We are in the midst of the fifth chapter—The Destiny of the Individual. As I have said earlier, 5-7, these three chapters are interrelated. As I said we are in the midst of the fifth chapter and chapter 5, 6 and 7 are interrelated. And perhaps they are extremely difficult chapters because they contain innumerable data and intricate arguments and references to a vast literature on the subject in the East and the West and this reference is not pointedly to any particular book or article or paper, but it is related to a large number of texts. I shall tell you of a few of these texts which are referred to, one or two of them are explicitly referred to ‒ one is the text of the Veda. When we are discussing the question of the destiny of the individual, an important question is: what is the history of mankind in regard to the highest achievements of the individual. What have been the great experiments in the history of the world to find out the highest that individual can achieve. And the first and foremost is the Vedic document. The Veda is the first and foremost text available to mankind where we can discern the highest possible achievement of individuals, so we have to refer to those highest experiences which Sri Aurobindo refers to in these chapters.
The second is the highest experiments which were conducted in the time of the Upanishads. These also are referred to in these chapters. Then came the experience of Buddhism; what according to Buddhism is the highest experience of the individual that also is referred to. Then of course there are many other intermediate developments ‒ Jainism, and experiences which are recorded in terms of Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaishashika, philosophy of Yoga and Vedanta; the Vedanta again having five or six schools, each one having a difference from the other and right up to the present day. So now all these data are packed in these three chapters. Unless we know something of these data, or in some broad outlines these three chapters become very difficult to understand.
So let me first of all give some introduction to the earliest experience of the Veda. Now in our literature references to the Veda are very few. The reason is that the Veda has remained obscured right from the time of the Upanishads, even earlier in Brahamanas and thereafter although there is reference to the Veda as an authority, the exact texts and their meanings are not clearly discerned. It is only in the literature that we find in Sri Aurobindo that you find a very clear enunciation of the meaning of the Veda and some of the supreme experiences which were attained in the time of the Veda. In these chapters Sri Aurobindo refers to one very important experience and that experience is related to Vishnu. There is one important hymn in the Rig Veda in which a Rishi called Dhirgtamas refers to Vishnu and describes the experience of Vishnu. And as we can see this experience is a climactic experience in the Veda. There are a few statements in the Veda which describe the highest experiences. The Veda is an anthology of spiritual experiences and there are numerous descriptions, some are preliminary experiences, some are intermediate experiences, some are very wide experiences, some are experiences of the battles of the sadhana, some are the best achievements which have been achieved. Now one of these is as I said described by Dhirgtamas and if you read that particular hymn, we shall see what exactly was the supreme Vedic experience in which an individual finds his highest. So you might say the destiny of the individual as examined, ascertained, determined, finally set down in so many terms is to be found in this experience.
Now this is an experience on which Sri Aurobindo himself has commented in his book The Secret of the Veda, in The Life Divine he simply refers to that in a passing manner. As I said these three chapters are packed with data and arguments and references to a number of views and unless you are quite aware of them, you won’t even discern which view he refers to? But if you read chapter number VI, and the first two paragraphs of this chapter, you will find reference to this great experience of Dhirgatamas. The name Dhirgatamas does not appear in this text, which is one of the difficulties of many people who read this book. It is a very advanced book therefore, and we are not so advanced and most of us are not very advanced in our country. In fact most of the philosophers are quite ignorant of the Vedic texts, and therefore if any reference is made into the Vedic texts, it remains a vague sort of thing and one can even argue that here there is no argument, there are no data, what is all this ‒ words, words, words, very beautiful words, very well coined, shining words but what do they mean that is the reason why I would like to refer to this particular paragraph and present to you the actual text, the original text of the Veda; so that we can get really dwell into the insight into the method of these three chapters. How the whole argument is built up by Sri Aurobindo to describe the destiny of the individual. First we shall read the first two paragraphs, whether we understand them or not, but let us read them. Sri Aurobindo first of all summarises the conclusion of the fifth chapter. I’ll go back to that chapter also but this is the ultimate statement of the destiny of the individual, which Sri Aurobindo describes here.
The progressive revelation of a great, a transcendent, a luminous Reality with the multitudinous relativities of this world that we see and those other worlds that we do not see as means and material, condition and field, this would seem then to be the meaning of the universe,—since meaning and aim it has and is neither a purposeless illusion nor a fortuitous accident. For the same reasoning which leads us to conclude that world-existence is not a deceptive trick of Mind, justifies equally the certainty that it is no blindly and helplessly self-existent mass of separate phenomenal existences clinging together and struggling together as best they can in their orbit through eternity, no tremendous self-creation and self-impulsion of an ignorant Force without any secret Intelligence within aware of its starting-point and its goal and guiding its process and its motion. An existence, wholly self-aware and therefore entirely master of itself, possesses the phenomenal being in which it is involved, realises itself in form, unfolds itself in the individual.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: Man in the Universe
The destiny of the individual is the unfoldment of "An existence wholly self-aware and therefore entirely master of itself, possesses the phenomenal being in which it is involved." This is the conclusion of the fifth chapter, we shall go back to it again afterwards, but this is the conclusion that fifth chapter arrives at. Now this conclusion is further supported by the historical experiences of spiritual life as recorded and therefore testified in the Indian tradition.
Therefore Sri Aurobindo in the next paragraph he says:
That luminous Emergence is the dawn which the Aryan forefathers worshipped. Its fulfilled perfection is that highest step of the world-pervading Vishnu which they beheld as if an eye of vision extended in the purest heavens of the Mind. For it exists already as an all-revealing and all-guiding Truth of things which watches over the world and attracts mortal man, first without the knowledge of his conscious mind, by the general march of Nature, but at last consciously by a progressive awakening and self-enlargement, to his divine ascension. The ascent to the divine Life is the human journey, the Work of works, the acceptable Sacrifice. This alone is man’s real business in the world and the justification of his existence, without which he would be only an insect crawling among other ephemeral insects on a speck of surface mud and water which has managed to form itself amid the appalling immensities of the physical universe.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: Man in the Universe
Now unless we are aware of this Vishnu and the highest step of the Vishnu, what is his highest step, parmam padam, which has been described in the Veda that there is the highest step of Vishnu? It is a description of Vishnu, whose vision is like a vision of an eye, which is extended over the whole sky of the universe. Our eyes are small eyes, we can only see small little things but if there was an eye which extended over the whole universal sky, what will be the perception of that reality? It’s a very bold metaphor that the Veda has come to while describing the consciousness of Vishnu. Vishnu is that all-pervading eye in which everything is encompassed. Now this Vishnu is as it were moving forward in the world, the image is of the development of the world, which starts from darkness. According to the Veda the world started with darkness shrouded in darkness. Tamas which was shrouded gudam which was shrouded in tamas, tamah tamasa gudam, ‒ that which was shrouded, this is in the Nasadiya sukta of the Veda. Now Vishnu is the reality who mounts as it were and covers the whole universe in three steps. This is not to be confused with the Puranic story of dwarf Vamana, who puts his foot on the head of Bali to push him down into the dark hell. It’s not that because at this time there was no Puranic story at the time of the Veda. There are three great steps. In the first step it covers earth and heaven as in the description of the Veda, it encompasses earth and heaven and in doing so it also covers that which is between earth and heaven, ‒ antariksha. So earth, antariksha and heaven, this is the first step it covers then it goes forward and from heaven it mounts to maharloka, the loka of the supramental consciousness and from there it transcends and goes into Sachchidananda, the triple principle of Bliss, ananda. Ananda is the union of Sat and chit, therefore the moment you use the word ananda, it is representative of sat and chit united into ananda. These are the three steps of Vishnu. Parmam padam is the establishment of the ascent in the seat of Sachchidananda. It is exactly described in the last three sentences of the first paragraph. “An existence, wholly self-aware and therefore entirely master of itself, possesses the phenomenal being in which it is involved…..” All the lower existences are all covered in it, this existence realising itself in the individual, unfolding in the individual that is the highest destiny of the individual, which is confirmed in the experience given in the Rig Veda of the experience of Dhirgatamas. I would like to read out actually, there are five verses in the Rig Veda, connected with this great experience of Dhirgatamas. Of course these six verses are very difficult but let me read out to you the text, which will also show how difficult even to discern what is said here and how Sri Aurobindo refers to these great experiences which have been described in the Veda.
विष्णोर्नु कं वीर्याणि प्र वोचं यः पार्थिवानि विममे रजांसि ।
यो अस्कभायदुत्तरं सधस्थं विचकमाणस्त्रेधोरुगायः ॥१॥
1) Of Vishnu now I declare the mighty works, who has measured out the earthly worlds and that higher seat of our self-accomplishing he supports, he the wide-moving, in the threefold steps of his universal movement.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
This is the summary of the whole, he gives in the very first paragraph that this is the great work that Vishnu has accomplished going right up to the highest.
प्र तद्विष्णुः स्तवते वीर्येण मृगो न भीमः कुचरो गिरिष्ठाः ।
यस्योरुषु त्रिषु विकमणेष्वश्रिक्षियन्ति भुवनानि विश्वा ॥२॥
2) That Vishnu affirms on high by his mightiness and he is like a terrible lion that ranges in the difficult places, yea, his lair is on the mountain-tops, he in whose three wide movements all the worlds find their dwelling-place.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
In this verse you will find an aspect of Vishnu which is not normally supposed to be a part of the nature of Vishnu. Vishnu is always depicted as a benign, kind, loving, friendly, supreme lord, that in the Veda this description of Vishnu is also given is not sufficiently known that Vishnu is also seen as a terrible lion that ranges in the difficult places. This is the normal description of what we call Rudra. In the Veda Rudra also is described and Rudra is described very often in fierce terms. And what Sri Aurobindo points out is that the Vedic gods, if you read them properly you will find that they bring about a real unity of the gods that is to say each god contains all the gods. Each god is a supreme god in relation to other gods and each god has its own special function, quite different from the functions of the others. These are the three characteristics of all the gods. When Agni is described, you find the same way, he is one with all the gods, he is the supreme god and yet Agni is a specific god irreducible to any other god. Therefore when you read Vishnu, you find also in the description of Vishnu something that is very characteristic of Rudra. This is to show that Rudra and Vishnu are not two separate entities antagonistic to each other. Rudra and Vishnu are actually one reality, only function wise they seem to be more distinctive from each other. That is the reason why in the Puranas, when Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra, or Mahadeva, or Shiva, when this trinity came into prominence, this trinity was not put in any kind of conflict of one with the other, the three constitute the ultimate reality and three complement each other, three are that one, one is three, this is the idea that has been put forward in the Puranas and this idea is actually derived from the Veda. So this sentence is very important because it shows that right in the Veda itself there is a description of Vishnu which is the description actually of Rudra. So that "Vishnu affirms one high by his mightiness and he is like a terrible lion that ranges in the difficult places, his lair is on the mountain-tops, he used three wide movements all the worlds find their dwelling place".
Now the third verse is a kind of a prayer.
प्र विष्णवे शूषमेतु मन्म गिरिक्षित उरुगायाय वृष्णे ।
य इदं दीर्घं प्रयतं सधस्थमेको विममे त्रिभिरित्पदेभिः ॥३॥
3) Let our strength and our thought go forward to Vishnu the all-pervading, the wide-moving Bull whose dwelling-place is on the mountain, he who being One has measured all this long and far-extending seat of our self-accomplishing by only three of his strides.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
In this verse there are three important ideas, Let our strength and our thought’ a distinction is made between thought and strength. Strength refers to will and thought refers to knowledge. All that we can think and know and all that we can will and achieve and attain these two are both to be combined in our movement upward. So Dhirgatamas says, "Let our strength and our thought go forward let us follow the path of Vishnu and as he has mounted, let us also do the same." The individual is capable in his individuality all that Vishnu can accomplish. The self-revelation of the supreme in the individual, this affirmation is very clearly discerned in this statement. ‘Let our strength and our thoughts go forward to Vishnu the all-pervading, the wide-moving Bull, Bull is another image in the Veda for the Supreme. "The wide-moving Bull…. whose dwelling-place is on the mountain, paramam padam the highest seat of Vishnu is in the mountain. He who being One, He is actually one ‘has measured all this long and far-extending seat of our self-accomplishing, of our self-accomplishing, this word ‘our’ is very important, what is individually capable, what we can do it ‘by only three of his strides. It is as if when we make an effort, our effort is actually the effort of Vishnu in the individual and he has made these three great steps and reached the highest. Therefore this can be repeated in every individual. So that the individual is capable of the same three steps is underlined in this verse. The capacity of the individual to achieve the whole wide-ranging movement of this great bull and starting and covering all the levels of being right up to the top, this possibility of the individual is affirmed in this particular verse.
In yoga there is always a problem whether an experience of an individual is subjective or objective. If only one individual achieves something an argument can be put forward and it can be said, it is only your imagination, your hallucination that you have achieved this great height but if it is shown that there is a method, it’s very important ‒ there is a method of going up and that this method has been followed by somebody else also and he also has reached the same level then it is no more a subjective experience. This is the proof that yoga can give, after all it is the proof that we all have in the scientific world. In science also a statement is made: I see this object before me, how am I to be sure that I am not dreaming it? Therefore the answer is that first of all there shall be methods in which dream consciousness and waking consciousness can be determined. There are conditions where you can say I am in a dream. There are conditions in which I can say, I am not dreaming, it’s really happening. Normally we say that when I dream it must be preceded by going to sleep. Secondly when I get up from the dream there is no causal relationship here and there around me, what is dreamt of simply vanishes, does not leave any trace in the physical world of casual relationship. When I am awake, I can see the casual connections, the totality of things, I can rub my eyes is also a method. Rub your eyes, if you like to slap yourself, slap yourself, ask somebody else, am I awake? You can do many methods by which you can show that I am awake. Then I see that object, then I can tell another person now you also see yourself, if you see the same object which I am seeing that my perception is a waking perception and there is no doubt about it.
Now similarly, in the yoga, if an individual Dhirgatamas says, he does not speak of one individual,'our' he speaks of many individuals, all of them are mounting as it were. Dhirgatamas’ experience is an experience describing the method by which Vishnu has passed from the lower levels to the highest levels through the individuals and achieve that highest achievement and what is the method? The method is that of our strength and our thought, the method is if our thought and our will if both of them are fixed on Vishnu and if you ask Vishnu to stride along all the steps then you can see him experiencing along with you and moving upwards and there arriving at the top. As he is on the top so also you can be at the top. So once again I read it. "Let our strength and our thought go forward to Vishnu the all-pervading, the wide-moving Bull whose dwelling-place is on the mountain, he who being One has measured all this long and far-extending seat of our self-accomplishing by only three of his strides." My perception will be the waking perception, the perception of that reality. It’s a very bold metaphor, if you see the same object that I am seeing, it means that my perception is waking perception and there is no doubt about it. Now similarly in the Yoga if an individual, Dhirgatamas says, he does not speak of one individual, our, he speaks of many individuals ‘all of them are mounting as it were’ Dhirgatamas is experience is an experience describing the method by which Vishnu has passed from the lower levels to the highest levels through the individuals and achieved that highest achievement? And what is the method? The method is let our strength and our thought, method is, ‒ if our thought and our will, if both of them are fixed on Vishnu and if you ask Vishnu to stride along all the steps, then you can see him experiencing along with you and moving upwards and then arriving at the top, as he is on the top, so also you can reach the top. So once again I will read it, “Let our strength and our thought go forward to Vishnu, the all pervading, the wide moving bull, whose dwelling place is on the mountain, he who being one has measured all this long and far extending seat of our self accomplishing by only three of his strides”
Now he gives a detail of the experience of the movement from one level to the other and rising to the top. That is to say Vishnu, his three steps, he whose three steps are full of the honey wine and they perish not but have ecstasy by the self harmony of the nature’, it’s a very important statement. This movement is described later on as a movement of Shri Krishna. Vishnu and Shri Krishna are identified in our tradition. Shri Krishna, wherever he moves there is honey and there is that wine of ecstasy, whether He is on this level, or that level, or that level. He takes you from level to level, and as He takes you the path is full of delight. Now that the path is full of delight, this is the method, method of moving from one point to the other, if you don’t experience the delight; it means that the method is not followed by you; if you find that your path is difficult, sorrowful, this that etc. it means that you have not yet evoked Vishnu. If you evoke Vishnu in your path and if He takes hold of your hand and He moves forward, all the three steps of your movement will be full of honey. He whose three steps are full of the honey wine and they perish not, it’s very important, when you rise from one to the other, the lower is not perished. When I go from the physical life to the vital life; physical life does not perish. When I go from the vital life to the mental life, vital life does not perish. When I go from the mental life to the supramental life, mental life does not perish. There is of course transfiguration, but it does not perish. When I go from my physical to the supramental, physical does not perish. This was the later idea that the body has to be renounced completely, the ascetic idea but in the Veda it is very clearly stated it does not perish, every step is preserved. This is also the statement that Sri Aurobindo makes in the 5th chapter that when you rise from one level to the other, the lower does not perish. So in the destiny of the individual, when an individual rises from step to step, he is not required to kill the lower levels.
Transfiguration, yes, But not the killing. You fill every step with the delight that won’t perish.
Now you see that particular paragraph in chapter number 5 paragraph 9:
But as in Thought, so in Life, the true rule of self-realisation is a progressive comprehension. Brahman expresses Itself in many successive forms of consciousness, successive in their relation even if coexistent in being or coeval in Time, and Life in its self-unfolding must also rise to ever-new provinces of its own being. But if in passing from one domain to another we renounce what has already been given us from eagerness for our new attainment, if in reaching the mental life we cast away or belittle the physical life which is our basis, or if we reject the mental and physical in our attraction to the spiritual, we do not fulfil God integrally, nor satisfy the conditions of His self-manifestation. We do not become perfect, but only shift the field of our imperfection or at most attain a limited altitude. However high we may climb, even though it be to the Non-Being itself, we climb ill if we forget our base. Not to abandon the lower to itself, but to transfigure it in the light of the higher to which we have attained, is true divinity of nature. Brahman is integral and unifies many states of consciousness at a time; we also, manifesting the nature of Brahman, should become integral and all-embracing.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Destiny of the Individual
This is the boon of Vishnu; he spreads his delight on every part of our steps and therefore transfigures our steps but does not abolish them. The physical life is not required to be abolished in order to reach the mountain top of Vishnu’s highest step. Vishnu himself is striding on all the three and on each step there is the honey and therefore each step has its meaning. I read this verse again.
यस्य त्री पूर्णा मधुना पदान्यक्षीयमाणा स्वधया मदन्ति ।
य उ त्रिधातु पृथिवीमुत द्यामेको दाघार भुवनानि विश्वा ॥४॥
4) He whose three steps are full of the honey-wine and they perish not but have ecstasy by the self-harmony of their nature; yea, he being One holds the triple principle and earth and heaven also, even all the worlds.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
In the next one the seeker says that as you have attained, as you have marched on all the planes; let me also do the same. What is true of the universal and the transcendental is true of me, the individual. This is the destiny of the individual, so he says:
तदस्य प्रियमभि पाथो अश्यां नरो यत्र देवयवो मदन्ति ।
उरुकमस्य स हि बन्धुरित्था विष्णोः पदे परमे मध्व उत्सः ॥५॥
5) May I attain to and enjoy that goal of his movement, the Delight, where souls that seek the godhead have the rapture; for there in that highest step of the wide-moving Vishnu is that Friend of men who is the fount of the sweetness.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
This is actually Shri Krishna; this description is applied in the later mythology and our spiritual tradition. Now the last one:
ता वां वास्तून्युश्मसि गमध्यै यत्र गावो भूरिशृङ्गा अयासः ।
अत्राह तदुरुगायस्य वृष्णः परमं पदमव भाति भूरि ॥६॥
6) Those are the dwelling-places of ye twain which we desire as the goal of our journey where the many-horned herds of Light go travelling; the highest step of wide-moving Vishnu shines down on us here in its manifold vastness.
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
Those are the dwelling-places of ye twain, now suddenly a new idea comes and says that you are now addressed as twain, as two. This is the idea of substance and force. Reality is at once sat and chit. Reality in the later Krishna tradition is at once Radha and Krishna − is twain. So you too, it is one, but He is two.
So you can see how in the Rig Veda a small idea is put down. You see if you read the Sanskrit it simply says ta vam, what is Vam, wam is you too, not tvam but vam, tvam would be you alone but vam; yu yum, tvam, vam, yuyam. This vam is you too. So:
ता वां वास्तून्युश्मसि गमध्यै यत्र गावो भूरिशृङ्गा अयासः ।
Sri Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda: Vishnu, the All-Pervading Godhead
That is to say: bhuri shringa. many horned herds are all moving towards you, you too. We are all bhuri shringa actually, all of us move in search of Radha and Krishna who have striven, movement from the earth to the highest and we go in search and at every step there is honey and wine, many horned herds of light go travelling. Of course Sri Aurobindo has written in the full commentary on these six verses which is so marvellous that the whole Vedic meaning comes to splendid and full sunlight. Sometime when you have time we shall read this whole commentary of Sri Aurobindo on these six verses.
It is this experience to which Sri Aurobindo refers and says that here is an example of the destiny of the individual. That individual like Dhirgatamas, he described the whole experience of going to the top in this form, and while going to the top the lower is not cancelled. Now Sri Aurobindo is very particular in referring to this because it is often stated in our later tradition that material life has got to be abolished in order to attain spiritual life and this is presented to us as if it is the Vedic truth.
Now those who have not read the Veda they would not be able to say anything whether right or wrong, and this is being put forward before the people as if that is the real message of the whole Vedic teaching including Vedanta and everything that you have got to abolish your material life in order to attain to the spiritual life. In other words the destiny of the individual is to go upward. In doing so he has got to renounce all that is below that is the one view that has been put forward in the Indian tradition. And according to another tradition while renouncing the material world, you yourself are to be abolished, the I of the individual is also to be abolished.
Now Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between ego and I, the real I is not egoistic, egoistic individual has got to be melted away. But there is an individual, that individual is retained as in Dirghatamas. It’s an example Dhirgatamas says: I have achieved all this and he prays again and again to achieve it. This idea of abolishing the lower life in order to attain the higher life, in order to attain the spiritual life to abolish material life has become very much ingrained in the tradition of India and also in the tradition of the West. If you want the life of Christ you must give up the life of Caesar. You make a great distinction between mundane life and spiritual life. This tradition has resulted as kind of a consequence of certain experiences and we should also understand why it has happened. It is found that material life gives the greatest difficulties for the reconciliation to the spiritual life, if you try to combine together the life becomes very difficult, very complex. Therefore, it is easy psychologically to give up this in order to attain that and yet that is not the destiny of the individual. The destiny of the individual is to integrate the spiritual with the physical and physical with the spiritual. Of course it does not mean that you have to take physical life with all its imperfections, the two are to be integrated but imperfections of physical life are also to be perfected. They have to be abolished and physical life has to be as perfect as the spiritual and the supramental consciousness. Similarly, it is easier to melt in the universality and the transcendence and cease to be completely like the idol of salt, if you put into the ocean which is salty and the idol itself will melt away completely, so that idol does not remain at all. Similarly it is quite easy comparatively to lose oneself in the universality and the transcendence and cease to be individual. Therefore it is said that our attempt should be to abolish the individual and become one with the transcendental.
Now this important idea which has come in the Indian tradition very powerfully, is expounded by Sri Aurobindo in the whole book from time to time and even in this chapter, which we are reading, chapter number V. V, VI, VII, all together but in chapter number V, Sri Aurobindo says that if you examine life, you will find a transaction. Life is a play in which forces meet and commingle. Now in this comingling of force with force, will with will, in this process you will find three terms in the transactions. You will find individual, universal and transcendental, ‒ three terms. In any activity you will take, these three are inseparable. You take any particular thing in the world; you will always find that that particular somehow refers to a number of common qualities. If an object is red, the object itself is only one red object. But redness which is there in it is universally present everywhere in the world, not only the object in question is alone red, redness is shared by a totality of things in the world. You and I are two different individuals but the basic form of our body is identical. All human beings have identical kinds of bodies, it is universal. Thought quality in my mind and thought quality in your mind, thought as such has the same quality. Thought means ideation and ideation is present in all of us. There is in this world a constant perception that particular is a constant phenomena, universal also is a constant phenomena. And if you examine these two even beyond the universal you find something transcendental. The universal normally unifies, the individual usually differentiates. So differentiation and unity, these two are constant phenomena in the world everywhere. But if you examine the concept of unity, you will always find unity is more than unity. We say that a human body is not a sum of all its parts. The reason why they all hang together is something different from each part, it is present in each part but there is something that unites them. That which unites is always more than both the individual and the universal. My total body also even if you take it a unified thing, it is first of all a sum of all the parts. But that sum is possible because of one important principle which you call oneness not universal but oneness. This oneness is transcendental.
So you might say that the whole world is nothing but a constant transaction between oneness, universality and the individual. So let us read that paragraph where Sri Aurobindo speaks of this. We were reading that paragraph, the next paragraph, the third line in that paragraph.
The nodus of Life is the relation between three general forms of consciousness, the individual, the universal and the transcendent or supracosmic. In the ordinary distribution of life’s activities the individual regards himself as a separate being included in the universe and both as dependent upon that which transcends alike the universe and the individual. It is to this Transcendence that we give currently the name of God.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Destiny of the Individual
I stop here because it is a very important statement. We have seen earlier that there is a logical argument which maintains, if reality is one, it cannot be many. And most of the logicians seem to agree with this argument. It’s an argument which Plato put forward in his famous dialogue called Sophist. He said Reality if it is one, it can’t be many; if it is many it can’t be one. Now this argument contradicts the proposition, which says that in the world however we find everywhere individuality, universality and oneness. The oneness is the fountain of the universality and the individuality somehow. Now this is the logic, how does it happen that if one cannot be many and yet in the world we find this constant oneness manifesting itself as individual and the universal? How does it happen? This question is not rightly defined and not rightly answered in the history of thought − the reason is, whenever we discuss the question of one, and ask somebody, please tell me in your argument, if one cannot be many, how do you define the One. What is One? And the normal idea of the One is, it is an integer, one is an integer, which is more than zero and less than two; that is the idea of one. The question is when we speak of Reality and apply the word One to it, is that the meaning that we apply, more than zero and less than two, is it an integer or something else? Actually speaking, oneness is a principle of essence. If One is defined as essence then you ask the question, can essence become extended, then there will be no difficulty, or essence means essence which is extended or extension. You define any extension; extension means the essence which has extended. It is on that true logic, as Sri Aurobindo calls the logic of the infinite, not the logic of the finite which we normally apply, one, two, three, four, is the logic of the finite. The infinite by nature cannot be termed in the sense which is of a form, infinite is formless and formless has no size. It is essence and it is by nature something that is inextinguishable, essence is that which is immortal, inextinguishable. It is that essence which manifests in all the extensions. So if we refer to that meaning, One means the essence which can be extended then there is no difficulty in conceiving how that Reality which is One can become universal and can become individual. Now that essence is normally conceived as God. And the argument is that God is so high, it can have no connection with the universal and the individual. And that high is the real reality; all else is subordinate and therefore has no meaning. As a result of that, as Sri Aurobindo says, there has been in the history of the world degradation of the individual and degradation of the universal. Instead of giving the right value to the individual and the right value to the universal there has been a degradation. We say that an individual can never do what God can do. This is something contrary to what Dhirgatamas has shown that as Vishnu has done so will I do and I can do. Now that is the affirmation of the individual and significance of the individual. But in the history of thought it is said: what transcendental can do, you can never do. But if it is shown that there is no contradiction between the individual, universal and the transcendental, then the individual can unite himself with the universal and the transcendental and yet remain the individual.
May I do, why because it is being done, you read the verses, it has been done, it is being done, may I also do. He has found on all the three steps of his movement the wine and the honey. If he had not done it, he wouldn’t have found honey and wine. Rig Veda is an anthology of a number of experiences of many Rishis. Why the Veda has been regarded as an authority is because every experience that is described in the Veda is a verified experience, because it has been tested by many individuals, therefore it has found a place in the Veda. To find a place in the Veda was an extremely difficult task at that time. If your statement is made a part of that anthology, it means it is not a subject to experience; it is a verified and verifiable experience.
It’s a very interesting story in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad where Janaka, the king, has invited all the Rishis of his time, all the prominent Rishis. And in this assembly, a question is put and different Rishis give answers to that question. And different people give different answers then ultimately whoever gives the highest or the final answer, wins the whole debate. Now in the debate there is, if you read the debate there is no intellectual argument, it is what is your experience, what is his experience, what is the other one’s experience? It is a combination or kind of an exchange of experiences. It is only when a given experience is found echoed among all the members of the assembly then that was regarded as the supreme experience. Now this kind of assembly used to be held in our Indian tradition, such a tradition was lost ultimately. But there was a tradition where the Rishis used to assemble together and attain to some kind of a clarity, by exchange of experiences. Then that experience used to be part of standard work. Even in the Upanishads, it continued the same way. If in the Upanishad it is said that I can know knowledge and ignorance at the same time, it means that when I enter into knowledge, I do not become disabled to understand ignorance, or if I am in ignorance I am disabled to know, understand knowledge. If this is stated in the Upanishad, then it means knowledge and ignorance can co-exist. But according to later tradition knowledge and ignorance can’t co-exist. A man of knowledge does not understand ignorance. But according to the Ishopanishad, one who knows knowledge, he knows all, knowing which everything is known. So that is the Upanishadic knowledge, which is also authentic. It is not the experience of one individual. It is when the experience is exchanged with somebody else, there has been a verification of it then only it gets that seal of approval to become a part of the tradition. A very high degree of perfection was required and that is why this knowledge was regarded so important that a tradition arose that this knowledge should be memorised by everybody. Why is it that even today our Brahmins are able to recite the mantras so well, because we give a great value to the words in which the experiences were couched and in order it is never lost, so important should not be lost. Therefore there was a great tradition that it should be memorised. And even today as Sri Aurobindo points out the entire text of the Veda is intact. All over India there is unanimity of the text of the Veda and there is no doubt, whenever a Vedic mantra is recited, it is recitable in seven different ways and therefore if there is any mistake somewhere, the mistake would be caught.
There was once a debate in recent times on a statement, ‒ na tasya pratima asti, which means tasya − his, na − does not, asti − exist. His image does not exist, that is the meaning. This was the proposition which was put forward by one proponent, who said according to the Veda there can be no image of God. Then somebody said that is not the real Vedic mantra. It says natasya pratima asti, not na tasya pratima asti but natasya pratima asti. There is an image of one to whom, the one who is bowed, salutes him, natasya means that which is surrendered, of that who is surrendered the pratima exists. Now which one of them is the correct reading, na tasya pratima asti or natasya pratima asti? So this debate could be resolved by referring to the seven modes of recitation, because one of the modes is that you repeat the first word, then you repeat the second word, then you reverse the process. So that if you read na tasya and then again you repeat, na tasya then you say, tasya na, you go back. If it was only natasya, it will be only one word, in both ways it would be only one word natasya, natasya. So this is the way in which you can verify whether the words are accurately stated or not.
There is also what is called pad patha in the Veda apart from the text which is here there is also pad patha. That is to say every word is dissolved with its connection with the other word, pada means every syllable, every word is taken away from its context to the other word. Namostu is one word but in the pad patha it is namah astu. So this is pada patha. Whereas when you read it is Namostu, in pada patha it is namah and astu. So when you say whether this experience of Rishi Dhirgatamas, what does it really mean? He says as Vishnu has done so will I do, may I do, and it is a prayer to be given to all. If it was an impossibility, it would not have been prescribed to everybody. Some other time we shall see all the six verses are wonderful and they describe the destiny of the individual as was conceived in the Veda. And it is important to revise that experiment just because in the later tradition, it was maintained that an individual to reach the highest has to abolish all the rest and in order to reach the highest he has to abolish himself.
There is in India an idea of the destiny of the individual, which is described in terms of moksha. This is an idea which is so commonly understood in India that everybody feels comfortable to hear of Moksha. What is the aim of an individual, the answer is to attain moksha. The question is what is the meaning of moksha? This idea of moksha is also present in other traditions where the word used is salvation. The destiny of the individual is to attain to salvation and what is the meaning of salvation? According to one tradition the salvation of the individual lies in a sanction given by the Divine that he can always and always remain in heaven, when one can attain to the status of heavenly existence then the individual is supposed to have attained salvation. If you ask the question, what is the speciality of heaven; again there are many answers to this question. Many descriptions of heaven but one answer is that heaven is a place where there is absence of pain, suffering, there is absence of evil; there is joy. According to some there is also the presence of God available to you. You live in the presence of God, samipya, you have vicinity, nearness to God.. Golok, Vaikuntha.
Now according to some others salvation does not consist of going to heaven, or this vicinity of God but in abolishment of the individual, the individual no more remains individual; there is a realisation that there is only one Reality for ever, and ever and ever. So salvation, or liberation, or moksha consists in the annihilation of the individual. The question that Sri Aurobindo raises in this chapter is, is this the destiny of the individual? Does it consist of arriving at heaven, does it consist of arriving in the presence of God, does it mean abolishment of your individuality altogether or something quite different? Is it the same which Dhirgatamas has described that as you rise from level to level, levels are not abolished? That an individual remains individual and there is an attainment of the highest possible paramam padam, the highest padam, the highest seat of Vishnu is obtained. While Sri Aurobindo refers to that particular experience of Dhirgatamas, Sri Aurobindo wants to affirm that the highest ideal conceived in the Veda was what Dhirgatamas has described. If there are some other views which have come up in the Indian tradition it is because of the loss of the knowledge that was contained in the Veda and Sri Aurobindo goes back to the Vedic experience and he says that the destiny of the individual is not to abolish different levels of existence but integration of all the levels of existence.
The highest state is one in which an individual is in the presence of God, is united with God, he is even one with God, the Supreme, ‒ that is the state of liberation according to Sri Aurobindo.
Now to appreciate this I would like to describe to you the psychology of liberation, Moksha, what is the state of Moksha psychologically, what happens to the human being? There are several psychological statements and to be able to appreciate this chapter quite well, we must have in our minds these different concepts which have been presented in the history of India and the West. As I said these three chapters are very packed, unless you have a great background, we may not be able to understand all that is stated in this chapter. But Indian tradition as we know it today, which was a deviation from the Veda and also deviation from the ancient Upanishads refers to Sankhya. This is the one great tradition in India which underlines the experience of Moksha.
According to Sankhya philosophy each one of us is a distinct individual. And each individual is somehow related to a movement which is called the movement of Prakriti. How the individual gets into the movement of Prakriti, Sankhya has an answer which is highly unsatisfactory, but there is an answer. Purusha is entirely silent, inactive, it is luminous therefore it knows itself. There is consciousness in it. However there is apart from Purusha an energy which exists, which is not part of himself, which is not derived from himself but it exists in its own right independently of the Purusha. So on one side there are a number of Purushas, on the other side only one Prakriti. Now these Purushas when they look at Prakriti, they become entangled into Prakriti, just by looking at Prakriti something happens. Why should it happen? There is no answer, I mean a very logical answer. If it is really luminous, if it is absolutely self-conscious, it knows itself and if it is different from Prakriti, why should it fall into the trap of Prakriti? This question is not satisfactorily answered, it only says it happens, how can it happen? Its basic answer is you do find that all of us are already trapped in the Prakriti. So it must have happened. That is the only answer that we find that we Purushas, all of us are Purushas, somehow we are trapped into Prakriti. Our aim is to become aware of our imprisonment in Prakriti, we are all badha, bandhan, we are all bound. So first of all each one of us is to realise we are bound to Prakriti that you are not Prakriti, but you are bound to Prakriti. And because of that bondage you are suffering. We feel the imperfections and in all our relationships we go haywire. We have no means of relating ourselves properly and every relationship that is built up creates suffering. So you have to realise that all your suffering is because we are bound to Prakriti. Thirdly, therefore you have to find means by which you can disentangle yourself from Prakriti. What is the means by which you can disentangle? When you become aware that you are different from Prakriti, you become disentangled. You should constantly remember that you are not Prakriti, you are different from Prakriti and you have to unhook yourself from Prakriti. Now what are the hooks by which you are tied to Prakriti? There is one central hook; this central hook is what is called aham bhava, this ego sense. Now this ego sense according to this philosophy does not belong to the Purusha. It is a hook in Prakriti, the moment you touch Prakriti then that hook of egoism, picks you up and ties you with Prakriti. Now this aham bhava, when you examine it you find it has three strands in it. Because this aham bhava is a production of Prakriti therefore all that is true of Prakriti is also present in this egoism. There are three strands, sattwa, rajas and tamas. These three strands are to be found in any strands of egoism. Your egoism may be tamasic, it may be rajasic, it may be sattwic predominantly, but all the three are together. Fortunately there is also another hook in Prakriti, which is called Buddhi. Now this Buddhi is normally shrouded in tamas, rajas and sattwa and overpowered by this aham bhava. There is a third hook, and that is manas − the mind. There is a distinction between mind and Buddhi, manas and Buddhi are not the same in Sankhya. What is manas, manas is the power of sensing. We have five senses ‒ eyes, ears etc. these five senses are coordinated by manas. So manas is a power of sensing, by which the whole world is sensed, Prakriti is sensed. Because I am hooked to the mind and mind is nothing but a power of sensing and the sensing can be done only of Prakriti. Purusha cannot be sensed because there is nothing to be sensed, Purusha can be known but cannot be sensed, it’s not a sense object. But Prakriti is full of objects which can be sensed, so manas is constantly engaged in perceiving objects. Now these three hooks together, these three hooks as it were keep you hanging. Purusha who is actually different but these three hooks are the hooks on which this individual is caught. It is like a fish, who is caught by the fisherman. There is a net in which there is a hook and because of that hook the mouth of the fish is caught. Similarly, because of the hook in Prakriti, the Purusha is as if it were caught and becomes bound. Because of that bondage he begins to see through the mind all the objects of all the senses. Therefore, you are constantly in the process of seeing all objects. This is called bahir mukha consciousness. Our consciousness is all the time externalised and we see all the objects around us. We don’t the how the objects, from where they have come, what is their nature, we are only sensing them and we sense them in three conditions; either we are sleeping, in which case the senses also don’t work, or rajas in which I see many objects and get intoxicated by objects, I feel attractions and repulsions or sometimes I begin to perceive with neither excitement nor in sleep, some kind of balance and I begin to see objects more objectively, so to say. These three things are happening all the time. If however, I can increase my sattwa then moments in which I can see things more objectively increases. So the prescription is that you develop sattwa bhava as far as possible, don’t be tamasic, don’t be rajasic, develop sattwa bhava.
Now when you develop sattwa bhava this Buddhi which was also shrouded under the pressure of aham bhava and sattwa, rajas and tamas and manas, even this Buddhi becomes less troubled by sattwa, rajas and tamas and aham bhava and manas. Now what is Buddhi? Buddhi is the power of discrimination; it distinguishes one from the other quite clearly. It’s a power of intellect. If you become more and more sattwic, then the power of discrimination will arise more and more. This discrimination is called viveka ‒ to distinguish one from the other.
You become a scientist; you become a philosopher because of the use of your intellectual power Buddhi. But such moments of your intellectuality even a philosopher also gets lost in drinking, even a philosopher goes into all kinds of enjoyment, he forgets all his intellect, his discrimination is lost, same thing about scientist also. But if you can develop more and more sattwa, the intellect remains more and more quiet, more and more powerful. This whole process is aided very much by this knowledge which is now being given that this is the whole trick of the world. If you know this whole trick, you will automatically like to be like this. By knowing this you will try to detach yourself, to discriminate, to be more and more sattwic. A point comes when the intellect becomes stilled; it is a very important moment. Then intellect becomes like a pure mirror without any smoke on it, absolutely clean mirror. In that mirror you see distinction between Purusha and Prakriti. You find out: Oh! My Lord, I am quite different from this, like a mirror you see yourself and you see the distinction between Prakriti and Purusha quite well. Therefore Sankhya proposes that your intellect Buddhi Yoga, that's why in the Gita when Shri Krishna answers Arjuna: Arjuna’s main question was ‘I should be like a Sankhya, a Sankhya philosopher and the prescription is that you can do this when you become inactive, purely be stilled absolutely, inactive. When you do that by Buddhi Yoga, by complete discrimination you will realise, you are Purusha. The moment you know that you are Purusha, you won’t be hooked. Prakriti which was tying you up, that tie will be finished, that loosening and ultimately complete lapse of that tying up is mukti, liberation. You become condition of moksha.
So according to this theory try to still your mind, try to become as sattwic as possible, remembering all the time that you are Purusha, different from Prakriti, go on repeating, repeating, repeating. As a result the intellect will fall silent. In that stillness Purusha will be recognised and you withdraw from Prakriti and you become liberated ‒ moksha. This is the Sankhyan account of moksha. Prakriti is to be rejected, Buddhi is to be rejected, three gunas are to be rejected, whole life, the whole world is to be rejected. All action has to be rejected, no action whatsoever. When you can achieve these conditions then you can attain moksha.
Question: Patanjali’s Yoga gets you to this point?
Answer: Yes, there is a slight difference between Patanjali’s Yoga and Sankhya but Patanjali’s Yoga is based upon basically this philosophy. In Sankhya, you are not required to follow all the steps which are given in the Patanjali’s yoga, you simply develop your intellectual discrimination to such an extent by whatever means, by a constant philosophical contemplation, not by following all the methods Ashtang Yoga of Patanjali, but merely by intellectual thought you become so intellectually powerful that your intellect falls quiet and can directly reflect the Purusha, then you realise ‒ I am different from Prakriti.
Question: Shankara’s Yoga is also similar to Sankhya only with the extra?
Answer: Quite right. Now we shall come to that. You are quite right, it is quite similar.
But Yoga tells you a more elaborate method. How do you attain to this condition of sattwic condition of the mind? The mind is analysed in detail in Patanjali’s Yoga, different conditions of mind and the modifications of mental consciousness. What is called vritti, chitta vritti. Various vrittis are all distinguished one from the other and then it is said that first of all, it’s a long process, don’t think you can come to this distinction between Purusha and Prakriti so easily. You do first of all yama, and niyama, then you have asana, pranayama, he discovered that our senses, our mind you don’t need to do so much of yama, niyama,asana, pranayama and all that if your intellectual power can be developed, for that you don’t need to do pranayama and all that, mere intellectual development would be sufficient, would be a method. So Sankhya method is only to arrive at the discrimination of the intellect between Purusha and Prakriti. Now this idea is also accepted in Patanjali but it says there are methods by which you can do it and this method is ashtanga yoga, start with yama and niyama, asana and pranayama and then you have pratyahara, you try to withdraw your mind from the objects. Normally your mind is constantly engaged in objects. So first of all disassociate yourself from objects, by constant practise or a long practise. The longer the practice the easier and faster it will be, try to withdraw your mind from the objects. The vrittis of consciousness begin to become more and more unified, more coordinated and ultimately you are able to master them. Pratyahara is more of a negative process, which is followed by another process called dharana. In the process of pratyahara, you try to withdraw from outside, from bahir mukha you become antarmukha. In dharana you become more concentrated upon internal consciousness, so dharna is a concentration on one object. Now normally the object should be Purusha, come out of Prakriti and you concentrate upon Purusha. But Patanjali says that to start with you need not have Purusha as the object of your concentration, any object you can take up and you train your mind in such a way that instead of fleeting about it is able to concentrate on one object. Take any object, it may be a tip of your nose, it can be the space between your two eye-brows, it can be the top of the fire that you are seeing all the time, or a lamp, flame of a candle, concentrated only upon one point. This is a psychological exercise which will enable you to concentrate, ‒ dharna. Withdraw from all the rest and fix your concentration on one object. When you reach that concentration then you have dhyana that is to say, you remain greatly concentrated, you can dwell upon that concentration. In dharna you achieve that concentration, in dhyana you continue to dwell in that concentration. And if you succeed in keeping this for a long time, then something more will happen. What is more, there will be no flickering of consciousness at all. Your consciousness will melt into the object of your concentration. Of course there are many stages again of that Samadhi, into which we are not going just now. But gradually you reach a point where there is a state of Samadhi in which there is only consciousness and nothing else, neither subject nor object, pure consciousness, pure awareness, luminosity. That luminosity and the sustenance of that luminosity is the luminosity of Purusha. If you can retain it forever, and ever, and ever, you are a mukta, ‒ moksha. You remain in Samadhi. And many yogis try to withdraw themselves from the body altogether and leave the body and then there is liberation. Otherwise you have experiences of Samadhi from time to time. But you can go back again but this can be lessened, you can go back again and again because until you are able, it is not easy to stay in that state either. Psychologically you reach that point, remain in that point for some time, but you are obliged to come back because the pressure of the outer life, manas and Prakriti is so great that this can only be for a short time like excursion into Samadhi, but tour home is still in Prakriti wherever you are. It is only by deciding one day that now you don’t want to come back at all and you are able to completely withdraw so much there should be so much vairagya in your consciousness, you have no attraction for any experience in the world at all.
What Buddha did we have no complete account of what he really did; he did many things including this also.
In any case the capacity of consciousness to be antarmukha is indispensable, in any system of yoga, in Sankhya, in Yoga, Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, in any case. Capacity to be free from the snares of the outer world so that you can go inward is indispensable in any system of yoga. The realisation is impossible without interiorisation.
So you might say that the destiny of the individual, whatever it may be, certainly consists of a movement in which you can be interiorised and arrive at the quietude of your consciousness in which what is internal can be realised. As long as we are meeting trifles in the world and engaged in the trifles of the world, you cannot see what is inside. There are also many, many objects inside, there is a subtle physical world, there is a vital world, a mental world and higher worlds and then there is true individual and universal and the transcendental. All these objects which are there remain completely at the most as an idea in your mind, but you never realise what they are.
When we speak of three steps of Vishnu, you might say that Vishnu moves from the earth to antariksha, to the mind, maharloka, Supermind and then to Sachchidananda, it is the highest top of the mountain. But by reaching the highest top, you don’t demolish the mountain itself. You can be seated in the top over there. These are the paramam padam you can attain and in doing so, you don’t have to reject, although you may have to transfigure. Vedic yoga consisted of transfiguring the physical life, vital life, mental life by the power of supramental life and being able to ascend to the top and to be seated in the top. But this state was described not merely as moksha, you are free from all the other tangles therefore this also is called Vedic moksha, but here there is no question only of withdrawing from the world and attaining the idea of Purusha. The paramam pada, the Sachchidananda is not merely Purusha, the Veda has described Sachchidananda as Purusha but also as Ishwara, ‒ prajapati. So Sachchidananda when he is realised is not only Purusha consciousness, which is inactive, it’s a more complex yoga, so that when you rise from plane to plane to plane, you transfigure the lower life and a more complex process is involved.
Brahman is something that is not individual, according to Sankhya the Purusha is individual. Individual status of consciousness which is Purusha but not limited by egoism, not hooked to Prakriti is a state of moksha.
Sankhya does not recognise Brahman, does not recognise Ishwara.
According to them the experience of Purusha is an experience of the individual but who is not cut off from the rest. It is only because there is a fact that those who find liberation they alone get liberated and others still remain bound. If the liberated Purusha is connected with your Purusha then also the moment one Purusha is liberated all will be liberated, it doesn’t happen. Therefore there must be an individuality distinct from the individuality of all the rest.
Now what is that state which is not egoistic and which is not yet universal and transcendental in the sense in which Shankara’s philosophy maintains is not discussed.
But Sankhya philosophers have a debate with this kind of philosophy which says that if there is only Brahman then as soon as one individual gets liberated all should be liberated. So he says that there is no one individual at all, only Brahman alone exists. Even the world never existed, there is always a Brahman there is always one Brahman that is all.
What you think, you are different, he is different that is how Sri Aurobindo describes this experience, you see here: page no. 38:
But for the Illusionist the individual soul is an illusion and non-existent except in the inexplicable mystery of Maya. Therefore we arrive at the escape of an illusory non-existent soul from an illusory non-existent bondage in an illusory non-existent world as the supreme good which that non-existent soul has to pursue!
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - I: The Destiny of the Individual
This is the conclusion to which Shankara arrives and there is nothing to be laughed at actually, according to them, this is really the fact. There is really no bondage, nobody is seeking liberation. It is true you are seeking but you are in illusion and you don’t really exist. So when you say I am seeking liberation, it’s true in the state of illusion. But actually who is bound, nobody is bound. There is nobody first of all, not a single individual exists, only one Brahman which forever and ever remains.
Now just as we analysed quite clearly the movement by which in Sankhya, you arrive at distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, just as we described the movement of Patanjali’s yoga, how an individual is liberated by a certain process of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi, similarly let us have a look at the exact process by which moksha is attained in the yoga of Mayavada. We need to study this in detail if we are to understand these three chapters perfectly because all that is packed and unless we know all the subtleties many statements here will seem to be mere statements without arguments or mere arguments without substance.
First of all Shankara accepts that there is an individual, starting point, each one of us is an individual. It is called Jiva. Now each Jiva is in a state of ignorance, it doesn’t know itself, doesn’t know the world. That state of ignorance is marked by three fundamental conditions. One is that each individual sees all around him multiplicity. There is no concept in his mind of unity or oneness, only Bahutva, manyness, multiplicity and I will go on fleeting on this multiplicity. I don’t know where it comes from, why it is here, I am simply drowned in the perception of multiplicity. Secondly, apart from the multiplicity which I see, I have minimum experience and I say this body is me, I am thin, I am fat, many more experiences of an individual, I am thin or I am fat. It doesn’t say my body is fat. My ignorance is so great that whatever is my bodily condition, I say this is me. I am lame, I am blind, I am beautiful, I am ugly, whatever is the condition of my body is my knowledge of myself that is the second condition.
The third is that I constantly strive to look into the outside world and to grasp at it, to devourer it, to enjoy it. These are the only three experiences which I have and by doing that, trying to possess, enjoy, I am engaged in many activities. So I am karta, I do many things. All my actions proceed from this; proceed from the idea of grasping, to possess, to enjoy. I am karta and bhogta, this is true of each one of us in the world. As a result a consequence follows. I constantly remain grasping, dissatisfied with anything and everything that comes, some satisfaction from time to time I get, Ah! This I wanted, I’ve got it now. Do din ka badshah, I do feel that I feel an emperor for two days. Within a short time even that breaks down. In the meantime I know, there is another badshah also and I begin to have trouble about him and I begin to wonder what should be done with that badshah? How can I become more than that badshah? One empire I have conquered, I must conquer another empire and then when I look around there are many, many problems all the time, there is no end of problems. You solve one problem and another problem arises. This whole world experience I get which can be called prapancha, and whatever I gain, I feel it is mine. Just as my body is me, similarly whatever I possess is mine. My property, my children, my house, my fame, my name, my book, this is how I am constantly engaged in these activities and discontent, dissatisfaction, I go on hungering and acquiring and hungering further. This is my state. Now how is this state created and how can I be free from my suffering?
According to Mayavada there is a method by which you can overcome your suffering and permanently you can be free from that suffering. It’s not like a medicine which can give you cure for a few days and then again you are back to square one, permanent cure. It’s a difficult cure but the destiny of the individual is to find a cure to apply it and to be cured that’s the destiny of the individual. And when you are cured, what happens? There is a permanent experience of complete silence and permanent absorption in that silence. Moksha consists of the attainment of this state. But the process by which you can arrive at it is the following. You study the process by which your suffering has arisen and discover that multiplicity that you are seeing around you is created by an universal power. That power is the generator of multiplicity, that power is called Maya. So first all recognise that this whole world that you see around is a creation of Maya, a power which creates multiplicity. From where this multiplicity is generated, is there a stuff from which it is created? If multiplicity comes into manifestation, from where the multiplicity is generated? Shankara doesn’t say this multiplicity is generated by itself. Mayavada says that this multiplicity is created, is manufactured; there is a power, presence which is capable of generating multiplicity. In this multiplicity your own body is also a part of that multiplicity, which has been generated by Maya. What you say yourself is aham bhava, which is also generated by Maya. Where does this Maya exist? That will be the next question, all this is generated by Maya, is this Maya ultimate? In Sankhya all this multiplicity was created by Prakriti, that Prakriti is the ultimate. According to Mayavada, this Maya is not ultimate; it is a power, but a power belonging to somebody. Who is that somebody? There is Ishwara, there is a Lord. This power belongs to Ishwara. Is Ishwara ultimate? No, even Ishwara is also not ultimate because Ishwara is nothing but the Brahman in conjunction with Maya. When Brahman gets conjuncted with Maya then the multiplicity is generated. Brahman is One, completely static, Ishwara is the Lord and the Lord like a magician goes on creating many kinds of forms in sport.
As in case of Sankhya, Purusha and Prakriti, Purusha is really different from Prakriti and if it is luminous how does it get into Prakriti at all, that question is not answered; the answer is you find yourself in Prakriti now. This is a fact and I can tell you how you can come out of it.
Here also there is no answer to the question as to how this Brahman which is absolutely static somehow has a power to have, create, to juggle out multiplicity, from where does it juggle out? From Brahman because Brahman is the only reality and Brahman is oneness. How from this oneness this Ishwara is capable of producing this multiplicity is not possible at all. One can’t be many. Therefore this proposition which is being made that Brahman and Ishwara have a power called Maya, which is generative of multiplicity is a proposition which is indispensable, it has got to be stated but which is not true.
Sri Aurobindo says: this subtle philosophy which arranges data so marvellously, so masterfully that is what Sri Aurobindo has said that in Shankara’s philosophy there is conflict between intuition and reasoning. When I look at the world from a rational point of view, I have got to say the world is multiple. There must be a power of generating this multiplicity, that power must be somewhere located, it can be located only in the Ultimate Reality. Ultimate Reality is Brahman, therefore this Maya must be located in the Brahman but it cannot be located, therefore this statement is to be cancelled.
Then the question is then what are we doing all this? We are seeing multiplicity, so comes the idea of avidya. You are seeing multiplicity; you, means this individual happens to see this multiplicity, this perception of multiplicity is ignorance. Where you should be seeing only oneness, you happen to see multiplicity; therefore you ask the question from where has the multiplicity come out. Your question arises in your state of ignorance. In your state of ignorance I have got to answer that it can be generated only by one Reality which exists, ‒ Brahman. Therefore my answer is it is generated by Maya, then if you ask where is Maya; I have got to say it is in Brahman. Brahman is inactive which has no power at all therefore my answer is, I am obliged to answer a question, it is an ignorant question, therefore in the field of ignorance my answer is this. But when you are liberated from ignorance, rationally it may not be satisfying, so what? But if in experience you find it to be so, it is so. It is because Buddha does not accept that experience is the final one, it is because Ishopanishad does not accept it to be final, it speaks of vuyah and samuha, because Veda does not accept it to be final, because the Gita speaks of akshara, khara and Purushottama, all these are also intuitions. Then how can you say that this alone must be right? First of all logically it is not right, even in experience it is not found to be the only experience. That is why Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between ultimate and the penultimate. There are intuitions which are penultimate intuitions, not the ultimate ones. In the ultimate the Upanishad itself says that there is a reality knowing which all is known. Sri Aurobindo remarks that in the experience that Shankara speaks, when the reality is known everything disappears, not that everything is known, everything evaporates. It’s quite contrary to the statement of the Upanishad that when that reality is known all is known. Everything is explained, in Shankara’s philosophy itself you say that Maya is inexplicable, ignorance is inexplicable, bondage is inexplicable, but in the Upanishad it does not say it is inexplicable. There is an explanation. I think we will stop here today.