Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo


1. The principle and support of all existence is the Self or Spirit (Atman or Brahman in Sanskrit). From the point of view of the manifested existence, it has three aspects:

a) transcendent: the Supreme Self (Paramatman), Existence in esse, above the individual and the cosmos, identical with the essential Divine Being, the Supracosmic Reality, the spaceless and timeless Absolute (Parabrahman);

b) cosmic: the Universal Self, the Spirit manifested in infinite self extension, the indwelling Spirit equal in all beings;

c) individual (Jivatman): the true Individual Self, the central being of each living entity, the essential individual consciousness, immutable and free, not affected by desire, ego and ignorance.

The Self is one and indivisible notwithstanding its three aspects.


2. To the highest spiritual perception, the One reveals a triple nature: Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Sat-Chit-Ananda (Sachchidananda).

In the Supreme the three are not three but one-Existence (Sat) is Consciousness (Chit), Consciousness is Bliss (Ananda). In the superior planes of manifestation, they become triune although inseparable; one can be made more prominent and base or lead the others. In the lower planes they become separable in appearance, though not in their secret reality, and one can exist phenomenally without the others, so that we can speak of an inconscient or a painful existence.

Chit, Consciousness, is not an inert and passive principle; it contains inherently the potential spiritual Energy, Tapas, which in the manifestation becomes the dynamic and creative Power or Force, Shakti. Chit-Tapas becomes Chit-Shakti, the universal Consciousness-Force, the conscious creative Force.


3. The present cosmic manifestation is the result of a double movement: involution and evolution. Involution is a process of self-limitation, of densification, by which the universal Consciousness-Force veils itself by stages until it assumes the appearance of a dense cosmic Inconscience. In this way a series of universal principles, worlds or planes of consciousness have been created, each characterized by certain powers of consciousness.

The three superior planes of this universe are called the planes at Sachchidananda. They form universal and fundamental states of the spiritual Reality in which the unity of the Divine Existence, the power of the Divine Consciousness, the bliss of the Divine Delight of existence are put in front. They are far above the reach of normal human consciousness and experience.

Then comes an intermediate plane, called the Supramental plane, or the plane of Supermind. It can be characterized as a self-effectuating Truth-Consciousness.

The series of descending planes ends with

- the mental plane or plane of Mind,

- the vital plane or plane of Life,

- the physical or material plane, or plane of Matter.

In the physical plane the involution reaches its last stage in a total Inconscience which becomes the starting point of a gradual evolution. This Inconscience is a stark and utter negation of the Spirit - an indeterminable original chaos, as it were.

In each plane all the powers of consciousness belonging to the planes above it are involved, so that all the powers of the original and universal Consciousness -Force are really involved or hidden even in the Inconscient.

These universal planes are worlds in themselves: they have their own forces, forms and beings. We are partly immersed in them and influenced by them (see Note 6 below), although it is only in the material plane that we have developed sense organs which bring the forces, forms and beings of the world of matter within our normal perception.

Evolution is an opposite process, by which the Consciousness-Force emerges again gradually from the apparent cosmic Inconscience and manifests its hidden powers.

Out of the Inconscient, Matter has been organized by the urge of the involved Consciousness-Force and under the pressure of the subtler forces of the physical plane. It has gradually developed into the physical cosmos as we know it. Matter, again by the working of the secret Consciousness-Force and that of the forces of the vital plane above, has produced Life and living physical beings: plants and animals. In the animal, once more by a double action, the forces of the mental plane have successfully fashioned an instrument permitting them to come in contact with Matter and organize it:

Mind is born in the physical world and, with it, Man, the selfconscious thinking animal. The next step of the ascent of the embodied consciousness will be taken under the pressure of the forces from the supramental plane: Supermind will emerge in the earthly manifestation. Sri Aurobindo's principal works are a comprehensive study of this new power of consciousness, the conditions of its emergence on earth and the resultant transformation of mankind.

'Mind, Life and Matter are the realized powers of the evolution and well-known to us; Supermind and the triune aspects of Sachchidananda are the secret principles which are not yet put in front and have still to be realized in the forms of the manifestation and we know them only by hints and a partial and fragmentary action still not disengaged from the lower movements and therefore not easily recognizable.' (Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, II, 15).

It must be noted that, as Sri Aurobindo uses the terms, evolution is not exactly the reverse of involution. Evolution is not a withdrawing, a subtilization, plane after plane, leading to a reabsorption into the One Unmanifest. It takes place in Matter itself: it is a gradual emergence of higher powers of consciousness, leading to an ever greater manifestation of the divine Consciousness-Force in the material universe. This is the secret significance of the terrestrial evolution.


4. Man is made up of a temporary surface personality and a deeper eternal soul with an individual Self (Jivatman) presiding from above. The personality has three principal parts: body, life and mind.

The individual soul is called the psychic being by Sri Aurobindo. It stands, so to speak, behind mind, life and body, which are its instruments in the manifestation, and supports them at first in a veiled manner, then, as it grows, more and more openly.

The psychic being is immortal while the body, the vital and the mind are dissolved at death, or a little later. It passes from life to life, gathering the essence of its life experiences and makes that its basis of growth in the evolution of the individual through the ages.

The true central being, the individual Self or Spirit (Jivatman) presides over the individual evolution, but it remains above the cosmic manifestation: it is not born nor does it evolve. It puts forward, as a representative of itself, the psychic being, which stands behind the manifestation in mind, life and body, and ensures the continuity of the individual evolution.

The psychic being should not be confused with the vital being which governs the activities of life and is the seat of desires, passions and emotions. The true individual Self should also be distinguished from its distorted reflection, the ego. The ego, the little self, which regards itself as separate from others and from the world, is a physical, vital and mental formation; it belongs to the transitory personality and dissolves with it.


5. Mind: in the language of this Yoga the words 'mind' and 'mental' are used to connote specifically that part of the nature which is concerned with cognition and intelligence. It proceeds by the elaboration of images, thoughts, ideas. It has various faculties: intelligence, memory, will, imagination, reason.

The vital is the life nature made up of desires, sensations, feelings, passions, energies of action, will of desire, reactions of the desire soul in man and all that play of possessive and other related instincts, anger, fear, greed, lust, etc.


6. The part of our nature of which we are normally conscious is our surface personality, consisting of the body, the (surface) vital and the (surface) mind. But behind this superficial consciousness there exists a far greater, deeper and more powerful consciousness which is in constant touch with the universal planes of Mind, Life and Matter (see Note 3 above). This hidden consciousness, which influences and governs us without our knowledge, is sometimes referred to as our inner being. Sri Aurobindo differentiates in it three regions or parts. One part is subconscient, lower than our waking consciousness; another part is on a level with our waking consciousness but subliminal, behind the threshold of consciousness; and yet another is superconscient, a higher consciousness above the normal consciousness.

The subconscient is a concealed and unexpressed, inarticulate consciousness which works below all our conscious physical activities. It retains the impressions of all our past experiences; not as perceptions, reactions, memories, thoughts, but as a fluid substance of these, as impressions at the same time obscure and obstinate. These impressions can surge up in dream forms as mechanical repetitions, or as 'complexes' which explode in actions and happenings.

The subliminal contains, behind the surface mind, an inner mind, larger and more effective; behind the surface vital, an inner vital, larger and more powerful; a subtler physical consciousness behind the surface physical being, more open and plastic and free. And above, the subliminal opens itself to the regions of superconscience, just as it opens below to the subconscient regions.

The superconscient contains first certain regions of the mind of which ordinary man is not normally conscious, sources of the higher intuitions and inspirations. then the Supermind and finally that which is above and beyond it (the planes of Sachchidananda).


7. Psychic: which pertains to the true soul, the 'psyche' or psychic being.


8. The Spirit is the Atman, Brahman, the essential Divine. When the One manifests the Many, that are always inherent in it, it assumes two aspects: Purusha and Prakriti, the Conscious Being or Soul, and Nature.

The Purusha is the true being, or at least represents the true being, on whatever plane he manifests. But in ordinary man, he is covered by the ego and by the ignorant play of the Prakriti, and remains veiled as a 'witness' which upholds and observes the play of the Ignorance. When he emerges, he is perceived at first as a calm, immovable consciousness, detached from the play of Nature. Thereafter he gradually asserts himself as the sovereign Master of Prakriti. Even when he is covered up, he is always present. The emergence of Purusha is the beginning of liberation.

