Integral Non-Dualism: One Supreme and Universal Spirit and Manifest Godhead

“Two winged birds cling about a common tree, comrades, yoke-fellows; and one eats the sweet fruit of the true, the other eats not, but watches. The Soul upon a common tree is absorbed and because he is not lord, grieves and is bewildered; but when he sees and cleaves to that other who is the Lord, he knows that all is His greatness and his sorrow passes away from him.” Shwetashwatara Upanishad, IV. 6-7

“He who being One enters every womb and in whom all this comes together and goes apart, the adorable Godhead who rules as lord and gives us our desirable boons, one having seen comes exceedingly unto this peace.” Shwetashwatara Upanishad, IV.11

The unifying concept that accepts the unmoving and the moving as two aspects of a greater Divine Being, in Oneness, is called by some “integral non-dualism”. This integrative concept bridges the apparent separation and division, set up by the limitations of our mental process, between the silent, calm, uninvolved aspect of Existence sought after by those who follow the path of knowledge, and the involved, active life of those who follow the ways of devotion and works.

Sri Aurobindo describes the Gita’s view on this question: “The many-sided action of Nature is still possible even when the soul is poised in that calm self-existence: for the witness soul is the immutable Purusha, and Purusha has always some relation with Prakriti. But now the reason of this double aspect of silence and of activity is revealed in its entire significance,–because the silent all-pervading Self is only one side of the truth of the divine being. He who pervades the world as the one unchanging self that supports all its mutations, is equally the Godhead in man, the Lord in the heart of every creature, the conscient Cause and Master of all our subjective becoming and all our inward-taking and outward-going objectivised action. The Ishwara of the Yogins is one with the Brahman of the seeker of knowledge, one supreme and universal Spirit, one supreme and universal Godhead.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pp. 327-328

and Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads , Shwetashwatara Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Chapter 4, pp. 370-371, verses 6-7, 11

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The Easy Way To Approach God

In the Taittiriya Upanishad, the seer states: “One becometh as the unexisting, if he know the Eternal as negation; but if one knoweth of the Eternal that He is, then men know him for the saint and the one reality.”

The Gita recognizes the path of renunciation as a method of attainment of spiritual realisation: “The method of negative passivity, quietude, renunciation of life and works by which men feel after this intangible Absolute is admitted and ratified in the Gita’s philosophy, but only with a minor permissive sanction. This negating knowledge approaches the Eternal by one side only of the truth and that side the most difficult to reach and follow for the embodied soul in Nature…; it proceeds by a highly specialised, even an unnecessarily arduous way, ‘narrow and difficult to tread as a razor’s edge.’ ”

The easier and surer route is the method of affirmation. “Not by denying all relations, but through all relations is the Divine Infinite naturally approachable to man and most easily, widely, intimately seizable. This seeing is not after all the largest or the truest truth that the Supreme is without any relations with the mental, vital, physical existence of man in the universe…, nor that what is described as the empirical truth of things, the truth of relations,…, is altogether the opposite of the highest spiritual truth…. On the contrary, there are a thousand relations by which the supreme Eternal is secretly in contact and union with our human existence and by all essential ways of our nature and of the world’s nature…, can that contact be made sensible and that union made real to our soul, heart, will, intelligence, spirit. Therefore is this other way natural and easy for man…. God does not make himself difficult of approach to us; only one thing is needed, one demand made, the single indomitable will to break through the veil of our ignorance and the whole, the persistent seeking of the mind and the heart and life for that which is all the time near to it, within it, its own soul of being and spiritual essence and the secret of its personality and its impersonality, its self and its nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pp. 326-327

and Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads , Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Chapter 6, page 270

The Integrative Genius of the Gita

Sri Aurobindo points out that “The Gita itself does not evolve any quite novel solution out of its own questionings.” Rather, the Gita builds upon, fleshes out, organizes, harmonizes and integrates the earlier experiential spiritual visions and insights found in the Upanishads, while setting it forth in a language that was understandable to the intellectual mind and development of its day.

