classes ::: chapter, Sri_Aurobindo_or_the_Adventure_of_Consciousness, Satprem, Integral_Yoga,
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object:1.11 - Oneness
class:chapter
book class:Sri Aurobindo or the Adventure of Consciousness
author class:Satprem
subject class:Integral Yoga


Sri Aurobindo was to spend a whole year in the Alipore jail awaiting the verdict. He had had no hand in the unsuccessful assassination attempt; organizing the rebellion had nothing to do with isolated acts of terrorism. When I was arrested and hurried to the Lal Bazar police station I was shaken in faith for a while, for I could not look into the heart of His intention. Therefore I faltered for a moment and cried out in my heart to him, "What is this that has happened to me? I believed that I had a mission to work for the people of my country and until that work was done, I should have Thy protection. Why then am I here and on such a charge?" A day passed and a second day and a third,
when a voice came to me from within, "Wait and see." Then I grew calm and waited. I was taken from Lal Bazar to Alipore and was placed for one month in a solitary cell apart from men. There I waited day and night for the voice of God within me, to know what He had to say to me, to learn what I had to do. . . . I remembered then that a month or more before my arrest, a call had come to me to put aside all activity, to go into seclusion and to look into myself, so that I might enter into closer communion with Him. I was weak and could not accept the call. My work [for the liberation of India] was very dear to me and in the pride of my heart I thought that unless I was there it would suffer or even fail and cease; therefore I would not leave it. It seemed to me that He spoke to me again and said, "The bonds you had not the strength to break, I have broken for you, because it is not my will nor was it ever my intention that that should continue. I have had another thing for you to do and it is for that I have brought you here, to teach you what you could not learn for yourself and to train you for my work."127 This "work" was to realize cosmic consciousness,
or Oneness, and to explore the planes of consciousness above the ordinary mind, i.e., the Superconscient, which was to put Sri Aurobindo on the track of the Great Secret. What happened to me 127

Speeches, 2:3


during that period I am not impelled to say, but only this that day after day, He showed me His wonders. . . . That knowledge He gave to me day after day during my twelve months of imprisonment.128

Cosmic Consciousness Sri Aurobindo had lived for months in a sort of phantasmagoric and empty dream set against the sole background of the Transcendent's static Reality. Strangely enough, however, it is in the midst of this Void, and as if issuing from it, that the world burst forth again with a new face, as if each time everything had to be lost in order to be found again at a higher level: Overpowered and subjugated, stilled, liberated from itself, the mind accepts the Silence itself as the Supreme. But afterwards the seeker discovers that all is there for him contained or new-made . . . then the void begins to fill, there emerges out of it or there rushes into it all the manifold Truth of the Divine, all the aspects and manifestations and many levels of a dynamic Infinite. 129 When we have seen only a static Infinite, we have seen only one face of God,
Whom we have excluded from this world (though a world we claim to be empty of God may be better than a world filled with a solemn and judgmental God), but once the Silence has washed away our solemnities, great and small, leaving us for a time filled with pure whiteness, we find the world and God together again at every level and in every point, as if they had never been separated except through an excess of materialism or spiritualism. It was in the Alipore courtyard, during the exercise period, that this new change of consciousness took place: I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high walls that I was imprisoned; no,
it was Vasudeva130 who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell, but it was not the tree, I knew it was Vasudeva, it was Sri Krishna131 whom I saw standing there and holding over me his shade. I looked at the bars of my cell, the very 128
129
130
131

Speeches, 2:7
The Synthesis of Yoga, 29:109
One of the names of the Divine.
One of the names of the Divine.


