Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation

Track Running Memory, Ego and Self-Consciousness

Memory, Ego and Self–Consciousness

Question: But does everybody not feels this bondage?

Not immediately, not in the same way, but differently at different stages of  development. I am speaking very summarily. But in some individual cases it may take many, many births to feel this bondage. In the first place, in the beginning one is so much absorbed that life goes on in only one absorption, another life may go on with another absorption and so on. It is only when one develops, that one even comes to hear of bondage and liberation, that is why shruti is given so much of importance in our tradition that even to be able to hear that you have a soul behind you, that there is God behind you is itself a great occasion. Once you even hear of it, even if you do not believe in it, afterwards you cannot be the same as before because once you have heard that there is something of this kind; it always helps your inner feeling. This feeling that there is something else, is inherent in our being because it is really there, something else is always there. Because it is there it is always pressing upon us, so you feel there is something else. This body, life and mind growing upwards in search of higher knowledge create three instrumentalities of its development.

Question: Is the psychic entity the consciousness?

Consciousness is a word which includes also the Transcendental, Universal and all that. The word consciousness is a very big term but of that consciousness, Individual is one portion and this psychic entity is a kind of a delegate of that individual self, so it is also consciousness but not of this Supreme Consciousness. It is a psychic consciousness you might say, the psychic being is a psychic consciousness. What it is exactly in detail we shall examine; actually the first part of this chapter is devoted to this particular thing, this psychic consciousness?

 This body, life and mind in its process of moving from unconsciousness to knowledge produces three things. It produces first an elementary process of memory. You will see that memory plays a great role in the process from unconsciousness to knowledge. An animal has a very short memory; at a certain higher level memory becomes very powerful and in the human being memory plays a very great role. It is even so much so that some people say memory is the man, that if you lose your memory then you are no more what you are. This is not entirely true but I mean it is such an important element that people are led to believe that memory is the whole of man; man is nothing but his memory. In any case memory is certainly one of the important instruments that is created by the body, life and mind movement. The second is the ego consciousness. The ego consciousness very often seems to be created by the memory but it is not really so. It is because there is the memory of the Self that you feel that memory creates the Self. There is an independent creation, formation – like memory itself is a formation, a special kind of faculty, ego is a special kind of formation which takes place. This ego is not an entity, it is simply a formation and not even a formation, it is a sense. That is why you use the word ego–sense, ahambhava, not aham but abambhava, there is an ego–sense. It is a sense which identifies itself now with this formation, now with that formation. It is like a jumping monkey you might say, it wears this cap now, wears that cap now, wears another cap later on. Egoistic consciousness is really a kind of an imitating consciousness. Because behind it there is a psychic entity, which is the delegate of the individual self, the true individual, therefore in this body, life and mind an imitation of that psychic entity is created, a formation is created. Ego–sense is actually a kind of a figure to imitate the real psychic entity which is behind, which is not seen. But because of the pressure of the psychic entity, a figure of it is created here in our body, life and mind which says: "I am this body, I am this life, I am this mind". It identifies sometimes with this body, then this particular desire, this particular thought, then discards it. If somebody falls ill then he says: "I am not this body but if somebody is very handsome one feels that he is this body. One does not own the body which one does not like but one wants to own the body if one likes it. It depends upon the choice of the egoistic consciousness to bind itself with this or with that. So ego–consciousness is an ego–sense which regards itself as independent of all the rest, although it is not independent of all the rest but regards itself as independent of all the rest that is why it is called the false sense. If the ego regarded itself to be finite and regarded itself to be completely dependent upon all the rest, then ego–sense as we understand it would not be operating. Ego–sense operates as ego–sense because although it is finite and although in reality depends upon a whole universe, it regards itself to be completely independent of the universe. Because of the presence of the veil, it is not aware of the universe, it is ignoring the universe and therefore it sees only itself and thinks it is really independent of all the rest.

The third thing that is created in this consciousness is self consciousness, which is different from ego–consciousness; the ego–consciousness also pretends to be self–consciousness, but apart from this ego–consciousness there is also a self–consciousness in us.

 Memory, ego and self–consciousness, are the three characteristics of our present; our entire psychology can be described in these three terms. We are a bundle of memory, ego and self–consciousness; this is all that we are. It expresses itself through a movement of body, life and mind. The psychic entity which is behind would like to awaken all these instruments gradually and would like to put pressure and would wish that all of them also would agree to be awakened. But since there is resistance in this unconsciousness – memory is short, egoistic consciousness is false, self consciousness is only faint – because of these limitations in the body, life and mind the action of the psychic entity is not very powerful. It feels, as it were, hindered by the movement – slow movement – of body, life and mind, memory, ego and self experience. This is called the bondage, which is experienced by the psychic entity. That the psychic entity is not able to express itself fully in the body, life and mind that it has to depend upon the awakening of the body, life and mind, it has to wait for its acceptance, consent, this is what is called really the bondage. When we say: "I feel bondage", this is the real bondage. There is a sense of bondage which is vague in the beginning of which I spoke earlier but when you go to the psychic entity then it can tell you of its real bondage. It will say, "Well, I am luminous about myself, I have come from the Supreme individual Self and I know what is the Supreme Divine but I am given the task to awaken this body, life and mind and I am waiting for the time when they will consent to grow, they will consent to open up to this light". This state where the psychic entity is not able to manifest fully in body, life and mind is the experience of bondage and this bondage is a real bondage, it is not an illusory bondage, it is a real experience of bondage.

Question: So it waits till the right time.

It waits, exactly. This is the point where if body, life and mind are gradually developed and they awaken or open up to the psychic entity; psychic entity is able to throw its light. Then the whole process begins to move upwards and when the body, life and mind are so developed that they become willing servitors of the psychic entity and they also allow the floodlight of the individual Self and the Universal Consciousness and the Transcendental that is a state of liberation, mukti, moksha. But this is where we are today in the state of bondage.

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