Philosophy and Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and other Essays - Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment



Man has been in search of himself through the  ages, and yet, he remains a mystery. But among all the elements of his mystery, the most conspicuous is the phenomenon of his consciousness. What is, after all, consciousness? In this immense universe of Matter, which is or which appears to be unconscious, how does this consciousness emerge? Is consciousness entirely alien to Matter? Are they in any way related to each other? Is that relation merely external? Or is it internal? Again, is consciousness identical with what we mean by Mind? Or, is Mind itself a certain degree or kind of consciousness? And, as we begin to examine closely our own being, we are baffled by the interaction between the body and the mind, between the unconscious and the conscious. And still further, as we fathom into the possibilities of the extension of consciousness, the immensities and heights of the planes and levels of our being overwhelm us. We begin to ask, What is man's beginning and what is his end?' Indeed, the mystery of Man seems essentially to be the mystery of consciousness.

Philosophers and psychologists have attempted to pierce through this mystery, and we have before us several speculations, hypotheses, conclusions, several claims, dogmas, faiths, and several doubts, disbeliefs and denials. To the seeker of knowledge, to the scientists of the unknown, to the worshippers of light, all these are of immense

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

value as a great aid to the quest, and as we recapitulate in a synoptic view what is of utmost value of the past search, we feel that a central study of this subject is not only most fascinating, but something that is indispensable to the further immediate steps of humanity's progress.

In the Cartesian psychology, a sharp and radical division is made between mind and body; the two are regarded as separate substances and it is thought that the interaction between them is impossible. And yet, the facts of the connection between body and mind are so compelling that Descartes was obliged to assume the connection between the two through the pineal gland. But the pineal gland is, after all, physical, and thus, in effect, the original assumption of the impossibility of the interaction between body and mind is contradicted.

In the East, in the Samkhya Psychology, the mind and body are both grouped together, both considered as the results of Prakriti, which is fundamentally a material principle. Both mind, (that is, manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara) and body are physical, unconscious, jada. The phenomenon of consciousness is explained by supposing an independent principle of Purusha whose very nature is that of conscious luminosity and inactivity. Once again, we have a trenchant opposition between consciousness and the products of the physical principles. But once again, still, we find the Samkhya assuming a connection between them which is not fortuitous, but of signal significance. And, in spite of this connection, it still remains mysterious as to how the unconscious principle assumes, even though apparently, the consciousness that belongs only to Purusha. The phenomenon of consciousness remains a mystery in the Samkhya.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

One begins to wonder if the supposed opposition between body and mind or consciousness is not a myth. It may be that the body is fundamentally of the nature of the mind or the mind is really material in nature. In the modern behaviourism, it is supposed that there is no such thing as consciousness, that all the so-called mental or conscious phenomena of perception, emotion, thought, imagination, can be explained in terms of the simple formula of SR or of SCR (Stimulus and Response or Stimulus and Conditioned Reflexes). But when we come to examine this psychological theory, we find that it fails completely to explain the core of our conscious experience, namely the phenomenon of understanding. Understanding is indeed not behaviour, and even though it can manifest through behaviour, it cannot entirely do so. Behaviour may manifest understanding but it cannot explain it. Besides, when we come to examine facts now brought forward by the psychical research, psychoanalysis and allied schools, we begin to wonder if the body is not a form of consciousness, having its own dumb or unconscious will, thought, and feelings. The difference between the conscious and the unconscious seems to be simply a matter of degree.

This is, however, still a matter of speculation, perhaps a workable hypothesis. But when we come to study the modern schools of psychology, their apex-ideas ofpolarities of conflicting drives, dream analysis, personality styles, integration, and the rest, in the light of Indian knowledge that has been gained through the ages by a rigorous process of research, experimentation, and verification, we feel that we are in possession of scientific data which far exceed the tentative and inadequate data of modern psychology and that these data when recognised, studied and re-established, would revolutionise our concept of consciousness and open the doors of new applications of the powers of consciousness in the fields of physiology, health, medicine, cybernetics, epistemology, mental sciences, education— in the very science and technology of evolution on the earth.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

