Living Within

Most of us live our lives in what Sri Aurobindo calls our surface being or surface consciousness. Our gaze is focused outward, and we spend our time dealing with outward facts and circumstances, such as the details of our lives and actions, family, friends, events, jobs, entertainment and the rest of the myriad forces and facts of the world we live in, including political, religious, scientific, philosophical or other forms of engagement with the world’s “reality”.

The type of spiritual transformation described by Sri Aurobindo is “impossible without an inward living.”

“…they cannot be reached by remaining in an external consciousness turned always outwards, active only on and from the surface. The individual being has to find himself, his true existence; he can only do this by going inward, by living within and from within: for the external or outer consciousness or life separated from the inner Spirit is the field of the Ignorance; it can only exceed itself and exceed the Ignorance by opening into the largeness of an inner self and life.”

“…on the surface there is only an ephemeral being of nature, made by limit and circumstance. If there is a self in us capable of largeness and universality, able to enter into a cosmic consciousness, that too must be within our inner being: the outer consciousness is a physical consciousness bound to its individual limits by the triple cord of mind, life and body: any external attempt at universality can only result either in an aggrandisement of the ego or an effacement of the personality by its extinction in the mass or subjugation to the mass. It is only by an inner growth, movement, action that the individual can freely and effectively universalise and transcendentalise his being.”

“In men, says the Upanishad, the Self-Existent has cut the doors of consciousness outward, but a few turn the eye inward and it is these who see and know the Spirit and develop the spiritual being. Thus to look into ourselves and see and enter into ourselves and live within is the first necessity for transformation of nature and for the divine life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”

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Transcendental Being and Consciousness

A complete and conprehensive integrated consciousness must also incorporate the Transcendent. Sri Aurobindo explains: “The spiritual fullness of the being is eternity; if one has not the consciousness of timeless eternal being, if one is dependent on body or embodied mind or embodied life, or dependent on this world or that world or on this condition of being or that condition of being, that is not the reality of self, not the fullness of our spiritual existence.”

The true spiritual freedom is not bound by limitations of the body, the life or the mind. “To live only as a self of body or be only by the body is to be an ephemeral creature, subject to death and desire and pain and suffering and decay and decadence. To transcend, to exceed consciousness of body, not to be held in the body or by the body, to hold the body only as an instrument, a minor outward formation of self, is a first condition of divine living.”

A second condition of divine living is to have a similar relationship to the mind, thereby able to transcend mind and live free of its limitations. A third condition of divine living is to be able to transcend life, just as one transcends body and mind.

It is not sufficient to transcend just the individual formulation. “But one must transcend not only the individual formula but the formula of the universe, for only so can either the individual or the universal existence find its own true being and a perfect harmonisation; both are in their outer formulation incompelte terms of the Transcendence, but they are that in their essence, and it is only by becoming conscious of that essence, that individual consciousness or universal consciousness can come to its own fullness and freedom of reality. Otherwise the individual may remain subject to the cosmic movement and its reactions and limitations and miss his entire spiritual freedom. He must enter into the supreme divine Reality, feel his oneness with it, live in it, be its self-creation: all his mind, life physicality must be converted into terms of its Supernature; all his thoughts, feelings, actions must be determined by it and be it, its self-formation. All this can become complete in him only when he has evolved out of the Ignorance into the Knowledge and its dynamis and supreme delight of existence; but some essentiality of these things and their sufficient instrumentation can come with the first spiritual change and culminate in the life of the gnostic Supernature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 28, “The Divine Life”