Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo - Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality


An Axiological Approach - Based upon the first four chapters of “The Life Divine" by Sri Aurobindo.


 If we examine the history of the world and ask what is it that the human being has been aspiring for throughout the ages, we shall be obliged to answer that this aspiration, right from the time that the human being began to have awakened thought, has been for God, Light, Freedom and Bliss. It is true that there have been periods of scepticism during which these aspirations have been questioned; but at the end of this period, humanity has returned to these primeval longings. Even today, scientific search has reached extremities of analysis of externalities of Nature, but although it has led to state of satiation but not to that of satisfaction.
But humanity is once again seems to be returning to those ancient seekings. We may even say that the ancient formula of wisdom promises
also to be its last, — God, Light, Freedom, Immortality and Bliss.

The question is whether these ideals have their root in Ultimate Reality and whether they are realisable so as to fulfil the highest human aspiration.

At first sight, it may appear that these ideals contradict our present actual experience, and therefore, they seem to be unrealisable. On the other hand, it is claimed that they are in conformity with the highest experiences, which are available to humanity, although they are obtained only by the individual revolutionary effort or by collective evolutionary progression. These highest experiences present to us a fourfold goal:

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality
  1. To know, to possess and to be the divine being in our transient animal body;
  2. To arrive at the plenary supramental consciousness in mind which is subject to ignorance and error;
  3. To realise inalienable delight in the complex of being which is besieged by disease, pain, suffering, and transitory pleasures; and
  4. To build freedom in conditions of mechanical necessities.

To the materialist the direct contradiction of the actual material existence in which we live with those ideals proves their invalidity.

But when we look at all the issues with the help of deliberate reason, we shall find that Nature progresses in the world through a process and method of affirmation and opposition. Therefore, the opposition of the ideals with the actual holds out the promise of the eventual emergence of the ideals through its profound method of working in the world.

All problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony. They arise from the perception of an unrealised ideal, which has still an inherent instinct that strives to realise the ideal. Emergence of Life in Matter illustrates Nature's method of opposition between the actual and the ideal and subsequent realisation of the ideal. In a world of Matter, which is mechanical, obscure and inert, emergence of life, which is fluid and free and dynamic could have been impossible, — because of the opposition between Matter and Life. And it was precisely this opposition that Nature has striven to resolve and it is still striving to resolve better and better. Emergence of life in Matter is still striving to arrive at Life, which will not be subject to death. The perfect solution that the Nature seems to be working out is to evolve undying or immortal life in Matter

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

The opposition between life and mind also seems obvious. Life is instinctive, mind is rational; life is a dynamic drive of force, mind is an observant and quiet force that arranges perceptions in order. Life appears to be whimsical and disorderly, whereas mind is intentional, purposive and orderly. The emergence of mind in life may, therefore, seem to be an impossibility. And yet, it is precisely the mind of rationality and order that has emerged in living forms of matter. The opposition of life and mind has thus been greatly resolved by Nature, and it is still striving to arrive at a condition where obscurities of life are transformed by plenary states of knowledge and consciousness.

At the stage where we stand today, mind and super-mind seem to be opposed to each other. Mind is rational, super-mind is supra-rational, mind gropes for knowledge through trial and error, while the super-mind possesses the knowledge and manifests that knowledge progressively without the intervention of error. Mind is limited in its scope, even when it builds up largest possible synthesis, while super-mind is infinitely vast and perceives underlying unity as a dominant fact behind all multiplicity. The emergence of the super-mind in the mind seems, therefore, to be an impossibility. But if we examine what exactly mind is striving to attain, it is precisely the transcendence of its limitations, which can be fulfilled by the emergence of the super-mind. If in the past, impossibilities of the emergence of life in matter and of mind in life have proved to be untenable, would it not be logical to propose that the apparent impossibility of the emergence of the super-mind in mind is also untenable?
Let us look at evolution of which we speak today. Unfortunately, evolution describes the process and does not explain the ultimate rationale of that process. The evolution of life in matter and of mind in life cannot be explained unless we accept the Vedantic solution, which states that matter is a veiled form of life and life is a veiled form of mind and that life evolves in matter because it is involved in matter and mind evolves in life because mind is involved in life.

Would it not be logical to suppose that mind is a veiled form of super- mind and the super-mind is involved in mind. Hence, evolution of the super-mind in the mind would only prove to be logical and natural link in the progressive evolution. It can then be said that just as the animal was a living laboratory in which Man was produced, Man, too, is a living and thinking laboratory in whom by his willing collaboration, superman is being fabricated.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

It is true that attempts are being made to deny this great possibility. The rationalistic philosophy and materialism counsel us that the present organisation of consciousness is the highest and there can be nothing beyond it. In effect, it advises us to limit our efforts to the maximum possibilities of the material mind and not to strive to go beyond. The religionist, who admits higher possibilities advises us, however, not to cross the limits of religious consciousness that is circumscribed within the limits of dogma, creed and religious piety. But both these counsels can be seen as a revolt against the mighty movement of Nature, which seems to be striving towards transcendence of all limitations. If there are flashes of lights in the North Pole, even so there are flashes of light in the highest skies of our mind; and just as those flashes indicate sources of plenary light, these flashes also indicate sources of plenary light, which we call super-mind. We are then led to the conclusion that the ideals of God, Freedom, Immortality, Bliss, Light are not only realisable but are also in the process of being realised by Nature through its irresistible strivings. We may, therefore, not fear to aspire.


The manifestation of the supermind in the mental life that we live now may be described as the divine life.

If the objective of the divine life on the earth is to be justified, it would be necessary to establish the following three statements:

  1. The body is the fit robe of the spirit and that is why the body can be an instrument of the manifestation of the Divine on the earth. In other words, matter is to be shown as harmonious with the spirit.
  2. The harmony of matter with spirit can be shown only if we can establish the fundamental unity and oneness of spirit and matter.
  3. In our ordinary experience, matter is very remote from the spirit, and between matter and spirit are intermediate domains of Life, Mind and Supermind. Therefore, it will be necessary to show the inner harmony and identity of Matter, Life, Mind, Supermind and Spirit.

If spirit and matter are both assumed to be real, but if they are both considered to be independent of each other, then two consequences will follow. First will be that both Life and Thought will ultimately be obliged to choose one or the other. Hence, there will be affirmation of the spirit and refusal to accept the reality or significance of Matter. This will be the Refusal of the Ascetic. Or else, there will be affirmation of matter and rejection of the reality or significance of the spirit. This will be the materialist denial.

And, secondly, neither the refusal of the ascetic nor the denial of the materialist will be able to sustain its position without involving self- contradictions

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

The refusal of the ascetic, as illustrated in the Samkhya Philosophy or the philosophy of Shankara, show how they are riddled with self- contradictions, and they cannot be cured without arriving at a reconciliation of Spirit and Matter. The materialist denial, even though at the initial stages is convincing and successful, deeper investigations of the nature of matter end in self-contradictions. For while it begins with the statement that only that which is physically sensible is real, it discovers or it is obliged to admit the deeper investigations in the nature of Matter, and it is found that sub-atomic facts of matter are not sensible
and not seizable by physical senses. Hence, human mind cannot rest satisfied with the materialist denial.

In fact, the nature of Thought and the nature of Life is such that they can never rest satisfied with self-contradictions, and can never rest in a state of equilibrium in exclusive affirmations or exclusive denials. Both Thought and Life must seek totality and reconciliation of all the elements of the totality, even though they might appear to be remote from each other or opposed to each other. It is only in a state of equilibrium brought about by reconciliation that thought ceases to wander in circles and becomes concentrated in That, which like the Brahman of the Upanishads, permits movement of itself even while its stability remains undisturbed. It is only then that Life finds its stable base on the support of which it can manifest securely without any blind groping or any vitiating deviation.

But when this equilibrium is somehow disturbed, the human mind cannot recover it except by traversing degrees of existence, in the course of which it tends to affirm exclusively one term of existence and reject all the others. It, therefore, passes through main stages of exclusive affirmations and denials. It affirms Matter only; it affirms Life only; it affirms Mind only; it affirms Spirit alone. But in none of these, the human mind can find its ultimate destination or resting-place. It is true that it can remain stationed longer in its exclusive affirmation of Matter or in its exclusive affirmation of Spirit than in its exclusive affirmation of Life and Mind. For in the affirmation of Life it can easily feel the need to explain the currents of life emerging from an underlying stable resource, and in the affirmation of Mind it can more easily perceive that behind Idea there must be a stable substance. It is only in the affirmation of matter or of spirit, that the human mind feels a more lasting satisfaction because both are found to be of the nature of stable substance. But even with regard to the exclusive affirmation of Matter or of Spirit, the human mind cannot permanently find ever-lasting state of equilibrium. Ultimately, it is obliged to arrive at the identity of all terms of existence without any exclusive process. These arrivals can come about either by completing the circuit of successive exclusive affirmations and negations or by over-leaping itself into a synthetic vision of knowledge by identity. But whether we follow one road or the other, That which reconciles and embraces all elements integrally is always the end at which we arrive.We can only escape it by refusing to complete the journey.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

We can see the truth of this statement by the present experience of thought and life. We find that after many experiments and verbal solutions, spirit which has been exclusively come to be affirmed in the cyclical development of India and the exclusive affirmation of matter which has come to be made in Europe in its own cyclical way of development, have now come to realise their respective inadequacies and are getting ready to arrive at a synthesis. In India, while there has been a heaping of treasures of the Spirit, there has also been a great bankruptcy of Life; in Europe, the fullness of riches and the triumphant mastery of this world's powers and possessions has also resulted in spiritual bankruptcy.

Therefore, the time grows ripe and the tendency of the world moves towards a new and comprehensive affirmation in Thought and a new self-fulfilment of Life in an integral human existence for the individual and for the race.

But before this reconciliation is effected, it will be necessary to observe and note the respective strengths and weaknesses of the denial of the materialist and the spiritual refusal of matter.

The denial of the materialist is more insistent and immediately successful, more facile in its appeal to the generality of mankind. But it will be found that it is less enduring and less effective finally than the absorbing and perilous refusal of the ascetic.

For the denial of materialist carries within itself its own cure. Its most powerful element is agnosticism, which ultimately comes to posit the unknowable, which is really found to be merely unknown. The strong element of materialism is its search for knowledge, and this search will ultimately lead the materialist into fields, which lie beyond Matter.

The starting-point of materialism is its premise that the physical senses are our sole means of knowledge and that Reason, therefore, even its most extended and vigorous flights, cannot escape beyond their domain.

It will be seen that this premise is so arbitrary that it pronounces on itself its own sentence of insufficiency. As soon as we begin to investigate the operations of mind and of Supermind, impartially and without pre-judgement, we come into contact with the mass of phenomena, which cannot be explained by the materialistic formula. And the moment we recognise this, the premise of materialistic Agnosticism disappears. We are ready for a large statement and an ever-developing inquiry.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But before we enter into that inquiry, it would be useful how the recent brief period of rationalistic materialism through which humanity has been passing has proved itself to be indispensable as a preface to the next stage of the development of knowledge into which we are bound to enter.

