Supreme Life of Our Life, Part 6: True Existence and Immortality

When we reflect on human life, the focus is almost entirely on the period between birth and death of an individual and the wants, needs and actions undertaken in that intervening period.  Our mortality turns into a major concern and driving issue in our beliefs and actions.  This limited focus is both a distortion and a cause of untold suffering.  From the divine standpoint, life is not limited to one individual existence as if it is separated from the rest of creation.  There is an interconnection and interdependence of these fragmented forms.  Life does not end with the death of the individual.  Life does not begin with the birth of the individual.  The individual does not exist in a vacuum separated from the rest of existence.  It is from this standpoint that we can begin to appreciate what the greater “Life of our life” is and what the meaning of immortality actually turns out to be.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “What then is this Life of our life?  It is the supreme Energy which is nothing but the infinite force in action of the supreme conscious Being in His own illlumined self.  The Self-existent is luminously aware of Himself and full of His own delight; and that self-awareness is a timeless self-possession which in action reveals itself as a force of infinite consciousness omnipotent as well as omniscient; for it exists between two poles, one of eternal stillness and pure identity, the other of eternal energy and identity of All with itself, the stillness eternally supporting the energy.  That is the true existence, the Life from which our life proceeds; that is the immortality, while what we cling to as life is ‘hunger that is death’.  Therefore the object of the wise must be to pass in their illumined consciousness beyond the false and phenomenal terms of life and death to this immortality.”

“Yet is this Life-force, however inferior in its workings, instinct with the being, will, light of that which it represents, of that which transcends it; by That it is ‘led forward’ on its paths to a goal which its own existence implies by the very imperfection of its movements and renderings.  This death called life is not only a dark figure of that light, but it is a passage by which we pass through transmutation of our being from the death-sleep of Matter into the spirit’s infinite immortality.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pg. 102, 156-160

Supreme Life of Our Life, Part 5: Comparing Human and Supreme Life-Force Characteristics

Life-force in the human individual is characterized by the limitations under which it operates.  This turns into an action based on desire, thirst, hunger, greed, lust, seeking after fame, essentially all the terms we have developed for the life-force seeking its own sustenance, aggrandisement and success in a world of limitations and competition.  It is obvious that a universal force of life, a supreme “Life of our life” cannot possibly be subject to these limitations and thus, must operate on a totally different basis.  From the divine standpoint, all the human actions and interactions are merely a particular play of its universal force of creation based on the manifestation of Life in Matter in this particular time, place and circumstance.  The life-force so manifested is a minuscule portion of the divine energy of creation which has no need, therefore, to try to overcome the obstacles or acquire what is “missing”.

Sri Aurobindo explains:  “The characteristics of the Life-force as it manifests itself in us are desire, hunger, an enjoyment which devours the object enjoyed and a sensational movement and activity of response which gropes after possession and seeks to pervade, embrace, take into itself the object of its desire.  It is not in this breath of desire and mortal enjoyment that the true life can consist or the highest, divine energy act, any more than the supreme knowledge can think in the terms of ignorant, groping, limited and divided mind.  As the movements of mind are merely representations in the terms of the duality and the ignorance, reflections of a supreme consciousness and knowledge, so the movements of this life-force can only be similar representations of a supreme energy expressing a higher and truer existence possessed of that consciousness and knowledge and therefore free from desire, hunger, transient enjoyment and hampered activity.  What is desire here must there be self-existent Will or Love; what is enjoyment must there be self-existent delight; what is here a groping action and response, must be there self-possessing and all-possessing energy, — such must be the Life of our life by which this inferior action is sustained and led to its goal.  Brahman does not breathe with the breath, does not live by this Life-force and its dual terms of birth and death.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pg. 102, 156-160

Supreme Life of our Life, Part 4: Prana, the Universal Energy

We associate the term “Prana” with breath.  We understand it as the life-force within us.  It is this, and much more.  While the life-breath is the closest and easiest manifestation of Prana for us to relate to, Prana is not limited to the life-breath.  It is a universal force, active in all movement of energy in the universe.  The force that moves the galaxies, the force that is active in the atomic realm, are manifestations of the universal Prana.  Even our human life-breath is not an independent action, as we are co-dependent with the plant life of the planet.  Plants breathe in what humans breathe out.  Humans breathe in what plants breathe out.  This is one respiration process that is taking place.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Thus the Prana is vital or nervous force which bears the operations of mind and body, is yoked by them as it were like a horse to a chariot and driven by the mind along the paths on which it wishes to travel to the goal of its desire.  … It is in fact that which does all the action of the world in obedience to conscious or subconscious mind and in the conditions of material force and material form.  While the mind is that movement of Nature in us which represents in the mould of our material and phenomenal existence and within the triple term of the Ignorance the knowledge aspect of the Brahman, the consciousness of the knower, and body is that which similarly represents the being of the existent in the mask of phenomenally divisible substance, so Prana or life-energy represents in the flux of phenomenal things the force, the active dynamis of the Lord who controls and enjoys the manifestation of His own being. (The three are the reverse aspects of Chit, Sat and Chit-Tapas.)  It is a universal energy present in every atom and particle of the universe, and active in every stirring and current of the constant flux and interchange which constitutes the world.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Kena Upanishad and analysis, pg. 102, 156-160