Sri Aurobindo's - 'The Life Divine' - The Human Aspiration - Chapter I (Super School Auroville) - Session x (25 August 2000)

You reminded me yesterday that I had forgotten one argument. We had counted five arguments: epistemological, dialectical, historical, quintessential metaphysical, philosophical and causal. One argument was missing: analogical argument. This argument can be found in the fourth paragraph: "As there so here…" The phrase appears twice and each time presents the analogy—as there so here.

We come now to the last paragraph. I am taking so much time with the first chapter because if you are well grounded in it you become well grounded in the whole book, because this chapter is a kind of summary of the whole book. If you know the first chapter very well you can say to yourself that you know the basic arguments of the whole book.

"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."

It is a long sentence and we have to find its main verb. The main verb of this whole sentence is: justify. Sri Aurobindo has made the full argument and he now concludes. Having employed all arguments the conclusion is that something is justified. Namely: mankind's aspiration for God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. This aspiration is justified rationally, intellectually. It is not merely a matter of faith; it is a matter which you can intellectually justify and prove to yourself that it would be irrational not to accept this aspiration. The aspiration is rational and the main point is: the lower term and the higher term—in fact the argument starts with a contradiction. What is low contradicts what is high. This is the basic contradiction.

Sri Aurobindo has proved that instead of remaining in a state of contradiction the lower is going to embody the higher. So there is basically no contradiction. If the lower can receive the higher it can be only if in the lower there is a possibility of absorbing the higher. And for absorbing you should have corresponding terms.

In the lower there is normally the experience of pain. In all lower life that we live there is pain. In the higher there is bliss. Now if pain and bliss are really contradictory to each other, then, the lower can never absorb the higher. But if pain itself is a limited ananda, a limited bliss, if pain is itself a form of bliss, not opposed to bliss, then you can convert this pain into bliss. This is the argument.

Pleasure for example is in a sense opposed to bliss. Just as pain is opposed to bliss, similarly, pleasure also is opposed to bliss. Because the pleasure that we have is a kind of an ephemeral, flimsy kind of sensation which lasts for a little while and goes away, and that pleasure has nothing comparable to bliss. Therefore pleasure is opposed to that bliss. But if pleasure also is only a limited bliss then that limited thing, when it expands, can become bliss. Thus what was seen to be contradictory is not really contradictory; it is simply a limited form of the higher. Therefore it is an eternal paradox—paradox because how can bliss become pain, how can bliss become pleasure, how can bliss become indifference? These are the only three experiences that we have: indifference, pleasure and pain.

How can these three which are seemingly the opposite of bliss, be turned into bliss? If they can be turned into bliss it is only because they are limited forms of it—when you limit ananda that limitation takes these three forms: pleasure, pain, indifference. There is a full chapter, chapter 12 in this book, where Sri Aurobindo will explain how ananda, the bliss, has become pleasure, pain and indifference by limitation. They are not contradictory to each other; they are only paradoxical of each other.

You see there is a difference between opposition and paradox. A paradox is where two opposites seem to be apparently opposed but not really. "I am hastening slowly", if I speak this sentence, it is a paradox. "Charming by ugly", there are experiences of ugliness but very charming. It is a paradox, but not really a paradox, because in ugliness also there is a charm. "I am tragically happy", it is a paradox, a tragedy occurs and you feel happy. Tragedy normally creates a lot of sorrow but there are experiences where you become tragically happy.

If you see the drama called Hamlet… The story as it unfolds before you begin on a dreadful night. Already the very first scene of Hamlet gives you a kind of atmosphere of dread. Everything is hushed. Not a mouse stirring, as he says in the very beginning. And then there appears the ghost of the father of Hamlet, who has just died, so the whole atmosphere is full of suspense, something weird, something strange, dreadful. In the dark a ghost appears and calls Hamlet alone, he wants to communicate a message. Hamlet is drawn towards the ghost and then the ghost reveals to Hamlet that he has been murdered—it is not an ordinary death  and the murder has been committed by his own brother and his wife, a dreadful story. This is the starting point of the tragedy. Something horrible has happened and now there is the unfoldment of horrible events one after the other. And if you examine the play, it is a series of deaths which occur one after the other. Polonius is murdered, Ophelia dies, and then several others, and towards the end, the king is killed, Laertes the brother of Ophelia is murdered, the queen dies, and finally Hamlet goes. It is full of tragedy. When you see the end you feel comforted, the whole horrible thing has ended. You are tragically happy. There is a release as it were for Hamlet who was so tortured. There is an end in which you feel relief at the release of Hamlet from all kinds of tortures. It is an experience of tragic happiness.

