Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Track 802

Individual, Universal and Transcendental

Now let us see what is the meaning of Transcendental and Universal, and how are the two different from the word individual. One of the best ways of understanding the Transcendental is to understand the concept of essence. One of the examples given to understand the word essence is: gold is the same in this ornament or that ornament; the two ornaments differ from each other not in the goldness but in the form of the ornaments. There is a distinction between the essence of the ornament and the form of the ornament. Even if in the ornament the forms are broken the gold remains, just as when a pot may be broken, the form may be broken but the clay remains. So the Transcendental is that which is the essence, which always remains what it is, which may take many forms but which is not depending upon the forms. If you examine the question of forms, you will find that forms are spread out, all forms have some kind of special extension and they are spread out. The pot has a certain size, certain shape, it is spread out and the highest spacing out is the entire space.

The whole of space, the whole of time, the totality of space and time is what is called Universal.  The Transcendental is the essence and the Universal is the totality of space and time. Any particular form in space and time is called a particular. Any particular formation, for example, my golden ornaments, all of them are particulars but apart from these particulars there is a special kind of formation – which you call individual.  The speciality of the individual formation is that it is of the nature of a centration. There is a difference between particularisation and centration. You take any particular form, each particular form excludes the other form and every particular form has a certain limit, a boundary. But a centration is a centre whose circumference is everywhere, in other words whose circumference can shift, it is not especially exclusive. It is a centre of a very special nature, it is a centre in which the Transcendental is fully present and whose boundaries are so flexible that they can go on expanding and they can fill the whole of the universe. So every individual has this great capacity to become Universal. In fact one of the great messages of the highest wisdom is: "be wide, be Universal". You can be Universal only if you are capable of universality and this would mean that whatever limitations you have are flexible. This is not true of the particulars. Of each particular object there is a limitation; the moment you expand it, that form breaks down, it no more remains. In the case of the individual this breaking down does not happen, you can expand, become as wide as the whole universe and yet you remain a centre. In the individual there is a centration and there is a circumference which is so flexible that it can become as wide as the universe. This individual is a very special kind of formation of the Transcendent himself, you might say the special power of the Supreme, of the Transcendental in which the whole of the Supreme is present in a centre and because of that reason, while it is a centre it is also as Supreme as the Supreme and can become as wide as the Universal, and yet can remain the centre. It is a very special kind of a centration. Such is the true nature of the individual.

You will see from the nature of these three terms that I have used – the Transcendental, the Universal and the individual – that the Transcendental by its nature can never become bound; all bondage arises out of ignorance.

When I say: "I am bound", that means that I am centred round a small form, small particular – that is the meaning of bondage. When I say: "I am bound", that means I feel that I am circumscribed in a particular boundary and I cannot break it and this happens only because of the basic ignorance. As I told you the individual is actually capable of expanding the boundary so as to become Universal. It is only because it is ignorant that it feels that it is bound and circumscribed by a particular form, so all bondage is basically the result of ignorance. But that which is by its very nature Transcendental, which is never in the clutches of any limitations whatsoever that is the very nature of the Transcendental. Transcendent is that which transcends, whose very nature is always that which transcends every limitation. Transcendental is also Transcendent of the Universal – not only of the particular individual. Transcendental is also that which is above the Universal, it is more than the Universal. The totality of space and time is a mere expression of that essence which cannot be seen as space and time at all. That essence is not an object of space and time. So that which is essence, Transcendental, is incapable of ignorance and therefore incapable of bondage. Universal is always wide and spread out. Now in that which is wide and spread out, limitation cannot come in, its very nature is Universal. If therefore some limitation has to come about, if there is to be a movement of ignorance in it, – not necessarily – but if it has to come about it can come about only in this peculiar phenomenon of the centration: the centration whose circumference is nowhere, or everywhere. It is only in respect of this that the phenomenon of ignorance can arise, and that can happen only in a certain state or in a certain condition. As long as the centre is aware of the Transcendental and aware of the Universal, this ignorance cannot operate, so there has to be some development in which a distance is to be sought from the Transcendental and the Universal. If there is no distance between the centration and the Transcendental and the Universal, then this phenomenon of ignorance cannot come about. Having laid out this particular background, we can see more clearly with a focus as to how the individual really gets into a state of bondage. We shall trace out little by little this process.

In the beginning the centration is aware that it is the centre of the Transcendental. There is no ignorance; it is already as wide as the Universal. So in the original state, the individual is not bound. But the Universal is manifesting so many particulars, particulars are only formations, temporary formations and the individual or the individuals – each one of us is one centre. So you might say multiplicity of centres in the beginning observe the Transcendental on the one hand, observe the Universal on the other and observe multiplicity of currents of particulars which are formed in the Universal. This is called the enjoyment of the individual in the condition of freedom. It enjoys the Universal, it enjoys the Transcendental, it enjoys the multiplicity of all the centres, it enjoys the play with so many particulars of the Universal. In the highest condition the individual is free, the individual is one with the Supreme, he is aware of his oneness with the Supreme, he is aware of his universality and he is capable of playing numerous games with the particulars of the universe freely without prohibition of any kind, you might say infinite kinds of plays. This is the original condition of each one of us. This is called the Supramental status of the free individual in the beginning. Supramental means the highest Universal. The highest Universal consciousness is the Supramental consciousness. The moment we say that there is a play, then there is a very special kind of play of which we should become aware. There is a play of the individual with the Universal, there is a play of the individual with the Transcendental, there is a play of the individual with the particulars. This is the complexity of the play; this is the vision that we have of the eternal dance of Sri Krishna called the Rasalila. Sri Krishna is the Transcendental, all the gopis are the individual centrations, and the field in which the dance takes place is the Universal, and all the rhythms of the dance are the particulars. This is the state of our original condition: each one of us actually is a member of that kingdom. You might say that each one of us was at one time in this particular state. Today we have come over a long distance from that state, but this was our original condition.