However Sri Aurobindo explains that the fundamental truths of the Supreme Reality can also be cognized but that requires a different type of cognition other than our usual mental cognition - a supra-rational cognitive experience that supports an ever-expanding "plastic idea" (that expands through consciousness) whose subtlety requires a new type of "plastic speech" (that simultaneously represents the finite and the infinite). (Ibid) The logic of the Infinite is other than we understand by reason and cannot be expressed through our ordinary language but by a "intuitively metaphysical and revealingly poetic" language that can directly express revelatory ideographs. (Ibid) Such a language representing subtlety and "pregnant massiveness" (Ibid) can be found in the Vedas and the Upanishads. [Sri Aurobindo's epic, Savitri uses such language which is why it is not understood by the external intellect.]
The Supreme Reality is conceived in Western metaphysics as the Absolute that is beyond everything. In the Indian tradition, the Supreme Reality is the Brahman who is also the Absolute but qualitatively different. It is in fact the Omnipresent Reality. Brahman is simultaneously the Absolute beyond all relatives, the Absolute basing in its matrix all relatives and the Absolute governing, pervading and constituting all relatives. (Ibid, pg.326)
Brahman is experientially perceived as a triune Reality or Sachchidananda-Sat (absolute self-existence), Chit (consciousness or self-awareness), Ananda (self-delight of Being). These three aspects are three different poises of the same Reality.
The Upanishads affirm that everything is the Brahman. "Brahman is the Consciousness that knows itself in all that exists; Brahman is the Force that sustains the power of God and Titan and Demon, the Force that acts in man and animal and the forms and energies of Nature; Brahman is the Ananda, the secret Bliss of existence which is the ether of our being and without which none could breathe or live. Brahman is the inner soul in all; it has taken a form in correspondence with each created form it inhabits.... He is the Timeless and Time; he is Space and all that is in Space; he is Causality and the cause and effect.... All realities and all aspects and all semblances are the Brahman; Brahman is the Absolute, the transcendent and incommunicable, the Supracosmic Existence that sustains the cosmos, the Cosmic Self that upholds all beings, but It is too the self of each Individual..."(Ibid, pg.324)
Brahman in SAT or Existential mode
In its poise of SAT of Sachchidananda, Brahman existentially reveals in three terms of its essential Nature:
(a) Self or Atman that supports the manifestation and upholds the being
(b) Conscious Being or Spirit or Purusha poised in the manifestation
(c) God or the Divine Being or Ishwara or the "omniscient and omnipotent All-ruler."(Ibid, pg.324-325)
Brahman in CHIT or Chit-Shakti or Consciousness-Force mode
Sri Aurobindo modified the Chit or Consciousness poise of Sachchidananda as Consciousness-Force or Chit-Shakti as consciousness and force are coeval with each other.
This is the mode that gives arise to the power-bases of Atman, Purusha and Ishwara:
(a) Maya or the in-built force of consciousness that puts everything in its proper place, places the Atman in its proper context, and is thus "conceptively creative of all things". (Ibid, pg.325) When the manifestation of multiplicity took place from the One, the power of Maya (Yoga-Maya) ensured the harmony of the teeming infinitudes.
(b) Prakriti or Nature which provides the matrix for working out all things "under the witnessing eye" of the Conscious Being or Purusha. (Ibid) Purusha cannot manifest without Nature for Nature or Prakriti is the "force of his conscious self-existence". (Ibid)
(c) Shakti or conscious Power of the Divine Being or Ishwara: it is "both conceptively creative and dynamically executive of all the divine workings." (Ibid) It is by Shakti that the Ishwara can manifest in Time and govern the universe.
Sri Aurobindo affirms that the three aspects of Reality (Atman, Purusha, Ishwara) and their three power bases ( Maya, Prakriti, Shakti) comprise the whole of existence. It also establishes that Reality is simultaneously manifest at The Transcendent, Cosmic (Universal) and Individual planes. Taken together as a single whole, "they reconcile the apparent disparateness and incompatibility of the supracosmic Transcendence, the cosmic universality and the separativeness of our individual existence; the Absolute, cosmic Nature and ourselves are linked in oneness by this triune aspect of the one Reality". (Ibid, pg.325-326)
Yet considering the three aspects of Reality and their corresponding power bases in an "unitary unlimited whole of vision" (Ibid, pg.326) baffles the logical intellect. "For we see that the Indeterminable determines itself as infinite and finite, the Immutable admits a constant mutability and endless differences, the One becomes an innumerable multitude, the Impersonal supports or creates personality, is itself a Person; the Self has a nature and is yet other than its nature; Being turns into becoming and yet it is always itself and other than its becomings; the Universal individualizes itself and the individual universalizes himself; Brahman is at once void of qualities and capable of infinite qualities, the Lord and doer of Works, yet a non-doer and a silent witness of the workings of Nature." (Ibid) Therefore the Spirit per se manifests things or manifests in them so obscurely that the reasoning mind considers it to be "a Magician and his power or Maya a creative magic: but magic can create illusions or it can create astounding realities, and we find it difficult to decide which of these suprarational processes faces us in this universe". (Ibid, pg.327)
The source of this impression is not there in any cloud of fantasy but in the human nature whose littleness cannot assess the immensity of the Infinite and whose ignorant half-knowledge cannot be a substitute of All-knowledge. (Ibid) As physical Nature acts within limits, Reason tries to generalize and universalize some of its aspects that falls under deductive logic but whatever cannot be fitted in that rubric is considered to be irrational or inexplicable.
Sri Aurobindo lists some grey areas in our attempt to understand Reality:
(a) Different levels of reality need to conform to different standards that need not be applicable to one another(Ibid, pg.328),
(b) Reality being multileveled cannot be explained with the law of action of infinitesimals. (Ibid)[ in fact, it has now been demonstrated that leptons and quarks that represent the infinitesimals cannot be divided any further as they lapse into formlessness. This means a bottoms up model of reality is now untenable.]
(c) The human being has to be viewed in a gestalt vision where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. "In the body finites have been formed with their own habits, properties, characteristic ways of action; the body itself is a finite which is not a mere aggregate of these smaller finites..., it has developed a being and has a general law which surpasses its dependence upon these elements or constituents". (Ibid)
(d) The supraphysical planes of consciousness like life and mind have their own characteristics whose uniqueness cannot be annulled just because they have the physical or material consciousness as a base. (Ibid)
(e) Every finite is projected by the Infinite as its self-figure and therefore any finite cannot be fully understood without the occult reality that supports it. The laws of the finite are not applicable to the Infinite. "A law founded upon an observation of what is divided in Space and Time cannot be confidently applied to the being and action of the Indivisible; not only it cannot be applied to the spaceless and timeless Infinite, but it cannot be applied even to a Time Infinite or a Space Infinite". (Ibid)
(f) The rational intellect cannot fathom the infrarational which is a reality of existence and instead fosters "an artificial procrustean rule that either succeeds in killing or petrifying life or constraints it into rigid forms and conventions". (Ibid, pg.328-329) One could have understood something intuitively but the rational mind dilutes intuitional messages or ignores them.
(g) It is still more difficult for the rational intellect to understand the suprarational; "the suprarational is the realm of the spirit, and in the largeness, subtlety, profundity, complexity of its movement the reason is lost; here intuition and inner experience alone are the guide". (Ibid, pg.329) The final enlightenment comes from the "suprarational Truth-Consciousness, from a supramental vision and knowledge". (Ibid)
Taking all these complexities together justifies viewing Reality with its attributes (Atman, Purusha, Ishwara) and power bases (Maya, Prakriti, Shakti) together with its Transcendent, Universal and Individual poises in one unified whole.
Date of Update:
- By Dr. Soumitra Basu