The subject of this discourse is, “The Process of Human Progress”. Long ago, I said that true progress takes place in only in the spiritual sphere. What we generally call “progress” is not actual progress. Today, people are making very little progress in comparison with the progress made in the distant past. Of course, they are struggling as much as their ancestors did (and their counterparts will do in the future), but there is some difference between them.
Behind the human endeavour to progress towards perfection lies one motivating factor – the desire for permanent happiness. Urged on by this desire, people start to tread the path of advancement. Early on in their journey, they discover hundreds of personal and social imperfections hindering their progress and resolve to overcome them to reach their cherished goal. Those early humans, goaded on by their instinctive urge to attain happiness, also battled against these imperfections. However, having no systematic method to achieve progress, they were greatly handicapped.
Human existence is trifarious: physical, psychic and spiritual. In the initial phase of their march, in the dark age of the distant past, the humans progressed in the physical and psychic spheres alone. Not having the key to enter the spiritual world, they were unable to advance spiritually. When they tries to establish their physical supremacy in the external world, great pressure was exerted on their nervous system, resulting in a mutual conflict between their innumerable cells. This inter-cellular clash caused a marked development in human consciousness which, in turn, led to corresponding changes in the external human structure.
Morphological changes are still occurring in the human structure and will occur in the future. Human beings will undergo such marked changes in the future that they will be almost unrecognizable to the people of today. When the first humans evolved from the apes, it was also impossible to imagine that such marked changes would occur. But this process of internal and external change through inter-cellular conflict does not represent true progress. We cannot say that those early humans made any really significant spiritual progress. Whatever advancement they made, however, was by no means insignificant and, although of no absolute importance, had significant relative importance. This transformation is called “karmayoga”. According to Ananda Marga philosophy this is the real karmayoga. This fact should not be ignored.
How did change occur in the psychic world? When human beings started fighting against imperfections in the physical world and psychic sphere for the development of mind, psychic changes began to occur. Their internal attempts to remould their psychic world resulted in considerable clash among the nerve cells and nerve fibres which led to subtle changes in both the psychic and physical structures. Although the nerve cells and fibres are related to the mind, they actually originate from subtle physical stuff. When they become more subtle, therefore, there is a corresponding subtle change in the physical structure.
Thus those early human beings battled against psychic imperfections to bring about a change in the psychic world. The same fight is still continuing and will continue in future as well. This phase on the path of human progress can be called “Jiṋánayoga”. According to Ananda Marga philosophy, change in the psychic world can be termed “Jiṋána yoga”. It is also a change, not of absolute significance, but of relative significance.
Did human beings take the help of any greater force in their fight against their inherent imperfections? Yes, they did. In those early days, people observed that there were more imperfections in the mental world than in the physical world. Some of the more intelligent humans realized that for an individual with a limited mind, it is not possible to struggle on alone. If one had the stamina for an individual fight, it would take hundreds of thousands of years to reach the zenith point of perfection. No human being can wait that long. They could not wait that long in the past, nor will they be able to do so in the future. After intense analysis, therefore, they concluded that if they could focus their psychic propensities on one point and merge them into cosmic energy, they would, with the help of that cosmic energy, be able to remove their imperfections and thus attain the cherished state of perfection.
Human beings discovered this type of intellectual approach nine to ten thousand years ago. Whatever they were, educated or uneducated, the approach they discovered was “Bhakti marga”. The people of this phase of human history were the most intelligent people. Although the karma and jiṋánayogis are less intelligent than the bhaktiyogis, whatever advancements they made in their respective ages had a relative importance. I have already said that the importance of the spiritual world is immense, yet the relative world is not totally unimportant.
When, in the distant past, humans realized that karma yoga and jiṋána yoga would not help them to attain true progress, they readily embraced bhakti yoga. They realized that devotion is the only path. Human beings today have advanced even further due to their developed karma and jiṋána yoga, and thus will realize more quickly than their ancestors the need to follow the path of devotion. This is the bright side of karma and jiṋána yoga. That is, these two yogas will strengthen the path of devotion, will make it more solid.
30 December 1978, Patna