That next stage will open up the evidence of the phenomenon of subtler fields of Life, Mind and Spirit. In the past, whenever these phenomena had come to be studied, the human mind had fallen into the trap of superstition and dogmatism. In order that the humanity may not fall once again into that trap, it is necessary that it gets trained in advance into rigorous and critical habit of thought, experimentation and affirmation of knowledge through a process of verification in actual and repetitive experience. It is this training which the materialistic period of our recent time has provided. Because of this training, it will be safer for humanity to enter into explorations of the subtler fields without being caught into the danger of confusions, which wear the appearance of illuminations.

There is also another utility of the recent materialistic period. It has obliged mankind to affirm Matter so strongly that in the new age the truths and claims of Matter will not be easy to be dismissed. It is always useful in the process of advancing knowledge, that we, the children of the earth, return to the Earth to affirm it. This touch of the earth will be found as ever re-invigorating. By rejecting matter, it is always possible to rise to great heights, but along with the affirmation of the higher, by affirming Matter, — with the reinvigorating touch of the earth, — we are able to arrive at the highest knowledge and arrive also at full mastery. It is the fact that the wider we extend and the surer we make our knowledge of the physical world, the wider and surer becomes our foundations for the higher knowledge, even for the highest, even for the Brahma vidya.

Therefore, when we emerge from the materialistic period, we must be careful that we do not ruthlessly condemn materialism or throw away even one tittle of its gains. Rather we should observe with respect and wonder at the work that Atheism has done for the Divine and admire the services that Agnosticism has rendered in preparing the illimitable increase of knowledge. Even if we reject ultimately materialism as an error, we have to admit that error is really a half-truth that stumbles because of its limitations, often it is Truth that wears a disguise in order to arrive unobserved near to its goal.

Materialism stands out ultimately as Agnosticism. And we must admit that Agnosticism has behind it a truth. As long as we try to arrive at the truth by means of rational thought or through a process which requires expression in words, we shall have to declare that all that we can know, or all that we do know is an appearance of an unknowable Reality.

Agnosticism can, however, come to be so exaggerated as to arrest us in our advancing inquiry by its very exaggeration. But when we begin to approach Reality not through verbal processes or through processes of thought but through a supreme effort of consciousness and through a
kind of knowledge, which is one with identity, we realise that It can be known, even though we may not be able to reproduce that knowledge in terms of thought and speech. However, we can reproduce it in terms of our inner state of consciousness and in our new modes in dealing with the life and the world.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

It is then that we can affirm that the Unknown is not the Unknowable.
There are in our consciousness faculties corresponding to various orders of reality, and our highest faculty, even though it may be potential today, can, when it is fully developed, bring us to the attainment of the highest knowledge, of the highest order of Reality. Whenever, we have fully developed a certain order of faculties, we are inevitably pushed even by those forces, which have so far been resisting our advancement, with a cry like the Vedic Restrainers, “Forth now and push forward also in other fields.

If modern materialism were simply an advocacy of mechanical arrestation in material life, it would have blocked the advancement of knowledge indefinitely. But the very soul of modern materialism is the search of knowledge. Hence, it would push the frontiers of knowledge and when knowledge by senses reaches its utmost boundaries, it will push itself beyond those boundaries and rush forward with the same rapidity and sureness which have characterised its march in the field of the knowledge of Matter. Already such an advance is visible in its obscure beginnings.

Knowledge, by whatever path it is pursued, tends to result in unity or oneness. This is what we see illustrated when we compare the conclusions of modern science with the conclusions of ancient Vedanta of the Upanishads. Modern science confirms the very formulas even in language and not merely in conceptions, which were arrived at by a very different method in the Upanishads. Again, these formulas of Upanishads reveal their full significance and their richness when they are viewed in the new light shed by the discoveries of the modern science. The Upanishads have declared that the things in the cosmos are one seed arranged by the Universal Energy in multitudinous forms.
On the other hand, the drive of science is also significantly towards a monism, which is consistent with multiplicity.

The only obstacle to this monism is the dualistic appearance of Matter and Force; but this appearance does not really stand in the way of monism. The reason is that essential matter is being increasingly acknowledged as a thing non-existent to the senses and it is being conceived as a conceptual form of substance, just as the Pradhana of the Samkhyas is conceived as conceptual form of substance. Moreover, a point is being reached increasingly where the distinction between form of substance and form of energy seems to be arbitrary.

As we move forward in our search of knowledge, matter is found to be a formulation of some unknown Force. Similarly, life, too, begins to reveal itself as an obscure energy. And when we are able to cure our ignorance, which thinks in terms of division, it will be difficult to suppose that Mind, Life and Matter are anything else but manifestations of a single Energy, triply formulated.

On the same basis, it will be impossible to sustain the theory that a brute Material Force is the mother of Mind. We shall be led to the conclusion that the energy that creates the world is not merely material, not even vital and mental but a Will, which is nothing but consciousness applying itself to a work and a result. And when we examine that work and result, we shall find that it consists of a self-involution of consciousness in form and a self-evolution out of form so as to actualise some mighty possibility in the Universe. This mighty possibility is already visible in the form of a Will in Man to arrive at unending Life, unbounded knowledge, unfettered Power. Already that Will is expressed by science which has begun to dream of the physical conquest of death, in insatiable thirst for knowledge, in its enterprise to manifest terrestrial omnipotence for humanity. Space and Time are already contracting to the vanishing point, and hundred trends are beginning to make man the master of circumstance and to make him increasingly free from the fetters of causality. Humanity is striving for limitlessness, and it appears that whatever man constantly wills, he must be in the end able to do.
His will to attain a goal is able to find eventually the means. Fundamentally, this is nothing but the God in man, the Infinite identity, the omniscient, the omnipotent. The modern world, without quite knowing its own aim is working out that vast cosmic impulse which the self-evolving consciousness impels to arrive at its fulfilment.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But it is to be noted that in the material world, there is always a limit in the knowledge; there is also a limit in the material machinery. But even here we find that as the borders of materialistic knowledge are being crossed, and we are pushed to the immaterial, even so in practical science and technology, material machinery tends to be reduced to the vanishing point in order to produce the greatest effects. For example, wireless telegraphy has done away with dependence on material communicating lines between two points of impulsion and reception.
Eventually, even these two material points must disappear; for with the advancement of the knowledge of the supraphysical, means will infallibly be found for Mind to directly seize on the physical energy for impulsion and reception of the message. When this will happen, we shall find the opening of the gates upon the enormous vistas of the future.

But even if we go beyond matter, we shall find a limitation, and we shall be led to further beyond. Crossing borders after borders, we shall be able to dissolve our last knot of bondage that is fixed in the machinery of the ego, and we shall be able to unite with the universal and possess multiplicity in some figure of unity. There we shall find the central throne of cosmic Knowledge; there we shall be able to find life in the eternally consummate Being, and we can realise divine nature in our human existence.


But even if we reach the cosmic consciousness, we have not yet reached the summit. There is still a beyond. It is transcendent not only of the ego but of the Cosmos itself. That transcendental supports the universal, — or perhaps only tolerates it; it embraces Life with its vastness, or else rejects it from its infinitudes.

Just as the Materialist bases his philosophy on the ground of the all- engrossing experience of Matter, even so the sanyasin, basing on his experience of the all-engrossing experience of the Spirit, declares that Spirit alone is real.

Just as the Materialist rejects the experience of the spirit as a dream of the Mind or as an abstraction of Thought, and, therefore, divorced from reality, even so the sanyasin declares the world of Matter as a creation of the Mind and the senses, and even a dream and an abstraction.

Every philosophy tries to argue on the basis of logic and of experience.

But surprisingly, what justification of logic or of experience can be put forth in support of one extreme philosophy is met by a justification of logic or of experience, which supports the exactly opposite standpoint of philosophy.

In this situation, the resolution of the conflict can be arrived at only by extension of consciousness, which in its universality, can unite the two opposing tendencies and arrive at a synthesis in which the truths of the opposing standpoints are so reconciled that each of the opposites finds in it a full affirmation and fulfilment.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Let us take the position of the materialist. He affirms the world of Matter on the ground that physical senses experience Matter alone, and therefore, Matter alone is real. This argument is valid as far as it goes;
but does it remain sustainable? We discover, first of all, that the argument of the Materialist commits the fallacy of a vicious circle. It assumes precisely what it sets out to prove, and in the conclusion it
reiterates its premise without proving it. That Matter is real is of course established by the fact that physical senses can experience only the physical reality. But it does not prove the following statement, which is its first premise, namely, that physical senses are the only means of knowledge.

Hence, it can be said that Materialism is a primitive form of thought and it does not go beyond the premise with which it starts. We argue like an uninstructed villager who tries to prove the conclusion by the premise and the premise by the conclusion. There is actually no argument, but only non-philosophical statement of the existence of Matter and the sole reality of Matter.

However, if the Materialist wishes to prove his position, he can do so only by disproving the existence of the supra-physical or the existence of the supra-physical senses. But that will require extension of consciousness which can enter into supra-physical world and can exercise supra-physical faculties. And the moment this extension of consciousness is effected or even attempted, one finds that Matter itself has supra-physical states, which do exist but which cannot be experienced physically. Similarly, there are also senses, which are supra-physical.

These supra-physical senses can experience the physical world without the aid of the physical organs; it can also bring us into contact with other realities which are supra-physical and which belong to another world.

In fact, human experience and belief have constantly asserted the supra- physical reality and the supra-physical faculties. But in our own times, fresh evidences are increasing through the phenomena of telepathy and similar other experiences. These evidences can no more be resisted unless one remains shut up in the brilliant shell of the past or by minds which are acute but limited through the limitation of their field of experience and inquiry. They are also being resisted by those who confuse enlightenment and reason with the faithful repetition of the formulas left to us from the recent century of the dominance of the Materialist thought.

It is true that the results of research in telepathy and similar phenomena are yet ill-affirmed because of the imperfection of the methods of the research. But the existence of the subtle senses have been found to be true witnesses to physical facts, which are beyond the range of the corporeal organs. There is, therefore, no justification to deny when they give report of supra-physical facts which lie beyond the domain of the material world.

When we, thus, extend consciousness, it becomes possible to affirm that worlds beyond the material world exist, that they have their own laws of
formations and movements and their own just and luminous means of knowledge. It is also found that they exercise influence on our physical existence and in our physical body; they have also their means of manifestation and they can communicate their messages to our physical consciousness, to our physical organs and to our physical world.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But once we admit the supra-physical, we are led to affirm the supremacy of experience and of consciousness that is involved in experience. As a consequence, it has come to be argued that the physical world comes to be affirmed only because of experience and because of consciousness in experience; there is no proof of the existence of anything except through consciousness; it is even argued that the physical world depends for its existence on our consciousness and that our consciousness is the creator of the physical world or of all the worlds of experience.

As against this contention, it is argued that consciousness cannot be regarded as the creator of the physical world; for the physical world existed in the evolutionary history as we know it, as self-existent and that consciousness came to exist much later.

