(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
Book II, Chapter 8, Part I
Book II, Chapter 8, Part II
Book II, Chapter 9, Part I
Book II, Chapter 9, Part II
Book II, Chapter 10, Part I
Book II, Chapter 10, Part II

A Psychological Approach to Sri Aurobindo's

The Life Divine

Chapter VIII Part 1

The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge

The limitations of ‘Sensory Perception’ and ‘Reason’ as instruments for acquiring knowledge propelled man to search for new approaches. In India, this quest culminated in the unfoldment and development of what is known in Aurobindonian parlance as ‘supra-rational’ faculties of knowledge. It would be no exaggeration to declare that this is the most fundamental contribution of the Indian spiritual tradition to the world of psychology. 

Actually, the Indian spiritual tradition recognized that ‘Sensory Perception’ and ‘Reason’ were not able to access knowledge in fullness and totality. It is thus they endeavored for ‘an extension of psychological experience’ (The Life Divine, pg 70). This quest led to the discovery of supra-rational faculties.

The supra-rational faculties of knowledge have been sporadically accessible to exceptional individuals, mystics, seers, yogis, prophets, scientists, artists, and musicians. Even in ordinary life,

we at times get glimpses from their realms. Only we do not know the art of recognizing and developing them. Thus, prophets like Moses, Mohammed and Guru Nanak had mighty ‘revelations’ that on exposition, influenced history. Great musicians can take ‘inspirations’ from very high levels of consciousness that are beyond any rational capacity. Important discoveries in science sprang from intuitive cues that baffled logic. Sometimes the intuitions came in dreams. One could cite the example of the discovery of the benzene ring that was based on a dream-image of a snake eating its own tail. Seers and mystics could speak of ‘different’ states of consciousness by cultivating the art of ‘identifying’ with those altered states of consciousness. After all, in ordinary life, we can understand and apprehend the depth of ‘anger’ by ‘identifying’ with our own anger! There is no logical reason why that faculty of identification cannot be extended to ‘identify’ with deeper and ordinarily inaccessible states of our own consciousness 

The interesting thing is that the supra-rational faculties were methodically researched and developed by spiritual seekers and mystics. It was the seer, the yogi, the Vedantist who was the torchbearer and harbinger of Light—the Higher knowledge.

Why should one have to undergo a spiritual discipline to acquire the supra-rational technology? Why should one consider supra-rational knowledge as the ‘Higher knowledge’? Knowledge is ‘neutral’ and must be ideally equally accessible to the mystic and the rogue!

 This issue has to be considered at different levels: 

(a)   The supra-rational knowledge is indeed a ‘Higher’ knowledge in comparison to the knowledge based on the senses and ratiocination. Firstly, it throws light on problems of life that cannot be solved by means at our disposal. This is true in every sphere of activity. The scientist gets a supra-rational clue to solve a puzzle; the doctor gets a similar clue to select the correct antibiotic in an emergency when he has no time left to be corroborated with laboratory results; the hapless relative of a comatose patient under a life-support system has to wait for an inner guidance if he has to consent for a ‘passive’ euthanasia!

(b)   Secondly, and this is of fundamental importance – the ‘Higher’ knowledge leads us to the awareness of the unity-principle in Reality. Sensory Perception and Reason can only give us an awareness of the multiplicity – it cannot lead us to the realisation of Sachchidananda – the One, indivisible Absolute..

(c)   The Higher knowledge that leads to the unity-principle can only manifest in degrees as the individual outgrows his exclusivist stance and universalizes oneself. The individual had to have an element of exclusivity to maintain uniqueness. The uniqueness of an individual is mediated by values imparted by the ego. The movement of universalizing oneself progresses in accordance with the corresponding movement of ‘surpassing’ or ‘exceeding’ one’s ego.

   It is difficult to outgrow an ego-bound individuality in practical life. This was an endeavor more suitable to the spiritual seeker, the ascetic whose secluded life in a hermitage or a Himalayan cave provided an undisturbed ‘milieu’ to universalize oneself and experientially perceive the Unity-principle of Reality. It is no wonder that the supra-rational, higher knowledge became synonymous with spiritual endeavor.  