So whenever there is a real tragedy, from another point of view, there is an angle of looking where you find a release. It gives its own unique experience. So there is no exact opposition between tragedy and happiness. It is a paradox.

Similarly, of the experience of pain; experience of pleasure and experience of indifference through which we pass all the time, if you examine your life you will find that in three fourths of your life you are indifferent. We are basically insensitive. Examine the hours of sleep that we have. Those hours of sleep are actually hours of indifference basically, except when you have nightmares. But that is another matter. A little of the time that you have is of pleasure and the rest of the time you find suffering. These are the three experiences that we have. But the real bliss which is constantly present, of which we are not aware, is not abolished anytime, it is there always, it is not as if this pain or pleasure or indifference are able to abolish that bliss. We are not aware of it. But there is a constant stream of bliss. It is constantly flowing, only we don't experience it because of our limitations. If pleasure, pain and indifference were able to abolish bliss they would be opposite, but they are not real opposites. The pain does not abolish the inner bliss. This is the theme of chapters 11 and 12 of The Life Divine.

Sri Aurobindo quotes 4 lines from the Upanishads at the beginning of Chapter 11. "For who could live or breathe if there were not this delight of existence as the ether in which we dwell?" [Taittiriya Upanishad] If we are existing, even in the most deplorable conditions, it is because there is a breath all the time hanging over us: the breath of delight. "From Delight all these beings are born, by Delight they exist and grow, to Delight they return." [Taittiriya Upanishad] This is one the most memorable statements in world history. It tells you, in whatever conditions you are, you should remember in the depth of your being there is a delight always accessible to you, always available to you. Never feel that your present condition of indifference or pleasure or pain is going to last. You just make an effort; go deep in you and you will find bliss.

Where today there is pain, suffering, indifference and pleasure, there can take place the breathing of delight. Because of this reason, the lower does not cancel the higher. The lower is able to manifest the higher. Therefore it is a paradox but not a contradiction. This is the real solution that Sri Aurobindo presents. What is contradictory is not really contradictory. It is only a paradox and a paradox can always be resolved into harmony. Therefore Sri Aurobindo says the eternal truth and the eternal paradox. It is a paradox forever because even when you attain to delight you can always turn it into pain if you want to. It is not impossible. You limit yourself and it becomes a pain. You limit yourself in another way and it becomes pleasure. You limit yourself in a third way and it becomes indifference.

"Thus the eternal paradox and eternal truth of a divine life in an animal body, an immortal aspiration or reality inhabiting a mortal tenement…—our body is mortal, but in mortal body there is an undying aspiration, an immortal aspiration and also that in that mortal body the immortal reality exists—a single and universal consciousness representing itself in limited minds and divided egos". It is also a paradox: a universal and transcendent consciousness on the one hand and divided egos in our present consciousness. The two exist side-by-side as it were, not canceling, but capable of existing side by side. There is no contradiction, only paradox. "… a transcendent, indefinable, timeless and spaceless Being …—on one side—… 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 …— mark the words deliberate reason. We have come across the word deliberate earlier also. As I told you, deliberate reason or a deliberate way of thinking is quintessentially metaphysical, the real metaphysical reasoning is a deliberate view, not only reason but deliberate reason. The reason which seeks for meaning and ultimately finds it—the finding is the satisfaction of deliberate reason, it is the fulfilment of deliberate reason. But the seeking is the driving force. And ultimately the driving force is fulfilled when the meaning is found. Sri Aurobindo asks the question in the beginning that the contradiction, which is found between material existence and the ideals of God, Light, Freedom and Immortality—this contradiction, if you examine it by deliberate reason you should not jump to the conclusion that it is a contradiction. Ask yourself: Is it really a contradiction? Is there a meaning? is this a contradiction? If you ask this question then you find an answer which is expounded in the third and fourth paragraph. In the fifth paragraph you find the answer and therefore we can say that this contradiction is really a paradox. And this paradox justifies itself to our deliberate reason, to the reason which has sought for meaning.