grating that did duty for a door and again I saw Vasudeva. It was Narayana132 who was guarding and standing sentry over me. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a couch and felt the arms of Sri Krishna around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover. . . .
I looked at the prisoners in the jail, the thieves, the murderers, the swindlers, and as I looked at them I saw Vasudeva, it was Narayana whom I found in these darkened souls and misused bodies. 133 That experience would never again leave Sri Aurobindo. During the six months the trial lasted, with its two hundred-odd witnesses and four thousand pieces of evidence, Sri Aurobindo was locked every day in an iron cage in the middle of the courtroom, but it was no longer a hostile crowd or judges that he saw: When the case opened . . . I was followed by the same insight. He said to me, "When you were cast into jail, did not your heart fail and did not you cry out to me, where is Thy protection? Look now at the Magistrate, look now at the Prosecuting Counsel." I looked and it was not the magistrate whom I
saw, it was Vasudeva, it was Narayana who was sitting there on the bench. I looked at the Prosecuting Counsel and it was not the Council for the Prosecution that I saw; it was Sri Krishna who sat there and smiled. "Now do you fear?" he said, "I am in all men and overrule their actions and their works."134 Indeed God is not outside His world,
He did not "create" the world He became the world, as the Upanishad says: "He became knowledge and ignorance, He became the truth and the falsehood. . . . He became all this whatsoever that is."
(Taittiriya Upanishad II.6) "This whole world is filled with beings who are His members," says the Swetaswatara Upanishad (IV.10). All to the eye that sees is One, to a divine experience all is one block of the Divine.135
We may think that this is an altogether mystical vision of the universe, with very little in common with our daily reality; at every step we encounter ugliness and evil; this world is riddled with pain,
saturated with strangled cries. Where is the Divine in all this? Is the Divine that barbarism ever ready to open its torture camps? Or that 132
133
134
135

One of the names of the Divine.
One of the names of the Divine, 2:5
Speeches, 2:4
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:285


pervading egoism? Or that villainy, concealed or flaunted? God is innocent of all these crimes. He is perfect. He cannot be a party to this neti neti God is so pure that He is not of this world. There is simply no place for Him in all this suffocating squalor! We must look existence in the face if our aim is to arrive at a right solution whatever that solution may be. And to look existence in the face is to look God in the face; for the two cannot be separated. . . . This world of our battle and labor is a fierce dangerous destructive devouring world in which life exists precariously and the soul and body of man move among enormous perils, a world in which by every step forward,
whether we will it or no, something is crushed and broken, in which every breath of life is a breath too of death. To put away the responsibility for all that seems to us evil or terrible on the shoulders of a semi-omnipotent Devil, or to put it aside as a part of Nature,
making an unbridgeable opposition between world-nature and Godnature, as if Nature were independent of God, or to throw the responsibility on man and his sins, as if he had a preponderant voice in the making of this world or could create anything against the will of God, are clumsily comfortable devices. . . . We erect a God of Love and Mercy, a God of good, a God just, righteous and virtuous according to our own moral conceptions of justice, virtue and righteousness, and all the rest, we say, is not He or is not His, but was made by some diabolical Power which He suffered for some reason to work out its wicked will or by some dark Ahriman counterbalancing our gracious Ormuzd, or was even the fault of selfish and sinful man who has spoiled what was made originally perfect by God . . . . We have to look courageously in the face of the reality and see that it is God and none else who has made this world in His being and that so He has made it. We have to see that Nature devouring her children,
Time eating up the lives of creatures, Death universal and ineluctable and the violence of the Rudra136 forces in man and Nature are also the supreme Godhead in one of his cosmic figures. We have to see that God the bountiful and prodigal creator, God the helpful, strong and benignant preserver is also God the devourer and destroyer. The torment of the couch of pain and evil on which we are racked is his touch as much as happiness and sweetness and pleasure. It is only 136

One of the forms of the Divine.


when we see with the eye of the complete union and feel this truth in the depths of our being that we can entirely discover behind that mask too the calm and beautiful face of the all-blissful Godhead and in this touch that tests our imperfection the touch of the friend and builder of the spirit in man. The discords of the world are God's discords and it is only by accepting and proceeding through them that we can arrive at the greater concords of his supreme harmony, the summits and thrilled vastness of his transcendent and his cosmic Ananda. . . .137
For truth is the foundation of real spirituality and courage is its soul.138
Then the wound is healed that seemed forever to divide the world between Satan and Heaven, as if there were nothing else but Good and Evil, with us in between like an infant coddled and whipped into virtuous ways.139 All duality is a vision based on Ignorance. There is nothing but the innumerable One140 everywhere, and "God's discords"
to help the Godhead grow within us. Even so, quite a gap remains between this perhaps divine imperfection and the ultimate Perfection.
Is not this cosmic Divine a lesser Divine? Should we not try to find elsewhere an untarnished, transcendent, and perfect Divine? If there is an opposition between the spiritual life and that of the world, it is that gulf which he [the integral seeker] is here to bridge, that opposition which he is here to change into harmony. If the world is ruled by the flesh and the devil, all the more reason that the children of Immortality should be here to conquer it for God and the Spirit. If life is an insanity, then there are so many million souls to whom there must be brought the light of divine reason; if a dream, yet it is real within itself to so many dreamers who must be brought either to dream nobler dreams or to awaken; or if a lie, then the truth has to be given to the deluded.141
But we are not entirely satisfied. We may accept that God is in all this evil and suffering, we may understand that the hidden Enemy who torments us is really the builder of our strength, the secret shaper of 137
138
139
140
141