Sri Aurobindo’s approach

Sri Aurobindo is not interested in an ascetic solution to life’s problems. He wants the higher knowledge to manifest in the world of multiplicity. He wants the experiential contact with the unity-principle to be achieved without dismissing the multiplicity. In other words, He does not want the ‘universalization’ to occur at the expense of ‘individualization’—rather both should be simultaneously accessible at different poises of the same consciousness, albeit, in complementary terms.

 The traditional Indian spiritual aspirant might doubt Sri Aurobindo’s intentions. To the conventional Indian spirituality, the individual ego is the greatest barrier to a ‘universal’ and ‘transcendental’ experience of Sachchidananda. Only if the ego is dissolved can one experience Sachchidananda.

 Sri Aurobindo is aware of this problem. In fact this is the reason that the chapter preceding ‘The Methods of Vedantic Knowledge’ deals with ‘The Ego and the Dualities’. He has in fact forwarded an alternative solution to the traditional ego-dissolving approach -- to retain the ‘individual’ by replacing the biased, skewed, disharmonious and exclusivist ‘ego’ by a holistic, integralist and harmonious ‘Beyond-ego’ principle named as the Psychic Being. Such an individuality integrated around the Psychic Being need not be sacrificed for the experiential contact with the Absolute.

 Sri Aurobindo’s vision therefore shifts the focus to practical spirituality—in fact, more precisely to a futuristic  yoga psychology (referred as the new emergent Integral Yoga Psychology). In the modern age, the way to a spiritual realization grows through this ‘integral’ psychological approach of perfecting the individual in terms of a consciousness perspective (Shall we call it spiritual post-modernism? After all, the older spirituality disbanded the ego and hence the individual—therefore in a way disbanded psychology!)

 It is in this light and spirit that Chapter V111 of The Life Divine approaches the study of the methods of Vedantic knowledge. The stylish and skeptic post-modernist need not fear that we are harping on outdated concepts. Sri Aurobindo merely extracts the essence of the old tradition to chart a future that beckons the contemporary Time-Spirit:

 ‘To develop the results arrived at ……by the ancient sages is not my object, but it is necessary to pass briefly in review some of their principal conclusions so far as they affect the problem of the divine Life with which alone we are at present concerned. For it is in those ideas that we shall find the best previous foundation of that which we seek now to rebuild and although, as with all knowledge, old expression has to be replaced to a certain extent by new expression suited to a later mentality and old light has to merge itself into new light as dawn succeeds dawn, yet it is with the old treasure as our initial capital or so much of it as we can recover that we shall most advantageously proceed to accumulate the largest gains in our new commerce with the ever-changeless and ever-changing Infinite’.(The Life Divine, pg 74-75)

  Sri Aurobindo builds up this foundation by examining three experiential levels needed to understand truths that are beyond the perception of senses but seizable at an ideational level:

(a)    The mixed and pure actions of Reason

(b)   The Objective and Subjective Psychological experiences

(c)    Intuition as a supra-rational instrument

  We will take up these issues in our subsequent write-ups.

 The Supra-rational Word

The supra-rational word is the mantra. It is an intuitive revelation. If the mind is flexible enough to receive it then it can enter the individual consciousness and start its work of transmuting and transforming life. Reason brings a knowledge that needs to be analyzed, assessed, challenged and surpassed. The mantra brings a knowledge that is not isolated but is simultaneously integrated with peace, joy and power.

  As when the mantra sinks in Yoga’s ear,
Its message enters stirring the blind brain
And keeps in the dim ignorant cells its sound;
The hearer understands a form of words
And, musing on the index thought it holds,
He strives to read it with the labouring mind,
But finds bright hints, not the embodied truth:
Then, falling silent in himself to know
He meets the deeper listening of his soul:
The Word repeats itself in rhythmic strains:
Thought, vision, feeling, sense, the body’s self
Are seized unutterably and he endures
An ecstasy and an immortal change;
He feels a Wideness and becomes a Power,
All knowledge rushes on him like a sea:
Transmuted by the white spiritual ray
He walks in naked heavens of joy and calm,
Sees the God-face and hears transcendent speech….

(Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, pg 375).
Date of Update:


- By Dr. Soumitra Basu

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