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

Questions & Answers

If you recollect what I said last time, we had considered different ways in which the bondage of the soul was conceived. I spoke of the Buddhist explanation, the Advaitic explanation, and several others but the main point that was made was that none of them explains how the bondage takes place. They had a solution as to how to come out of the bondage, how to be liberated, how to become mukta, but how one really came into bondage was not explained and I thought that before we proceed further we shall dwell a little on this question because that is very much connected with what follows in the text. When I said that none of them explains how the bondage takes place, it is not entirely true. There is an answer which says that this is inexplicable, that is one answer that is given. How the soul comes to be in bondage, that question, it is declared, is inexplicable. Or else it is said that it happens by some kind of mistake on the part of the soul. Or else it is said that while playing with bondage, it forgets it is playing and then it enters into bondage as if it is real and then all the misery comes about. So you might say there are three answers to this question as to how the soul enters into bondage. But basically none of these answers is very satisfying. To say that it is inexplicable is to admit that there is no answer to this question. To say that it has come about by mistake seems to be inconsistent with the nature of the soul. If the soul is luminous in character it would not commit a mistake, so it does not satisfy. Thirdly if it is said that in the beginning the soul was playing with bondage and then suddenly forgets that it is playing and then it becomes serious about the bondage and then the misery is resulted; this answer also is similar to the second answer but somehow it is suggested that there is a forgetfulness and there is some kind of accident and a mishap takes place. So you might say that these three answers are really not satisfying answers. Is there at all a satisfying answer anywhere? That is the question that we should ask. This is also connected with a deeper question: who is bound, who becomes ignorant, who is feeling the bondage and who wants to become free and who is it that wants to become free?

According to the Advaitic answer to this question, there is none bound, none to be freed. That which is bound and that which is to be freed is a pure illusion. But how did this illusion come about? The Advaitic answer is that this is not explicable. In the Buddhistic answer that which is bound is the sense of ego. Every one of us has a sense of ego and this ego feels bound in a situation from which it wants to come out. According to this answer ego is in bondage and, when the ego comes out of the bondage, ego no more remains ego, it is dissolved. So you might say ego is bound, ego is freed but when ego is freed there is nothing remaining which enjoys the freedom. As against that, there is a great Upanishadic statement which says: avidyaya mrityum tirtva vidyaya amritam ashnute. This is a statement from Isha Upanishad that says that by avidya, by ignorance, one crosses over death and by knowledge, by vidya one enjoys immortality. Here you have a clear statement that there is something which at one stage was in a state of suffering and there is a further stage where he really comes out of suffering and there is an enjoyment of immortality. So this differs from both the answers that you are given so far. According to Advaitic answer none suffers, none is bound, none is freed, none needs to be freed, because Brahman is always free and what is bound is always an illusory sense and when that is dissolved, then one finds it was never there, it was like an illusion, and an illusion never exists. If you ask the question, "Who enjoys that freedom after coming out of the bondage?" then the answer is that there is none. But the Upanishad says that one enjoys immortality, that there is one who was in bondage, when he comes out of bondage, one enjoys immortality. So that means that there is some kind of bondage.

So the question is who is it that gets bound, who is it that is suffering the bondage and who is it that enjoys immortality? The Veda, the Upanishad, the Gita, these three great works of India do seem to have an answer to this question, but if you read them the answer is not sufficiently visible, the answer is given but you might say there are hints here and there but we cannot discover them very easily.

Question: Does the Advaitic theory come from the Veda?

All these Advaitic theories are certainly from the Veda but you might say it is one of the interpretations of the Vedas. In the historical process the distance between the Advaitic theory and the Vedas is about 4000 years. The Vedas were written let us say 4000 years ago and the Advaitic theory came into real prominence only in about 700 A D. This is their difference historically. So if you go to the Veda directly you will read statements of the kind, that I made just now, that by vidya you enjoy immortality — (this is from the Veda and the Upanishads)—and this statement is interpreted in many ways in later times. Advaita is one such interpretation. Although you might say that Advaita is in the Veda, a distinction has been made that there is Veda itself as a text, and then there are many interpretations of that text of which Advaita is one and there are many others who dispute that Advaita is the real explanation of the Veda. There is for example the theory of Vishishtadvaita which says that Advaita is not a correct interpretation of the Veda, then there is Dvaitavada which also says that both Advaitavada and Visbisbtadvaitavada do not represent the real Veda, so there are controversies of this kind. Leaving aside these controversies if you go straight to the Veda you find over there an answer to this question but this answer is not so easily visible.

