(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
Book II, Chapter 2, Part II
Book II, Chapter 2, Part III
Book II, Chapter 2, Part IV
Book II, Chapter 2, Part V
Book II, Chapter 2, Part VI
Book II, Chapter 2, Part VII
Book II, Chapter 2, Part VIII
Book II, Chapter 3, Part I
Book II, Chapter 3, Part II
Book II, Chapter 3, Part III
Book II, Chapter 3, Part IV
Book II, Chapter 3, Part V
Book II, Chapter 4, Part I
Book II, Chapter 4, Part II
Book II, Chapter 4, Part III
Book II, Chapter 5, Part I
Book II, Chapter 5, Part II
Book II, Chapter 5, Part III
Book II, Chapter 6, Part I
Book II, Chapter 6, Part II
Book II, Chapter 6, Part III
Book II, Chapter 7, Part I
Book II, Chapter 7, Part II

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

Book II, Chapter 6, Part II

Book II

The Knowledge and the Ignorance-The Spiritual Evolution

Chapter 6

Reality and the Cosmic Illusion

Part II

Contradictions in Maya

All theories of Maya try to get rid of an original contradiction by erecting another contradiction. The experience of a true eternal Reality is contradicted by a manifold cosmic illusion that is perpetual, Maya. But this brings in "a self-contradictory dual status of consciousness of the One to annul a self-contradictory dual status of being of the One. A phenomenal truth of multiplicity of the One is annulled by setting up a conceptual falsehood in the One creating an unreal multiplicity."(The Life Divine, pg.453-454) In other words, the One existence has to entertain an illusory construction of itself to maintain an infinite multiplicity of ignorant beings who have to cease individually to be awakened to the self!

However if the consciousness of the One or Brahman is dual in status then it should be capable of "a manifold real self-experience of its being. The cosmic experience would then be, not a creative illusion, but an experience of some truth of the Absolute". (Ibid, pg.454)

Shankara's Qualified Illusionism

Also, in the philosophy of Shankara which Sri Aurobindo considers as a "qualified illusionism"(Ibid), a first step to the solution of the illusionist basis of the problem can be deciphered for it accounts for our sense of persisting reality of the universe and at the same time accounts for a certain unreality of life. A classification has been made between two orders of reality, transcendental and pragmatic. Some of the notable things in this qualified illusionist theory are:

(a) We get a reality of ourselves and the universe for the individual self is actually the Brahman, "it is Brahman who within the field of Maya seems phenomenally to be subjected to her as the individual and in the end releases the relative and phenomenal individual into his eternal and true being". (Ibid, pg.455)

(b) "In the temporal field of relativities our experience of the Brahman who has become all beings, the Eternal who has become universal and individual, is also valid; it is indeed a middle step of the movement of Maya towards liberation from Maya."(Ibid)

(c) "The universe too and its experiences are real for the consciousness in Time and that consciousness is real". (Ibid)

The universe and ourselves may be a true reality of a lesser order, or may be partly real and partly unreal or they may be totally unreal. If they are a true reality, then there is no illusory creation or Maya. If they are partly real and partly unreal, there would arise an error of knowledge and would lead to an exploration of the intervention of Ignorance in the creative consciousness. But if the universe and ourselves are totally unreal and the Transcendent Consciousness alone exists, what so long was considered to be true turns out to be illusory. Maya and cosmos and ourselves turn out to be both real and unreal, "real only to our ignorance, unreal to any true knowledge". (Ibid, pg.456)

Original and Dependent Realities

Actually, mind being an instrument of Ignorance finds its constructions to be invalid and unreal. At a higher status of consciousness this difficulty disappears and the Supreme Consciousness does no longer regard the universe as a fiction.