The Upanishads take up major questions of life and the meaning of existence. They are, however, extremely cryptic, notational rather than expansive, and communicate through an almost aphoristic intensity their meaning. The Gita takes up the hints and insights provided by the Upanishads and organizes and restates the material for the mental understanding. Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “But what is in the Upanishads undeveloped to the intelligence, because wrapped up in a luminous kernel of intuitive vision and symbolic utterance, the Gita brings out in the light of a later intellectual thinking and distinctive experience.”

The true genius of the Gita is just this ability to harmonize and bring together in a wide, embracing and unifying scope, the major questions of humanity, the aim of life, the meaning of existence, and the methods of spiritual realisation available to the seeker. “The greatness of the central though of the Gita in which all its threads are gathered up and united, consists in the synthetic value of a conception which recognises the whole nature of the soul of man in the universe and validates by a large an wise unification its many-sided need of the supreme and infinite Truth, Power, Love, Being to which our humanity turns in its search for perfection and immortality and some highest joy and power and peace. There is a strong and wide endeavor towards a comprehensive spiritual view of God and man and universal existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pg. 326

The Rationale and Limitations of the Paths of Devotion and Works in the Quest for Realisation

In the review of the abstract intellect it was recognised that there are both serious positive benefits and serious limitations to the seeking carried out by that power of consciousness. One of the main limitations was the inability of the abstract mind to satisfy the legitimate seeking and goals of the other parts of our complex human nature. If we once accept both the reality and the necessity of these other parts of our being, it is no longer acceptable to “cut the knot” by simply suppressing or denying them in an austere abstract practice. This provides us then the rationale for accepting the aspiration of the heart and the will in the being and a need to find a way to harness them into the yogic practice.

Sri Aurobindo describes the issue: “Not only his abstracting contemplative intellect but his yearning heart, his active will, his positive mind in search of some Truth to which his existence and the existence of the world is a manifold key, have their straining towards the Eternal and Infinite and seek to find in it their divine Source and the justification of their being and their nature.”

“From this need arise the religions of love and works, whose strength is that they satisfy and lead Godwards the most active and developed powers of our humanity,–for only by starting from these can knowledge be effective.”

The limitations of these paths however is that they focus almost entirely on the outer life and the external world, and thereby do not provide real leverage to achieve the high and powerful seeking available to the abstract intellectual path. A balance is required that integrates both the quietistic contemplative intellect with the active devotional and will-directed actions to bring about a complete realisation.

“No God-knowledge can be integral, perfect or universally satisfying which leaves unfulfilled their absolute claim, no wisdom utterly wise which in its intolerant asceticism of search negates or in the pride of pure knowledge belittles the spiritual reality behind these ways of the Godhead.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pp. 324-326

The Methods and Limitations of the Abstract Intellect In the Process of Realisation

The abstract reason is perhaps the most uniquely human capability, relying on the intellect to analyze, discriminate and define things. When applied to the process of realisation, this power provides both its unique strengths and its limiting weaknesses. The strengths of the abstract intellectual reason is that it provides an actual opportunity to escape the bondage of everyday affairs and thus, provide an opportunity for a further development and a new standpoint. It does this through systematically reviewing each thing, whether a material form, or a force, or a thought, and determining if it is limited or unlimited, finite or infinite; and to the extent it determines the limitations, it excludes those forms, forces or ideas. Eventually, it is forced to eliminate everything in manifestation and develop a statement such as we find in the Upanishads at one point, “neti, neti” (“not this, not that”). What the intellect is then left with is an abandonment of action and an increasing stillness, to achieve unification with the Eternal in the form of the unmoving, infinite, and dispassionate stillness of Eternity.

Few are those who are capable of carrying out such an austere path of knowledge. For those, there is no doubt a realisation at the end which has been called Nirvana, or perhaps Nirvikalpa Samadhi (Samadhi without “seed”) from which there is no returning.

