If our quest of knowledge is free from pre-conceptions and dogmas, and if our search aims at discovering action that ensures the highest good of the entire world, then the study of Sri Aurobindo will be found inescapable. For such indeed was his own quest, and his voluminous works provide ample proof of that quest and they also provide to us a vast body of knowledge that he came to acquire and master and into which we can dive deeply and swim vastly for purposes of our own programme of inquiry, questioning and verification. In his The Synthesis of Yoga he has, like a scientist, given a detailed and precise exposition of the realms of knowledge in which he has travelled, covering various levels of consciousness in the individual and the universal, and in the transcendental, particularly those of the mind and the supermind, as also of the methods by which those realms can be approached, traversed and mastered. In his The Life Divine, he has fashioned in minuteness, subtlety and complexity an edifice of philosophical thought of such vastness and intricate reasoning that can provide a rational assurance of the possibility and inevitability of the evolution of the divine life on the earth and invite an earnest seeker to a long, sustained and patient inquiry at the highest levels of critical and self-critical examination. In his Savitri, he has presented a supreme poetic creation of multiple dimensions relating to a symbolic story of epical character that raises and answers the central issue of human life on the earth in which the riddle of the world is locked, and in the heart of which the secret of the highest good of humanity is shown to be discoverable and realisable. These three are his supreme works, but there are
many others, more than 30, in which Sri Aurobindo has expounded his vision and work, and we can approach them for attaining the highest and the best.
Consciousness is, according to Sri Aurobindo, the greatest underlying fact; it is the universal witness; it is to that witness that the worlds and their objects appeal for their reality; we have no other evidence that they exist. It is argued that the material universe existed before life and mind made their appearances and it will survive after they have disappeared. But this argument assumes that consciousness, the universal witness, consists of the individual embodied mind born in the world. But when we extend our consciousness, we find the presence of cosmic consciousness embracing the universe and appearing as an immanent Intelligence in its entire works.
Sri Aurobindo points out that the possibility of a cosmic consciousness in humanity is coming slowly to be admitted in modern Psychology, as also the possibility of more elastic instruments of knowledge. According to Sri Aurobindo, it is only when we follow the Yogic process of quieting the mind itself that a profounder result of our self-observation becomes possible. At a certain point of this self-observation, we discover that that which observes all the activities of the mind is the mental being supporting the mind substance and mind energy. It is further found that that mental being is the upholder and source of sanctions, and without its sanction, mental operations could not exist or operate. This mental being or the mental Purusha, as it is called in Indian Philosophy, first appears as a silent witness and subsequently it is discovered to be the giver of the command, the Knower. At this stage, a question arises as to whether the entire phenomenal creation is presented to the mental being or whether it is something pre-determined
by dynamic truth of Self within and only manifested on the mind surface. As Sri Aurobindo points out, in order to know that we would have to touch or to enter into cosmic state of being and consciousness in which the totality of things and their integral principle would be better manifest than to our limited mind experience.
It is here that one can discover, according to Sri Aurobindo, Overmind-Consciousness which is beyond individual mind and which is beyond even universal mind that can be found in the realm of what is called Ignorance in Indian Philosophy. According to Sri Aurobindo, Overmind-Consciousness carries in itself a first direct and masterful cognition of cosmic truth. One thing becomes clear at this level of consciousness; it is self-evident here that both the Individual and the Cosmos come from a transcendent Reality which takes form in them. But still at the level of the Overmind-Knowledge the question set out for us by the phenomenon of the universe is not solved, and three alternative views of creation are presented, and the Overmind permits each one of them to formulate itself in its own individual right and realize its own existence in cognition, in dynamic self-presentation, in substantiating experience. These three alternative views are (a) whether the building of thought, experience, the world of perceptions of the mental Person, the mind Purusha, is truly a self-expression, self-determination proceeding from some truth of his own spiritual being, a manifestation of that truth's dynamic possibilities or (b) whether it is not rather a creation or construction presented to him by Nature, by Prakriti; or else (c) whether it might be a play of a cosmic imagination, a phantasia of the Infinite imposed on the blank indeterminable of his own eternal power of existence.
According to Sri Aurobindo, Overmind gives us no final or positive solution. But there is still a higher cognition beyond the Overmind, a Supramental cognition which is the highest level of cosmic consciousness, and we are left to seek for an answer in that cognition. Sri Aurobindo describes the supramental cognition as a Supramental Truth-Consciousness and points out that it is at once the self-awareness of the Infinite and Eternal and a power of self-determination inherent in that self-awareness; the first is its foundation and status, the second is its power of being, the dynamis of its Self-Existence. In the Supermind, it is found the Supreme is not a rigid Indeterminable and all negating Absolute; an Infinite of being complete in itself in its own immutable purity of existence, and its sole power, a pure consciousness, able only to dwell on the being's changeless eternity on the immobile delight of its sheer Self-Existence, is not the whole Reality. The Infinite of Being is also be an Infinite of Power.
Sri Aurobindo speaks of triple status of the Supermind. The first poise or status of the Supermind is distinguishable from the pure unitarian Consciousness which is a timeless and spaceless concentration of the Supreme Reality. The first poise of the Supermind is an equal self-extension of the Supreme Reality, – all-comprehending, all-possessing, all-constituting. The first poise of the Supermind founds the inalienable unity of things. As the thoughts and images that occur in our mind are not separate existences to us, but forms taken by our consciousness, in somewhat similar way are all names and forms to this primary Supermind. It is the pure divine ideation and formation in the Infinite. But these names and forms are not an unreal play of mental thought but a real play of
Conscious being. The names and forms are not mere Ideas; they are Real Ideas.
In the second poise of the Supermind there is an operation of apprehending consciousness, which consists of differentiation in the unifying consciousness with unequal emphasis. Apprehending consciousness is differentiating consciousness with unequal concentration; in each name and form the apprehending consciousness would realize itself as the stable Conscious-Self, the same in all; but also it would realize itself as a concentration of conscious-self following and supporting the individual play of movement and upholding its differentiation from other play of movement, − the same everywhere in soul-essence but varying in soul-form. This concentration supporting the soul-form would be the individual Divine or Jivatman as distinguished from the universal Divine or one all-constituting self. In the second poise, the One manifests the play of the One with the Many that are still one.
In the third poise, the underlying unity of supramental existence would come to be dominated by the individuals not only apprehending names and forms but even by projecting themselves into the movement of names and forms and to be in a way involved in it.
These three poises are only different ways of dealing with the truth of existence. The secondary and tertiary Supermind only develop and apply in the terms of the Divine multiplicity what the primary Supermind holds in the terms of the Divine unity. It is because in Time, the Many seem not to be eternal but to manifest out of the One and return into it as their essence that
their Reality comes to be denied; but as Sri Aurobindo points out, it might equally be reasoned that the eternal recurrence of the manifestation in Time is a proof that the Divine multiplicity is an eternal fact of the Supermind beyond Time no less than the Divine unity.
According to Sri Aurobindo, Infinite consciousness holds within itself endless truth of its own self-awareness. These, in action, would appear to our cognition as aspects of its being, to our spiritual sense as powers and movements of its dynamis, to our aesthesis as instruments and formulations of its delight of existence. Creation, as Sri Aurobindo points out, would then be a self-manifestation; it would be an orderly deployment of the infinite possibility of the Infinite. But every possibility implies a truth of being beyond it, a reality in the Existence; for without that support in truth there could not be any possibility.
In the Supermind cognition, three aspects of Reality viz., an Infinite and Eternal Existence, an Infinite and Eternal Consciousness, and an Infinite and Eternal Delight of Existence, are always an inseparable Trinity, even though one can stand in front of the others and manifest its own spiritual determinates as its primal aspects or its inherent self-formulations, but all these together are original to the triune Absolute.
According to Sri Aurobindo, all deploying of powers and possibilities and their inherent consequence is held together by Supermind cognition in an intimate Oneness, it keeps them founded consciously on the original Truth and maintains the harmony of the truths they manifest. There is no
imposition of imagination, no arbitrary creation, neither is there any division, fragmentation, irrecoverable contrariety or disparateness.
In the supramental consciousness, the objectivity of the objective universe attains certainty, for it is that very consciousness that puts forth the objective universe. Similarly, it is in the supramental consciousness that there is attained the certainty of the truth of the One that has inherent in it the Many, even though unmanifested, as also of the One and its relationship with the Many in various terms of identity and difference. As Sri Aurobindo points out, it is only when our human mentality lays an exclusive emphasis on one side of spiritual experience, affirms that to be the sole eternal truth and states it in the terms of our all-dividing mental logic that the necessity for mutually destructive schools of Philosophy arises. Sri Aurobindo explains the situation as follows:
“Thus, emphasising the sole truth of the Unitarian consciousness, we observe the play of the divine unity, erroneously rendered by our mentality into the terms of real difference, but, not satisfied with correcting this error of the mind by the truth of a higher principle, we assert that the play itself is an illusion. Or, emphasising the play of the One in the Many, we declare a qualified unity and regard the individual soul as a soul-form of the Supreme, but would assert the eternity of this qualified existence and deny altogether the experience of a pure consciousness in an unqualified oneness. Or, again, emphasising the play of difference, we assert that the Supreme and the human soul are eternally different and reject the validity of an experience which exceeds and seems to abolish that difference. But the position that we have now firmly taken absolves us from the necessity of these negations and
exclusions: we see that there is a truth behind all these affirmations, but at the same time an excess which leads to an ill-founded negation. Affirming, as we have done, the absolute absoluteness of That, not limited by our ideas of unity, not limited by our ideas of multiplicity, affirming the unity as a basis for the manifestation of the multiplicity and the multiplicity as the basis for the return to oneness and the enjoyment of unity in the divine manifestation, we need not burden our present statement with these discussions or undertake the vain labour of enslaving to our mental distinctions and definitions the absolute freedom of the Divine Infinite.”
It is because in the supramental consciousness, truths of various experiences are seen and comprehended in their true status and level, that supramental consciousness can be considered to be integral consciousness. A Philosophy founded on integral consciousness can rightly be termed as Integral Philosophy. What is stated above is a brief and inadequate statement of a possible starting-point of the Integral Philosophy as expounded by Sri Aurobindo. In this brief statement no attempt has been made to argue or to establish or to demolish any particular standpoint. But if we are to understand the Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, the brief statement made here may prove to be of some initial use.