These two arguments have remained in conflict, and they have remained sharply divided not only in their metaphysical positions but also in respect of the effects they have produced in regard to the aim of life which they have attempted to promote.
The materialistic conclusion, when pushed far enough, arrives at the insignificance and unreality in the life of the individual and the race.
From this, two options arise logically. One option is to advocate a feverish effort of the individual to snatch what he may from a transient existence, and to "live his life". Another is to advocate a dispassionate and objectless service of the race knowing that the individual is a transient fiction of the nervous mentality and the race is only a little more long lived collective form of the same nervous mentality, — nervous spasm of Matter. It will be seen that materialism is like the exclusive form of spiritual monism in several aspects: both look upon the life of the individual and the race as insignificant and unreal, and both look upon the world as manifested as phenomenal and transient — something that is and yet is not, a character that characterizes Maya. Actually, exclusive spiritual monism stresses too much the unreality of the objective world and advocates more trenchant conclusions. It advocates very sharply the fictitious character of the individual ego; it advocates also and equally sharply the unreality and purposelessness of human existence. Finally, it proposes the return into the Non-Being or relationless Absolute as the sole rational escape from the meaningless tangle of phenomenal life.

We may ask the question as to how these two positions — exclusive materialistic monism and exclusive spiritualistic monism — can be reconciled or how their respective arguments can be answered with definitive conclusiveness.

When we reflect upon this question, we shall find that we cannot arrive at the required solution by logic arguing on the data of our ordinary physical existence. These data are incomplete; they betray always a hiatus of experience; hence all arguments based on these data are rendered inconclusive. For example, is there any definitive experience among our data of physical existence which would justify us in supposing that our subjective self really depends upon the physical frame and can neither survive it nor enlarge itself beyond the individual body? We have at this stage no definitive experience of a cosmic mind or supermind not bound up with the life of an individual body. In order to arrive at a conclusive argument, the only way left is to institute an extension of the field of our consciousness. Or else, we should bring about an incredible increase in our instruments of knowledge.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

If our programme of extension of consciousness has to be satisfied, we must be able to bring about an inner enlargement from the individual into the cosmic existence. It is then that we shall see that the world is not a product of the individual embodied mind but a cosmic consciousness. This cosmic consciousness is not merely a witness of cosmic existence but even its Lord who embraces the universe and works in the universe as its Immanent Intelligence.

In recent times, the possibility of cosmic consciousness in humanity is coming slowly to be admitted. Modern psychology admits also the possibility of experiences of more elastic instruments of knowledge, even though they are still pronounced to be hallucinations. On the other hand, cosmic consciousness has always been recognised as a reality and the aim of our subjective progress.

According to the data of the cosmic consciousness, we can, when we enter into that consciousness, continue to dwell upon universal existence. We can become aware of Matter as one Existence and of bodies as its formations. Similarly, we can also experience life as one existence and mind as one existence, manifesting that oneness in its multiplicity. We can also, if we choose, become aware by rising upwards through many linking stages to a supermind and find that the supermind is the key to all lesser activities. A time can come when we can live in it as we now live today in the ego-sense. And when we live in that consciousness, we find ourselves unified more and more with other minds, other lives, other bodies, and we can even produce effects even on the physical world and events.

Therefore, one who has contact with the cosmic consciousness and one who lives in it, this cosmic consciousness is real in itself, real also in its effects and works. It is then that we conclusively find that the world is real precisely because it exists only in consciousness; for it is a conscious Energy one with Being that creates it.

But that conscious being with which the conscious energy is one and which is the truth of infinite supermind, is more than the universe. That conscious Being lives independently in its inexpressible own infinity as well as in the cosmic harmonies. World lives by That; That does not live by the world.

And just as we can enter into the cosmic consciousness, even so we can enter into that, into the world-transcending consciousness and become superior to all cosmic existence.

It is here that a most important question arises: does this transcendent necessarily imply a rejection of the universe? In other words, what relation has this universe to the Beyond?

This question arises because at the gates of the Transcendent stands that mere and perfect Spirit of the Upanishads, luminous, pure, sustaining the world but inactive in it, without sinews of energy, without flow of duality, without scar of division, unique, identical, free from all appearance of relation and multiplicity. This is the spirit described as the pure self by the Vedantic monists, Advaitins. This pure Self is the inactive Brahman, the transcendent silence. And it is a fact that the mind when it passes its gates suddenly, without intermediate transitions, receives a sense of the unreality of the world and sole reality of the Silence, which is one of the most powerful and convincing experiences of which the human mind is capable. It is also possible not only to have the experience and realisation of this Silence but even of a greater Silence, which has been described as the Non-Being. It is on the basis of this perception that has given rise to the second negation; exactly opposite of the first negation, ‒ the materialistic denial.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

This second negation is that of the ascetic, the refusal which is more complete, more final, more perilous in its effects on the individuals or collectivities that hear its potent call to the wilderness.

This refusal of the ascetic, which declares insignificance and meaninglessness of individuality and even of universality, has dominated increasingly the Indian mind since the last two thousand years, — since Buddhism disturbed the balance of the old Aryan world. The sense of cosmic illusion is not, indeed, the whole of Indian thought. There are many other philosophical statements; there other religious are
aspirations. Even the most extreme philosophies have made some attempts to arrive at some adjustment between the Spirit and Matter.
But the great refusal has tended to overshadow them all, and its message of the garb of asceticism as the final end for all has influenced dominantly all other messages. There has been a further associated doctrine that has been derived from the Buddhistic theory of the chain of Karma, which declares that Karma is not consistent with liberation, that Karma implies bondage, that bondage comes by birth, and the liberation comes by cessation from birth. Therefore, all voices are joined in declaring that this world of ours cannot ever become a kingdom of heaven, that that kingdom of heaven is beyond this world in which we live, — in the eternal Vrindavan of joys and ecstasies, the Brahmaloka of high beatitude, or else it is the only right thing to go beyond all manifestations in some ineffable Nirvana or where all separate experience is lost in the featureless unity of the indefinable Existence. This negativistic message has filled many centuries in Indian history and a great army of saints and teachers have contributed to the reiteration of the same lofty and distant appeal which declares: "Renunciation is the sole path of Knowledge; acceptation of life is the act of the ignorance;
cessation from birth is the right use of human birth. This is the call of the Spirit, which pronounces the recoil from Matter."

How shall we react to the Refusal of the Ascetic?

Our present age is the age of dynamism; it is the age of the affirmation of Matter; it is the age of world-affirmation. It is opposed to the ascetic spirit. In this age, therefore, it is easy to criticise asceticism; it is easy to argue that asceticism arises in an ancient race when it gets tired out by its burden, when vital energy begins to fail, and when it is exhausted by its many-sided contributions to the sum of human knowledge and effort.
But none of these explanations of the rise of asceticism can be fully justified. The real justification of asceticism rests upon a truth, and that truth corresponds to a state of conscious realisation, which stands at a very summit of our possibility. That state of conscious realisation is that of the Brahman, of inactive Silence, of Silence beyond Silence, of the Transcendental, which, when entered into suddenly, results in a state of stupendous reality of the Spirit and vanity or even unreality of all the world-existence. We should not minimise the truth of this experience and the value of this experience in its capacity to liberate us from the limitations of our egoistic life.

We should also underline that the ascetic spirit is an indispensable element in human perfection. And even its separate affirmation cannot be avoided so long as the human race remains obstinately bound to the insistent animalism. It is only when the race returns from that animalism that exclusive asceticism can cease to be an indispensable phase or part of human history. But even then, the ascetic spirit will always remain an indispensable element in human perfection.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality



In the Cosmic consciousness Matter becomes real to Spirit and Spirit becomes real to Matter, and Mind and Life are disclosed at once as figures and instruments of the Supreme Being. In the light of this conception, we can perceive this possibility of the divine life on the earth, which will also reconcile science and the great ideal dream of all high religions.

But question arises as to whether this conception is not rendered untenable in the light of the claim of the experience of the silent Self, inactive, pure, self-existent, self-enjoying, which rejects the reality of the world and even of cosmic consciousness.

In answer to this objection, it may be asked if the silence and inactivity of the Self, of the Brahman, necessarily implies the inability of expression. In fact, it is found that it is out of this Silence that the Word, which creates the worlds forever, proceeds; for the word expresses that which is self-hidden in the Silence. We also find that man, too, becomes perfect only when he has found within himself the absolute calm of the Brahman and supports by it a free and inexhaustible activity. There is the higher experience of the silence, which does not reject the world; it sustains it.

But again, there is a claim of the absolute withdrawal, the claim of the experience of the Non-Being. The Taittiriya Upanishad even declares: “In the beginning all this was the Non-Being. It was thence that Being was born." The Nihilists of certain Buddhist schools give support to the rejection of the Self, of the Being. But here, again, we must ask whether the Non-Being corresponds to a real experience or whether it is an expression to describe the Being which is so utterly free that to describe it as Being is to limit its utter freedom. As a matter of fact, another Upanishad rejects the birth of Being out of Non-Being as an impossibility. Being, it says, can only be born from Being. In other words, Non-Being is a state of Being, or else it can be said that the Non- Being permits the Being even as the silence permits the activity. It is on this ground that we can say that it was possible for the Buddha to attain to the state of Nirvana and yet act puissantly in the world, impersonal in his inner consciousness, in his action the most powerful personality that we know of as having lived and produced results upon the earth.

It is possible to pass into a Silence beyond the Silence. But this is not the whole of our ultimate experience, nor the single and all-excluding truth. For we find that this Nirvana, this self-extinction, while it gives an absolute peace and freedom to the soul within, is yet consistent in practice with a desireless but effective action without.
If we study the real gist of the Buddha's teachings, we find that he did not put forward the petty ideal of an escape from the trouble and suffering of the physical birth, but he presented the possibility of an entire motionless impersonality and void calm within doing outwardly the works of the eternal verities, Love, Truth and Righteousness.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Thus, after reconciling Spirit and Matter in the Cosmic consciousness, we perceive that in the transcendental consciousness we arrive at the reconciliation of the final assertion of all and its negation. The Reality is something truly supreme, wonderful and ineffable, unknowable to our ordinary mental consciousness, but which continually formulates Itself to our consciousness and continually escapes from the formulation It has made. That Reality is the omnipresent Reality, that is the Brahman that transcends the world but also affirms the world and activity.

This is the real monism, the true Advaita, which admits all things as the one Brahman and does not seek to bisect its Existence into two incomplete entities, an Eternal Truth and the Eternal Falsehood, Brahman and Not-Brahman, Self and Not-Self, a real Self and an unreal perpetual Maya. If it be true that the Self alone exists, it must be also true that all is the Self.

And if this Self, God or Brahman is no helpless state, no bounded power, no limited personality but the "self-conscient All”, there must be some good and inherent good reason in it for the manifestation, to discover which we must proceed on the hypothesis of some potency, some wisdom, some truth of being in all that is manifested. This does not oblige us to deny the existence of discord and the presence of evil in the world in this present stage of development; but the deepest instinct of humanity seeks always and seeks wisely wisdom as the last word of the universal manifestation, not an eternal mockery and illusion. It seeks a secret and finally triumphant good, not an all creative and invincible evil.

It seeks an ultimate victory and fufilment, not the disappointed recoil of the soul from its great adventure.

We would be justified in arguing that if there is only one Reality, it cannot be compelled by something outside or other than Itself since no such thing exists. We cannot suppose that It submits unwillingly to something partial within Itself which is holistic to its whole Being. It is
only our relative consciousness, alarmed and baffled by the phenomena of evil, ignorance and pain in the cosmos, that seeks to deliver the Brahman from responsibility for Itself and Its workings by erecting some opposite principle, Maya or Mara, conscious Devil or self-existent principle of evil. There is one Lord and Self and the many are only his representations and becomings.

We must face the Reality, the Reality, which is one without the second, squarely. We accept that if the world is a dream or an illusion or a mistake, it must have been built by the Self. If it is a dream existing in a Reality, the Brahman must be the material of that dream, of that world, both its base and content. In fact, the word "dream", when analysed properly, will be found to be other than mere phantasm and hallucination of the mind. The world, even if it is a dream, is a phenomenon and not phantasm; and phenomenon is a substantial form of Truth. If evil and pain are to be explained, they must be explained on this uncompromising position. We must start with the conception of the omnipresent Reality. And this is to be based on the highest experience of the Reality which we can have of it in the universe; this experience shows that that omnipresent reality is not only a conscious existent but a supreme Intelligence and Force and a self-existing Bliss; and beyond the universe, it is still some other unknowable existence, some other and ineffable Bliss.

Starting from this experience, we shall be justified in supposing that even the dualities of the universe, when interpreted by our liberated intelligence and experience, will be also resolved into some corresponding highest terms. Until this is done, this perception must support itself on an act of faith, but a faith, which the highest Reason, the widest and most patient reflection do not deny but rather affirm. Given this basis, we can arrive at a stage of development when faith will be turned into knowledge and perfect knowledge and wisdom will be justified of her works.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality


                                An Epistemological Approach


 The question as to what is the ultimate Reality can be approached through several approaches. One of these approaches is epistemological, which considers the instruments of knowledge and limitations and possibilities of knowledge within which the question of the ultimate reality can be discussed and determined.

According to one view, the only thing that can be posited as real must have evidence for its existence or subsistence. It is contended that we have and can have no evidence of any independent self-existence of things, since our consciousness is the only means by which we can have evidence. This view would ultimately end in affirming that all that exists is a subjective creation of Mind, a structure of consciousness, and that the idea of an objective reality, self-existent, independent of consciousness, is an illusion. It may further be contended on this line of argument that creative consciousness is the sole reality and considering that the consciousness of which we are aware is only a flux of perceptions and since the objects that are created by that flux of perceptions are also in a state of flux, it may be concluded that neither the constructing consciousness nor the objects of consciousness are truly real; the seer and the seen both can disappear; there would be then a complete self-extinction, the disappearance of the Purusha, the seer, and the cessation of Prakriti, that which is seen. But this view of the universe would be true only if consciousness is nothing more than our surface mind. But when we explore the deeper and higher knowledge of consciousness, we find that this view can no longer be sustained. For if there is a greater and deeper self-knowledge and world-knowledge, a knowledge by identity and if there is a consciousness to which that knowledge is normal, and furthermore, if there is a Being of which that consciousness is the eternal self-awareness, then the subject and the object can both be real, — they can both be two sides of the same identity.

It may, however, be suggested that constructing Mind is real and that it is solely real because only of that we have direct and indubitable evidence, and the consequence is that the universe of material beings derives reality only from the consciousness as pure structures real to that consciousness. In that case, a question is whether the constructing mind has behind it any essential Existence or Being; for if there is no
Existence or Being, that constructing Mind must be an unreality, a perceptive Force of a Void, — a proposition, which is not easily acceptable, unless all other rival hypotheses prove to be invalid.

The other alternative hypothesis is to consider the existence of the Being that supports the consciousness or which has some kind of a connection with the consciousness.

The question is what is the nature of relationship between the Being and Consciousness? Here we have two alternative positions, exemplified respectively, by Vedanta and Samkhya. According to Vedanta, Being is originally one that is without the second; according to Samkhya, there is a plurality of Beings. According to Vedanta, the Being and Consciousness are identical. According to the Samkhya, each of the plurality of Beings is conscious but the energy which constructs the objects of the world is unconscious even though it can present these structures to the pluarlity of Beings only through structural movements of consciousness, which are alien to the nature of the Energy. In either case, one is obliged to conclude that there is only a single energy which creates plurality of things. The energy even if it is assumed to be unconscious can enter into relationship with the Beings only through the instrumentality of the consciousness. But if we can suppose one consciousness or a one Energy, creating a multitude of figures of itself and accommodating in its world a plurality of Beings, there is no difficulty in supposing a one original Being who supports or expresses himself in pluarlity of Beings. This would be to reduce the Samkhyan position to the Vedantic position. It would then follow that all objects, all the figures of consciousness are the figures of the Being.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But it is clear that the consciousness, which is one with the Being, cannot be of the nature of the Mind that we experience at the level of our surface intelligence. For that Mind bears the stamp of incapacity and ignorance as a sign that it is derivative. We see that Mind has to acquire a laboriously built knowledge without controlling power. This initial incapacity would not be there if these objects were the Mind's own structures. If it be argued that the structures are not of ordinary mind of the nature of our surface intelligence but of the nature of the universal Mind that possesses the essential and integral knowledge, then that Mind is no longer Mind as we ordinarily know it, but a perfect Truth- Consciousness. Under that hypothesis, it can be affirmed that there is no such thing as an objective reality independent of consciousness; but at the same time they are not subjective in the sense in which we use that term normally. For normally subjective consciousness is not one with the Being; the consciousness which is one with the Being can create substantial structures of the Being which are objective because they can be sustained even in the absence of the consciousness, which we
normally call subjective, a consciousness of nature of our surface intelligence. We may then conclude that in this view the world cannot be purely subjective creation of the consciousness, — the subjective and the objective truth of things are both real, they are two sides of the same Reality.

The world can be seen as a symbol, and even certain concepts through which the mind tries to understand the world are expressed through symbols. The infinity of unity is one symbol, the infinity of the multiplicity is another symbol; all objects, happenings, idea-formations, are in their turn each a clue and a symbol. But this way of seeing things belongs to the action of the mind, interpreting the relation between the Being and the external Becoming. But since the mind is not the original constructor of the universe, we have to go beyond it, and we then realise that the real creatrix of the universe is consciousness far superior to mental consciousness, which acts as Energy inherent in the transcendent and cosmic spiritual Being.
Epistemologically, therefore, we come to conclude that our instruments and methods of knowledge can find their full justification and fulfilment only in a Reality which is describable as a Being that is conscious or as a consciousness that is one with the Being.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But there is precisely an opposite view of reality and knowledge; it starts with the commonsense view that the world as an objective reality is prior to the consciousness that is subservient to sense-experience and which records the physical reality, which it perceives. It erects the materialistic premise that physical existence is the one fundamental existence, and it relegates consciousness, mind, soul or spirit to the position of a temporary outcome of the physical Energy in its cosmic action, ‒ if indeed, soul and spirit has any existence. This theory asserts that all that is not physical and objective has a lesser reality dependent on the physical and objective sense-experience; it has to justify itself to the physical mind by objective evidence. If pushed to its extreme, it would give to a stone a greater reality and to thought or to qualities like love and courage, an inferior reality. But on examining this theory in depth, we find that the objective assumes value only in relation to our conscious Being or to our soul. The outer senses can bear reliable evidence only when they refer their version of the object to the consciousness. And it can then be reasonably argued that if the inner or supra-physical objects of the consciousness are unreal, the objective physical universe has also every chance of being unreal. It may also be argued that the subject and the supra-physical must have another method of verification than that which we apply successfully to the physical and external objective. Subjective experience cannot be referred to the evidence of the external senses; it has its own standard of seeing and its inner method of verification.

It has, however, been argued that if we depart from the physical standard of verification through sense-experience, we shall be led to gross delusion and errors. In reply, it may be argued that even when we apply physical standard of verification, we are apt to commit errors and delusions. Merely because we commit errors, we cannot be justified in dismissing subjective methods of inquiry. Just as in the physical field, we have methods of eliminating errors and delusions, even so, in the field of the subjective and the supra-physical domain, we have methods by which errors and delusions can be eliminated. Just as in the physical domain, discoveries have to be referred for physical verification, and just as even there a training of capacities is needed before one can truly understand and judge, ‒ even so, in the subjective and supra-physical domain, we have to refer to supra-physical verification and even there a training of capacity is needed before one can truly understand and judge. Thus, once we establish the claims of subjective and supra-physical knowledge, we become free from the limiting confines of the materialistic premise; and once we arrive at this liberation, we become free to explore higher and higher domains of knowledge. At their culmination, we realise that the subjective and the objects are only two ways of looking at the relationship between the Being and Consciousness and their interrelationship based upon their essential identity.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality



  1. 1. Reality is that for which we have evidence.
    Consciousness is the only means of obtaining the evidence.
    Objects perceived by consciousness have on them the imprint of consciousness, and only these imprints are actually perceived and not any objects, for which we have no further evidence in respect of their existence.
    Therefore, objects are creation of perceiving consciousness.
  2. In other words, all that exists is a subjective creation of Mind, a structure of consciousness; and the idea of an objective reality self- existent, independent of consciousness is an illusion.
    The perceiving consciousness is a flux and the objects which are the creation of the consciousness are also in flux; therefore, both of them become extinct, the seer and the seen — both the Purusha and Prakriti.
  3. But this view can be sustained only if the perceiving consciousness is of the nature of the surface mind.
  4. But when we explore the higher and deeper layers of consciousness, we find that there is knowledge by identity, there is world-knowledge and there is even knowledge of Reality, which is the Being of which the consciousness is an eternal self-awareness.
  5. Therefore, the objective and the subjective can be both real; they can both be sides of identity.
  6. If the perceiving mind which constructs the world has not behind it a Being or an essential Existence, it is a pure flux in the void — a position which is untenable unless all other alternative positions are found to be invalid. If it has a Being behind it, then the subjective and the objective are the two sides of the same identity.
  7. There are three questions: those relating to the relationship between consciousness and Being, consciousness and Energy, and Energy and Being. It is in regard to these questions that the Vedanta and Samkhya differ from each other. These differences can be overcome when, with Samkhya, we agree that one Energy can produce multiplicity of forms. It would then follow that there should be no logical difficulty in the Vedantic position that one Being can produce multiplicity of beings or souls. Again, if we admit, with Samkhya, that Prakriti, in order to present its forms to Purusha, it has to borrow from Purusha its consciousness, the relationship between Prakriti and the Purusha cannot be built without Prakriti assuming consciousness. It follows that there is nothing inadmissible in admitting energy being Conscious Force, which is the Vedantic position. Finally, if energy is conscious, and if we admit Vedantic position and also the Samkhyan position that Being is conscious, we arrive at the identity of the Energy and the Being. The conclusion is that Energy has not only Being behind it, but Energy is itself Being
  8. We may now clarify that consciousness which is one with the Being is not of the nature of Mind as we know it. The reason is that the mind has to labour to understand the objects, which would not be the case if Mind were original. Mind betrays itself to be derivative.

