M PANDIT: Brief summary of Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy
from “The Teaching of Sri Aurobindo”, M. Pandit
Chapter I. Philosophy
Every thinking person asks himself, in his awakened moments: what is the meaning of this life? Or, has it any meaning at all? What is this world? How has it come to be? Where is it drifting to? And what is the significance of his present?
Many have thought over these questions before and the answers they have given are varied and often contradictory. The universe, it is said, is a creation of an Almighty God who has brought all creatures into being by a fiat and rules over them with the scales of justice in his hands. He rewards good with happiness and punishes evil with misery. All continues till, one day, he is pleased to dissolve the empire.
There are others who pronounce there is no God. God is only a figment of the anthropomorphic imagination of man. The world is self-existent. All is a result of the action and reaction of elements and forces; each form comes into existence and passes out of it mechanically as a result of certain combinations and break-up of material elements. Consciousness is only an epiphenomenon of the physical organism. There is neither past nor future; only the present is real and it is wisdom to make the most of it.
No, this world is not real either, say still others. The world is a transient phenomenon where everything changes moment to moment, man a stream of thought-movements and a bundle of impressions: the whole concatenation is kept going by the never-ending urge of Desire. Once this prop is withdrawn the flux of things lapses and ceases to be. There is no abiding reality as such; the only thing that truly exists is a Nothing, Zero, Shunyam.
There is yet another view which has exercised a profound influence on the mind of man. According to it there is a Supreme Reality; but it is an Absolute Indefinable, One-without-a-second — the Brahman, which stands transcendent above all creation. That alone is real; all else is unreal. The universe is a huge shadow cast by the Being of Brahman or a fantasm woven by Its own force of Being, Maya. Thus the world-phenomena, the creatures peopling it, are all shadow-figures flitting about on an illusory stage. The sooner each one sees this truth, or rather lack of truth in his life and withdraws from it to the Sole Truth Beyond, the better.
There are certain modified versions of this standpoint which lend a partial reality to the world and life, but all told, the utmost they concede is an inferior value to world-existence vis-à-vis a Truer Beyond. Less or more, there is always a sense of unreality, an impermanence overhanging this life. One has to recognise that it is an activity of an inferior if not a wholly unreal kind and it is best to effect one’s release from this state of dissolvable turmoil and pass to a hereafter or Beyond which alone is ultimately True and Permanent.
To Sri Aurobindo, however, the world is not a delusion or a baseless transient phenomenon. All is real; you are real, I am real, every bit that we see around is as real as Reality could be. For all is a true formation of Brahman that is the Sole Reality:
O Brahman, Thou art man and woman, boy and girl;
old and worn thou walkest bent over a staff; thou art
the blue bird and the green and the scarlet-eyed.
Svetasvatara Upaniṣad, IV. 3, 4
This Teaching starts with the ancient perception of the seers of the Vedanta that there is a Supreme Reality which is absolute, eternal and indeterminable. This is Brahman, the One Truth, Sole and Entire. Whatever is is in Brahman, for there is none outside It. All this is a manifestation of Brahman, by Brahman, and in Brahman; therefore all is as real as Brahman Itself.
The Supreme Reality is indeed inconceivable and ineffable — an indefinable Transcendent. But It is not that alone. Above all and yet holding all in essence, when turned towards manifestation, this Reality determines itself as a supreme Existence, Something that exists by itself, sat. Not merely exists, but it is actively aware of itself; dynamic with Self-Knowledge, it is Consciousness-Force, Chit. And the very nature of this Existence innate with Consciousness is an utter Delight, Ananda. This is the triune status, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, in which the Reality perceives itself in its poise for manifestation.
Why does Brahman manifest? Why should the Absolute turn from its ineffable Immutability towards Movement and what is it that it seeks which is not already contained in itself? Well, Brahman manifests himself not because of any want but for a Self-revelation, a Self-deployment in the outpouring of his Bliss. It is this Ananda of his being that throws itself out for the sheer joy of an infinite movement and variation. Ananda is the base, Ananda the movement and Ananda the goal of manifestation. All creation is a surge of Brahman in an outflow of Delight. This is the full import of the Vedantic dictum, all is Brahman, sarvam khalu idam brahma.
So it is that the universe is a manifestation of Brahman, the Reality. And manifestation of Brahman means the revelation, the becoming of all that is native to, inherent in Brahman, — the Existence, the Consciousness, the Force and the Bliss that are the very terms of this Brahmanhood. In a word, Brahman the Absolute Being moves into Becoming in order to manifest his full plenitude of Self-Existence, Self-Knowledge, Self-Power and Self-Delight in an infinitude of expression.
That, says Sri Aurobindo, is the Purpose of Creation; the universe is meant to be a perfect revelation of Infinite Existence, Absolute Consciousness-Force and Illimitable Ananda of the Creative Godhead. That is the Purpose which secretly governs each and every form in creation; but it is given only to man to become conscious of it and exert himself to fulfil the Intention of the Creator.