These data belong to Yoga, which has been regarded primarily as a Science of Consciousness, the science of Psychology, par excellence. One of the most striking ideas that Yoga puts forward is that no observation can be impartial or objective so long as there are modifications in the consciousness that observes. Even the so-called scientific observations of the scientists would not merit the title of objectivity in the realm of yoga, unless the scientist is free from the chittavritti,modifications of the stuff of his consciousness. There is, according to Yoga, a state of consciousness, the state of pure witness, the sakshin, without any ripple whatsoever, free from all partiality or narrowness, which alone can comprehend the objective fact objectively, without any personal bias, without any relativity. This is the phenomenon of the pure subject observing the object as it is, in itself.

It is important to note that the Science of Yoga admits as its data only those observations which qualify this rigorous test of objectivity.

It is in this context that we may note that the Vedic and Upanishadic Yoga regard the whole gamut of our existence to be a manifestation of a single conscious principle. Mind and body are not basically different from each other. Not only that, they also point to the phenomena which cannot ordinarily be covered under what we mean by the word Mind. Indeed in all schools of yoga, we have a distinction between consciousness and mind, in the sense that consciousness is a large complex of awareness, while mind is only a limited or a selected overt portion of that awareness. In the view of the comprehensive

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

system of Yoga, Consciousness has a range which rises above our ordinary mind, and it has a range below it which may properly be termed as subconscient. Body, too, has or is itself a formation of consciousness, most of whose operations are subconscious. Mind itself is an intermediate status of consciousness. For it is recognised that behind our ordinary mental consciousness, there is the subliminal consciousness, and above the mind, there are ranges of the superconscious.

In modern times, the phenomena of the subliminal consciousness are being studied (although not fully or even adequately) by the Psychical Research - the phenomena of extrasensory perception, such as telepathy, telekinesis, foreknowledge and allied or cognate operations. But in India, there are schools which specialised in the study of this range of consciousness. And, in the system of the Tantra, we have a remarkable body of the application of the knowledge of the subliminal or occult consciousness.

The subliminal has to be distinguished from the subconscious. The subconscious is the consciousness which is emerging from a condition of the sleep of consciousness; it is a consciousness in the process of waking but which does not wake up, although it is active and operative and produces effects upon the conscious life and its movements. It covers what Freud calls the Id, and also what Jung calls the Individual and Collective Unconscious. It is the region in which our suppressed desires and wishes find their resort and from where they surge up during our dreams or during our physical and mental illness. It is the abode of the roots of habits, and it is the cause of repetitions of the thoughts, feelings and emotions which we have consciously rejected. It is, in short, a lair of dark and dumb surges of consciousness.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

The subliminal, on the contrary, is a field of what are called the inner sheaths or koshas. There is, according to the Yogic knowledge, a sheath of the subtle physical behind our gross body. Similarly, behind the complex of our desires, emotions and superficial or deep-seated longings and attractions and repulsions, in short, what we may call the superficial vital being, there is the inner vital which is the source of our larger and wider action which is the cause of our frequent or rare outbursts of exhibition of superhuman strength and power. There is also behind our groping and labouring mental operations of perceptions, observation, imagination, ratiocination and pragmatic cunning and invention, an inner mental consciousness full of large and vast symptoms of ideas and images, clearly and systematically organised. The subliminal consciousness is what is popularly called the occult consciousness, the consciousness that is manifest in the phenomena of clairvoyance, telepathy, foreknowledge and cognate phenomena.

It has been affirmed that dreams are built not merely by the subconscious, but also by the subliminal consciousness. And, just as the subconscious has its own symbolism, the subliminal, too, has its own symbolism, a notation of its own language. As explained by Sri Aurobindo:

If the subliminal... comes to the front in our dream consciousness, there is sometimes an activity of our subliminal intelligence, — dream becomes a series of thoughts, often strangely or vividly figured, problems are solved which our waking consciousness could not solve, warnings, premonitions, indications of the future, veridical dreams replace the normal subconscious incoherence. There can come also a structure of symbol-images, some of a

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

mental character, some of a vital nature: the former are precise in their figures, clear in their significance; the latter are often complex and baffling to our waking consciousness, but if we can seize the clue they reveal their own sense and peculiar system of coherence. Finally, there can come to us the records of happenings seen or experienced by us on other planes of our own being or of universal being into which we enter: these have sometimes, like the symbolic dreams, a strong bearing on our own inner and outer life or the life of others, reveal elements of our or their mental being and life - being or disclose influences on them of which our waking self is totally ignorant; but sometimes they have no such bearing and are purely records of other organised systems of consciousness independent of our physical existence...1

There is a misconception regarding Yoga in which Yoga is exclusively identified with occultism or with the powers and so-called miracles that can take place when the subliminal consciousness operates effectively or visibly in the physical. The true yogins have repeatedly denounced this misconception and affirmed that the central occupation of Yoga is the inmost discovery of the soul and of the levels and powers of consciousness that lie behind or above the mind.

The subliminal is vast, large, powerful and organised but it is still remote from what Yoga terms as knowledge, vidya. Knowledge is a perception or realisation of one Self


1 Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Centenary Edition, Volume 18, pp.424-25

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

in all, while in ignorance, avidya, there is a false idea of the multiplicity as self-existent or of the individual as however vast and potent, is still shot through and through with this ignorance.

The science of Yoga, therefore, in its understanding of Consciousness, insists on the distinction between the subliminal on the one hand, and the psychic and the superconscious, on the other.

Of the soul, of the psychic consciousness, and of the superconscious, there are, in Yoga, numerous descriptions; among the Sufis, among the Christian mystics, among the Lamas, there are parallels in their descriptions, and in the Indian Yoga itself there are various classifications of the states of consciousness that pertain to these domains. The release from the ego, the realisation of the Self, of the Cosmic Consciousness, of the Transcendental Consciousness, — these are among the most fundamental. Nirvana and Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita, Purusha and Prakriti, Brahman and Maya, Ishwara and Shakti and hundred other similar concepts have behind them the experiences and realisations which are of central significance to Yoga. And pertaining to each experience and each state of consciousness there are numerous powers of action, and at various levels of being they have varying degrees of effectivity. All these have been explored, experimented with, verified, and we have in Yoga a rich, complex, subtle and authentic body of knowledge. Yoga further affirms that it is not a closed book, but an ever- developing field of research. And in modern India, we have not only a recovery of the past knowledge, but as in Sri Aurobindo, new discoveries, new applications of the knowledge, new achievements, new proposals for further realisations. The concepts of the descent of the supermind on the earth, of the Gnostic Being, of the Divine Body are some of the results of the recent yogic research.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

It may be noted that the science of Yoga not only provides us with the knowledge of the various states and levels of consciousness, but it gives us also the practical methods of verifying them by a fresh achievement in our own being. And these methods again are numerous, and pertaining to each method, there are steps and stages, and for each of them there are appropriate states and powers of consciousness. These, too, have been studied, experimented with and known with authenticity of verifiable repeated and repeatable experience. Even the minute vibrations of consciousness have been noted and described with precision; fine distinctions have been stressed; subtle variations of the methods and processes, whether of Raja Yoga or Hatha Yoga or Karma Yoga or Jnana Yoga, of Bhakti Yoga or of Tantra have been studied in detail. All in all, we have a vast and opulent treasure of the knowledge of consciousness in Yoga.

Consciousness is intrinsically related to personality. For personality is a pattern of qualities, and qualities are the vibrations of the consciousness of the being. The secret of personality and of the development of personality lies therefore in the nature and powers of consciousness. Yoga, in dealing with consciousness, necessarily deals with personality and yoga provides knowledge as to what constitutes personality. Yoga has, for instance, behind the concept of personality, significant concepts of the real person, free person, witness person and supreme person. And Yoga provides also a methodology of the development of theperson that is conveyed by these concepts to its fullness in its integrality.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

It is significant that in the new waves of research and experimentation in education, there is an increasing stress on the development of personality. The recent reports of the UNESCO for instance, endeavours to stress the very theme and aims of education in their very titles Learning to be, and Learning: Treasure Withinand they explain that the integral development of personality is the content of Learning to be and other processes and aims of learning.

