The Need for a Direct Experience of the Reality of Existence

At the end of all our speculation, logic, reasoning, and opinions, we find that we are plagued by uncertainty and doubt in our minds about the meaning of our existence, our purpose in the world and the reality of the universal creation. We can recognize that what we observe through our senses is subject to error and misinterpretation. We also can recognize that however far we take our mental reasoning, it always ends in an inability to obtain certainty. There are systems, philosophies, religious beliefs which try to explain these things, but they start from a variety of different assumptions and end in a variety of different answers. Today many people even speculate that there is no reality to our lives; rather, that we are simply participating in some kind of computer game or digital universe! The conclusion to be drawn from all of this is that the mind is not an instrument of ultimate knowledge, but an instrument of doubt and of seeking.

In order to achieve true knowledge, therefore, we must discover a faculty that knows through direct experience. There is a proverb that says that one can read all the books on swimming, but not know how to actually swim until one gets into the water and does it. A similar principle applies when we try to understand the nature of reality and our existence and purpose. We can explore all the different concepts, ideas, philosophies, faiths, creeds and ideologies and find a certain amount of understanding for our minds, but we will in the end wind up with nothing solid, nothing that is a final form of truth, nothing we can actually experience, with just the mental consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is only if there is a greater consciousness beyond Mind and that consciousness is accessible to us that we can know and enter into the ultimate Reality. Intellectual speculation, logical reasoning as to whether there is or is not such a greater consciousness cannot carry us very far. What we need is a way to get the experience of it, to reach it, enter into it, live in it. If we can get that, intellectual speculation and reasoning must fall necessarily into a very secondary place and even lose their reason for existence. Philosophy, intellectual expression of the Truth may remain, but mainly as a means of expressing this greater discover and as much of its contents as can at all be expressed in mental terms to those who still live in the mental intelligence….”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pp. 24-25

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