The Reality, of Sachchidananda does not precipitate itself directly into this terrestrial existence. The process of the manifestation is gradual. There comes about a graded self-unrolling of the creative Brahman through several layers or planes of Becoming, an ordered devolution step by step, each gradation less subtle and more dense, ghana, than the previous until this extension of material existence is arrived at. These are the seven planes, the sapta padāni of the Veda, or the seven habitations, stations, sapta dhāmāni of the manifesting Godhead viz. the Planes of Sat, Chit, Ananda, and Vijnana, the Plane of Truth-Consciousness, where the ten hundred steeds of the Effulgent Sun are massed together; the Planes of the Mind, Life and last Matter, the physical Earth, which is aptly described as the feet of the Cosmic Purusha, padbhyām pṛthivi.
It is to be noted that this descending Consciousness that is Brahman, extends itself in a separate formulation on each of these levels, organises existence on each plane around the particular principle so posited out of itself; and thus each of these gradations functions as the sovereign dynamis of its basic Principle of Consciousness active for the Divine Purpose. That is how the Planes of the Supreme Existence, Consciousness-Force, and Bliss, the plane of Truth-Consciousness and the Plane of Mind (with the intermediate levels between the two), and the Life-Plane have been formed and set in action as Powers and fields for the Divine’s self-expression of its Knowledge, Force and Infinitude in terms suited to their several orders of existence.
And here too on Earth, on this plane of physical matter, the Creative Truth seeks to manifest itself. True, every factor, every condition of the organisation here is quite contrary to the characteristic expressions of the Reality in its own sway. The self-involution of the Reality has reached its acme in a total self-denial. The utmost infinitesimal finite is the unit, a veritable inconscience its nature and insentience a special feature of this order of creation in its primal beginnings. Perhaps that too is in line with the Nisus. The Divine is to reveal the full glory of its Being in conditions which are the very opposite of its Supreme Nature.
And the method by which this Purpose is being carried out is what Sri Aurobindo calls the Spiritual Evolution — a progressive unfoldment and growth of the Spirit or Consciousness which is concealed in every form in Creation. This Consciousness whose devolution has culminated in a concrétisation of itself in the solid core of matter, is there imbedded or fossilised, as it were, and now seeks to release itself, to realise and establish itself in an ascending gradation working out appropriate vehicles for its embodiment and expression at every step. Thus from inanimate matter, there emerged gradually the throbs of life, the first vibrations of the evolving Consciousness; they were followed by less primitive and more and more developed forms of life in which Consciousness became more and more articulate. In the emergence of this life-form of Consciousness, it must be noted, a natural pressure from the Life-Plane pre-existent above, so to say, played a capital part. With the growing organisation of the life-principle on earth a yet higher principle of Consciousness, namely the awakened and self-aware power of Consciousness which is called Mind made its gradual appearance; as in the case of Life, so here too Nature has been helped in her transition by the action of the Plane of Mind pre-existent above.
With the advent of this mental principle, the process of the spiritual evolution has arrived at a turning point. For till then, evolution had proceeded more or less mechanically, without any awareness or responsive cooperation by the evolving units like the plant or animal. Now Nature has found an ally. The inception and growth of this active faculty of self-awareness has brought into operation a new factor. In Man, the evolving being has become conscious of itself, conscious of its power, and conscious too of its need and possibility of self-enlargement and self-exceeding. For evidently this power of Intelligence, which has been developed and established so far, has limitations which are too patent; it cannot be the final organ which the Supreme Consciousness has evolved for its perfect expression.
The Mind as it is developed is at best a half-way house. The very tortuous and tentative ways of its operation, the obvious imperfections and lacunae that characterise the world-order under its governance, are enough to convict it of inadequacy to serve as the pristine Power for the direct manifestation of the Sachchidananda on Earth. There is, Sri Aurobindo declares, yet another Power for that task, a still higher Principle high above the highest evolved human mind — what we may call the Super-Mind, the Plane pre-existent at the head of this creation. It is the original Truth-Consciousness in direct possession of the Truth of each form and of the Power to effectuate it, the Vijnana of the Upanishad. It is this principle of Self-aware Knowledge and Self-active Power that is to be attained above, evoked within and established in the aspiring Consciousness of Earth-nature and it is this consummation towards which the present endeavour of human evolutionary effort is converging, consciously and half-consciously.
It is only when this Higher Power, the Supramental Consciousness of the Creative Truth is reached and realised, takes its place at the head of Evolution and functions as its governing Principle that the character of this world of half-light and half-power will begin to change and the full revelation of the veiled Godhead commence.
To strive and actualise this possibility is the Call to Man. As the highest developed being on the crest of evolving Nature, he can take into himself her labouring movement, give it a conscious direction and with his effective collaboration accelerate and telescope the Process to its destined end.
This is the aim and this the content of Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga