About sriaurobindostudies

studying the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother since 1971, this blog is meant to systematically review the writings of Sri Aurobindo.

The Supramental Time Consciousness

The supramental consciousness has a vastly different experience of Time and the timeless  infinite than the mental consciousness, but virtue of its having its roots in the timeless awareness and its ability to recognize the manifestation through Time as one with the Timeless.  The mind is pulled along from moment to moment in time and has no inherent mastery.  The supermind, on the contrary, is able to straddle both aspects and hold them together in a unified whole.

Sri Aurobindo describes it thus:  “It can either take its station in the time consciousness and keep the timeless infinite  as its background of supreme and original being from which it receives all its organising knowledge, will and action, or it can, centred in its essential being, live in the timeless but live too in a manifestation in time which it feels and sees as infinite and as the same Infinite, and can bring out, sustain and develop in the one what it holds supernally in the other.”

“Its time consciousness therefore will be different from that of the mental being, not swept helplessly on the stream of the moments and clutching at each moment as a stay and a swiftly disappearing standpoint, but founded first on its eternal identity beyond the changes of time, secondly on a simultaneous eternity of Time in which past, present and future exist together for ever in the self-knowledge and self-power of the Eternal, thirdly, in a total view of the three times as one movement singly and indivisibly seen even in their succession of stages, periods, cycles, last — and that only in the instrumental consciousness — in the step-by-step evolution of the moments.  It will therefore have the knowledge of the three times, trikaladrsti, — held of old to be a supreme sign of the seer and the Rishi, — not as an abnormal power, but as its normal way of time knowledge.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the SupramentalTime Vision , pg. 854

The Consciousness of the Timeless Infinite

Yogic texts tell us that day and night get reversed from the normal mental consciousness to the yogic experience.  The “day” of the mental consciousness is focused on the impressions and experiences of the outer world of manifestation, and for the individual so immersed, the experience of the timeless infinite consciousness of the Brahman is something that cannot be factored in with the waking awareness conditioned by the movement of Time.  Thus the need to enter the trance of Samadhi, and discontinue direct focus and connection with the outer physical reality, in order to get the experience of the Infinite consciousness.  On the other hand, the Yogin focused on this timeless existence, has his “day” in that status and entry into the world of life and physical expression becomes his “night”.

Sri Aurobindo describes the situation:  “The consciousness of the timeless Infinite can be brought home to us in various ways, but is most ordinarily imposed on our mentality by a reflection of it and a powerful impression or else made present to us as something above the mind, something of which it is aware, towards which it lifts, but into which it cannot enter because itself lives only in the time sense and in the succession of the moments.”

“If our present mind untransformed by the supramental influence tries to enter into the timeless, it must either disappear and be lost in the trance of Samadhi or else, remaining awake, it feels itself diffused in an Infinite where there is perhaps a sense of supra-physical space, a vastness, a boundless extension of consciousness, but no time self, time movement or time order.  And if then the mental being is still mechanically aware of things in time, it is yet unable to deal with them in its own manner, unable to establish a truth relation between the timeless and things in time and unable to act and will out of its indefinite Infinite.  The action that then remains possible to the mental Purusha is the mechanical action of the instruments of the Prakriti continuing by force of old impulsion and habit or continued initiation of past energy…, or else an action chaotic, unregulated, uncoordinated, a confused precipitate from an energy which has no longer a conscious centre.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the SupramentalTime Vision , pp. 853-854

The Timeless Infinite and the Manifestation in Time

Time regulates our lives as it regulates the entire universal manifestation.  In modern civilisation, everything is scheduled and regimented through the fixed processes of Time as measured by our clocks.  Trains move, events are scheduled, airplanes take off, and our lives are conditioned by habituating ourselves to the organization of Time that our civilisation has developed.  Time is, however, not solely an artificial construct developed for purposes of coordinating the actions of human beings in a social environment.  If we look to universal Nature we see repetitive cycles of day and night, moon cycles, solar cycles, seasonal changes, all of which speak to a larger sense of Time that has been codified into our clocks and schedules, but which exists and rules our lives within this larger framework.  There is also the progression of Time that we identify as past, present and future which can be seen in the unfolding events of the cosmos.   Immersed as we are in Time, we find it difficult to understand the possibility of a Timeless Existence.

