Chapter V – Destiny of the Individual

Study Notes

     By the Ignorance they cross beyond Death
     And by the Knowledge enjoy Immortality.
                                                                                                                (Isha Upanishad.11)


     This is a world of multiplicity of forms and movements, changing from moment to moment, appearing and disappearing. All is innumerable and in flux. This fact of multiplicity, however, is sustained by an underlying Unity. It is this One that holds the Many on its bosom. In fact, the Many have issued from the One and derive their significance from the One that contains them, pervades them, and in fact constitutes them. Awareness of this fundamental Unity of Creation is Knowledge, vidya, non-awareness of this truth of Oneness and absorption only in the fact of multiplicity is Ignorance, avidya.

     Both avidya and vidya, however, form complementaries in the process of manifestation in which we are involved. Participation in the crowded life of Many, building relationships among the members, developing its various lines of functioning and growing associations and harmonies, to the best extent possible is indispensable to the fulness of the manifestation. The fact that the effort is in the realm of Ignorance does not devalue the energies poured into it. It is by the cultivation of the values as they obtain in the world of Ignorance and elevating them towards their higher truths that man learns to correct the many deformations that characterise life and ignorance. He loosens the chains of limitation, imperfection and incapacity. In time he liberates himself from the age long subjection to the yoke of Death. He learns to overpass the bounds of physical Nature and consciously enter into states beyond Death. He does not die. He lives on in his soul of which he has become conscious and with which he has realised his identity in the long course of his subjection to the rule of Ignorance.

     Living in Many (Ignorance) has prepared him for the Knowledge of Unity and a life entirely governed by the truth of Oneness. In the measure in which he embraces this Sole Reality in his consciousness, he shares the Immortality which is the very nature of this Reality. And his enjoyment of the state of Immortality becomes fuller and more integral when he accepts the truth of Multiplicity, avidya, as a special formulation of the truth of Unity, vidya, for the purpose of a divine manifestation.

     Thus, it is that Ignorance, avidya, forms, so to say, the preliminary rounds in the game of manifestation; it has to be fully lived and developed before man is in a position to go further into the rounds of Knowledge, vidya. Ignorance with its strategy of Death and Knowledge with its fruit of Immortality are the two wings of the movement of the Divine’s Manifestation.

     By the Non-Birth they cross beyond Death
     By the Birth enjoy Immortality.
                                                                                                                      (Isha Upanishad.14)


     Man is normally engrossed in the half-lit and obscure movements of Nature, Prakriti, and lives a prisoner of the changing circumstances of the world which is born in Ignorance and thrives in Ignorance. It is only when he refuses to accept the nature of life here, birth in the ebb and flow of the waters of every-day life, as the ultimate meaning of existence and strives to seek the justification for his living in a higher Truth that he begins to emerge above this ocean of imperfection and mortality. He has to die for the appearances of the world before he can pass beyond the rule of the all-devouring Death and obtain his release.

     Even this release from Death, however, is not the goal. He has come only half-way. He has attained the freedom, the bliss and the eternity of the Unborn beyond all becoming. He is not content to merge into this Beatitude. He turns back to this world of obscurity and disharmony and brings in the domain of mortality the fresh birth of Immortality. He becomes a “colonist from immortality” (Savitri).

     By accepting to enter into this world and taking up its challenge, the liberated man adds a new factor to the situation. He has not only won Immortality for himself, but he radiates it, he becomes a centre of the Light and Power of the immortal One on earth. He lives immortally on the soil of the mortality.

(Courtesy: Legends in The Life Divine – Shri M.P.Pandit – p.18-21, Dipti Publications, Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

     AN OMNIPRESENT Reality is the truth of all life and existence whether absolute or relative, whether corporeal or incorporeal, whether animate or inanimate, whether intelligent or unintelligent; and in all its infinitely varying and even constantly opposed self-expressions, from the contradictions nearest to our ordinary experience to those remotest antinomies which lose themselves on the verges of the Ineffable, the Reality is one and not a sum or concourse.

(Omnipresent = present everywhere; corporeal = having a body; animate = living; antinomies = contradictions between two beliefs – both being individually right; ineffable = indescribable in words; concourse = coming together)

     The Divine Reality present everywhere is the truth of all life and existence in the Universe. The life and existence may be absolute(independent) or in relation to other things; bodily existence or existence without body; living or non-living; intelligent or unintelligent. The existence may vary in its expressions in infinite numbers. Often such expressions present themselves in opposite terms (contradictions) in the dualities of the physical world like truth and falsehood, pain and pleasure etc. Some of the contradictions of the existence we are able to experience (joy & sorrow; good & evil). There are some contradictory truths which are beyond the reach of our experience (Being and Non-Being, Silent and Static versus Active and Dynamic Brahman, Inactive and Active Brahman); they lose themselves in the indefinable aspect of the Divine Reality. Behind all these variations described above, Reality is One. The One is also the Many. Here the One does not mean the arithmetical sum or the coming together of Many.

From that all variations begin, in that all variations consist, to that all variations return. All affirmations are denied only to lead to a wider affirmation of the same Reality.

     From the one Reality all variations (matter, life and mind) begin. All variations are contained in the one Reality. All variations end in the same Reality. One can deny an affirmation regarding the Reality. Such a denial will only lead to a wider affirmation of the same Reality (one can deny the reality of the physical world at a particular level yet at a higher level the reality of the physical world is affirmed).

All antinomies confront each other in order to recognise one Truth in their opposed aspects and embrace by the way of conflict their mutual Unity. Brahman is the Alpha and the Omega. Brahman is the One besides whom there is nothing else existent.

     Different beliefs may oppose each other. However, they will recognise the One Truth behind each of them. Finally, the conflict will lead to mutual Unity because the same Reality exists behind these opposing truths. Brahman is the beginning and the end. Brahman is the One. Nothing else exists other than the Brahman.

     But this unity is in its nature indefinable. When we seek to envisage it by the mind we are compelled to proceed through an infinite series of conceptions and experiences. And yet in the end we are obliged to negate our largest conceptions, our most comprehensive experiences in order to affirm that the Reality exceeds all definitions. We arrive at the formula of the Indian sages, neti neti, “It is not this, It is not that”, there is no experience by which we can limit It, there is no conception by which It can be defined.

     We cannot define the Unity which is present behind all variations. We try to explain it by our mind; we explain through many conceptions and experiences. In the end we negate our own conceptions. Similarly, we also negate our experiences even though they are very comprehensive. We do this because finally we realise that the Reality (the Divine) is beyond all conceptions and definitions.

(Shri M.P. Pandit – “When we say ‘It is not this’, it does not mean “This is not that”. What they mean is “This is It, but It is not exhausted by It”.)

     An Unknowable which appears to us in many states and attributes of being, in many forms of consciousness, in many activities of energy, this is what Mind can ultimately say about the existence which we ourselves are and which we see in all that is presented to our thought and senses. It is in and through those states, those forms, those activities that we have to approach and know the Unknowable.
     The Unknowable – the Divine appears to us in many states; in many qualities; in many forms of consciousness; in many activities of energy. This is how the Mind defines the existence. We are part of the existence. We perceive existence through our thoughts and senses.
     It is only through these states, forms, activities that we perceive in our existence, we need to approach the Unknowable (the Divine).

But if in our haste to arrive at a Unity that our mind can seize and hold, if in our insistence to confine the Infinite in our embrace we identify the Reality with any one definable state of being however pure and eternal, with any particular attribute however general and comprehensive, with any fixed formulation of consciousness however vast in its scope, with any energy or activity however boundless its application, and if we exclude all the rest, then our thoughts sin against Its unknowableness and arrive not at a true unity but at a division of the Indivisible.


     While arriving at a Unity, we should not be in a hurry. Our mind always clings to one particular truth. We try to restrict the Divine or the Infinite within our bounds. We identify the Divine with one particular state of being. That state can be pure and eternal. We also try to identify the Divine with one particular quality. It could be general and comprehensive. We also identify the Divine with one fixed formulation of consciousness. It could be vast in its scope. We also identify the Divine with a particular form of energy or activity. Their application could be boundless. Yet, while doing so, we exclude all the rest. Sri Aurobindo says this process of exclusion is a completely wrong way of approaching the Divine. This results not in arriving at a true unity but in creating a division of the Divine, which is Indivisible.
     In short, we cannot define the Unknowable by any of our mental formulas.

     So strongly was this truth perceived in the ancient times that the Vedantic Seers, even after they had arrived at the crowning idea, the convincing experience of Sachchidananda as the highest positive expression of the Reality to our consciousness, erected in their speculations or went on in their perceptions to an Asat, a Non-Being beyond, which is not the ultimate existence, the pure consciousness, the infinite bliss of which all our experiences are the expression or the deformation. If at all an existence, a consciousness, a bliss, it is beyond the highest and purest positive form of these things that here we can possess and other therefore than what here we know by these names.

     (Shri M.P. Pandit– The Rishis of Vedantic period perceived the Reality, the Divine, as Existence-Consciousness-Bliss and say it is Sat, the Existent. They did not stop with that. They also took care to assert an Asat, a negative Being, and a Non-Being which is also the Divine. And this Non-Being does not mean a Non-Existent which is inconceivable, but an existence which exceeds the bounds of what we call the Existent).
     We express the Divine as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss) in the transcendent state, yet the Non-Being exceeds all these expressions. These expressions may eventually turn out to be inadequate or fail to capture the true status of the Non-Being. Even if it is an existence, a consciousness, a bliss it is still beyond the highest and purest form of these terms by which we know them. Non-Being is a state which is beyond all definable state of experience.

Buddhism, somewhat arbitrarily declared by the theologians to be an un-Vedic doctrine because it rejected the authority of the Scriptures, yet goes back to this essentially Vedantic conception. Only, the positive and synthetic teaching of the Upanishads beheld Sat and Asat not as opposites destructive of each other, but as the last antinomy through which we look up to the Unknowable.

     Buddhism speaks about this status of Non-Being as Silence beyond Silence. The Vedantic conception of Non-Being was recognised by Buddhism though it was viewed as un-Vedic by some religious scholars. But, here, the Non-Being is wrongly interpreted as non-existence. Hence it assigned a negative value to this state as Shunya or Nihil which was considered to be the ultimate.
     The Upanishads which combined all points of view, confirmed the fact that Sat and Asat, i.e., Being and Non-Being are not really opposites. But they represent the contradiction through which we can perceive the Unknowable, the Divine Reality.

And in the transactions of our positive consciousness, even Unity has to make its account with Multiplicity; for the Many also are Brahman. It is by Vidya, the Knowledge of the Oneness, that we know God; without it Avidya, the relative and multiple consciousness, is a night of darkness and a disorder of Ignorance.

     Unity is Brahman. Multiplicity is also Brahman. Hence, Unity includes Multiplicity and Multiplicity represents Unity.
     Vidya means knowledge of Oneness. Through Oneness we realise God. Avidya means ignorance of Oneness; i.e., we live in the relative consciousness of Multiplicity (as we live in the physical world of dualities). We live in the night of darkness, ignorance.

Yet if we exclude the field of that Ignorance, if we get rid of Avidya as if it were a thing non-existent and unreal, then Knowledge itself becomes a sort of obscurity and a source of imperfection. We become as men blinded by a light so that we can no longer see the field which that light illumines.

     Yet we cannot exclude this field of Ignorance i.e. Multiplicity of relative worldly existence. We cannot say that Avidya (multiplicity) is non-existent and unreal.
     Sri Aurobindo compares such a one-sided knowledge with a light that blinds. Light is useful for illuminating the path. But it should not be too blinding that we cannot see the path that it illumines.
     Here Sri Aurobindo refers to the approach of certain philosophical schools (Monistic Adwaita) that affirm that Oneness alone is Real and the relative multiplicity is unreal or illusion. Such an approach would make the very Knowledge of Oneness itself imperfect and uncertain.

     Such is the teaching, calm, wise and clear of our most ancient sages. They had the patience and strength to find and to know; they had also the clarity and humility to admit the limitations of our knowledge.

     (Shri M.P. Pandit – The ancients were wise in positing the dichotomy of Truth in manifestation. And they taught the human mind always to read one in the other, to emphasise their reconciliation. They had a large and comprehensive approach embracing both heaven and earth, Matter and Spirit in their consciousness).
     The ancient sages (Vedic period) had the humility to admit the limitations of human knowledge. Their teachings were all-encompassing including all possible truths however differing they were. They had the patience and strength to wait for the true knowledge.

It was a later impatience on heart and mind, vehement attraction to an ultimate bliss or high masterfulness of pure experience and trenchant intelligence which sought the One to deny the Many, and because it had received the breadth of the heights, scorned or recoiled from the secret depths.
(trenchant = sharp; scorned= treat with contempt; recoiled= spring back)
     By ‘later impatience’ Sri Aurobindo refers to the teachings of certain philosophical schools that came into existence after Vedantic period.
Shri M.P. Pandit:
     It has to be a reconciliation in life situations, in life practice. Impatience with that led to exclusive affirmation either of One as the truth or the Materialist’s world of the Many as the truth.

Dr. Ananda Reddy:
     There were great yogis, great masters of wisdom who took from the same Isha Upanishad two different verses and interpreted them completely differently. This is what happened in the case of the great Shankaracharya who bases his analysis of the Isha Upanishad upon his own experience of the world as illusion, gave a completely different meaning to the Upanishad.
– The phrase “Isha vasyam” is taken by Shankaracharya to mean that all this is to be worn as a garment by the Supreme. Whereas Vedanta takes it to mean that all this is to be inhabited by the Supreme.
– (Vehement attraction to Bliss) Who would not be attracted to Bliss after experiencing the horrifying suffering of life?
– Trenchant intelligence – Sri Aurobindo uses this phrase for those Acharyas who were brilliant in their arguments, who had very sharp intellect. They could argue keenly one against another and win or lose a battle of logic. It was during the period of the development of the philosophical schools in India that we lost for a while the essential vision of Vedanta. (Vedanta meaning the end or culmination of Veda – the Upanishads which occurs at the end of the Veda, a system of philosophy based on the Upanishads teaching, the culminating knowledge of the Absolute).

But the steady eye of the ancient wisdom perceived that to know God really, it must know Him everywhere equally and without distinction, considering and valuing but not mastered by the oppositions through which He shines.
     The ancient Rishis saw the Divine equally in everything, even in seemingly opposing phenomena. They were not overwhelmed by the opposites.
     Shri M. P. Pandit – To fulfil God in life is man’s manhood. But to fulfil God is not to realise God at the summits, but to relate that consciousness, that state of being with a physical existence.


