He arrived at the knowledge that Matter is Brahman.
Brahman as Matter
Our material existence is shot through and through with imperfections. Limitation, incapacity, death characterise every living form of matter leading to an altogether false view of the material world. Most religious and spiritual traditions regard it as something incurably negative deforming the fair face of God’s creation. It is everything that the Divine is not and therefore it has even been condemned as an illusion, a false appearance without substance. To a closer scrutiny, however, the truth reveals itself to be otherwise.
Brahman, the Reality, being One without a second, ekam advitiyam, there cannot be anything else in existence. All is Brahman in Becoming. Brahman as Sat-Chit-Ananda manifests himself in this multiplicity. The One becomes the Many. Chit, Consciousness, projects itself as the Mind; Chit-Shakti, the Force of Consciousness formulates itself as the Life-Force; Ananda, Delight, condenses itself as the soul, the psychic and Sat, Existence, projects itself as Matter. The substance of Matter is only a grade of the substance of the Spirit.
Matter is a special concretisation of the Spirit for purposes of manifestation. Its very density and fixity serve to give stability to forms in this world of flux of forces and possibilities. Like the Spirit it is also indestructible; only the forms change, not the substance. Even death is only a renewal of form. Matter and Spirit are the reverse and obverse sides of Brahman.
As Matter, God extends himself in the physical dimension.
(Source: Shri M.P.Pandit, The Legends in The Life Divine, p.76-77)
WEHAVE now the rational assurance that Life is neither an inexplicable dream nor an impossible evil that has yet become a dolorous fact, but a mighty pulsation of the divine All-Existence. We see something of its foundation and its principle, we look upward to its high potentiality and ultimate divine out-flowering. But there is one principle below all the others which we have not yet sufficiently considered, the principle of Matter upon which Life stands as upon a pedestal or out of which it evolves like the form of a many-branching tree out of its encasing seed. The mind, life and body of man depend upon this physical principle, and if the out-flowering of Life is the result of Consciousness emerging into Mind, expanding, elevating itself in search of its own truth in the largeness of the supramental existence, yet it seems also to be conditioned by this case of body and by this foundation of Matter.
We have seen in the previous chapters that Life is the manifestation of Conscious-Force (Chit-Shakti). It is not an inexplicable dream as the ascetic says. Nor Life is an evil difficult to deal with which has become a distressful fact. But it is a mighty pulsation (rhythmic creation) of the divine All-Existence (Sat).
We know that Life is a consciousness that has evolved out of Matter and has reached the stage of Mind. Life potentially contains the possibility of flowering into Supramental stage.
There is one principle below our Mind and Life, that is Matter. This requires our close consideration. Matter is the pedestal upon which Life stands. As the tree with its many branches takes the form out of its seed, Life evolves out of Matter.
Our mind, life and body depend upon this physical principle of Matter. We have seen that the out-flowering of Life is the result of Consciousness emerging into Mind, expanding and elevating itself in search of its own truth in the vastness of Supermind. Yet it seems that Life is conditioned by this case of body and by this foundation of Matter.
The importance of the body is obvious; it is because he has developed or been given a body and brain capable of receiving and serving a progressive mental illumination that man has risen above the animal. Equally, it can only be by developing a body or at least a functioning of the physical instrument capable of receiving and serving a still higher illumination that he will rise above himself and realise, not merely in thought and in his internal being but in life, a perfectly divine manhood. Otherwise either the promise of Life is cancelled, its meaning annulled and earthly being can only realise Sachchidananda by abolishing itself, by shedding from it mind, life and body and returning to the pure Infinite, or else man is not the divine instrument, there is a destined limit to the consciously progressive power which distinguishes him from all other terrestrial existences and, as he has replaced them in the front of things, so another must eventually replace him and assume his heritage.
What makes the man different from the animal? Man has developed or been given a body and brain. With these capabilities he is able to receive progressive mental knowledge. Therefore, the importance of body is obvious. It enables him to rise above the animal with his mental capacity.
The goal of man is to reach a perfectly divine manhood. He can reach this goal only by developing a body or at least a functioning of the physical instrument that can receive and serve a still higher illumination – Supramental. So that, he will rise above himself and realise this goal not only in his thought and internal being but in life.
Otherwise, the promise of Life (the ascent of Life into Divine Consciousness) is cancelled; the meaning of Life is reduced to nothing; man can realise Sacchidananda only by abolishing his mind, life and body and returning into the pure Infinite.
Or else, Sri Aurobindo says, we have to resign to the fact that man is not the divine instrument; he can consciously progress only up to a pre-determined limit in his power (mental capacity). This power differentiates him from all other terrestrial beings; he has replaced the other life forms in the front of terrestrial existence. Likewise, another species must eventually replace him and assume his heritage (superiority to other terrestrial beings).
It seems indeed that the body is from the beginning the soul’s great difficulty, its continual stumbling-block and rock of offence. Therefore the eager seeker of spiritual fulfilment has hurled his ban against the body and his world-disgust selects this world-principle above all other things as an especial object of loathing. The body is the obscure burden that he cannot bear; its obstinate material grossness is the obsession that drives him for deliverance to the life of the ascetic. To get rid of it he has even gone so far as to deny its existence and the reality of the material universe. Most of the religions have put their curse upon Matter and have made the refusal or the resigned temporary endurance of the physical life the test of religious truth and of spirituality.