One of the special features of "The Life Divine" which we are now reading is that a good deal of this book is devoted to this very question, "How does one get bound, and how does one get really free from it?" And without understanding this to some extent, the rest of the chapter that we are reading will not be so very easy to grasp, that is why I thought I should first dwell a little on this question. The answer that Sri Aurobindo gives is that it is the individual who gets bound, it is the individual who suffers, it is the individual who seeks liberation, it is the individual who gets liberation. The word "individual" is used by Sri Aurobindo to distinguish it from several other terms with which very often people confuse it. The word individual is to be distinguished from ego. Sri Aurobindo's answer is that it is not the ego that gets bound. He says that the individual gets bound, the individual feels the bondage and the individual gets liberated. Sri Aurobindo makes a distinction between the individual and the ego.

Question: Is bondage a necessary factor? Do we have to come to get bound?

It is not necessary, but for a certain purpose the individual gets bound. It is not necessary that the individual must get into bondage but if a certain purpose is to be fulfilled, then this becomes a necessary instrument and that purpose being set forth, the individual enters into the bondage. In other words the individual enters into bondage not by a mistake as many people believe it to be. But it is not necessary that an individual should get bound.

Q: So in order to seek liberation the individual has got to be bound ...

No, according to this theory the individual originally is free already — originally — but then for a certain specific purpose it deliberately enters into the state of bondage, and then having entered into the state of bondage, having worked out a few things that had to be done, then it seeks liberation and then it enters into the state of liberation.

The individual is to be distinguished from the ego on the one side, and the individual is to be distinguished from the Universal on the other. The answer is: Universal does not get bound; it is the individual that gets bound. Individual is also distinguished from the Transcendental, so there are two other terms: the Transcendental and the Universal. The individual is to be distinguished on one side from the ego and from the other side from the Transcendental and from the Universal. If you want to put the whole answer in a comprehensive manner, it may be said that the Transcendental does not get bound, the Universal does not get bound, it is the individual that gets bound and the ego is only a consequence of the bondage. When the individual gets bound, the resultant is a production of ego.

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 around a small form, small in 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.

Comprehending, Apprehending and Projecting Consciousness.

This game being very complex, at a certain stage a decision was taken that a very specific kind of delight had to be experienced. Actually speaking you see that in this world delights are always of many kinds, we enjoy colours of different kinds and each colour has a special kind of delight, and there are numerous kinds of tastes we enjoy. Similarly there are many kinds of things in the world; each one has a specific delight. It is one of the wonders of the world that although delight is the same but the forms and the intensities and the kinds which are available are so varied. The joy of the mango is different from the joy of the apple, both are joyous experiences but each one of them is very specific. In the infinite consciousness of the Supreme there are various kinds of enjoyment possible, but there is one specific kind of delight which is not available in that huge dance which is taking place. What is that specific delight? It is not that because of the absence of that delight anything is incomplete; one does not feel that one must have a specific kind of delight. When there are hundreds of delights available there is no need of any specific delight, particularly when you can have any delight whenever you want. Even the specific delight of which we are going to speak is also available but available under certain conditions, that is the only point. In condition it is not immediately available. If you want that kind of delight, certain conditions are to be fulfilled, and you are capable of fulfilling those conditions also. What is that specific delight which is not immediately available there but which you are capable of getting if you want it or if you can create certain conditions? It is the delight of discovering something which gets hidden. It is a specific kind of delight i. e. the recovery of something which gets hidden. In other words, there must come about a process of hiding and then there must be a gradual recovery and when that which is hiding becomes completely uncovered then the kind of delight that emerges out of it is a very specific, a very intense kind of delight.

Question: What exactly is that something that gets hidden?

The Entirety, Transcendental, Universal, individual, everything.

Question: Becoming aware of delight in all this?

Everything, of totality, the hiding of the totality.

Question: And realizing that it is the totality?

That’s right, that is specific kind of delight. Now that kind of delight can arise only if there is a hiding process first. This hiding process is a gradual process. Gradual process because hiding always implies a veil; a veil has to be created. If you are a weaver then you know that it takes time to weave out a piece of cloth. Similarly if once you decide that you want to have that specific delight and you are capable of creating conditions, then what happens is that gradually you begin to weave a veil, you begin to fabricate a veil. The creation of this veil is, in the first place, quite difficult because the nature of the Divine is originally of the nature of light — luminosity — and wherever there is light you cannot easily make a veil. Even if you make a veil it will be transparent in the beginning, because of light. So the first step of making a veil is to make a transparent veil. What is the process of making a veil at all? What is the mechanics of it? How do you make it? How do you fabricate it?

Question: There has to be a pattern.

There should be a pattern so what is the process of it? How do you weave it out? There are three processes. The first is the original process which I have described already: the eternal manifestation of light and the dance of Krishna. This is the first status. This is called the comprehending consciousness. There has to be an intense movement, a universal movement of dance. If that is not there already, then the next step of veiling does not arise. First of all there must be an intensive process of the universal dance. The relationship between the individual, Supreme, Transcendental and Universal and the rhythms of particulars, all this great play should be already on. While that play is going on, the next step of veiling starts here, where each individual gives a stress more upon himself than upon the play, a greater attention is paid to oneself rather than to the play. That is, while dancing you might say, the rhythms of the dance are allowed to be worked out by themselves while you yourself remain away from the actual movement of rhythms. This stress itself is the first veiling; it is transparent at that time. You are aware that you are doing this deliberately for a specific kind of joy in the movement. You allow the play to be left to itself as it were and you are only witnessing. This creates a very special kind of rhythm of the movement. In technical terms this is called the movement of apprehending consciousness. In the comprehending consciousness everything is equable, yourself and the play, you are equally spread out, equally rhythmed and there is a complete distribution of energy, but in this apprehending consciousness there is stress upon the individual and less stress upon the play itself, but it is hardly visible. This distinction between the first and the second is hardly visible. But then, the third movement out of that becomes possible. Once you are withdrawn to some extent, then another kind of play begins in which you can on the one hand remain withdrawn and yet you can project yourself into the play. This is called the projecting consciousness. The second was the apprehending, the third is called the projecting consciousness. When the individual projects himself into the play, then he can experience at the same time, three statuses of himself, simultaneously. On the one hand he knows that he is spread out all over equally, secondly he is aware that he is withdrawn from the whole play, and thirdly that he projects himself into the play.

Question: This is the case when the ego arises?

No. Not yet, it will come later on, not yet.

Question: Can you repeat the names of these stages?

The comprehending stage, apprehending, and the projecting.

Veiling, Ignorance and Bondage

Question: While projecting he is being himself spread out?

All the three are simultaneous. This is what Sri Aurobindo calls the triple status of the Supermind. So that in the Supramental plane, where we all belong really—at one stage we are all members of this particular ananda—where all the three statuses were together simultaneously. But you can see that now a gradation has come into the movement,...

As a result of that, the play becomes very intense.

if you use the word Purusha for the individual, and if you use the word, Prakriti, for the play then you can say that the play of Purusha and Prakriti becomes intense and multifarious and in the play so many steps are taken, so many intricacies begin to emerge, multiplicity of forms, particulars; you might say innumerable particulars become manifest and the individual gets projected in all of them very intensely. It is at that stage, if there is an intention of the soul, of the Purusha, to create the veil—(if there is no intention then the veil will not be there) it may remain a transparent movement—but if there is an intention to create the veil, then it is here that the soul can allow the play to play itself out; you might say the soul can remain in a state of sleep.

Question: Independent?