     We will put aside then the trenchant distinctions of a partial logic which declares that because the One is the reality, the Many are an all illusion, and because the Absolute is Sat, the one existence, the relative is Asat and non-existent. If in the Many we pursue insistently the One, it is to return with the benediction and revelation of the One confirming itself in the Many.
(Benediction= prayer seeking blessings)
     We have seen in the previous paragraph that we must know the Divine everywhere equally. Sri Aurobindo says the Monistic-Adwaitic view of Brahman (One) alone is real and the relative world (Many) has no existence in reality is a partial logic. It makes a sharp distinction of the Divine as the real One and the illusory Many. It considers the Absolute Brahman as Sat, the one existence and the relative world as Asat, the non-existent. This view has to be put aside.
     The Divine is One and is also present as Many. We live in a world of multiplicity. Living in Many we must strive to reach the One. Our efforts and aspiration, living in the relative world, will invoke the Blessings of the Divine. In response, the Divine, which is the One, will reveal itself in the Many. Our life in this world will manifest the Divine.

     We will guard ourselves also against the excessive importance that the mind attaches to particular points of view at which it arrives in its more powerful expansions and transitions. The perception of the spiritualised mind that the universe is an unreal dream can have no more absolute a value to us than the perception of the materialized mind that God and the Beyond are an illusory idea.
     Mind is always in search of knowledge. While seeking knowledge it expands and undergoes change. In this process it takes a particular point of view. Sri Aurobindo states that excessive importance should not be given to a particular view arrived at by the mind. They are only transitory and not final.
     The spiritualist concludes that the universe is an unreal dream. The materialist concludes that God and the Beyond are an illusion. Neither of these statements has any absolute value. We cannot take them as final truths.

In one case the mind, habituated only to the evidence of the senses and associating reality with corporeal fact, is either unaccustomed to use other means of knowledge or unable to extend the notion of reality to a supraphysical experience. In the other case the same mind, passing beyond to the overwhelming experience of an incorporeal reality simply transfers the same inability and the same consequent sense of dream or hallucination to the experience of the senses.

     The mind depends only on gross physical senses, namely hearing, seeing, touching or feeling, tasting, smelling, for any evidence. This means we accept something as a reality only if it is felt by our bodily senses. Our mind is not used to get knowledge by other means than the senses. A normal mind does not get access to subtle sense faculties. There are supraphysical (beyond the material world) experiences beyond the range of our physical senses. But our mind does not accept them as real. This leads to negation of the materialist.
     The same mind when it gets convincing experience of a bodiless and formless reality with the help of subtle sense faculties (suksma indriyas) is unable to reconcile the same with the experience of the physical senses. Consequently, the mind takes the experience in the supraphysical domain only as true. It refuses to accept the experiences of the physical senses labelling them as dream or hallucination. This leads to the refusal of the ascetic.

But we perceive also the truth that these two conceptions disfigure. It is true that for this world of form in which we are set for our self-realization, nothing is entirely valid until it has possessed itself of our physical consciousness and manifested on the lowest levels in harmony with its manifestation on the higher summits.
     We seek to attain self-realization only by living in the world of forms. We admit a form as valid only if we can grasp it by our physical consciousness. This means whatever may be our experiences and realisations in the higher domain have to be validated by our physical senses to be taken as true. What is manifested at the higher level (beyond physical level) should be in harmony with what is manifested at the lower level (physical level). Highest summits must be available at the lower levels also.

It is equally true that form and matter asserting themselves as a self-existent reality are an illusion of Ignorance. Form and matter can be valid only as shape and substance of manifestation for the incorporeal and immaterial. They are in their nature an act of divine consciousness, in their aim the representation of a status of the spirit.
(Incorporeal – not having a physical body)
     We think that form and matter are independently self-existent. i.e. they exist in their own right. This is not true. This thinking is caused by the illusion of Ignorance (Avidya). By living in the separateness of Many we are ignorant of the Oneness.
     There is a Spirit dwelling in each material form. Various forms of matter are only manifestation of Spirit. Spirit only gives validity to the shape and substance of the form. Form and matter represent Spirit. They are in nature an act of divine consciousness. If we do not see the above truth, we will lose the Upanishadic equilibrium between spirit and matter.

     In other words, if Brahman has entered into form and represented Its being in material substance, it can only be to enjoy self-manifestation in the figures of relative and phenomenal consciousness. Brahman is in this world to represent Itself in the values of Life. Life exists in Brahman in order to discover Brahman in itself.
     Brahman is formless and Absolute. In this world Brahman has entered into the forms of material substance. It is to enjoy self-manifestation Brahman represents itself in the figures of our relative consciousness.
     Life derives its values from Brahman. To discover the Brahman involved in our life is the purpose of life.

Therefore man’s importance in the world is that he gives to it that development of consciousness in which its transfiguration by a perfect self-discovery becomes possible. To fulfil God in life is man’s manhood. He starts from the animal vitality and its activities, but a divine existence is his objective.
     What is the role of man in the world? It is through man that the world has to develop its consciousness. Through consciousness the world discovers the Brahman in all its substance and is transfigured by It. By this the life of matter is changed into life of Divine.
Man is an intermediate being. His origin is animal. His goal is to become the Divine.
                       ( The Mother, Prayers and Meditations, August 29, 1914
     “WHAT would be the use of man if he were not created to throw a bridge between That which is eternally but is unmanifested and that which is manifested, between all the transcendences and splendours of the divine life and all the dark and sorrowful ignorance of the material world? Man is the link between What must be and what is; he is the footbridge thrown across the abyss, he is the great cross-shaped X, the quaternary connecting link. His true domicile, the effective seat of his consciousness should be in the intermediary world at the meeting-point of the four arms of the cross, just where all the infinitude of the Unthinkable comes to take a precise form so that it may be projected into the innumerable manifestation. . ..”)
     It is relevant to quote the following Savitri lines here:
     To bring God down to the world on earth we came,
     To change the earthly life to life divine.
     (Savitri: Book XI, Canto One, p.692:761 to 763)

     But as in Thought, so in Life, the true rule of self-realisation is a progressive comprehension. Brahman expresses Itself in many successive forms of consciousness, successive in their relation even if coexistent in being or coeval in Time, and Life in its self-unfolding must also rise to ever-new provinces of its own being.
(coeval – having the same date of origin)
     Not only in Thought but also in practical Life the true rule of realising the Divine within is through progressive understanding. It happens in stages. As evolution progresses, we become more and more conscious of the Divine. Brahman expresses Itself in many forms of consciousness, e.g. matter, plant, animal, mind, suprermind etc. They come one after another. Also, they are present at the same time. They also originate at the same time (coeval). There is evolution of consciousness in Life forms. In this process life must rise to new domains from its present field of matter.

But if in passing from one domain to another we renounce what has already been given us from eagerness for our new attainment, if in reaching the mental life we cast away or belittle the physical life which is our basis, or if we reject the mental and physical in our attraction to the spiritual, we do not fulfil God integrally, nor satisfy the conditions of His self-manifestation. We do not become perfect, but only shift the field of our imperfection or at most attain a limited altitude. However high we may climb, even though it be to the Non-Being itself, we climb ill if we forget our base.
     The manifestation of life is progressive. We go from a lower stage to a higher stage, e.g. plant to animal, animal to man, ordinary man to spiritual man. In our eagerness to reach a higher level we cannot reject the lower level. E.g. spiritual life cannot ignore ordinary life. Such an approach is contrary to Divine Purpose. We fulfil the Divine in one plane only and not integrally. Divine manifestation is Total, right from inconscient up to superconscient. It does not exclude anything. Such an approach will not remove our imperfections. Rather we shift our imperfection from one level to another level.
     One can reach the highest state beyond Being i.e.Non-Being. Yet one cannot cut off from the world. Such an attainment is partial and imperfect. (Please refer Sri Aurobindo’s words in Chapter II: “supraphysical can only be mastered in its fullness – to its heights we can always reach- when we keep our feet firmly on the physical.” “Earth is His footing”-Brihadaranyaka Upanishad)

Not to abandon the lower to itself, but to transfigure it in the light of the higher to which we have attained, is true divinity of nature. Brahman is integral and unifies many states of consciousness at a time; we also, manifesting the nature of Brahman, should become integral and all-embracing.
     While reaching the higher plane of consciousness the lower plane cannot be left out. It has to be included and transfigured (a complete change of its spiritual status) in the light of the higher. This is true divinity. Spiritual life must be inclusive of ordinary life & ordinary life must be elevated to spiritual life. In Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo there is ascent to the higher consciousness; there is also a descent of the higher consciousness into the lower by which the lower is transformed. Here the imperfections of our body, mind and life are not rejected but they are transformed.
     Brahman includes all states of consciousness simultaneously. Nothing is left out. We manifest the nature of Brahman. Hence, we must have an integral and all-embracing consciousness.

     Besides the recoil from the physical life, there is another exaggeration of the ascetic impulse which this ideal of an integral manifestation corrects. The nodus of Life is the relation between three general forms of consciousness, the individual, the universal and the transcendent or supracosmic. In the ordinary distribution of life’s activities, the individual regards himself as a separate being included in the universe and both as dependent upon that which transcends alike the universe and the individual.
     The ascetic withdraws from worldly life. Whereas, Brahman is integral and all inclusive. Therefore, the tendency of the ascetic to exclude worldly life stands corrected if we realise the integral nature of Brahman.
     Life is an intricate mix of three forms of consciousness – individual, universal or cosmic and the transcendent (i.e. beyond individual and universal).
     The individual thinks himself as a separate being; as a part of the universe. The individual and the universe are dependent upon the transcendent. The transcendent is beyond both the individual and the universe.

It is to this Transcendence that we give currently the name of God, who thus becomes to our conceptions not so much supracosmic as extracosmic. The belittling and degradation of both the individual and the universe is a natural consequence of this division: the cessation of both cosmos and individual by the attainment of the Transcendence would be logically its supreme conclusion.
     We call this transcendent as God. We presume it to be “extracosmic”, i.e. outside cosmos. Separating God from the world is the origin of the concept of extracosmic.
     But the Divine is not outside the cosmos but He exceeds it. It means He is also the cosmos or the universe but not limited by it. He is much more than that. He is supracosmic. If we can become conscious of the links between Matter and Spirit (matter-life-mind through various grades to supermind-superconscient) we can realise that the Divine is Supracosmic and not extracosmic.
     Sri Aurobindo says, the thinking that God is outside both the individual and the universe has led to the degradation of both. This has created a wrong logic that once the God is realised both the individual and the cosmos cease to exist. They become unreal or Maya. World and the life lose their value. This is another exaggeration by the ascetic which stands corrected once we admit the integral manifestation of Brahman. Neither the individual is inferior to cosmos and the transcendent nor the cosmos is inferior to the transcendent. Because the manifestation of Brahman is equal in all states.

     The integral view of the unity of Brahman avoids these consequences. Just as we need not give up the bodily life to attain to the mental and spiritual, so we can arrive at a point of view where the preservation of the individual activities is no longer inconsistent with our comprehension of the cosmic consciousness or our attainment to the transcendent and supracosmic.
     One can reach the higher regions of the mind or still beyond can live in a spiritual consciousness. Yet one need not give up his body. In a similar way the individual can expand his consciousness to attain cosmic or universal consciousness or he can attain the transcendent consciousness beyond. Yet it would be quite in order with these higher states for him to carry on the worldly activities.
     For example, a doctor, even after attaining the highest state of spiritual consciousness can continue to perform his duties as a skilful medical professional.

For the World-Transcendent embraces the universe, is one with it and does not exclude it, even as the universe embrace the individual, is one with him and does not exclude him. The individual is a centre of the whole universal consciousness; the universe is a form and definition which is occupied by the entire immanence of the Formless and Indefinable.
(Immanence – existing within)

     The transcendent embraces the universe. The universe embraces the individual. The individual is the centre of the whole universal consciousness.
     “Hence it is wrong and contrary to the intention of nature, to divide the individual existence from the universal and the universal from the transcendent” – (M.P. Pandit). The individual is the central point of whole universal consciousness.
     The Brahman is Formless and Indefinable. The universe is marked by definable forms. It is the Brahman who dwells in all the forms of the Universe.

     This is always the true relation, veiled from us by our ignorance or our wrong consciousness of things. When we attain to knowledge or right consciousness, nothing essential in the eternal relation is changed, but only the inview and the outview from the individual centre is profoundly modified and consequently also the spirit and effect of its activity.
     Sri Aurobindo says there exists always a true relation between the individual and the Universe and the Transcendent. We do not perceive the true relationship because of our ignorance or because of our wrong consciousness. We think we are separate from the Universe. We also think that the Transcendent is far away from us. This is because of our ignorance while living in Multiplicity and in our egoistic consciousness.
     The moment we attain the true knowledge or right consciousness the way we look at things both inwardly and outwardly undergoes a profound change. The individual realises that he is one with the Cosmos and the Transcendent. The spirit with which we perform our external activities and their effectivity also takes a new dimension. Yet the relation of the individual with the Universe and the transcendent remains the same. Here nothing changes objectively but his instruments of knowledge have changed- from gross to subtle.
     For example, an individual performs his duties with egoistic desire and motive. Once he attains a spiritual consciousness, he becomes an instrument of the Divine Manifestation in the Universe. His actions produce much greater results.
                     (Ananda Reddy: Deliberations on the Life Divine, Vol-I, p.142)
     When we take the integral view that the individual, the universal, and the transcendent are part and parcel of each other, a new life dawns which brings a balance. One has to harmonise the inner spiritual life with the outer material life and one’s individual life with the larger collective life. They must coexist with a higher – the universal and the transcendent realisation. With the new vision life changes, but the individual continues to act. In the traditional yoga, when the individual attains spiritual realisation, he withdraws into seclusion.

The individual is still necessary to the action of the Transcendent in the universe and that action in him does not cease to be possible by his illumination. On the contrary, since the conscious manifestation of the Transcendent in the individual is the means by which the collective, the universal is also to become conscious of itself, the continuation of the illumined individual in the action of the world is an imperative need of the world-play.
     The individual is a necessary instrument for the Divine in the universal play. The action of the individual is willed by the Divine even though it is modified by the body, mind and life. All new discoveries and breakthroughs in any field be it scientific, philosophical or spiritual, are achieved through the individual only. The individual may realise the Divine. Yet the action of the Divine through the individual still continues. It does not stop with his enlightenment.
     There is conscious manifestation of the transcendent in the individual. By this, the collective, the universal also becomes conscious of itself. Thus, both the manifestation of the transcendent and the universal consciousness take place only through the individual. Hence the presence of the individual in the world even if he has realised the Divine is very much required for the world-play.

