The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo: Mind and Supermind

We previously spoke of the concept of the divine soul. The Divine Soul constantly exists in the Divine and is able to be One, One in Many and Many in One and Many without losing awareness of the Divine Unity at all times. All this seems nice to talk about, but the reality of our separate ego strikes us and we wonder whether the Divine Life that we talk about is at all possible in this world that we are existing now.

On one hand you have:

  • The Divine Maya
  • The Truth-Consciousness
  • The Real-Idea
  • The Conscious Force of the Universal and Transcendental Existence

On the other hand you have;

  • Mind
  • Life
  • Body

Basically, on one hand you have the Divine. On the other hand, you have what we can call as human. Since everything is Divine, some how this Divine has become the human that we see today. Both of them seems pole apart and to experience the Divine, it somehow seems that we need to let go this earthly or mental existence for we cannot envisage a situation where we can experience the Divine here.

But if we assert the fact that everything is Divine, made from the Divine and exists in the Divine, then in reality Mind, Life and Body should also be Divine in its very essence. Just because what we know at this point in our evolution indicates that they cannot become Divine does not mean that in Truth, they can become Divine in their attributes. Maybe as we become more in tune with the Divine Consciousness, they will change. Just imagine, 200 years ago we did not have cars, antibiotics, iPhones and the like and they probably seemed impossible to most at that time. But the truth is that they have happened. 200 years is miniscule in the larger scale of evolution. So, if Sri Aurobindo is saying that this is possible, we have to accept that this may be possible.

Many have been able to maintain the Divine Consciousness in the mind and the body. We have so far not seen anybody who has been able to remould the mind and body to the Divine although it is possible a few exist. However this has not become established in the earth as for now. When this happens we will have the kingdom of heaven on earth.

So we have to know what Mind, Life and Body are in the Divine Life and not in the separated and ignorant form we currently live in. The perfect Mind, Life and Body has to exist in the Real-Idea and we need to grow into that. This is what we name and seek as the Ideal. In Sri Aurobindo’s words: The Ideal is an eternal Reality which we have not yet realised in the conditions of our own being, not a non-existent which the Eternal and Divine has not yet grasped and only we imperfect beings have glimpsed and mean to create.

The Mind: The mind consciousness splits the whole into many parts. Then it deals with each part as a whole. It is unable to see the real whole. It sometimes seems to feel the whole but it cannot grasp it and if it tries to grasp it, it gives images, forms and words which by nature split the whole. The mind therefore cannot possess the Infinite, it can only be possessed by the Infinite. The Infinite can be possessed only by the supramental planes and the mind can know about the Infinite only by inert submission to the Truth that flows from above. This is the real nature and action of the mind: swabhava and swadharma. Since it splits Infinity to Finite and in our consciousness it does so excluding the Infinite, it is the nodus of the great Ignorance. Some think that this is cause of the universe or the Divine Maya. This is not true as the Divine Maya knows both Knowledge and Ignorance. Since the mind is the nodus of Ignorance, it cannot be the Divine Mind. There must be an original consciousness which is aware of the infinite and the finite, aware of the whole and the part and realising that the part is the whole despite being the part and sees the whole in the part. This consciousness we can call the Divine Mind. This Divine Mind hence has to be a subordinate of the supermind and not a separate working. This is called the Prajnana or the apprehending consciousness and is able to see things just like a poet sees his poems( different from himself but still himself as it comes from him)

This Prajnana is what makes the fundamental division into Purusha and Prakriti:

  • Purusha: the conscious soul who knows and sees and by his vision creates and ordains.
  • Prakriti: the Force-Soul or Nature-Soul which is his knowledge and his vision, his creation and his all-ordaining power.

Both of them are One Being and One Existence. Many forms are seen and created from the one and these knowledge and creative force of these forms in the One. The One pervades everything and is also there is each form and is also there beyond all these forms and governs the relationship between the various forms.

There is a Purusha. There is a Prakriti. The Purusha has divided himself into many purushas. They are enjoying the one Prakriti. Each purusha does not create his own prakriti(or universe). Each of the purushas are unique, like the children a person has. But these purushas are constantly aware of the Source and Eternal Nature.