What is commonly meant by Prakriti is Nature; it appears to be a play of unconscious and mechanical forces. But behind it is the ever present living Consciousness and Force of the Divine: the divine Shakti. Truly speaking Nature is only the outer or executive aspect of the Shakti or Conscious Force that forms and moves the worlds.

It can be said also that Nature is only the lower Prakriti, the Prakriti of mind, life and matter. There exists also a Higher Prakriti (Paraprakriti), the Supernature or divine Nature of the Sachchidananda, which has the power of manifesting the Supermind and remains always conscious of the Divine and free from Ignorance and its consequences.


9. Sri Aurobindo calls Supermind or Gnosis the higher dynamism of spiritual existence. The Supermind is the full Truth-Consciousness in which there can be no place for the principle of division and ignorance. Its fundamental character is knowledge by identity, in which the knower is one with that which is known. It knows the Self, the divine Sachchidananda and also the whole truth of manifestation.

The Supermind possesses an inherent dynamic power of self-determination and self-realization which sees all and unites all.


10. Dharma: this word, translated variously as 'law', 'moral law', 'duty', 'religion', is used at once in a wide and flexible sense. In its deepest meaning it is 'the law of the action according to the essential nature of each being'. Sri Aurobindo explains this meaning in the last quotation of Chapter IV.


11. Pralaya: is the periodical dissolution of the universe at the end of a cycle of cosmic creation and activity.


12. Tapasya: practice of a discipline, and generally of austerities for a determined end; spiritual effort, concentration of the energies in a spiritual discipline or process.


13. Rishi: 'one who sees (the Truth)', a seer, a sage.

Yoga: union with the Divine; the discipline by which one seeks deliberately and consciously to realize this union, or more generally, to attain to a higher consciousness.

Yogi: one who practises yoga; one who has attained the goal of yoga.


14. The Bhagavad-Gita (The Celestial Song): an episode in the ancient epic Mahabharata in which, on the battle-field of Kurukshetra, the Divine, in the form of Sri Krishna, gives his teachings to Arjuna. It is the most famous of the Indian Scriptures and universally revered.


15. Swami Vivekananda: (born and died in Bengal, 1863-1902): one of the chief disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and founder of the Ramakrishna Mission.


16. Nirvana: dissolution of the separate individual self (the little self, the ego); extinction of all separative consciousness, of desire and egoistic action and mentality; it is not necessarily the extinction of all being, but of being as we know it.


17. Whether for the individual or the collectivity, Sri Aurobindo stresses the fundamental difference which exists between the true Self, immutable and free, one with the supreme Self, and the ego, a transient separative individual consciousness identified with the mind, vital and physical, open and more or less subject to the forces of all kinds belonging to these planes.

In the evolution, the ego has a role of protection; it is necessary as long as the individual is not conscious of the true Self. But it becomes unnecessary when the psychic being, which is a delegate of the true Self, openly asserts itself, and in order that the psychic being may take possession of the nature, the ego has to abdicate and disappear.


18. Ishwara, the Divine as Lord and Master of the universe, and Shakti, the conscious creative Power, form of a fundamental duality somewhat different from the Purusha-Prakriti duality (Note 8, above). Purusha and Prakriti are separate powers, while Ishwara and Shakti are contained in each other. Ishwara is Purusha who contains Prakriti and rules by the power of the Shakti within him. Shakti is Prakriti ensouled by Purusha and acts by the will of the Ishwara, whose presence in her movements she carries always with her.

The Shakti of the Ishwara (lshwari-Shakti) is the divine Consciousness-Force or World-Mother, who contains all and carries all within herself, and to manifest it in Time and Space is her role. She thus appears as the mediatrix between the eternal One and the manifested Many.

These two dualities, as also the third fundamental duality Brahman-Maya, correspond to different spiritual experiences or realizations in Yoga (see The Synthesis of Yoga, Part II, Chapter IV, and The Life Divine, Vol. II, Chapter II).