Sages, Philosophers, Yogis and Seers have long sought the experience of a Timeless Reality that exists outside of Time.  Practical experience has, for the most part, led them to conclude that one must abandon Time in order to attain the Timeless–that in fact, these are two opposite and contrary states of consciousness, relating to two opposite and contrary modes of existence.  The experience of the Timeless occurs in certain states of awareness that either arise spontaneously or through long and dedicated effort , such as development of the trance state of Samadhi, to free the mind from its bondage to the world of forms and actions in Time.

Sri Aurobindo notes that these two seemingly opposite and contrary statuses are actually One.  It is the limitation of the mental consciousness which makes them seem irreconcilably opposed.  “In reality, as we find when we see things with a knowledge founded on the supramental identity and vision and think with the great, profound and flexible logic proper to that knowledge, the two are only co-existent and concurrent status and movement of the same truth of the Infinite.  The timeless Infinite holds in itself, in its eternal truth of being, beyond this manifestation, all that it manifests in Time.  Its time consciousness too is itself infinite and maintains in itself at once in a vision of totalities and of particularities, of mobile succession or moment sight and of total stabilising  vision or abiding whole sight what appears to us as the past of things, their present and their future.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 25, Towards the SupramentalTime Vision , pg. 853

The Supramental Experience of the Mind, the Senses and the Outer World

As Sri Aurobindo has described at some length thus far, one can expect that the supramental consciousness will both be able to utilize the mind and the senses as well as interface directly with the outer world of the manifested universe.

“The supramental will not depend on the instrumentation, for example, of the sense, as the physical mind is dependent on the evidence of our senses, although it will be capable of making them a starting-point for the higher forms of knowledge, as it will also be capable of proceeding directly through these higher forms and making the sense only a means of formation and objective expression.  The supramental being will transform at the same time and take up into itself the present thinking of the mind transfigured into an immensely larger knowledge by identity, knowledge by total comprehension, knowledge by intimate perception of detail and relation, all direct, immediate, spontaneous, all the expression of the self’s already existent eternal knowledge.  It will take up, transform, supramentalise the physical sense, the sixth sense capacities of the mind and the psychic consciousness and senses and use them as the means of an extreme inner objectivisation of experience.  Nothing will be really external to it, for it will experience all in the unity of the cosmic consciousness which will be its own, the unity of being of the infinite which will be its own being.  It will experience matter, not only gross matter but the subtle and the most subtle, as substance and form of the spirit, experience life and all kinds of energy as the dynamics of the spirit, supramentalised mind as a means or channel of knowledge of the spirit, supermind as the infinite self of knowledge and power of knowledge and Ananda of knowledge of the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pg. 852

The Status of Consciousness After the Supramental Transformation

The transformation of consciousness from the mental to the supramental has far-reaching consequences.  Just as the shift from the vital plant awareness to the animal mentality created enormous changes both for the individual beings and the relation of those beings within the larger environment of the creation, and as the shift from the animal mentality to that of the human mentality involved even greater impacts for the individual and the universal creation, so the advent of the supramental consciousness and its transformative activities within the created universe is bound to have an extraordinary impact as well.

For the most part spiritual evolution has been concerned with development of consciousness through abandonment of the outer life and circumstances.  This either involved a liberation from the worldly life into unity with the Brahman, or achievement of the trance state of Samadhi or dissolution into some state of Nirvana, or the abandonment of worldly fulfillment for attainment of some heavenly life after this life has come to its conclusion.  Sri Aurobindo, however, focuses on the evolutionary progression of consciousness in the manifestation and insists on the “omnipresent Reality” that encompasses the transcendent, the universal and the individual, each as aspects of the manifestation of the Divine Will of the Divine Person.  This then requires the transformation of the supramental to yield new states of being, knowledge, power and active existence in the life of the individual, with its corresponding impacts on the creation:

“The state of the being after this supramental transformation will be in all its parts of consciousness and knowledge that of an infinite and cosmic consciousness acting through the universalised individual Purusha.  The fundamental power will be an awareness of identity, a knowledge by identity, — an identity of being, of consciousness, of force of being and consciousness, of delight of being, an identity with the Infinite, the Divine, and with all that is in the Infinite, all that is the exprssion and manifestation of the Divine.  This awareness and knowledge will use as its means and instruments a spiritual vision of all that the knowledge by identity can found, a supramental real idea and thought of the nature of direct thought vision, thought hearing, thought memory that reveals, interprets or represents to the awareness the truth of all things, and an inner truth speech that expresses it, and finally a supramental sense that provides a relation of contact in substance of being with all things and persons and powers and forces in all the planes of existence.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pp. 851-852

The Supramental Transformation Cures the Deficiencies of the Psychical Consciousness

As long as it is still anchored in the individual consciousness of body-life-mind, the psychic awareness is subject to the limitations implicit in the lower manifestation.  Additionally, the initial development of the psychical consciousness takes place in spurts and starts, and remains incomplete, subject to confusion, gaps of information, and misdirection or misinterpretation due to the distorting influences of the mind and the vital consciousness, or the predilections of the ego-awareness and the insistence of the desire-soul.  With the shift of the standpoint to the supramental level of awareness, all of these deficiencies are cured through the clarity, power and knowledge attendant to that level of consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The psychical consciousness is first supported and enlightened, then filled and occupied with the supramental light and power and the revealing intensity of its vibrations.  Whatever exaggeration, whatever error born of isolated incidence, insufficiently illumined impression, personal suggestion, misleading influence and intention or other cause of limitation or deformation interferes in the truth of the mental and psychical experience and knowledge, is revealed and cured or vanishes, failing to stand in the light of the self-truth– satyam, rtam — of things, persons, happenings, indications, representations proper to this greater largeness.  All the psychical communications, transcriptions, impresses, symbols, images receive their true value, take their right place, are put into their proper relations.  The psychical intelligence and sensation are lit up with the supramental sense and knowledge, their phenomena, intermediate between the spiritual and material worlds, begin to reveal automatically their own truth and meaning and also the limitations of their truth and significance.  The images presented to the inner sight, hearing, sensation of all kinds are occupied by or held in a larger and more luminous mass of vibrations, a greater substance of light and intensity which brings into them the same change as in the things of the physical sense, a greater totality, precision, revealing force of sense knowledge carried in the image.  And finally all is lifted up and taken into the supermind and made a part of the infinitely luminous consciousness, knowledge and experience of the supramental being, the Vijnana Purusha.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pg. 851

Transitional Stages in the Psychical and Supramental Transformation of Human Nature

It is important to maintain a sense of process and an understanding of the stages of the psychic and supramental transformations that take hold of the seeker as the evolutionary process unfolds.  This helps the individual relate to the changes taking place, understand both their meaning and their limitations, and allows him to maintain a balanced perspective along the way.  There is something of a two-fold process:  first, the force becomes active and begins to create a new reality of knowledge, energy, power, understanding, light within the being.  This action is incomplete and intermittent until it can be fully integrated and effectuate permanent changes in the operation of the lower members of the being.

Sri Aurobindo describes these stages and their characteristic action:  “The complete transformation comes on us by a certain change, not merely of the poise or level of our regarding conscious self or even of its law and character, but also of the whole substance of our conscious being.  Till that is done, the supramental consciousness manifests above the mental and psychical atmosphere of being,–in which the physical has already become a subordinate and to a large extent a dependent method of our self’s expression,– and it sends down its power, light, and influence into it to illumine it and transfigure.  But only when the substance of the lower consciousness has been changed, filled potently, wonderfully transformed, swallowed up as it were into the greater energy and sense of being… of which it is a derivation and projection, do we have the perfected, entire and constant supramental consciousness.  The substance, the conscious ether of being in which the mental or psychic consciousness and sense live and see and feel and experience is something subtler, freer, more plastic than that of the physical mind and sense.  As long as we are dominated by the latter, psychical phenomena may seem to us less real, hallucinatory even, but the more we acclimatise ourselves to the psychical and to the ether of being which it inhabits, the more we begin to see the greater truth and to sense the more spiritually concrete substance of all to which its larger and freer mode of experience bears witness.”

“When, however, the psychical and physical experiences are well combined in their true balance, we live at once in two complementary worlds of our being each with its own reality, but the psychical revealing all that is behind the physical, the soul view and experience taking precedence and enlightening and explaining the physical view and experience.  The supramental transformation again changes the whole substance of our consciousness; it brings in an ether of greater being, consciousness, sense, life, which convicts the psychical also of insufficiency and makes it appear by itself an incomplete reality and only a partial truth of all that we are and become and witness.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pp. 850-851