The Surface Being and the Inner Being

For most people, their lives are focused on the external world and their inner life consists mainly of brooding over or planning actions within that context. Even the distinction between extrovert and introvert is primarily a difference in ways of response to the world. The extrovert tends to be social and outgoing, while the introvert may be more indrawn and focused on the internal monologue about their external reality. Success, enjoyment, satisfaction of needs and desires, comfort, safety, family and friends, and the socialization process within the society are the primary issues that occupy those focused on the outer world.

Spiritual seekers experience a different inner reality which puts them in contact with the soul, the eternal portion of our existence. This is not a matter of sense perception, intellectual conceptualization or emotional or vital excitement, but a palpable, self-evident knowledge by identity. When one experiences the inner self, there is no doubt about the validity of what has occurred. The outer being is filled with doubt and uncertainty because it tries to achieve knowledge through assembling perceptions and facts and then organizing them and marshalling ideas about them into a logical format. This process is subject to all the limitations of sense perception, the linear processes of the mental action, and the frame within which these things all take place. The inner being dispenses with all of these limited forms and has direct contact with the divine presence. There is no debate about the existence or non-existence of the soul for the person who has actual experience, just as there is no debate about the energy of the sun.

When we experience the existence of the soul, and correlate it with the evolution of consciousness, the reality and process of rebirth as the mechanism for the soul and its development becomes obvious as well. Sri Aurobindo has devoted considerable explanation in Rebirth and Karma and in The Life Divine to this subject.

As long as we remain fixed in the surface being, we remain limited, and stuck in a never-ending round of pleasure and pain, joy and grief, attraction and repulsion, desire and fear, the dualities that create the framework and basis of the outer life. When one enters into the soul-experience, all of these dualities take on a subordinate significance as the divine standpoint transforms the response to outer events.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “There are, we may say, two beings in us, one on the surface, our ordinary exterior mind, life, body consciousness, another behind the veil, an inner mind, an inner life, an inner physical consciousness constituting another or inner self. This inner self once awake opens in its turn to our true real eternal self. It opens inwardly to the soul, called in the language of this yoga the psychic being which supports our successive births and at each birth assumes a new mind, life and body. It opens above to the Self or Spirit which is unborn and by conscious recovery of it we transcend the changing personality and achieve freedom and full mastery over our nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 48-51

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