the Unknowable was also experienced in a TANGIBLE way, as a ‘BEING’,
and was conceptualized as a triune of three cardinal principles:
Existence (SAT), Consciousness (CHIT), Bliss (ANANDA)- ‘Sachchidananda’ (note that these are not additive principles but different poises of the same Reality).
The Sachchidananda experience formulates itself in expressions like Infinity, Omniscience, Omnipotence, Immortality, Freedom, Love, Beatitude, God.
The great paradox is that at the level of our earthly existence, we have the OPPOSITE of the Sachchidananda experience. Instead of Infinite Existence, we have a fragmented, partial, limited experience; we have transience, a temporality, a culmination in entropy and death. Instead of ‘Infinite Consciousness’ we have falsehood, ignorance, darkness, unconsciousness, error, weakness, inertia. Instead of ‘Infinite Bliss’ we have pain, suffering, anguish, evil, hatred,jealousy, vengeance.
DENIAL OF SACHCHIDANANDA
Thus there are two levels at which the Sachchidananda experience is denied:
(a) At a very high level of spiritual experience where Reality is felt as blank, featureless, unreal, illusory and non-existent and ascribed terms like ‘NON BEING’ or Nihil or Zero: ‘IT IS A SACHCHIDANANDA TO WHICH WE DARE NO LONGER APPLY EVEN THE SUPREME TERMS OF SAT, OF CHIT AND OF ANANDA. FOR ALL TERMS ARE ANNULLED AND ALL COGNITIVE EXPERIENCE IS OVERPASSED’. (The Life Divine, pg.56.)
(b) At the level of earthly existence where death, limitation, error, inconscience, grief and pain overwhelm man: The denial of Sachchidananda at this level is a phenomenon that is not understood. Atleast, at the level of the high spiritual experience, the denial was due to a surpassing of the cognitive apparatus. But at the earthly level, we can only trace the processes that lead to our imperfect, incomplete experiences; but we do not know why we are put in this whirlpool of ignorance, falsehood, grief, suffering and inconscience. Why have we to face pain and anguish if the Supreme is All-Love and All-Bliss? Are these negative experiences unfathomable, false or illusory, deviating us from the pursuit of Truth and Perfection? Are they punishments for our ‘fall’ from the Truth, a resultant of our Karma?
Sri Aurobindo points out that rather than considering the negative things in life as an outcome of an illusion or representative of falsehood or punishment for our deviation, it would be more pragmatic to consider them as ‘real, even if they turn out to be temporary’. He explains, ‘It is probable indeed that they are the result or rather the inseparable accompaniments, not of an illusion, but of a wrong relation, wrong because it is founded on a false view of what the individual is in the universe and therefore a false attitude both towards God and Nature, towards self and environment. Because that which he has become is out of harmony both with what the world of his habitation is and what he himself should be and is to be, therefore man is subject to these contradictions of the secret Truth of things. In that case they are not the punishment of a fall, but the conditions of a progress. They are the first elements of the work he has to fulfil, the price he has to pay for the crown which he hopes to win, the narrow way by which Nature escapes out of Matter into consciousness; they are at once her ransom and her stock.
For out of these false relations and by their aid the true have to be found. (The Life Divine, pg.55)
Healing the Contradictions
Sri Aurobindo postulates that the denial of Sachchidananda at the level of earthly existence is ALSO a poise of Sachchidananda, albeit, a perverse, limited, deformed and imperfect yet nevertheless a poise experimenting with a divisive and partial experience.
On the other hand, the denial of Sachchidananda at the level of the ‘NON-BEING BEYOND’ or ‘NON-EXISTENCE’ is also another, a supra-cognitive poise of Sachchidananda. In other words, the different poises of Sachchidananda are manifestations of ONE Reality.
THIS IS WHY IT IS CONCEIVABLE THAT THE LOWER REALITY CAN BE ACTUALLY TRANSMUTED IN TERMS OF THE HIGHER REALITY. ‘THIS BECOMING OF THE INFINITE BLISS- EXISTENCE CONSCIOUSNESS IN MIND, LIFE AND BODY, - FOR INDEPENDENT OF THEM IT EXISTS ETERNALLY, IS THE TRANSFIGURATION INTENDED AND THE UTILITY OF INDIVIDUAL EXISTENCE ’. (The Life Divine, Pg.50.)
‘The Unknowable knowing itself as Sachchidananda is the one supreme affirmation of Vedanta; it contains all the others or on it they depend. This is the one veritable experience that remains when all appearances have been accounted for negatively by the elimination of their shapes and coverings or positively by the reduction of their names and forms to the constant truth that they contain. For fulfilment of life or for transcendence of life, and whether purity, calm and freedom in the spirit be out aim or puissance, joy and perfection, Sachchidananda is the unknown, omnipresent, indispensable term for which the human consciousness, whether in knowledge and sentiment or in sensation and action, is eternally seeking.’ (Ibid, pg.50-51.)
Now the ‘Unknowable’ descends into the manifestation as we conceive it in the two complementary terms of the ‘individual’ and the ‘universe’. Actually, the Higher Reality (perceived as Sachchidananda by the seers) is hidden as a potentiality in the lower reality (perceived as a denial of Sachchidananda in earthly existence). If thorough an alchemy of Consciousness, the lower reality is transmuted and transfigured in terms of the Higher Reality, then that movement must be worked out through a gradually evolving relationship between the ‘individual’ and the ‘universe’. It is a complex relationship that needs to be continually harmonized, upgraded, worked through and perfected.
There is a plan in the Mother’s deep world-whim,
A purpose in her vast and random game.
This ever she meant since the first dawn of life,
This constant will she covered with her sport,
To evoke a Person in the impersonal Void
With the Truth – Light strike earth’s massive roots of trance,
Wake a dumb self in the inconscient depths
And raise a lost Power from its python sleep
That the eyes of the Timeless might look out from Time
And the world manifest the unveiled Divine.’
(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, pg.72-73.)
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu