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Sri Aurobindo

Letters on Himself and the Ashram


Fragment ID: 8355

(this fragment is largest or earliest found passage)

Sri Aurobindo — Unknown addressee

October 16, 1931

Passages from The Yoga and Its Objects [3]

“Matter itself, you will one day realise, is not material, it is not substance but form of consciousness, guṇa, the result of quality of being perceived by sense-knowledge” [p. 77].

There is no need to put “the” before “quality” – in English that would alter the sense. Matter is not regarded in this passage as a quality of being perceived by sense; I don’t think that would have any meaning. It is regarded as a result of a certain power and action of consciousness which presents forms of itself to sense perception and it is this quality of sense-perceivedness, so to speak, that gives them the appearance of Matter, i.e. of a certain kind of substantiality inherent in themselves – but in fact they are not self-existent substantial objects but forms of consciousness. The point is that there is no such thing as the self-existent Matter posited by nineteenth-century Science.

“chitta” and “chetas”

Chitta is ordinarily used for the mental consciousness in general, thought, feeling, etc. taken together with a stress now on one side or another, sometimes on the feelings as in citta-pramāthī, sometimes on the thought-mind – that is why I translated it [on p. 75] “heart and mind” in its wider sense. Chetas can be used in the same way, but it has a different shade of sense, properly speaking, and can include also the movements of the soul, covering the whole consciousness even; [on p. 82] I take it in its most general sense. The translation is not meant to be literal but to render the thought in the line in its fullness. Adhyātmacetasā practically amounts to what in English we would describe as a spiritual consciousness.

“throw our arms around” [p. 78]

It is a figure meaning to comprehend in our consciousness with love and Ananda.

“the nature” [p. 81, lines 29, 31, 33]

Nature here means the parts of Prakriti in the human being: as it is the condition of the Prakriti that changes with shifting of the gunas and it is this condition of the Prakriti that will become illumined by the transformation of sattva into jyotiḥ.

lokasaṅgrahārthāya” [p. 85] – Does this mean the present order?

No. It is in a more general sense the maintenance of the world order which may be a developing, not necessarily a stationary one, an order spiritual, moral etc. and not merely a social order.

“Maya means nothing more than the freedom of Brahman from the circumstances through which he expresses himself” [p. 89].

The sentence is rather loose in expression. It does not mean that Maya is Brahman’s freedom, but “the doctrine of Maya simply comes to this that Brahman is free from the circumstances through which he expresses himself.” This limited play is not He, for He is illimitable; it is only a conditioned (partial) manifestation, but He is not bound by the conditions (circumstances) as the play is bound. The world is a figure of something of Himself which he has put forth into it, but He is more than that figure. The world is not unreal or illusory, but our present seeing or consciousness of it is ignorant, and therefore the world as seen by us can be described as an illusion. So far the Maya idea is true. But if we see the world as it really is, a partial and developing manifestation of Brahman, then it can no longer be described as an illusion, but rather as a Lila. He is still more than his Lila, but He is in it and it is in Him; it is not an illusion.

16 October 1931

Current publication:

[Largest or earliest found passage: ] Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Himself and the Ashram // CWSA.- Volume 35. (≈ 26 vol. of SABCL).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2011.- 658 p.

Other publications:

Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga // SABCL.- Volume 22. (≈ 28 vol. of CWSA).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971.- 502 p.

Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga // SABCL.- Volume 22. (≈ 28 vol. of CWSA).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971.- 502 p.