Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice — Summary and Conclusions

Sri Aurobindo took up yoga, not for individual salvation or to abandon the life of the world, but to aid in transforming life, for action in the world. He developed a deep background and understanding of the major lines of thought and development of the West, including his studies of Greek and Latin as well as his mastery of English, and then, upon his return to India and taking up a role in the battle for liberation from the British colonization and subsequently in his practice of yoga, his intense study and efforts at understanding and validating the ancient texts of the Rishis, the Rig Veda, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Out of this basis of understanding coupled with an intense practice of sadhana, evolved the integral yoga.

Integral yoga was not intended to set forth a specific and rigid set of practices for everyone to follow; rather, it was developed to understand the specific needs of each individual at each stage of development and to employ those methods and practices that would best aid in the further progress for the individual seeker. It also was not targeted at abandoning life. The integral yoga first focuses on achieving the necessary liberation from the fixed habits of body, life and mind that create a framework around each person’s life, and then, on bringing down into the being a higher status of consciousness and aiding its transformation of the being in all its aspects.

The eventual objective of the integral yoga was to provide conscious support to the natural process of evolution of consciousness, and thereby speed up its advent. Sri Aurobindo recognised that the evolution of life out of physical matter, and of mind out of life could not occur if they were not, in fact, already involved in matter. The evolution of forms follows the needs of the evolution of consciousness. He also recognised that the emergence of the mental being was nothing more than a transitional phase and that there would be a further development, which he called ‘supramental’, that would transform life for the individual and through individuals the life of the world in a similar but more powerful manner to the way that life transformed matter, or that mind transformed life.

Humanity has taken the mental evolution to such an extent that it has now become an obstacle and has resulted in an evolutionary crisis that threatens all of human existence on the planet. Either we need to evolve and transform our action, or face extinction. It is one of the principles of Nature that in preparation for a needed evolutionary leap, a crisis ensues which requires successfully transitioning to the next phase in order to solve the riddle of existence. The evolutionary crisis clearly puts a sense of urgency to the manifestation of this next phase of consciousness.

The evolution and manifestation of the supramental consciousness is not dependent upon any particular creed, cult, religion, philosophy, scientific standpoint, cultural background, race, gender or economic outlook. Sri Aurobindo himself pointed out that it was not his goal to start a new religion or creed, but to make possible a true transformation of human consciousness, independent of the mental standpoint that individuals hold based on their culture and education.

The book Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice was compiled and organised from among the thousands of letters on yoga that Sri Aurobindo wrote to disciples and others over a number of years. It outlines his philosophical outlook, the background and basis of the integral yoga, and delves into a vast array of details which aid the sincere seeker in understanding the inner workings of consciousness, and helps the seeker to work through the difficulties, obstacles and resistances of nature to truly bring about a transformation of consciousness in all parts of his being.

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Summary and Conclusions

Solving the Existential Crisis of Humanity Through the Evolution of Consciousness, Part II Practical Applications; the Example of Auroville

In part I of this series we explored the nature of the existential crisis of humanity, the 6th planetary “die off” of species, the extinction event that is knocking at our door, and the underlying causal actions of humanity that have created this crisis, based on the methodology and the consequent limitations of the mental consciousness acting on the vital and physical planes.  We also explored the evolutionary cycle and the signs of the next phase of evolution beyond the mind, which Sri Aurobindo terms the “supramental consciousness” that is in process of manifesting.  The mental consciousness is based in the ego and sees things as if it is at the center of existence, a falsehood that leads to all kinds of imbalances in humanity’s interactions with the world.  The supramental consciousness as it manifests is not bound by the ego-personality and sees things in a holistic and complete way. 

As we begin the shift from the mental to the supramental consciousness, we can already begin to work on adapting this changed viewpoint into the ways we deal with and address the world around us, and the way we interact with other individuals.  This can, and should, bring about enormous changes in the way humanity relates to the environment, and we are beginning to see a change in understanding consistent with this shift from the ego-awareness to the consciousness beyond the ego and its mental-vital-physical framework.

The existential crisis we are looking at needs urgent and effective action to change human patterns of life and this requires considerable effort to both develop new, sound ways of dealing with the world, and finding ways to create implementations of these new patterns. 

