Mental conundrum



The following discussion occurred on Synthesis, an e-mail discussion group studying The Synthesis of Yoga. To subscribe, send e-mail to Leave the subject line blank. In the body of your message, type subscribe synthesis.

I n the chapter "Difficulties of the Mental Being" (the chapter currently being discussed in this group, and the 13th chapter in the "The Yoga of Integral Knowledge"), in what is perhaps the chapter's key statement, and a critical if not somewhat obscure passage, Sri Aurobindo writes:

There must be a positive transformation and not merely a negative quiescence of the waking mentality. The transformation is possible because, although the divine planes are above the mental consciousness and to enter actually into them we have to lose the mental in samadhi, yet there are in the mental being divine planes superior to our normal mentality which reproduce the conditions of the divine plane proper although modified by the conditions, dominant here, of mentality. All that belongs to the experience of the divine plane can there be seized, but in the mental way and in a mental form.

To these planes of divine mentality it is possible for the developed human being to arise in the waking state; or it is possible for him to derive from them a stream of influences and experiences which shall eventually open to them and transform into their nature his whole waking existence. These higher mental states are the immediate sources, the large actual instruments, the inner stations of his perfection (called in the Veda variously seats, houses, placings or statuses, footings, earths, dwelling-places, sadas, grha or ksaya, dhama, padam, bhumi, ksiti.)" -- Synthesis of Yoga, pp. 38182

Could someone enlighten me on what Sri Aurobindo is referring to here? Is he referring to the ascending order of mind planes -- higher mind, illumined mind, intuitive mind, overmind, and supermind? Does anyone have any references from the Vedas on this?

This strikes me as a critical passage in understanding the yoga, and I have a far from clear idea about what is meant here by these "inner stations" -- never mind how one moves from one to the other. I have a feeling that this is dealt with more in Part IV, "The Yoga of Self-Perfection," but since it is raised here, I was hoping for some clarification, if possible.

-- Ben Irvin,

S ri Aurobindo suggests that certain deities represent these planes, and there are numerous hymns to these deities calling them into the being and also perhaps describing them, though in an ancient and symbolic language which may be difficult to understand. I think, for example, that Saraswati represents the illumined word, inspiration, a knowledge coming from higher spheres pregnant with truth.

As a guide to the Veda on this, you might look in the index of Sri Aurobindo's collected works for the names of various deities and then read in those places to find out what they represent. I'm not quite sure if the opposite approach would work, but you could try -- i.e., look up terms such as "intuitive mind" then look specifically for references in The Secret of the Veda. These things are probably described more understandably in The Life Divine.

My understanding is that these stations would be stages of progress in the development of the yogic consciousness. A mental understanding is probably not of much use, as they are above the normal mentality and the whole point is to rise above it. So back to the fundamentals: psychic opening, quieting the mind, aspiration, surrender, rejection, and so forth.

-- Larry Seidlitz,

I think a mental understanding could be useful up to a point, perhaps more than we realize. Yes, the mind has to be quieted of its normal activity and focus, but the mental being has to remain open and awake to the higher planes. In fact this is the point of this chapter. The inescapable "Difficulties of the Mental Being" leave us with few options, and really just one in the Integral Yoga -- namely that the mind must "call down the Divine into itself so that its mentality shall be changed into an image of the Divine, shall be divinized or spiritualized. This may be done and primarily must be done by the mind's power of reflecting that which it knows, relates to its own consciousness, contemplates." (Synthesis of Yoga, pp. 38081)

My point is that a mental understanding, although limited and potentially obstructive if too rigid and unyielding, could potentially be part of this process of the mind attempting to reflect that which it knows is above and beyond it. The mental understanding could be part of what initially bridges the chasm between the mental being and the Divine -- but only, of course, until that chasm starts to close and the mental understanding is gradually dispensed with because it is progressively replaced by something else -- something that corresponds to that inner station or footing, i.e., true intuition.

-- Ben Irvin,

I agree with you that the mental understanding can be useful and we shouldn't all burn our books and enter into silent meditation exclusively. And I agree we can learn something about the action of higher mind, illumined mind, intuition, and overmental consciousness by reading about them, particularly from someone who has realized them. It alerts us to the possibility of experiencing them, and perhaps of recognizing their action and distinguishing their action from the normal mental reasoning.

I meant simply to underscore the fact that mental understanding is different in kind from their action, and one cannot experience and realize them through mental understanding. One's consciousness must become quiet enough to reflect or respond to their more refined vibration.

-- Larry Seidlitz,

I have the same feeling that these inner stations are dealt with more fully in "The Yoga of Self Perfection" -- and that indeed, without these inner stations to which we as mental beings have access, the ascent to the supramental could not be accomplished and we would be relegated to a practice that leads to quiescence and samadhi. Which is not what this yoga is about.

Instead, ours is an active yoga, just because these stations are available to us and we can climb them to self perfection. We humans have this ladder already in us waiting to be realized. Of course it is not easy, and even a few rungs are difficult, but it is worth the effort. It's not that we just sit there and something comes and transforms us. The ladder is there and Sri Aurobindo has outlined in consummate detail how to use it.

-- Janis Coker,

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