Sri Aurobindo:- The justification for including Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy under ‘the Schools of Vedanta’, if any justification were required, is that almost every page of ‘The Life Divine’ is inspired by the creative vision of the seers of the Vedas and the sages of the Upanisads.
As a free commentator on Vedanta, Sri Aurobindo comes after the great Acharyas of Vedanta, like Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha and Nimbarka. ‘The Life Divine’ is a challenge to the false notion that philosophy in India died after the sixteenth century.
The Supreme Reality, according to Sri Aurobindo, is Brahman, the Divine. It is eternal, absolute and infinite. In itself it is absolutely indeterminate, indefinable and free. It cannot be completely described either positively or negatively. Though it is indescribable in itself, yet it is not absolutely unknowable to us, for the Spiritual Being in us is in essence nothing but the Divine itself. For us the highest positive expression of Brahman is the Sachchidananda or Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, all in one. It manifests itself as indeterminate as well as determinate, as nirguna as well as saguna, as one as well as many, as being as well as becoming, and yet it transcends them all.
The Existence (Sat) of Brahman appears to us as Atman, Ishvara and Purusa. The Consciousness (chit) of Brahman which is always a Force (shakti) manifests itself as Maya, Shakti and Prakrti. Consciousness Force, the own-Nature of the Divine, ‘measures the Immeasurable, informs the Formless and embodies the Spirit/ The Bliss (ananda) of Brahman underlies all these manifestations and it is out of sheer bliss that the Divine manifests Himself as this world. These three aspects and these powers embrace all reality and when taken as a whole, reconcile all apparent contradictions.
The Sachchidananda through his Consciousness-Force manifests Himself as this world out of sheer bliss. Bliss gives us the ‘why’ of creation. ‘Out of bliss all things arise,’ says the Taittiriya Upanisad. ‘World-existence,’ says Sri Aurobindo, ‘is the ecstatic dance of Shiva which multiplies the body of the God numberlessly to the view; it leaves that white existence precisely where and what it was, ever is and ever will be; its sole absolute object is the joy of the dancing. The Supreme in itself is the ‘timeless and spaceless pure Existence, one and stable, to which measure and measurclessness are inapplicable and yet it manifests itself as the ‘measureless movement in time and space’.
The self-consciousness of Brahman which is at the same time the power of self-manifestation is called by Sri Aurobindo ‘the Supermind’. The Supermind is a ‘Real-Idea’, a ‘Truth-Consciousness’. ‘It is,’ says Sri Aurobindo, ‘conscious Reality throwing itself into mutable forms of its own imperishable and immutable substance. It is the Divine alone who can know himself in all his aspects and the Supermind is the Divine’s own knowledge of himself which is at once his own innate power of self-manifestation. The Supermind is absolute knowledge and power. It is through the Supermind that the Divine manifests himself as this world. It is with the Supermind that the process of self-limitation and self-individualization starts in Brahman.
The unitary Sachchidananda, out of sheer joy, puts himself under self-limitation and self-individualization and manifests himself as innumerable real Selves of Bliss who are always conscious of their essential unity with the Sachchidananda. The eternal Selves are Divine and are untouched by the cosmic process, by the space-time matrix. The true Self is the Unborn and Immutable Spirit of man who always lives in the divine plane. He is not involved in the world of Ignorance, but sends down a ray, a spark of Divinity, as it were, into this world. Sri Aurobindo calls this spark of Divinity which is the soul by the name of ‘psyche’. The psyche, though it does not change its essential spiritual nature, yet is subject to evolution. The psychic clement is inherent even in matter and evolves towards a fuller existence in life. In man this psyche takes the form of the Psychic Being. The Psychic Being is in direct touch with its reality, the Divine Self, but man normally is not aware of his own soul. Mind, life and matter are the instruments avail-able to the soul and however defective they may ultimately be, the soul has to work in and through them for its knowledge and activity. Hence, in spite of being spiritual and blissful, the soul is actually subject to mentality, vitality and physicality. Because of this the intuitions of the soul, in spite of giving immediate awareness of Reality, are not complete and comprehensive. Also, like its knowledge its power is limited. To have absolute knowledge and absolute power, the soul must attain to Supermind which is the source of mind, life and matter. ‘To merge the consciousness in the Divine,’ writes Sri Aurobindo, ‘and to keep the psychic being controlling and changing all the nature and keeping it turned to the Divine till the whole being can live in the Divine is the transformation we seek.’
The Sachchidananda, through the Supermind, descends into mind, life and matter. The descent of the Divine is called ‘involution’ and is the result of the self-concealment of the Divine. The Supermind is absolute knowledge and power. It is Vidya. It is the knowledge of Reality and also of the world-to-be. It never misses the essential unity with the Sachchidananda. But in mind the knowledge of unity is lost which means that ignorance starts from here. Mind is Avidya which is the immediate manifestor of the world in which we live. Next stage in the descent is life where the tendency towards multiplicity or fragmentation becomes prominent. The last stage in descent is matter where each atom is separate from the others so that fragmentation is complete and unity is completely lost. It should be noted that ignorance is not the total denial of knowledge, but knowledge hiding itself and thereby appearing as something else. Hence, there is always some element of knowledge even in ignorance which element is a very dim sentience in the field of matter. Sri Aurobindo conceives of a stage where even this sentience is absent and calls it Inconscience. This is the complete loss of Spirit. All this process of involution takes place behind the screen as it were. It is an ideal process.
