The Way of Knowing the Brahman Amid the Limitations of the Mind

If we believe that we can know the ultimate reality through the mind, we are obviously going to be disappointed.  The mind captures the sensations of the physical senses, the nervous, vital impulses and then interprets them into a symbolic representation of what has been experienced.  In this sense, it knows the symbols it creates and the vibrational impacts it receives which it converts into those symbols.  The reality of the universe clearly lies beyond the limits of this mental processing.  Yet, we are ourselves one with the ultimate reality of the manifested universe, from the same substance, arising as forms and circumstances in time within that reality, and thus, while the mind may not encompass it in all its complexity, there must be ways of knowing that take us beyond the mind.  In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes various ways of knowing, one of which is “knowledge by identity”.  The mind has a role to play in preparing the being for achieving a new standpoint of knowing, but eventually, we must go beyond the limits of the mind.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “I think not that I know perfectly, for that is impossible in the terms of our instruments of knowledge.  I do not think for a moment that I know the Unknowable, that that can be put into the forms through which I must arrive at the Self and Lord; but at the same time I am no longer in ignorance, I know the Brahman in the only way in which I can know Him, in His self-revelation to me in terms not beyond the grasp of my psychology, manifest as the Self and the Lord.  The mystery of existence is revealed in a way that utterly satisfies my being because it enables me first to comprehend it through these figures as far as it can be comprehended by me and, secondly, to enter into, to live in, to be one in law and being with and even to merge myself in the Brahman.”

“If we fancy that we have grasped the Brahman by the mind and in that delusion fix down our knowledge of Him to the terms our mentality has found, then our knowledge is no knowledge; it is the little knowledge that turns to falsehood.  So too those who try to fix Him into our notion of the fundamental ideas in which we discern Him by the thought that rises above ordinary mental perception, have no real discernment of the Brahman, since they take certain idea-symbols for the Reality.  On the other hand, if we recognise that our mental perceptions are simply so many clues by which we can rise beyond mental perception and if we use these fundamental idea-symbols and the arrangement of them which our uttermost thought makes in order to go beyond the symbol to that reality, then we have rightly used mind and the higher discernment for their supreme purpose.  Mind and the higher discernment are satisfied of the Brahman even in being exceeded by Him.”:

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