We have made a more detailed study of the first Chapter, because of three reasons; one is as I have said it is a summary of the whole book. Secondly, it is a brief chapter of only 4-5 pages. But most importantly, it brings out very clearly four important arguments, which have been stated very clearly, sharply and in terms which are entirely philosophical. As I had said Life Divine is a philosophical work and philosophy has its own canons; just as poetry has its own canons, even yoga has its own canons of exposition, philosophy also has its own canons. And as I had said, philosophy aims at first, embracing all the physical and psychological facts. It deals with data. And a good philosophical work should base itself upon vastest possible data. Secondly, it utilizes these data in order to determine that essential significance. That is to say why the data are what they are. Why they ought to be what they are, and what signal these data give to our understanding, to our search for meaning, and for our highest fulfillment, which we can attain through intellectual means. And finally, in doing so it must utilize intellectual methods and intellectual methods are the methods of argument, and arguments as I had said are of various kinds. And we have seen in this chapter first of all a historical argument, secondly ontological argument, thirdly dialectical argument and fourthly essentially metaphysically argument, fifthly the argument which can be called analogical. If you put all these arguments in the right form and right proportion according to the facts which are presented, the method is entirely intellectual and philosophical. And as I had said, even the selection of the starting point is philosophical because reference to human aspiration is itself the most philosophical question. To summarise the arguments we may say, historical argument is never conclusive but it gives a highly probabilistic conclusion. And the historical argument of this chapter is that if you examine history of mankind, there is one fact, major fact, which comes out very sharply is that there has been a constant aspiration and that aspiration can be formulated in four or five terms—God, Light, Freedom, Bliss, Immortality. In stating this aspiration Sri Aurobindo indicates one very important ontological argument that this aspiration is the highest aspiration and terms like God, Light etc. are the highest that human thought can envisage. This is as I said is the ontological argument. As far as thought is concerned, the highest the thought can envisage is God. It is a statement which many people do not immediately see, but it is a fact that there have been philosophers in the history of the world both in India and West, where attempts have been made to prove the existence of God and the best formulation of that argument, of that proof, is ontological. Having stated this ontological argument and established that God is the highest that thought can envisage, Sri Aurobindo takes us on a train of thinking which is dialectical in character and points out that this aspiration is in contradiction to the actualities of the world. There is in other words a contrast between the actual and the ideal and often this contrast gives us an argument that actual is real since ideal contradicts the real, therefore it must be unreal and therefore unrealizable and therefore should be given up. This is the argument. As against that Sri Aurobindo answers and that is what I have called essentially metaphysical argument. Any argument ultimately has to be examined in terms of essentially metaphysical argument. And what is essentially a metaphysical argument? It is to ask the question whether there is contrast, there is harmony, whatever it is, why is it so, why must it be so, why should it inevitably be so? Any phenomenon that is presented to us, if you must put this question, it is the highest metaphysical question - why must it be so? Why is it that there has been this contrast between the actual and the ideal? Mere contrast is not enough, pointing out to a contrast is not enough. It is only a statement of a fact. The question is why that contrast must exist in the world at all. In answer to that question, Sri Aurobindo states that this contrast is the very method of Nature’s working. Method of Nature is the method of working out, whatever it wants to work out by a method of contrast. And to illustrate it, to prove that is so, Sri Aurobindo points out that there is a contrast between Matter and Life, there is a contrast between Life and Mind and Matter and Life they have been put together even though they seem to be extremely in contrast and therefore unrealizable. The method of Nature has been to bring a harmony between Matter and Life, to such an extent that no living organism can subsist on the earth without a physical vehicle. That much has been the reconciliation, the harmony between Matter and Life. Similarly, there is a contrast between Life and Mind and yet this contrast between Life and Mind has been sought to be reconciled by Nature to such an extent that there can be no thinking process, if there is no vitalistic process, if it is not a living process. This contrast between Life and Mind has also been reconciled. Now if that is so then the contrast that we now see between what we are and the aspiration that we have, we did not throw it away by saying that the actual is in contrast to the ideal, actual is real therefore the ideal is unreal that argument won’t apply. On the contrary it would mean that just as in the past these contrasts have been reconciled, similarly these also can be reconciled. Having stated this Sri Aurobindo brings in a very vast fact into consideration. Just as the history of mankind is a vast fact, similarly Sri Aurobindo now brings an even vaster fact and that fact is the fact of the entire process of evolution, not only of mankind but of the whole process of evolution. And it is that fact which is examined by Sri Aurobindo in detail and points out that there is in this world a fact of evolution. In any case modern science speaks of it. Having spoken of it, Sri Aurobindo examines it metaphysically—what is the metaphysical significance of it? In other words, why should there be evolution at all? This is the metaphysical question. Sri Aurobindo says that present theory of evolution as science has put forth is a theory which simply states that Life has evolved in Matter, and Mind has evolved in Life. But it does not ask the question as to why Life should evolve in Matter and why Mind should evolve in Life. Now how do you answer that question? This question can be debated in length. However, this chapter being a very short one Sri Aurobindo gives an immediate and final answer. That you study any philosophy in the world, you will not find an answer to this question unless you come to Vedanta. This is one philosophical system which maintains that cause must contain the effect or effect is always contained in the cause. Therefore it follows that Life must evolve out of Matter because Life is involved in Matter, and Mind is involved in Life. Then Sri Aurobindo says if so, is Mind itself not a similar container of something else? And if you examine what is the nature of the Mind and you will find there is a parallel, analogical argument. Just as in the Life forms there was an ascending series, amoeba to the human being there are so many stages of life movement, more and more complex forms have come in evolutionary process. Why? Because there has always been an urge to develop the force of life to meet the environment more and more competently; as a result new organs have come into existence; new faculties have developed. Why because there has been an ascending series and there has been an urge. Similarly, analogically when we come to the human mind and examine the story of the human mind, you find that this human mind also has a series of developments from the primitive man to the modern man. There has been a series of developments of the mind and there is a constant urge. What is the urge? Urge going straight to God, Light, Freedom, Immortality—the highest possible manifestation—that urge is also to be found there. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says that it is very likely that that is the next step which is going to manifest through our development of the Mind. In a sense, you might say that the whole argument of the chapter is over. In fact this is the whole argument of the whole book. The whole book is an affirmation that the human mind has reached a stage today; it is struggling today to move forward and its basic urge is to transcend the limitations of the Mind and to manifest what may be called the highest consciousness. The present consciousness of the Mind is a linear movement of consciousness. It is a consciousness which limps. It is in search of Truth by elimination of error and it bridges the gulf between the present and the future by building up these bridges of Truth that is all that the Mind is doing. The next step will be one where Supermind will be a consciousness which will not be a limping movement. It will be possessed of Truth; it will not be seeking the Truth, it will be possessed of Truth. It will automatically be possessed of the Truth. It will not struggle to find out what is the Truth. It will know the Truth directly and directly. Just as the modern human child immediately understands a number of things automatically, it is inborn, there is in the human mind an inborn capacity to ask questions—what, why, how? You do not have to teach a child to ask the question how or ask the question why. It’s an automatic movement of the human mind. Similarly, the Supermind will be a consciousness which will be possessed of the Truth; the knowledge will be inherent in it. It will not have to seek the Truth, it will know the Truth directly and automatically. It will be automatically like the consciousness that we have seen ourselves which was at work in the Mother.
A question whenever was put to her, she had not to seek an answer. She had only to reveal and answer on the spot; she did not have to seek. One day she was taken to show a new Sports ground that was selected in the Ashram and my friend Udar asked the Mother, we want to make a good swimming pool in this ground and we do not know where to find the water. So we are trying to examine, investigate, but then he said but Mother, you know everything, you tell me where to find the water, in this vast sports ground and she said that the place where I am standing now has water beneath it. You dig here and you will find the water. It was a spontaneous answer; there was no question of finding out and investigating and it was not a movement of limping movement of investigation and finding out by eliminating error, it’s the automatic process of the knowledge of the Truth. Now what was in the Mother’s consciousness, according to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo—the Supramental being will have that automatic knowledge in regard to everything and it is in that process of knowledge, when that knowledge begins to manifest, there is a complete identity between Knowledge and Will. And Knowledge being comprehensive, Will, also will be comprehensive and that Knowledge will be so particularized whenever necessary for anything, it will harmonize everything automatically. And therefore, it will be capable of establishing a harmony automatically, without effort.
