The First Stage of Realisation of the Universal Self

Sri Aurobindo has described the progressive realization of the Universal Self as occurring through three aspects and stages. The first of these is to realise the “containing” aspect of the Brahman. “First, there is the Self in whom all beings exist. The Spirit, the Divine has manifested itself as infinite self-extended being, self-existent, pure not subject to Time and Space, but supporting Time and Space as figures of its consciousness.”

While not entirely accurate, the idea of the universal Being spread out as a containing vessel for the manifestation is a useful object of meditation to help bring about this realisation. “In the image of the ether, not physical but an encompassing ether of vast being, consciousness and bliss, he may seek to see with the mind and to feel in his mental being this supreme existence and to identify it in oneness with the self within him. By such meditation the mind may be brought to a favourable state of predisposition in which, by the rending or withdrawing of the veil, the supramental vision may flood the mentality and change entirely all our seeing. And upon that change of seeing, as it becomes more and more potent and insistent and occupies all our consciousness, there will supervene eventually a change of becoming so that what we see we become. We shall be in our self-consciousness not so much cosmic as ultra-cosmic, infinite. Mind and life and body will then be only movements in that infinity which we have become, and we shall see that what exists is not worlds at all but simply this infinity of spirit in which move the mighty cosmic harmonies of its own images of self-conscious becoming.”

When we have the opportunity to experience the vastness of outer space and the immensity of the star-field, we may get, in our physical being, some sense of the psychological movement that Sri Aurobindo is here describing. We sense space as some kind of container and speak of a “universe” which acts as that container for the existence of innumerable galaxies, each of which consisting then of forms, forces, energies and motion in the universal play of creation and destruction. This physical experience, translated into the psychological sphere, helps us to appreciate the first aspect of the universal Being, the container, or holder, of all else.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 10, The Realisation of the Cosmic Self, pg. 355