The Revelation of the Divine Within Ourselves

The seeker may experience the Brahman, the Divine Consciousness within himself, just as he may experience the Brahman in the universal manifestation or in the transcendent that exceeds and is independent of the entire manifestation, individual and universal.

Within the individual seeker, there are several ways the Brahman may reveal himself, as Sri Aurobindo here describes: “Within us there are two centres of the Purusha, the inner Soul through which he touches us to our awakening; there is the Purusha in the lotus of the heart which opens upward all our powers and the Purusha in the thousand-petalled lotus whence descend through the thought and will, opening the third eye in us, the lightnings of vision and the fire of the divine energy. The bliss existence may come to us through either one of these centres.”

The experience of the heart-lotus opening brings about the following: “When the lotus of the heart breaks open, we feel a divine joy, love and peace expanding in us like a flower of light which irradiates the whole being. They can then unite themselves with their secret source, the Divine in our hearts, and adore him as in a temple; they can flow upwards to take possession of the thought and the will and break out upward towards the Transcendent; they stream out in thought and feeling and act towards all that is around us.”

This experience comes and goes as long as there are parts of the being that put up any resistance, and it is thus necessary to undertake patient and persistent effort of purification and concentration to make the experience constant and all-pervasive in the being.

“When the upper lotus opens, the whole mind becomes full of a divine light, joy and power, behind which is the Divine, the Lord of our being on his throne with our soul beside him or drawn inward into his rays; all the thought and will become then a luminosity, power and ecstasy; in communication with the Transcendent, this can pour down towards our mortal members and flow by them outwards on the world.”

This experience, too, is subject to variations due to the inability of the instrument to hold and fix the intensity for long periods of time without break. “…but as we grow in the power to hold this new existence, we become able to look long on the sun from which this irradiation proceeds and in our inner being we can grow one body with it.”

The poise of the seeker can also aid in the process. “Sometimes the rapidity of this change depends on the strength of our longing for the Divine thus revealed, and on the intensity of our force of seeking; but at others it proceeds rather by a passive surrender to the rhythms of his all-wise working which acts always by its own at first inscrutable method. But the latter becomes the foundation when our love and trust are complete and our whole being lies in the clasp of a Power that is perfect love and wisdom.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 7, The Ananda Brahman, pp. 570-571

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Becoming a Conscious Human Expression of the Divine Nature

The various experiences of divine bliss that come to the seeker along the path of Yoga are considered to be “peak experiences” and they tend to come for a brief time, uplift the being, and then depart again. Amidst all the efforts, the struggles, the setbacks and the slow progress along the way, they are shining beacons that give the seeker a taste of what the spiritual evolution is leading towards, and encourages the patience and persistence needed to eventually reach the goal of transformation. Sri Aurobindo, however, is unwilling to accept the occasional and partial nature of these experiences as the sole possible result; rather, he believes that the entire life can be so transformed that it actually can live with this experience, and thereby become a conscious human expression of the divine nature of bliss.

“But the very spirit of Yoga is this, to make the exceptional normal, and to turn that which is above us and greater than our normal selves into our own constant consciousness. Therefore we should not hesitate to open ourselves more steadily to whatever experience of the Infinite we have, to purify and intensify it, to make it our object of constant thought and contemplation, till it becomes the originating power that acts in us, the Godhead we adore and embrace, our whole being is put into tune with it and it is made the very self of our being.”

The normal physical, vital, emotional and mental nature from which we start is not tuned to hold this experience either for any great length of time, or to any great level of intensity. Thus, part of the process is to continually work on these instruments until they are able to receive, calibrate, and hold the experience. “Our experience of it has to be purified of any mental alloy in it, otherwise it departs, we cannot hold it. And part of this purification is that it shall cease to be dependent on any cause or exciting condition of the mind; it must become its own cause and self-existent, source of all other delight, which will exist only by it, and not attached to any cosmic or other image or symbol through which we first came into contact with it. Our experience of it has to be constantly intensified and made more concentrated; otherwise we shall only reflect it in the mirror of the imperfect mind and not reach that point of uplifting and transfiguration by which we are carried beyond the mind into the ineffable bliss.”

“If we wait upon it for the inspiration of all our inner and outer acts, it will become the joy of the Divine pouring itself through us in light and love and power on life and all that lives. Sought by the adoration and love of the soul, it reveals itself as the Godhead, we see in it the face of God and know the bliss of our Lover. Tuning our whole being to it, we grow into a happy perfection of likeness to it, a human rendering of the divine nature. And when it becomes in every way the self of our self, we are fulfilled in being and we bear the plenitude.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 7, The Ananda Brahman, pp. 569-570

The Lower and the Higher Forms of Delight

The Divine is not separate from the manifested world, so we could expect to see the outpouring of the Divine Delight, Ananda, in the external world. Sri Aurobindo observes: “For all joy, beauty, love, peace, delight are outflowings from the Ananda Brahman,–all delight of the spirit, the intellect, the imagination, aesthetic sense, ethical aspiration and satisfaction, action, life, the body. And through all ways of our being the Divine can touch us and make use of them to awaken and liberate the spirit.”

The joy and delight that we can experience in the external world, however, is a weak, filtered and inconsistent form of the Ananda, not the intensity and purity of Ananda in its native form and on its native plane. Just as existence is filtered into an inconstant struggle for life, with death as a constant process, and just as consciousness is filtered into an ignorance that attempts to gain knowledge through acquisition of bits and pieces of information and through extrapolation, so too Ananda, bliss, is filtered into the experience of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

We live in a world that has consciousness deeply involved and embedded in Matter, and systematically evolving out into ever higher, purer and more powerful forms, through life, mind, and the supramental planes until we can identify with and experience the pure force of Sat-Chit-Ananda in the fully evolved soul. Each level of evolution is more refined, more subtle and more powerful than the one before it. This is the key to attaining the higher form of delight.

“But to reach the Ananda Brahman in itself the mental reception of it must be subtilised, spiritualised, universalised, discharged of everything that is turbid and limiting. For when we draw quite near or enter into it, it is by an awakened spiritual sense of a transcendent and a universal Delight which exists within and yet behind and beyond the contradictions of the world and to which we can unite ourselves through a growing universal and spiritual or a transcendental ecstasy.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 7, The Ananda Brahman, pp. 568-569

The Touch of the Divine Ananda

Divine bliss, Ananda, is a different order of experience from what we know as joy in the vital life in the world. The experience of joy arises when we feel that a desire has been met, whether it is a physical desire or need that has been satisfied, providing a sensation of physical joy, or a vital or emotional desire or need which provides the excitement of a vital joy; or the satisfaction of various mental achievements, which provides mental joy. The Taittiriya Upanishad posits the situation of the human individual, young, healthy, radiant, successful, all desires being met, and this is consider to be the measure of one “human bliss”. It proceeds to show that there are numerous further levels of bliss, each one ” a hundred and a hundredfold” greater than the preceding level. Interestingly each level of bliss is then equated with “the bliss of the vedawise, whose soul the blight of desire touches not.” The Upanishad here is pointing the way for the seeker to come to the realisation of these higher states of Ananda which cannot be even remotely compared with the human experience of joy.

Sri Aurobindo elaborates: “But if the mind has once grown sufficiently subtle and pure in its receptions and not limited by the grosser nature of our outward responses to existence, we can take a reflection of it which will wear perhaps wholly or predominantly the hue of whatever is strongest in our nature. It may present itself first as a yearning for some universal Beauty which we feel in Nature and man and in all that is around us; or we may have the intuition of some transcendent Beauty of which all apparent beauty here is only a symbol. That is how it may come to those in whom the aesthetic being is developed and insistent and the instincts which, when they find form of expression, make the poet and artist, are predominant. Or it may be the sense of a divine spirit of love or else a helpful and compassionate infinite Presence in the universe or behind or beyond it which responds to us when we turn the need of our spirit towards it. So it may first show itself when the emotional being is intensely developed. It may come near to us in other ways, but always a Power or Presence of delight, beauty, love or peace which touches the mind, but is beyond the forms these things take ordinarily in the mind.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 7, The Ananda Brahman, pg. 568

