INSTITUTE FOR INTEGRAL YOGA PSYCHOLOGY

(a project of Mirravision Trust, Financed by Auroshakti Foundation)

 
Chapters
Chapter I
Chapter II - Part 1
Chapter II - Part 2
Chapter II - Part 3
Chapter II - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 1
Chapter III - Part 2
Chapter III - Part 3
Chapter III - Part 4
Chapter III - Part 5
Chapter III - Part 6
Chapter IV - Part 1
Chapter IV - Part 2
Chapter IV - Part 3
Chapter IV - Part 4
Chapter V-Part 1
Chapter V - Part 2
Chapter V - Part 3
Chapter V - Part 4
Chapter V - Part 5
Chapter VI - Part 1
Chapter VI - Part 2
Chapter VI - Part 3
Chapter VI - Part 4
Chapter VI - Part 5
Chapter VII - Part 1
Chapter VII - Part 2
Chapter VII - Part 3
Chapter VII - Part 4
Chapter VII - Part 5
Chapter VIII - Part 1
Chapter VIII - Part 2
Chapter VIII - Part 3
Chapter VIII - Part 4
Chapter IX - Part 1
Chapter IX - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 1
Chapter X - Part 2
Chapter X - Part 3
Chapter X - Part 4
Chapter X - Part 5
Chapter X - Part 6
Chapter XI - Part 1
Chapter XI - Part 2
Chapter XI - Part 3
Chapter XI - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 1
Chapter XII - Part 2
Chapter XII - Part 3
Chapter XII - Part 4
Chapter XII - Part 5
Chapter XIII - Part 1
Chapter XIII - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 1
Chapter XIV - Part 2
Chapter XIV - Part 3
Chapter XIV - Part 4
Chapter XIV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 1
Chapter XV - Part 2
Chapter XV - Part 3
Chapter XV - Part 4
Chapter XV - Part 5
Chapter XV - Part 6
Chapter XV - Part 7
Chapter XV - Part 8
Chapter XV - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 1
Chapter XVI - Part 2
Chapter XVI - Part 3
Chapter XVI - Part 4
Chapter XVI - Part 5
Chapter XVI - Part 6
Chapter XVI - Part 7
Chapter XVI - Part 8
Chapter XVI - Part 9
Chapter XVI - Part 10
Chapter XVI - Part 11
Chapter XVI - Part 12
Chapter XVI - Part 13
Chapter XVII - Part 1
Chapter XVII - Part 2
Chapter XVII - Part 3
Chapter XVII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 1
Chapter XVIII - Part 2
Chapter XVIII - Part 3
Chapter XVIII - Part 4
Chapter XVIII - Part 5
Chapter XVIII - Part 6
Chapter XVIII - Part 7
Chapter XVIII - Part 8
Chapter XVIII - Part 9
Chapter XVIII - Part 10
Chapter XIX - Part 1
Chapter XIX - Part 2
Chapter XIX - Part 3
Chapter XIX - Part 4
Chapter XIX - Part 5
Chapter XIX - Part 6
Chapter XIX - Part 7
Chapter XX - Part 1
 

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

 
Chapter IV - Part 4:

BEING and NON-BEING

In Chapter IV, Sri Aurobindo first reconciles ‘Matter’ and ‘Spirit’ for which one has to extend one’s consciousness from the ego-bound individual poise to the poise of cosmic consciousness. He then reconciles the ‘active’ and ‘passive’ poises of the ‘Spirit’ or ‘Brahman’ in the cosmic consciousness and points out its implications in the individual human nature. Finally He reconciles the experiential constructs of ‘BEING’ and ‘NON-BEING’ – a reconciliation that can be done only at the transcendental consciousness that surpasses and yet supports the cosmic and individual poises.

The concepts of ‘BEING’ and ‘NON-BEING’ have emerged from very deep and intensive spiritual endeavors in pursuit of Truth and it is difficult to translate such metaphysical constructs in terms of psychology. Yet we shall try to do this, as their significances and applications can be meaningful in the attempt to perfect human nature.

Emergence of ‘BEING’ and ‘NON-BEING’ as concepts

Whatever ‘exists’, is supposed ‘to be’, whether tangible (like Matter, Living Systems, Solar Systems) or abstract (like Thoughts, Emotions, Fantasies) is transient, time-linked, impermanent. Even the superstructures man builds – cultures, civilizations, empires, nations, religions, - all are, in a way, constrained within the limits of time and space and cannot fulfill man’s longing for an ‘eternal element’ in the cosmic scheme of things:

‘All is too little that the world can give:
Its power and knowledge are the gifts of Time
And cannot fill the Spirit’s sacred thirst …
The world lived on made empty of its Cause,
Like love when the beloved’s face is gone.
The labor to know seemed a vain strife of Mind;
All Knowledge ended in the Unknowable:
The effort to rule seemed a vain pride of Will;
A trivial achievement scorned by Time, …’ 

(Savitri, Pg. 305) 

This void in knowledge led to the spiritual seers and mystics to search for a ‘Reality’ behind all transitory phenomena. Of course, our usual sensory perception and rational intellect can give only ‘fragmentary’ experiences of the world. Yogis cultivated ‘suprarational’ faculties to acquire knowledge – faculties that transcended senses and reason and led to ‘experiential’ contact with realities that could not be grasped by the senses and reasons.