If consciousness and Being are one, consciousness can be considered to be the creative force producing all that we experience in the world. But this creation cannot be called subjective in the sense in which we use this word normally, — for the subjective is that which lacks Being. But if the consciousness is one with the Being, its creation will necessarily be manifestation of Being. In that sense, created objects will be objective, in the sense that they carry Being in them. This would reconcile subjectivism and objectivism.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality
  1. It is argued that the world is the subjective creation of the mind, because world is Infinite and world is multiple. Both Infinity and multiplicity do not exist in themselves but are symbols of the mind, created by the mind when it tries to understand the Being. But this is not true. Infinity and multiplicity are not merely symbols but they are expressions of the Being. Therefore, they are not subjective.
  2. Epistemologically, therefore, we come to conclude that our instruments and methods of knowledge can find their full justification and fulfilment only in a Reality which is describable as a Being that is consciousness or as a consciousness of a Being.
  3. An exactly opposite standpoint starts with the common sense view that the objective world exists independent of consciousness. It relies on evidence of physical senses, which are supposed to register the impression of the objective world. This is the materialistic standpoint, the premise of which is that the physical senses are the only means of knowledge. It contends that the physical senses give us the knowledge of the physical world and even adds that the physical world alone exists, the contention which is unwarranted and which commits the error of arguing in a circle. Materialistic position relegates to a subordinate position the qualities like love and assigns primacy to things like stones.
    Actually, this position is untenable because the valuation of the physical world is dependent upon its relationship with consciousness. Even the evidence of the physical senses derives its value from the quality of consciousness that manifests in the physical senses.
  4. Consciousness gives us also the knowledge of the supra-physical world. But if that knowledge is condemned as illusory, then what guarantee is there that the knowledge which it gives of the physical world is also not illusory?
  5. If it is argued that the knowledge derived from physical senses is verifiable and has method by which errors, if any, are eliminated, it can be countered by urging that the knowledge given by consciousness of the supra-physical reality can also be verified by suitable methods applicable to the supra-physical reality and errors, if any, can also be eliminated by the relevant appropriate methods.
  6. Thus once we establish the claims of supra-physical knowledge gained by subjective methods of knowledge, we become free from the limiting formula of materialism. This culminates in the explorations of higher levels of consciousness and higher levels of reality, until we reach a point where the subjective and the objective are found to be two modes of consciousness that is one with the Being.
Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality




The cosmos and its processes seem to be more easily understandable, if we keep ourselves confined to the apparent processes and their limited beginnings and sequels. But as soon as we begin to inquire into the deeper questions of the intrinsic how and why of these processes, we find ourselves more and more perplexed. There are uniformities and variations, there are quantities and qualities, and there are necessary and freak movements of the inexplicable chance.

Science in its present state of knowledge finds Existence revealing itself as Energy. Even Energy is not known by itself but by its works. Our modern knowledge tells us how different groupings and a varying number of electric infinitesimals can produce larger atomic infinitesimals of different natures, qualities and powers. But we do not know the secret connection between the number and the quality or power. Why should a change in the number of electric infinitesimals produce a change in quality and power? We observe that oxygen and hydrogen, when combined in a certain fixed quantity come to give rise to the appearance of water; but we are unable to explain the magic of that formula of combinations which produces a new form of substance. Again, we see that a seed develops into a tree, but we are unable to discover how a tree can grow out of a seed. We are told that the genes and chromosomes are the cause of hereditary transmission, not only of physical but of psychological variations. But we do not discover how psychological characteristics can be contained and transmitted through the inconscient material vehicle.

It is even expounded that a certain play of electrons, of atoms, of cells and glands produce activities on the nerves and brain of a dramatist like Shakespeare or a philosopher like Plato to produce such remarkable productions as Hamlet or Symposium or The Republic. But we fail to explain how those material movements would have necessitated the composition of these highest points of thought and literature.

There are further phenomena that lead us to greater perplexities. An electric energy produces positive, negative and neutral forms of itself, forms that are at once waves and particles; a life-principle produces different kinds of plants, trees and flowers; a principle of animal life produces a number of species and individual variations; and in human life, we find countless mind types and even growing new types because the evolutionary chapter of life does not seem to be ended. Throughout we find uniformity and variation, and we do not know what necessitates the uniformity and variation

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

It is sometimes argued that the entire cosmos and its processes are just occurrences without any cause or any explaining principle of necessity.
They are, it is contended, events of chance. It is admitted that there are some regularities and uniformities in the world. But these uniformities and regularities are a feature of Chance, and even though it may sound a paradox, we may speak of a self-organising dynamic Chance that is at work. On the other hand, it is argued that there is a persistent order and a rigorous movement of determinism; and these facts forbid the theory of a random action of Chance. This argument insists on mechanical necessity in things. But the theory of mechanical necessity cannot explain endless unaccountable variations and the phenomenon of multiplicity. Again, the emergence of consciousness out of the Inconscient is a stumbling block in the way of this theory. Moreover, consciousness implies the perception of order and design, and it is difficult to explain how out of the Inconscient, there can arise intelligence, which insists on design and order. Confronted with these difficulties, an argument comes to be advanced that we need to go back from the necessity to chance as the basis of our existence. It admits the double contradiction of consciousness emerging from the fundamental Inconscient and of a Mind of order and reason manifesting as the brilliant final consequence of a world created by Inconscient Chance. It is argued that chance does not care for contradictions and chance as the only mode of action of Energy can accommodate all so-called necessities, all variations, all freaks of freedom. But it is evident that under this answer, if it is the ultimate answer, it can be ultimate only as a matter of chance without any obligatory force, and we are then left free to look for any other explanation, which may satisfy us better.

This opens up the way for other explanations, which make consciousness the creator of this world. This consciousness can be viewed under three alternative modes of explanations: (i) the creative consciousness may be an extra-cosmic creator or (ii) the creator may be conceived as immanent in the cosmos; but in either case, one difficulty remains; it is the arbitrary nature of the creation, the incomprehensibility of its purpose, the crude meaninglessness of its law of unnecessary ignorance, strife and suffering. (iii) A third explanation, therefore, suggested is that what we see worked out in the world is the thoughts of God; but in answer it is retorted that God could well have had better thoughts and the best thought of all would have been to refrain from the creation of an unhappy and unintelligible universe. This difficulty can be overcome only if the Creator were, even though exceeding the creation, yet immanent in it, himself in some sort both the player and the play and Infinite casting infinite possibilities into the set of an evolutionary cosmic order. It is only under this hypothesis that the unexplained processes of nature would find their meaning and their place.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But even if this theory may be found to be satisfactory in intellectual terms, it may still not satisfy our demand for an experiential proof. In our experience, we start from the material end of existence, and in the material sense-experience we can have no substitute of validity from this hypothesis or for that matter for any other explanation of Nature and her processes. It is only when we follow the Yogic process of quieting the mind itself that a profounder result of our self-observation becomes possible. But even here there arise three alternative experiences: first is the experience of Purusha on which determinations of nature are cast;
the second gives us the sense of illusoriness of the determinations cast by Nature on the Purusha, the silence of which is found to be so overwhelming and complete as to provide no possibility of a room for any movement of Nature or any activity of Nature casting its forms on the silence which is termed no more as Purusha but as Brahman. The third experience is that of the Purusha himself or Self determining both the Nature and manifesting forms of Nature as its own self-determinations.

But none of these three can be conclusive because all the three claim to be ultimate experiences, and even intellectually, all the three claim the support of their appropriate logic and rationality. This necessitates the search for the higher level of experience, if there is any such. The question is if there is any integral principle in the experience of which the totality of things and varieties of experiences would be comprehended and understood.

It is claimed that there is a principle of Overmind, which is beyond the individual mind and which is even beyond the universal mind in the Ignorance. But even in the Overmind, those three experiences remain unreconciled, and the overmind seems to add to the perplexities, for the overmental view of things allows each possibility to formulate itself in its own independent right and realise its own existence in cognition, in dynamic self-presentation, in substantiating experience.

There is, however, a still higher principle, namely, that of the supermind. The supermind is at once the self-awareness of the Infinite and Eternal and a power of self-determination inherent in that self-awareness. In the supramental experience, the supreme is an infinite of being complete in itself in its own immutable purity of existence but also it is an Infinite of Power. It is found that the supreme contains in itself an eternal repose and quiescence, and it is also capable of an eternal action and creation. Creation is then a self-manifestation, and it is an ordered deploying of the infinite possibilities of the Infinite. Out of the fundamental reality of the Existent there emerge all possible manifestations each developing its own becoming, swarupa, swabhava.

It is on this basis of supramental experience that the perplexities of cosmic phenomena can find their rationale and justification. It is then found that the Absolute is not a mystery of infinite blankness nor a supreme sense of negation; nothing can manifest that is not justified by some self-power of the original and omnipresent Reality.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality



References to chapters are related to Chapters 9, 10, 11, 12 of "The Life Divine" by Sri Aurobindo.


The Pure Existent

Ordinarily our ego is self-centred and regards the whole universe as a field meant to sub-serve its interests.

But when we withdraw ourselves from the egoistic preoccupation, we find ourselves in the presence of a vast movement in comparison with which the highest magnitudes that we can conceive of are only petty swarms.

This vast movement seems to care nothing for our egoistic demands and desires. And it seems to have only an ironic smile at them. And yet in the true account of things, we come to realise that nothing is unimportant in the design of the vast movement.

In a certain sense, we seem to be more important, even though quantitatively we are petty, than huge magnitudes of the world because qualitatively we possess consciousness which huge material bodies do not possess. An ant seems to be superior to the anthill. But this again is the illusion of the quality. Big or small, superior, inferior, strong or weak, have all behind them the same force or energy.

There is one, vast movement which is equal, "sammam brahman", in respect of everything in which it is at work.

Perception of this vast movement, without the illusion of quality and quantity, is the first necessity, if we are to inquire into what really exists and what is really real.

It is here that we come to a farther complication. Just as we find that ego is subordinate to the vastness of the movement, even so, the pure reason asserts that this vast movement is subordinate to the stable Reality. And this perception of the pure reason is further confirmed by the highest experience of the Vedanta which declares the unmoving stable base of the whole universe, the pure stability, “sthanu” the Pure Existence.

 It has, however, been argued that there is no such thing as stability.
There is movement, and what we call stability, is a mere appearance, — like the earth which seems to be stable even though it is constantly rotating or when we find our train in which we are travelling to be stationary in a rushing landscape.

But can it be argued that there cannot be stability behind the movement?

If there is stable existence behind the movement, it must be like the movement, infinite.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

We need to be clear about the infinity of the movement. Infinity is imposed upon us because neither reason, nor intuition nor imagination nor experience bears witness to an absolute beginning or an absolute end. Every beginning pre-supposes anterior beginning, every end opens up to ulterior end.

This infinity is what we call the infinity of space and time — beginningless and endless extension and beginningless and endless duration.

When we reflect on Space and Time, we are obliged to perceive successive extensions of Space and successive movements of Time. But succession cannot be sustained without a basis, which is non-successive. For succession implies a division and yet a continuity and this strange combination can be supported only if succession is a psychological way of dividing an indivisible flow of extension and duration — an all containing point without magnitude and all-containing ever-new moment.

But even this is not the end of the matter. Even the non-successive extension and non-successive duration imply a stable ground or cause,
and this cannot itself be of the nature of Space and Time. When we perceive existence in itself, space and time disappear.

