The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo: The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge

This post has my personal notes and reflections of the chapter called The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge from The Life Divine written  by Sri Aurobindo.

The truth that we get if we go just by what our senses can perceive by sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste is very limited. For example, our eyes say that the sun goes around the earth, because, we see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. But we know from science, that the earth goes around the sun.

We cannot accept the evidence from our senses. We have to go beyond the senses and see what is really true. How do we do that? We do that by using the faculty of reason that is given to man. When we use reason in its pure form, we go beyond the appearances and contradictions that seem to the visible eye and are able to see the facts behind the outward appearance.

When we use this reasoning faculty  fully, we start to recognize the metaphysical. But even though we recognize the metaphysical through our reason, we have not fully accepted it and realised it in the depths of the being. To fully accept and realise it we have to experience it. Since these things are beyond what we call as normal experience, we can realise it only by extending our psychological experience.

What is our psychological experience? All experience is psychological ultimately. Even the experience of sight is not by the eyes, but by the mind. Our psychological experience can become aware of the external world and it can also become aware of our internal world. When it needs to become aware of the external world, it uses the senses. It becomes aware of the internal world by identifying with it. For example, when you become angry, you become anger itself. We become aware of our existence by identity as well. In the true sense, even what we experience in the external world ultimately has to be by identity.

However we have separated ourselves from the external world saying that we are the subject and the world is the object. Hence we have to develop methods to commune with the external world. We become limited. But this limitation is not really necessary. We can get directly commune with the external world without the senses. Many phenomena like hypnosis makes use of this. In our waking consciousness, most cannot do this, because we have limited the ability of the consciousness to commune, depending on how much we have evolved. But we often commune with the external world in sleep and dreams because the waking consciousness is then quieted. Many yogis and adepts can also do this in the waking state as well. It is difficult but not impossible.

We can also get information from the universe and other beings directly without the sense mind. This might seem miraculous, but is possible if our consciousness is sufficiently expanded. But all of this is still knowledge of the phenomenal world.

But if we can extend the awareness of our own existence, then we become aware of the real truth of things. If Brahman is everything, then we should be able to extend the awareness of our existence to the awareness of the Brahman. If we become aware of the Brahman by identity, then we should become aware of the things within Brahman, which is everything.

But even this mental experience that one can have is only an intermediate step between the subconscious from which we have evolved and the superconscious towards whom we are evolving. In the subconscious we can know only through action. In the superconscious we know through identity. Reason and mind are intermediaries between the two.

This superconscious knowledge is Intuition. But Intuition cannot act on the the being unless it becomes the dominant force. Therefore it became rational knowledge and then became science. But when it becomes rational knowledge and science, it hopes to merge the superconscious knowledge in them and makes them more superconscious. There is a descent as well as an ascent.

But as they descended, often intuition was discarded and only rational knowledge accepted and later only science was accepted. Therefore this led to different interpretations of the sacred texts and later on non- acceptance of the sacred texts themselves.

But the concept of an absolute Truth or Brahman still existed in some form or the other and we are still striving to show the true relationship or oneness.