Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Session II

Discovery of the Psychic Being and the Aim of Life

Then, there is a deeper question of the aim of life. This question basically arises at a certain deeper level of our soul. The question that Narada asked of the robber: "What are you doing all this for?" was a question put to him at a given time when he was deeply stirred. What is it that was stirred, which led him to enquire really? He went to his house and asked everybody and when he got the answer he got disappointed and then felt that "all that I was doing was wrong". So this question "what is all this for?" is really a question that strikes the real soul when it arises or when it is put and it is the inner soul, which is really stirred, the psychic that is stirred. It is the mark that the soul is now active.

And then the pursuit of the discovery of the aim of life is also a soul activity. It is a long activity but the whole inspiration comes not from the vital or the body or from the mind but from the soul. At a deeper level of this search comes the question, "what is the aim of my life?" Not only the aim of life in general but the aim of my life and that stirs our entire inner being to the deepest level, what am I? koham, kastvam? These questions which arise—and one is gripped by these questions—are really the experiences of the soul. It is not merely mental because the mind is not merely capable of being stirred by them. Even if somebody puts this question, many people just skirt them; they do not grip the individuals. How many people in India particularly have heard this question: koham? Kastvam? Shankaracharya said these are the basic two questions that should be put to everybody and our culture is basically that culture.

Question: I may be going out of track but I see people who while in this search are also so engrossed in selfish activities. What is the state of such beings?

You are not going off the track; actually it's a very important question. You cannot superficially evaluate this. There are people who ask this question very deeply and while the search is going on, in the meantime they may be engrossed in selfish activities.

There are people who do not ask that question but are already doing very nice activities. Both are of equal value if they just remain where they are; both are limited. The real goal should be that when you inquire, ultimately you should come back to practice. And those who are practicing, they should also expound their knowledge and you have to integrate it, so that you really become conscious of what you are doing.

Unconsciously many people in the world are extremely psychic. Children for example are extremely psychic. Most children's activities bubble out of the soul. It is not wrong to say "children are angels". In certain activities they are angels, there is no doubt about it, not in all their activities but in many of their activities they are angels but they are not conscious that they are angels. Even some animals are psychic sometimes, extremely sympathetic, selfless and sacrificing. Some dogs for example can sacrifice themselves quite selflessly; the psychic element in them is present, manifest and is an aspiration but they are not conscious of this. To be conscious and to be master of these movements is the goal of our purpose. Until you are conscious of it, all this may be good as a help but it is not the terminal point of our effort, so both should be amalgamated actually.

The discovery of the psychic being or of the soul is perhaps one of the deepest experiences of the soul itself; conscious experience of the soul. What are those experiences, spontaneous cheerfulness, a spontaneous experience that everything is alive. The same trees, the same sky, the same people whom we are meeting day after day and one fine morning you find them all alive. You feel as if the season has changed, it is spring. The stones quicken, the trees begin to whisper, and everything seems to have a message and you find yourself so harmonious with everything in the world, everything is so vibrant, palpitating, you feel a concrete experience everywhere. At a deeper level, you experience tremendous calm, a tremendous mastery in which your body, life and mind do not resist at all; they do not create any problem at all for you. You reach a stage where there is a mastery over your body, life and mind, at least for that moment, when you have that experience.

A quiet mastery of body, life and mind is a deeper experience of the soul. You begin to hear the voice of the soul, either physically—sometimes even physically you can hear—or you have an imprint of the message of the soul, so powerful that you know exactly what you have to do. You may be for days and days in question whether you should do or not do, and then suddenly if you are really developing your soul experience, then after that experience you are sure as to what you want to do and you cannot even doubt it and even if you want to doubt the doubt does not arise. Or it is felt to be an external movement and your feet are sure of being on the right path, they go straight towards their goal. You know what you really are, what is your specific function, what is your role, what is your true individuality.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.891

These are deeper experiences of the soul. Now if you permit me, I should read out to you a few paragraphs from the chapter that I have given you. If you open page 891 of The Life Divine, I shall read very slowly:

