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

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
Chapter XX - Part 2
Chapter XX - Part 3
Chapter XX - Part 4
Chapter XX - Part 4
Chapter XXI - Part 1
Chapter XXI - Part 2
Chapter XXI - Part 3
Chapter XXI - Part 4
Chapter XXII - Part 1
Chapter XXII - Part 2
Chapter XXII - Part 3
Chapter XXII - Part 4
Chapter XXII - Part 5
Chapter XXII - Part 6
Chapter XXIII Part 1
Chapter XXIII Part 2
Chapter XXIII Part 3
Chapter XXIII Part 4
Chapter XXIII Part 5
Chapter XXIII Part 6
Chapter XXIII Part 7
Chapter XXIV Part 1
Chapter XXIV Part 2
Chapter XXIV Part 3
Chapter XXIV Part 4
Chapter XXIV Part 5
Chapter XXV Part 1
Chapter XXV Part 2
Chapter XXV Part 3
Chapter XXVI Part 1
Chapter XXVI Part 2
Chapter XXVI Part 3
Chapter XXVII Part 1
Chapter XXVII Part 2
Chapter XXVII Part 3
Chapter XXVIII Part 1
Chapter XXVIII Part 2
Chapter XXVIII Part 3
Chapter XXVIII Part 4
Chapter XXVIII Part 5
Chapter XXVIII Part 6
Chapter XXVIII Part 7
Chapter XXVIII Part 8
Book II, Chapter 1, Part I
Book II, Chapter 1, Part II
Book II, Chapter 1, Part III
Book II, Chapter 1, Part IV
Book II, Chapter 1, Part V
Book II, Chapter 2, Part I

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

Chapter III - Part 6:

The three poises of Reality and the four-fold nature of the Self

In Chapter III of The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes how Reality is simultaneously manifested in the three poises of the Transcendent, the Universal and the Individual. However, He places two quotes from Mandukya Upanishad at the beginning of the chapter. The first quote is the 2nd verse of the Mandukya and speaks of the four-fold nature of the Self:


The second quote is from the 7th verse and focuses on the fourth of the four-fold nature of the Self:


What is the relation between the three poises of Reality described by Sri Aurobindo and the four-fold nature of Self described in the Mandukya Upanishad?

Before answering this question, it would be important to appreciate that the citation of passages from pristine spiritual scriptures of India at the beginning of each chapter of The Life Divine is neither ornamentation nor to show that each chapter is an amplification of the passages quoted. In fact, the chapters were not primarily composed to be in consonance with the passages quoted. The Life Divine contains many new spiritual revelations unexplored and unrecorded before and it would be naïve to consider that the chapters were written to match already recorded spiritual insights. Rather the citations are quoted to demonstrate that even the new Thought in the Life Divine can be logically traced back to pre-existing seed-ideas. Thus the spiritual trajectory itself follows an evolutionary movement that serves two purposes:

  1. A forward movement of pre-recorded seed-ideas is in consonance with the precedence Sri Aurobindo has given to the evolutionary movement in consciousness vis-à-vis the traditional leverage given to dissolution of creation in the Indian context and entropy in the scientific world. This phenomenon of course is best exemplified in the first Rig Veda quote in The Life Divine where the endless procession of dawns symbolizes the ever-expanding vistas of knowledge;

  2. The seed-ideas in the quotes at the beginning of each chapter of The Life Divine are incorporated and surpassed in the new thought-trajectory in each chapter. This is the uniqueness in Sri Aurobindo’s presentation. No wonder, He had the orientation to state even in His treatise on the Gita that we do not belong to the past dawns but to the noons of the future (Essays on the Gita)

The three poises of Reality and the four-fold nature of the Self 

Reality or Brahman can be perceived in many ways. If it is experientially perceived in an existential mode, it is known as the Self.

Sri Aurobindo describes that Reality is simultaneously perceived in the Individual, Universal and Transcendent poises. In the Individual poise, Consciousness is concentrated within the limits of Space and Time so that a particular creative drama can be enacted. In the Universal poise, Consciousness is diffused beyond the constraints of Space and Time so as to complement the Individual poise. The Transcendental poise surpasses both the Individual and the Universal, permits them, exhausts them and is yet independent of them.

The four-fold nature of the Self described in the Mandukya Upanishad describes the same Reality from a different perspective:

  1. The first is ‘He whose place is the wakefulness, who is wise of the outward, … who feels and enjoys gross objects, Vaishwanara, the Universal Male’. This is the sense-bound ‘personality’ in contemporary psychological parlance, external self in conventional yogic terminology and ‘outer being’ in Aurobindonian terms.

  2. The second is ‘He whose place is the dream, who is wise of the inward…who feels and enjoys subtle objects, Taijasa, the Inhabitant in Luminous Mind’. This is what Sri Aurobindo names as the inner or subliminal being. The inner being is connected with the cosmic consciousness. It is also connected with the outer being through channels of communication known as chakras. The inner being has subtle senses and is capable of suprarational modes of acquisition of knowledge.

  3. The third is ‘When one sleeps and yearns not with any desire, nor sees any dream,  that is the perfect slumber. He whose place is the perfect slumber, who is become Oneness, who is wisdom gathered into itself, who is made of mere delight, who enjoys delight unrelated, to whom conscious mind is the door, Prajna, the Lord of Wisdom, He is the third’. This is the inmost being, the being of desireless delight, who has no motivation to exist but for the sheer, unalloyed joy of existence, the being who from behind projects the frontal personality, the being who carries the essence of oneness but supports the myriad, conflicting divisions of our external nature.

  4. The fourth is ‘He who is neither inward-wise, nor outward-wise, nor both inward- and outward-wise, nor wisdom self-gathered, nor possessed of wisdom, nor unpossessed of wisdom, He Who is unseen and incommunicable, unseizable, featureless, unthinkable, and unnameable, Whose essentiality is awareness of the Self in its single existence, in whom all phenomena dissolve, Who is Calm, Who is Good, Who is the One than Whom there is no other, Him they deem the fourth: He is the Self, He is the object of Knowledge’. This is the self that is poised above the manifestation. It supports the manifestation but is itself detached. It can be experientially perceived through the central being that projects the impersonality dimension that in turn upholds the personality. While Western psychology studies the being in terms of ‘personality’, yoga psychology studies the being both in terms of ‘personality’ and ‘impersonality’.

The  three poises of Reality ( Individual, Universal and Transcendent) described by Sri Aurobindo in this chapter and the four-fold nature of the Self described in the Mandukya Upanishad are two distinctive paradigms of Consciousness. Any attempt to interchange one paradigm for the other would be a oversimplification. Yet, Sri Aurobindo quotes the Upanishad paradigm at the beginning of the chapter. We have to understand this from two perspectives:

  1. The four-fold nature of the Self has to be studied against the background of the three poises of Reality. Actually, at each poise of Reality, the Self has stress on one or other aspect of its four-fold nature. At the Individual poise, there is more stress on the outer being at the level of psychological understanding and the inmost being at the level of spiritual growth. At the Transcendental poise, the Self has more stress on the impersonality dimension experienced through the central being where metaphysics overtakes psychology. At the Universal poise, there is more stress on the inner being. The inner being can connect with the ‘collective unconscious’ of Jungian psychology at one level and with the ‘cosmic consciousness’ of the mystics at another level. It is the meeting ground of fantasy and pragmatism, of psychology and mysticism, of science and spirituality.  

  2. Sri Aurobindo’s Integralism moves along different perspectives. The four-fold nature of the Self has to undergo integration and this integrated Self has to be studied at different poises of Reality. The three poises of Reality have to be themselves integrated. This multiple movement also leads to an integration of metaphysics and psychology. Such a complex mosaic of Integralism provides the gestalt to support the emergence of higher, progressively integrated evolutionary models of human being.

(All quotes from the Mandukya Upanishad are translated by Sri Aurobindo and published in Vol 12 of Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library)

This is the Almighty, this is the Omniscient, this is the Inner Soul, this is the womb of the Universe, this is the Birth and Destruction of creatures.

Verse 6, Mandukya Upanishad



Date of Update: 18-Nov-11 

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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