The Experience of Detachment From the World of Manifestation

Sri Aurobindo’s integral Yoga embraces the world manifestation as the expression of the Divine. This does not, however, imply that the normal human standpoint, centered around the ego-consciousness, is to remain in place without modification. Sri Aurobindo recognizes that the transition to the divine standpoint, and the corresponding change in relation this implies to the forms, beings and forces in the world, requires a total change of consciousness. This change of consciousness comes about through the withdrawal from attachment to the ego and its characteristic way of viewing things. Thus, the undertaking of the traditional Yoga of knowledge, to separate oneself from this ego-consciousness, is a good preliminary step for achieving the eventual goal, which allows the seeker to first abandon the world, and then embrace it again once the new status has been gained.

“The experience which we first arrive at by the sort of shortcut to liberation which we have described as the movement of withdrawal, assists this tendency. For it is a breaking of the ego and a rejection of the habits of the mentality we now possess; for that is subject to matter and the physical senses and conceives of things only as forms, objects, external phenomena and as names which we attach to those forms. We are not aware directly of the subjective life of other beings except by analogy from our own and by inference or derivative perception based upon their external signs of speech, action, etc., which our minds translate into the terms of our own subjectivity. When we break out from ego and physical mind into the infinity of the spirit, we still see the world and others as the mind has accustomed us to see them, as names and forms; only in our new experience of the direct and superior reality of spirit, they lose that direct objective reality and that indirect subjective reality of their own which they had to the mind. They seem to be quite the opposite of the truer reality we now experience; our mentality, stilled and indifferent, no longer strives to know and make real to itself those intermediate terms which exist in them as in us and the knowledge of which has for its utility to bridge over the gulf between the spiritual self and the objective phenomena of the world. We are satisfied with the blissful infinite impersonality of a pure spiritual existence; nothing else and nobody else any longer matters to us. What the physical senses show to us and what the mind perceives and conceives about them and so imperfectly and transiently delights in, seems now unreal and worthless; we are not and do not care to be in possession of the intermediate truths of being through which these things are enjoyed by the One and possess for Him that value of His being and delight which makes, as we might say, cosmic existence a thing beautiful to Him and worth manifesting.”

This experience leads to a rejection of the world with the sense that it is a lesser reality or even a sort of dream or illusion, or alternatively the seeker in this status sees the the divine delight of the manifestation as something far distant and less relevant to the silent, immobile delight of the Absolute.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 18, The Soul and Its Liberation, pp. 422-423

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