of the fact that you are alone and you cannot be otherwise. You can either deceive yourself or you can live with this fact.
You can continue deceiving yourself for lives and lives, but you will just go on in a vicious circle. Only if you can live with this fact of aloneness is the circle broken and you come to the center. That center is the center of divineness, of the whole, the holy. I cannot conceive of a time when every human being will be able to achieve this as a birthright. It is impossible.
Consciousness is individual. Only unconsciousness is collective. Human beings have come to the point of consciousness where they have become individuals. There is no humanity as such; there are only individual human beings. Each human being must realize his own individuality and the responsibility for it. The first thing we must do is to accept aloneness as a basic fact and learn to live with it. We must not create any fictions. If you create fictions you will never be able to know the truth. Fictions are projected, created, cultivated truths that prevent you from knowing what is.
Live with the fact of your aloneness. If you can live with this fact, if there is no fiction between you and this fact, then the truth will be revealed to you. Every fact, if looked into deeply, reveals the truth.
So live with the fact of responsibility, with the fact that you are alone. If you can live with this fact, the explosion will happen. It is arduous, but it is the only way. Through difficulty, through accepting this truth, you reach the point of explosion. Only then is there bliss. If it is given to you ready-made, it loses its worth because you have not earned it. You do not have the capacity to feel the bliss. This capacity comes only from discipline.
If you can live with the fact of your responsibility for yourself, a discipline will automatically come to you. By being totally responsible for yourself, you cannot help but become disciplined. But this discipline is not something forced upon you from the outside. It comes from within. Because of the total responsibility you carry for yourself, each step you take is disciplined. You cannot utter even one word irresponsibly. If you are aware of your own aloneness, you will be aware of the anguish of others also. Then you will not be able to commit a single irresponsible act, because you will feel responsible not only for yourself but for others also. If you can live with the fact of your aloneness, you know that everyone is lonely. Then the son knows that the father is lonely; the wife knows that the husband is lonely; the husband knows that the wife is lonely. Once you know this, it is impossible not to be compassionate.
Living with facts is the only yoga, the only discipline. Once you are totally aware of the human situation, you become religious. You become a master of yourself. But the austerity that comes is not the austerity of an ascetic. It is not forced; it is not ugly. The austerity is aesthetic. You feel that it is the only thing possible, that you cannot do otherwise. Then you renounce things; you become non-possessive.
The urge to possess is the urge not to be alone. One cannot be alone, so he seeks company. But the company of other people is not reliable, so he seeks, instead, the company of things. To live with a wife is difficult; to live with a car is not so difficult. So ultimately, possessiveness turns toward things.
You may even try to change persons into things. You try to mold them in such a way that they lose their personalities, their individuality. A wife is a thing, not a person; a husband is a thing, not a person.
If you become aware of your aloneness, then you become aware of the aloneness of others also. Then you know that to try to possess another is trespassing. You never positively renounce. Renunciation becomes the negative shadow of your aloneness. You become non-possessive. Then you can be a lover, but not a husband, not a wife.
With this non-possessiveness comes compassion and austerity. Innocence comes to you. When you deny the facts of life, you cannot be innocent; you become cunning. You deceive yourself and others. But if you are courageous enough to live with the facts as they are, you become innocent.
This innocence is not cultivated. You are it: innocent.
To me, to be innocent is all that is to be achieved. Be innocent, and the divine is always blissfully flowing towards you. Innocence is the capacity to receive, to be part of the divine. Be innocent, and the guest is there. Become the host.
This innocence cannot be cultivated because cultivation is always a contrivance. It is calculated.
But innocence can never be calculated; it is impossible.
Innocence is religiousness. To be innocent is the peak of true realization. But true innocence comes only through a conscious revolution; it is not possible through any collective, unconscious evolution.
Man is alone. He is free to choose heaven or hell, life or death, the ecstasy of realization or the misery of our so-called life.
Sartre said somewhere: “Man is condemned to be free.” You may choose either heaven or hell. Freedom means the freedom to choose either. If you can choose only heaven, then it is not a choice; it is not freedom. Heaven without the choice of hell will be hell itself. Choice always means either/or. It does not mean you are free to choose good only. Then there would be no freedom. If you choose wrongly, freedom becomes a condemnation; but if you choose rightly, it becomes bliss. It depends on you whether your choice turns your freedom into condemnation or into bliss.
The choice is totally your responsibility.
If you are ready, then from within your depths a new dimension can begin: the dimension of revolution. Evolution has ended. Now a revolution is needed to open you up to what is beyond.
It is an individual revolution, an inward revolution.
From The Psychology of the Esoteric, Chapter One