Humans are fixated by the idea of extending their existence; they dream of immortality. Much of our action in our lives revolves around ways of surviving longer; and if that is not possible, then either becoming liberated into a consciousness where we experience immortality; or finding out about past and future lives to support our seeking for some kind of continuous reality to our existence.
The Isha Upanishad, one of the earliest of the great Vedantic utterances, explores this issue. The Katha Upanishad, with the famous dialogue between Nachiketas and the Lord of Death, continues this review. Religious teachings around the world frequently refer to a continuity of past lives conditioned by karma, the chain of cause and effect, or a resurrection and reuniting of souls with one another after the bodily death in some manner. People have also undertaken therapies such as past life regression to remember their past lives; and we frequently hear of individuals who are able to recount facts, speak languages or possess skills that they did not gain in this lifetime, but which have been painstakingly validated.
All of these are approaches to the question of immortality and continuity which Sri Aurobindo takes up for review in the current chapter. “For immortality in its fundamental sense does not mean merely some kind of personal survival of the bodily death; we are immortal by the eternity of our self-existence without beginning or end, beyond the whole succession of physical births and deaths through which we pass, beyond the alternations of our existence in this and other worlds: the spirit’s timeless existence is the true immortality. There is, no doubt, a secondary meaning of the word which has its truth; for, corollary to this true immortality, there exists a perpetual continuity of our temporal existence and experience from life to life, from world to world after the dissolution of the physical body: but this is a natural consequence of our timelessness which expresses itself here as a perpetuity in eternal Time.”
This subject will be continued in the next post.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 19, “Out of the Sevenfold Ignorance towards the Sevenfold Knowledge.”