At the beginning the soul in Nature, the psychic entity, whose unfolding is the first step towards a spiritual change, is an entirely veiled part of us, although it is that by which we exist and persist as individual beings in Nature. The other parts of our natural composition are not only mutable but perishable; but the psychic entity in us persists and is fundamentally the same always: it contains all essential possibilities of our manifestation but is not constituted by them; it is not limited by what it manifests, not contained by the incomplete forms of the manifestation, not tarnished by the imperfections and impurities, the defects and depravations of the surface being. It is an ever-pure flame of the divinity in things and nothing that comes to it, nothing that enters into our experience can pollute its purity or extinguish the flame. This spiritual stuff is immaculate and luminous and, because it is perfectly luminous, it is immediately, intimately, directly aware of truth of being and truth of nature; it is deeply conscious of truth and good and beauty because truth and good and beauty are akin to its own native character, forms of something that is inherent in its own substance. It is aware also of all that contradicts these things, of all that deviates from its own native character, of falsehood and evil and the ugly and the unseemly; but it does not become these things nor is it touched or changed by these opposites of itself which so powerfully affect its outer instrumentation of mind, life and body. For the soul, the permanent being in us, puts forth and uses mind, life and body as its instruments, undergoes the envelopment of their conditions, but it is other and greater than its members.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Triple Transformation

So this is the description of the basic character of the soul in us. Now the knowledge of this soul is, you might say, the first step in the process of triple transformation on which this whole chapter is written. It is entitled "The Triple Transformation".

Essential and Triple Immortality.

If you remember we have been discussing for a long time, right from the time that we started the isha upanishad, the question as to what is the purpose of life and we have said, "the manifestation in the embodied individual of the totality of divinity", that is how we have defined the goal. The manifestation of the totality of divinity in the embodied individuality, and we have said that since this task cannot be accomplished in one single life, there is a need of succession of birth and therefore rebirth becomes a necessary instrument. And when we came to the discussion of rebirth we emphasised the role that karma plays in the process of rebirth.

And then we came to the concept of immortality and spoke of essential immortality and triple immortality which is a part of manifestation. With regard to essential immortality we said the realisation of the self which is transcendental and universal, which by its very nature is self existent, imperishable and therefore immortal, the realisation of that is what we define as essential immortality. When we realise it, then you might say the primary goal of our birth, rebirth is achieved. The primary goal is not the entire goal. The second is the manifestation of that self in the embodied individual. That is the second aspect of our endeavour. And then we have spoken of the awareness of that which moves from birth to birth as a permanent entity. And then we spoke of the soul or psychic entity as a permanent element in us which is inextinguishable, which is the permanent within ourselves, which moves from birth to birth. That is also immortal but immortal in the sense that it survives after every movement, even survives after the death of the body, gathers the experience and is the leader of our movement of evolution.

And then there is a triple immortality. Immortality of the mind, life and body so that these three instruments which are constantly mutable, constantly changing, attain individuality and the individual formation of each becomes inextinguishable. Although there is mutability, the individual formation remains immutable like a river which is constantly moving but its course always remains identifiable as distinguishable from all other rivers. Similarly the mind is constantly mobile but attains an individuality and always remains within the confines of the individuality, without the need of dissolving itself, that is immortality of the mind, similarly immortality of the life and immortality of the body.

This goal of realisation of the essential immortality, realisation of the psychic immortality and the realisation of the mental, vital and physical immortality is achieved by a threefold process. And that process Sri Aurobindo describes in this chapter, the chapter called "The Triple Transformation", a threefold process. If the goal were only to realise the essential immortality then you might say that that goal has been achieved already by a number of people in the world already. The paths have been worked out, methods have been worked out, realisations have been achieved by a number of people, who have realised essential immortality. Even psychic immortality is recognised and realised by many people. But the triple immortality and particularly and finally the physical immortality, has not yet been realised on the earth. Or at least, even if it is realised it is not sufficiently known. There are some verses in the Veda which give indication as if the Vedic Rishis had reached the point of even physical immortality. But still it is an aim which has not been established, the path is not clearly laid down, methods have not been fully worked out and that is the task which has to be still done, and that task involves triple transformation.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p. p.889-90

Having said this, I will now refer to the first paragraph of this chapter which you have with you (p, 889):

If it is the sole intention of Nature in the evolution of the spiritual man to awaken him to the supreme Reality and release him from herself, or from the Ignorance in which she as the Power of the Eternal has masked herself, by a departure into a higher status of being elsewhere, if this step in the evolution is a close and an exit, then in the essence her work has been already accomplished and there is nothing more to be done. The ways have been built, the capacity to follow them has been developed, the goal or last height of the creation is manifest; all that is left is for each soul to reach individually the right stage and turn of its development, enter into the spiritual ways and pass by its own chosen path out of this inferior existence. But we have supposed that there is a farther intention,—not only a revelation of the Spirit, but a radical and integral transformation of Nature. There is a will in her to effectuate a true manifestation of the embodied life of the Spirit, to complete what she has begun by a passage from the Ignorance to the Knowledge, to throw off her mask and to reveal herself as the luminous Consciousness-Force carrying in her the eternal Existence and its universal Delight of being. It then becomes obvious that there is something not yet accomplished, there becomes clear to view the much that has still to be done, bhūri aspaṣṭa kartvam; there is a height still to be reached, a wideness still to be covered by the eye of vision, the wing of the will, the self-affirmation of the spirit in the material universe. What the evolutionary Power has done is to make a few individuals aware of their souls, conscious of their selves, aware of the eternal being that they are, to put them into communion with the Divinity or the Reality which is concealed by her appearances: a certain change of nature prepares, accompanies or follows upon this illumination, but it is not the complete and radical change which establishes a secure and settled new principle, a new creation, a permanent new order of being in the field of terrestrial Nature. The spiritual man has evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thenceforward be the leader of that Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Triple Transformation

This confusion arises because there are two traditions which are intermixed; very often the words used are the same but what is being said is quite different. There is one tradition which began with the Veda, which is present in some of the Upanishads and which is present in the Gita. There is another tradition which is also present in the Veda, Upanishads and the Gita in the sense that it is acknowledged but which was not very much preferred. But that which was greatly preferred among some people and many people in the tradition of the Veda, Upanishads and the Gita too followed that tradition. That other goal, but which in due course became much more prominent in our history of India and this was taken up very largely by Buddhism and Jainism and this was again taken up later on by the Hindu tradition. And at that time, much of the original tradition of the Veda, Upanishads and the Gita, stood neglected, ignored, or not fully understood. And therefore, over the last 2000 years this tradition of the understanding of mukti as understood in Buddhism, Jainism and also in the Hindu tradition — later Hindu tradition — became very similar and it came to be realised that actually, whatever differences there may be among all these principles of thought, the ultimate goal is moksha which everybody accepted.

This later tradition speaks of moksha in terms of what can be described as salokya-mukti and sayujya-mukti—these are the two words that mukti considers. Salokya-mukti is a state of liberation that one attains by realising oneness with the Supreme. One lives in the same consciousness as the Supreme. Sayujya-mukti is a state in which one realises one's dependence upon the Supreme, one's union with the Supreme but not identity with the Supreme. In sayujya you have a kind of relationship with the Supreme. These two words describe whatever differences there are in the later Hindu tradition, of varieties of concepts of mukti.

Two traditions have become very powerful in the later Hinduism, the tradition of jnanayoga and the tradition of bhaktiyoga.

The tradition of jnanayoga aimed at salokya-mukti: one becomes one with the Supreme. Statements like: tat tvarn asi, Thou art That, aham brahmasmi, I am brahman are the statements which are relevant to this kind of realisation. The bhaktiyoga actually claimed that complete identity with the Supreme is impossible, is in fact a wrong notion. The individual is an eternal child of the Divine, he can become a bhakta of the Divine but he cannot become one with Him. So the realisation of the individual as an eternal child of the Divine is sayujya-mukti, you become liberated. When an individual realises that he is a child of God and remains in this condition for ever, he becomes liberated.

