Asuras

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(Mother:) “The beings of the vital world can be recognised at the very first sight one from another; you distinguish them by something in the way in which the form is built, by the atmosphere which it carries with it, by the manner in which each moves and speaks and acts.”[1]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “When the vital forces or beings throw an influence, they give it certain forms of thought-action and put them in the minds and vital of people so that they feel, think, act, speak in a particular way. Whoever opens to the influence acts according to this formation, perhaps with variations due to his own vital temperament.”[2]


(Nolini Kanta Gupta:) “The Asura is a fixed type of being. He does not change, his is a hardened mould, a settled immutable form of a particular consciousness, a definite pattern of qualities and activities — guṇakarma. Asura-nature means a fundamental ego-centricism, a violent and concentrated self-will. Change is possible for the human being; he can go downward, but he can move upward too, if he chooses. In the Puranas a distinction has been made between the domain of enjoyment and the domain of action. Man is the domain of action par excellence; by him and through him evolve new and fresh lines of activity and impulsion. The domain of enjoyment, on the other hand, is where we reap the fruits of our past Karma; it is the result of an accumulated drive of all that we have done, of all the movements we have initiated and carried out. It is a status of being where there is only enjoyment, not of becoming, where there can be development and new creation. It is a condition of gestation, as it were; there is no new Karma, no initiative or change in the stuff of the consciousness. The Asuras are bhogamaya puruṣa, beings of enjoyment; their domain is a cumulus of enjoyings. They cannot strike out on a fresh line of activity, put forth a new mode of energy that can work out a growth or transformation of nature. Their consciousness is an immutable entity. The Asuras do not mend, they can only end. Man can certainly acquire or imbibe Asuric force or Asura-like qualities and impulsions; externally he can often act very much like the Asura; and yet there is a difference. Along with the dross that soils and obscures human nature, there is something more, a clarity that opens to a higher light, an inner core of noble metal which does not submit to any inferior influence. There is this something More in man which always inspires and enables him to break away from the Asuric nature. Moreover, though there may be an outer resemblance between the Asuric qualities of man and the Asuric qualities of the Asura, there is an intrinsic difference, a difference in tone and temper, in rhythm and vibration, proceeding as they do from different sources. However cruel, hard, selfish, egocentric man may be, he knows, he admits — at times if not always, at heart if not openly, subconsciously if not wholly consciously — that this is not the ideal way, that these qualities are not qualifications, they are unworthy elements and have to be discarded. But the Asura is ruthless, because he regards ruthlessness as the right thing, the perfect thing; it is an integral part of his swabhava and swadharma, his law of being and his highest good.”[3]


(Amal Kiran:) “[World War II] brought into play two figures whom Sri Aurobindo and the Mother recognised as extending into the physical plane the occult Evil at its most dangerous. Hitler was seen as possessed by the Rakshasa-aspect of that Evil. The Rakshasa is a devouring ‘Giant’ who openly declares his enormous greed and makes no secret of his ambition to dominate the world with a master-race of ruthless henchmen. Hitler's Mein Kampf is a glaringly open manifesto of such greed and ambition. In Stalin Sri Aurobindo and the Mother discerned a phenomenon not merely of possession but of incarnation, a vital being born in a human form and not just employing that form as its medium – and here was the Asura-aspect. The Asura is an all-gripping ‘Titan’ who is even more destructive than a ‘Giant’ but with a cold cunning intelligence which conceals its subversive policy under a mask of high ideals like economic equality and social classlessness. Stalin's pronouncements are all couched in noble-sounding terms borrowed from Marx and Lenin but directed to nefarious ends.”[4]


What is their place in evolution? Could it be done without them?

(Sri Aurobindo:) There is the old idea of the Devas and the Asuras struggling to control the human evolution. The Asuras are responsible for the great complexity of the world, but in my opinion they are not a necessity.
          The Asuras realise themselves through revolt, suffering, struggle, pain and difficulty. The world could have evolved differently, like a flower blooming from inside to the outside, but forces of the Asuric type entered the play and prevented it. This is a truth known to any religion – the snake tempting Prakriti and Prakriri deceiving Purusha. There is also the parable of the Devas endeavouring to do some work and the Asuras coming and disturbing it all.