The Auroville project in South India acts as an incubator for new approaches toward living holistically on the planet, and developing sound, scalable and adaptable models that can start with the developing world, where the need is obviously the greatest and the resources available are the least.  The developed world, with its embedded base of investments will only follow along when it becomes obvious to those who hold and command the resources that their model is unsustainable and must be changed.  The situation in the developing world, however, is much different and there, the people are going to adopt the model of the developed world, and further burden the planet, if they do not find ways to survive and thrive that are also more balanced for the future.  Their rationale is that they have the same right to succeed and enjoy their lives as those who have exploited the planet in the past, and thus, they should not be gainsaid with regard to their development aspirations.

Auroville has residents from more than 70 countries around the world, people who have come to work towards developing new ways and new directions and new relationships to provide a way forward out of the existential crisis we are facing.  They bring with them the aspirations of humanity, as well as all the basic characteristics of humanity that need to be addressed while trying to overcome the issues and concerns that tend to divide humanity one from another.  In addition to simply being an experiment in how to bring about human unity across different cultural mindsets, languages, religious and political backgrounds, Auroville has numerous projects spanning a wide variety of fields, but each focused on a different aspect of sustainability, environmental integrity and healing of the planet and the people.  It has not only conceptualized numerous potential directions, but has actually started up a number of projects to actualize these concepts and show that they can be both effective, harmonious, adaptable and scalable.

One such project was a reforestation program.  Auroville, when it was founded in 1968, was a desolated landscape with heavy erosion, lack of tree cover and vegetation and harsh heat under a beating sun.  Today one sees a lush forest with a complex infrastructure of native plants, insects and animals in a heavily forested area, with erosion control, and water catchments, all in harmony with Nature.  The transformation was made through the kind of holistic vision that needs to be applied more widely in the world. 

The reforestation project worked on many levels.  First, to understand the native flora and fauna of the region and begin to introduce appropriate vegetation and trees.  Second, to work with the local villagers so they would both understand the value and support the project as it developed.  Third, to nurture the plantings carefully through the initial stages.  Along the way, water runoff was studied and catchments and diversions were developed to capture the water and not allow it to further erode the landscape.

Not only did Auroville achieve “proof of concept” with this project, but it succeeded in exporting the basics of this project to Haiti, Kenya and some other areas in India, successfully, by developing local individuals who took into account their own local circumstances and adapted the consciousness that was developed to the new situation.

Other projects include creating high protein algae-based foods, commercial hemp for a number of uses, including environmentally-friendly bricks for building.  They also have developed architectural models to maintain a moderate and cool environment within the tropical zone through the building design and materials used, rather than the Western approach of relying on energy-intensive air conditioning equipment, as well as creating unique solutions to water capture and conservation. 

Auroville has more than 55 current projects spanning the gamut from food, water and health to building, construction and reforestation, while also experimenting with new ways of developing and sharing resources within the community.  Many of these projects are mature and ready to be scaled to other localities in the developing world, while some are working out the implementation details in the initial stages.  Auroville does not claim to have all the solutions, but it is working to envision and implement new ways that are in harmony with the global, holistic requirements to solve the existential crisis we face. 

Another aspect of the Auroville project is the very dynamics of interaction between all the different people, backgrounds, religions, languages and cultures.  Everyone brings their own unique perspective and ways of acting to the situation and, as we see everywhere in the world, this can bring about a considerable amount of disagreement, or even conflict.  The challenge at Auroville is to become a laboratory for change, not just on the environmental or natural circumstances, but also to face and find solutions to the interpersonal challenges that inevitably must arise given the complexity of the society that is being built there.  This encompasses also new ways of allocating resources, new forms of decision-making, and a wider vision that can encompass numerous different approaches without taking personal affront, as so often is the case wherever people join together to accomplish something, whether in a family, a business, a community, a society, a religious tradition, or a civilization.  None of these challenges are simple of solution, and in order to even be resolved, they must arise and be confronted, understood and worked out.  The Auroville project brings to this process a basic understanding and good will regarding the need for such interaction and new forms of resolution, and thus, even disagreement or internal conflict becomes part of the larger process as the community continues to grow, develop and flourish over time.

For an extensive interview covering this subject and the Auroville experiment see the following link: https://youtu.be/eoiV_ipoHbk

A preceding interview going in depth into the existential crisis and the evolution of consciousness see the following link: https://youtu.be/n3MznXmXDM4

For more information about the Auroville projects and overview of the comprehensive nature of these projects as experiments in developing a sustainable future, you can visit the website at https://aviusa.org/flourish/  and for more general information about Auroville, visit  www.aviusa.org/auroville   

For more information about the writings of Sri Aurobindo which underlie the approaches taken as humanity searches for a way to survive and thrive in the future, you can visit www.lotuspress.com as well as visit the daily blog postings at   https://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and daily podcast at  https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky    and the web page www.aurobindo.net 

The Creation of the Worlds and the Cycles of Evolution

Entropy is a scientific theory that holds that the universe tends towards increasing disorder and dissolution over time, eventually having ordered patterns break down into randomness or chaos, and dissolution. While it is set forth in Western science as the second law of thermodynamics in a very specific way, it has taken on a much broader meaning when it is applied to the creation of the universe and its eventual dissolution. It is one of the key concepts that has ruled Western scientific thinking for a considerable period of time. This theory of entropy relies on the idea that the universe is wholly material in nature, consisting of Matter and Energy. It does not address the centrality of consciousness as the creating, informing and containing reality of existence, with Matter and Energy as specific results of consciousness, not the cause. It also assumes that Matter and Energy are a closed system and that there is nothing outside that framework that can create or add to it. For example, if we have a vehicle with fuel in it and set it in motion, it will run until the fuel runs out and then stop. If we don’t consider things further, we see this as an example of entropy. But if someone comes along and adds more fuel to the vehicle, it can start up again and we recognise that it is not entropy but a cyclical result of adding or decreasing available energy based on an actor outside the limits of the vehicle and its existing energy reserves.

If we look closely at creation, it does not seem that entropy is necessarily the end result of creation. There is a cycle of creation and dissolution and new creation, and through a deeper understanding of this pattern, we can see that the creation actually exhibits more order and complexity over time as it systematically evolves greater powers of consciousness into manifestation.

The process of creation is cyclical in nature as a large number of different levels, each with their own needs and characteristic lines of action, need to be harmonized to move everything forward in a balanced manner. Thus, an increase of the power of life energy requires suitable modifications to the physical forms that need to hold and utilize that energy. An influx of new mental powers requires changes to both the material form and the life energy. Progress must necessarily move step by step, as ascent to the next plane or level will require a period of integration into the foundation or basis upon which the progress is being built.

What may appear to us to be entropy therefore may actually be a period of integration that focuses on upgrading the prior levels so that the next advance can take place without breaking the entire system. The question then is one of perspective and time-frame of the view we take of the movement of the universal energy.

The ancient sages referred to vast periods of time called “yugas” which represented various stages of development or breakdown, and which cycled from dissolution to new creation and back again. Entropy in this case was seen as part of a cyclical process which eventually led to a new and increasing level of consciousness, organization and complexity, and not as an “end result”.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The cycles of evolution tend always upward, but they are cycles and do not ascend in a straight line. The process therefore gives the impression of a series of ascents and descents, but what is essential in the gains of the evolution is kept or, even if eclipsed for a time, re-emerges in new forms suitable to the new ages. The creation has descended all the degrees of being from the Supermind to Matter and in each degree it has created a world, reign, plane or order proper to that degree. In the creating of the material world there was a plunge of this descending Consciousness into an apparent Inconscience and an emergence of it out of that Inconscience, degree by degree, until it recovers its highest spiritual and supramental summits and manifests their powers here in Matter. But even in the Inconscience there is a secret consciousness which works, one may say, by an involved and hidden Intuition proper to itself.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Planes of Consciousness and Parts of the Being, pp. 43-46

Brief Overview of the Evolution of Consciousness

To appreciate Sri Aurobindo’s view that realization of the Supreme is the starting point, not the ending point of the practice of yoga, it is necessary to appreciate several concepts. The first is that, as the Upanishads hold, there is “one without a second”. This implies a unified consciousness that is not divided into separate beings as we tend to see things from our mental viewpoint. There is no “other”; rather, all that exists is that One Being. The second is “All this is the Brahman.” Rather than treat the world as purely a dream or an illusion to be escaped, this Upanishad dictum makes it clear that Brahman, the Supreme Divine, is not something to be discovered or experienced elsewhere, but rather, right here in life.

Sri Aurobindo then raises the question about the apparent disconnect between the human mental experience of fragmentation and separation and the consciousness of the divine unity. If all this is the One, why do we experience our existence as ostensibly separate beings in a seemingly hostile world?