With the help of these supra-rational faculties, mystics experienced an everlasting ‘REALITY’ behind all transitory phenomena – a Reality which was ORIGINAL and ETERNAL and to whom all phenomena could be secondarily related. However, the relationship of the time and space bound phenomena with the Eternal Reality (that was beyond the limitations of time and  space) was perceived differently by different seers. Some viewed that the relation was ‘symbolical’, some viewed that it existed only in the ‘subjective’ mind-set of the perceiver while some viewed that the relationship was ‘realistic’. Nevertheless, they were unanimous that the ‘Reality’ behind surpassed and transcended all phenomena (These different ways of viewing the relationship of the world-phenomena with the Eternal Reality gave rise to different metaphysical, spiritual and religious viewpoints).

Now the nature of this eternal Reality (also called variously as the Absolute or the Infinite) behind all transitory phenomena was also experienced differently by different seers. Some experienced it with positive attributes, - a pure Consciousness or a pure limitless Existence or pure ineffable Bliss (These are not additive terms, they are different experiences which the same Reality transmits) and termed it ‘BEING’:

‘A Vastness brooded free from sense of Space,
An Everlastingness cut off from Time;
A Strange sublime unalterable Peace …
A stark companionless Reality …
There was no second, it had no partner or peer;
Only itself was real to itself.
A pure existence safe from thought and mood,
A consciousness of unshared immortal bliss,
It dwelt aloof in its bare infinite,
One and Unique, unutterably sole.
A Being formless, featureless and mute
That knew itself by its own timeless self,
Aware for ever in its motionless depths,
Uncreating, uncreated and unborn,
The One by whom all live, who lives by none,
An immeasurable luminous secrecy
Guarded by the veils of the Unmanifest,
Above the changing cosmic interlude
Abode supreme, immutably the same,
A silent Cause occult, impenetrable,--
Infinite, eternal, unthinkable, alone.    

(Savitri, Pg. 308 - 309) 

While some perceived ‘Reality’ as ‘BEING’, others perceived the same ‘Reality’ as a void, a nihil, a fathomless zero (note that they might not be denying a Reality behind all phenomena – only they might be denying any positive attributes to describe the Reality), and hence termed it as ‘NON-BEING’ (or ABSOLUTE NON-EXISTENCE). Either the ‘NON-BEING’ negated everything or else gave birth to ‘BEING’. As an experiential construct, this concept of ‘NON-BEING’ is as valid as other experiences. The only problem is that when translated in mental terms, it raises logical difficulties. If the ‘NON-BEING’ alone is ‘Real’, and ‘Being’ itself emerges from ‘Non-Being’ to sink into it again, then everything, including the ‘concept’ of ‘Being’ becomes illusory –

 ‘… does not the Non-Being at least, as primal state and sole constant reality, negate and reject all possibility of a real universe? The Nihil of certain Buddhist schools would then be the true ascetic solution; the Self, like the ego, would only be an ideative formation by an illusory phenomenal consciousness.’

(The Life Divine, Pg. 33 - 34)

Sri Aurobindo answers the question, which He Himself has raised by positing that verbal distinctions do not necessarily represent Ultimate Truths. This is because there are Truths, which cannot be perceived by our cognitive repertoire.  This is also the reason that the Reality has often been described as ‘that is not what we know and that is not what we do not know’.

‘NON-BEING IS ONLY A WORD … WE REALLY MEAN BY THIS NOTHING SOMETHING BEYOND THE LAST TERM TO WHICH WE CAN REDUCE OUR PUREST CONCEPTION AND OUR MOST ABSTRACT OR SUBTLE EXPERIENCE OF ACTUAL BEING AS WE KNOW OR CONCEIVE IT WHILE IN THIS UNIVERSE. THIS NOTHING THEN IS MERELY A SOMETHING BEYOND POSITIVE CONCEPTION. WE ERECT A FICTION OF NOTHINGNESS IN ORDER TO OVERPASS, BY THE METHOD OF TOTAL EXCLUSION, ALL THAT WE CAN KNOW AND CONSCIOUSLY ARE. ACTUALLY WHEN WE EXAMINE CLOSELY THE NIHIL OF CERTAIN PHILOSOPHIES, WE BEGIN TO PERCEIVE THAT IT IS A ZERO WHICH IS ALL OR AN INDEFINABLE INFINITE WHICH APPEARS TO THE MIND A BLANK, BECAUSE MIND GRASPS ONLY FINITE CONSTRUCTIONS, BUT IS IN FACT THE ONLY TRUE EXISTENCE.’

(The Life Divine, Pg. 34)

Thus, NON-BEING is a term to describe that experience of Reality, which exceeds our ability to cognisize. It is more logical to take NON-BEING not as an inexistent zero but as ‘an X, which exceeds our idea or experience of existence’ (The Life Divine, Pg. 34). In this sense, the term NON-BEING becomes equally applicable to the Absolute Brahman (BEING) of the Advaita as well as the void or zero of the Buddhists for this ‘X’ is then a source of the universal phenomena – either in a realistic or in a conceptual or ‘subjective’ way.

The Reconciliation

Sri Aurobindo reconciles the experiential realization of ‘BEING’ and ‘NON-BEING’ by validating them both with equal weightage. In fact he rejects the simplistic notion that at some fanciful point in time, ‘BEING’ emerged from ‘NON-BEING’. The difference between ‘BEING’ and ‘NON-BEING’ is due to the different ‘experiential realization’ of different poises of Reality at the Transcendental Consciousness. They cannot be linked in time because these concepts are independent of linear temporality. ‘BEING’ and ‘NON-BEING’ are simultaneously REAL-CONCEPTS. ‘THEY PERMIT EACH OTHER EVEN THOUGH THEY REFUSE TO MINGLE.’ (The Life Divine, Pg. 35) At the Transcendental Consciousness, the ‘NON-BEING’ permits the ‘BEING’ (just as in the cosmic consciousness, the Silence permits the Activity). Both are complementary to each other without losing their distinctive characters.

Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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