Sri Aurobindo, in order to illustrate the principle of the exclusive concentration, apparently ignorant of its wider consciousness and foundation of existence, creating the separative consciousness which is the basis of the Ignorance, examines the individual experience of this exclusive concentration in relation to the true self of the individual.
We generally identify the individual with the surface consciousness which is a somewhat random mixture of thoughts, feelings, emotions, drives, desires and physical needs thrown together and attempting to organise themselves into a coherent personality existing and acting through Time.
At the same time, the surface personality, concentrated exclusively on itself, does not take cognisance of the fact that it is actually created, managed, guided and impelled by the sea of the subliminal consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo explains: “That sea is the subliminal self, the superconscient, the subconscient, the intraconscient and circumconscient being, and holding it all together the soul, the psychic entity. The stream is the natural, the superficial man. In this superficial man Tapas, the being’s dynamic force of consciousness, is concentrated on the surface in a certain mass of superficial workings; all the rest of itself it has put behind and may be vaguely aware of it there in the unformulated back of its conscious existence, but is not aware of it in this superficial absorbed movement in front. It is not precisely, at any rate in that back or in the depths, ignorant of itself in any essential sense of the word, but for the purposes of its superficial movement and within that movement only it is oblivious of its real, its greater self, by absorption, by exclusive concentration on what it is superficially doing. Yet it is really the hidden sea and not the superficial stream which is doing all the action: it is the sea that is the source of this movement, not the conscious wave it throws up, whatever the consciousness of the wave, absorbed in the movement, living in that, seeing nothing else but that, may think about the matter. And that sea, the real self, the integral conscious being, the integral force of being, is not ignorant; even the wave is not essentially ignorant,–for it contains within itself all the consciousness it has forgotten and but for that it could not act or endure at all,–but it is self-oblivious, absorbed in its own movement, too absorbed to note anything else than the movement while that continues to preoccupy it. A limited practical self-oblivion, not an essential and binding self-ignorance, is the nature of this exclusive concentration which is yet the root of that which works as the Ignorance.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 13, Exclusive concentration of Consciousness-Force and the Ignorance