By examining the process of evolution, Sri Aurobindo identified a series of stages or phases of development of Life out of Matter and Mind out of Life. Each one represented an extension of consciousness in its active manifestation in the world. In order for this to occur, the one consciousness must be present and involved in Matter. The sequential rolling out can be likened to the sequence in time of a motion picture revealing successive stages in a film as one observes. The entire film was there all the time, but is revealed in stages. Without pushing this analogy too far, one can at least get a glimpse of the concept of successive evolutionary stages revealing higher planes of consciousness over Time. Clearly the current mental level, with all its limitations and imperfections, cannot be the final stage of this process, and therefore, Sri Aurobindo points to a next phase which he calls the supramental manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Sri Aurobindo’s teaching states that this One Being and Consciousness is involved here in Matter. Evolution is the method by which it liberates itself; consciousness appears in what seems to be inconscient, and once having appeared is self-impelled to grow higher and higher and at the same time to enlarge and develop towards a greater and greater perfection. Life is the first step of this release of consciousness; mind is the second; but the evolution does not finish with mind, it awaits a release into something greater, a consciousness which is spiritual and supramental. The next step of the evolution must be towards the development of Supermind and Spirit as the dominant power in the conscious being. For only then will the involved Divinity in things release itself entirely and it become possible for life to manifest perfection.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Introduction, pg. 3

The Spiritual Revolution

Humanity is facing a crisis of existential proportions. Climate change, pollution, income inequality, access to fresh water and food, and the consequences that lead to mass migration, war, and increased risk of pandemic disease vectors all are forcing us to confront our entire way of looking at and thinking about life. We look for solutions through science and technology, through research into the material forces of the universe, through a moral revolution, through religious conversion, or through intellectual plans and ideas, ideologies and creeds for living. Yet we are locked in a nexus of increasingly difficult problems amid unprecedented gridlock as our opposing ideas clash and no one is prepared to give in or find a common ground direction.

A central issue becomes evident through all of this travail; namely, that we look at our lives and the world we live in from the standpoint of our individual egoistic desires and without a true sense of the oneness and interdependence that actually ties all of us together. From this standpoint we try to solve our problems through exercise of power and various attempts to control others to live according to our own preconceived ideas or direction. We treat the world as something external to us, to be seized and exploited for our own comfort or enjoyment, without concern for the needs and balance of Nature and the other beings who share the planet with us, beyond the very specific benefits we share with those who are considered family, friends, immediate community or who share an ideology or faith with us. We actively separate ourselves from others on the basis of various characteristics, skin color, gender identification, racial or ethnic backgrounds, economic systems or religious beliefs, etc. All of this is the function of our mental, vital and physical experience and background thus far in the evolution of consciousness on the planet.

We are surrounded today by crises of an ever-increasing magnitude and they are now overlapping one another as our limitations and standpoint create more disharmony and dislocations. The solution is not to be found in a new ideology, a new philosophy, a new religion, a new economic system, or a new technology. We have had our industrial revolution and our technology revolution and yet the imbalances have only become greater, as these are essentially attempts at solution by the mind acting from our normal vital standpoint. What is required is a radical change in our standpoint based on a new and different experience of our lives. Instead of focusing on the differences and the separation from one another, we need to see and experience our lives as elements of an essential oneness and interdependence. Such a transformation comes about through what Sri Aurobindo calls a spiritual revolution.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The changes we see in the world today are intellectual, moral, physical in their ideal and intention: the spiritual revolution waits for its hour and throws up meanwhile its waves here and there. Until it comes the sense of the others cannot be understood and till then all interpretations of present happenings and forecast of man’s future are vain things. For its nature, power, event are that which will determine the next cycle of our humanity.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Inspirational Quote, pg. 1

The Mind of Light: Summary and Conclusions

Is it our destiny to create a divine life on earth? When we look around at the world today, we see innumerable problems, crises and contradictions that provoke many to feel utterly hopeless. Everywhere people have experienced the pain, the challenges, the aggressive opposition of ideas, ideologies, religions, creeds, movements and expressions. Some have given up and determined to simply live for today, “eat, drink and be merry” they say, as they abandon the thought that there is any purpose to their existence or to the universal existence itself. Others believe that this world is simply a world of trial and that our true destiny lies in some heaven, or hell, after we die. We have competing political systems, competing economic systems, competing religious beliefs, and within all of this, there lies the promptings of desire and the conflict over resources, their allocation and use, and the consequences of their use, or misuse in relation to the environment and the planet. Scientists now tell us we are in the midst of the sixth species extinction event, an event on such a scale as it dwarfs those that came before it. Meanwhile we are actively polluting the environment and changing the climate with consequences that we are beginning to see, but have not yet fully comprehended or begun to act seriously upon. Our physical, vital and mental standpoint does not give us any realistic way out of this crisis and we see therefore only recriminations, gridlock and the inevitable consequences of suffering, war, pestilence, mass migrations and related consequences.

Sri Aurobindo, however, sees a deeper significance, a thread of meaning that weaves through all these issues and events and provides a meaning to existence, a significance to our lives and a context for the disruptions we see all around us. This significance is an evolution of consciousness that, over a vast scale of Time, has brought forth Life from what appeared to be dead, inconscient Matter, and eventually brought forth Mind from what appeared to be the pure reactions of desire and fear that govern the lower animal existence. He sees that this evolution of consciousness is not yet completed and that the limitations and weaknesses of Matter, Life and Mind lead to the type of confusion and chaos that reigns in our world today. He recognises that in fact it is a basic principle of Nature that evolutionary transitions are fraught with crises as a new principle is born to help resolve the crisis existing at the prior level.

All of these evolutionary changes take time. What is different today is that through our application of the limited vision and understanding of the Mind, we are not only becoming more self-aware, but we are also manipulating Matter and Life in ways that are disastrous and wholly destructive. We do not appear to have the time needed for the full emergence of the supramental consciousness that marks the transition to the next full phase of the evolutionary cycle. This is where the advent of transitional gradations, such as the mind of Light come into play. Even a relatively small modicum of the Light and Knowledge and Power of the supramental consciousness can help us achieve sufficient balance in our existence and with our environment to overcome the worst dangers of the current planetary existential crisis. The mind of Light occupies a position that is achievable for humanity in the relative near term to provide us a new standpoint which will ameliorate the most serious of the existential concerns, and thus provide the time for the evolution of the next full evolutionary stage of the Supermind.

Humanity tends to only make substantive changes under the pressure of crisis and extremity. We thus can both seek, and find, that there is a powerful movement toward spiritual growth, widening of consciousness, awakening of a sense of our oneness and interdependence with the rest of the beings that share the environment with us. We also see an increasing awareness of the galaxies and universes beyond us, and we see an awakening to the universal creation and its apparent significance. Thus, we stand on the brink of an emergence of a new phase in our conscious existence, this time aided by our self-awareness and our deep inner aspiration to achieve meaning in our lives.

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Summary and Conclusions

Transition to a Mind of Light and Its Implications for Human Existence

The shift from the mental standpoint to the supramental standpoint, from a limited, fragmented and error-prone seeking for knowledge, to a consciousness that lives in the full illumination of Knowledge is not something that takes place instantaneously and completely like flipping on a light switch. There is in the evolutionary process on earth, a long series of stages of development, and the transition from mind to supermind also includes a series of stages that Sri Aurobindo has identified and defined. Even a relatively small shift, however, yields dramatic results in terms of benefit to the life of humanity and the balance of the world-environment. The shift to a “mind of Light” brings with it a new way of seeing that takes into account the wholistic balance between the individual and the world, sees the unity of all creation, and recognises the need to achieve harmony in relations between people, and the natural environment of which we are a part and on which we depend. While the mind of Light does not yet represent the complete knowledge and power of the supermind unveiled and active, it provides illumination sufficient for humanity to begin to solve many of the imminent crises that threaten our existence at this time.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Still there is an increasing self-limitation which begins even with Overmind: Overmind is separated by only a luminous border on the full light and power of the supramental Truth and it still commands direct access to all that Supermind can give it. There is a further limitation or change of characteristic action at each step downwards from Overmind to Intuition, from Intuition to Illumined Mind, from Illumined Mind to what I have called the Higher Mind: the Mind of Light is a transitional passage by which we can pass from supermind and superhumanity to an illumined humanity. For the new humanity will be capable of at least a partly divinised way of seeing and living because it will live in the light and in knowledge and not in the obscuration of the Ignorance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind and Mind of Light, pp. 94-95

The Essential Characteristics of the Mind of Light

The mind of Light represents a fundamental shift in the status and standpoint of consciousness in the individual. Mind operates in a fragmented, isolated manner and is locked into its limited framework. It is thus a power based in Ignorance. The mind of Light is a power of knowledge, based in the supramental consciousness and being, and thus, is not bound by the limitations that plague the mental function.

Sri Aurobindo makes several additional points worth noting here. First is that the consciousness is not a machinery of some inanimate Nature, but the active manifesting role of the divine Being. Second, the supermind does not need to display all its knowledge at every point at all times, but can modulate and withhold behind the scenes the knowledge that underlies the current action. One can consider this to be something akin to a “step down transformer” that takes the high voltage intensity of power being transmitted and siphons off part of it to distribute it where needed and in the amounts required, so that it can become useful for a specific purpose or need. The intervening gradations between Supermind and Mind represent stages of this “step-down” process to apply just the right amounts of knowledge and power to the specific need of the specific being, circumstance and event that is at play at that moment.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “The Truth-Consciousness is not only a power of knowledge; it is a being of consciousness and knowledge, a luminous many-sided dynamis and play of the omniscient Spirit; in it there can be a spiritual feeling, a spiritual sensation, a spiritual essentiality of substance that knows and reveals, that acts and manifests in an omniscience which is one with omnipotence. In Mind this Truth-Consciousness and these workings of the Truth-Consciousness can be there and even though it limits itself in Mind and has a subordinate or an indirect working, its action can be essentially the same. There can even be a hidden immediacy which hints at the presence of something absolute and is evidence of the same omnipotence and omniscience. In the Mind of Light when it becomes full-orbed this character of the Truth reveals itself though in a garb that is transparent even when it seems to cover: for this too is a truth-consciousness and a self-power of knowledge. This too proceeds from the Supermind and depends upon it even though it is limited and subordinate. What we have called specifically the Mind of Light is indeed the last of a series of descending planes of consciousness in which the Supermind veils itself by a self-chosen limitation or modification of its self-manifesting activities, but its essential character remains the same: there is in it an action of light, of truth, of knowledge in which inconscience, ignorance and error claim no place. It proceeds from knowledge to knowledge; we have not yet crossed over the borders of the truth-conscious into ignorance. The methods also are those of a self-luminous knowing and seeing and feeling and a self-fulfilling action within its own borders; there is no need to seek for something missing, no fumbling, no hesitation: all is still a gnostic action of a gnostic power and principle. There has been a descent from full Supermind into Mind, but this Mind though a self-limited is not yet an agnostic consciousness unsure of itself or unsure of its workings; there is still a comprehending or an apprehending consciousness which goes straight to its object and does not miss its mark or have to hunt for it in the dark or in insufficient light: it sees, knows, puts its hand immediately on things of self and things of Nature. We have passed into Mind but Mind has still not broken its inherent connection with the supramental principle.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind and Mind of Light, pp. 93-94

The Involution and Evolution of the Supramental Consciousness

As we delve deeper into the world of matter and life, it becomes obvious that there is an involved consciousness at work that creates forms and beings and activities far beyond what our best application of mental power can provide. Scientists and engineers now look closely at the forms of nature to design technology and products that can solve human needs or concerns. The involved consciousness is apparently far more capable than the mind as can be seen from examples of science studying and mimicking solutions already found by nature. Some examples include the development of adhesives that work in damp environments, courtesy of the adherence capability of mussels which can withstand pressure from ocean tides, or development of wing and rotor designs that take advantage of the aerodynamic qualities of birds, such as owls. Velcro was invented by someone studying the ability of burs of certain plants to adhere to clothing.

This involved consciousness is capable of holding back self-awareness and self-aware control of these forms at the material and vital levels, while slowly bringing forth more and more powers of consciousness as the mind develops. At some point as we become aware of the involved consciousness, and as we push the limits of our mental capabilities, we become receptive to the supramental truth-consciousness which creates all these forms in a symbiotic, and inter-dependent harmony while maintaining its awareness of the inherent oneness of the entire creation.

The intervening gradation between mind and supermind, which Sri Aurobindo terms the “mind of Light”, and which itself has various stages of evolutionary development, begins to shift the consciousness from one of ignorance seeking for and struggling to attain knowledge, to one that exists in a consciousness of truth and does not have to struggle for the understanding of the larger picture or the place of each element in the creation. Or as the ancient scripture holds “from darkness to light, from light to greater light.”

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The essential character of Supermind is a Truth-Consciousness which knows by its own inherent right of nature, by its own light; it has not to arrive at knowledge but possess it. It may indeed, especially in its evolutionary action, keep knowledge behind its apparent consciousness and bring it forward as if from behind the veil; but even then this veil is only an appearance and does not really exist: the knowledge was alwys there, the consciousness its possessor and present revealer. This too is only in the evolutionary play and on the supramental plane itself the consciousness lives always in an immediacy of knowledge and acts by a direct immediacy of knowledge. In Mind as we see it here the action is very different; it starts from an apparent absence of knowledge, a seeming ignorance or nescience, even, in material Nature, from an inconscience in which any kind of knowing does not seem at all to exist. It reaches knowledge or the action of knowledge by steps which are not at all immediate but rather knowledge at first seems utterly impossible and foreign to the very substance of this Matter. Yet, in the blindness of Matter itself there are signs of a concealed consciousness which in its hidden fundamental being sees and has the power to act according to its vision and even by an infallible immediacy which is inherent in its nature. This is the same Truth that is apparent in Supermind but is here involved and seems not to be. The Mind of Light is a subordinate action of Supermind, dependent upon it even when not apparently springing direct from it, in which the secret of this connection becomes evident and palpable.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Supermind and Mind of Light, pg. 93

The First Signs of the Advent of a Mind of Light

Are we witnessing the first signs of the development of a mind of Light in the world today? If we look back at human civilisation over the last several thousand years, we can see several bright spots where individuals or relatively small groups of people broke out of the fixation on material acquisition and personal satisfaction of desire to try to achieve a new standpoint that would take into account the needs of a larger collectivity and a focus on achieving peaceful relations between people. These may be taken as first signs of an aspiration to something greater than what humanity had been able to achieve with its mental development focused on satisfaction of desire and working with physical matter.

More recently, in the latter half of the 20th century, we see a number of incidents and developments which speak to a much larger and broader perspective starting to manifest, with the concern for the environment, the focus on understanding and overcoming the colonial and genocidal history of the past, and the rise of concern for all human beings living together and sharing the resources of the earth’s bounty. Then we see humanity reaching out beyond the planet with a drive to explore outer space and visit the moon, and eventually other planets in the solar system; and the search for extra terrestrial beings through the SETI project. We see scientists systematically delving into the origins of Matter and finding energy, and now finding that energy embodies consciousness. Quantum entanglement and the origins of the universe are leading scientists beyond the limits of the mental framework that has held us in thrall for most of our presence on earth. We remain ignorant and continue to make errors along the way, but the direction of the striving for knowledge is clearly visible.

We see concurrently the breaking down of traditional models of belief and religion, with more people opting to forego formal adherence to a particular set of religious precepts in favor of an inner seeking for spiritual enlightenment, now no longer reserved for a small group of renunciates, monks or anchorites. This drive is a defining change in humanity’s relationship to seeking divine guidance and significance of their lives.

We see as a result of these multiple streams, people working to overcome the limits of human perception and the strict logic of the mental framework. We see people working on developing intuition, inspiration, creativity, global rather than linear thought process, wholistic rather than fragmentary viewpoints, and a drive to develop senses of clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, and other ostensibly “occult” powers. There is an enormous focus on spiritual practice on a scale not seen before, and people are reporting opening of various chakra energies, pouring of a force from above into them, out of body experiences of various types, silence of the mind, and experiences that fall into the realm of spiritual development.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “In the birth of the mind of Light and its ascension into its own recognisable self and its true status and right province there must be, in the very nature of things as they are and very nature of the evolutionary process as it is at present, two stages. In the first, we can see the mind of Light gathering itself out of the Ignorance, assembling its constituent elements, building up its shapes and types, however imperfect at first, and pushing them towards perfection till it can cross the border of the Ignorance and appear in the Light, in its own Light. In the second stage we can see it developing itself in that greater natural light, taking its higher shapes and forms till it joins the supermind and lives as its subordinate portion or its delegate. In each of these stages it will define its own grades and manifest the order of its beings who will embody it and give to it a realised life.”

“Thus there will be built up, first, even in the Ignorance itself, the possibility of a human ascent towards a divine living; then there will be, by the illumination of this mind of Light in the greater realisation of what may be called a gnostic mentality, in a transformation of the human being, even before the supermind is reached, even in the earth-consciousness and in a humanity transformed, an illumined divine life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Mind of Light, Mind of Light, pg. 91