The Relation of the Individual to the Cosmic Divine

As the Isha Upanishad puts it: “But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught. He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad, v. 6-7, pg. 21)

Sri Aurobindo addresses a question here that puzzles everyone; namely, the relationship between the cosmic consciousness and the individual Self that we experience in the human consciousness, even assuming that we have transcended the ego-personality yet still experience the separate individual form in some degree. He points out that there are actually several different statuses possible for the individual soul to experience the cosmic consciousness.

“It is quite possible to realise the cosmic consciousness without becoming that, to see it, that is to say, with the soul, to feel it and dwell in it, be united with it without becoming wholly one with it, in a word, to preserve the individual consciousness of the Jivatman in the cosmic consciousness of the universal Self.”

Yet another relation is possible: “We may preserve a certain distinctness between the two and enjoy the relations between them; we may remain the individual self while participating in the bliss and infinity of the universal Self; or we may possess them both as a greater and lesser self, one pouring itself out in the universal play of the divine consciousness and force, the other the action of the same universal Being through our individual soul-centre or soul-form for the purposes of an individual play of mind, life and body.”

And yet another: “But the summit of realisation by knowledge is always the power to dissolve the personality in universal being, to merge the individual in the cosmic consciousness, to liberate even the soul-form into the unity and universality of the Spirit. This is the laya, dissolution, or moksha, liberation at which the Yoga of Knowledge aims. This may extend itself, as in the traditional Yoga, to the dissolution of mind, life and body itself into the silent Self or absolute Existence; but the essence of the liberation is the merging of the individual in the Infinite. When the Yogin no longer feels himself to be a consciousness situated in the body or limited by the mind, but has lost the sense of division in the boundlessness of an infinite consciousness, that which he set out to do is accomplished. Afterwards the retaining or non-retaining of the human life is a circumstance of no essential importance, for it is always the formless One who acts through its many forms of the mind and life and body and each soul is only one of the stations from which it chooses to watch and receive and actuate its own play.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 15, The Cosmic Consciousness, pp. 394-395

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