Now Sri Aurobindo adds two more words: "…justify themselves to the deliberate reason as well as to the persistent instinct or intuition of mankind." There are now three words which are important from a philosophical point of view: deliberate reason, instinct and intuition.

Deliberate reason is something we have experienced quite thoroughly during the last ten lectures or more. Deliberate reason is driven by the search for meaning and that reason utilises various kinds of arguments—this entire exercise is the exercise of deliberate reason. Having used all these arguments our reason is now satisfied. We have found the meaning, we have found that they are not opposites, there is no contradiction, it is only a paradox and therefore it is justified.

Now Sri Aurobindo says, what is justified from the rational point of view is also justified by the instinct. What is instinct? What is the difference between instinct and reason? In instinct there is immediacy. In reason there is a process. You have facts; you derive from the facts a conclusion. It is almost as if blindly. Blindly you touch this and touch that then compare to arrive at a picture in your mind. In instinct, you just touch and know. No more than that. All experience of pain is instinctive. Not only that but experience of pain is immediately accompanied by rejection. Automatic! There is no process; you do not say: "Now let me see, the pain has come, let me receive it." As soon as there is pain there is rejection, automatically. So this instinctive rejection of pain indicates something. Why do we instinctively reject pain? Because the being has already known what happiness is and this pain is found to be opposite to it. If you did not know what happiness is, you would never reject pain. There is an ether of happiness in your being, all the time. You may not be conscious of it, but it is there already. So when something contrary happens, it is immediately rejected. "Oh no, this is not me! It can't belong to me. I don't want it. It cannot be."

Question: Kireetbhai, why do we not instinctively reject pleasure?

You instinctively receive it. Both are instinctive.

No, in the sense that instead of happiness, there is the bliss which is opposed to pain, it is also opposed to pleasure too, so why don't we instinctively reject pleasure?

Rejection is not the only way in which you instinctively act. The question is of instinctiveness, the immediacy. As soon as you feel pleasure you instinctively receive it. Immediately, there is no process. Now the deeper question that you ask is the main theme of these two chapters: "Delight of Existence: The Problem"; "Delight of Existence: The Solution" So we shall deal with it at length. My immediate answer is only this because at present we are simply considering what is instinctive. In both the cases there is no process, there is an instinctive, immediate reaction. You eat something bitter and immediately you want to throw it away. Instinctively. You eat anything that is sweet and immediately you like it. Instinctively.

You know there are other states of consciousness where—you asked the question of pleasure—in certain states of consciousness what we call pleasure is immediately rejected. There is the very interesting case of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Swami Vivekananda was a good student, he loved his teacher very well but he never took for granted whatever he said. He was a good student. So once he wanted to test his teacher. He wanted to examine his teacher. One day he put some money under the cover of the seat where Ramakrishna used to sit. And Ramakrishna came to the seat and as he touched it, immediately he threw it away. Normally people like to have the presence of coins of money, in his case as soon as he touched them he immediately stood up as if there was a snake there. It depends upon your state. Both are instinctive.

Take pleasure, at a certain stage of your development—Mother has said that if you succeed very quickly be doubtful. If you go on succeeding very quickly then be wary, think that there is a trap for you. Don't feel so happy or take pleasure in it. One who is very wise, as soon as he succeeds he feels "My Lord something is wrong. How could I succeed?"