Independent but in a state in which it does not intervene in the play, this is what going to sleep means. It does not intervene in the play, the play goes on its own as it were, although the play started because he was intensely involved—he was projecting—but once it has started it can go on, on its own and the soul does not intervene in the play, and yet it goes on. And that play also which was aware of the presence of the soul becomes so much intensely aware only of the play, it has no time to look back because of the intensity of the play itself. This is what happens to all of us when we become engrossed in a thing. We become very actively engrossed in an action and by engrossment the action becomes very powerful. But then the rest of the things are not abolished; they are ignored; they are not in our frontal consciousness. This condition in which the play becomes acute by concentration is called the condition of veiling. The soul has decided not to intervene. If it does not decide not to intervene then because of the rays of light going from there, this ignoring would not be possible on the part of the play because this light would always enlighten it and would bring it back—but if it decides not to throw its light upon the play, if Purusha decides not to throw its light upon Prakriti and Prakriti goes on playing its game very intensely and becomes so absorbed in the game that it ignores the rest, this absorption is what is called the veil, and if this absorption becomes more and more intense then it becomes more and more opaque in character because of the intensity. This is the origin of ignorance you might say; this is the beginning of the bondage. It is not by mistake, the soul has chosen because of the specific delight which has to be discovered by hiding. Therefore it goes to sleep, does not intervene, allows Prakriti to play intensely and to ignore the whole. This process of ignoring is ignorance. Ignorance does not abolish the totality; it remains there; because of the totality the play goes on. Only where the play is going on, that particular spot becomes ignorant of the rest. If the individual is joined up with this, is associated with this—because it is associated actually right from the beginning—the individual who has gone to sleep deliberately now gets associated with the play of Prakriti, which is absorbed in itself, this is the original state of bondage of the soul.

There are many further stages. This is the first stage in which ignorance arises. But this particular absorption in the play can become so intense that there is only play and no consciousness at all—at a certain stage one is aware only of the play and nothing else. The absorption in the work, in the play is so intense that consciousness gets rolled up in the action itself. This happens to all of us when we are absolutely engaged in a very intense work, like a doctor when he is operating. He is absolutely engaged in the task, he even forgets that he is operating; the operation is the only thing that is there; as Arjuna saw nothing else other than the eye which he had to pierce. A stage is reached where there is not even time to look back for any consciousness to be conscious of the play; there is a pure play and nothing else. Pure activity in which there is no ray of light, no ray of consciousness manifesting is called the stage of inconscience, not only of ignorance but the stage of inconscience when there is a complete darkness but a huge activity, a tremendous activity. This is the stage of inconscience. A complete hiding has taken place, which was one of the intentions.

Inconscience, Subconscious and Supramental Consciousness

Question: Stage of inconscience?

Inconscience, not unconscious but inconscience.

Question: Different from subconscious?

It is below the subconscious. Subconscious is a little higher than the inconscient. Inconscience is a complete darkness, as the Veda speaks, tato ratri jayata, tato samudro arnava. The description of this is given in a very symbolic form—it says satyam charitam chabhidat tapasodhya jayataba, in the beginning there was only truth and light, that was the original state. Then it says: tato ratri jayata, then arose the night, night means ignorance because in the night there are stars and moon; so there is partial light still. Tataha samudro arnava means: then arose the ocean which is an image of complete inconscience, complete darkness. Out of ignorance arose complete inconscience. This is the process by which the Vedic seers knew how this ignorance came about and then how the complete inconscience came about. But as I said if you read the Veda by itself it is so symbolic that you may not be able to discover what I explained just now. You may not know the meaning of ratri, the meaning of samudra but if you read the Veda in totality you will find out that ratri stands for ignorance and samudra stands for inconscience and sindhu stands for the superconscience. These are very technical terms which only when read repeatedly can the keywords and their meanings be found. If you do not know, then for you simply sindhu may mean a river and samudra may mean any ocean. But these are the symbolic words in the Veda which are not understood and therefore we are not able to understand the Vedic message. lf you understand this, then it describes how gradually ignorance arose and then how inconscience arose.