The universe is considered to be unreal as it is temporary and perishable. Sri Aurobindo uses the analogy of the pot made out of earth. The pot is perishable and goes back to the formless and essential earth. But the pot is real, being made of the substance of the earth which is real and even when it is dissolved, its past existence cannot be considered as unreal. "The relation is not that of an original reality and a phenomenal unreality, but of an a resultant and dependent, a temporal and manifested reality." (Ibid, pg.456-457) Moreover the pot can be recreated always. Similarly, the world-phenomenon can disappear but can recur endlessly in Time-eternity. "The cosmic is a different order of the Real from the supracosmic Transcendence, but there is no need to take it as in any way non-existent or unreal to that Transcendence....Time is not necessarily cancelled out of existence by timeless Eternity; their relation is only verbally a relation of contradiction; in fact. It is more likely to be a relation of dependence". (Ibid, pg.457)

The imposition of the stigma of unreal reality on the pragmatic truth of things in contrast to the spiritual truth is difficult to accept for that would demean all dynamism of the Absolute. If a temporal or cosmic reality is true then it must have been brought forward by an inherent dynamic force of the Absolute. For "the Power that creates must be the force of an omnipotent and omniscient Consciousness; the creations of the absolutely Real should be real and not illusions, and since it is the One Existence, they must be self-creations, forms of a manifestation of the Eternal, not forms of Nothing erected out of the original Void". (Ibid, pg.458)

Reality is simultaneously static and dynamic

Actually the Transcendent Reality is experienced as immobile by a consciousness that has itself become immobile. In contrast the universe is felt as dynamic and in movement and therefore a contradiction of the Transcendence. But Sri Aurobindo points out that we can conceive Reality to be simultaneously static and dynamic. The eternal status of being contains in itself an eternal force of being. And it is not surprising that they should be simultaneous, indeed, "simultaneity is demanded, -- for all energy, all kinetic action has to support itself on status or by status if it is to be effective or creative; otherwise there will be no solidity of anything created, only a constant whirl without any formation: status of being, form of being are necessary to kinesis of being.....The principle of a supporting status for action is a permanent principle, and its action is constant in Time-eternity". (Ibid, pg.458-459) We therefore conclude that the eternal status and eternal dynamis are both true to Reality which surpasses both status and dynamis, "the immobile and mobile Brahman are both the same Reality". (Ibid, pg.459)

Difficulties arise to accept this fact because our cognitive grasp has hold on the finite and not on the infinite. All our action does not seem to grasp Reality; indeed its constructions disappear when we enter the transcendent Reality. But Sri Aurobindo explains that as action does not bind or limit the liberated man or the Eternal, it does not bind or limit our true being but our surface constructed personality. Our true being is the psychic being, the spiritual Person or the Purusha. Our surface personality is different though it is empowered to exist by the psychic being; it is "temporary, but not unreal". (Ibid, pg.460) Our surface being is incomplete and evolutive, thought and action help it to expand and at the same time maintain its limits. But there is no binding by action of the true or psychic being. The essence of the psychic being remains the same in all action and its limitations are accepted and self-imposed, "they are a means of expression of our totality in the movement of Time, an order of things imposed by our inner spiritual being on our outer nature-being, not a bondage inflicted on the ever-free spirit". (Ibid, pg.460-461) All that is in action is the Brahman, the becoming is a movement of the being while Time is a manifestation of the Eternal. "All is one Being, one Consciousness, one even in infinite multiplicity, and there is no need to bisect it into an opposition of transcendent Reality and unreal cosmic Maya". (Ibid, pg.461)

The contradiction in Shankara

Sri Aurobindo explains that Shankara masterfully presented an opposition without resolving their conflict - the conflict of an intuition aware of the absolute Transcendent Reality and an intellectual reason regarding the phenomenal world. The phenomenal world is viewed by a rational mind but the transcendent Reality behind the rational world can only be perceived by the supra-rational method of intuition, reason has no role there. The reason is valid only for the phenomenal world. Beyond the phenomenal reality is the Absolute Reality which cannot be monitored by reason, it needs intuitive clarity. The phenomenal world is real as it is "a temporal phenomenon of the Eternal Existence, the Reality: but it is not itself that Reality and, when we pass beyond the phenomenon to the Real, it still exists but is no longer valid to our consciousness; it is therefore unreal. Shankara takes up this contradiction....he resolves it by obliging the reason to recognize its limits, in which its unimpaired sovereignty is left to it within its own cosmic province, and to acquiesce in the soul's intuition of the transcendent Reality and to support, by a dialectic which ends by dissolving the whole cosmic phenomenal and rational-practical edifice of things, its escape from the limitations constructed and imposed on the mind by Maya". (Ibid, pg.461-462) Therefore there is a Transcendence which is immutably real and a world which is just phenomenal and temporal. The eternal Reality manifests in the phenomenal world as Self and Ishwara. The Ishwara by his Maya -the power of the phenomenal creation constructs this temporal world while Brahman the Reality appears as the Self of the living individual. When intuitive knowledge dissolves the individuality, it is no longer subject to Maya as it is extinguished in the Reality but "the world continues to exist without beginning or end as the Mayic creation of the Ishwara." (Ibid, pg.462)

