First Indications of the Brahman and Steps in the Realization for the Individual and Universal Consciousness

We live constantly in the world as organized in our minds around the ego-consciousness.  This is a fictitious world-view that puts the ego at the center of the universe when it is, in reality, an artificially constituted fragment of the Oneness of the universal creation.  When the ego-consciousness begins to gain awareness of the Brahman, as illustrated in the parable of the gods in the Kena Upanishad, it cannot immediately transition from the one status to the other entirely.  There is a process and an oscillation that occurs.  There are two aspects that both have to be aligned to the awareness of the Brahman, the universal powers of creation and action, the gods; and the individual self-awareness which aligns with the universal Self.

Part 4, verses 4-5:  “Now this is the indication of That, — as is this flash of the lightning upon us or as is this falling of the eyelid, so in that which is of the gods.  Then in that which is of the Self, — as the motion of this mind seems to attain to That and by it afterwards the will in the thought continually remembers It.”

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The cosmic functionings through which the gods act, mind, life, speech, senses, body, must become aware of something beyond them which governs them, by which the are and move, by whose force they evolve, enlarge themselves and arrive at power and joy and capacity; to that they must turn from their ordinary operations; leaving these, leaving the false idea of independent actions and self-ordering which is an egoism of mind and life and sense they must become consciously passive to the power, light and joy of something which is beyond themselves.  What happens then is that this divine Unnameable reflects Himself openly in the gods.  His light takes possession of the thinking mind, His power and joy of the life, His light and rapture of the emotional mind and the senses.  Something of the supreme image of Brahman falls upon the world-nature and changes it into divine nature.”

“All this is not done by a sudden miracle.  It comes by flashes, revelations, sudden touches and glimpses; there is as if a leap of the lightning of revelation flaming out from those heavens for a moment and then returning into its secret source; as if the lifting of the eyelid of an inner vision and its falling again because the eye cannot look long and steadily on the utter light.  The repetition of these touches and visitings from the Beyond fixes the gods in their upward gaze and expectation, constant repetition fixes them in a constant passivity; not moving out any longer to grasp at the forms of the universe mind, life and senses will more and more be fixed in the memory, in the understanding, in the joy of the touch and vision of that transcendent glory which they have now resolved to make their sole object; to that only they will learn to respond and not to the touches of outward things.  The silence which has fallen on them and which is now their foundation and status will become their knowledge of the eternal silence which is Brahman; the response of their functioning to a supernal light, power, joy will become their knowledge of the eternal activity which is Brahman. … The mind will know nothing but the Brahman, think of nothing but the Brahman, the Life will move to, embrace, enjoy nothing but the Brahman, the eye will see, the ear hear, the other senses sense nothing but the Brahman.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pg. 107, 177-183


The Parable of the Gods, Part 7: Learning of the Existence of the Brahman

By achieving a state of silent reflection, the mental consciousness is able to exceed the framework of its normal process, and thereby understand that there is something beyond its limited action that is the cause, and the creator of all, the Brahman.  The Supreme Shakti makes this known to Indra, the god who embodies the power of the mind.  Through the action of the egoistic consciousness, we do not pay attention to, nor recognize, the Brahman.  Just as the daylight blocks out the awareness of the infinite universe of suns and stars, galaxies and universes, so the ego blocks out the awareness of the Brahman.  When night comes and we see the vast space and the stars, we have the opportunity to turn our attention to the greater powers and significance of the universal creation.

The 4th part, verses 1-3:  “She said to him, ‘It is the Eternal.  Of the Eternal is this victory in which shall grow to greatness.’  Then alone he came to know that this was the brahman.  Therefore are these gods as it were beyond all the other gods, even Agni and Vayu and Indra, because they came nearest to the touch of That ….  There is Indra as it were beyond all the other gods because he came nearest to the touch of That, because he first knew that it was the Brahman.”

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “from her he learns that this Daemon is the Brahman by whom alone the gods of mind and life and body conquer and affirm themselves, and in whom alone they are great.”

“From this supreme Nature which is also the supreme Consciousness the gods must learn their own truth; they must proceed by reflecting it in themselves instead of limiting themselves to their own lower movement.  For she has the knowledge and consciousness of the One, while the lower nature of mind, life and body can only envisage the many.  Although therefore Indra, Vayu and Agni are the greatest of the gods, the first coming to know the existence of the Brahman, the others approaching and feeling the touch of it, yet it is only by entering into contact with the supreme consciousness and reflecting its nature and by the elimination of the vital, mental, physical egoism so that their whole function shall be to reflect the One and Supreme that Brahman can be known by the gods in us and possessed.  The conscious force that supports our embodied life must become simply and purely a reflector of that supreme Consciousness and Power of which its highest ordinary action is only a twilight figure; the Life must become a passively potent reflection and pure image of that supreme Life which is greater than all our utmost actual and potential vitality; the Mind must resign itself to be no more than a faithful mirror of the image of the superconscient Existence.  By this conscious surrender of mind, life and senses to the Master of our senses, life and mind who alone really governs their action, by this turning of the cosmic existence into a passive reflection of the eternal being and a faithful reproducer of the nature of the Eternal we may hope to know and through knowledge to rise into that which is superconscient to us; we shall enter into the Silence that is master of an eternal, infinite, free and all-blissful activity.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 106-107, 171-176

The Parable of the Gods, Part 6: Beyond the Mental World

The powers of the body, life and mind are unable to fully grasp and understand the unknown, which is beyond all of them.  Yet the unknown is not entirely unknowable, since the entire universe is One.  When the mind falls silent, it has the capability of reflecting a higher truth of existence, and achieving a knowledge by identity.  The mental power, in a state of silent reflective consciousness can come into contact with the power of the supreme creative force, the supreme Shakti.  In the Vedic symbolism this Shakti, this manifesting force of the universe is given a feminine form and is considered to be unified with the male form of consciousness, Shiva.  There is thus a consciousness, beyond the mental level, that holds within itself awareness of the oneness and the multiplicity and which provides the basis for the entire manifestation of the mental, vital and physical worlds of creation.

The third part, verse 12:  “He in the same ether came upon the Woman, even upon Her who shines out in many forms, Uma daughter of the snowy summits.  To her he said, ‘What was this mighty Daemon?’ ”

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “But Indra does not turn back from the quest like Agni and Vayu; he pursues his way through the highest ether of the pure mentality and there he approaches the Woman, the many-shining, Uma Haimavati…  Uma is the supreme Nature from whom the whole cosmic action takes its birth; she is the pure summit and highest power of the One who here shines out in many forms.  From this supreme Nature which is also the supreme Consciousness the gods must learn their own truth; they must proceed by reflecting it in themselves instead of limiting themselves to their own lower movement.  For she has the knowledge and consciousness of the One, while the lower nature of mind, life and body can only envisage the many.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 104-106, 171-176

The Parable of the Gods, Part 5: The Power of the Mental World and Its Limitations

In the evolution of consciousness, there is an ascending ladder, from Matter to Life and from Life to Mind.  Neither the material consciousness nor the vital consciousness were able to determine the nature of the unknown that did not respond to the corresponding powers of these two stages of evolutionary development.  Next comes the evolution of mind and the mental power.  The mind brings a new level of power and insight with the rise of sensory perception, reflection, analysis and the logical reasoning intellect.  Yet it too is unable to encompass the understanding of the unknown.   When it tries to grasp the vastness, the complexity and the infinity of the manifestation through Time, it comes up with nothing and falls into a state of silence, drifting without anchor.

The Kena Upanishad, 3rd part, verse 11:  “Then they said to Indra, ‘Master of plenitudes, get thou the knowledge, what is this mighty Daemon.’ He said, ‘So be it.’  He rushed upon That.  That vanished before him.”

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Indra is the power of the Mind; the senses which the Life uses for enjoyment, are operations of Indra which he conducts for knowledge  and all things that Agni has upbuilt and supports and destroys in the universe are Indra’s field and the subject of his functioning.  If then this unknown Existence is something that the senses can grasp or, if it is something that the mind can envisage, Indra shall know it and make it part of his opulent possessions.  But it is nothing that the senses can grasp or the mind envisage, for as soon as Indra approaches it, it vanishes.  The mind can only envisage what is limited by Time and Space and this Brahman is that which, as the Rig-Veda has said, is neither today nor tomorrow and though it moves and can be approached in the conscious being of all conscious existences, yet when the mind tries to approach it and study it in itself, it vanishes from the view of the mind.  The Omnipresent cannot be seized by the senses, the Omniscient cannot be known by the mentality.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 104-106, 171-176

The Parable of the Gods, Part 4: The Power of the Vital World and Its Limitations

Following the evolutionary sequence, the Upanishad next brings forth the power of the world of life, the vital world, in the form of the god Vayu.  This principle of manifestation is not limited to our human definition of “life”; rather it is a principle of development, expansion and movement, which includes what we would call “life” but goes beyond it in the universal creation.