How can one be safe against the Asuric influence?

Through purity and sincerity one is secure from their possession. They can give you blows, they can deceive and fog your mind, but if you have the white light, there is no definitive fall and you will go through.”[5]


(Mother:) “Do you know the four Asuras?

(Student:) No. I don’t know them.

Do you know what the origin of these four Asuras is? (To another child) Who knows this?

You had once told us in class.

Yes, surely; that’s just why I am asking you about it, to find out if you remember the things I tell you!

You said there were four divine forces: Love, Light, Truth and the opposite of Death.

And what?

(Another child, laughing) Life!

Ah!

Then these four forces separated from the Divine and changed into falsehood...

Yes, it is something like that! It is something like that!
         Light or Consciousness, Ananda or Love, Life and Truth.
         Then Light or Consciousness became Darkness and Inconscience. Love and Ananda became Hatred and Suffering, and Truth became Falsehood, and Life became Death. Well, it is the first two... but not exactly in the same conditions. The first is converted and works, but he has refused to take a human body, he says it is a limitation in his work; perhaps one day he will take one, but for the time being he refuses. The second is converted and has of his own will been dissolved. He has dissolved into his origin. And the last two are holding out well.
         The one of Death tried to incarnate. But he could not get converted. He tried to incarnate, which is something very rare. But it was a partial, not a total incarnation. That is difficult for them, a total incarnation. Human bodies are quite small, human consciousnesses are too small.
         As for the other, he has emanations which are very active in certain human bodies and have played a big role in the recent history of the earth!”[6]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “Yes, certainly [there are hostile forces active in the outside world]. Men are being constantly invaded by the hostiles and there are great numbers of men who are partly or entirely under their influence. Some are possessed by them, others (a few) are incarnations of hostile beings. At the present moment they are very active all over the earth. Of course in the outside world there is no consciousness such as is developed in Yoga, by which they can either become aware of or consciously repel the attacks — the struggle in them between the psychic and the hostile force goes on mostly behind the veil or so far as it is on the surface is not understood by the mind.”[7]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “The normal resistance of the lower Nature in human beings and the action of the Hostiles are two quite different things. The former is natural and occurs in everybody; the latter is an intervention from the non-human world. But this intervention can come in two forms. (1) They use and press on the lower Nature forces making them resist where they would otherwise be quiescent, making the resistance strong or violent where it would be otherwise slight or moderate, exaggerating its violence when it is violent. There is besides a malignant cleverness, a conscious plan and combination when the Hostiles act on these forces which is not evident in the normal resistance of the forces. (2) They sometimes invade with their own forces. When this happens there is often a temporary possession or at least an irresistible influence which makes the thoughts, feelings, actions of the person abnormal — a black clouding of the brain, a whirl in the vital, all acts as if the person could not help himself and were driven by an overmastering force. On the other hand instead of a possession there may be only a strong influence; there the symptoms are less marked, but it is easy for anyone acquainted with the ways of these forces to see what has happened. Finally it may be only an attack, not possession or influence; the person then is separate, is not overcome, resists.”[8]


(Sri Aurobindo:) “The power to make light spring forth in the place of darkness, beauty in the place of ugliness, goodness instead of evil, that power man possesses, the Asura does not. Therefore it is man who will do that work, it is he who will change, it is he who will transform his earth and it is he who will compel the Asura to flee into other worlds or to dissolve.”[9]




  1. Questions and Answers 1929-1931, p.48
  2. Letters on Yoga – IV, p.776
  3. Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences, p.178, “The Second World War (1939-1945): Its Inner Bearings”
  4. Amal Kiran, Our Light and Delight: Recollections of Life with the Mother, p.167
  5. Conversations with Sri Aurobindo, p.155
  6. Questions and Answers 1954, p.172
  7. Letters on Yoga – IV, p.757
  8. Ibid., p.765
  9. Ibid.


See also