Indifference, for example, we are automatically in the stage of indifference. But once you have enjoyed that bliss you can never tolerate indifference. You cannot remain in the state of indifference, you reject it. It is a question of what your balance is in the totality of your being. Our present rejection of pain or our present acceptance of pleasure instinctively is due to the present balance of our consciousness. There are states of consciousness in which bitter medicines are enjoyed. It is a fact, you enjoy bitterness and you don't like pleasure, the sweetness. There are states of consciousness in which what is pleasant to you is not liked. It all depends as Sri Aurobindo says; it is a question of habits. Our present balance of consciousness is such that habitually we reject pain and habitually we receive pleasure. But you can change that. The thing regarding which you are afraid—when you look back you feel it was so good that the frightful thing happened to you. Somebody knocks at your door. You are sleeping at that time and you feel this a bother, somebody coming and knocking and waking you up, you don't like this at all and you open the door and behold that which you were looking for for the last ten years is standing before you. That dreadful experience, the experience of pain, is immediately turned into tremendous delight. It is only a question of your consciousness, of your state of consciousness. So if you know that in every experience it is only God who knocks on your door then you will never be frightened about anything. Normally we are frightened because we feel that some strange things are happening for which we are not ready and this disturbs you, disturbs your present condition of consciousness. But when you look backward you find that it was a tremendously good thing that happened to you. If you know that every time, in every circumstance, it is God who is around you, then even the one who is opposing you all the time is felt to be a great friend.

This is why Sri Aurobindo says: "Who is my enemy? The one who took me to the embrace of my Lord?" One you think is your enemy is actually the very one who takes you to the embrace of the Lord. So who is your enemy? That is how our pain is transformed into delight. Therefore pain is not opposed to delight, it is only the present state of consciousness which is limited. You break down the limitation then the delight, which is automatic everywhere, will be experienced in all the circumstances. This is called the real art of life. The real art of life arises from a philosophy which concludes that the Divine is everywhere. Now you apply that proposition in real terms and you find in every circumstance it is the Divine, therefore delight will all the time be your accompaniment. We have only to discover where the Divine is. In this horrible face you see the beauty. The dreadful thing is the most delightful thing. The dread is only a mask. The mask is to be uncovered.

Eternal paradox and eternal truth. They justified themselves when you realise that the lower term is capable of embodying the higher term. Sri Aurobindo says that this proposition is accepted even by instinct. Instinctively we love the light. The eyes can flourish only in light. If you remain all the time in darkness, your eyes will become blind in due course. There is instinctive movement towards light. God, Light, Freedom, Immortality are justified not only by deliberate reason but also by instinct. Instinctively you want delight, therefore you reject pain. Instinctively you accept pleasure because you do not feel pleasure is a great blockage to the delight. Only we don't know now, but actually speaking all pleasures are a blockage to the delight. They imprison you in a small pleasure for a little while. Therefore if you learn, you automatically reject pleasure because you have an instinctive movement towards real happiness, towards delight—inalienable delight, inexhaustible delight, imperishable delight.

There was an experience of Sri Aurobindo where he was placed in a jail, by the British in 1908. If you look at the jail and Sri Aurobindo himself has described the cell in which he was living. You imagine the hot summer because he was taken to the jail in the month of May. That cell was a very small cell, only a little room where he could sleep. There was one bowl given to him and one blanket. This is all that he was gifted by the British. He lived in that cell for one year. Sri Aurobindo has humorously described the bowl. What kind of bowl it was. He said it was like a bureaucrat. A bureaucrat can be used for all kind of functions. In India a bureaucrat can be in charge of law and order, he can be in charge of railways, he can be in charge of accounts, he can be in charge of justice, he can be in charge of postage, wherever you put him a bureaucrat is able to do the activity you assign to him. Sri Aurobindo said that this bowl was used for drinking water, it was also used for eating food, it was also used for evacuation, and this particular bowl was used for everything. Then he said that his particular room had no flooring at all, it was simply a kind of soil, and under the intense heat, red ants used to come out of the ground. How do you avoid red ants? You have a room which you cannot leave, there is tremendous heat, the only cloth piece that you have is a blanket which is also hot and red ants are coming out. The only result would be that you would be bitten by the red ants, and so red ants were biting Sri Aurobindo. This was the time when he realised Sri Krishna all around him. He himself has written that all around I saw only Sri Krishna smiling, a tremendous delight. Not only delight to the eyes, but even the ants he said which were biting were felt as experiences of joy. He transformed these terrible bites into delight.

