Sri Aurobindo and The Veda (Auroville) - Audio - 14 January 1999

The talk is in answer to the question about Jivatman.

Let us go deep into the question of the ego as it is very important. Normally, whenever we speak of the ego, it refers to what we think is "I". Now if you ask the question, if you examine our whole consciousness, in our body, our mind – everything that I have described from instincts to the intellect – to find out where is this "I", you will find it very difficult. There are only vibrations. Instinct is a vibration, desire is a vibration, attraction is a vibration, ambition is a vibration, will is a vibration, sensations are vibrations, perceptions are vibrations, ideas are vibrations. So you should just go on examining, and ask yourself, "Where is this 'I'? What does it correspond to?" Ultimately, you will find that it does not correspond to any one of these. All these are only vibrations, movements, currents. But throughout all these vibrations there is an undercurrent. Only this undercurrent has what you may call self-awareness. You can't fix it somewhere − "Here is self-awareness, there is self-awareness" − but there is an undercurrent of self-awareness. And this self-awareness is not present in all the vibrations. There are some vibrations which are not even conscious − they are sub-conscious, or unconscious − but wherever there is this consciousness, along with it there is a possibility for self-awareness. It is not that wherever there is awareness there is self-awareness that is not true. You may be aware that you are seeing a wave on the ocean, there is an awareness of the ocean and of the wave, but it does not necessarily mean that you are aware that you are aware of the wave. In fact, if you examine the question of self-awareness, you can go on... When you become self-aware, then there is a possibility of becoming aware that you are aware that you are, aware that you are aware, that you are aware. Self-awareness is, as it were, multiplied. It is always possible to become aware of your awareness, of your awareness, of your awareness, of your awareness. This series of awarenesses can be called self-awareness. Mere awareness is not self-awareness, but awareness of awareness, of awareness – this series of awarenesses is self-awareness.

This self-awareness however still does not give you a precise clinching holding or grasping of this "I". Again, you find that it's a vibration, it's a current. Usually when you use the word "I", it gives the impression that there is a chunk of something called "I", and that you are able to hold it. But when you examine yourself you will find that even with self-awareness, you only catch a vibration, but not anything that can be called an entity. You don't catch an entity called "I". If you can catch hold of the entity – you can do it, but for that you have to go into the greatest depths of your being. When you enter the greatest profundities, you do get a hold of entity – not a vibration. That depth is a great depth. As Sri Aurobindo says, it is not one inch deep, it's profound. Deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper – sometimes it takes years to cross these depths, and then you can catch what is called an entity.

That entity is Jivatmana, not ego.

Until you reach that point of entity and catch hold of that entity in self-possession, – until that time there are only vibrations. Even the consciousness of self-awareness is a vibration. Only, there is behind or within this awareness of "I", a current.

Now the distinction between "I" as an ego and "I" as Jivatman, is this: that I, as an ego gives you a feeling of this entity, but itself is not an entity. It is simply a vibration, a current. This "I" is therefore merely an idea. Ego is only an idea, there is no entity. When you try to catch the ego, whatever you catch is simply an idea of "I", but there is nothing which you can substantially hold. The word entity means "substance". Do you know the distinction between a substance and a current? Substance is indefinable, because substance is substance. If you want a word for it, it is Being. The only examples you can give of a substance – which are not true examples − are a piece of wood or a stone, things you can hold in your hand. You can say, "This stone is something that you can hold, it is not a current." It is not water, water moves, flows – water is an example of an energy, a current – but a stone may be regarded as an example of a substance. This example is good enough, but if it is pressed too much, you will find that even a stone is not really a substance. It gives the impression of something solid in your hand, but if you study physics you will find that a stone consists of atoms, and atoms are nothing but electric currents. So a stone is nothing but a mass of electric currents. Even a stone is not actually an example of a substance, and thus not an entity.

But when you reach the Jivatman there is a real experience of an entity which is not merely a current. Currents flow from it, but basically it is substance. I will come to the nature of substance a little later; I'm just giving a first indication as to how you distinguish between the ego and Jivatman. The ego gives you a feeling of substance, as if there is a substance called "I", but when you examine it, it is only a current, it is only a vibration − it is only an idea. And an idea is always a current, it is not a substance, it is not an entity.

