The Basis of the Sense of the Illusory Nature of Outer Existence

The refusal of the ascetic, as Sri Aurobindo has described it in The Life Divine, is based on an experience so all-encompassing and so all-powerful that it is understandable why that path has been accepted by so many throughout history as the true end and goal of their spiritual seeking. This refusal is one that denies reality to the outer world of names, forms and actions, or at least relegates it to a lesser reality. In the view of the ascetic, the only true aim or goal is to abandon the entire outer world, the universal manifestation and the individual ego-personality and become fully, totally absorbed in the Absolute, silent, unmoving, vast and void of all action.

Sri Aurobindo states: “Into that abyss of tranquility we must plunge and become that, if we are to annul the hold of this lower nature upon the soul. Therefore the universalized Jiva first ascends into the Silence; it becomes vast, tranquil, actionless. What action takes place, whether of body and these organs or any working whatever, the Jiva sees but does not take part in, authorise or in any way associate itself with it. There is action, but no personal actor, no bondage, no responsibility.”

Action may require the apparent action of the ego-personality, but the Jiva remains behind or above, unaffected, and wears the ego-personality as a convenient suit of clothes for that action. In a further experience, the Jiva may find that the action continues purely as the mechanical round of Nature through the three Gunas without any personality intervening at all.

“The soul may go even beyond this realisation; it may either rise to the Brahman on the other side of all idea of Self as a Void of everything that is here, a Void of unnameable peace and extinction of all, even of the Sat, even of that Existent which is the impersonal basis of individual or universal personality; or else it may unit with it as an ineffable “That” of which nothing can be said; for the universe and all that is does not even exist in That, but appears to the mind as a dream more unsubstantial than any dream ever seen or imagined, so that even the word dream seems too positive a thing to express its entire unreality. These experiences are the foundation of that lofty illusionism which takes such firm hold of the human mind in its highest overleapings of itself.”

Even a slight taste of these experiences can be overwhelming to the seeker, so it is easy to understand how many are captivated by it and dedicate their lives to establishing them on a constant basis.

Sri Aurobindo observes that the seeker of the integral Yoga must also go through the experience of the vast Silence in order to do away with the vestiges of the ego-personality, yet the integral seeker does not remain in this experience; rather he recognizes that the world manifestation also is the Brahman, and thus, he participates in this manifestation as an instrument or portion of the Transcendent.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 9, The Release from the Ego, pp. 350-351