Distinguishing the Realisation of the Atman and the Higher Planes of Consciousness

When an individual begins the spiritual quest, there can be considerable confusion about different directions, objectives and methods of attainment. In many cases, divergent goals are lumped together, while in other instances, there can be confusion about the sequence of the steps. Sri Aurobindo has provided an overview and a roadmap that can aid the seeker in understanding and clarifying these points.

The supramental transformation is not the first stage in the spiritual development; rather, it is a subsequent development, founded upon two prior transformations, the psychic transformation which brings forward the central action of the soul, and then the spiritual transformation which connects the individual with the universal and transcendent Spirit. Thus, the end goal of many traditional spiritual paths, the liberation from the bondage of the world of illusion, the transitory world of material existence, is actually a preliminary stage in the practice of the integral yoga. Freeing the being from the ego-consciousness is necessary for the spiritual transformation and the widening of the consciousness to occur.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The realisation of the Spirit comes long before the development of overmind or supermind; hundreds of sadhaks in all times have had the realisation of the Atman in the higher mental planes, buddhehe paratah, but the supramental realisation was not theirs. One can get partial realisations of the Self or Spirit or the Divine on any plane, mental, vital, physical even, and when one rises above the ordinary mental plane of man into a higher and larger mind, the Self begins to appear in all its conscious wideness.”

“It is by full entry into this wideness of the Self that cessation of mental activity becomes possible; one gets the inner Silence. After that this inner Silence can remain even when there is activity of any kind; the being remains silent within, the action goes on in the instruments, and one receives all the necessary initiations and execution of action whether mental, vital or physical from a higher source without the fundamental peace and calm of the Spirit being troubled.”

“The overmind and supermind states are something yet higher than this; but before one can understand them, one must first have the self-realisation, the full action of the spiritualised mind and heart, the psychic awakening, the liberation of the imprisoned consciousness, the purification and entire opening of the Adhar. Do not think now of those ultimate things (overmind, supermind), but get first these foundations in the liberated nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, The Consciousness of the Self, pp. 181-184

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