The Experience of the Mind’s Liberation

The practice of Yoga is not an exercise in religion, philosophy or development of a coherent belief system. Yogic practice is intended to change the consciousness of the seeker, the “standpoint” from which one views the world and acts within it. Along the way, there is a shift that occurs as the seeker moves between the ordinary outer consciousness of the human being and the spiritual consciousness that is trying to manifest in him. This leads to what are called “spiritual experiences” where the consciousness of the human individual is set aside or overwhelmed by one of these standpoint shifts.

The yoga of knowledge, as practiced traditionally, has gained a large number of adherents in large part because of the intense and overwhelming nature of the experience that accompanies its practice. For those who have had a taste of this experience, it is easy to understand their focus on this as the ultimate state of awareness. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that it remains a stage, not the ultimate end result, of the practice of Yoga:

“Deep, intense, convincing, common to all who have overstepped a certain limit of the active mind-belt into the horizonless inner space, this is the great experience of liberation, the consciousness of something within us that is behind and outside of the universe and all its forms, interests, aims, events and happenings, calm, untouched, unconcerned, illimitable, immobile, free, the uplook to something above us indescribable and unseizable into which by abolition of our personality we can enter, the presence of an omnipresent eternal witness Purusha, the sense of an Infinity or a Timelessness that looks down on us from an august negation of all our existence and is alone the one thing Real. This experience is the highest sublimation of spiritualised mind looking resolutely beyond its own existence. No one who has not passed through this liberation can be entirely free from the mind and its meshes, but one is not compelled to linger in this experience for ever. Great as it is, it is only the Mind’s overwhelming experience of what is beyond itself and all it can conceive. It is a supreme negative experience, but beyond it is all the tremendous light of an infinite Consciousness, an illimitable Knowledge, an affirmative absolute Presence.”

As the Taittiriya Upanishad 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.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Chapter 6, pg. 270)

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 1, The Object of Knowledge, pp. 278-279

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