If his inexorable removal through the very act of illumination is the law, then the world is condemned to remain eternally the scene of unredeemed darkness, death and suffering. And such a world can only be a ruthless ordeal or a mechanical illusion.
     Most of the spiritual teachings of post-Vedantic era talks about liberation (Mukti) of the individual once he realises the Divine. Either he escapes into Nirvana or takes to sannyasa rejecting the world. He ceases to perform his worldly activities.
     If that is the law, the world forever would be condemned to be the scene of darkness, death and suffering. One is driven to think that the world is an illusion and a place of suffering.

     It is so that ascetic philosophy tends to conceive it. But individual salvation can have no real sense if existence in the cosmos is itself an illusion. In the Monistic view the individual soul is one with the Supreme, its sense of separateness an ignorance, escape from the sense of separateness and identity with the Supreme its salvation.

     The ascetic philosophy treats cosmos as an illusion. Adwaitin says that – the individual soul is one with the Supreme. By our ignorance we think we are separate. Escaping from the sense of separateness and merging with the Supreme is the only salvation. Ironically, the ascetic philosophy treats all cosmic existence as unreal. In that case, Sri Aurobindo asks, where is the question of salvation from existence when there is no existence?

But who then profits by this escape? Not the supreme Self, for it is supposed to be always and inalienably free, still, silent, pure. Not the world, for that remains constantly in the bondage and is not freed by the escape of any individual soul from the universal Illusion. It is the individual soul itself which effects its supreme good by escaping from the sorrow and division into the peace and the bliss. There would seem then to be some kind of reality of the individual soul as distinct from the world and from the Supreme even in the event of freedom and illumination.
     Sri Aurobindo says that such a thinking is selfish escapism. Who is benefitted by such escapism? The Divine which is free, silent, and pure is not affected by such an act. The world remains as it is. It is not benefitted by liberation of the individual. It is only the individual soul that escapes from division and sorrow to peace and bliss. The collectivity is not benefitted.
     If the illumined individual soul has to free itself, it has to be real; it should be distinct from the world and the Supreme. Thus, we observe that there is some reality of the individual soul even in its liberation.

But for the Illusionist the individual soul is an illusion and non-existent except in the inexplicable mystery of Maya. Therefore we arrive at the escape of an illusory non-existent soul from an illusory non-existent bondage in an illusory non-existent world as the supreme good which that non-existent soul has to pursue!
     For the Mayawadin, the individual soul is non-existent. It is an illusion or Maya. Sri Aurobindo points out a paradox here: escape of the individual soul which is non-existent; its escape from a non-existent bondage; its escape from a non-existent world; a supreme good the non-existent soul has to pursue.

For this is the last word of the Knowledge, “There is none bound, none freed, none seeking to be free.” Vidya turns out to be as much a part of the Phenomenal as Avidya; Maya meets us even in our escape and laughs at the triumphant logic which seemed to cut the knot of her mystery.
EXPLANATION (Shri M.P. Pandit)
     The whole thing becomes a logical absurdity. As per Vedantic truth there is none bound, none freed, none seeking to be free. Atman is essentially free. Sri Aurobindo points out how Maya laughs at us even in our escape. You think you are liberated. But when were you bound and where is that you? You are an illusion, there is only the Supreme reality, where are you here?
     Here Vidya is also lost in multiplicity as Avidya.

     These things, it is said, cannot be explained; they are the initial and insoluble miracle. They are for us a practical fact and have to be accepted. We have to escape by a confusion out of a confusion. The individual soul can only cut the knot of ego by a supreme act of egoism, an exclusive attachment to its own individual salvation which amounts to an absolute assertion of its separate existence in Maya.

     The Mayavadins could not give satisfactory explanation to the above paradox (i.e. illusory soul escaping the illusory world). We have to accept it as something like a miracle for which we cannot find an answer. We are trying to get out of a confusion by another confusion.
     Here the individual soul aims at its own salvation. It tries to liberate itself from its ego. Sri Aurobindo says that this act of individual salvation is nothing but yet another act of heightened egoism. By this the individual soul only asserts its separate existence in Maya.

We are led to regard other souls as if they were figments of our mind and their salvation unimportant, our soul alone as if it were entirely real and its salvation the one thing that matters. I come to regard my personal escape from bondage as real while other souls who are equally myself remain behind in the bondage!
     By this exclusive focus on our individual salvation we ignore the salvation of other souls. The individual considers his soul as real and other souls as imagination of mind. This exclusive liberation of the individual soul considers its escape from bondage as real. While focussing on his own salvation he is ignorant of the fact that other souls, no different from his, still remain in bondage.

     It is only when we put aside all irreconcilable antinomy between Self and the world that things fall into their place by a less paradoxical logic. We must accept the many-sidedness of the manifestation even while we assert the unity of the Manifested.
     The Mayavadic philosophy treats the Self and the world as different. It considers Self as real and the world as Maya. This opposition between the Self and the world is to be reconciled to arrive at a logical truth.
     The manifestation of the Divine is many-sided. The Divine is Unity manifested as Many. While asserting this Unity we cannot reject the Many.