Divine joy.
Essays on the Gita, 59,516
The Life Divine, 19:805
Savitri, 28:66
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:313


our consciousness; indeed, we may be the "warriors of the Light" in this dark world, like the rishis of old, but why the darkness in the first place? Why has He, Whom we conceive as eternally pure and perfect,
become this world so scarcely divine in its appearances? What did He need Death and Falsehood and Suffering for? If this is only a mask,
then why the mask? If it is only an illusion, then why this cruel game?
Perhaps it is a blessing after all that the Lord did not make the world according to our idea of perfection, because we have so many ideas about what is "perfect," about what God should be, and especially about what He should not be, that there would be nothing left in our world after we had whittled away everything that protrudes, except for one big Zero that would not tolerate even the impurity of our own existence or perhaps a military camp. Virtue, the Mother observed,
has always suppressed elements of life; if all the virtues of the different countries in the world were joined together, there would be hardly anything left of life. Indeed, we still know only one kind of perfection, that which eliminates, not that which embraces all; yet perfection is totality. Because we see only one instant of Eternity at a time, and because that instant fails to contain what we wanted to see or to have, we complain and declare this world erroneously built; but when we emerge from our instantaneity and enter the Totality,
everything changes, and we see Perfection in the making. This world is not finished; it is becoming. It is a progressive conquest of the Divine by the Divine for the Divine, on its way to becoming the endless more that we must be.142 Our world is in evolution, and evolution has a spiritual meaning: Earth's million roads struggled towards deity.143
What do we really know of the great earthly journey? To us, it appears tortuous, cruel, impure, but we have only just been born! We have hardly emerged from Matter, muddy, small, pain-ridden, like a god buried in a tomb who no longer sees, searching right and left,
bumping into everything. But who knows what other birth, what recovered memory, what regained power await us father along our path? This world is in the making, and we do not yet know the full 142
143

Savitri, 28:260
Savitri, 29:625


story.
Seek Him upon the earth. . .
or thou art He, O King. Only the night Is on thy soul By thine own will. Remove it and recover The serene whole Thou art indeed. . .144

The Central Being. The Universal Person "Thou art He" such is the eternal truth. Tat tvam asi, thou art That.
This is the Truth the ancient Mysteries taught and the later religions forgot. Having lost the central secret, they fell prey to all the aberrant dualisms, substituting obscure mysteries for the great, simply Mystery. "I and my Father are one," Jesus Christ said (John 10,30); "I
am He," so'ham the sages of India say; indeed, this is the truth all liberated men discover, whether they be from the East or the West,
from the past or the present. This is the eternal Fact we must all discover. This "I," the self who asserts its identity with God, is not that of a privileged individual as if there were any room left for a little personal and exclusive self in that triumphant blossoming, or as if the sages of the Upanishads, the Vedic rishis, or Christ had once and for all monopolized every divine relationship. This is in fact the voice of all men fused into a single cosmic consciousness, and we are all the sons of God. There are two ways of making this Discovery, or two stages. The first one is to find the soul, the psychic being, eternally one with the Divine, the little light from that great Light: "The Spirit who is here in man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun, lo, it is One Spirit and there is no other," says the Upanishad 145 ; "whoever thinks 'Other is he and I am other,' he knows not." 146 Some six or seven thousand years ago the Veda called this discovery of the Spirit within "the birth of the Son": "The red glowing mass of him is seen: a great 144
145
146

Collected Poems and Plays, 5:311
Taittiriya Upanishad X.
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I.4.10


god has been delivered out of the darkness." (Rig Veda V.1.2) In strikingly powerful words the Vedic rishis affirmed the eternal identity of Son and Father, and the divine transmutation of man:
"Rescue thy father, in thy knowledge keep him safe, thy father who becomes thy son and bears thee." (Rig Veda V.3.9).
The moment we are born, we see that this soul within us is the same in all human beings, and not only in all beings but also in things,
in a latent, unrevealed state. "He is the child of the waters, the child of the forests, the child of things stable and the child of things that move.
Even in the stone he is there." (Rig Veda I.70.2). All is one because all is the One. Did Christ not say, "This is my body, this is my blood," of two most material, most earthly symbols bread and wine to convey that Matter, too, is the body of the One, the blood of God? 147 If He had not been already there in the stone, how would He have come to be in man, through what miraculous intervention? We are the result of an evolution, not of a sequence of arbitrary miracles. All the earth-past is there in [our human nature] . . . the very nature of the human being presupposes a material and a vital stage which prepare his emergence into mind and an animal past which moulded a first element of his complex humanity. And let us not say that this is because material Nature developed by evolution his life and his body and his animal mind, and only afterwards did a soul descend into the form so created . . . for that supposes a gulf between soul and body,
between soul and life, between soul and mind, which does not exist;
there is no body without soul, no body that is not itself a form of soul;
Matter itself is substance and power of spirit and could not exist if it were anything else, for nothing can exist which is not substance and power of the Eternal. . . . 148 The dumb and blind and brute is That and not only the finely, mentally conscious human or the animal existence.
All this infinite becoming is a birth of the Spirit into form.149
Once we have opened the doors of the psychic, a first phase of cosmic consciousness is unveiled. But the growing psychic, the consciousness-force growing increasingly alive and compact and 147
148
149

See Sri Aurobindo, Eight Upanishads, X.XI.
The Life Divine, 677
The Problem of Rebirth, 16:272


strong inside, is no longer satisfied with a narrow individual form.
Feeling itself one with That, it wants to be as vast as That, as universal as That, and to rediscover its innate Totality. To be and to be fully is Nature's aim in us . . . and to be fully is to be all that is. 150 We need totality because we are the Totality. The ideal that beckons us, the goal that guides our steps, is not really in front; it does not draw us,
but pushes us; it is behind as well as in front and inside. Evolution is the eternal blossoming of a flower that was always a flower. Without this seed in the depths nothing would move, because nothing would need anything. This is the world's Need this is our eternal being.
This is our brother of light, who sometimes emerges when all seems lost, the sunlit memory that churns us again and again and will not leave us in peace until we have recovered all our Sun. This is our cosmic center, as the psychic was our individual center. But this central being is not located in a particular point; it is in all points,
inconceivably at the heart of each thing and embracing all things at the same time. It is supremely within, as it is supremely above and below and everywhere it is a giant point.151 When we have found it, all is found, and all is there. The adult soul recovers its origin, the Son recovers the Father or, rather, the Father, who became the Son,
becomes Himself again: There is a pushing back and rending or a rushing down of the walls that imprisoned our conscious being; there is a loss of all sense of individuality and personality, of all placement in Space or Time or action or law of Nature; there is no longer an ego, a person definite and definable, but only consciousness, only existence, only peace and bliss; one becomes immortality, becomes eternity, becomes infinity. All that is left of the personal soul is a hymn of peace and freedom and bliss vibrating somewhere in the Eternal.152
We believed ourselves to be small and separated from one another,
one person plus another person in the midst of separate things. We needed this separation to grow under our separate shells, lest we remained some undifferentiated mass of the universal plasma, a member of the flock without a life of his own. Through this separation we have become conscious. We are still incompletely conscious, and 150
151
152

The Life Divine, 19:1023
Savitri, 28:24
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:348


we suffer from being separated separated from others, separated from ourselves, separated from things, because we stand outside the one point where everything unites.
The only way to set everything straight is to recover consciousness; and this is very simple.
There is but one origin.
This origin is perfection of the Truth,
since it is the only truly existing thing.
By manifesting outwardly, by projecting and scattering itself,
it has produced what we see and lots of nice and brilliant little brains,
in search of what they have not yet found;
but they can find it,
for what they seek is within them.
The remedy is at the center of the ill.153
After we have suffered enough, through lives upon lives of this long evolution, after we have grown enough to realize that everything comes to us from outside, from a Life greater than ours, from a universal Mind and Matter vaster than ours, then the time comes to become consciously what we unconsciously always were a universal Person: Why shouldst thou limit thyself? Feel thyself also in the sword that strikes thee and the arms that embrace, in the blazing of the sun and the dance of the earth . . . in all that is past and all that is now and all that is pressing forward to become. For thou art infinite and all this joy is possible to thee.154

Knowledge through Identity We might suppose this cosmic consciousness to be a kind of poetic and mystical superimagination, something purely subjective and without any practical bearing. But first, we could try to clarify what 153
154