From the beginning, body continues to be the great stumbling block for the soul. Sri Aurobindo says body is viewed as the opposing principle (rock of offence) to the soul. Therefore, the spiritual seeker always puts a ban on his body. Disgusted with the material aspect of the world, he considers body as a special object of hate, above all other things.
The spiritual seeker cannot bear the dark burden of his body. He is always obsessed with its material grossness. Therefore, he is driven to the life of an ascetic. In his eagerness to get rid of his body, he has gone to the extent of denying the bodily existence. He has denied the reality of the material universe.
Most of the religions have put their curse upon Matter. They have considered the refusal of material life or enduring it temporarily without any option as the test of religious truth and spirituality.
The older creeds, more patient, more broodingly profound, not touched with the torture and the feverish impatience of the soul under the burden of the Iron Age, did not make this formidable division; they acknowledged Earth the Mother and Heaven the Father and accorded to them an equal love and reverence; but their ancient mysteries are obscure and unfathomable to our gaze who, whether our view of things be materialistic or spiritual, are alike content to cut the Gordian knot of the problem of existence with one decisive blow and to accept an escape into an eternal bliss or an end in an eternal annihilation or an eternal quietude.
The ancient spiritual teachings (Vedic period) were more patient and more profound. The soul was under torture and impatience under the burden of the subsequent age with the advancement of civilisation. This was not there during the earlier age and therefore they did not make this forceful division between Matter and Spirit.
They acknowledged Earth the Mother and Heaven the Father. Both were accorded an equal love and respect. But their ancient mysteries are not clear to us and are beyond our reach. Whether our view is materialistic or spiritual we tend to find a short cut to this problem. We tend to find an escape into an eternal bliss or an end in an eternal annihilation (dissolving into Nirvana) or an eternal quietude (as an ascetic) as easy solution. (Gordian knot – When Alexander reached the city Gordium, he was shown the chariot of the ancient founder of the city, Gordius with its yoke tied to the pole by an intricate knot with its end hidden. Only the future conquerer of Asia could untie the knot. Alexander cut the knot with his sword).
The quarrel does not really commence with our awakening to our spiritual possibilities; it begins from the appearance of life itself and its struggle to establish its activities and its permanent aggregations of living form against the force of inertia, against the force of inconscience, against the force of atomic disaggregation which are in the material principle the knot of the great Denial. Life is at constant war with Matter and the battle seems always to end in the apparent defeat of Life and in that collapse downward to the material principle which we call death. The discord deepens with the appearance of Mind; for Mind has its own quarrel with both Life and Matter: it is at constant war with their limitations, in constant subjection to and revolt against the grossness and inertia of the one and the passions and sufferings of the other; and the battle seems to turn eventually, though not very surely, towards a partial and costly victory for the Mind in which it conquers, represses or even slays the vital cravings, impairs the physical force and disturbs the balance of the body in the interests of a greater mental activity and a higher moral being.
Sri Aurobindo says this quarrel does not begin with our spiritual awakening ((Only by an extension of the field of our consciousness or an unhoped –for-increase in our instruments of knowledge can the ancient quarrel be decided – Ref: Ch III – The Refusal of the Ascetic – p.24). It begins with the appearance of life itself. Life struggles to establish its activities and its grouping of living form against the forces of inertia, inconscience and atomic disaggregation (falling apart). These forces represent the knot of great Denial (of Spirit) in the material principle (in matter).
Life is at constant war with Matter. The battle always ends with the apparent defeat of Life. It results in the collapse downward to the material principle which we call death.
The discord deepens with the appearance of Mind. Mind has its own quarrel with both Life and Matter. It is at constant war with their limitations. Mind is in constant subjection to the grossness and inertia of the Matter and passions and sufferings of the Life (vital). It revolts against them.
In this battle, eventually but not always, Mind achieves a costly victory. Yet it is only partial. Mind conquers, represses or even slays (destroys) the vital cravings. It weakens the physical force; it disturbs the balance of the body to achieve a greater mental activity and a higher moral being.
It is in this struggle that the impatience of Life, the disgust of the body and the recoil from both towards a pure mental and moral existence take their rise. When man awakens to an existence beyond Mind, he carries yet farther this principle of discord. Mind, Body and Life are condemned as the trinity of the world, the flesh and the devil. Mind too is banned as the source of all our malady; war is declared between the spirit and its instruments and the victory of the spiritual Inhabitant is sought for in an evasion from its narrow residence, a rejection of mind, life and body and a withdrawal into its own infinitudes. The world is a discord and we shall best solve its perplexities by carrying the principle of discord itself to its extreme possibility, a cutting away and a final severance.
In this struggle arises the impatience of Life, the disgust of the body and recoiling (springing back) from both. Withdrawing from these, Man leans towards a pure mental and moral existence. When he awakens to an existence beyond his Mind, he carries forward this principle of discord still farther.
Mind, Body and Life are condemned as the trinity of the world, the flesh and the devil (In Christian theology they are considered as enemies of the soul). Mind is also banned as the source of all our malady. War is declared between the spirit and its instruments. The victory of the Self within (spiritual Inhabitant) is sought for in an escape from its narrow residence – rejection of mind, life and body and withdrawal into its own infinitudes.
The world is thought to be a place of discord. The problems of the world can be solved only by carrying the principle of discord to its extreme possibility. That is to cut away from the world and ending the relationship with it.