And Words Turn Back Without Attaining

We run the risk, or rather the certainty, that whenever we begin to try to define the Supreme, even by the most expansive terms we can conceive of, that we are misrepresenting and distorting the reality. This is a limitation of the mental formations and the language that we use, and we therefore are constantly urged by the sages and seers to not allow ourselves to be tied up in the knots of language or the processes of our logical intellect, but to recognize at all times that these symbolic representations cannot encompass the Truth of existence. The truth must be experienced in consciousness, not defined in words or concepts.

Sri Aurobindo explores the limits of our definitions: “And even to say of him that all exists in him is not the whole truth of the matter, not the entirely real relation: for it is to speak of him with the idea of space, and the Divine is spaceless and timeless. Space and time, immanence and pervasion and exceeding are all of them terms and images of his consciousness.”

“…he is at once one with all that is and yet exceeds it; but he is other also than this self or extended infinity of spiritual being which contains and exceeds the universe. All exists here in his world-conscious infinite, but that again is upheld as a self-conception by the supracosmic reality of the Godhead which exceeds all our terms of world and being and consciousness. This is the mystery of his being that he is supracosmic, yet not in any exclusive sense extracosmic. For he pervades it all as its self; there is a luminous uninvolved presence of the self-being of God…which is in constant relation with the becoming and brings all its existences into manifestation by his simple presence. Therefore it is that we have these terms of Being and becoming, existence in itself, atman, and existences dependent upon it, bhutani, mutable beings and immutable being.”

“But the highest truth of these two relations and the resolution of the antinomy must be found in that which exceeds it; it is the supreme Godhead who manifests both containing self and its contained phenomena by the power of his spiritual consciousness,yogamaya. And it is only through union with him in our spiritual consciousness that we can arrive at our real relations with his being.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 5, The Divine Truth and Way, pp. 298-299

The Eternal and the Manifested Universe

The seers and sages of the Upanishads consistently tell us that one cannot describe the Reality, the Brahman, the Eternal by any specific mental conception. They warn us “not this, not that” so that we do not limit or circumscribe the reality that goes so far beyond any definition we can provide, or any specific manifestation of forms. If we just look at this statement, however, it is easy to fall into the idea that the Supreme Divine is only to be understood as separate and different from the manifested universe. It is essential that we therefore look at the other Upanishadic statements that modify this concept. We add therefore the idea that the Brahman is “One without a second.” This statement implies an omnipresent Reality, and this concept is further clarified with the statement “All this is the Brahman.”. Putting all three together, we avoid the extremes that lead to either an illusionist view of the universe, or which lead to the abandonment of the life of the world as something “other” or “lesser” than the impersonal, unmoving Brahman.

Sri Aurobindo clarifies this further: “The supreme being of the Divine is beyond manifestation: the true sempiternal image of him is not revealed in matter, nor is it seized by life, nor is it cognizable by mind…. What we see is only a self-created form, rupa, not the eternal form of the Divinity, svarupa. There is someone or there is something that is other than the universe, inexpressible, unimaginable, an ineffably infinite Godhead beyond anything that our largest or subtlest conceptions of infinity can shadow. All this weft of things to which we give the name of universe, all this immense sum of motion to which we can fix no limits and vainly seek in its forms and movements for any stable reality, any status, level and point of cosmic leverage, has been spun out, shaped, extended by this highest Infinite, founded upon his ineffable supracosmic Mystery. It is founded upon a self-formulation which is itself unmanifest and unthinkable.”

The sum of all manifested creatures and forms cannot equal the supreme Divine, and they do not contain the Divine, nor limit and define the Divine in its entirety. They are contained within the larger being of the Supreme. “In the unthinkable timeless and spaceless infinity of his existence he has extended this minor phenomenon of a boundless universe in an endless space and time.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 5, The Divine Truth and Way, pp. 297-298