If this is the importance that is to be laid in our education on the development of personality, it is clear that consciousness and personality as understood in Yoga have an immediate relevance. To put forth, therefore, the Yogic idea of integral personality based upon its profound concepts of consciousness is an urgent need.

That consciousness of Man is greatly influenced by the unconscious has largely come to be accepted all over the world, and modern medicine has accorded a place to psychiatry in the treatment of certain diseases. The concept of mental health and its relation to various elements of consciousness has also come to be accepted. But if, as Yoga affirms, there are not only the subconscious and the conscious, but even the subliminal and the superconscious and if the laws of these in relation to cure and health are studied, there could occur a revolutionary change not only in the practice of psychiatry or of mental health, but even in our approach to medicine itself. It may have a result even on the knowledge of our body, its functioning, its possibilities and its future.

One of the important problems that still remains unsolved is that of Death. What is Death? Is death inevitable? Is it merely a habit? Or is it something inbuilt in the very structure of the body? And has this structure anything to

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

do with our consciousness? And can this structure be changed by a revolutionary change in consciousness as is sometimes conceived by Yoga? And, in that case, can death be eliminated by Yoga? And what would this mean in terms of processes and methods that would be involved in the elimination of death? Would it mean a complete change of the human body, its need of blood circulation, food and oxygen? Recent research in Yoga has raised all these important problems not merely as matters of fascinating curiosity or in pursuit of some ambition to conquer death and enjoy the round circle of life perpetually, but as something so relevant to understand Man himself, his place in the evolutionary process, his function as a species.

It is being increasingly realised that the problems that Man confronts are the result of the consciousness in which he dwells. And it is undeniable that the problems that Man faces today are so complex, so critical, and so global as they have never been in his history. Has this situation not to do centrally with the consciousness of Man? And, if we are keen to resolve this situation, is it not necessary to study deeply man's consciousness, its relation to his problems and to find a solution to these problems in terms of a radical change of his consciousness? And in that case, shall we not find Yoga, which is not only a science of Consciousness, but also a technology of the change of consciousness, to be indispensable in the further progression of Man?

Man and his crisis, man and his limitations, man and his death, man and his evolutionary future, man as a species preparing a new species - all these seem to be related to each other, and they all seem to point to the mystery of man's consciousness. Yoga as a science of Consciousness promises to hold the key to this mystery and in the critical

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

urgency of the human situation, we feel impelled to knock the doors of Yoga in the hope that these portals will open and show us the way. Or if the way is still not ready with all its past and present achievements, we shall march with Yoga to build it.

It has been said that Yoga was for long kept secret for a select few, but the time has come now to generalise it in humanity. Indeed, the pressure of our crisis leads us to feel that even we of ordinary humanity must turn to Yoga.


       History of Indian culture may significantly be described as the history of the theme of Consciousness, and its supreme achievement has been the development of the science of Consciousness and practical application of that science. This entire science is the science of Yoga. Right from the times of the Veda up to the present day, we find extraordinary explorations of consciousness. Vedic Rishis attained, as the Vedas testify, loftiest domains and powers of consciousness. And the Yoga that we find in the Veda is the synthesis of Yoga. For this reason, Veda is known as the Book of Knowledge (jnana kanda), Book of Works {karma kanda), and Book of Prayers (Upasana kanda). Describing the attainment of these Vedic Rishis, Sri Aurobindo states as follows:

They may not have yoked the lightning to their chariots, nor weighed sun and star, nor materialised all the destructive forces in Nature to aid them in massacre and domination, but they had measured and fathomed all the heavens and earths within us, they had cast their plummet into the inconscient and the subconscient and the superconscient; they

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

had read the riddle of death and found the secret of immortality; they had sought for and discovered the One and known and worshipped Him in the glories of His light and purity and wisdom and power.2

Ishopanishad describes the loftiest experiences of consciousness, where the individual, universal and the transcendental unite in the following verses:

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.