The limitation here, besides the fact that few actually can tread this path successfully, is that it does not address either the purpose or reality of the universe, nor the complex human being composed of capabilities and forces other than the pure abstract intellect. It convicts the Creation of being an illusion, a distraction or an irrelevancy. It essentially also forgets that by using a process of negation, it fails to solve the affirmative side. It essential forgets the other great Upanishadic dictum: “All this is the Brahman.”

Sri Aurobindo summarizes: “It negates life in order to return to its source, cuts away from us all that we seem to be in order to get from it to the nameless and impersonal reality of our being. The desires of the heart, the works of the will and the conceptions of the mind are rejected; even in the end knowledge itself is negated and abolished in the Identical and Unknowable.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pg. 324

Any Gate, However Narrow, Can Lead To Realisation

The Gita continually urges the seeker to not be satisfied with a first step of achievement of a wide, calm poise outside the active life of the world. While such a step is accepted as a goal by many, and itself represents a major achievement for most, in fact, one that has been the object of a lifetime of effort, the Gita sets forth the understanding that this is actually a first stage of a process that must continue and achieve the higher goal of Oneness with the immanent Divine both separate from the action of the world and within that action.

Sri Aurobindo describes the yoga and its various methods, as outlined by the Gita: “All Yoga is a seeking after the Divine, a turn towards union with the Eternal. According to the adequacy of our perception of the Divine and the Eternal will be the way of the seeking, the depth and fullness of the union and the integrality of the realisation. Man, the mental being, approaches the Infinite through his finite mind and has to open some near gate of this finite upon that Infinite. He seeks for some conception on which his mind is able to seize, selects some power of his nature which by force of an absolute self-heightening can reach out and lay its touch on the infinite Truth that in itself is beyond his mental comprehension.”

Each individual has a different starting point and different psychological strengths and limitations. Each one, then, works with the power within himself that has the best opportunity of self-exceeding, whether it is the mind of knowledge, the heart of devotion, the will in works, or one of the other paths found in the many different yogic practices that have developed through time.

“However narrow the gate may be, he is satisfied if it offers some prospect into the wideness which attracts him, if it sets him on the way to the fathomless profundity and unreachable heights of that which calls to his spirit. And as he approaches it, so it receives him….”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pp. 323-324

Liberation and Transmutation of the Being and the Life

The human life is anchored in the experience of the dualities and the struggles and suffering that bondage to the dualities entails. We see the world as consisting of separate beings and forces which oppose, hinder and limit our scope and bring in their trail, a struggle for survival, for growth, for enjoyment and for understanding. The issue we have then to resolve is how to free ourselves of the bondage of the dualities and the ego-personality.

As long as we seek for solutions within the framework of the outer world, we remain locked into the paradigm of the dualities and thus, cannot actually solve the riddle. Once we turn our vision inward, we have the opportunity to untie the knot of the ego-personality, free ourselves from the dualities and thereby open the door to experiencing and living from the standpoint of the divine consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo provides the key to the necessary change in perspective: “Love of the world, the mask, must change into the love of God, the Truth. Once this secret and inner Godhead is known and embraced, the whole being and the whole life will undergo a sovereign uplifting and a marvelous transmutation. In place of the ignorance of the lower nature absorbed in its outward works and appearances the eye will open to the vision of God everywhere, to the unity and universality of the spirit. The world’s sorrow and pain will disappear in the bliss of the All-blissful; our weakness and error and sin will be changed into the all-embracing and all-transforming strength, truth and purity of the Eternal. To make the mind one with the divine consciousness, to make the whole of our emotional nature one love of God everywhere, to make all our works one sacrifice to the Lord of the worlds and all our worship and aspiration one adoration of him and self-surrender, to direct the whole self Godwards into an entire union is the way to rise out of a mundane into a divine existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 6, Works, Devotion and Knowledge, pp. 321-322