19. Bhakti: is devotion, bhakta is one who follows the path of devotion, the devotee, the worshipper.


20. Between the thinking mind and the Supermind there are a number of ranges, planes or layers of consciousness in which the element or substance of mind and consequently its movements also become more and more illumined and powerful and wide.

The Overmind is the highest of these intervening ranges; it is full of lights and powers; but from the point of view of what is above it, it is the line of the soul's turning away from the complete and indivisible Knowledge and its descent towards Ignorance. For although it draws from the Truth, it is here that begins the separation of the aspects of the Truth and their working out as if they were independent truths and forces, and this is a process that ends, as one descends to ordinary mind, life and matter, in a complete division, fragmentation, separation from the indivisible Truth above.

It is from the Overmind that all the different arrangements of the creative Truth of things originate. Out of the Overmind they come down to the intuitive mind and are transmitted from it to the illumined mind and the higher mind to be arranged there for our intelligence. But they lose more and more of their power and certitude and harmony in the transmission as they come down to the lower levels.

The Overmind is the world of the great Gods, the divine Creators. One can consider it as the line separating the higher half of the Universe of Consciousness from the lower half. The Higher Hemisphere consists of the planes of Sat, Chit, Ananda, Mahas (the Supermind); the Lower Hemisphere of Mind, Life and Matter.

In the individual yoga, as in the collective evolution, consciousness has to rise successively to each of the ranges extending from the thinking mind to the Supermind. In the passages quoted in Chapter VII, Sri Aurobindo describes the characteristic functioning of the consciousness on these levels.


21. Mantra: 'the word that reveals', a combination of words or sounds having a spiritual significance and power. The function of a mantra is to create in the consciousness vibrations which will prepare it for the realization of what the mantra symbolizes and is supposed to carry within itself.


22. Brahman: the supreme Reality, the Absolute, the Divine (see Note I, above).


23. The Trinities of the Spirit: the fundamental Trinities have been mentioned in Notes I and 2.

'The Transcendent, the Universal, the Individual are three powers overarching, underlying and penetrating the whole manifestation; this is the first of the Trinities. In the unfolding of consciousness also, these are the three fundamental terms and none of them can be neglected if we would have the experience of the whole Truth of existence.' (The Synthesis of Yoga, Part I, Chapter XI).

'A trinity of transcendent existence, self-awareness and self-delight (Sachchidananda) is, indeed, the metaphysical description of the supreme Atman, the self-formulation, to our awakened knowledge, of the Unknowable whether conceived as a pure Impersonality or as a cosmic Personality manifesting the universe.' (The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction II).


24. Idea: term belonging to the Platonic vocabulary, where it designates the essential form or type of things, a kind of eternal and immutable model. The Idea to Plato is the true reality; all the rest is an appearance or a derivative.

The Real-Idea is a perception of truth which contains in itself the force of its own realization.

Sri Aurobindo distinguishes the Idea, which belongs to the higher regions of the mind (see Note 20), from the Real-Idea, which belongs to the Supermind. The Idea and the Will-Force are separated, whereas the Real-Idea possesses in itself the spiritual dynamism inherent in the higher Reality, the Supernature. But Sri Aurobindo uses sometimes the word Idea, meaning thereby Real-Idea.


25. Vedanta: originally the word Vedanta meant 'the end or culmination of the Vedas' and refers to the Upanishads. Subsequently, one of the six classical schools of the Hindu philosophy, which based itself on the Upanishads, also came to be known as Vedanta or Later Vedanta.


26. Swadharma: the law of action proper to an individual (see Note 10, above).

Swabhava: the distinctive nature of each being.


27. The inner centres are the seven lotuses or psychological centres (chakra) of the subtle body. They become active in the course of yoga and connect the waking consciousness to the subtler, deeper or higher states of consciousness.


28. Asuras: hostile beings or forces belonging to the vital mind plane. The traditional legends of India speak of them as Sons of Darkness, and later, as giants, titans or demons.


29. Rasa: the sap, the juice, the inner savour of things; essential delight, principle of aesthetic or spiritual enjoyment.


The Future Evolution of Man