So an ego is simply an idea which wrongly believes that it is a substance. This is the specialty of the ego-sense. It's an idea which wrongly believes that it is a substance, but there is nothing corresponding to it anywhere. You go around the whole world there is no substance anywhere that corresponds to the ego. It's only an idea. It's not that there is no substance anywhere at all, but when you come to the substance there is no longer an ego. There is substance – ego gives you the first feeling that somewhere, there is substance – and if you go deeper and deeper and deeper you'll find, ultimately, a substance, an entity. But as long as you do not catch the substance, although you may feel that there is a substance – this is the sign that it is an egoistic consciousness, a current of the ego. This is how you distinguish between the current that is ego, and the substance that is Jivatman. 

Ego is an idea of the finite. This is the special characteristic of this idea. There are many ideas, but an idea of a finite that is independent – this idea is ego. There is no corresponding substance anywhere, meaning thereby: there is nothing in the world which is finite and yet is a substance. A finite which is a substance, a finite which is independent − there is no such thing in the world. All finites are currents. They are only forms, formations, and each formation is dependent upon another. There is no independent finite substance anywhere. At one time it was thought that there are finites which are independent substances – it is a theory called Atomism. This theory says that all atoms are substances, and that they are independent of each other. This idea prevailed in the world for centuries, for millennia, but modern physics found out that the atom itself is a current of energy, so the whole theory of Atomism came down. It was found that even the atom is not substance, that there is no such thing as finite substance.

When you come to Jivatman, which is also a finite, and yet a substance; it does not consider itself independent. This is the speciality of Jivatman. Jivatman is a finite, but knows it is not independent, there's a self-awareness in Jivatman, you don't have to create the self-awareness the moment you touch it there is a self-awareness automatically there, and it knows it is not independent of all the others. There is also current in Jivatman, Jivatman is not merely Being, it is at once Being and Becoming, it is at once a current and substance. In that sense, it is exactly like the nature of the Infinite. The real Infinite is at once Being and Becoming. There is a real substance − entity, but its nature is infinite, and there is only one such Infinite, there are not two. There can't be two Infinites. If you examine the nature of infinity you'll find that there can only be one Infinite: If there are two infinities, then each will limit the other, and they will become finite. So the Infinite has to be One. You might say that there is one Infinite which is at once Being and Becoming. That Infinite is called in philosophy the Absolute. You can never avoid discussing the Absolute when you want to discuss Jivatman, so I'm obliged to come to this very difficult notion of the Absolute.

There is only one substance that is infinite, which is also at the same time a power of manifestation. There is therefore a great connection between the Absolute and the Jivatman. They share the same nature, actually, except in one little thing. Both have this nature of substance: Whenever you touch Jivatman or touch infinity, you find yourself in what is called self-possession − this is the mark of Being. I don't know if you have had the experience of self-possession. Self-possession is a state in which you find yourself in control. If you are good in cycling, this is an example of an experience of self-possession: you are on the bicycle and you are able to hold yourself even when you are moving – it's an experience of being and becoming, actually. When you ride a cycle, you really experience what is being and what is becoming at the same time: There is self-possession, you are able to move your cycle one way or the other as soon as something appears ahead of you; when you want to escape an accident, you are able to do it − you are self-possessed. So the mark of Being is self-possession. It is also called self-being, self-possession is self-being. You know that you are able to possess yourself. Nothing goes out of you − there is a current but the current is in your possession. So when the currents are in your possession and you control the possession, you experience Being.

Now the Infinite is of such a nature that it can hold the entire power of Becoming, it may throw out the entire power of Becoming, or it may hold it absolutely in quietude. It's like a lion. The lion is a good example of being and becoming: The lion is very quiet, because it has a lot of strength, power, self-held power; you don't know when it will spring into action, and then suddenly it goes straight to its prey, takes it, and brings it to itself and then it becomes again absolutely quiet, very strong and quiet.

These are only examples to tell you something of the Absolute. The Absolute is like a lion, it has all the strength, all the capacities, but it is capable of retaining all the strength. Normally when you have a lot of energy you want to throw it out, you are obliged to throw it out that means that you are not self-possessed. When you have the capacity to throw out, and yet you hold it in yourself, that is self-possession, that is the experience of being, when the energies are held in great quietude, in great silence.

So there is only one Infinite that is Absolute, which has this character of Being, which has a possibility of Becoming, if it wants to. It is not obliged. The currents flow from the Absolute, but the Absolute is not obliged to throw them out.

Jivatman has the same quality, the same nature, and therefore you might say that Jivatman is the Absolute. There would be no difficulty. Jivatman is the Absolute, with one little difference: Whereas the Absolute is infinite, Jivatman is finite, but it does not see itself as independent, and that is how it is different from the ego. Ego is an idea of a finite that is independent; Jivatman is not an idea, it is a substance which has a current, it is at once substance and idea, it is the substance-idea of a finite that does not, see itself as independent, but completely dependent upon the Absolute. This is inherent in it. Jivatman knows that it is a finite that is entirely dependent upon the Absolute.

There is a further qualification to this statement. Jivatman is a finite, but of a very peculiar nature. It is dependent upon the Absolute, but that dependence can be described in many ways. One way is to say that Jivatman is a center. Every circle has a center, and you may compare Jivatman to a circle, but a peculiar kind of a circle: a circle that is a center, and therefore finite, but whose circumference is infinite.

This is a special kind of a circle! Every Jivatman is a circle whose circumference is nowhere. A circle must have a circumference, but this circumference is of such a nature that it goes on extending, extending, extending, extending... It has a very peculiar kind of a center; it's not a geometrical center. A geometrical center must be limited, but Jivatman is a center which can expand into the whole universe. A Jivatman can extend universally. That is why you can say that every individual has a constant possibility of expanding. Even the ego is constantly expanding, but it is false because it believes itself independent but there is no such thing. Constant expansion is the very nature of ego, of Jivatman – of any center, basically, psychologically, it goes on expanding. Therefore you might say that Jivatman is a center capable of universalization. It can become universal. Ego, on the other hand, cannot become universal. Even if it tries to be, it cannot, because it regards itself as being independent, and when you regard yourself as being independent, you can't be universal. If you are independent of everything else, you can't include everything. Universalization means that you include everything; you include all that is the meaning of universalization. 

So this is a center which can expand into all, and yet retain centrality. The center remains; it is not wiped out − in expanding into all. It retains centrality. Jivatman is a center capable of universalization, on one hand, and capable of experiencing its identity with the Absolute on the other, because it is substance. This "individual" is not merely an idea, not merely a current, but also substance. Ego on the other hand is only an idea, it is only a current, there is no substance in it, whereas this individual has a substance. That substance is the substance of the Absolute. And there is only one substance, there are not two, because it is the infinite, and the Infinite is One.

The substantiality of the Absolute is the substantiality of the Jivatman. That substance, centering itself, and not dividing itself... The substance does not divide itself, it is indivisible. There can be differentiation, but not division. These are two important words to be remembered: division is any kind of demarcation which cuts the one from the other and makes a gulf between them, you can cut this table and the two parts can stand apart; but in differentiation there is demarcation but no division. Every artist knows that when you make a line on a canvas, the line differentiates but does not divide the canvas. When you draw a line you are not cutting the canvas in two, you are only separating the mass above the line from the mass below it, there is no division, only differentiation.

This substance differentiates (not divides) itself from the Absolute, or the Absolute differentiates within itself as a center, but the substance remains the same. The only difference is that the Absolute is not a center. The difference between the Jivatman and the Absolute is that the Absolute is not a finite center. But "finite" does not here mean divided − finite is here that which is differentiated from the Absolute. Jivatman is a differentiated point or center which does not cut itself from the substance. It is the Absolute differentiated from the Absolute as a center which has no circumference, and which can thus become universal; this is the full definition of the Jivatman.