In 1938 when Sri Aurobindo fell in his room in the Ashram in Pondicherry and broke the thigh bone, normally it produces tremendous pain, but that pain was turned by Sri Aurobindo to great delight.

These are facts, not merely thinking that pain becomes pleasure or happiness, not that, you can really turn it into that. This possibility Sri Aurobindo has seen, has experienced, therefore Sri Aurobindo has written all this. These are not speculations; they are based upon direct experiences. What is pleasant can become painful, what is painful can become pleasant, what is temporarily pleasant can become a delight forever. These are the possibilities of our consciousness. Therefore it is a paradox not a contradiction. You can turn them into their opposites.

This whole argument that we have studied is from the point of view of deliberate reason. Sri Aurobindo says that instinctively also it is the same conclusion, intuitively also. Now he comes to intuition. What is intuition?

Instinct and intuition are both similar to each other excepting in one characteristic. Instinct is immediate, intuition also is immediate but while instinct is predominantly active—all instincts manifest themselves into action; intuition is predominantly self-conscious, luminous. All intuitions are self-aware. Instincts are not self-aware, they are not aware of themselves. There is some awareness but very slight. Mostly it is action. When I am hungry there is an instinct to eat. When there is hunger your instinct takes you immediately to food. Very often you are not even aware that you are hungry and yet when you get the food immediately you want to eat it. Babies don't know that they are hungry, they cry but they don't know that it is because of appetite or hunger. They simply are looking for food. Therefore as soon as the food is given immediately there is silence. It is instinctive. Instinct is primarily active, only secondarily luminous. Intuition is primarily luminous, secondarily active. That is the only difference between instinct and intuition.

If you open Chapter 8, page 65. The instinct is subconscient, intuition is superconscious. "The master-word of the subconscient is Life, the master-word of the superconscient is Light. In the subconscient knowledge or consciousness is involved in action, for action is the essence of Life. [Action is predominant.] In the superconscient action re-enters into Light and no longer contains involved knowledge but is itself contained in a supreme consciousness. Intuitional knowledge is that which is common between them and the foundation of intuitional knowledge is conscious or effective identity between that which knows and that which is known; it is that state of common self-existence in which the knower and the known are one through knowledge. But in the subconscient the intuition manifests itself in the action, in effectivity, and the knowledge or conscious identity is either entirely or more or less concealed in the action. In the superconscient, on the contrary, Light being the law and the principle, the intuition manifests itself in its true nature as knowledge emerging out of conscious identity, and effectivity of action is rather the accompaniment or necessary consequent and no longer masks as the primary fact."

Sri Aurobindo distinguishes between instinct and intuition. Both are actually the same. When intuition manifests itself in life it is instinct. When intuition manifests itself in something higher in you it is intuition, it is luminous, it is light principle.

In the lower, it manifests mainly as activity, as action—awareness is very subordinate. In the intuition proper knowledge or light is predominant—action is subordinate. Basically it is the same force. If you put it below your carpet it is instinct, if you put it above your carpet it is intuition. The carpet is the only reason. Above the carpet is intuitive light. Below the carpet is instinctive light. In between is the carpet that is what we call reason.

Sri Aurobindo now wants to prove the theme at all the three levels: instinctively proved, rationally proved, intuitively proved. For all the three accounts you have complete proofs. Sri Aurobindo says, this eternal paradox and eternal truth is justified on the level of deliberate reason, on the level of instinct and also on the level of intuition. So whichever way you try to find out the truth—this is the truth that you find.

This is one of the important elements of The Life Divine. Throughout the whole book Sri Aurobindo will prove whatever he wants to prove on three levels: on the level of deliberate reason, on the level of instinct, on the level of intuition. It is a triple proof all the time. Therefore The Life Divine gives you complete satisfaction. All the three elements are satisfied: rational satisfaction, instinctive satisfaction, intuitive satisfaction. That is the mark of the truth. When the truth is really true on all the three planes it is justified. With this argument Sri Aurobindo has completely proved on all these levels the human aspiration for a Divine Life. Now the rest of the chapter is only further comments.

"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."

This is the conclusion the rest is peripheral.