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The Unmanifest Absolute according to Sri Aurobindo

In Indian philosophy, the Absolute is conceived of as being Sat-Chit-Ananda, of the nature of pure Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.  On the basis of this, Sri Aurobindo speaks of the "Upper Hemisphere" or "Supreme [Absolute-Divine] Nature" which constitutes infinite and unitary existence, and which he divides into the planes of Pure Being (Sat), Consciousness-Force (Chit-Tapas), Bliss (Ananda), and Truth-Consciousness ("Supermind").  The latter  constitutes a somewhat more manifest level then Sachchidananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss), a sort of "logos" or "Divine Mind" between the true Unmanifest and the Creation.  But all these realities are eternally pre-existent, and constituting the modes or qualities of the Absolute.  At the level of the Absolute, there is no differentiation.  As Sri Aurobindo puts it,

"Existence is Consciousness and there can be no distinction between them; Consciousness is Bliss and there can be no distinction between them;"
[The Life Divine, p.126].

Here existence is "solely and simply a pure identity in oneness." [Ibid, p.320].  So there is only one Sachchidananda, but this contains within Itself specific modes.  And although these three attributes - Sat-Chit-Ananda, existence, Consciousness, and Bliss - are in inseparable unity, each

"can stand in front of the others and manifest its own spiritual determinates, for each has its primal aspects or inherent self-formulations, although all of these  together are original to the triune Absolute"
[Ibid, p.314].

The Supreme Mother

The Mother is Supreme Consciousness and Power, the Divine in its Consciousness-Force.  The Ishwara or Lord of the Cosmos - the Supreme Personality of God (Purushottama) behind all the Gods and  Powers - comes into manifestation out of the Mother who takes her  place beside him as the Cosmic Shakti. 
[Sri Aurobindo, The Mother (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust,  1972, pp.64-5

The transcendent Shakti

"stands above the worlds and links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme"
[The Mother, p.20
"At the summit of manifestation...there are worlds of infinite  existence, consciousness, force and bliss over which the Mother stands as the unveiled eternal Power.  All beings there live and  move in an ineffable completeness and unalterable oneness, because she carries them safe in her arms forever."
[The Mother, p.22)

Infinite Existence

In Sri Aurobindo's formulation, the first infinite divine plane is Pure Existence, which he calls Sat (Being, Reality)

Sat is not merely pure Existence, or Chit empty Consciousness.  Rather, as Aurobindo explains, it is a Conscious-Existence the very essence of whose Being and Consciousness is Bliss.  Just as in the Absolute there can be no negation, no non-being, for if there were, it would not be the Absolute, "so also there can be no suffering, no negation of delight.  Absoluteness of Conscious-Existence is illimitable Bliss of Conscious-Existence; the two are only different phrases for the same thing.  "All illimitableness, all infinity, all absoluteness is pure Delight" [Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, pp.92-3], a  Delight or Ananda "imperturbable, ecstatic, all-embracing" [Ibid, p.101]

"The self of all things is an infinite indivisable existence; of that existence the essential nature or power is an infinite imperishable force of self-conscious being; and of that self-conscious the essential nature or knowledge of itself is an infinite, inalienable delight of being"
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.100],

Infinite Consciousness

 Sri Aurobindo associates the Chit plane with "Tapas".  This complex term means literally "heat", but very early  on came to mean energy or magical power that can be generated through long yogic austerities.  Hindu mythology is full of stories of some yogi or god or demon who undertakes sever austerities and penance, and so is granted a boon(e.g. invincibility) by the Creator God Brahma. Sri Aurobindo uses the term in a much more specialised context to mean the Divine Force, the essential principle of energy or energism of consciousness [The Life Divine, glossary, p.1078].  It is

"...a self-held or self-gathered dwelling of the eternal Awareness in itself and on itself or its object, but the object is always in some way itself, its own being or a manifestation or movement of its being."
The Life Divine, p.582

 He calls the second plane of Sachchidananda Chit-Tapas or Consciousness-Force, seeing Consciousness as having two aspects, a state or power of self-awareness (chit), and a state or power of self-force (tapas).  At the level of Sachchidananda itself, Tapas is

"a sole indwelling or an entire absorption in the essence of its own being, a luminous or self-oblivious self-immersion"
Ibid p.582

Lower down however, this principle or activity of self-focus becomes the cause of all separative existence, precisely equivalent to the Kabbalistic conception of Gevurah (Strength) or Din (Judgment, Severity).

Infinite Bliss

plane is termed by Aurobindo the Ananda or Bliss Plane.  He describes it as

"an infinite and eternal Delight of existence." in which "Love, Joy and Beauty are the fundamental determinates"
The Life Divine, p.314

The Hindu deity which symbolises this plane is Krishna, about whom Aurobindo says:

"Krishna is the Eternal's Personality of Ananda; because of him all creation is possible, because of his play, because of his delight, because of his sweetness."
The Web of Yoga; p.47

The Krishna here referred to is the transcendent or supernal Krishna, as opposed to the Krishna of the "Overmental Plane" (or Plane of the Gods), which is a lower octave of that Consciousness, at the level at which humans can relate to.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine,

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.520; The Hour of God, p.84]

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page uploaded 28 May 1998, last modified 6 July 2004