Addressing the False Dichotomy Set Up By the Mind

Even when we accept, intellectually, the Oneness of the Absolute, and accept the ideas that there is “One without a second” and “All this is the Brahman”, the great formulae of the Upanishads, the mind still tends to set up a dichotomy for the spiritual seeker that accepts the Unmanifest as the Absolute, and the Manifest as something more or less unreal. It is this habit of mind which narrows the seeking and the approach to the Divine Reality.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Ordinarily, the discriminating mind tells us that only what is beyond all manifestation is absolute, only the formless Spirit is infinite, only the timeless, spaceless, immutable, immobile Self in its repose is absolutely real; and if we follow and are governed in our endeavour by this conception, that is the subjective experience at which we shall arrive, all else seeming to us false or only relatively true.”

Sri Aurobindo suggests that a wider, embracing formulation, harking back to the significance of the Upanishadic declarations, leads to a more complete realization of the truth of existence: “But if we start from the larger conception, a completer truth and a wider experience open to us. We perceive that the immutability of the timeless, spaceless existence is an absolute and an infinite, but that also the conscious-force and the active delight of the divine Being in its all-blissful possession of the outpouring of its powers, qualities, self-creations is an absolute and an infinite,–and indeed the same absolute and infinite, so much the same that we can enjoy simultaneously, equally the divine timeless calm and peace and the divine time-possessing joy of activity, freely, infinitely, without bondage or the lapse into unrest and suffering. So too we can have the same experience of all the principles of this activity which in the Immutable are self-contained and in a sense drawn in and concealed, in the cosmic are expressed and realise their infinite quality and capacity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 17, The Soul and Nature, pg. 409

The Secret of the Complete Liberation of the Consciousness

Because of the basis of human awareness in the mental consciousness, we tend to focus on one side of things to the exclusion of other sides; thus, we tend to either fixate on the Absolute and thereby declare the manifested world to be an illusion or at best a “lesser reality”; or else we focus on that outer world and declare the spiritual life and experience to be illusory. In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo examines these positions at length under the headings of “The Materialist Denial” and “The Refusal of the Ascetic”. His answer to each of these one-sided presentations is found in his formula “Reality Omnipresent” and it is this concept that, brought to fruition in experience of consciousness, represents the integral knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates on this: “If we are to possess perfectly the world in our new divinised consciousness as the Divine himself possesses it, we have to know also each thing in its absoluteness, first by itself, secondly in its union with all that completes it; for so has the Divine imaged out and seen its being in the world. To see things as parts, as incomplete elements is a lower analytic knowledge. The Absolute is everywhere; it has to be seen and found everywhere. Every finite is an infinite and has to be known and sensed in its intrinsic infiniteness as well as in its surface finite appearance. But so to know the world, so to perceive and experience it, it is not enough to have an intellectual idea or imagination that so it is; a certain divine vision, divine sense, divine ecstasy is needed, an experience of union of ourselves with the objects of our consciousness. In that experience not only the Beyond but all here, not only the totality, the All in its mass, but each thing in the All becomes to us our self, God, the Absolute and Infinite, Sachchidananda. This is the secret of the complete delight in God’s world, complete satisfaction of the mind and heart and will, complete liberation of the consciousness.”

“To the rational mind and the ordinary sense-experience this may well seem only a poetic fancy or a mystic hallucination; but the absolute satisfaction and sense of illumination which it gives and alone can give is really a proof of its greater validity; we get by that a ray from the higher consciousness and the diviner sense into which our subjective being is intended eventually, if we will only allow it, to be transfigured.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 17, The Soul and Nature, pp. 408-409

The Integral Knowledge Unifies the Aims of the Yoga of Knowledge, Yoga of Works and Yoga of Love

The seeker of the integral Yoga recognizes the aims and underlying impulsions behind the traditional paths of Yoga–the Yoga of Knowledge, the Yoga of Works, and the Yoga of Love. Each of these paths is based on a different aspect of the psychological makeup of the individual and relates to a different aspect of the supreme Reality, Sat-Chit-Ananda. In the integral Yoga, all of these aspects and aims are unified and recognized as One.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “Knowledge aims at the realisation of true self-existence, works at the realisation of the divine Conscious-Will which secretly governs all works, devotion at the realisation of the Bliss which enjoys as the Lover all beings and all existences,–Sat, Chit-Tapas and Ananda. Each therefore aims at possessing Sachchidananda through one or other aspect of his triune divine nature. By Knowledge we arrive always at our true, eternal, immutable being, the self-existent which every ‘I’ in the universe obscurely represents, and we abrogate difference in the great realization, so’ham, I am He, while we arrive also at our identity with all other beings.”