Are we really sure? Could there not be a sheer movement or a mere Nihil — without supporting base? The pure reason asserts that a pure movement without a stable ground or cause contradicts its perception and therefore cannot be. It is like a stair, which is suspended in a void, which cannot be.

If such a timeless and spaceless existence is, it must be not only infinite but also absolute. It is something in which all the characteristics of the movements, — quantity and quality, name and form enter and which is itself self-existent, independent of all that has entered into it and from which it can again manifest as quantity, quality, name and form.

It may be argued that all this is true from the point of view of the pure reason, but we must judge existence not by what reason conceives but by what can be obtained in experience, and it can be again argued that what is experienced is only movement and nothing else.

As against this argument, it can be contended that apart from an ordinary experience, there is a higher and highest experience in which Reality is experienced to be pure existent, stable, one without the second, absolute and infinite, in which the Universe is contained, — an experience affirmed in ancient Vedanta.

But what is the relationship between the stable Reality and this movement? If the stable one is the only reality, movement cannot be other than that reality. The Indian answer that Shiva and Kali are one, that this stable reality and dynamic movement are one, is entirely rational because it will be contrary to reason that reality being one, movement could have entered into it from some where else.

We have thus seen what pure reason and highest experience has declared about the pure existence, sat, we have still to see what the pure reason and the highest experience have to say about the movement and ask whether it is only an inert force like Samkhyan Prakriti or whether it is a conscious force, chit. All the rest will hinge on the answer that is obtained to this question.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality




Two indubitable facts with which we start:

1. Circumstances 2. Our self that deals with the circumstances.

The circumstances, when examined, are found to be extending beginninglessly and endlessly.

This is what is called infinity of Space and Time.

This infinity is found to be successive in character.

The question is whether this successive character is ultimate or derivative?

Succession implies division and continuity. These being contradictory of each other, successive Space and Time cannot be ultimate. There must be something behind it when this contradiction disappears.

There must be, therefore, non-successive, holistic, all-containing extension — all-containing point without magnitude and all-containing ever-new moment.

But all extension needs a ground or source from which extension has spread. For otherwise it would be like a stair suspended in the void.

Therefore, there must be extensionless, spaceless, timeless pure existence.

This pure Existence can then be regarded as a source of non-successive extension which, in turn, will be regarded as a source of successive extension.

All extension can be reduced to the action of force. Action of force is twofold: (1) it can remain in a state of rest or (2) it can spread out in motion. The spreading out in motion can be reduced to the original
vibrations, and the entire gamut of the world can be explained in terms of complexity of vibrations starting from the least complex movement of vibrations — as explained by the Sankhya which reduces all the 24 elements of the world to the original vibration of Vyakta Prakriti which in its turn derives from the original unmanifest Prakriti, the force that is at rest.

The force is by its very nature capable of remaining in rest or exploding in vibratory movement. This explains how all that seems to be moving in the world moves, — that is, by realising that to be in motion or not to be in motion is the very nature of Force.

At that stage, a question can be asked as to why the force remains in motion or remains in rest?

This question can be raised only if the force is conscious. For "why” can be answered only in terms of purpose, and purposiveness is a characteristic of consciousness.

If, therefore, there is to be a ground to the question regarding the why of the movement, we have to inquire and establish the relationship between force and consciousness and Pure Existence, which must be also conscious and inquire and establish if force is in its very nature conscious Force

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Chapter X deals with this question and argues that:

A. Force is inherent in the Pure Existent;

B. Force derives its thrust towards rest and motion from the Pure Existent, since there is nothing besides the Pure Existent.

If Force is consciousness then it must be inherent in the Pure Existent, who must be also the consciousness-controller of the force.

Therefore, the question is to why the force should remain at rest or at motion must ultimately be put to the Pure Existent, and that question can be formulated as follows:

Why should the Pure Existent, which exists and requires nothing for its existence, and which can rest or which can move without the need of one or the other, — why does he impel the movement — the movement that we do see around us?

This question arises only if the force contained in the pure existent is conscious, force and in the existent in which it is contained is a conscious being. We must, therefore, inquire whether force is conscious and whether Pure Existent is also conscious?

At the outset, we have to ask ourselves as to what we mean by consciousness. Normally, mean by consciousness mental consciousness that which senses, that which thinks and that which is self-aware. If this is the only meaning of consciousness, then it is clear that it is not found to be operating in the whole of the material universe, nor in the world of plants and vegetation. Even in the animal there is very little of self-awareness or of thinking processes, although it has quite developed sensations and perceptions. Hence, it can be said that mental consciousness is an exception rather than a matter of a general rule in the world.

But are we sure that we ought to define consciousness so as to equate it with mental consciousness? Is there not a kind of consciousness, which is awake when we are asleep? Is there not a kind of consciousness, which begins to operate and manifest when one is drugged or in a state of swoon? Recent discoveries in respect of consciousness show that what we call mentality is only a superficial layer of consciousness and that there is something that can be called subconscient and something that can be called subliminal and even superconscient. Therefore, equating consciousness with mental consciousness must now definitely disappear out of philosophical thinking.

It is true that materialism still insists that consciousness is only a manufactured product of the functioning of the physical organs. But as more and more data are collected, this contention of materialism seems to come under greater and greater strain. There are states of consciousness, which surpass the capacities of sense organs. There are even abnormal instances where heartbeats are not essentially necessary for the continuance of life and organised brain cells are not essentially necessary for the operation of thought. Just as the engine is not the manufacturer of steam but it is steam that propels the engine and it is anterior to the engine, even so consciousness is not the product of sense organs but is itself the propeller of the sense organs and anterior to the sense organs.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Hence, momentous logical consequences follow. Consciousness is no more identical with mental consciousness and even where mental consciousness does not seem to be manifest overtly, such as in material objects, that consciousness could be still acting in some other form than that of mental consciousness. The example of human sleep teaches us that it is not a suspension of consciousness but it is a gathering inward away from consciousness and physical response to the impacts of external things. In that case, can it not be that the external physical
world is a kind of a sleep of consciousness, or could it not be that there is a conscious soul, a Purusha who wakes forever in all that sleeps?

While the subconscious mind is not very different from the outer mentality, we find that the subliminal mind is quite different from what we know as mentality and has an action, which is immensely superior in terms of capacities. And we have a right to suppose that there is a superconscient, which would be still farther from mentality both in its nature and its capacity. We may, therefore, conclude that there are ranges of consciousness and they do not cease with the ranges of mental consciousness and rise upwards and fall below to what we can call vital consciousness or still lower consciousness in the plant, as discovered by an Indian scientist.

The development of research seems to go even farther and seems to point to a sort of obscure beginning of life and suppressed consciousness in the metal and in the earth. Although it is difficult to imagine the kind of consciousness that will be working in matter, and it is possible even to deny the operation of such consciousness in matter, still it is incredible that there should be a sudden gulf in nature as to think that while consciousness is in the plant, it should not be in inanimate material objects. Indeed, thought has a right to suppose a unity where that unity is confessed by all other classes of phenomena and in one class only, not denied, but merely more concealed than in others.

In the new view that now emerges, consciousness indicates self-aware force of existence of which mentality is a middle term, the subconscient is the lower term and the supramental is the higher term. But in all it is the one and the same chit of the Indian conception, which organises itself differently and which as energy creates the worlds.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

But consciousness implies some kind of intelligence, purposefulness, and self-knowledge. And we may ask whether these characteristics can be found in various forms of existence that we see in the world. And, indeed, when we examine this matter properly, everything supports rather than contradicts the idea of a universal conscious Force. For example, we see in the animal and even in the insect operations of the perfect purposefulness and the proof of a conscious Force, which is more intelligent, more purposeful, more aware of its intention, its ends, its means, its conditions than the highest mentality yet manifested in any individual form on the earth. Even in the operations of inanimate Nature we find the presence of a supreme hidden intelligence.

But is there not what we call waste in the operations of Nature and does it not provide an argument against a conscious and intelligent and purposeful force at work? But if we examine the idea of waste, we find it to be a relative idea, ‒ relative to the limitations of our human intellect.
Obviously, our intellect sees only part of Nature's purpose and all that does not subserve that part we call waste. We also notice that what is waste from individual point of view serves a useful purpose from the collective point of view. Hence, it is not impossible that there is really no waste from the point of view of Nature's total operations and its total purpose, although we may not be able to detect yet what are all these operations and what are their total purposes.

Finally, it has now been sufficiently established that matter is not the Alpha and Omega and that matter is the base in which life emerges and consciousness too emerges; and these emergences cannot be easily explained unless matter itself was an involved state of life as life also an involved state of mind and consciousness. It is then easy to perceive that man's consciousness can be nothing else than a form of Nature's consciousness and that just as there is a lower formation of consciousness below the human mind, there can also be ascension into yet superior forms beyond Mind.

We shall then conclude that there is Pure Existent with the inherent self- consciousness, inseparable from its being which throws itself out as a force of movement of consciousness, which is creative of all formations of the world or even of the worlds.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality




If the pure existent is Infinite, the one other than whom none or nothing exists or can exist;

If the pure existent is conscious, and is not only self-aware but is also aware of the force which is one with itself, and therefore controller of the force and of all that the force can manifest;

If, therefore, the sole conscious existent has everything in it, lacks nothing, and is in need of nothing, then the question can legitimately be asked as to why, even when It can rest in eternal repose, It wills to throw itself in movement; and the only answer that can be given to the question is that in throwing itself out in motion, It does not forfeit its state of eternal repose, and its force of movement can have only one motive, and none other, namely, Delight of self-expression, which, however, does not add to its eternal delight of eternal repose.

This means that the Reality is not only pure existent, is not only conscious of itself and of the force that is inherent in it, is not only a controller of the repose and the movement of Its force. It is also Delight.
In other words, Reality is Sachchidananda.

This is the view that the Vedantins have declared long ago in the Upanishads.

But intellectually, the description of the Reality as delight appears to be inconsistent with important phenomena that we experience in the world;

first, the experience of the emotional and sensational consciousness of pain, and secondly, of the presence of evil which looms so large in our ethical considerations. It may, therefore, be argued that if the reality is self-delight, and there is nothing else than that self-delight, there cannot be any such thing as grief or suffering, or pain.

There is a view that the entire world is nothing but a world of pain and suffering. However, if we study impartially the experiences of the world, we shall find that there is a triple experience, ‒ experience of pleasure, of pain, and of neutrality. And the sum of pleasant and neutral experiences is much greater than the sum of the experiences of pain, even though in certain individual cases and in certain appearances the sum of pain appears to be or may actually be greater than the sum of pleasure and neutrality.

But even if it is admitted that the sum of pain is much less than the sum of its opposites, the root problem is not answered. The root problem is as to how, all being Sachchidananda, can there be experience of pain and suffering?

This root problem is often further confused by a false issue, which attempts to view Sachchidananda as a personal extra-cosmic God. It is also still farther confused by another issue, which is not a false issue, but which may be called a partial issue, namely, the issue of the ethical difficulty.

Let us state both these issues.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

It may be argued that Sachchidananda is God, is a conscious Being who is the author of existence; but if so, how then can God create the world in which there is the presence of suffering, and not only that, but He Himself inflicts suffering on his creatures, sanctions pain, permits evil?