So once that condition was fulfilled, now the reverse process has to start because our aim was to uncover, to discover something that is hidden. The totality which is now hidden completely has to be uncovered. In reversing this process, this individual self who had gone to sleep as a result of which all this has happened now decides to awaken. There is a double movement: there is an individual self deciding to go to sleep and the play being left to itself and then that play ignoring all the rest, this double process produces all these consequences. In the reverse process therefore this individual self or centration of the divine now decides to awaken this sleeping was deliberate and now it decides to awaken. This awakening can be very quick, sudden, and as soon as it becomes awake completely this darkness can disappear, that is one possibility. But then that kind of delight which has to be sought which comes by gradual uncovering, that kind of delight would not come. The law of development here is a slow growth. This is the law you might say because of the decision taken by the individual self or by the Divine himself that this is a special kind of development which has to take place. It has to be a slow growth. For the slow growth only a small ray of light has to be thrown by the individual self into the inconscience. If all the light is thrown on the inconscience immediately then there will be immediate light, there will be no problem at all, but then this play will not be played. Therefore first a small light is thrown.

This small light is called Samvatsara, in the Vedas. It says that from samudra came the Samvatsara. Now Samvatsara normally means the year, therefore this is also a technical term and we do not understand what it means really, but the word Samvatsara had a kind of association in the Vedic terminology with fire, Agni. This individual self which had gone to sleep sends a ray of light in the form of Agni. Agni has a special kind of quality: it can be luminous even in the darkness as distinguished from the sun. When the sun manifests, darkness vanishes altogether but when Agni manifests, all around there can still be darkness and only a little thing is lighted up and therefore it is a very fit instrument for bringing about a slow development, slow growth of light. Therefore this special kind of energy was sent by the individual self. This Samvatsara, this light, this fire begins to burn in the inconscience and this fire is multiple. There are so many multiple centres because each individual has sent, as it were, a spark into the inconscient. Each spark takes charge of a small portion of inconscient and works on it and gradually tries to awaken it. That which was absorbed in the play, which was ignoring all the rest, now this fire slowly puts pressure upon it and makes it aware of all the rest which is there all around. It is a huge affair because to make the inconscient completely aware is a long process and a deliberately long process.

A special kind of relationship is built up between the soul and the inconscient. The fire, Agni is also called the soul or the psychic entity or Samvatsara. That individual of which we spoke in the beginning is called in Sanskrit, Jivatman, or the individual self. This individual soul or the individual fire which has emerged out of the Jivatman is in technical terms is called the psychic entity. A certain law is established that while the soul will go on pressurizing the inconscient, it will wait for its full emergence, i. e. when the inconscient has risen to such a point that it wants to open up fully, on its own, only when there is a kind of an urge that this is a play and having played it fully it wants to return from the play and become aware of all the rest. On the one hand the soul awakens the inconscient and the inconscient also wants to become awakened. When the two things will meet fully in a junction, then only the real manifestation will really be achieved.

But this is a long process. Here I spoke only in a few words but it takes a long process of development. It takes millions and millions of years of development. Out of the inconscient first matter is produced, then life is produced, and then mind is produced and each one of us is at this point. Each one of us has a body which consists of matter, each one has a life—our vital, and each one of us has got mental capacity, so you might say that this psychic entity has been able to lead the whole process to such a point as we are now.

Having reached this point three important experiences occur. Each one of us feels a pressure to grow from unconsciousness towards knowledge, whether we like it or not. A pressure to grow from unconsciousness to greater knowledge is inherent in each one of us. Secondly, we all have the three elements of body, life and mind and we have to experience the pressure of the conflict between them and we do not know how to really reconcile all the three elements. And third is a pressure that there is still something else because of the psychic entity which is constantly pressuring our body, mind and life. Our body, life and mind are feeling the pressure of something but from where it comes they are not aware. But actually it is the pressure of the psychic entity which wants to give the light, which wants to pressurise, to awaken, but does not pressurise to such an extent that the game would be up within a short time and the gradual development would not take place. The law of development being a gradual development, the psychic entity allows the body, life and mind to grow gradually. It does not impose itself; it remains screened very much behind body, life and mind. But this pressure that there is something else is a pressure of bondage, we feel we are bound, bound to the body, life and mind and the circumstances in which we are and there is a feeling that "I should be something different" because really we are different. We have already experienced that Supramental consciousness, we are as it is said, amritasya putrah. We are all children of immortality already. Because of the memory which is still there, we want to go back to it and that is why we feel the bondage. We are not comfortable with where we are. There is a pressure that there is something else. What that is, we do not know.

