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

The Integral Yoga of Knowledge

Sri Aurobindo explains the differences between the traditional Yoga of knowledge and what may be called the “integral yoga of knowledge”. While the traditional Yoga of knowledge accepts the concept that “all this is the Brahman”, on a practical level, it focuses the attention on the inactive, passive Brahman and avoids or rejects the active Brahman of the manifested world. The goal is, through non-attachment to the outer world, to achieve a status that is pure, silent, immobile. Obviously there are occasional attempts made through history to bring this knowledge of Oneness into practice, but the vast weight of the traditional approach has tended to overlook the importance of this approach.

On the other hand, the integral Yoga of knowledge as described by Sri Aurobindo, seeks to unify the consciousness to embrace both the passive and the active Brahman, to give full weight to the Oneness of all that is manifested with the unmanifest, and to treat both as equal aspects of the divine creation, in what Sri Aurobindo elsewhere describes as “reality omnipresent”.

“The soul thus possesses itself in the unity of Sachchidananda upon all the manifest planes of its own being. This is the characteristic of the integral knowledge that it unifies all in Sachchidananda because not only is Being one in itself, but it is one everywhere, in all its poises and in every aspect, in its utmost appearance of multiplicity as in its utmost appearance of oneness.”

The integral knowledge …”finds the same oneness in the Unmanifest and the Manifest, in the Impersonal and the Personal, in Nirguna and Saguna, in the infinite depths of the universal silence and the infinite largeness of the universal action. It finds the same absolute oneness in the Purusha and the Prakriti; in the divine Presence and the works of the divine Power and Knowledge; in the eternal manifestness of the one Purusha and the constant manifestation of the many Purushas; in the inalienable unity of Sachchidananda keeping constantly real to itself its own manifold oneness and in the apparent divisions of mind, life and body in which oneness is constantly, if secretly real and constantly seeks to be realised. All unity is to it an intense, pure and infinite realisation, all difference an abundant, rich and boundless realisation of the same divine and eternal Being.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pp. 401-402

Two Movements In the Yoga of Knowledge For the Liberated Soul

Practitioners of the traditional Yoga of knowledge focus primarily on the first, essential movement–the discovery of the Self, which is One with the Eternal. Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “When, then, by the withdrawal of the centre of consciousness from identification with the mind, life and body, one has discovered one’s true self, discovered the oneness of that self with the pure, silent, immutable Brahman, discovered in the immutable, in the Akshara Brahaman, that by which the individual being escapes from his own personality into the impersonal, the first movement of the Path of Knowledge has been completed. It is the sole that is absolutely necessary for the traditional aim of the Yoga of Knowledge, for immergence, for escape from cosmic existence, for release into the absolute and ineffable Parabrahman who is being all cosmic being.”

During the process of the change of consciousness, other experiences and statuses may arise for the seeker. For instance, “The seeker … may realise the Lord of the universe, the Purusha who manifests Himself in all creatures, may arrive at the cosmic consciousness, may know and feel his unity with all beings…” The traditional Yoga of knowledge, however, will not fixate attention on these other experiences; rather, they too must be put aside to achieve the goal of escape from the round of existence or the illusion of the outer world.

It is, however, the second movement of the Yoga of knowledge which can bring about an integral realization: “When on the other hand, having attained to the freedom and the silence and the peace, we resume possession by the cosmic consciousness of the active as well as the silent Brahman and can securely live in the divine freedom as well as rest in it, we have completed the second movement of the Path by which the integrality of self-knowledge becomes the station of the liberated soul.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 16, Oneness, pg. 401

The Mystic Secret of the Concept of the Vedic Sacrifice

The terminology used by the ancient sages of the Vedic period was intended to convey, through symbolic language, a process whereby the human seeker would be able to prepare himself to receive the higher force and consciousness of Sat-Chit-Ananda and thereby transform his life in the world. Sri Aurobindo elsewhere goes into this subject at great length. Here he briefly explains:

“If we can break down the veil of the intellectual, emotional, sensational mind which our ordinary existence has built between us and the Divine, we can then take up through the Truth-mind all our mental, vital and physical experience and offer it up to the spiritual–this was the secret or mystic sense of the old Vedic “sacrifice”–to be converted into the terms of the infinite truth of Sachchidananda, and we can receive the powers and illuminations of the infinite Existence in forms of a divine knowledge, will and delight to be imposed on our mentality, vitality, physical existence till the lower is transformed into the perfect vessel of the higher. This was the double Vedic movement of the descent and birth of the gods in the human creature and the ascent of the human powers that struggle towards the divine knowledge, power and delight and climb into the godheads, the result of which was the possession of the One, the Infinite, the beatific existence, the union with God, the Immortality. By possession of this ideal plane we break down entirely the opposition of the lower and the higher existence, the false gulf created by the Ignorance between the finite and the Infinite, God and Nature, the One and the Many, open the gates of the Divine, fulfil the individual in the complete harmony of the cosmic consciousness and realise in the cosmic being the epiphany of the transcendent Sachchidananda.”

This interchange and relation can take place through an intermediate plane of existence that acts to translate and convert the knowledge, power and delight of the higher planes of unity into the forms that manifest in the lower planes of mind-life-body. “The link between the spiritual and the lower planes of the mental being is that which is called in the old Vedantic phraseology the vijnana and which we may term the Truth-plane or the ideal mind or supermind where the One and the Many meet and our being is freely open to the revealing light of the divine Truth and the inspiration of the divine Will and Knowledge.” It is at this level that the apparent contradictions of the multiplicity are resolved and harmonized into their inherent Oneness, while the particular meaning and purpose of the individual forms is maintained and recognized. Oneness thus does not imply the abolition of all differentiation of forms, forces and beings; rather, that each of these are recognized as elements that are One with each other yet which are part of an interplay that maintains its harmony even in the widest diversity. The One and the Many are two views of the same Reality and are thus capable of being reconciled by the supramental or truth-mind of this mediating plane of awareness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 15, The Cosmic Consciousness, pp. 399-400

Stages of the Realisation of the Cosmic Consciousness in Life

As the seeker focuses on the realization of cosmic oneness in life itself, he goes through various stages of experience. One stage is a form of deep sympathy, to the point where the seeker feels what others are feeling and experiences them, in some cases, in his own body. There have been anecdotes, for instance, from the Christian tradition, whereby certain deep experiences of emotional identity with the suffering of Jesus led to the formation of actual stigmata in the hands and feet. Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “In the first stage the soul is still subject to the reactions of the duality, still subject therefore to the lower Prakriti; it is depressed or hurt by the cosmic suffering, elated by the cosmic joy. We suffer the joys of others, suffer their griefs, and this oneness can be carried even into the body, as in the story of the Indian saint who, seeing a bullock tortured in the field by its cruel owner, cried out with the creature’s pain and the weal of the lash was found reproduced on his own flesh.”

This first stage represents the soul identifying with the Prakriti, with Nature. Yet another form of oneness is also possible when the soul stations itself in the freedom of Sat-Chit-Ananda yet does not abandon the world of mind-life-body. “This is achieved when the soul is free and superior to the cosmic reactions which are then felt in the life, mind and body as an inferior movement; the soul understands, accepts, sympathises, but is not overpowered or affected, so that even the mind and body learn also to accept without being overpowered or even affected except on their surface.”

Yet another step can then occur: “And the consummation of this movement is when the two spheres of existence are no longer divided and the mind, life and body grow into the spirit’s freedom from the lower or ignorant response to the cosmic touches and the subjection to the duality ceases. This does not mean insensibility to the struggles and sufferings of others, but it does mean a spiritual supremacy and freedom which enables one to understand perfectly, put the right values on things and heal from above instead of struggling from below. It does not inhibit the divine compassion and helpfulness, but it does inhibit the human and animal sorrow and suffering.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 15, The Cosmic Consciousness, pp. 398-399

Realisation of Cosmic Consciousness In Mind, Life and Body

When the mind raises itself to a plane of peace, wideness and timelessness, it can achieve a form of realization of cosmic consciousness. From that standpoint it is possible to reflect the higher light into the outer existence. Not generally recognized however is the ability to achieve a form of cosmic consciousness within the realm of body-life-mind directly. The underlying principle of course is that all existence is One, and has an inherent unity which can then be realized within any plane of existence.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “Not only Spirit is one, but Mind, Life, Matter are one. There is one cosmic Mind, one cosmic Life, one cosmic Body. All the attempt of man to arrive at universal sympathy, universal love and the understanding and knowledge of the inner soul of other existences is an attempt to beat thin, breach and eventually break down by the power of the enlarging mind and heart the walls of the ego and arrive nearer to a cosmic oneness.”

It then becomes possible to follow a methodology within life itself: “And if we can by the mind and heart get at the touch of the Spirit, receive the powerful inrush of the Divine into this lower humanity and change our nature into a reflection of the divine nature by love, by universal joy, by oneness of mind with all Nature and all beings, we can break down the walls. Even our bodies are not really separate entities and therefore our very physical consciousness is capable of oneness with the physical consciousness of others and of the cosmos. The Yogin is able to feel his body one with all bodies, to be aware of and even to participate in their affections; he can feel constantly the unity of all Matter and be aware of his physical being as only a movement of its movement. Still more is it possible for him to feel constantly and normally the whole sea of the infinite life as his true vital existence and his own life as only a wave of that boundless surge. And more easily yet is it possible for him to unite himself in mind and heart with all existences, be aware of their desires, struggles, joys, sorrows, thoughts, impulses, in a sense as if they were his own, at least as occurring in his larger self hardly less intimately or quite as intimately as the movements of his own heart and mind. This too is a realization of cosmic consciousness.”

Even for those not consciously practicing Yoga, there are times and circumstances where they get a glimpse of this inherent oneness. Who has not experienced being overcome by a wave of emotion built up in a crowd of people; subtler reactions such as the sudden sharing of emotion or idea with someone. What makes such experiences possible is the inherent Oneness that lies at the base of body, life and mind, and thus, allows, when the consciousness widens even a tiny bit to open to the experience of other beings, the sharing of thought, feeling and even physical sensation.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 15, The Cosmic Consciousness, pp. 397-398

The Duality of the Spirit Created by the Mental Consciousness

Even in the spiritual quest, the fundamental nature of the mind enters into the realization. As the mind approaches the Spirit, it will tend to view consciousness through its lens of duality, treating the transcendent spiritual experience as a higher field of experience, and the life of the world, the action of body-life-mind as a lower field of experience. Whether it takes this to the extreme of denying ultimate reality to the lower field, by treating it as an illusion or dream to be abandoned and denied in order to station itself in the higher field of experience, or whether it simply acts to focus on the one to the exclusion of the other, it has nevertheless succeeded in interposing duality into the unitive experience of the Divine.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “It (the mentality) sees on one side the Infinite, the Formless, the One, the Peace and Bliss, the Calm and Silence, the Absolute, the Vast and Pure; on the other it sees the finite, the world of forms, the jarring multiplicity, the strife and suffering and imperfect, unreal good, the tormented activity and futile success, the relative, the limited and vain and vile. To those who make this division, this opposition, complete liberation is only attainable in the peace of the One, the featurelessness of the Infinite, the non-becoming of the Absolute which is to them the only real being; to be free all values must be destroyed, all limitations not only transcended but abolished. They have the liberations of the divine rest, but not the liberty of the divine action; they enjoy the peace of the Transcendent, but not the cosmic bliss of the Transcendent. Their liberty depends upon abstention from the cosmic movement, it cannot dominate and possess cosmic existence itself. But it is also possible for them to realise and participate in the immanent as well as the transcendent peace. Still the division is nut cured. The liberty they enjoy is that of the silent unacting Witness, not the liberty of the divine Master-consciousness which possesses all things, delights in all, casts itself into all forms of existence without fear of fall or loss or bondage or stain. All the rights of the spirit are not yet possessed; there is still a denial, a limitation, a holding back from the entire oneness of all existence. The workings of Mind, Life, Body are viewed from the calm and peace of the spiritual planes of the mental being and are filled with that calm and peace; they are not possessed by and subjected to the law of the all-mastering Spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 15, The Cosmic Consciousness, pg. 397