So when Sri Aurobindo speaks of Life Divine, Life Divine is a life which will be guided by this divine consciousness, this supramental consciousness, in which there will be automatic harmony and each element is put into proper relationship with everything else. Where harmony is not immediately realizable it will know also, it will take time for ripening that harmony. It will not hasten up either. It will have the right steps of harmonizing. It will not be like many peacemakers in the world, who even when peace is not possible in a given situation, they will rush to make peace without ripening the situation. They will know exactly how to ripen the conditions, when to ripen, the methods by which it can ripen, how to bring about all the elements together and to bring about a total harmony. That is one of the visions of the divine life, and Sri Aurobindo says that that is the end towards which we are moving today. All human evolution today has reached a critical point and it will end in this particular form. The whole book is written to prove that this is what we are at present working at. Now having done this, we are now to the last paragraph, now the last paragraph is a kind of summing up.
Now in the summing up Sri Aurobindo says that there are today a large movements of thought, in fact many movements of thought became ripened after the book was written; but Sri Aurobindo anticipates and says a large movements of thought and the one general characteristic of these movements of thought is that each one of them professes to inquire. Each one of them says we must inquire. There is a great movement towards inquiry. And yet these movements, at a critical point, say we should not inquire. These movements profess to inquire but refuse to inquire; this is a very important characteristic of the present movements of thought. It is very significant that today we are confronted with this kind of movement of thought in world history and there are plenty of thought movements of this kind but they all agree on this – we must all inquire but we should refuse to inquire; we should profess we must inquire and yet they say we should not inquire, – refusal to inquire.
I will read out to you two paragraphs from two philosophers, one Western and one Indian where this tendency is very clear. One is Bertrand Russell, who is very well- known in India. I take Bertrand Russell because among many Western philosophers today Russell is more well-known. So I will take up his argument and state his statement exactly to illustrate who says we must inquire and then says we must refuse to inquire. It may seem strange but it is a fact. As you know, Bertrand Russell is very famous for his development of a new school of thought. I cannot say he is a founder of a new school of thought, basically he is a mathematician. He has given a new lead in the development of what is called symbolic logic. It is a new term which has come, in the last hundred years - symbolic logic. As you know, the history of logic is a very ancient one. Greeks and Nyayakas, in India Nyayakas were logicians; philosophers of Nyaya, and in the West, logic came to a very important climax with Aristotle. Aristotle is supposed to have given a most complete System of Logic. And this logical system was never questioned right from Aristotle up to the time of Leibnitz. Even Leibnitz did not question Aristotle, he modified a little. It is only when in the recent times towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century that Aristotle came to be questioned and one of the leaders of this questioning was Bertrand Russell and he believes that Aristotle was a muddle-headed thinker – there was muddle-headed thinking. It is a very strident criticism of such a great philosopher like Aristotle and that is how you can see that, he said we should break, break, break all that is established and which is famous for its own strident claims, because they have blocked our methods of inquiry. We must have now new methods of inquiry and we must inquire and we must question, we must inquire. So naturally we expect that if this is the strident movement of such a great thinker, who wants to inquire, we must see in him a tremendous striving for inquiry. Now towards the end of his whole movement of inquiry he says there are very important questions which philosophy raises. What is man? What is the meaning of life? What should be achieved? What should we strive for? What is the destiny towards which we should drive ourselves? These are very important questions and we are required to answer these questions, whether we like it or not. Now his admission of these questions is wonderful. These questions are very important. But having raised these questions he says, but these questions can never be answered. This is the state – these questions can never be answered. Why? Because human intellect is incapable of answering these questions. Human mind, you examine the human mind and you find, human mind is incapable of answering these questions. So if you are now inquiring you must ask further questions. Since the human mind is not capable, why don’t you grow new faculties? Why don’t you take recourse to those people who say that intellect can be surpassed? So he says, we refuse to believe that such faculties exist. It is an outright statement. We refuse to believe that there are other faculties, faculties beyond intellect. Now if you ask the question, how did you find out that such faculties don’t exist. His answer is – they don’t exist, we refuse to believe. I will read out to you a statement from him, just to make sure that such a great thinker who wants to stride into inquiry and wants to make all the time the greatest inquiry, how is it that he ultimately says that – we refuse to inquire.
He speaks on his own behalf and his colleagues because as I said he established a new school of thought, which is called the ‘School of Logical Analysis’. So he says, “He and all his colleagues—they confess frankly that the human intellect is unable to find conclusive answers to many questions of profound importance to mankind. But they refuse to believe that there is some higher way of knowing by which we can discover truths hidden from science and the intellect.”
This is his statement, they refuse to believe that there are any other methods. Now in the same way this is one very important example known to all of us because Russell is very well-known. But there are many other movements today which exactly say the same thing in substance. There is, for example, a philosophy of phenomenology; this is one of the modern movements. It says, what we can analyze in the world is phenomena—all these facts which are there, we can analyze them quite easily. In the past these phenomena have been interpreted in terms of their essential significance, from the point of view of essentiality. According to phenomenology they have all failed. Therefore, they say that we should now limit ourselves only to analysis of phenomena and when you come to essences you should bracket them. Bracket them means put them aside, don’t raise those questions. When you come to essences you just bracket them and go ahead only with phenomena. So this is also a refusal to inquire into essence.
Then there is a philosophy which became very famous towards the first quarter of the last century, twentieth century, by 1925—it is called Absolute Idealism. At the time of Hegel it became very powerful and it came to its concluding climax in the philosophy of Bradley. He wrote a book called ‘Appearance and Reality’. And, he said that a human being, because he is a finite, it is impossible for the finite to become infinite. Because he is finite therefore he can never be infinite. Therefore any claim for a finite to know the whole, is impossible. So it follows that no human being should strive to know the whole, it’s impossible and every individual should strive to remain within the limits of his finitude. He wrote an essay called ‘Man’s Station and His Duty’. Every man should find out his station, a limited station and determine his own duties in relation to the others and that is the highest that man can do and nothing more than that. Man is a small cog into the vast machine of the universe. And he should accept that finitude because he cannot be more than that, he is finite. And he should accept all the time, what the infinite demands from him; that is to say, without questioning a larger group, whatever is demanded by the larger group he should give in. In other words an individual cannot know. We should inquire but we should refuse to inquire. You cannot know.
Another development started which is called Existentialism, according to Existentialism, individuals should not be reduced to a finite position, even if he is finite; his utmost of finititude should be allowed to expand. Every individual has a right to feel his deepest depth. And when you come to the deepest depth what do you find? There are different answers. What do you find when you go to the deepest depth? Therefore in Existentialism there are 2-3 answers, alternative answers. One is, you find an eternal, inextinguishable angst.
Individual finite is ultimately reduced to a position, where there is a burning of unresolved dilemma. He is confronted with a choice. He is required to make a choice on the spot and he cannot make it and therefore there is a kind of an angst which remains with him. There is darkness in the world. This is what an individual ultimately finds. So you should inquire but you ultimately come to this final point of a dilemma –unanswerable angst, anxiety. This is all the human being is. Or, if some other line of thought says that ultimately the individual must accept that he must submit and find his salvation in somebody, some larger reality in which he can submerge himself—this is the Christian Existentialism, which says that you should submit yourself to Christ. Or some others say that an individual ultimately can find his ultimate solution only in the Infinite—submit to the Infinite. But in submitting, he will not know. That is the important point. You just submit and that is the end of your angst, your anxiety. But you will come to know that, you should not expect. You should inquire, ultimately you should say that it can’t be inquired into, ultimately you cannot find.
Then there is a philosophy of Pragmatism. What is this Pragmatism? Pragmatism says that Truth can never be found. You should inquire into Truth but the conclusion is – Truth can never be found. There is no measurement by which you can measure the Truth, so Truth can never be found. But life demands you should make claims of Truth. Without claiming the truth you can do nothing. Therefore you should have pragmatic standards of Truth. What is the pragmatic standard of Truth? Truth is that which succeeds, truth is that which can be used for success—utilitarian. So pragmatism maintains that you should reconcile yourself with these standards of Truth. Whatever succeeds is true. And what do you mean by success—that also can’t be a standard. What you propose to be affected, if that is affected by the means that you propose, it can be done only if it is true. So that is Pragmatism. You inquire but you cannot know, so refuse to inquire further.
The latest is called Hermeneutics. What is Hermeneutics? Hermeneutics is a philosophy of interpretation. It states as follows: that all that is intellectually to be known, can be inquired into, if it is written down. People would say yes, quite all right. If it is intellectual knowledge, intellectual knowledge can be articulated, can be written down, so it says that all that is knowable or all that is known, is articulated, so all knowledge is an articulated knowledge. Fine! This articulated knowledge however, can be studied by a number of people. And the moment a number of people read what is articulated, each one will understand in his own way. How to understand a written statement requires science by itself. So that all of us can agree, therefore it requires a method of interpretation. How to be sure that the one who has written such and such a thing is really what is meant by him, so that you don’t misunderstand him; so you create a study by which you can determine how to interpret a text. Therefore, there has been a tremendous movement in the modern times to read the texts and to interpret the texts, and to make sure that you understand properly. Now a great effort has been made so that we all can agree that when you read a given text, we shall try to understand it all in agreement. If we all agree and study any text, first of all we shall come to know what is written, what is meant? A study of meaning by an agreed means of interpretation is what is called Hermeneutics. When you make an effort, all this is for what? For inquiry, to understand what is the Truth, this is all method of inquiry.