They have not become separated from the Purusha in Space and Time.

So, in the words of Sri Aurobindo:

Thus the depiecing is already there; the relation of form with form as if they were separate beings, of will-of-being with will-of-being as if they were separate forces, of knowledge-of-being with knowledge-of-being as if they were separate consciousnesses has already been founded. It is as yet only “as if”; for the divine soul is not deluded, it is aware of all as phenomenon of being and keeps hold of its existence in the reality of being; it does not forfeit its unity: it uses mind as a subordinate action of the infinite knowledge, a definition of things subordinate to its awareness of infinity, a delimitation dependent on its awareness of essential totality—not that apparent and pluralistic totality of sum and collective aggregation which is only another phenomenon of Mind. Thus there is no real limitation; the soul uses its defining power for the play of well-distinguished forms and forces and is not used by that power.

But when the action of the mind is separated from the action of the Supermind or Divine Mind by a force called Avidya or Ignorance, it views itself as separate from the whole. As Sri Aurobindo puts it:

Thus separated, Mind perceives only the particular and not the universal, or conceives only the particular in an unpossessed universal and no longer both particular and universal as phenomena of the Infinite.Thus we have the limited mind which views every phenomenon as a thing-in-itself, separate part of a whole which again exists separately in a greater whole and so on, enlarging always its aggregates without getting back to the sense of a true infinity.

So how does this Avidya arise: Sri Aurobindo says:

It proceeds from the individualised soul viewing everything from its own standpoint and excluding all others; it proceeds, that is to say, by an exclusive concentration of consciousness, an exclusive self-identification of the soul with a particular temporal and spatial action which is only a part of its own play of being; it starts from the soul’s ignoring the fact  that all others are also itself, all other action its own action and all other states of being and consciousness equally its own as well as the action of the one particular moment in Time and one particular standing-point in Space and the one particular form it presently occupies.

The ignorance deepens when we become identified with the body. It becomes identified with the sensations and experiences given by the brain and the nerves rather than the deeper mind. But we can and we know many who can see and experience this body as something that comes and goes and even that which stimulates the superficial mind: this deeper mind is our first realisation of the soul or Purusha. This is what we call as the vital being ( pranamaya purusha). Beyond this vital being is the mental being ( manomaya purusha) which can perceive other souls as forms of its pure self. But here the perception is mental and to perceive the unity it has to withdraw from life and mind. It still thinks of itself as the judge, witness and the centre of the universe. There is still Avidya. There is a better image of Truth but it is not the Truth.

But to really be the Truth, Avidya has to go. Then we understand the truth of the world, as Sri Aurobindo:

And so we perceive that the Mind was really a subordinate action and instrumentation of the Truth-consciousness. So long as it is not separated in self-experience from the enveloping Master consciousness and does not try to set up house for itself, so long as it serves passively as an instrumentation and does not attempt to possess for its own benefit, Mind fulfils luminous its function which is in the Truth to hold forms apart from each other by a phenomenal, a purely formal delimitation of their activity behind which the governing universality of the being remains conscious and untouched. It has to receive the truth of things and distribute it according to the unerring perception of a supreme and universal Eye and Will. It has to uphold an individualisation of active consciousness, delight, force, substance which derives all its power, reality and joy from an inalienable universality behind. It has to turn the multiplicity of the One into an apparent division by which relations are defined and held off against each other so as to meet again and join. It has to establish the delight of separation and contact in the midst of an eternal unity and intermiscence. It has to enable the One to behave as if He were an individual dealing with other individuals but always in His own unity, and this is what the world really is.

The fundamental error of the Mind is, then, this fall from self-knowledge by which the individual soul conceives of its individuality as a separate fact instead of as a form of Oneness and makes itself the centre of its own universe instead of knowing itself as one concentration of the universal. Because of this, we do not have true knowledge, power and bliss and hence suffer. But when we can realise this truth, power and bliss will be realised and the duality or right and wrong, power and incapacity, joy and pain and life and death will diasppear and we will be our true nature which is the Divine.


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