The moment that you know the Jivatman, this will be the mark of your understanding the Jivatman: When you have the experience of Jivatman, you have the experience, in spiritual terms, of namo namaha. These are Sanskrit words. "I am completely dependent upon the Absolute." Namo means "I am entirely dependent" and again you repeat the same word, namaha, "I am most completely dependent" upon the Divine. When you have this experience you can be sure that you are in close contact with your Jivatman. It should come spontaneously. To have the experience of Jivatman without having this experience is impossible. You cannot deceive yourself. When you really recognize the Jivatman you have, first, self-possession, you experience the substance and then you have this experience of complete dependence upon the Absolute, and also the experience of complete universality, of utmost wideness.

If you remember one of the last messages of the Mother: "When you are conscious of the whole world at the same time then you can become conscious of the Divine". It is only when you become universal that you can understand or experience the Divine. The Absolute is the Divine. Jivatman is therefore defined as a portion of the Absolute, a portion of the Divine. If you think of the Absolute as a honey pot from which there drips a drop of honey, then you get a good idea of the Absolute and the Jivatman. It's a honey pot from which drips a honey drop − the drop is like a center. The nature of the honey contained in 'the honey pot' and this honey, there's no difference, this honey is as sweet as that honey. It is a madhu, it is honey, which madhuwadaha, which eats honey. This is a description from the Upanishads. "It is a honey that eats honey." The same sweetness is present. But these are analogies, don't take them too far; you only need to see the difference between the honey and the drop of honey: The drop of honey is as much honey as the total of the honey, and yet there's a drop. The substance is the same, the nature is the same. The difference between the Jivatman and the Absolute is that the Jivatman is a finite center, but a very peculiar kind of a finite: a finite that is capable of universalizing itself, and which experiences itself as being of the same substance as the Supreme, as the Absolute. This is the Jivatman.

If you read Sri Aurobindo's writings, where the idea of the ego and Jivatman is very well delineated; I have not read anywhere in the world such a treasure, where the concept of the ego and Jivatman is so clearly defined, particularly if you read The Life Divine you get into a very measured, distinctive way. There is a very important word that he has used. Between the ego and Jivatman there is an entity called the psychic entity. 

Yesterday we spoke of introspection, of putting a microscope on ourselves and trying to see what is within ourselves. And I told you how many things you perceive when you do this, and then we arrived at the ego. But if you go deeper than ego you come to what is called the psychic entity, of which I have not spoken today, because I wanted to jump straight into the Jivatman. But to give a full answer to what the Jivatman is, I have got to introduce this concept of the psychic entity.

The psychic entity is described by Sri Aurobindo as a ‘delegate’ of Jivatman. In parliamentary terms it is called a ‘deputy’, Sri Aurobindo uses both these terms. The psychic entity is the deputy or the delegate of the Jivatman. Sri Aurobindo has said that this psychic entity is a spark of the Divine, that is, of the Absolute and since it is a spark (‘spark’ is another analogy), if you think of the Divine as a huge fire, then a spark coming out of that is the psychic entity. It's also an entity; it's not merely an idea. Just as Jivatman is an entity, the psychic entity is also an entity, not merely a current. Current flows from it, but it is not only a current. It is a spark of the Divine that means a spark of the Supreme; you might say that it's a spark of the Supreme that emanates from the Jivatman. If there is a big fire that emanates a spark, then that spark is the psychic entity.        

This is one of the mysteries of existence; this is what is called ‘secret knowledge’ which, in ancient times, was reserved only for initiates. In ancient times it was given only by whispering into your ears. But we are all initiates now, so it is perfectly in order to speak of it quite freely!

When I spoke to you about the Veda, you'll remember, I spoke about Agni and if you recall, I said that in the Veda Agni is regarded as a very important element. And if you recall the story I told you about Agni, which I can repeat now for the sake of refreshing our memories.

When the Absolute or the Divine created or manifested, the Absolute is a substance which holds all energy in itself and it decided, it willed to put forth all the energy. When it put forth the energy, it was all luminous, all light, because the Absolute is fire, and the manifestation was also luminous.