Similarly the integral yoga realises the divine conscious-force that creates and sets the entire universal play in motion and it identifies with that as well. “It enables us to unite our will with His, to realise His will in the energies of all existences and to perceive the fulfilment of these energies of others as part of our own universal self-fulfillment. Thus it removes the reality of strife and division and opposition and leaves only their appearances. By that knowledge we arrive at the possibility of a divine action, a working which is personal to our nature, but impersonal to our being, since it proceeds from That which is beyond our ego and acts only by its universal sanction. We proceed in our works with equality, without bondage to works and their results, in unison with the Highest, in unison with the universal, free from separate responsibility for our acts and therefore unaffected by their reactions.”

“The integral knowledge again reveals to us the Self-existent as the All-Blissful who, as Sachchidananda manifesting the world, manifesting all beings, accepts their adoration, even as He accepts their works of aspiration and their seekings of knowledge, leans down to them and drawing them to Himself takes all into the joy of His divine being. Knowing Him as our divine Self, we become one with Him, as the lover and beloved become one, in the ecstasy of that embrace. Knowing Him too in all beings, perceiving the glory and beauty and joy of the Beloved everywhere, we transform our souls into a passion of universal delight and a wideness and joy of universal love.”

“Thus, by the integral knowledge we unify all things in the One….The Knowledge brings also the Power and the Joy.”

“How shall he be deluded, whence shall he have sorrow who sees everywhere the Oneness?”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pp. 406-407

The Action of the Supermind

The Supermind represents a plane of consciousness between the Mind plane and the higher plane of Sat-Chit-Ananda. Mind divides, fragments and analyzes everything into separate parts and actions in Time. Sat-Chit-Ananda incorporates the consciousness of Oneness, infinity, universality and timelessness. It is the role of the Supermind to translate the unity into the multiplicity and to synthesize the fragmented view of the mind into a comprehensive whole. It acts both in the descent of consciousness from Oneness to Multiplicity as well as in the ascent back from Multiplicity to Oneness. In order to accomplish these things, it has to have various characteristics, which are described at some length by Sri Aurobindo:

“It reveals the Truth behind the scattered and ill-combined suggestions of our mentality and makes each to fall into its place in the unity of the Truth behind; thus it can transform the half-light of our minds into a certain totality of light. It reveals the Will behind all the devious and imperfectly regulated striving of our mental will and emotional wishes and vital effort and makes each to fall into its place in the unity of the luminous Will behind; thus it can transform the half-obscure struggle of our life and mind into a certain totality of ordered force. It reveals the delight for which each of our sensations and emotions is groping and from which they fall back in movements of partially grasped satisfaction or of dissatisfaction, pain, grief or indifference, and makes each take its place in the unity of the universal delight behind; thus it can transform the conflict of our dualised emotions and sensations into a certain totality of serene, yet profound and powerful love and delight. Moreover, revealing the universal action, it shows the truth of being out of which each of its movements arises and to which each progresses, the force of effectuation which each carries with it and the delight of being for which and from which is born, and it relates all to the universal being, consciousness, force and delight of Sachchidananda. Thus it harmonises for us all the oppositions, divisions, contrarieties of existence and shows us in them the One and the Infinite. Uplifted into this supramental light, pain and pleasure and indifference begin to be converted into joy of the one self-existent Delight, strength and weakness, success and failure into powers of the one self-effective Force and Will, truth and error, knowledge and ignorance into light of the one infinite self-awareness and universal knowledge, increase of being and diminution of being, limitation and the overcoming of limitation into waves of the one self-realising conscious existence. All our life as well as all our essential being is transformed into the possession of Sachchidananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pp. 405-406

The Necessity of the Action of the Supermind For the Transformation of the Lower Nature

The essential difficulty that has challenged seekers throughout the ages when they take up the spiritual quest is the apparent enormous gap between the experience of consciousness in the higher nature, and that of the lower nature. This has led to a bifurcation between the spiritual experiences, generally in a trance state, of infinite consciousness and bliss, and the return to the daily existence of duality, separation and fragmentation experienced by those who are locked into the experience of the lower nature of mind-life-body. The attempts to bridge this gap have been generally unsuccessful in the past and have led to either acceptance of the abandonment of the outer life as the price for achievement of the spiritual consciousness, or else, the acceptance of a spiritualizing influence, far short of total transformation, in the lower nature.

Sri Aurobindo explains that the key to an actual transformation of the lower nature is the involvement and action of what he calls variously “truth-mind” or “supermind” representing the intermediate plane that translates the consciousness of the higher nature into that of the lower. It is at this level that the “unity” is transformed into an infinite number of forms, and the “one” is apparently turned into the “many”. It is also at this level that the normal fragmenting action of the mental consciousness which sees only division, separation, difference, and opposition can be harmonized to see this all as the action of One infinite, all-creating Being.

“This transformation cannot be complete or really executed without the awakening of the truth-mind which corresponds in the mental being to the Supermind and is capable of receiving mentally its illuminations. By the opposition of Spirit and Mind without the free opening of this intermediate power the two natures, higher and lower, stand divided, and though there may be communication and influence or the catching up of the lower into the higher in a sort of luminous or ecstatic trance, there cannot be a full and perfect transfiguration of the lower nature.”

The mind is mutable, ever-changing and limited. Bringing in the action of this higher principle provides a real opportunity to bring about a stable new level of consciousness. Just as mind transformed the action of the material and vital planes, the action of supermind has a similar evolutionary potential. If we review the pattern of the evolution of consciousness of Life out of Matter, and Mind out of Life, and the vast transformations that each such stage brought about, it becomes easy to recognize that this next stage is the evolutionary destiny of humanity and the solution to the problem that those who take up the spiritual life have faced.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pp. 404-405

Transforming the Lower Nature in the Light of the Higher Nature

Spirituality has, for the most part, focused on a realization of the higher nature of existence, and this has led to something of a dichotomy or dual existence for the seeker. It is a common experience that the seeker goes into a status that brings about the realization of some aspect of the higher nature, but in order to do so, he must abandon the outer life which is either distracting or dilutive of that experience. And then, when the experience withdraws, the seeker is left with the unreformed lower nature reverting to its habitual modes of action.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “We have not to leave them separate so that we live a sort of double life, spiritual within or above, mental and material in our active and earthly living; we have to re-view and remould the lower living in the light, force and joy of the higher reality. We have to realise Matter as a sense-created mould of Spirit, a vehicle for all manifestation of the light, force and joy of Sachchidananda in the highest conditions of terrestrial being and activity. We have to see Life as a channel for the infinite Force divine and break the barrier of sense-created and mind-created farness and division from it so that that divine Power may take possession of and direct and change all our life-activities until our vitality transfigured ceases in the end to be the limited life-force which now supports mind and body and becomes a figure of the all-blissful conscious-force of Sachchidananda. We have similarly to change our sensational and emotional mentality into a play of the divine Love and universal Delight; and we have to surcharge the intellect which seeks to know and will in us with the light of the divine Knowledge-Will until it is transformed into a figure of that higher and sublime activity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pp. 403-404

The Seven Principles of the Manifest Being of Sachchidananda

Having described the integral Yoga of knowledge as constituted both by oneness with the Immutable Brahman and the Mutable Brahman, Sri Aurobindo identifies the specific realisations that come along with this. First and foremost: “This realisation of oneness and this practice of oneness in difference is the whole of the Yoga.”

He then goes on to describe seven principles of this realisation: “We have …to live in the consciousness of the Absolute transcendent and of the Absolute manifested in all relations, impersonal and manifest as all personalities, beyond all qualities and rich in infinite quality, a silence out of which the eternal Word creates, a divine calm and peace possessing itself in infinite joy and activity. We have to find Him knowing all, sanctioning all, governing all, containing, upholding and informing all as the Purusha and at the same time executing all knowledge, will and formation as Prakriti. We have to see Him as one Existence, Being gathered in itself and Being displayed in all existences; as one Consciousness concentrated in the unity of its existence, extended in universal nature and many-centred in innumerable beings; one Force static in its repose of self-gathered consciousness and dynamic in its activity of extended consciousness; one Delight blissfully aware of its featureless infinity and blissfully aware of all feature and force and forms as itself; one creative knowledge and governing Will, supramental, originative and determinative of all minds, lives and bodies; one Mind containing all mental beings and constituting all their mental activities; one Life active in all living beings and generative of their vital activities; one substance constituting all forms and objects as the visible and sensible mould in which mind and life manifest and act just as one pure existence is that ether in which all Conscious-Force and Delight exist unified and find themselves variously. For these are the seven principles of the manifest being of Sachchidananda.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pp. 402-403