He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness? 3

Describing the journey of Yoga of Ayasya, the Rigveda speaks of the seven-headed Thought by which the lost sun of Truth is recovered. Again, it is this yogic journey that ends in the discovery of the fourth world, turiyam svid, the world of the supermind spoken of in the Veda as the world of the Truth, Right and Vast, — satyam, ritam, brihat. Describing the process of Yoga in its essential characteristic, the Rigveda states:


2 Sri Aurobindo: The Secret of the Veda, Centenary Edition, Volume 10, page 439

3यस्तु सर्वाणि भुतान्यात्मन्येवानुपश्यति ।

सर्वभुतेषु चात्मान॑ ततो न विजुगुप्सते । ।6। ।

यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भुतान्यात्मैवाभुद्विजानतः |

तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः । ।7। । Isha Upanishad, 6,7

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

They held the truth, they enriched its thought; then indeed, aspiring souls (aryah), they, holding it in thought, bore it diffused in all their being.4

We also find in the Veda a description of the culminating experience of immortality in the following words:

They who entered into all things that bear right fruit formed a path towards the immortality; earth stood wide for them by the greatness and by the Great Ones, the mother Aditi with her sons came (or, manifested herself) for the upholding.5

In one of the most illuminating passage of the Ishopanishad, we have a brief description of the passage of the yogic process from where the face of the Truth is covered to the point where the supreme light and knowledge are realised:

The face of Truth is covered with a brilliant golden lid; that do thou remove, O Fosterer, for the law of the Truth for sight.


O Fosterer, O sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illumining Sun, O power of the Father of creatures, marshal thy rays, draw together thy light; the Lustre which is thy most blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold. The Purusha there and there, He am I."6

4 दधन् ऋतम् धनयन् अस्य धीतिम् ।

आद् इद् अर्यो दिधिश्बो विभृत्राः । । Rigveda, 1.71.3

5 आ ये विश्बा स्वपत्यानि तस्थुः कृणवानासो अमृतत्वाय गातुम् ।

महना महदभिः पृथ्वी वि तस्थे माता पुत्रैः अदितिः धायसे वेः । । Rigveda, 1.72.9

6 हिरण्मयेन पात्रेण सत्यस्यापिहित॑ मुखम् ।

तत् त्व॑ पूषन्नपावृणु सत्यधर्माय दृष्टये । ।15। ।

पूषन्नेकर्षे यम सूर्य प्राजापत्य व्यूह रश्मीन् समूह ।

तेजो यत् ते रुप॑ क्ल्याणतम॑ तत्ते पश्यामि योऽसावसौ पुरुषः सोऽहमस्मि । । 16 | Isha Upanishad,15,16

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

It is significant that the yogic process which began with the Veda, culminated in the first cycle of knowledge in the Upanishads, which are called Vedanta, giving us the indication as to how and when the true soul of India was born. The description that we find in a few pages of the Upanishads restore for us the picture of that extraordinary stir and movement of spiritual inquiry and passion for the highest knowledge. It is in these Vedas and Upanishads that we find not only the sufficient fountainhead of Indian philosophy and religion, but of all Indian art, poetry and literature. It is there that we find the soul, the temperament, and the ideal mind which later ripened into what we now call Indian genius of spirituality, intellectuality, askesis and vitality.

The development of the science of Yoga can be seen in a new stage of synthesis when we come to the Bhagavadgita. The Bhagavadgita, which is known as the Yoga Shastra, provides us profound secrets of knowledge and application of knowledge by means of which human consciousness can be transformed into Divine consciousness. The first secret, guhyam rahasyam, is to find out how the field of circumstances in which one is placed can be apprehended or comprehended and mastered. This secret is the knowledge of the distinction between the field of circumstances and the knower of the field, kshetra and

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

kshetrajna. There is behind and above the field of circumstances the secret consciousness that can be experienced as a silent witness, purusha or as a transcendental immobility, Brahman or as the controlling and ruling giver of sanction and master, anumanta and ishwara. One of these experiences or all of them together can provide a sure basis of freedom from the tangles of the problems that the field of circumstances and the battle of life present to us by means of an interplay of the three gunas of Nature, sattwa, rajas, and tamas. But at this level of experience, although there is here freedom from action and its problems, one does not yet have the key to the freedom of action, freedom in action and freedom to disentangle the knots from the problems and their gripping difficulties. For that we need to have a deeper secret, guhyataram rahasyam, the secret of the origin of Nature in a higher Nature, the origin of apara prakriti in the para prakriti,where is also to be found the origin of multiple individualities which are the centres of the Supreme Self, Purushottama, who at once reconciles and synthesises the status of Purusha, Brahman and Ishwara. And the knowledge of this higher Nature not only liberates us from the tangle of Nature, but gives us also the capacity to harmonise various threads of Nature which would even allow the transmission of the dynamic and creative action that would resolve the knots and problems of all our activities of life. This is the knowledge by which the cognitive, affective and conative powers of our psychology can be perfected," and synthesis of karmayoga, jnanayoga and bhaktiyoga can be effected. But there is still a culmination of this deeper secret; there is still the deepest secret, guhyatamam rahasyam. This secret is that of the possibility of the transmutation of lower nature by higher nature, of the attainment of sadharmyam, where human law of action is substituted by the divine law of action. And the secret method is to move

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

at a stage where all that one is or one has is reposed unconditionally in the hands and in the being of the Supreme, as a result of which all that flows through the individuality is the incorruptible breath of the Supreme which unites the Truth, Beauty and Goodness and constantly creates conditions suitable for the unity and harmony of the people, lokasangraha.

The subsequent history of Yoga is an account of specialised schools of Yoga, each one of which is distinguished by a specific goal, a specific instrument of human psychology that is utilised for its perfection, and a specific purpose of concentration. These systems of Yoga provided intensive fields of experimentation, each one realising in greater subtlety of realisation as also enrichment of the common goal of Yoga. In a later development in the Yoga of Tantra, we find another basis of a synthesis in which the aspect of shakti is prominently utilised for the attainment of a large and integral realisation of the Supreme Reality. In our own times, we find Sri Rama Krishna Paramhamsa providing us a synthesis of Yoga by his colossal spiritual capacity, and in the words of Sri Aurobindo:

...first driving straight to the divine realisation, taking, as it were, the kingdom of heaven by violence, and then seizing upon one Yogic method after another and extracting the substance out of it with an incredible rapidity, always to return to the heart of the whole matter, the realisation and possession of God by the power of love, by the extension of inborn spirituality into various experience and by the spontaneous play of an intuitive knowledge.7


7 Sri Aurobindo: The Synthesis of Yoga, Centenary Edition, Volume 20, page 36

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

We have also in the works of Swami Vivekananda inspiring accounts of various systems of Yoga in large catholic and synthetic terms. In Sri Aurobindo, we have still a new synthesis which is effected by negating the forms and outsides of the yogic disciplines and seizing rather on some central principle, common to all which includes and utilises in the right place and proportion their particular principle, and some central dynamic force which is the common secret of the divergent methods and capable of organising a natural selection and combination of their varied energies and different utilities. Describing this process of synthesis and its aim, Sri Aurobindo states:

The lower Nature, that which we know and are and must remain so long as the faith in us is not changed, acts through limitation and division, is of the nature of Ignorance and culminates in the life of the ego; but the higher Nature, that to which we aspire, acts by unification and transcendence of limitation, is of the nature of Knowledge and culminates in the life divine. The passage from the lower to the higher is the aim of Yoga; and this passage may effect itself by the rejection of the lower and escape into the higher, — the ordinary viewpoint, — or by the transformation of the lower and its elevation to the higher Nature. It is this, rather, that must be the aim of an integral Yoga.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