The Role of Faith In the Divine Transformation of Consciousness

In order to effect the change in standpoint and transformation of consciousness described by the Gita, the seeker must be able to move beyond the framework and limitations of the mental consciousness which characterizes the human condition. This consciousness operates under strict limits of an analytical viewpoint which tries to frame everything according to a factual basis of the material senses and the habitual patterns that have developed. This consciousness tends to be highly skeptical and cynical about any possibilities that are unseen or unknown or not yet patently obvious to our material senses. It is this consciousness which has denied, delayed and avoided innumerable truths which have later become evident. The history of science and religion shows us the opposition between what is seen as “reason” versus what is called “faith”. In reality, any progress, even in the material world, on a scientific basis, requires extending the field of action and knowledge into the unknown, and to do this, a form of faith is required. This faith represents a truth, not yet obvious to our senses, but felt and understood inwardly as exceeding the frame and limits of the mental structures we have built. There were those who had faith that mankind could find a way to fly through the air or explore the solar system; and with that faith, they set about to move beyond the limitations of the mind of the time. Similarly, there were those who had faith that the world was not flat and could be circumnavigated. It is such a faith, when applied to the development of the new, wider, inclusive, and global form of understanding and consciousness, that is required to exceed the mental frame that denies the possibility, just as it denied so many other possibilities of growth of knowledge, awareness and power of action throughout the entire history of mankind.

Sri Aurobindo points out: “The soul that fails to get faith in the higher truth and law must return into the path of ordinary mortal living subject to death and error and evil: it cannot grow into the Godhead which it denies. For this is a truth which has to be lived,–and lived in the soul’s growing light, not argued out in the mind’s darkness. One has to grow into it, one has to become it,–that is the only way to verify it. It is only by an exceeding of the lower self that one can become the real divine self and live the truth of our spiritual existence.”

“But to grow thus into the freedom of the divine Nature one must accept and believe in the Godhead secret within our present limited nature.”

“What with entire faith and without egoism we believe in and impelled by him will to be, the God within will surely accomplish.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 295-296

The Door Of Escape From the Ignorance

Combining knowledge, action and dedication, the seeker is able to understand the order of the cosmos and his role in it, and devote his life and action to the fulfillment of the divine purpose of existence. This brings about the transcendence of the ego-sense, and a new perspective or standpoint which alters the seeker from the basis of Ignorance to a new foundation in Knowledge. Ignorance is understood to be the mistaking of the illusion for the ultimate reality, and for the fixation on the action of the lower Nature of the Gunas and the fragmented ways of seeing and thinking that are operative at the mental and vital levels. Knowledge is understood to be the liberation from the divided and separative view of things to take a new stand from a position of unity and Oneness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the manifestation of the universal Being: “First as the immutable timeless self omnipresent and all-supporting which is in its eternity being and not becoming. Then, held in that being there is an essential power or spiritual principle of self-becoming, svabhava, through which by spiritual self-vision it determines and expresses, creates by liberation all that is latent or contained in its own existence. The power or the energy of that self-becoming looses forth into universal action, Karma, all that is thus determined in the spirit. All creation is this action, is this working of the essential nature, is Karma. But it is developed here in a mutable Nature of intelligence, mind, life, sense and form-objectivity of material phenomenon actually cut off from the absolute light and limited by the Ignorance. All its workings become there a sacrifice of the soul in Nature to the supreme Soul secret within her, and the supreme Godhead dwells therefore in all as the Master of their sacrifice, whose presence and power govern it and whose self-knowledge and delight of being receive it.”

This understanding of the ordering of manifestation and existence is the key to the liberation: “To know this is to have the right knowledge of the universe and the vision of God in the cosmos and to find out the door of escape from the Ignorance. For this knowledge, made effective for man by the offering up of his works and all his consciousness to the Godhead in all, enables him to return to his spiritual existence and through it to the supracosmic Reality eternal and luminous above this mutable Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 294-295

The Oneness of God, Nature and Individual Soul

The habitual patterns of the mind tell us that the individual soul is separate from and different from the Divine. We then create any number of explanations such as an external Creator who fashions the world, and ourselves, something like an artist creating a sculpture! The operative principle is one of separation and division. Similarly, we look at Nature and see a type of mechanism that has no obvious consciousness, and we see Nature as separate and different from God as well. The Divine Teacher, in attempting to shift the human seeker to a new standpoint, must address these concerns.

Sri Aurobindo takes up this question: “Nature has been represented as the mechanical bondage of the Gunas, the soul as the egoistic being subject to that bondage. But if that be all their truth, they are not and cannot be divine. Nature, ignorant and mechanical cannot be a power of God; for divine Power must be free in its workings, spiritual in its origin, spiritual in its greatness. The soul bound and egoistic in Nature, mental, vital, physical only, cannot be a portion of the Divine and itself a divine being; for such a divine being must be itself of the very nature of the Divine, free, spiritual, self-developing, self-existent, superior to mind, life and body.”

The solution proposed by the Gita is that there is a higher form and a lower form, and they are all one Being. “Mechanical nature is only a lower truth; it is the formula of an inferior phenomenal action. There is a higher which is the spiritual and that is the nature of our spiritual personality, our true person.” The creation is not outside of or different from the creator. The impersonal consciousness permeates through all the manifested universe and exceeds it. The Upanishad phrases the truth thus: “The spirit who is there in man, and the spirit who is there in the sun, it is one spirit and there is no other.”

“Brahman is all this that is, says the Upanishad, for Brahman is one self which sees itself in four successive positions of consciousness….He is the Brahman, consciously supports and originates all from his higher spiritual nature, consciously here becomes all things in a nature of intelligence, mind, life and sense and objective phenomenon of material existence. The Jiva is he in that spiritual nature of the Eternal, his eternal multiplicity, his self-vision from many centres of conscious self-power. God, Nature and Jiva are the three terms of existence, and these three are one being.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 293-294

The Role of Devotion In the Yoga of Integral Self-Liberation

Traditional practices of yoga or spiritual liberation have focused on the individual, and thereby emphasized the steps to be taken by the individual in order to free himself from the bondage of the dualities, Karma and the action of the Gunas of Nature. This individual focus is understandable given that the human being begins with the experience of the ego-sense that “separates” him from all other beings and universal Nature. By exclusive focus, the individual is able to achieve a form of individual salvation and it is that goal which has preoccupied seekers for millennia. Because the Gita does not accept this as a final consummation of the human experience, but rather transcends the ego-consciousness with the idea of unifying with the wider and higher consciousness that constitutes the Being of the universal creation, the Gita cannot treat this individual liberation as a stopping point. It is necessary to gain a standpoint of separation from involvement in the ego and its play in the world of the dualities, and thus far, the two paths may appear to be quite similar. However, once some perspective is attained, the Gita then turns to the creation and recognizes it as One with the individual, and both the individual and universal as aspects contained within and created by the Supreme Divine, called herein the Purushottama. The works undertaken by the individual are the works of Nature, and these works are controlled, directed, managed and constituted by the Purushottama.

Sri Aurobindo therefore concludes: “…since his works are that Being’s, he has to give up all his actions to the Godhead in him and the world, by whom they are done in the divine mystery of Nature. This is the double condition of the divine birth of the soul, of its release from the mortality of the ego and the body into the spiritual and eternal,–knowledge first of one’s timeless immutable self and union through it with the timeless Godhead, but knowledge too of that which lives behind the riddle of cosmos, the Godhead in all existences and their workings. Thus only can we aspire through the offering of all our nature and being to a living union with the One who has become in Time and Space all that is.”

This brings in the need for devotion: “It is an adoration and aspiration towards that which is greater than imperishable self or changing Nature. All knowledge then becomes an adoration and aspiration, but all works too become an adoration and aspiration. Works of nature and freedom of soul are unified in this adoration and become one self-uplifting to the one Godhead.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 292-293

The Highest Truth of Self and Spirit

The Gita continually presents a consistent theme throughout the teaching, weaving it through each aspect of the multitude of issues that the Divine Teacher is addressing. This is done so that, from whatever starting point the human disciple looks at the way, the path and the goal, he has to remember and address the highest central truth, and begin to place himself in the standpoint of the divine consciousness. It becomes a tool for reminding the seeker, reorienting the view, and maintaining the focus, regardless of the details, specific concerns or philosophical knots to be untied. Given the propensity of the human mind to continually divide, separate, fragment and analyze, this theme is essential as part of the holistic process of integration of consciousness toward which the Gita is pointing.

Sri Aurobindo describes this theme as follows: “That note was the idea of a supreme Godhead which dwells within man and Nature, but is greater than man and Nature, is found by impersonality of the self, but of which impersonal self is not the whole significance.”

The message of Sri Krishna is explained thus: “See then the one self in all beings that thou mayst see Me in all beings; see all beings in one spiritual self and reality, because that is the way to see all beings in Me; know one Brahman in all that thou mayst see God who is the supreme Brahman. Know thyself, be thyself that thou mayst be united with Me of whom this timeless self is the clear light or the transparent curtain. I the Godhead am the highest truth of self and spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 4, The Secret of Secrets, pp. 291-292