Verses 7-10 of the third part of the Kena Upanishad:  “Then they said to Vayu, ‘O Vayu, this discern, what is this mighty Daemon.’ He said, ‘So be it.’  He rushed upon That; It said to him, ‘Who art thou?’ “i am Vayu,’ he said, ‘ and I am he that expands in the Mother of things.’  ‘Since such thou art, what is the force in thee?’  ‘Even all this I can take for myself, all this that is upon the earth.’ That set before him a blade of grass, ‘This take.’  He went towards it with all his speed and he could not take it.  Even there he ceased, even thence he returned; ‘I could not discern of That, what is this mighty Daemon.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo comments:  “Another god rises to the call. It is Vayu Matarishwan, the great Life-Principle, he who moves, breathes, expands infinitely in the mother element.  All things in the universe are the movement of this mighty Life; it is he who has brought Agni and placed him secretly in all existence; for him the worlds have been upbuilded that Life may move in them, that it may act, that it may riot and enjoy.  If this Daemon be no birth of Matter, but some stupendous Life-force active whether in the depths or on the heights of being, who shall know it, who shall seize it in his universal expansion if not Vayu Matarishwan?”

“This is Vayu Matarishwan and the power in him is this that he, the Life, can take all things in his stride and growth and seize on them for his mastery and enjoyment.  But even the veriest frailest trifle he cannot seize and master so long as it is protected against him by the shield of the Omnipotent.  Vayu too returns, not having discovered.  One thing only is settled that this is no form or force of cosmic Life which operates within the limits of the all-grasping vital impulse; it is too great for Vayu.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 104-106, 171-176

The Gods and the Brahman, Part 3: The Power of the Material World and Its Limitations

The third part of the Kena Upanishad, in setting forth what is called “the parable of the gods” systematically looks at the powers of creation of matter, life and mind, poses them a riddle and a test, and points out to us that there is something beyond, unknown, which is the real creative force from which each of them is simply a derivative and subsidiary power.  The gods named, Agni, Vayu and Indra, represent matter, life and mind respectively.  Agni, the “knower of all things born” is the first one put to the test, consistent with the evolutionary development from matter, to life, and from thence to mind, that we can identify in our world.

Third part, verse 3-6:  “They said to Agni, ‘O thou that knowest all things born, learn of this thing, what may be this mighty Daemon, ‘ and he said “So be it.’  He rushed towards the Eternal and It said to him, ‘Who art thou?’ ‘I am Agni,’ he said, ‘I am he that knows all things born.’  ‘Since such thou art, what is the force in thee?’  ‘Even all this I could burn, all that is upon the earth.’  The Eternal set before him a blade of grass; ‘This burn,’ and he made towards it with all his speed, but he could not burn it.  There he ceased, and turned back; ‘I could not know of It, what might be this mighty Daemon.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Here the three gods Indra, Vayu, Agni represent the cosmic Divine on each of its three planes, Indra on the mental, Vayu on the vital, Agni on the material.  In that order, therefore, beginning from the material they approach the Brahman.  Agni is the heat and flame of the conscious force in Matter which has built up the universe; it is he who has made life and mind possible and developed them in the material universe where he is the greatest deity.  Especially he is the primary impeller of speech of which Vayu is the medium and Indra the lord.  This heat of conscious force in Matter is Agni Jatavedas, the knower of all births: of all things born, of every cosmic phenomenon he knows the law, the process, the limit, the relation.  If then it is some mighty Birth of the cosmos that stands before them, some new indeterminate developed int he cosmic struggle and process, who shall know him, determine his limits, strength, potentialities if not Agni Jatavedas?”

The first to explore the issue is Agni:  “His name is Agni Jatavedas, the Power that is at the basis of all birth and process in the material universe and embraces and knows their workings and the force in him is that all that is thus born, he as the flame of Time and Death can devour.  All things are his food which he assimilates and turns into material of new birth and formation.  But this all-devourer cannot devour with all his force a fragile blade of grass so long as it has behind it the power of the Eternal.  Agni is compelled to return, not having discovered.  One thing only is settled that this Daemon is no Birth of the material cosmos, no transient thing that is subject to the flame and breath of Time; it is too great for Agni.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 104-106, 171-176

The Gods and the Brahman: the Parable of the Gods, Part 2

It is a characteristic of the ego-consciousness to center everything around itself and thereby take credit for things that occur as if that individual form were responsible for any success achieved.  This ego-consciousness, however, is only a specialized form of exclusive concentration that temporarily focuses attention on a specific formation, but is not in reality at all separated from the Oneness of the entire creation.  Thus, it is illusory.  The Eternal, the Absolute, the Brahman is the originating and all-encompassing consciousness that creates the entire universe and the individuality of form, and thus, it knows both the Oneness and the fragmented version held by the ego-consciousness.  The individual focus is a temporary stage by which the evolution of consciousness occurs, and at some point, it must be made aware, once again, of the Oneness that stands behind, directs and carries out the action of the universe.

The Kena Upanishad, third part, verse 2:  “The Eternal knew their thought and appeared before them; and they knew not what was this mighty Daemon.”

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “But such is not the full intention of Brahman in the universe or in the creature.  The greatness of the gods is His own victory and greatness, but it is only given in order that man may grow nearer to the point at which his faculties will be strong enough to go beyond themselves and realise the Transcendent.  Therefore Brahman manifests Himself before the exultant gods in their well-ordered world and puts to them by His silence the heart-shaking, the world-shaking question, ‘If ye are all, then what am I?  for see, I am and I am here.’  Though He manifests, He does not reveal Himself, but is seen and felt by them as a vague and tremendous presence … the unknown power, … beyond good and evil for whom good and evil are instruments towards His final self-expression.  Then there is alarm and confusion in the divine assembly; they feel a demand and a menace, on the side of the evil the possibility of monstrous and appalling powers yet unknown and unmastered which may wreck the fair world they have built, upheave and shatter to pieces the brilliant harmony of the intellect, the aesthetic mind, the moral nature, the vital desires, the body and senses which they have with such labour established, on the side of the good the demand of things unknown which are beyond all these and therefore are equally a menace, since the little which is realised cannot stand against the much that is unrealised, cannot shut out the vast, the infinite that presses against the fragile walls we have erected to define and shelter our limited being and pleasure.  Brahman presents itself to them as the Unknown; the gods knew not what was this Daemon.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 104-106, 171-176

The Gods and the Brahman: The Parable of the Gods, Part 1

The Vedic Gods represent powers and forces of manifestation in the creation.  Agni, Vayu and Indra represent the Material creation, the Vital creation and the Mental creation, respectively.  Each of them has a characteristic power.  As the creation  evolves, these powers systematically come to the fore and are brought up to a higher level of attainment and perfection.  The ego-consciousness (more generally the principle that separates and individualises forms and powers)  treats the increased power and success that ensues as its own and does not recognize that behind all these manifested powers there is the source, cause and original manifesting consciousness, the Brahman.  The creative impulsion and development of powers in the universe is the source and true power of all development.   The Kena Upanishad, in Part 3, illustrates this issue with a parable of the Gods which is illuminating.

Part 3, Verse 1:  “The Eternal conquered for the gods and in the victory of the Eternal the gods grew to greatness.  This was what they saw, ‘Ours the victory, ours the greatness.’

Sri Aurobindo adds:  “The gods, the powers that affirm the Good, the Light, the Joy and Beauty, the Strength and Mastery have found themselves victorious in their eternal battle with the powers that deny.  It is Brahman that has stood behind the gods and conquered for them; the Master of all who guides all has thrown His deciding will into the balance, put down His darkened children and exalted the children of Light.  In this victory the Master of all the gods are conscious of a mighty development of themselves, a splendid efflorescence of their greatness in man, their joy, their light, their glory, their power and pleasure.  But their vision is as yet sealed to their own deeper truth; they know of themselves, they know not the Eternal; they know the godheads, they do not know God.  Therefore they see the victory as their own, the greatness as their own.  This opulent efflorescence of the gods and uplifting of their greatness and light is the advance of man to his ordinary ideal of a perfectly enlightened mentality, a strong and sane vitality, a well-ordered body and senses, a harmonious, rich, active and happy life, the Hellenic ideal which the modern world holds to be our ultimate potentiality.  When such an efflorescence takes place whether in the individual or the kind, the gods in man grow luminous, strong, happy; they feel they have conquered the world and they proceed to divide it among themselves and enjoy it.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 104-106, 171-176