Salokya, Sayujya and Sadharmya

In the tradition of Buddhism, which is a variation of jnana yoga in which the attainment is also a kind of salokya-mukti because in that state the individual no more remains; as in jnanayoga, the individuality is lost. There is in jnanyoga only oneness with the Supreme, only Supreme remains and nothing else remains. In the case of bhaktiyoga, the individual remains as a child of God, so there is a difference between the individual and the Supreme. In Buddhism also it is like salokya because there also, there is no individuality left at the end of the road in the state of liberation.

Question: But there is no God in Buddhism?

In Buddhism the ultimate state is not substance, is not sat but it is asat, it is non-being, it is shunya. What is shunya, what is that asat, is a difficult question and there is a lot of controversy into which we need not go. But this is the main difference, you might say, between the jnanayoga of the Hindu tradition and the jnanayoga of Buddhism. You might also remember that Upanishads also speak of asat. So it is not as if the Upanishads were not aware of the experience of asat. In that sense you might say that Buddhism is not entirely different or completely alien to something that was in the Upanishads. Upanishads also spoke in one of the statements: sat came from asat. That is one of the statements of the Upanishads.

In the Veda also there is a recognition of asat. In any case it is recognised by spiritual practitioners that there is a state which is beyond the state of substance. By whatever name we may call, shunya or asat or nihil, whatever you might call, but there is a state beyond the state of substance. But the ultimate effect is that individuality does not remain and there is salokya-mukti. Jainism has a different tradition. It is also a kind of a variation of jnanayoga. The only point is that salokya is not one with the Supreme substance but the realisation is of the individual as a true individual, but the content of the experience is similar to the experience that is described in jnanayoga, of the experience of the brahman. It is silent, it is pure, full of knowledge, luminosity, but it says that that nature belongs to every individual. It is not as if there is one substance. There are multiplicities of individuals and each individual can rise up to that level and he becomes liberated when he realises that he is inactive, luminous and supreme, omniscient.

So you might say that salokya-mukti is basically having these threefold variations. In sayujya-mukti there are many variations of one basic thing, namely that individual remains but the kind of relationship that individual may have with the Supreme may be different. You may recognise yourself as a child of God or a friend of God, beloved of God, servant of God, or you might even say that God is your child, not that you are his child but even God is looked upon as your child; Balgopal realisation in which Gopal is your child and you have a relationship with him. All these are variations of sayujya mukti. But in the tradition of the Veda, Upanishad and the Gita, there is a further movement which is called sadharmya-mukti. The Bhagavad Gita clearly speaks of the word sadharmya towards the end of the Bhagavad Gita itself. In the Veda and the Upanishads the descriptions are given where sadharmya-mukti can be discerned. Sadharmya-mukti is to become God-like, which you can become only when salokya and sayujya, both are combined and you go forward, still further. Salokya and sayujya are the conditions for attaining to the sadharmya. To become godlike, dharma is the law of action. When your law of action becomes one with the law of action of the Divine Himself, then you attain to sadharmya-mukti. To attain to the same status of being where God is one, to attain to some kind of relationship with the Divine is another, but to attain to the same law of action as the Divine has, requires a further development of yoga, a further spiritual discipline. If you read the last six chapters of the Gita, you'll find that the purpose of those last six chapters is precisely this, to indicate that mere karmayoga and jnanayoga and bhaktiyoga described in the first twelve chapters is not enough. There is a further thing to be done which is expounded in the last six chapters where the law of action is described. The last six chapters are devoted to the law of action. If you read closely the last six chapters you will find Sri Krishna describing various kinds of dharmas, sattva dharma, rajasa dharma, tamaso dharma, with regard to everything. The sense of worship has three dharmas, sattvadharma, rajodharma, tamodharma; the kind of actions have but three dharmas; the support of action has three dharmas; shabda is of three kinds, tamoguni shabda, rajoguni shabda, sattviki shabda. All law of action of all parts of our being are described and then it is told that so long as you remain within the confines of the law of karma, or law of dharma as described here, you have not reached the highest level. The highest level is reached when sarvadharman parityajya, when you give up all dharmas, reach a point where you are able to give up all dharmas— which are limited to our own law of action — and when you become one with the law of action of the Divine Himself, and that is why it is said that this can be done only when you completely surrender to the Divine in everything. Not only in your status of being, not only in your relationship with the Divine but in everything, when you are breathing, when you are eating, when you are drinking, in every action; in every movement. Then there is a great result which comes out by this surrender: the Divine nature, the divine law of action takes possession of you and a transformation takes place. That is the law of action. And it is that which is the last note of the Bhagavad Gita: sadharmya-mukti.

