We generally try to measure the importance of a particular religion or path by the number of adherents it boasts. Hundreds of millions of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and many tens of millions in other major religious denominations, are impressive numbers for our external mental awareness that measures and analyzes. Sri Aurobindo points out, however, that the mass quantity of nominal adherents means little, if anything, when it comes to the question of the evolutionary development of consciousness on the planet.

As a corollary to this, he makes it clear that advertising, creating a movement, developing some kind of major following through artificial enticement is not the way to effectuate real change on the planet.

A careful balance must be maintained to not let the vital ego and its rajasic tendencies take control of the effort. A true change of consciousness will have its impact, secretly or openly as the case may be, and help build the capacity of humanity to adopt the change and thereby effectuate a new way of seeing and acting. In today’s world, care must be taken to not over-hype the path, as it is not for everyone to tread; rather, making clear and honest information available, and then letting people find what they need, is a more solid direction for bringing about the kind of change that is needed to solve the evolutionary crisis of humanity that we face today.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Nothing depends on the numbers. The numbers of Buddhism or Christianity were so great because the majority professed it as a creed without its making the least difference to their external life. If the new consciousness were satisfied with that, it could also and much more easily command homage and acceptance by the whole earth. It is because it is a greater consciousness, the Truth-Consciousness, that it will insist on a real change.”

“Well-known or unknown has absolutely no importance from the spiritual point of view. It is simply the propagandist spirit. We are not a party or a church or religion seeking adherents or proselytes. One man who earnestly pursues the yoga is of more value than a thousand well-known men.”

“As for propaganda I have seen that it is perfectly useless for us — if there is any effect, it is a very trifling and paltry effect not worth the trouble. If the Truth has to spread itself, it will do it of its own motion; these things are unnecessary.”

“Then, again, I don’t believe in advertisement except for books etc., and in propaganda except for politics and patent medicines. But for serious work it is a poison. It means either a stunt or a boom — and stunts and booms exhaust the thing they carry on their crest and leave it lifeless and broken high and dry on the shores of nowhere — or it means a movement. A movement in the case of a work like mine means the founding of a school or a sect or some other damned nonsense. It means that hundreds or thousands of useless people join in and corrupt the work or reduce it to a pompous farce from which the Truth that was coming down recedes into secrecy and silence. it is what has happened to the ‘religions’ and is the reason of their failure. If I tolerate a little writing about myself, it is only to have a sufficient counter-weight in that amorphous chaos, the public mind, to balance the hostility that is always aroused by the presence of a new dynamic Truth in this world of ignorance. But the utility ends there and too much advertisement would defeat that object. I am perfectly ‘rational’, I assure you, in my methods and I do not proceed merely on any personal dislike of fame. If and so far as publicity services the Truth, I am quite ready to tolerate it; but I do not find publicity for its own sake desirable.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 12, Other Aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Religion, pp. 352-355

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.