In answer, it is suggested that the presence of pain that we find in the world is nothing but a part of the trial and an ordeal through which God is training the individual souls to grow out of their imperfections, their evil tendencies and their sins.

But this answer does not solve the problem.

For one is obliged to argue as to how God who is all good has to invent pain as a part of training, which even the human beings, who are his creatures, are able to design methods of training from which the element of pain is attempted to be eliminated. In this respect, therefore, God is reduced to a position much lower than that of his creatures. And yet, if this argument is insisted upon, the only conclusion derived is that God may be an excellent world mechanist or a cunning psychologist and a God of might, but he cannot be a God of Good and Love whom we can worship.

To escape from this indictment of God, it has been argued that actually God has not invented pain as a part of his method of training, but pain is only a natural result of the actions of the individuals, that pain is only a natural punishment of moral evil.

But even with this answer, the problem is not met. For, in the first place, this answer implies the theory of Karma and Rebirth, and further it implies that God is not able to eliminate pain from the chain of Karma and Rebirth. And one can go even farther and argue as to how if there is nothing else than Sachchidananda, Karma at all started having in its chain moral evil that entails the punishment of pain and suffering. And this argument becomes much more formidable when it is seen that what we call moral evil is in reality a form of mental disease and ignorance.
For then it may be argued as to who or what created this law or inevitable connection which punishes a mental disease or act of ignorance by a recoil so terrible, by tortures often so extreme and monstrous.

It then becomes evident that the inexorable law of Karma is irreconcilable with a Supreme God, the author of creation, both omnipotent and All-Good and All-Love. It was for that reason that the Buddha who accepted the law of Karma showed clearly that logically it cannot be upheld with the belief in a free and all-governing personal God. He, therefore, rejected the existence of any such God.

But if we start with Sachchidananda but not conceive of him as an extra- cosmic Deity, the difficulty can be greatly overcome. In fact, the Vedantic Sachchidananda is not an extra-cosmic Deity, but he is himself identical with all that exists in the world and above it, and he is indwelling reality supporting, experiencing and participating in all that exists and in all that occurs. On the basis of this premise, the problem certainly remains but not in the form in which it presented itself earlier under the Deistic conception of God, where it was insoluble.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Under the Deistic hypothesis, the question was as to how God came to create for his creatures a suffering and evil of which He Himself is incapable and therefore immune. But under the monistic Vedantic hypothesis, the question is as to how the sole and Infinite Existence, Consciousness, Bliss came to admit into itself that which is not bliss, that which seems to be its positive negation. If there is pain or even cruelty in the world it is not God inflicting pain and cruelty on the others or God permitting pain and cruelty for others, while himself remaining immune or only participating in the sufferings of others by subsequent repentance or belated pity. If there is suffering, it is self-inflicted suffering, and God himself suffers. It is clear that there is a distinction between two positions: inflicting pain and permitting pain on others, while remaining oneself immune from it; — this is evidently unethical and immoral. The second position is that the suffering is self-inflicting suffering, and God himself suffers; — and here one cannot charge God of cruelty and of unethicality. Thus under the Vedantic hypothesis, the problem presents itself in a much less acute form; half of the moral difficulty actually disappears. But still, the ethical difficulty may be brought back in a modified form. And let us state this difficulty quite clearly as follows:

All Delight — being necessarily All Good — and all Love, how can evil and suffering exist in Sachchidananda, since he is not mechanical existence, but free and conscious being, free to condemn and reject evil and suffering?

But even this statement states an issue which is fundamentally a false issue for the statement uses the term evil and suffering as though they are applicable to the entirety of the world and its movements. Similarly, the words Good and Love which are used in the statement seem to connote only that kind of goodness and love that are found in our dualistic and divisional state of consciousness — the consciousness which is restricted to the relations between creature and creature where one creature feels itself to be divided and removed from other creatures.

Surely, this cannot be applied to consciousness where this division does not exist, since Sachchidananda is one without the second and all that is here is a manifestation of oneness.

Let us, therefore, see how the problem arises when we clarify to ourselves that the phenomena of pain, suffering and evil are to be understood and explained on the assumption that at the root is one Reality which manifests itself in varieties of things in the world, and that root-reality is all Love and all Good, — where love and goodness are quite other than love and goodness which are ordinarily experienced by us in our divisional consciousness and in our divisional relationships.

The world as we see it has at least three levels: there is, first, material nature; there is, secondly, animal or vital Nature; and there is, thirdly, mental nature. We shall notice that material nature is not ethical; the law that governs the material phenomena is a coordination of fixed habits which takes no cognisance of good and evil, but we see in it the operation of force that creates, the force that arranges and preserves and the force that disturbs and destroys impartially, non-ethically. Even if there is a secret will in it, it operates impartially, and does not look upon creation as evil. Phenomena of material nature are neither good nor evil, — they are what they are, neutral and non-ethical. When we come to animal and vital nature, we see the same non-ethicality in its operations.

We do not blame the tiger because it slays and devours its prey, just as we do not blame the storm because it destroys and we do not blame the fire because it tortures and kills. It is only when we come to the mental nature that the notions of blame or condemnation or the conceptions of approval and disapproval begin to arise. At its rudimentary level, we call that to be pleasant and approvable which pleases us, and we condemn or

disapprove that which displeases and hurts us. But even this primary sense of good and evil is not merely ethical, although it can be considered to be the first origin of ethics. For all ethics begins when we commence to have the use of the word "ought” in our conceptions.
Fundamentally, at the level of personal pleasure and pain, we begin to approve that which is pleasant and disapprove which is painful, and consequently, we begin to feel that we ought to seek pleasure and we ought to avoid pain. But when we rise to a higher level, we perceive that real ethics is to be found only at the point where we discover a law of conduct, in the light of which we blame others only when we apply it to ourselves equally. At that stage, we realise that the true ethical law leads us to do unto others what we want others to do unto ourselves.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

There is still a higher stage where the distinction between the good and the evil, the distinction between the approvable and disapprovable is transcended, and as a result, we arrive at supra-ethical consciousness where all that is called good is only a partial good and all that we call evil is only a partial evil. In other words, that which we call good is also in a certain sense evil, and what we call evil is in a certain sense good. We even see how the so-called good produces a great deal of evil and how what we call evil produces what we can legitimately call good. These considerations and experiences bring into our picture perceptions of supra-ethicality, and we begin to rise above the ordinary notions of good and evil. At that stage, we find that at every stage, — from the stage of non-ethicality to the stage of supra-ethicality, there is only one fundamental thing, which remains the same. That thing is self- expression, self-development, — and the conception of self-expression and self-development becomes higher and wider at every stage until we reach the point where it is the oneness that is a unified totality which is expressing itself and which is developing itself. In that perception, the only criterion of the good is that which promotes the self-expression and self-development of the universal oneness; and what is evil is that which appears to be obstructing self-expression and self-development.

It is thus clear that our ordinary ethical standpoint applies only to a temporary, though all-important passage from one level of universal non-ethicality to another  supra-ethical universality. It follows, therefore, that we cannot apply the ethical standpoint to the total solution of the problem of the universe, but can be only admitted as one element in that solution.

Let us then restate the problem. We notice that there is a constant self- expression and self-development, and only at one stage there intervenes the phenomenon of pain and suffering which seems to contradict the fundamental nature of delight. How does that phenomenon of pain and suffering arise? This and this alone is the root problem.

Having thus stated the problem, we may proceed farther to solve it.

One way of solving this problem has been suggested by arguing that there is at the bottom or at the root an impartial void, which contains all potentialities of existence or non-existence of consciousness or non- consciousness of delight or undelight. But this is no solution. For how can we conceive an impartial void, which is still a container of all potentialities? This is a pure self-contradiction, and it fails to explain how all potentialities came to be contained in an original void, a Nihil.

Let us face the problem squarely and begin with the original conception of Sachchidananda and see whether on that foundation a complete solution is possible.

In the first step towards the true solution, we begin to perceive that just as when we spoke of universal consciousness, we came to perceive it as something different from mental consciousness, even so when we speak of universal delight of existence we mean something different and more essential and wider than the ordinary emotional and sensational pleasure of the individual human creature. We realise that pleasure, joy and delight are limited words and they cannot be identified with the universal, illimitable and self-existent delight. In the egoistic human being, this universal, illimitable and self-existent delight is broken by limited consciousness and it emerges as pleasure, pain and neutral experiences. But the egoistic consciousness of man is only a transitory stage. When the underlying delight works itself out fully, this triple experience of pleasure, pain and neutrality will get devoured, and the underlying delight will replace mortal pleasure by the immortal ecstasy.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality


(An Ontological Approach)



In the light of the explanation elucidated earlier, it can be said that the true solution of the problem, which we are examining, could be arrived at in the conception of an inalienable underlying delight of existence. To make it clearer, it has to be pointed out that that inalienable underlying delight is something different, — more essential and wider than the ordinary emotional and sensational pleasure of the individual human creature. That inalienable delight is at the root of but is not identical with what we call pleasure, pain and indifference. These latter are only outward or surface sensations, — positive, negative or neutral, — waves and foams of that infinite and deep and inalienable delight.

The delight of which we speak is the infinite delight of being. That being is the self of things, and it is an infinite indivisible existence, which we have already established earlier; again, as we have seen, of that existence the essential nature is power, which is an infinite, imperishable force of self-conscious being; and of that self-consciousness the essential nature is again an infinite and inalienable delight of being.

This Sachchidananda is discovered when our soul grows out of its bondage and it comes to attune itself to an infinite consciousness, and delight, imperturbable, ecstatic, all-embracing. Although it is present everywhere, to our ordinary view it remains hidden, — profound, sub- conscious. We discover that that delight enables and compels things to remain in existence; it is the fundamental Will to be, which translates itself vitally as the instinct of self-preservation, physically as the imperishability of matter, and mentally as the sense of immortality through all phases of self-development. It is that which is present even behind the occasional impulse of self-destruction, which is only a reverse form, or an attraction, which is a consequence of a recoil from present state of being. It is then that we find the truth of the Upanishads, which declares: “From Ananda, all existences are born, in Ananda they remain, and to Ananda they depart."

This view that the world is a manifestation of Sachchidananda is likely to appear to be different from or even in conflict with three other views that we find in Indian systems of philosophy, where, again, they are presented as in mutual conflict with each other. These three theories are: (1) the theory that the world is a manifestation or creation of illusory Maya, behind which is the Inactive Sachchidananda; (2) that this world is a manifestation or an evolutionary unfolding of Prakriti; (3) that this world is Lila or a sport of the Divine. If, however, we begin with a comprehensive concept of Sachchidananda, we shall find that there will be no inconsistency in stating that the world is a manifestation of Sachchidananda and that the world is creation of Maya, Prakriti and Lila. In a comprehensive statement, therefore, the divergent formulas of the old philosophies get reconciled and become one. And their age-long controversy can come to an end.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Let us begin with a theory according to which world is a creation of Maya. We may begin with the original meaning of Maya where it meant a power of all-comprehending consciousness and all-apprehending consciousness, a consciousness, which is unitary and yet capable of differentiating various aspects and elements, which are united. Maya, in that sense, is the power that differentiates potentialities and in the act of differentiation it works by distinguishing one from the other. Consequently, it delimits one from the other, it measures one in relation to another. Maya is thus really the power of measurement, true to its etymological sense, namely, ya mamati sa maya that which measures is Maya. At a subsequent stage, the word Maya came to imply knowledge, skill, intelligence, but at a still later stage it acquired a pejorative sense of cunning, fraud, illusion, and this sense has become prominent in the philosophical systems of India.

But we need not be limited to this later understanding of the word Maya, but try to explicate the original sense of this word and show that in the original sense, the world is Maya, that it has a certain association with a state which can be felt as unreal but is not really so. If the world were only unreal, it could not have been related to or located in a reality, which is one without the second. If the world exists, and if there is only one reality without the second, it must be the manifestation of that reality, and it must be located in it. But even if the world is thus related to Reality, even if it is real because of its relationship with reality and because of its location in the Reality, there is no doubt that the world is phenomenal, where the word “phenomenal” is used to indicate that which is not permanent, ‒ that which is temporary. While this meaning is quite acceptable, it should not mean that that which is temporary is unreal or that it has no permanence of any kind. A given formation emerges, is sustained temporarily and is dissolved; because it appears and disappears temporarily, it is stigmatised as unreal. But can we say that appearance and disappearance imply pre-existent void or subsequent abolition? If there was pre-existent void, it could not have appeared, and its subsequent disappearance were to mean abolition, it would seem inexplicable as to into what it is abolished. Again, a form that disappears can and does reappear, and the power of formation does not appear only temporarily, but it is permanent, and it is inherent, or must be inherent in that Reality, since there is one and only one Reality.

This power of formation and the various forms, which appear and reappear, may be regarded as phenomenal but not unreal, although distinguishable from the immobile Reality which is eternally permanent and does not itself appear or disappear temporarily. Only in this sense, the world which appears and disappears but which reappears can be termed as phenomenal, and in that sense, it can be called Maya. In other words, Maya is the power of the Immobile, as permanent as the Immobile, one with the Immobile, a power that is capable of presenting formations which appear, disappear and reappear. This may be called the play of the power of the Reality. This play is the manifestation of Reality that is Sachchidananda.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

There is a Samkhyan way of looking at the world-existence, where the world movement is placed in relation to consciousness and to force. The world movement then is seen as obeying some secret will. Although this philosophy is dualistic, its explanation of the world-movement brings dualism to a vanishing-point, since the world movement is the play of Prakriti, the executive Force, which obeys Purusha for the enjoyment of Purusha. The world is then a play, but a play of the executive force that obeys the will of consciousness. The Executive Force is the source or the mother of infinite forms providing unending experiences for the enjoyment of conscious Being or Purusha. Hence, we return to some kind of unity of Force and Being, unity that is consistent with the monism of Sachchidananda.

The world-existence can also be viewed in relation to the self-delight of eternally existent being and realise it as Lila, as the joy of the existent Being in creating and re-creating Himself, in Himself for the sheer bliss of that self-creation, of that self-representation. He is himself the play, the player, and he himself the playground.

These three states of himself correspond to three conceptions of Maya, Prakriti and Lila. When he is himself the play, the relationship is that of Brahman and Maya; when he is himself the player, the relationship is that of Purusha and Prakriti, when he is himself the play-ground, the relationship is that of Ishwara and Shakti and Lila of Shakti. These three can then be seen not as mutually contradictory relationships, and the philosophical systems explicating them not as mutually contradictory philosophies, but they are in reality perfectly consistent with each other, complementary and necessary in their totality to an integral view of the life and of the world. This triple or triune view must be the starting point of all our understanding of the Universe.

We have then the starting point of eternal and immutable delight, as a first premise. Behind all our experiences that inalienable delight is the support, and that is our real self. This is the second premise. That which experiences the triple vibration is the mental being, which can be nothing else than a representation of our real self which that real self has put in front for the purposes of sensational experience of things which arises from the divided consciousness in its response to the multiple contacts of the universe. The mental being can only give an imperfect response because his consciousness is divided, although if one can enter into sympathy with the indivisible consciousness of the One, one can have the experience of acute and perfect sympathy.

As a result, it follows that in our depths we are indivisible consciousness and therefore the inalienable all-bliss, and our experience of pain, pleasure and indifference can only be a superficial arrangement of the waking consciousness in its uppermost part in which divided consciousness is exclusively concentrated on itself. In our depths, there must be equality and impartiality. If that impartial delight allows the surface experience of pleasure, pain and indifference, it must be for its own purposes of delight, for purposes of profiting from the surface experiences. That profit is the gradual return of the inner delight upon each experience of the surface, and that return creates on the surface greater and greater experience of the delight through its formations of strength, character, knowledge and impulsion.

Although this truth is hidden from us in our ordinary life, it becomes more and more realisable when we begin to live more and more within.

We can even come to smile at the pleasures and pains of our surface being even as we smile at the error and passion of the child. We discover that there is within us a vast Bliss-Self, anandamaya, behind the limited mental self, manomaya.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

We may even go farther. Even in the surface being, pleasure, pain, indifference have no absoluteness and have no necessity. We are not obliged to be happy or unhappy or to remain indifferent. If we feel such an obligation, it is only because we have formed the habit or because our outer nature has formed that habit. If we so decide, we can change and we can experience pleasure when we used to have pain, and we can have pain where we use to have pleasure. We can even train our superficial being to such an extent that in all states of experience there is only a direct reply of our inmost inalienable delight.

At the level of the mind, it is easy to see how pleasure and pain are purely habitual. But at the level of the nervous being, one feels some kind of absoluteness and unalterableness of pleasure and pain. To our nervous mentality, victory, success, honour, and good fortune seem to be
unalterably present, just as sugar unalterably tastes sweet. On the other hand, defeat, failure, disappointment, disgrace, evil fortune of all kinds are unpleasant things for themselves and they seem to produce inalterably the experience of grief, even as wormwood must taste bitter.
At the mental level, all these experiences can be varied, pleasant can be turned into painful and the painful can be turned into pleasant; the mind can be so trained as to meet them with a perfect gladness. That is the reason why by inner development the mind begins to enjoy greater freedom, since one is no longer a slave of external touches. But in the domain of physical pleasure and pain, where nerves and physical consciousness play a dominant part, it is extremely difficult to change pleasure into pain and vice versa.

But even there one can achieve mastery. Instances of hypnosis have shown how the pain of painful experiences becomes suspended during the hypnotic stage; there are even instances where during the hypnotic stage deeper consciousness is allowed to enter and dominate the surface consciousness; and where this is successfully done, pain can be eliminated even after the hypnosis has been removed and when one is returned to normal waking consciousness. What is done through a hypnotist, where the help of hypnotiser is required, can also be achieved by one's own will.

If we look at the deeper reason as to why there should be pain at all, it will be seen that pain is a helpful reaction to prevent the nervous and physical being from entering into a harmful contact; pain is a part of what the Upanishads call Jugupsa, the shrinking of the limited being from that which is not himself and not sympathetic and not with harmony with himself. At the level of material existence, there is no pleasure and pain; there is complete insensitivity. It is when life enters into matter, and when mind grows in life that pain and pleasure begin and even grow more and more intense. But if and when mind learns to give up its exclusive concentration of consciousness and its egoistic impulses, mind becomes harmonious with the entire universal existence;
there is then nothing which is in disharmony with it, and therefore in every contact there is only the experience of inner gladness, and if there is still any pain it is only as a result of the mechanical repetition of past habits.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

In due course, the eventual elimination of pain, pleasure, indifference must be an essential point in the destined conquest of the soul over subjection to Matter and egoistic limitation in Mind.

If it is possible to eliminate pain and pleasure it is so because they are themselves imperfect and perverse currents of the delight of existence.

They are the results of imperfections. When imperfection enlarges into
universality, — pleasure and pain cease. Even if they remain in the surface, the universal consciousness in us which is not tied up with the imperfection of the surface consciousness can experience equal delight or Rasa in all experiences of the surface being, pleasant, unpleasant, indifferent. Something of this kind happens when we witness a creation of art, and poetry. For in that experience we become detached and watch the characters, events, and various states of things without the need of self-defense; we become wide enough to experience the rasa for taste and enjoy it, even when what is witnessed is sorrowful, terrible and even horrible and repellent. Actually, aesthetic experience is not the accurate image of a higher experience, which is supramental and supra-aesthetic. In the supramental and supra-aesthetic experience one can eliminate all that is sorrowful and terrible or horrible and repellent. Because it can eliminate its very cause, namely, imperfection of consciousness.

There are three stages through which one grows out of the ordinary limitations to the state of full liberation. There is first, titiksha, a state in which one endures all shocks of existence, and one is able to achieve a state of equal indifference to all contacts; the next step is that of the elimination of ego consciousness and the third is the stage of self- surrender. The ascetic path lays stress on the path of equal indifference, and then by arriving by aloofness from everything, one can attain to a transcendental Sachchidananda Consciousness. The Vedic sages followed the path of the loss of ego and surrender and they attained Sachchidananda consciousness, which is at once transcendental and universal. In any case, neutrality to all experience precedes the conversion in which one can experience equal delight in all contacts.
There is also a process by which pleasure, pain, indifference can be directly transformed into Ananda or Delight, but that is less easy to the human being.

Such then is the view of the Universe, and such is the solution, which arises out of the integral Vedantic affirmation. Beginning with delight at the origin, and involved in the physical universe where insensitivity is the result of complete concentration of consciousness in its exclusiveness; the subsequent movements emerge, and with the emergence of the mind and ego, triple vibration of pain, pleasure, indifference originate as ever-developing experiences of limited consciousness in its ascent towards the higher consciousness. Finally, there can emerge full Sachchidananda, by processes of universality, equality, self-possession and conquest of nature.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

One question still remains. Why does the one Existence or why should it take delight in such a movement in which all kinds of pleasures and pains and all kinds of discords and chaotic movements arise and baffle all of us? The answer is that the Sachchidananda is infinite and has
varieties of possibilities, each one of which expresses the Sachchidananda as well as any other. Any of these possibilities can be freely chosen, and Sachchidananda has chosen this particular possibility in which there is first self-concealment and then there is the gradual self-finding. But both in its self-concealment and its gradual self-finding, the delight remains inalienable, and even the creature, — which is Sachchidananda himself — experiences discords and pain, pleasure, neutrality, has not only within itself that inalienable delight, but has also secret delight in the experiences of discordance and even in pain. The result is that the man, the individual, while remaining the individual can become and live as the universal being. His mental consciousness becomes ultimately an instrument of the universal superconscient unity;
his emotions and his heart come to learn the infinite embrace of love; his vital being becomes a vehicle of the universal life-force bearing within itself universal delight; his very physical being, without ceasing to be physical or without escaping from the physical, becomes conscious of its oneness with the indivisible course of delight. The whole nature is reproduced in the individual — the unity, the harmony, the oneness in all of the supreme Sachchidananda, Existence, Consciousness, Bliss.

The delight of existence remains the same in this play of variation and starts from matter and ends with super-conscient self-possession, into which the individual must wake and become one with the indivisible Sachchidananda. This is the play of the One, who is also the Lord, and who is himself all that manifests here, and this play reveals itself when we become liberated from our mental consciousness.

Philosophical Approaches to the Ultimate Reality

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