... The whole life is the Yoga of Nature. The Yoga that we seek must also be an integral action of Nature, and the whole difference between the Yogin and the natural man will be this, that the Yogin seeks to substitute in himself for the integral action of the lower Nature working in and by ego and division the integral action of the higher Nature working in and by God and unity. If indeed our aim be only an escape from the world to God, synthesis is unnecessary and a waste of time; for then our sole practical aim must be to find out one path out of the thousand that lead to God, one shortest possible of short cuts, and not to linger exploring different paths that end in the same goal. But if our aim be a transformation of our integral being into the terms of God- existence, it is then that a synthesis becomes necessary. 8


The secret of Yoga lies in the understanding of what is technically called in the Indian systems, the study of ignorance, avidya. This concept is difficult to grasp, but the essential characteristic is marked by exclusive concentration of consciousness on a limited field and identification of the being or purusha with that limited field, which is an expression of prakriti or Nature, the executive force of threefold gunas - sattwa, rajas and tamas intertwined with the sense of ego. This ignorance as analysed by Sri Aurobindo, is sevenfold: original ignorance, cosmic ignorance, egoistic ignorance, temporal ignorance, constitutional


8 Sri Aurobindo: The Synthesis of Yoga, Centenary Edition, Volume 20, pp. 39-40

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

ignorance and practical ignorance. If this ignorance is to be removed, the means should consist of reversing the exclusive concentration of consciousness. Essentiality of the process of Yoga lies in effecting this reversal. All the various methods of Yoga are basically methods by which our outward consciousness is reversed in such a way that inner consciousness, and inmost consciousness and loftiest consciousness become the object of our consciousness. Sri Aurobindo speaks of sevenfold knowledge in which one can approach the Absolute as the source of all circumstances and relations, possess the world in ourselves in utmost wideness and in a conscient dependence in its source, and by so taking it up raises and realises the absolute values that converge in the Absolute.


As we approach the philosophy and practice of Yoga, we find that there are two things that cannot be doubted. There is, first, the experience of our individual entity as an observer who observes, experiences, acts and reacts. There is, second, a field of circumstances in which the individual finds in himself or herself and in which he or she works, learns and struggles to arrive at mastery. Arrival at this mastery, individual and collective, may be considered to be the realisation of human fulfilment.

The history of the world may be regarded as an account of the human aspiration towards human fulfilment. It manifests itself in the drive towards knowledge, possession, and enlargement into a vast and universal and transcendental being so as to grow out of the animal and egoistic consciousness. This aspiration strives to convert our twilight or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supra-mental illumination, to build peace in self-existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory satisfaction

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering. This aspiration strives to establish an infinite freedom in a world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessities. It also strives to discover and realise the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation.

If this aspiration is to be fulfilled, there does not seem to be another way excepting the way of the Yoga, and this way, as latest researches in Yoga indicate, is the way of the synthesis of Yoga, which aims at total freedom of each individual in his or her method of approach and which aims at integral development of personality and integral self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and the union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence which we see partially expressed in the human being and cosmos.

Yoga, then indeed, stands out as a subject of great contemporary relevance. This relevance arises from the acute crisis through which humankind is passing today. This crisis has arisen, it seems, from the fact that, while on the one hand, it does not seem unlikely that we may succeed in creating a system of life, practically covering the whole globe, which can provide to human beings means and materials to satisfy hedonistic, selfish and egoistic wants on such a scale that, for quite a long indefinite period, humankind might remain chained to circles of lower life marked by hunger and satisfaction, strife and success, and perils of small and great disasters, and yet, on the other hand, the upward human aspiration to build individual and collective life on the basis of mutuality and harmony, of peace and concord, and ever- increasing perfectibility of our highest potentialities must continue to struggle without any sound promise of its eventual fulfilment. In other words, while there is an

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

upward endeavour to break the vicious circle of our present vitalism or economic barbarism, this very endeavour has come to be partly discouraged by the scientist by his demand to provide physical proof of the supra-physical and partly blocked by the religionist by his refusal to look beyond dogma and the revealed word of the past, and has thus come to be rendered unequal to the required tasks.

The vicious circle can be broken only if our upward endeavour can get unmixed positive support from science and only if the moral and spiritual foundations can be strengthened and made increasingly unshakable.

This is the real issue.