Memory, Ego and Self-Consciousness

Question: But does everybody not feel this bondage?

Not immediately, not in the same way, but differently at different stages of development. I am speaking very summarily. But in some individual cases it may take many, many births to feel this bondage. In the first place, in the beginning one is so much absorbed that life goes on in only one absorption, another life may go on with another absorption and so on. It is only when one develops, that one even comes to hear of bondage and liberation, that is why shruti is given so much of importance in our tradition that even to be able to hear that you have a soul behind you, that there is God behind you is itself a great occasion. Once you even hear of it, even if you do not believe in it, afterwards you cannot be the same as before because once you have heard that there is something of this kind; it always helps your inner feeling. This feeling that there is something else, is inherent in our being because it is really there, something else is always there. Because it is there it is always pressing upon us, so you feel there is something else. This body, life and mind growing upwards in search of higher knowledge create three instrumentalities of its development.

Question: Is the psychic entity the consciousness?

Consciousness is a word which includes also the Transcendental, Universal and all that. The word consciousness is a very big term but of that consciousness, Individual is one portion and this psychic entity is a kind of a delegate of that individual self, so it is also consciousness but not of this Supreme Consciousness. It is a psychic consciousness you might say, the psychic being is a psychic consciousness. What it is exactly in detail we shall examine; actually the first part of this chapter is devoted to this particular thing, this psychic consciousness?

This body, life and mind in its process of moving from unconsciousness to knowledge produces three things. It produces first an elementary process of memory. You will see that memory plays a great role in the process from unconsciousness to knowledge. An animal has a very short memory; at a certain higher level memory becomes very powerful and in the human being memory plays a very great role. It is even so much so that some people say memory is the man, that if you lose your memory then you are no more what you are. This is not entirely true but I mean it is such an important element that people are led to believe that memory is the whole of man; man is nothing but his memory. In any case memory is certainly one of the important instruments that is created by the body, life and mind movement. The second is the ego consciousness. The ego consciousness very often seems to be created by the memory but it is not really so. It is because there is the memory of the Self that you feel that memory creates the Self. There is an independent creation, formation—like memory itself is a formation, a special kind of faculty, ego is a special kind of formation which takes place. This ego is not an entity, it is simply a formation and not even a formation, it is a sense. That is why you use the word ego-sense, ahambhava, not aham but abambhava, there is an ego-sense. It is a sense which identifies itself now with this formation, now with that formation. It is like a jumping monkey you might say, it wears this cap now, wears that cap now, wears another cap later on. Egoistic consciousness is really a kind of an imitating consciousness. Because behind it there is a psychic entity, which is the delegate of the individual self, the true individual, therefore in this body, life and mind an imitation of that psychic entity is created, a formation is created. Ego-sense is actually a kind of a figure to imitate the real psychic entity which is behind, which is not seen. But because of the pressure of the psychic entity, a figure of it is created here in our body, life and mind which says: "I am this body, I am this life, I am this mind". It identifies sometimes with this body, then this particular desire, this particular thought, then discards it. If somebody falls ill then he says: "I am not this body but if somebody is very handsome one feels that he is this body. One does not own the body which one does not like but one wants to own the body if one likes it. It depends upon the choice of the egoistic consciousness to bind itself with this or with that. So ego-consciousness is an ego-sense which regards itself as independent of all the rest, although it is not independent of all the rest but regards itself as independent of all the rest that is why it is called the false sense. If the ego regarded itself to be finite and regarded itself to be completely dependent upon all the rest, then ego-sense as we understand it would not be operating. Ego-sense operates as ego-sense because although it is finite and although in reality depends upon a whole universe, it regards itself to be completely independent of the universe. Because of the presence of the veil, it is not aware of the universe, it is ignoring the universe and therefore it sees only itself and thinks it is really independent of all the rest.

The third thing that is created in this consciousness is self consciousness, which is different from ego-consciousness; the ego-consciousness also pretends to be self-consciousness, but apart from this ego-consciousness there is also a self-consciousness in us.

Memory, ego and self-consciousness, are the three characteristics of our present; our entire psychology can be described in these three terms. We are a bundle of memory, ego and self-consciousness; this is all that we are. It expresses itself through a movement of body, life and mind. The psychic entity which is behind would like to awaken all these instruments gradually and would like to put pressure and would wish that all of them also would agree to be awakened. But since there is resistance in this unconsciousness—memory is short, egoistic consciousness is false, self consciousness is only faint—because of these limitations in the body, life and mind the action of the psychic entity is not very powerful. It feels, as it were, hindered by the movement—slow movement—of body, life and mind, memory, ego and self experience. This is called the bondage, which is experienced by the psychic entity. That the psychic entity is not able to express itself fully in the body, life and mind that it has to depend upon the awakening of the body, life and mind, it has to wait for its acceptance, consent, this is what is called really the bondage. When we say: "I feel bondage", this is the real bondage. There is a sense of bondage which is vague in the beginning of which I spoke earlier but when you go to the psychic entity then it can tell you of its real bondage. It will say, "Well, I am luminous about myself, I have come from the Supreme individual Self and I know what is the Supreme Divine but I am given the task to awaken this body, life and mind and I am waiting for the time when they will consent to grow, they will consent to open up to this light". This state where the psychic entity is not able to manifest fully in body, life and mind is the experience of bondage and this bondage is a real bondage, it is not an illusory bondage, it is a real experience of bondage.

Question: So it waits till the right time.

It waits, exactly. This is the point where if the body, life and mind are gradually developed and they awaken or open up to the psychic entity; psychic entity is able to throw its light. Then the whole process begins to move upwards and when the body, life and mind are so developed that they become willing servitors of the psychic entity and they also allow the floodlight of the individual Self and the Universal Consciousness and the Transcendental that is a state of liberation, mukti, moksha. But this is where we are today in the state of bondage.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.891

Now I will only read the third paragraph for today which will give a graphic picture of where we are today (page 891):

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

If you allow me five minutes more I will read the next paragraph also because it is directly connected with it.

If the psychic entity had been from the beginning unveiled and known to its ministers, not a secluded King in a screened chamber, the human evolution would have been a rapid soul outflowering, not the difficult, chequered and disfigured development it now is; but the veil is thick and we know not the secret Light within us, the light in the hidden crypt of the heart’s innermost sanctuary. Intimations rise to our surface from the psyche, but our mind does not detect their source; it takes them for its own activities because, before even they come to the surface, they are clothed in mental substance: thus ignorant of their authority, it follows or does not follow them according to its bent or turn at the moment. If the mind obeys the urge of the vital ego, then there is little chance of the psyche at all controlling the nature or manifesting in us something of its secret spiritual stuff and native movement; or, if the mind is over-confident to act in its own smaller light, attached to its own judgment, will and action of knowledge, then also the soul will remain veiled and quiescent and wait for the mind’s farther evolution. For the psychic part within is there to support the natural evolution, and the first natural evolution must be the development of body, life and mind, successively, and these must act each in its own kind or together in their ill-assorted partnership in order to grow and have experience and evolve. The soul gathers the essence of all our mental, vital and bodily experience and assimilates it for the farther evolution of our existence in Nature; but this action is occult and not obtruded on the surface. In the early material and vital stages of the evolution of being there is indeed no consciousness of soul; there are psychic activities, but the instrumentation, the form of these activities are vital and physical—or mental when the mind is active. For even the mind, so long as it is primitive or is developed but still too external, does not recognise their deeper character. It is easy to regard ourselves as physical beings or beings of life or mental beings using life and body and to ignore the existence of the soul altogether: for the only definite idea that we have of the soul is of something that survives the death of our bodies; but what this is we do not know because even if we are conscious sometimes of its presence, we are not normally conscious of its distinct reality nor do we feel clearly its direct action in our nature.

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