Though a way has been proposed by Illusionism to get out of the contradiction of an inherently false world into the True Reality, the conflict hast not been resolved. If Maya ceases altogether, then Ishwara who creates the worlds along with the world and the individual cease to exist "but Maya is eternal, Ishwara and the world are eternal in Time, the individual endures so long as he does not annul himself by knowledge". (Ibid, pg.462-463) But this ambiguity which presents an insoluble mystery at the commencement and end of things makes us suspect that there must be a missing link. Ishwara must be real; "he must be then be the manifestation of a truth of the Transcendence....If the individual has the power of self-discovery...and his liberation has so great an importance, it must be because he too is a reality of the Transcendence; he has to discover himself individually, because his individuality also has some truth of itself in the Transcendence which is veiled from it and which it has to recover. It is an ignorance of self and world that has to be overcome and not an illusion." (Ibid, pg.463)

Reason versus Intuition

Actually the Transcendence and the universe are supra-rational, realizable by an intuitive experience and not understood by intellectual reason. We have to surpass the intellectual reason and cultivate supra-rational techniques of acquiring knowledge. Our intellectual reason divides the Brahman from the Self, the Ishwara, the individual being, the superconscience and the Mayic world-consciousness. But if Brahman alone is there, then all these concepts should ideally disappear in a self-reconciling vision. The divisions of the intellectual reality correspond to "the reality of a manifold Oneness". (Ibid, pg.464) Sri Aurobindo comments about Buddha's and Shankara's positions in this matter. Buddha used his rational intellect aided by intuition to discover the principle of constructions in this world and the way of release from them but refused to go further. Shankara stood between this world and eternal Reality, discovered that the mystery of this world was "ultimately suprarational" but conceived the world of reason and sense as valid and therefore posited an "unreal reality" as he did not proceed further. (Ibid) But to know the real truth of the world and nature of Reality, it must be looked at from the perspective of the Superconscience that maintains and surpasses the ordinary consciousness of the world. The world cannot be an illusion or abject mystery to the self-creating supreme consciousness.

It has often been said that the Reality does not need to manifest as it is fulfilled in itself and thus the universe cannot be a manifestation. Sri Aurobindo quips that it can be equally said the Reality has no need to create an illusory or Mayic universe. "The Absolute can have no need for anything; but still there can be, -- not coercive of its freedom, not binding on it, but an expression of its self-force, the result of its Will to become, -- an imperative of a supreme self-effectuating Force, a necessity of self-creation born of the power of the Absolute to see itself in Time." (Ibid, pg.465) And if the universe is considered to be a phenomenal reality, it must be a manifestation or phenomenon of the Absolute, "the imputation of unreality is a superfluous conception". (Ibid)

Finite and Infinite

"All finites are in their spiritual essence the Infinite". (Ibid) What is unreal reality is "our individual sense of separativeness and the conception of the finite as a self-existent object in the Infinite". (Ibid) This conception is needed for the outer being to survive in a world of multiplicity but once we step into the inner being , the finite or the individual still exists as "being and power and manifestation of the Infinite; it has no independent or separate reality." (Ibid, pg.465-466) Individual independence or separativeness is not the landmark of individual reality. Moreover the disappearance of finite forms is not an index of their unreality, it may indicate only a withdrawal from manifestation. "The cosmic manifestation of the Timeless takes place in the successions of Time: its forms must therefore be temporary in their appearance on the surface, but they are eternal in their essential power of manifestation". (Ibid, pg.466) The world would be unreal if its forms had no substance or were pure figments of consciousness which would be abolished forever. But if the manifestation is eternal, then this unreality or illusoriness cannot be the fundamental character of things. (Ibid)

Date of Update: 24-Aug-23

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu


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