Involution or descent is not the end of the process. The next phase is evolution or ascent which Sri Aurobindo calls ‘the spirit’s return to itself’. It is defined by him thus: ‘All evolution is in essence a heightening of the force of consciousness in the manifest being so that it may be raised into the greater intensity of that which is still unmanifest, from matter into life, from life into mind, from the mind into the spirit.’ Evolution according to Sri Aurobindo, as Dr. S. K. Maitra explains, ‘is a widening, a heightening and an integration.’ ‘Evolution is an ascent from a less manifest condition of the Consciousness-Force to a more manifest condition.
It is also an integration of the higher with the lower States. This means that when a higher principle emerges, it descends into the lower ones and causes a transformation of them.’ As matter, where spirit is sleeping or apparently lost, is the last term of involution, it is the first to become manifest in the space-time world and to evolve into a higher term. The dormant spirit in matter feels an urge to rise to life.
There is a call from below and a response from above. And then life emerges in this world. With the emergence of life, matter undergoes a considerable change. Then, the dormant spirit in life feels an urge for mind and with the response from above, mind emerges in this world. The evolution of mind introduces a very great change in life and matter. The evolution until now has been up to the mental plane and has been through Ignorance. But Consciousness in mind itself is feeling an urge to evolve into Supermind.
The supra-mental descent, therefore, is a logical necessity. After the descent of the Supermind, evolution will proceed through knowledge. The supra-mental being is called Gnostic Being. With the descent of the Supermind, mind, life and matter will be radically transformed. Their defects and mutability will vanish. The race of the Gnostic Beings will be above quarrels, diseases and death. The entire personality will be revolutionized and direct communion with the Sachchidananda would be established.
Mind can know the Supreme in one or more of its aspects, but it can never know it completely and as a whole. Only the Supermind can do that. Great sages, according to Sri Aurobindo, have achieved salvation. But it has been individual salvation. They have freed themselves from the cycle of birth and death. Some of them have realized Brahman. But their realization, though highest, has yet been incomplete and partial, for their approach to the Supreme has been through the mind or the Over-mind.
Mind by its very nature breaks the indivisible Reality into bits as it were. It must divide and exclude. It cannot function without the subject-object duality. ‘Mind,’ says Sri Aurobindo, ‘cannot possess the Infinite, it can only suffer or be possessed by it; it can only lie bliss-fully helpless under the luminous shadow of the Real cast down on it from planes of existence beyond its reach.
Some of the great sages through their intuitions did have the glimpses of the Supreme, but their intuitions— even the highest intuitions— could not be free from the mental coating. ‘Intuition says Sri Aurobindo ‘brings to man those brilliant messages from the Unknown which are the beginning of this higher knowledge. . . . (But) it’s action is largely hidden by the interventions of our normal intelligence; for what we call by the name Is usually a point of direct knowledge which is immediately caught and coated over with mental stuff, so that it serves only as an invisible or a very tiny nucleus of a crystallization which is in its mass intellectual or otherwise mental in character.’ Integral spiritual experience is the sole privilege of the Supermind.
For Sri Aurobindo the descent of the Supermind is the great logical necessity which heralds the dawn of a new era for mankind hitherto before unknown. It will lead to cosmic salvation here and now— ‘ihaiva’ and ‘adhunaiva’ as the Upanisads put it— by transforming the human life into the Life Divine.
Our mind cannot give its complete description, for, as Sri Aurobindo says, ‘what is magic to our finite reason is the logic of the Infinite’. ‘The supramental change,’ he says, ‘is a thing decreed and inevitable in the evolution of the earth-consciousness; for its upward ascent is not ended and mind is not its last summit. But that the change may arrive, take form and endure there is needed the call from below with a will to recognize and not deny the light when it comes, and there is needed the sanction of the Supreme from above.’ The integral Yoga o f Sri Aurobindo aims at ascending to the Supermind and also at bringing about the descent of the Supermind.
‘By this Yoga,’ he says, ‘we not only seek the Infinite, but we call upon the Infinite to unfold himself in human life.’ The supramental descent will ‘make earth a heaven and life beatitude’s kisses’. Mind cannot describe this state through its categories. It can give only a vague and a general description. Sri Aurobindo himself attempts this description thus: ‘As if honey could taste itself and all its drops together and all its drops could taste each other and each the whole honey-comb as itself, so should the end be with God and the soul of man and the universe.
’ The aim of Sri Aurobindo’s life-long Sadhana has been to bring down the Supermind to the world of mind, life and matter. Whether he has succeeded or not, time alone will answer. But one thing is certain that throughout his life he has undauntedly and with confidence marched ahead, singing:
‘And how shall the end be vain when God is guide?
The more the goal recedes, the more it lures;
However his mind and flesh resist or fail,
A will prevails cancelling his conscious choice.
There is a Light that leads, a Power that aids;
Unmarked, unfelt it sees for him and acts:
Ignorant, he forms the All-Conscient in his depths,
Human, looks up to superhuman peaks:
A borrower of Super nature’s gold,
He paves his road to Immortality.’
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