Becoming Aware of the Ananda Brahman

Behind all the hustle and bustle of the daily routine, behind the joy and the sorrow, the pleasure and the pain that accompanies actions in the world, there is a Reality which is silent, unmoving, and yet holds an unchanging and unconditioned bliss of existence. There are moments in the life of the spiritual seeker where this realisation becomes paramount and one is in touch with this impersonal bliss, known in the texts as “Ananda” and it sustains the seeker in all circumstances. The Taittiriya Upanishad references this experience: “Lo, this that is well and beautifully made, verily it is no other than the delight behind existence. When he hath gotten him this delight, then it is that this creature becometh a thing of bliss; for who could labour to draw in the breath or who could have strength to breathe it out, if there were not that Bliss in the heaven of his heart, the ether within his being?” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, Ch. 7, pg. 271)

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The beginning of the heart’s attraction to the Divine may be impersonal, the touch of an impersonal joy in something universal or transcendent that has revealed itself directly or indirectly to our emotional or our aesthetic being or to our capacity of spiritual felicity. That which we thus grow aware of is the Ananda Brahman, the bliss existence. There is an adoration of an impersonal Delight and Beauty, of a pure and an infinite perfection to which we can give no name or form, a moved attraction of the soul to some ideal and infinite Presence, Power, existence in the world or beyond it, which in some way becomes psychologically or spiritually sensible to us and then more and more intimate and real. That is the call, the touch of the bliss existence upon us.”

The soul so touched works to harmonize his inner and outer existence to this experience, and to find a way to live constantly in the presence of this ineffable bliss.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 7, The Ananda Brahman, pp. 567-568

The Way of Devotion in the Integral Yoga

Whether the seeker in the integral path starts from the path of Knowledge, the path of Works or directly with the path of Love and Devotion, he will modify the traditional path to incorporate all aspects and elements of existence into his seeking. Sri Aurobindo explains:

“The way of devotion in the integral synthetic Yoga will take the form of a seeking after the Divine through love and delight and a seizing with joy on all the ways of his being. It will find its acme in a perfect union of love and a perfect enjoyment of all the ways of the soul’s intimacy with God.”

“It may start from knowledge or it may start from works, but it will then turn knowledge into a joy of luminous union with the being of the Beloved and turn works into a joy of the active union of our being with the will and the power of being of the Beloved. Or it may start directly from love and delight; it will then take both these other things into itself and will develop them as part of the complete joy of oneness.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 7, The Ananda Brahman, pg. 567

Understanding Our Spiritual Destiny

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Yoga is in essence the union of the soul with the immortal being and consciousness and delight of the Divine, effected through the human nature with a result of development into the divine nature of being, whatever that may be, so far as we can conceive it in mind and realise it in spiritual activity.”

When we focus our attention on any particular aspect of the Divine, we enter into a relationship with that aspect and are thereby able to move our consciousness in that direction and take on the characteristics of that aspect. The Taittiriya Upanishad advises: “Pursue thou Him as the firm foundation of things and thou shalt get thee firm foundation; pursue Him as Mahas, thou shalt become Mighty; pursue him as Mind, thou shalt become full of mind; pursue Him as adoration, thy desires shall bow down before thee; pursue Him as the Eternal, thou shalt become full of the Spirit; pursue Him as the destruction of the Eternal that rangeth abroad, thy rivals and thy haters shall perish thick around thee and thy kin who loveth thee not.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Taittiriya Upanishad, Brahmanandavalli, ch. 10, pg. 281)

Sri Aurobindo summarizes: “…that, we may say, is at once the essential and the pragmatic truth of the Godhead. It is something beyond us which is indeed already within us, but which we as yet are not or are only initially in our human existence; but whatever of it we see, we can create or reveal in our conscious nature and being and can grow into it, and so to create or reveal in ourselves individually the Godhead and grow into its universality and transcendence is our spiritual destiny. Or if this seems too high for the weakness of our nature, then at least to approach, reflect and be in secure communion with it is a near and possible consummation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Three: The Yoga of Divine Love, Chapter 6, The Delight of the Divine, pg. 562