The Mother, in a conversation with children.
The Superman, 16:289


we mean by "objective" and "subjective," because if we insist on using so-called objectively as the sole criterion for truth, then this entire world is likely to escape us altogether as our art, our painting, and even our science have been shouting to us for the last fifty years
leaving us merely with a few sure crumbs. It is true that roast beef is more universally verifiable and, therefore more objective, than the joy in Beethoven's last quartets; but that is a lessening of the world, not an enrichment. Actually, this is a false opposition. Subjectivity is really an advanced or preparatory stage for objectivity; once everyone verifies the reality of cosmic consciousness, or simply the joy in Beethoven's quartets, we may attain an objectively less barbarous universe.
Sri Aurobindo was not a man to be satisfied with cosmic dreaming. The authenticity of the experience and its practical relevance can be immediately verified by a very simple test, which reveals a new mode of knowledge through identity: we know a thing because we are that thing. Consciousness can move to any point of its universal reality, focus on any being, any event, and know it immediately and intimately, as one knows the beating of one's own heart, because everything now takes place within; nothing is outside or separate anymore. As the Upanishad long ago stated: "When That is known, all is known."155 The first signs of this new consciousness are quite tangible: One begins to feel others too as part of oneself or varied repetitions of oneself, the same self modified by Nature in other bodies. Or, at the least, as living in the larger universal self which is henceforth one's own greater reality. All things in fact begin to change their nature and appearance; one's whole experience of the world is radically different from that of those who are shut up in their personal selves. One begins to know things by a different kind of experience, more direct, not depending on the external mind and the senses. It is not that the possibility of error disappears, for that cannot be so long as mind of any kind is one's instrument for transcribing knowledge, but there is a new, vast and deep way of experiencing,
seeing, knowing, contacting things; and the confines of knowledge can
155

Shandilya Upanishad, II.2.


be rolled back to an almost unmeasurable degree.156
This new mode of knowledge is not really different from ours.
Indeed, any experience, any knowledge, of whatever order, from the most physical level to metaphysical heights, is secretly a knowledge through identity: we know because we are what we know. True knowledge, Sri Aurobindo said, is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become.157 Without that secret identity, that underlying total oneness, we would be unable to know anything about the world and beings. Ramakrishna crying out in pain and bleeding from the cuts of the whip that lashed the ox nearby, the psychic knowing that an object is hidden in a particular place, the yogi curing a sick disciple hundreds of miles away, or Sri Aurobindo preventing the cyclone from entering his room, are only a few striking illustrations of a natural phenomenon. What is natural is not separation, not differentiation, but the indivisible and nonexistent to us. Only like can know and feel like; only like can act upon like. We can know only what we are: Nothing can be taught to the mind which is not already concealed as potential knowledge in the unfolding soul of the creature. So also all perfection of which the outer man is capable, is only a realizing of the eternal perfection of the Spirit within him. We know the Divine and become the Divine, because we are That already in our secret nature. All teaching is a revealing, all becoming is an unfolding. Self-attainment is the secret; selfknowledge and an increasing consciousness are the means and the process.158
We have become separated from the world and other beings through the millennia of our evolution. We have formed egos, have hardened a few atoms of the Great Body, and have proclaimed "I"
against all others, similarly hardened under an egoistic crust. Once separated, we could no longer see anything of what we were, formerly,
in the great Mother-Unity. So we have invented eyes, hands, senses,
and a mind to join with what we have excluded from our great Being,
and we now believe that without these eyes, fingers, and heads, we 156
157
158

Letters on Yoga, 22:316
Evening Talks, 180
The Synthesis of Yoga, 20:48


can know nothing; but this is only our separatist illusion; our present indirect knowledge conceals and hides from us an immediate recognition without which our eyes, fingers, heads, and even our microscopes would not perceive nor understand anything, nor even work. Our eyes are not organs of vision but organs of division; when the Eye of Truth opens in us, those lenses or crutches are no longer needed. Ultimately, our evolutionary journey is a slow reconquering of what we had exiled, a revival of Memory. Our progress is not measured by the amount of inventions we create, which are merely artificial means of recovering what we have estranged from ourselves,
but by the amount of the world that we are able to reintegrate and recognize as ourselves.
And this is joy Ananda because to be all that is is to have the joy of all that is.
The bliss of a myriad myriads who are one.159
"Whence shall he have grief, how shall he be deluded, who sees everywhere the Oneness?"160

159
160

Savitri, 28:325
Isha Upanishad, 7.




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