But then something happened. Mother speaks of an ‘accident’, it's not exactly an accident, or it's like the ‘accident’ that occurs when you go to sleep. As long as you are aware, you are not asleep; as long as you are trying to be unaware, you cannot be unaware. It simply happens without awareness; in that sense it is an accident. Not that you don't will to fall asleep, but so long as you will to fall asleep you aren't sleeping. A point must comes when it just happens that you are not aware, and then sleep comes.

Such a condition arose; as a result there was a sleep. There was luminosity, but something happened and the sleep came about. In the Veda it is written ‘tato ratrajayate’, thereafter, night intervened. Night is the symbol of partial awareness, partial slumber, you are awake, but gradually you enter by accident into a partial sleep. And once it was entered into then came complete sleep, total sleep, ‘tatho samudhro arnavaha’, an ocean of darkness. In the night there are stars, and therefore it is not completely dark, but if it is a cloudy night in which no stars are seen, then there is complete darkness.

So the Veda says that in the beginning was the Absolute then it willed to manifest − that power of Will is called in Sanskrit tapas. Tapas is a term which signifies concentrated force of action. As a result, by the force of action only the light came out. The Absolute is Light and tapas is the force of action of that light, the light came out. So it is said, first of all came ritam cha satyam. Ritam, means ‘the right’; satyam means ‘the truth’, the Truth and the Right came out. The manifestation of the Real is called Truth. This is a very important definition; the true expression of the Real is the Truth.

So, out of the Real (‘Real’ means entity, substance, the Infinite) the first manifestation that came out was an expression of the Real, that is, satyam. Expression of the Truth always gives you in every activity, what is called the Right. You can have the right action only in the condition of satyam, in the condition of the Truth. If you experience the Absolute, and if you express it exactly, then in every action, automatically your action will be right, there will be nothing wrong – this is the Vedic idea. The first things manifested were satyam and ritam. Then the ‘accident’ took place then partial sleep came, and then complete sleep. If you use the modern terms, you can say that this Light is the Superconscient (that is to say that it is consciousness which is beyond our consciousness), and then came Ignorance, the sleep is Ignorance, ignorance is partial knowledge and partial darkness and then came the complete sleep, which is called the lnconscient. Superconscient, Ignorance, and Inconscient these are the modern terms.      ` 

When there was a complete Inconscience, the Supreme Power, which was manifesting as tapas, I am telling it as a story, returned to the Superconscient and said, "An accident has occurred." The Divine said, "What accident?" Then the Supreme Power said, "Look! We are all luminous, and here is a complete Inconscience!"

It is called an ‘accident’ but the Divine did not find it to be an accident, because He knew that this was intended. So the Supreme Power said, "How shall we repair it now?" And the Supreme said to the Supreme Power of Creation, "You will now create another creation. This was one cycle, now you must come forth with another creation. Don't dissolve it, but now manifest the Gods. Here you have created something which went to sleep; now you must create beings that will not go to sleep", that possibility was removed from them, Gods cannot sleep; once awakened they cannot go to sleep. (If you read Savitri, in the very first line Sri Aurobindo describes the condition of the world when there was this complete Sleep, "lt was the hour before the gods awake” – that is to say, the Mother, the Supreme Power, had not yet gone to the Supreme and said, "What shall we do?"

And then Gods were created, that is to say that the gods awoke, and the Divine said to the gods, "Now you will repair this Inconscience. Create an awakening in this Inconscience." The Gods looked into the Inconscient and said, "It is beyond our capacity, we cannot do it." But they found, in the Supreme Power, which is called in the Veda, ‘Aditi’; they turned to Aditi and said, "There is something in you which we have seen and if you can bring that out that has the power of curing this Inconscience." In the Veda this is described in poetic form: "In the waters of Aditi, they discovered that element", which they called "Agni". Agni is that element that the gods saw in Aditi, which has the capacity to cure this Inconscience. They prayed to Aditi, saying, "Please, emanate this Agni!" Aditi is one with the Absolute; it is a power of the Absolute. In other words this Agni is a spark which is emanated from the Supreme through the Supreme Power. So that Agni was implanted here, in the Inconscience, this spark began its work. Like a mason, it began to dig into the Inconscience, it knew how to do the work, and therefore Agni is described as "the one who knows", jataveda.