It has been contended that all true knowledge belongs to science and can be acquired only by scientific methods. Morality, it is argued, is a matter of emotional responses which are themselves relative and carry no authenticity of knowledge in their contents or in their foundations. As far as spirituality is concerned, it is argued that its claims in regard to its insights, intuitions, revelations and other allied operations of knowledge are at the best occasional flashes, somewhat like conjectures which may sometime hit the truth but which escape from any systematic scrutiny by means of criteria that can confidently be applied in any impartial search of validity of knowledge. It is, therefore, concluded that spirituality is a field of light and shadow where it is difficult to distinguish what really is light and what really is shadow.

Now it is true that morality is a field of relativities and that if its claims of knowledge of the good and the right are to have some secure foundation, it can find these foundations only in a field which is higher than morality,

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

namely, the field of spirituality. But if spirituality itself is a field of uncertainties besieged by doubtful lights and shadows, we are thrown back into the vicious circle of vitalism which cannot be broken.

But is it true that spirituality is a field of uncertainties, of occasional flashes of light and of doubtful intuitions and revelations? It is here that the claims of Yoga need to be taken into account. For Yoga claims to be, among many other things, a methodised quest of spiritual and eventually of integral knowledge which is found to have succeeded in arriving at certain stable states of consciousness and of plenary illumination and knowledge of truths which can be verified both objectively and in personal experience by means of criteria which can be considered to be as sound as in any inquiry relating to validity of knowledge. In other words, Yoga claims to be a scientific discipline through which authentic knowledge can be gained in regard to any object, particularly, universal or transcendental, on which its methods are applied systematically and repeatedly.

It can at once be seen that if these claims of Yoga are valid, then we shall be able to have through Yogic methods that knowledge which can possibly break the vicious circle of the crisis of the present day and deliver us into new possibilities of a better humanity and a better world.

The next question, therefore, before us is whether the claims of Yoga are truly valid and whether they can be found to be sustainable. It has been contended that Yoga has discovered and perfected certain specific methods by application of which human consciousness can be so revolutionised that the ordinary functioning of the human body, human heart, and human mind can be united with

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

superior faculties of knowledge and action, and ultimately the human being can become permanently united with the universal and transcendental states of consciousness and knowledge. It has been further contended that the Yogic science possesses assured data of the knowledge of methods and their processes of application as also of their corresponding results. It has even further been contended that the efficacy of these methods and their results can be verified by everybody who is prepared to undergo the necessary preparation and training, and that the results obtained by others can be confirmed through one's own personal experience and can be utilised for producing relevant consequences and results. Finally, it is added that there is a long history of the development of this science of Yoga, and as in the case of the history of development of any science, one can trace a credible account of the old methods and old knowledge, of how they have gradually grown and developed by methods of confirmation, modifications and fresh developments resulting from new experiments and fresh acquisitions of knowledge. It is, therefore, concluded that Yoga provides a sound basis of a vast field of knowledge which can even now be studied and reacquired by the present humanity, and that without any need of falling into any trap of dogmatism, blind belief, superstition or even of half- knowledge and half-blindness, we can come to tap those resources of knowledge which can provide us the required guidance for the building up of a world illumined by ever- progressive knowledge and inspired by universal love.

These contentions and the conclusions to which they lead are so important that they deserve to be heard and noted with utmost seriousness, and they also deserve to be studied in full depth with all the required objectivity and even microscopic scruple so that whatever gates of knowledge that Yoga can open up before us are entered

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

into, and we are enabled to ensure that no possibility or avenue of knowledge that we require to break the present crisis has been ignored or allowed to remain under clouds of our dogmatic refusal to inquire and to learn.

This is where we stand today, and in the situation in which we find ourselves today demands on our part a serious inquiry and study of the entire theme of Yoga and Consciousness. Our study will show that the supreme gift of India to itself and to the world is the knowledge of Yoga and the practice of Yoga, for Yoga is a discipline that can give us the true basis for the hope of arriving at a true individual and collective fulfilment.

Yoga, Consciousness And Human Fulfilment

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