Now this tradition of sadharmya-mukti has been greatly relegated into the background in the history of India. As a result of that, even the emphasis on action has become relegated. It is said that so long as you are in samsara you remain active but the ultimate goal is to give up action and when you are salokya you are absolutely liberated. Then no action remains, you are free from all action. Even sayujya-mukti people believe that you give up all action and the only action that remains is relationship with the Divine, bhajan, kirtan, adoration, admiration of the Divine and dance for the Divine; this is all that remains, no other action. But then you can act as the Divine acts in the world so that the active parts of our being are also divinised. Now this yoga which was developed in the Veda, Upanishads, and the Gita has remained undeveloped afterwards.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.890

It is for that reason Sri Aurobindo says: a further intention is there and this is not yet accomplished, and this is yet to be accomplished. In sadharmya mukti, our whole being becomes entirely divinised. This complete divinisation is called by Sri Aurobindo: transformation: complete divinisation. And this complete divinisation requires three processes: psychic transformation, spiritual transformation, and supramental transformation. These are three processes.

I think we shall read this second paragraph and end today. The last line of the first paragraph is (page 890):

The spiritual man has evolved, but not the supramental being who shall thenceforward be the leader of that Nature.

This is because the principle of spirituality has yet to affirm itself in its own complete right and sovereignty; it has been up till now a power for the mental being to escape from itself or to refine and raise itself to a spiritual poise, it has availed for the release of the Spirit from mind and for the enlargement of the being in a spiritualised mind and heart, but not—or rather not yet sufficiently—for the self-affirmation of the Spirit in its own dynamic and sovereign mastery free from the mind’s limitations and from the mental instrumentation. The development of an other instrumentation has begun, but has yet to become total and effective; it has besides to cease to be a purely individual self-creation in an original Ignorance, something supernormal to earth-life that must always be acquired as an individual achievement by a difficult endeavour. It must become the normal nature of a new type of being; as mind is established here on a basis of Ignorance seeking for Knowledge and growing into Knowledge, so supermind must be established here on a basis of Knowledge growing into its own greater Light. But this cannot be so long as the spiritual-mental being has not risen fully to supermind and brought down its powers into terrestrial existence. For the gulf between mind and supermind has to be bridged, the closed passages opened and roads of ascent and descent created where there is now a void and a silence. This can be done only by the triple transformation to which we have already made a passing reference: there must first be the psychic change, the conversion of our whole present nature into a soul-instrumentation; on that or along with that there must be the spiritual change, the descent of a higher Light, Knowledge, Power, Force, Bliss, Purity into the whole being, even into the lowest recesses of the life and body, even into the darkness of our subconscience; last, there must supervene the supramental transmutation,—there must take place as the crowning movement the ascent into the supermind and the transforming descent of the supramental Consciousness into our entire being and nature.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine - II: The Triple Transformation

Sri Krishna speaks of para prakriti in the Bhagavad Gita as his higher nature which is the other word for supermind. So the key that is given at the end is the key to bring down the supermind on the earth so that sadharmya-mukti can be attained. The whole chapter actually is a description of how this can be done, the whole process is given, the entire map is given.