Agni entered into the Inconscient and began to dig. Out of the digging arose a spiral movement, which in modern times we call ‘evolution’. Through this upward movement gradually the sleep was awakened gradually, that sleep is not completely gone even now. First it created Matter, then came Life, then came Mind, Life is the middle term − life in matter, life in mind, it's the middle term. There's a very beautiful simile given in the Veda, which says that Matter in one tinder, Mind is another tinder, you take two wooden sticks, two tinders, and you rub very forcefully: a spark will come out. Have you ever seen this? Even now, when a Vedic sacrifice is done, they don't use a matchstick, they take two sticks, and the two sticks are rubbed and the fire comes out of it.

So Matter and Mind are the two sticks churned by the life movement, and as a result a spark came out, very forcefully. That spark is now distributed, vishaiya vishay (that is the word in the Veda) in every human being. That spark is planted in every human being that spark planted in every human being is the psychic fire, the psychic spark. The psychic spark is a special power which has been thrust on the inconscience so that gradually we are led. The psychic entity is commissioned; a mission has been given to the psychic entity to turn the entire Inconscient Nature into the Superconscient. This is the mission given to it.

Each one of us is basically Jivatman, the center, and this psychic entity is a delegate of the Jivatman. It is the presence, the will of the Jivatman and of the Divine. Before even entering into Jivatman, you can enter into the psychic entity.

The psychic entity is also very much like the Jivatman, except that the Jivatman is automatically universal, while the psychic entity has a contact with the universal and can prepare you for universality. That is the only difference. It's a delegate, it's not a complete Jivatman, but the psychic entity can be experienced by us. When you are in introspection then you can more easily experience the psychic entity.

Now how do you experience the psychic entity? For most of us it takes a lifetime, or even lifetimes, because as I've said, this entity – Psychic or Jivatman is not only one inch away, but miles and miles away from our outer surface consciousness. It takes a lot of time, but the first indications are... You see many children, when you tell them a story of heroism, suddenly they feel inspired. They say, "Oh, I want to be like that hero!" If you show the child something beautiful, the child falls in love with that beauty and wants to see it again and again and again and again. He responds to love so easily. These are the marks of the psychic presence. Many children are greatly inspired automatically, you don't have to teach them, you just present to them a heroic story, and their heroism is inspired, ignited like a fire. Because the spark is there, and the spark is touched, and suddenly there is an aspiration arising: "I want to be that hero. I want to do that. I want to sacrifice myself."

The psychic entity is experienced when there is an automatic response to three things: Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Whenever you have an automatic response to these, you can be sure that it is the psychic entity that you have touched. Because you are not accustomed to it, it may again withdraw, that experience. Very often, heroism is a one-minute affair with us; after two minutes we cease to be heroes, because the psychic consciousness withdraws. You have to constantly make an effort so that it remains. There is a very beautiful term that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have used: "to bring the psychic being into the front". There is a possibility in us, if you constantly bombard yourself with Truth, Beauty and Goodness, the psychic being will constantly come into the front, and you will experience a tremendous aspiration within you for the Truth and the Truth alone and nothing but the Truth and the whole Truth. And where there is a response to harmony, to love, to beauty, to goodness, kindness, benevolence automatically, you don't have to preach to a child, it is an automatic response. And once that is awakened in a child, since it knows, Jyataveda, you no more need a teacher. Once you are in touch with the psychic, it guides you. As Sri Aurobindo says, if you allow the psychic being to come in the front then the task of the teacher is taken away from him. The teacher has done it and all the rest has to be done by the psychic entity that is constantly guiding you.

So in your examination of your being if you constantly introspect: I gave all the elements which are to be found in your being right from instinct, to ego, to psychic entity, Jivatman, Universal, Absolute. This is the secret knowledge that is regarded as very precious knowledge. We get it so easily as Sri Aurobindo and Mother have written so widely and so extensively. So we are privileged. But it is one of the most important aspects of the secret knowledge and what follows from it. Then nothing more remains but to get it: to enter into our experience, and to sail the boat in the waters of Immortality.