And is not this after all the truth that pursues us wherever we cast our eyes, unless seeing we choose not to see? Is not this after all the perfectly natural and simple mystery of Conscious Being that it is bound neither by its unity nor by its multiplicity?
     The Divine is Unity manifested as Many. This is the truth we see all around us in this world. We will miss this truth if we choose deliberately not to see.
     There is a Conscious Being behind all Manifestation. It is neither limited by its unity nor by its multiplicity. This is Its perfectly natural and simple mystery.

It is “absolute” in the sense of being entirely free to include and arrange in its own way all possible terms of its self-expression. There is none bound, none freed, none seeking to be free, – for always That is a perfect freedom. It is so free that it is not even bound by its liberty.
     The Conscious Being is absolute and free. It freely chooses the way it expresses itself in the world.
     Here the word “absolute” implies that it has absolute freedom to do or not to do anything it wishes (Ananda Reddy).
     Brahman is always free. It is never bound by anything. Hence there is no need of its being freed or Its wanting to be free. Again, the Brahman is not bound by its status of being free. It has freedom either to be free or not to be free.
     Freedom means nothing binds Brahman. It is by this freedom that the Infinite becomes finite and the Eternal becomes time. Seen in this way, there is no contradiction in saying that Brahman has become this world and that this world is as real as Brahman itself. Can the mother who gives birth to her baby say that the baby is not real? (Ananda Reddy).

It can play at being bound without incurring a real bondage. Its chain is a self-imposed convention, its limitation in the ego a transitional device that it uses in order to repeat its transcendence and universality in the scheme of the individual Brahman.
     The Brahman in its world-play may appear to be limited by finite forms. But it is not a real bondage. Its limitation is self-imposed. Brahman, for a moment, may appear to be limited by the individual ego.
     (Imagine an actor in a play. He becomes the character itself he chooses to play. He knows fully well that he is not that character in reality. He has the freedom to shake off the character and become his real self at any time. The actor is not bounded by the role he plays).
     But the Brahman uses the individual ego only to go beyond it to Its Universal and Transcendental aspects. Ego is only used as a temporary device.
     (Ego was the Helper; Ego is the Bar – Sri Aurobindo)

     The Transcendent, the Supracosmic is absolute and free in itself beyond Time and Space and beyond the conceptual opposites of finite and infinite. But in cosmos it uses its liberty of self-formation, its Maya, to make a scheme of itself in the complementary terms of unity and multiplicity, and this multiple unity it establishes in the three conditions of the subconscient, the conscient, and the superconscient.

     The Transcendent – the Brahman is beyond Time and Space. It is absolute and free. We treat the finite and the infinite as opposites. But Brahman is beyond both.
     While manifesting in the cosmos, Brahman in its freedom chooses its self-formation or self-limitation – its Maya. Sri Aurobindo refers the term Maya in its original Vedic sense, meaning that which outlines, measures out, moulds forms in the formless, makes the limitless measurable. Only the later philosophic schools referred Maya as illusion in an uncomplimentary sense.
     Brahman appears as Unity as well as Multiplicity. Both are complementary to each other. This multiple unity is found in three states, subconscient, conscient, and super conscient.

For actually we see that the Many objectivised in form in our material universe start with a subconscious unity which expresses itself openly enough in cosmic action and cosmic substance, but of which they are not themselves superficially aware. In the conscient the ego becomes the superficial point at which the awareness of unity can emerge; but it applies its perception of unity to the form and surface action and, failing to take account of all that operates behind, fails also to realise that it is not only one in itself, but one with others.
     Material universe appears in many forms. Superficially they appear to be separate. But fundamentally they are one in their subconscient. For example, from the matter to the highest living form, the subconscient is one. This principle is observed in cosmic action and substance. But at the surface level of forms one is not aware of this fact.
     In the conscient status our ego becomes the focal point. We become aware of unity. But this perception of unity is restricted to outward forms and actions. We are not aware of what is really operating behind the forms and actions. For example, we are aware of unity human beings by outward form and common activities. But we are not aware of the unity of souls behind all human beings. Also, our ego makes us think that we are separate beings. But we fail to realise the fact that we are one with others. Our ego divides and limits us.

This limitation of the universal “I” in the divided ego-sense constitutes our imperfect individualised personality. But when the ego transcends the personal consciousness, it begins to include and be overpowered by that which is to us super-conscious; it becomes aware of the cosmic unity and enters into the Transcendent Self which here cosmos expresses by a multiple oneness.
     The limitation caused by our ego makes us imperfect personalities. When we go beyond the sense of “I”, the egoistic consciousness, we rise to the superconscient, i.e., what is above our individual consciousness. This rise in our consciousness makes us aware that we are one with the cosmos; we are not separate. When we transcend our ego, our individual consciousness is taken over by the superconscient. We become not only one with the cosmos but with what is beyond the cosmos, i.e. Transcendent. This Highest Self, i.e. Transcendent, while manifesting Itself in the world appear as One in Many forms.