Having done this now, today we are in a stage which is called postmodernism. We are today according to the latest thought movement we are called a movement of postmodernism, modernism is over. It is found that there is no standard method of interpretation. It is tried out there is no standard method by which you can interpret. So a text means what it means to you. Fine, if it means that to you, it is that, if that text means to him another thing that means that, there is no standard meaning of any text. Every text can be understood in the way in which you want to understand and we should be satisfied with it, nothing more can be done. Man is the measure of all things. What you understand is right for you but don’t say it is right for me, I understand in my own way. How can you prove my understanding is wrong or how can I prove that your understanding is wrong. What you think is right for you, what I think is right for me. Therefore you cannot know. Knowledge which can be agreed upon cannot be known. Therefore we should not try any further to know, you have come to the end of the whole inquiry. Make a study, always you study so many texts and come out with your interpretation and each one can write down his own interpretation. You can debate, you can dialogue, you can enjoy the amusement of dialogue but to believe that there is a truth and what you say is error; everything is what you think is true, is true. But there is no such thing as the Truth. Now this is the modern climate of Thought. They all profess to inquire; they all refuse to inquire. Ultimately, the answer is, Truth cannot be known, even if you make an inquiry into it, you can never be known and you should remain satisfied with what you are. Now all these movements that you can see, is a denial of what was at one time called rationality. Therefore the modern movement is called anti-rational. It is opposed to all spirituality. It is all opposed to supramentality; even rationality is questioned, it's not in the picture, spirituality is not in the picture; supramentality is not in the picture. So when Sri Aurobindo speaks of this…. today you find this great movement and it is being advocated in the names of great virtues of humility. You should be very humble, very modest. Why do you claim to know? To claim is to become proud; be humble and remain modest. Don’t try to go beyond your skin. Your skin is limited. How can you go beyond your skin, skin is your limit. Let me read out to you a statement from D. P. Chattopadhayaya, my very great friend.
It summarises the modern mood of human search for knowledge. He has written a book which is called ‘Induction, Probability and Scepticism’. Scepticism is a theory that you can doubt everything. Now he says almost as a conclusion of his book:
The real world and the objects in it are not revealed to us all at once. (Very simple statement, you look here, here, the whole world is not revealed at once) We know them gradually, historically and can never be cognitively sure of their absolute certainty. The knowing self and the known are differently interlocked, inter-animated and interactive, both biologically and epistemologically. In our knowledge of the world we do not, rather cannot, stand totally apart from it. From the evolutionary point of view, what is called survival value is in a way akin to Truth value (Truth is that survives, succeeds, pragmatic). Truth of what our organism is informed of the world around us. Situated in the world we have to know it; in spite of our ability to transcend our situation in a limited way we cannot totally get out of it. It is somewhat like our inability to jump out of our own skins and schemes.
So this is the ultimate of all the inquiry that you can make. It requires that you should come out of your skin and knowledge can be possible only if you can come out of your skin. Answer is, you should inquire – you can never do it. Therefore, refuse an inquiry. Now this is what Sri Aurobindo in this paragraph, he wants to emphasise.
At a time when we are speaking of the inevitability of transcending the limitations of the mind and even possessing supramental consciousness, this is a time when the whole world is echoing with the one message – inquire, although you should not, because inquiry is impossible.
This is the climate in which we are all speaking of this proposition and therefore you can say how much, when we speak of this great possibility, which is indispensable according to what you have seen now. If the facts of the world are what they are, if human aspiration is what it is, if evolution is what it is and what seems therefore inevitable logically, rationally, it is at that time that we are told that all this is impossible. Let us read, I will not conclude further.
Thus the eternal paradox and eternal truth of a divine life in an animal body, an immortal aspiration or reality inhabiting a mortal tenement, a single and universal consciousness representing itself in limited minds and divided egos, a transcendent, indefinable, timeless and spaceless Being who alone renders time and space and cosmos possible, and in all these the higher truth realisable by the lower term, justify themselves to the deliberate reason as well as to the persistent instinct or intuition of mankind. Attempts are sometimes made to have done finally with questionings which have so often been declared insoluble by logical thought and to persuade men to limit their mental activities to the practical and immediate problems of their material existence in the universe; but such evasions are never permanent in their effect. Mankind returns from them with a more vehement impulse of inquiry or a more violent hunger for an immediate solution. By that hunger mysticism profits and new religions arise to replace the old that have been destroyed or stripped of significance by a scepticism which itself could not satisfy because, although its business was inquiry, it was unwilling sufficiently to inquire. The attempt to deny or stifle a truth because it is yet obscure in its outward workings and too often represented by obscurantist superstition or a crude faith, is itself a kind of obscurantism. The will to escape from a cosmic necessity because it is arduous, difficult to justify by immediate tangible results, slow in regulating its operations, must turn out eventually to have been no acceptance of the truth of Nature but a revolt against the secret, mightier will of the great Mother. It is better and more rational to accept what she will not allow us as a race to reject and lift it from the sphere of blind instinct, obscure intuition and random aspiration into the light of reason and an instructed and consciously self-guiding will. And if there is any higher light of illumined intuition or self-revealing truth which is now in man either obstructed and inoperative or works with intermittent glancings as if from behind a veil or with occasional displays as of the northern lights in our material skies, then there also we need not fear to aspire. For it is likely that such is the next higher state of consciousness of which Mind is only a form and veil, and through the splendours of that light may lie the path of our progressive self-enlargement into whatever highest state is humanity’s ultimate resting-place.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Human Aspiration
Having considered, therefore, all these negative ideas which are at present, Sri Aurobindo concludes that these negative voices are actually a revolt against a greater effort which we are required to make. If you examine all these movements which I described just now, there is a fatigue in all these movements. Each one says, limit yourself to this—why—because a greater effort is needed to transcend the limitations. It says to limit yourself to this, where you are, you can’t do more than what you are doing, at the most you can refine it a little more because a greater effort is required and that greater effort is denied, is refused. And Sri Aurobindo says, this is an address to mankind that evolution will put you aside if you refuse because evolution is an inevitable force, you cannot stop evolution. It is not in your hands. Evolution is a huge, vast fact by itself and if evolution is a fact as we have examined it is a fact, there is a demand to transcend the Mind. It is true that transcendence of the Mind is very difficult, you might say almost impossible. But it is that effort which is demanded of man. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says you must therefore receive this call of making a tremendous effort. Be ready for it, if you don’t do it, you can amuse yourself for a little while. Fortunately, in mankind there are many other movements also. As a result of the Second World War, mankind did come to a conclusion that we must make a tremendous effort to eliminate war in the world, tremendous, it’s impossible, man is a warring animal and to demand from man that he should now not be engaged in a war is a tremendous demand made on mankind. The United Nations Organisation is a sign that mankind made a tremendous effort. It did not listen to these philosophers who said we can try and we can amuse ourselves, we can do interpretation in the way which you like. These leaders said you remain where you are, think about what you are thinking, we don’t want war because the way in which you are thinking, war is inevitable. So you remain where you are, we are going ahead. Take for example educationists, parents, they want the best for their children, and their answer to all these philosophers is you do what you like, amuse yourselves with your inquiry and no inquiry, – I want the highest welfare of my children and we have found that without education in values, without spiritual education it is not going to happen; whether spirituality exists or not, whether you approve of it or not, whether you want it or not, we want spirituality in education. This is the demand of the highest thought. When you see UNESCO speaking of ‘Learning to be’, what is learning to be?—It is to know, to possess and to be the divine. Why UNESCO in 1972 declared this book “Learning to be”—it’s a demand of evolution. You may not believe in being. You may say that being is angst and anxiety and all that but you cannot remain confined to anxiety and this kind of angst, ultimately you have got to overcome it. In 1990 again UNESCO brought out another book and said, “Learning Treasure Within”—why treasure within, why does it say look within, there is a treasure? Why was UNESCO obliged to bring out this kind of volume? So there are movements today, which want to defy this kind of pragmatism, this kind of woolly, woolly thought and this kind of pragmatism, logical analysis which means no analysis ultimately. Transcending the limits of all these there is a tremendous movement of evolution demanding from mankind to evolve and Sri Aurobindo says do not be guided by obscurantism. If you have decided to inquire, inquire and inquire thoroughly; don’t come in the middle and say now we do not want to inquire further; don’t be guided by instinct; don’t be guided by obscure thoughts; have the light of reason; reason is not opposed to spiritual consciousness. This is one of the great underlying thought of Sri Aurobindo’s ‘The Life Divine’.
Reason and intuition are not opposed to each other. What is the highest spiritually knowable Reality is also an intellectually inevitable conclusion. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says, apply your reason thoroughly and don't stop in the middle. Intellectuality should be led to the highest point. So be guided by the light of reason. And if reason says that there are higher modes of knowledge open to them, there are if you examine the human possibilities you do find that the human mind does get flashes; there are illuminations. Don’t reject them outright; don’t say we refuse to believe that there are higher ways of knowing. How can you refuse, they are there? So if in your northern minds, northern regions, higher regions, if there are northern lights coming into you, do not refuse them, go ahead and don’t fear to aspire. If you are aspiring for God, Light, Freedom and Immortality which mankind has always done, and even in this present pragmatists and others are saying don’t, don’t, do not be deluded by these half baked thoughts. Do not fear to aspire, continue this aspiration. The evolution demands it, the highest reason demands it, the highest intuition demands it. You have the mind. As Sri Aurobindo says, use the highest splendors of the Mind. Use these highest splendors of the Mind as gates so that you will arrive at the resting place. There is a resting place where your aspirations are fulfilled. You can reach them.
I think there is a strip of the film of the Northern Lights. It is an astronomical strip because Sri Aurobindo uses the word Northern Lights – I refer to that as what is called Aurora Borealis. This Aurora Borealis happens in the Arctic region at night. So if you are in the night of darkness and in that darkness also sometimes light comes, be sure there is a greater light and therefore take it as a sign. Sri Aurobindo speaks of Northern Lights in the astronomical world which are due to the sunlight. Similarly, whatever intuitions we are receiving are because of the supramental sun and it is supramental sun which sends down so many intuitions. So Sri Aurobindo says that if you see the Northern Lights imagine that there is still a greater Light, the real source – the Sun. Similarly, you see these intuitions which come to you they reveal that there is still greater sun and that is the real source of all the intuitions which are coming, so do not merely throw away the intuitions, go by the light of the Northern Lights and try to reach the Supramental Light. This is the whole idea.
With the end of the first chapter we might say that half the work is done, and if I aim at doing the first seven chapters, then I should cover the remaining six chapters as quickly as possible. But maybe that we shall not be able to cover all the six chapters; at least the first four chapters I would like to temporarily aim at. The next three chapters are devoted to an exposition of the main line of the dialectic. We have seen that the affirmation of divine life in which the supreme consciousness can manifest in a human body or a physical body has been affirmed. Now this affirmation requires to be reaffirmed. The reason being that in the first sweep the basic argument is laid down but there is a need for a detailed argument and there has to be a larger sweep of human thought and this is what Sri Aurobindo attempts in the next chapters.
If you read the first two paragraphs of the second chapter, Sri Aurobindo lays down a kind of a theorem. These two paragraphs are a statement of a theorem. That divine life in a physical body implies that the human body is to be a fit robe of the Spirit and that in order that this proposition is firmly established we need to relate Spirit and Matter. Now this question of relating Spirit and Matter has been a principal occupation of a number of philosophical systems. The distance between Spirit and Matter is so great that one would be quite justified in saying that the two are quite opposite of each other. Spirit is conscious; Matter is unconscious. Spirit is most sensitive, Matter is most insensitive. Spirit is incorruptible, Matter is constantly corruptible. And this contrast being so great, it is very difficult to think of Matter being a right vehicle for spiritual manifestation. And if, however, that statement is affirmed we need to plough through a difficult terrain. We have to show that Spirit and Matter are not only, not opposed to each other, but as the Upanishad said, Matter is itself Brahman, Annam Brahma. So that we can even say that Spirit and Matter are one. But again Spirit and Matter are not only opposed to each other but they seem to be very distant from each other. Even in our ordinary experience, we find that between Matter and Spirit, there is in between, there is Life, there is Mind and then beyond Mind is the Spirit—this is to say the least—because between Matter and Life there are many domains; between Life and Mind there are many domains and between the Mind and Supermind there are many domains; then the Supermind and the Supreme Spirit. So the distances between Matter and Spirit are so great that unless we can link them all together and say Matter is Life, Life is Mind, Mind is Supermind, Supermind is Spirit—unless we can show these identities, it is very difficult to convince the intellect of man that there can be a divine body, a spiritualised body in which the supreme consciousness of the Spirit can manifest comprehensively and omnipotently. This is the theorem that we are obliged to show, that Matter and Spirit are one and that between Matter and Spirit there are many intermediaries and that there is a complete link among all of them. In fact, it is this large sweep that brings all the physical and psychological facts into picture. And you can see that actually speaking, the entire first volume is to show this linkage, particularly from Chapter IX, which analyses the Spirit and speaks of three terms of the Spirit – Sat, Chit and Ananda. Chapter IX deals with Sat, Chapter X deals with Chit, Chapters XI and XII deal with Ananda. So Sachchidananda, there are four chapters devoted to that.
Then there is a transition from Supermind towards Matter that is to say from Spirit to Matter, the link is the Supermind. Therefore, Supermind Chapter XIII, four chapters are given only to Supermind because that is the main thesis of the whole book, – there is a Supramental consciousness and this supramental consciousness is a link. It is not the supreme consciousness, it is a link of consciousness. It is a consciousness of Sachchidananda that is Sachchidananda is the Spirit, is the highest Spirit, there is nothing beyond it; it is beyond, beyond, you might say is Sachchidananda. And that Sachchidananda, in connection with Matter there has to be a link and that link is the Supermind. So if you open the page of contents we shall see how the whole thing is organized.
Chapter IX is called the Pure Existent, that is to say, is Sat. Chapter X is called Conscious Force, it is Chit. And Chapter XI is Delight of Existence: The Problem and Chapter XII is also Delight of Existence: The Solution, both of them relate to Ananda. Then Chapter XIII, XIV, XV and XVI, these four chapters are all devoted to Supermind. Supermind is termed as The Divine Maya, i.e. the word Maya has been used in Indian philosophy right from the Vedic times and this word has been interpreted in many ways. In order to distinguish it from any other meaning of Maya, Sri Aurobindo gives an epithet, an adjective to it, that Supermind is not very often as it is called something that is ephemeral, something that is illusionary, a deceptive power; it is basically a Divine Maya. It is the Divine Consciousness, the Divine Power. And then that Maya is described as the Creator. The whole world as it is cannot come into existence without the operation of the Supermind. So Supermind as the Creator is described in the next chapter, and then this nature of Supermind is described as Truth Consciousness. This word Truth Consciousness is borrowed from the Veda. In the Veda there is a word called rta-cit. Rta is the Truth and Cit is consciousness. So rta-cit is a word taken from the Veda and Sri Aurobindo’s discovery of the Veda was that the Vedic Rishis had discovered the Supermind. And this knowledge which Sri Aurobindo has given of the Supermind is actually supported so much confirmed by the discovery of the Supermind which was made by the Vedic Rishis.
In a sense you might say that The Life Divine is actually a book on the Veda. The entire book is actually a book on the Veda, that is for a student of Vedic scholarship, if one has read the Veda quite well as Dayananda ji himself was saying you find that it is a statement of the Veda and it is absolutely true that the entire book is actually a book on the Veda and it follows the Vedic knowledge and gives to Veda so much of importance as has never been given in the entire history of Indian philosophy. Of course, in the West it is not recognised at all. But even in India where the Veda has been admitted as an authority, pramana, as shabda pramana, even there all tribute is paid to the Veda but actually Veda has not been understood and recognized. So in the whole history of Indian philosophy, Veda has not received that kind of understanding and treatment as in this book, and this word Truth-Consciousness is borrowed by Sri Aurobindo from the Veda. Because Sri Aurobindo says that the word Truth-Consciousness gives a definition of Supermind more accurately. There is no other word which gives you the description of the Supermind, because whereas the Mind seeks after the Truth, the Supermind does not seek, it is already possessed of Truth-Consciousness—it is rta-cit, the very consciousness is Truth- Consciousness. Now this definition of Supermind which normally is very difficult, because as Sri Aurobindo says, the word Supermind can mean something so above the mind as if it has no connection with the mind or it may also mean a superlative mind. Both these meanings are actually not expressive of the true meaning of the word Supermind. That is why Sri Aurobindo says that the best description of the Supermind is what is given in Veda as rta-cit, Truth-Consciousness. It is a consciousness which is itself expressive of the total Truth and this chapter is particularly important for all of us, who want to understand the precise connotation of the word Supermind because we always use the word Supramental so easily but when that word is analysed properly, what is this Supermind and what was the Vedic knowledge of Supermind and then we understand how much Vedic Rishis had reached in their sadhana. The measurement of Vedic achievement is only given in The Life Divine. Actually none of the books that you have read in the history of Indian philosophy, none has measured the heights to which Vedic Rishis had reached and that we find when we read this particular chapter on the Supreme Truth-Consciousness.
And the next Chapter, The Triple Status of Supermind is a summary of these three chapters but a summary which is more than a summary, because it is that chapter which lays down a kind of a staircase between the Supermind and the Mind. That is to say if you want to understand Supreme Sachchidananda, and the Supermind, and the Mind, and the Life and Matter, then there has to be first of all a staircase between Supermind and the Mind. This staircase consists of three steps, three sessions of Supramental Consciousness – the comprehensiveness of the Supermind, the apprehensiveness of the Supermind, and the projecting consciousness of the Supermind. These are three steps. And this description of what is called the triple status of the Supermind gives you a precise idea of what Supermind is, as also how Supermind can be related with the mind.
Then there is an introduction to a very important element, which is the most important element for all of us as individuals. You will see that most of the philosophies by their very nature are comprehensive, they try to be comprehensive, in their comprehensive sweep the individual tends to be blotted out. And yet the most important for each individual to read any philosophy is to find what he himself is, what is the individual, what are we? Now this question “what are we?” is very often given a subordinate position or perfunctorily dealt with but never centrally dealt with. And unless it is centrally dealt with, philosophical study is not so fertile for the individual. The individual does not gain, he may understand the whole but he may not understand himself and what is his connection with the whole, what is his position in the whole. And therefore, this understanding of the individual in connection with the totality, this relationship is squarely put forth in this The Triple Status of Supermind. What is the individual and how is he connected with the totality and with the Supreme and the Transcendental. This is also explained by Sri Aurobindo in this chapter The Triple Status of Supermind.
In the next chapter Sri Aurobindo gives one full chapter only to the Individual—it’s The Divine Soul. What is the soul of which we speak all the time, which we all are. What is our truth, what is our reality, what is our individuality, what is our comprehensibility, what is our universality, what is our transcendence, what exactly is that Truth in us? That Truth is fully described in its metaphysical aspect, its essential aspect, its essential significance in this chapter The Divine Soul.
Having done that, now we are prepared to come down the staircase and then the next chapter is Mind and Supermind. How the Supermind is connected with the Mind and what exactly is the Mind? In fact, there are very few books in the world which describe the Mind—in fact I have not read any book so far that describes the Mind as precisely, as accurately, as fully, as essentially, as it could be, and should be, this is the one chapter in which the Mind is fully given its own contours, its depth, its operational capacity, its incapacity. What is Mind and what is its connection with the Supermind and what is the connection of the Supermind with Sachchidananda, and therefore what is the connection between Mind and Sachchidananda? This is one chapter in which this entire staircase is further brought to us, in which we can then compare our mind and see our own reflection and to see where our mind is located and how we can define to ourselves our own Mind.
And then there are the next four chapters which are given to the problem of Life. That is to say, Life, what exactly is the distinction between Mind and Life on the one hand, and Life and Matter on the other? What is the necessity of the phenomenon of Life; what is the precise connotation of the word Life? In what sense can animate and inanimate matter be distinguished, what exactly is the precise point where you can distinguish between Matter and Life? All the facts of biology for example, just as the chapter on Mind is a quintessential chapter of all psychology, similarly this chapter on Life is the quintessence of all biological study. To be a true philosophical book you cannot escape examination of all the phenomena in their essential significance and since life is a very important phenomenon, Sri Aurobindo puts Life under microscopic and telescopic light, in these four chapters. It is a tremendous treatise on what Life is; the relationship between Life and Force, Life and Conscious Force, Life and Supermind, Life and Mind and the exact phenomena of Life. What are the different forms and phenomena of Life? And therefore Sri Aurobindo speaks of three most important phenomena of life are Death, Desire and Incapacity. These three are the most important phenomena of human life. Why is life snared by death, why? If life is life, what is the place of death in it, how can death appear in the movement of life, if life is a bursting force of life, why should there be desire and what is the meaning of desire? Desire is always something that emerges from incapacity. All desire is a movement to grasp something that is not yet attained. Why should life be a devourer? Life itself – there is a famous sentence in the Upanishad—‘the eater eating is being eaten’—this is life. In fact, the whole human life as it is in the world is eater, eating, being eaten. Anywhere you go, all over the world, the big fish eating the small fish and small fish on small organisms. And even the big fish being eaten by still bigger fish, and so on, there is no end to this whole chain. And the whole thing as it were is an inexhaustible hunger somewhere. This hunger, this idea of hunger, it is the Brihadaranayaka Upanishad emphasises this whole idea of hunger—Aishana, that is mrityu, Death and Desire—the two are great phenomena and desire itself coming out of incapacity—these three phenomena—why life should be connected with these three phenomena? Life by itself is nothing but bursting forth as Bergson speaks of Élan Vital, a bursting forth of force—a spring which constantly can flow; why, why this Incapacity, why this Desire, why this Death? What are these phenomena—and why should they be and what is the significance of all this? And in the context of Sachchidananda, in the context of the Supermind, in the context of the Mind, what is the place of these phenomena? Unless you link them up your whole total understanding of Spirit and Matter could not be reconciled. Therefore there is a need to make this linkage.
And then there is a very important chapter The Double Soul in Man. Apart from Matter, Life and Mind, apart from Supermind, there is the phenomenon of Divine Soul and how the Divine Soul is manifested in this fulcrum of Matter and Life that we see. How do we experience it in our ordinary life, what is our experience, how do we touch the soul in this body, life and mind of which we are aware; how do we touch it, how do we experience it? And Sri Aurobindo speaks of the Double Soul in man that actually speaking we experience it in a double manner – the surface soul and the real inner soul and how the surface soul is constituted and how the inner soul is located. In the language of the Kathopanishad there is antarguhayam nihitam. There is somebody in the inmost cave of the heart of man and it is lying. How has it come to lie there, what is the origin of it, how has it entered into the cave and what is this cave? This is a phenomenon which has to be explained and understood, the significance of it, otherwise it is not a full philosophy. What is the relationship between this Soul in man and Body in which it is located, its relation with the Life, its relation with the Mind, with the Supermind and the Sachchidananda? What is the relationship? Unless all these are linked very clearly our philosophical analysis is not complete. This chapter is therefore extremely important, it takes us to the very heart and soul of our true individuality—what we are and how do we discover ourselves, at what point—what is the key of our own being? In which lock can that key be turned; we do not know either the key or the lock. But both are here, the lock and key are here inside our being. So how do we unlock ourselves and our individuality and how do we deal with it? What is this connection with Body, Life and Mind?
The next two chapters are given to Matter – Matter and The Knot of Matter. Actually, Matter is, in a sense you might say, a substance. And in the human being this substance matter, is not only material in character—it is an ascending series of matter, of substance. There is a Vital matter, Mental matter, Supramental matter, Anandamaya matter—all sheaths of various… and various sheaths that we have of which the Taittiriya Upanishad speaks that there is the Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vigyanmaya kosha, Anandamaya Kosha, and what are these koshas?
And the next chapter is a kind of a summation, it’s like a big orchestra coming towards its close in which the whole thing, sevenfold chord of being, all the seven steps are now summarized—Sat, Chit, Ananda, Supermind, Mind, Life and Matter—this all sevenfold chord of being is all summarized and put all into the right key and complete sense and comprehensiveness and their interrelationship. Why should there be the sevenfold being at all? It is because Sachchidananda, being Sachchidananda, the manifestation must be sevenfold. Why should there be the seven rays of the same white light because there must be some truth in whiteness which is the cause of the sevenfold light. So why should there be seven rays—Sat, Chit, Ananda, Supermind, Mind, Life, and Matter—these are seven rays. Why should it be so and what is the nature, what is the interrelationship of these seven rays? And that chapter is The Sevenfold Chord of Being. Actually speaking, it completes the whole exposition in basic fundamental terms.
But in this rapid movement there is one movement which is not sufficiently focused upon, which to us as human beings is extremely important. And that’s why Sri Aurobindo, adds one chapter – Supermind, Mind, and the Overmind Maya. It is fundamentally a chapter to explain a most difficult phenomenon in the world and that is Ignorance. If there is one important problem of man, is that there is Ignorance.
We have in India a special emphasis on this problem. In none other philosophy this problem is so much underlined—Avidya. Ignorance is Avidya. What is Avidya? Indian Philosophy has this great distinction, it has discerned the phenomenon of ignorance and underlined it as the most important problem – both of life and of philosophy, and that is why every Indian philosophical system assigns a very important place to the discussion of Avidya, of Ignorance. And yet this problem of Ignorance is ultimately found to be so insufficiently dealt with, although underlined, according to Sri Aurobindo it has been insufficiently dealt with and there is also a failure not only insufficiently dealing with it, there is a failure, to explain exactly this phenomenon of Ignorance. And to underline that problem and to expound it fully, the first part of the second volume is entirely given to this problem. The relationship between Knowledge and Ignorance; if Ultimate Reality is luminous is Sachchidananda, if Supermind is absolutely comprehensive consciousness, if this Reality is permanent, it is not to be manufactured, it exists. If it exists and if there is Supramental Light all over, if it is a comprehensive light it must be present all over, then logically there should be no such thing as Ignorance at all. Supermind exists everywhere—it is Omnipresent. Sachchidananda is everywhere and Sachchidananda is Supramental in character. Why is there so much darkness all around us, what is this ignorance, where has it come from, what is the connection between Knowledge and Ignorance? This problem is a tremendous problem and requires a tremendous analysis. For the first time in the history of thought this problem has been squarely dealt with and that is in The Life Divine. And that is one of the greatest values that we can assign to this great volume. In no other volume in the whole world history –you go around, nowhere the phenomenon of Ignorance has been analysed so greatly and so much in detail. And its relationship with Knowledge and how Ignorance can arise from Knowledge, how even when Knowledge subsists, Ignorance also can subsist at the same time, how is this possible?
That is why you will see all the Chapters are, I will read out to you the titles of these chapters which are extremely important. You start first of all with The Indeterminates, Cosmic Determinations and The Indeterminable. Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara,—Maya, Prakriti, Shakti, The Eternal and the Individual, these three chapters describe to you Sachchidananda. The Indeterminable is a Supreme Reality which is not determinable. It cannot be limited. It is another word for the Infinite. The Ultimate Reality is ananta, if ananta it is indeterminable. If it is indeterminable, how can there be cosmic determinations which we find in the world? There are many determinations in the world, even Truth Beauty and Goodness—these three great determinations, they are cosmic. Wherever you turn in the world these three great cosmic phenomena appear. They are distinguishable from each other therefore they are determinations. Even these determinations come out of indeterminates. Avyakta and Vyakta, there are indeterminates and there are determinates. And what is the relationship with the indeterminable? This great metaphysical problem which has occupied the space of many of Western thought, and also of Indian Thought—this whole problem of the Reality as Infinite, as Spaceless, Timeless and yet that it manifests as space and time. The relationship between the two – Sri Aurobindo discusses this problem in this chapter.
It is this very concept which is further analysed under three headings. The Whole Reality can be described as Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara—these three terms which appear in Indian Philosophy pell-mell; the correct distinctions between these three terms is to be found in the Upanishads, where you can exactly find out the distinction between these three terms. But even in the Upanishads, the exact definitions are not given because these books are not philosophical treatises. They are descriptions of realities which were experienced and realized by the Rishis and therefore these terms are accurately used but their exact connotations for us to derive, is quite difficult. And that is why you find among the commentaries on the Upanishads, so many variations. You use the word Ishwara as Brahman, Brahman as Purusha. Sometimes we use the word Purusha only for the individual and never for the Supreme, never for the Brahman, sometimes we interchange them and there is a pell-mell confusion with regard to these three terms. And there is great confusion in Indian thought in regard to these three terms. Are they really interchangeable, are they distinguishable, are the distinctions quite clear, why are they used so closely with each other? It is in this chapter Sri Aurobindo makes absolutely clear the distinction between Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara and their corresponding powers. Usually the word Brahman is used with Maya as its power, Prakriti as the power of Purusha, and Shakti as the power of Ishwara. And what exactly is the significance of these three terms because in Indian Philosophy again these three terms are used in a very confused manner, and there is a lot of confusion among philosophers in regard to these three terms and yet each term has its own meaning? Maya can’t be equated with the Prakriti, Prakriti cannot be equated with Shakti and yet they have got connection between them and their interrelationship. What precisely is this interrelationship? At least I have seen no other book except this book, where these distinctions are so clearly laid out; and then the question of the relationship between the Eternal and the Individual. In fact these three chapters are metaphysically supreme chapters. They describe the Ultimate Reality Sachchidananda, in all the ramifications with complete precision that a metaphysical thought requires. To my mind they are unsurpassed expositions of the idea of Sachchidananda. Then, having once again described the Sachchidananda and in this description the description of Sachchidananda is that of the Supramental Sachchidananda because Supermind is the consciousness of the Sachchidananda itself. Therefore in all the three chapters there is a complete description of the Supermind but Supermind as the Supermind of the Sachchidananda. So Supramental Sachchidananda is described in these three chapters. And then the question of questions is raised; The Divine and The Undivine.
If all this is Brahman, Sarvam Khalu idam Brahma, if this is the fundamental proposition of the Upanishad, if all this is Brahman, why there is so much of evil, ugliness, pain, suffering, error, ignorance—all that is undivine? This question of questions, the most fundamental and most difficult question, Sri Aurobindo raises – The Divine and the Undivine, what is undivine? And then why should there be undivine at all, what is the origin of it, what is the remedy of it? And these questions are now first, is this undivine a mere illusion? That can be one answer, all this is Brahman but if you see undivine it is an illusion, it doesn’t really exist, that is one answer. So Sri Aurobindo discusses this big problem—is it a mere illusion? If you say that it is only an illusion then everything is Sarva Khalu idam Brahma—everything is Brahman. You don’t see Brahman—that is your fault, it is an illusory perception, but actually everything is Brahman. This is how sometimes the problem is sought to be answered. That all this is Brahman but if you don’t see it to be Brahman it is because your eyes are closed. So, Sri Aurobindo asks this question—is it really illusory, what is the meaning of illusion, what is the psychology of illusion, can you really regard the whole world as an illusion? It is one of the most difficult problems because of the fact that in the history of Indian Philosophy the word illusion has been used so commonly. The idea the world is mithya, the idea the world is a brahma, is so broadcast that we tend to forget to analyse these words precisely. We assume we understand them because it is so familiarly used. And Sri Aurobindo points out that all these terms are to be analysed properly, perfectly. There is a special meaning of the word illusion, special meaning of the word brahma, mithya, what is meaningless, is the world meaningless, what is the meaning of saying that it is meaningless, what are the degrees of meaninglessness? As Shankracharya speaks of the different levels, vyvaharic satta, parmarthic satta and even pratibhasik satta—that which appears only and then parmartha satta, then there is the parmarthic satta—different degrees of illusion. And even then all this as illusion and that being real; even that, are these distinctions valid, valid only for the time being, ultimately valid, and if not, why not? And this question Sri Aurobindo discusses at length because according to Sri Aurobindo one of the greatest difficulties of India has arisen from the fact that the world has not only been declared as illusion but also meaningless. And therefore the one call is, you renounce the world, give up the world and only turn to that which is real, the Brahman. Is that the real message of Indian Philosophy, was it the message of the Veda, was it the message of the Upanishad really, or is it one of the developments of that message, and what is the ultimate value, how can you judge whether this is a correct message or not? If the world is meaningless, in what sense is it meaningless, if it is a meaning, then in what sense is it meaningful, if it is meaningful what is to be done in this world?
Therefore Sri Aurobindo discusses in connection with illusion three important phenomena which are the causes of Illusion – the mind, the dream and hallucination. These are the three important phenomena which can be considered to be – when I see a dream and wake up from the dream, I say, Oh! It was a dream – what I saw was only an illusion, there is nothing here now. Can the world be described as a dream, or hallucination? Hallucination is also a similar phenomenon. I am not dreaming but suddenly I see somebody here and suddenly it disappears. It is a hallucination. Is the world something like that? Or it can be only a mental construction without anything, I can make a story, I can write a drama, I can write a fiction, a mental construction. If the facts have never happened and yet I describe the whole story, so mental construction I can make, is the world like that? Is the world a mental fiction written by somebody, by the mind? Is that the sense of illusion? So Sri Aurobindo discusses this question of illusion in all its possible manifestations and asks this question, in what sense, if at all, is the world an illusion, or is it an illusion at all? If not, in what sense it is not? The next chapter is therefore Reality and the Cosmic Illusion, because an illusion is an illusion only in relation to Reality. You cannot recognize an illusion to be an illusion, unless you are awakened from dream to waking state, then in the past you can refer that I had an illusion. So what is the relationship between Reality and Cosmic Illusion? This is an extremely important question. In fact, it is in these two chapters Sri Aurobindo expounds Shankara’s philosophy, to my mind as never expounded in the history of thought. And it is thoroughly criticized, as never before criticized, because Sri Aurobindo found that this theory deserves to be criticized in order to underline the truth of the theory of illusion and the error in the theory of illusion and unless you do it the whole question of endeavouring the manifesting of the Supermind on earth is meaningless – is out of the question. If the world is meaningless, if the world is an illusion the question of manifesting the Supermind in the world is entirely out of the court. And yet, according to Sri Aurobindo, Supramental manifestation is inevitable and he wants to call the whole mankind to make all the effort for it. The most difficult effort, if it has to be done, then this question of Illusion has got to be thoroughly discussed and openly, fully in the interest of the highest truth. So these two chapters are actually an exposition of Shankara’s philosophy and his criticism. And then Sri Aurobindo now comes to the positive. This is the destructive part, the critical part, but having done it, how do you still explain the fact of Illusion? If the world is not an illusion, it can’t be said there is nothing like Illusion at all in the world.
Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between the world as a whole as an illusion, and the phenomenon of illusion in the world. There is something like an illusion in the world; there is no question about it. What exactly is the contour of this illusion in the world, how much is the illusion? And that requires a microscopic perception and it is that perception which has been described in this chapter— [The Knowledge and the Ignorance ]—what is Knowledge and what is Ignorance. Ignorance certainly is a parent of illusion and if there is ignorance there has got to be illusion also. And how that Illusion arises, how Ignorance arises and how in the light of Knowledge, Ignorance remains or does not remain and how it ceases. It is in this context that Sri Aurobindo describes also the Vedic theory of Knowledge and Ignorance, and he brings out how the Vedic theory of Knowledge and Ignorance and the Upanishadic theory of Knowledge and Ignorance is quite different from the theory of Knowledge and Ignorance as it came to be formulated later on, in the six systems of Indian philosophy. And what is the original theory of Knowledge and Ignorance as in the Veda, with which Sri Aurobindo agrees and he says this theory of Knowledge and Ignorance is the Vedic theory of Knowledge and Ignorance.
Now in order to describe this question in detail, Sri Aurobindo refers to the three great phenomena – Memory, Ego and Self-Experience and he devotes two important chapters to this analysis. Once again, there has been no such masterly exposition of these three phenomena ever in the history of thought, as you find here. What is Memory? These three phenomena of Ignorance, in our ignorant consciousness, only in our ignorant consciousness these three phenomena can exist, self-experience, memory and ego. These three phenomena exist in our ignorant consciousness. How do they arise and how do they get built up, what is their function, why should they arise at all, why should there be such a thing as egoistic consciousness at all? It is like asking the question—why should there be waves in the ocean, the ocean being so wide, why such small whorls like oceans, these waves are created. There must be something in the very nature of water which can make a formation in the form of waves. So if egoistic consciousness exists in the world, there must be something in the Supreme Consciousness which is responsible for the formation of egoistic consciousness. There must be something in our consciousness, which is a parent of memory. In fact when you examine the idea of memory, it is a most surprising phenomenon. What is memory, why should there be memory, why do I remember, what is stored, where is it stored, how is it stored? There must be something in my consciousness like a storehouse and that storehouse gets built up little by little and remains, sometimes gets obliterated, sometimes remains, sometimes deeply impressed, sometimes faintly impressed—what is all this, why does it happen, what is the mystery of this memory and how far it can go, how much you can remember, what do you remember? These are mysterious phenomena which require to be deliberately examined before you come to any conclusion regarding the nature of Reality and what possibilities exist for human consciousness. And then the experience of ego, how ego is formed, why should ego be formed at all, what is the origin of ego? If everything is fundamentally universal, if the nature of the whole world is only universal, there can be waves, fleeting waves perhaps, but why this ego which constantly goes on persisting? There is like a small toy which is constantly there like a cog and with regard to every experience it ties up with the ego; what is this mechanism, how has it arisen, what is its role in the building up of your being and your personality? These things need to be analysed thoroughly.
In fact, one of the most important chapters of modern psychology is connected with psychoanalysis which tries to describe the development of Id and Ego and Superego. These are some of the modern concepts of modern psychology and when you read that and when you read this you find oceanic difference between that concept and this concept because the depth of knowledge which is required to determine what is Ego, it requires as it were, as if you see the whole ocean of consciousness and having measured the ocean of consciousness, you determine the nature of egoistic consciousness, and how Ego can be formed and how Ego can be annulled. In Western psychology there is no way of annulling Ego, in fact, actually Western psychology tells you, you should develop Ego, you should nourish Superego and there is no question of dissolution of Ego. They do not actually know what is egoistic consciousness; how does it form really. They are all building up psychological fictions, they are not really the real explanations of how Ego is formed. These very important things are described in these two chapters particularly. And if you describe these two chapters, you can define Ignorance properly. You cannot define Ignorance properly, unless you define this phenomena, because these phenomena are special phenomena only of ignorant consciousness. Ignorance is to be distinguished from Inconscience on one side and superconscience on the other. Sachchidananda is Superconscient. In the complete inconscient there is no sensitivity at all. What is called in the Veda, the darkness shrouded in darkness—that is inconscience. So Ignorance is not that darkness shrouded into darkness. Ignorance is like a night with stars in it, stars with some lights hanging, although all is dark and yet there are stars. So you might say that it is not a starless night. Inconscience is a starless night but Ignorance is a star-full night, there are stars. In fact, the phenomenon of memory is a spark, there is a spark of knowledge—some kind of knowledge, if not the full knowledge, but there is a sparkling of knowledge. Memory is a sparkling, egoistic is a sparkling of light. So this Ignorance which is distinguishable from Inconscience on the one hand and the Superconscience on the other—Superconscience is like the daylight, in which darkness cannot exist at all. So this Ignorance which is in the middle, how that middle term arises, what is its scope, how far can it run, what are the banks of the Ignorance, the two banks of ignorance? These are described in these chapters.
Now comes the next chapter—[Knowledge by Identity and Separative Knowledge ]—therefore Sri Aurobindo says if you examine the phenomenon of Ignorance, you find that there are four operations of Knowledge which are present in this field of Ignorance – four operations of Knowledge. From what is called epistemology this chapter is the most important chapter epistemologically, because epistemology deals with the means of Knowledge and the determination of the standards, validity of Knowledge. And this cannot be determined without the different forms of Knowledge and Sri Aurobindo distinguishes between the different forms of Knowledge, Knowledge by identity and separative Knowledge. All the four operations which he describes here are operations of Ignorance. In the ignorant consciousness, these four operations operate. All our methods of Knowledge basically are Knowledge in the field of Ignorance. All our science is a science conducted in the field of Ignorance. And therefore all the scientific methods also fall within the light of these four methods of Knowledge. Then Sri Aurobindo speaks of the boundaries of the Ignorance – I spoke of the banks of Ignorance, where exactly Inconscient stops and Ignorance starts – what is the scope of Ignorance, its realm of Ignorance and where Ignorance stops, and the realm of Knowledge begins.
So the boundaries of Ignorance is like a geographer, who has gone round the whole universe and has found out all the banks of various domains and various galaxies and then finds out here are the boundaries of Ignorance. And that great work Sri Aurobindo has accomplished, in a few pages he has described the whole boundaries of Ignorance, so that you can be sure that Ignorance consists only in these boundaries. Beyond that is Inconscience and beyond here is the Knowledge. And then comes The Origin of the Ignorance; this chapter and the next one are the most important chapters in The Life Divine, The Origin of the Ignorance, and Exclusive Concentration of Consciousness-Force and the Ignorance. This particular question, how in the field of Supermind and if Supermind remains present all the time and yet Ignorance exists, how can be possible, what is the origin of it? Both in the West and in the East this question has been raised, there is no philosophical work in the world which has raised this question so squarely and has answered so squarely, as this book The Life Divine. You go through the whole literature of philosophy all over the world, you will not find a chapter on the Origin of Ignorance and Exclusive Concentration of Consciousness and Ignorance – these two chapters. And they are so central because if you do not know the nature of Ignorance and the origin of Ignorance, you cannot deal with the elimination of the origin. It is only when you know what is the origin of a disease that you can cure the disease. We are told that you have to get out of Ignorance—this is the message of all Indian thought. But when you ask the question what is the origin of Ignorance, you will find such hopelessness in Indian thought. The first answer is – ignorance is anaadi, that is to say, it is beginningless—this is one answer you get everywhere you read, ignorance is anaadi, it is beginningless. Therefore, what is the origin—it has no origin because it is anaadi. So the question doesn’t arise. Then you are told, if it is anaadi, is it ananta? Because according to philosophical thought what is anaadi must be ananta also. Then you are told it is ananta but still it can be eliminated. It is itself surprising, it is ananta of course, it will always remain but you can throw it out. You can cease to be ignorant. So although it is anaadi, although it is ananta, still it is something which you can eliminate, why? How? That is all to be understood—you are too young, you cannot know it. How can you know it? Why? Because it is inexplicable—this is a further answer. Ignorance is inexplicable. You can’t explain it. It is anirvachaniya—it cannot be explained. You go to any system of Philosophy, whether to Nyaya, Vaishishika, Sankhya, anywhere, you take Buddhism, you take Jainism anywhere, it is not something partial to any philosophy. How this Ignorance has arisen, how the soul according to Jainism, the soul is absolutely pure, yet it is corrupted because of pudgal. Somehow the matter which is jada, has come into touching with this particular soul, it has become polluted and impure. How can it happen, if it is really pure, how can it be polluted, if it is really pure? But if you work it out, it will become pure and then afterwards it will never become impure, once you have worked it out, but why now and why not in the beginning itself? If it was pure, why should it have been polluted at all? This question you should not ask and it should not be answered, it cannot be answered, so you keep quiet, it is a mystery.
The most important question of world history from the point of view of the individual is the fact of Ignorance and this most important question is all the time being answered in these ambiguous terms. It has somehow happened. You go to Buddhism – it simply says, you find yourself in a state of suffering, why should it so happen? They say, look, are you troubled by the thorn in the flesh? I can take it out from you, then why do you bother about asking this question, how this thorn has come into the flesh. You are suffering, no? I have the solution to your suffering, so attend to the suffering’s solution. Don’t ask the question, how it has come about? This suffering exists, it is a real truth, the only eternal truth – suffering is. I have an answer to you, I can take out your suffering. But don’t ask this question. When you ask fundamental questions, Buddhism says, they are all useless questions, don’t ask these questions. The world is real, unreal, whatever it is. How the real Ultimate Reality is one, or many or none, don’t ask those questions. I can only give you a remedy to your suffering and that is all that is necessary for you and I have got an answer to you—this is the answer of Buddhism.
You go to Indian Philosophers and ask this very question, it is a lila of God. Why is there ignorance? It is a sport of God, He wants to play, He wants to hide Himself, He has hidden Himself. How can He hide Himself, He is all luminous, self-luminous, so how can He be hidden? There must be some magic in Him, what is that magic, I want to know what is the origin of that magic? It is a play; it is all lila. You are at present in trouble, why because in this lila, you have forgotten to play, so play with Him. Knock the door of God, He will come and reveal himself and you will be in Vrindavana afterwards forever. But do not ask the question how this has come about. You are in that condition of lila, you are playing with God somehow it has happened. Or you are in ignorance—it is inexplicable, anirvachaniya maya, it is all illusion. Who says you are in difficulty; are you in difficulty? If you are in difficulty, it is an illusion—you are not. None is bound, none is to be freed, none is striving to be free. All that you are saying that you are bound is an illusion. You are striving to be free, which is also an illusion. You are going to be striven, going to be driven towards freedom, is also an illusion. You are ever free – Sachchidananda rupa shivo hum, shivo hum. All the time you are Shiva, Sachchidananda. If you think that you are not, it is only an illusion, but don’t ask the question how this illusion has come about. It’s all anaadi and yet it is inexplicable. It can only be removed. I can remove it.
In other words this question of Ignorance has remained unanalysed. For the first time in the history of philosophy this question has been analysed thoroughly in this The Life Divine, as never before. According to Sri Aurobindo this question was understood in the Veda. It was understood in the Upanishad and this is the greatness of the Veda and the Upanishad. But Veda and Upanishads are not books of philosophy, therefore, if you ask the question how, why, and all that, you can perhaps find an answer but not so easily, because they are not written in a philosophical manner. Therefore, although the answer may be found in the Veda, in the Upanishad, there is certainly the answer. There are indications that the Vedic Rishis knew the origin of Ignorance. They did not declare the world to be an illusion. Veda does not say the world is an illusion. The Upanishad never says that jagrat avastha, the swapna awastha, sushupti avastha are all illusions—they are states of consciousness. At no point does the Mandukya Upanishad say that these states are states of illusion. It’s an interposition to say that these are descriptions of illusion, they are interposed upon them, Upanishad doesn’t say. It only says that there are four states of consciousness. It doesn’t say that these three lower ones are illusory, not at all, Upanishad doesn’t say that. Ishopanishad says very clearly Knowledge and Ignorance, when you combine together that becomes vijanatah, not only janatah but vijanatah, when you have only the Knowledge, all knowledge alone, you go into greater darkness. If you know only Ignorance, you go into darkness. If you know Knowledge, you go into greater darkness. It is only when you know Knowledge and Ignorance simultaneously, then having known Ignorance, you can cross death and by Knowledge, you attain to immortality. Upanishad doesn’t say that knowledge and ignorance are absolutely opposite of each other, as it is made out, they are not. There is a connection, between the two, there is origin of Ignorance, there is a connection, there is a link. This truth which has never been explained and brought out fully and explicitly, for the first time you get it in The Life Divine and it is one of the greatest utilities of this work, not only as a work of philosophy but also as a work of Yoga. Unless you know the origin of Ignorance, you cannot remedy it. It's only when you know the origin, you can cut it out, the root can be cut out properly. So having done that, having understood the Ignorance then the one problem which has remained inexplicable, in all religions – the problem of pain, evil, suffering, how does it arise? Only in the context of Ignorance this problem can be resolved. If you do not understand the origin of Ignorance, you cannot dissolve the origin of evil in this world. So this whole section is an entirely new light in Indian philosophy. It is something that has never been touched upon in such detail, as in this work. And then having described all this, you come to the last portion; having described this Ignorance and the right meaning of it, Sri Aurobindo describes what is called the Integral Knowledge.
Not only knowledge but Integral Knowledge; this concept of Integral Knowledge is very important. It brings us back again to the Upanishad – vijanatah. Reality is to be known integrally. When Ignorance is removed – Ignorance, Sri Aurobindo says, is multi-sided. Ignorance is not one-sided, it is multi-sided – so when Ignorance is removed, multi-sided Ignorance is removed by multi-sided Knowledge. So Knowledge is an integral Knowledge. The concept of Knowledge in Sri Aurobindo is a multi-sided or integral Knowledge. And Sri Aurobindo says that Supermind is integral Knowledge. And when we say that Ultimate manifestation of Supermind, that Supermind is the manifestation of multi-sided integral Knowledge. So, this entire section, the last portion of The Life Divine, is actually a description of Reality and Integral Knowledge. Then as a result of Integral Knowledge you can determine the real aim of life. This is a real question that we start with. All human beings want to know what is the aim of life, why are we here? That question can be answered only at that stage, when we have analysed the whole world, whole universe, our place in the world, the place of Ignorance and the way in which Ignorance can be removed; then only we can understand what is the aim of life.
And then the next chapter is The Progress to Knowledge. How do you move from here to there—the real remedy of Ignorance, and that involves evolutionary process and as a result of evolutionary process, you come Out of Sevenfold Ignorance to the Sevenfold Knowledge. When I say Sri Aurobindo speaks of multi-sided Ignorance, he speaks of Sevenfold Ignorance and opens the path to the Sevenfold Knowledge.
It is in that connection that the individual now comes into focus—what am I? And for that Sri Aurobindo gives three important chapters: The Philosophy of Rebirth, The Order of the Worlds and Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality. These three are extremely important for every individual to know what he is, what is his pilgrimage in this world, what are the stations of his pilgrimage, how can he migrate, how can he transmigrate, how can he work on the earth, and how can he work on the earth for the full fulfilment? It is in that context that you can really understand man’s place in evolution. Man as an individual and man as a member of the species, in his twofold aspect. Man as an individual and man as a part of the species of humanity.
And then the last chapters are the actual description, it’s a kind of a philosophy of Yoga, spiritual evolution, The Evolution of the Spiritual Man, The Triple Transformation, how you can transform yourself fully, once you know the origin of ignorance, you can know the remedy of ignorance. And when you have the remedy of it, you have the real path and that path Sri Aurobindo has described as the path of Triple Transformation. And that Triple Transformation involves The Ascent towards Supermind, The Descent of Supermind and a vision of the new man, the Superman, The Gnostic Being, and divine life on the earth and the last chapter is The Divine Life. This is the scheme of the whole book and of course we cannot go through the whole book, unless we have two or three years to go through, but within three-four days that we are still here, we shall try to do at least 2nd, 3rd and 4th chapters.