The Need to Attain Realisation Here In This World

The difficulty of attaining the realisation within the context of living life in the world, dealing with issues of survival, dealing with desires, interacting constantly with others has led many to believe that the true path to realisation is to avoid, escape or deny the reality of the external world of life.  Some choose the path of renunciation, and expect that by withdrawing from the world they can find true realisation through one-pointed focus on the Absolute.  Others believe that this world is a testing ground, an illusion or an interlude followed by a life in heaven or some other ideal existence elsewhere.  Hidden within each of these views is a sense of duality treating the Absolute Brahman as one reality and the life in the world as something other.  The divine standpoint of Oneness of all existence, however, leads to a different conclusion.  The Kena Upanishad clearly holds the need for achieving the realisation here in this world:

Part 2, Verse 5 states:  “If here one comes to that knowledge, then one truly is; if here one comes not to the knowledge, then great is the perdition.  The wise distinguish that in all kinds of becomings and they pass forward from this world and become immortal.”

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “This great achievement must be done here in this mortal world, in this limited body; for if we do it, we arrive at our true existence and are no longer bound down to our phenomenal becoming.  But if here we find it not, great is the loss and perdition; for we remain continually immersed in the phenomenal life of the mind and body and do not rise above it into the true supramental existence.  Nor, if we miss it here, will death give it to us by our passage to another and less difficult world.  Only those who use their awakened self and enlightened powers to distinguish and discover that One and Immortal in all existences, the all-originating self, the all-inhabiting Lord, can make the real passage which transcends life and death, can pass out of this mortal status, can press beyond and rise upward into a world-transcending immortality.”

” ‘There is no other path for the great journey.’ The Self and the Lord are that indeterminable, unknowable, ineffable Parabrahman and when we seek rather that which is indeterminable and unknowable to us, it is still the Self and the Lord always that we find, though by an attempt which is not the straight and possible road intended for the embodied soul seeking here to accomplish its true existence.  They are the self-manifested Reality which so places itself before man as the object of his highest aspiration and the fulfilment of all his activities.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 103-104, 165-170

Knowledge of Brahman Comes When the Mind Becomes Reflective

The normal action of our minds is like a large train station during rush hour.  Thoughts are constantly arising, provoked by perceptions of the senses or due to direct influence of mental vibration on our minds.  As a result we become fixated on these outer forms, forces, events and the world that we have created in our minds.  When we consider that during the daytime, we are focused on all this world of activity, and we forget about the infinite universe that surrounds us, but with the coming of nighttime the clear sky reminds us of the stars, galaxies, universes beyond, we can recognize the powerful impact of the daily impressions on our focus of attention.  The action of mind cannot encompass the infinity or the extension in aeons of time of the Brahman, but experience shows us that when the mind becomes quiet, through meditation, contemplation, or through some form of grace, a new perception of the larger reality of existence can enter and seize our attention.

The Kena Upanishad, in the Second Part, Verse 4 takes up the issue:  “When It is known by perception that reflects It, then one has the thought of It, for one finds immortality; by the self one finds the force to attain and by the knowledge one finds immortality.”

Sri Aurobindo comments:  “The mind can only reflect in a sort of supreme understanding and experience the form, the image of the supreme as He shows Himself to our mentality.  Through this reflection we find, we know; the purpose of knowledge is accomplished, for we find immortality, we enter into the law, the being, the beatitude of the Brahman-consciousness.  By self-realisation of Brahman as our self we find the force, the divine energy which lifts us beyond the limitation, weakness, darkness, sorrow, all-pervading death of our mortal existence; by the knowledge of the one Brahman in all beings and in all the various movement of the cosmos we attain beyond these things to the infinity, the omnipotent being, the omniscient light, the pure beatitude of that divine existence.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pp. 103-104, 165-170