Letters of Sri Aurobindo
Fragment ID: 8493
(this fragment is largest or earliest found passage)
Sri Aurobindo — Unknown addressee
March 6, 1937
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Ramana Maharshi 
I am giving below the best brief account by Paul Brunton of the Maharshi’s technique of discovering what Brunton calls the Overself. It occurs in the book named A Message from Arunachala:
“When the mind is deeply engaged in a train of thought, it tends to become unconscious of external surroundings as concentration deepens. When this condition is carried to a profound extent, then the mind becomes one-pointed. If, at this degree, the subject of the meditation could be somehow dropped, the ensuing vacuum would swiftly cause the hidden world of man’s soul to arise and fill it. In that apparent emptiness he would become aware of a new visitant, his Overself. Such is the essential principle behind this process of self-knowing....
“It [the Maharshi’s method] consists in taking as the subject of meditation the inquiry, ‘Who Am I?’ The mind must centre itself upon this single question, pressing deeply inward in the effort to discover the elusive inhabitant of the body. If the concentration is complete and the persistence undiminished; if the inquiry is conducted in the correct manner; if the person is really sincere; then an extraordinary thing will happen. The mental current of self-questioning, the attempt to ferret out what one really is, the watching of one’s thoughts in the earlier part of the process, ultimately pins all thinking down to the single thought of personal existence. ‘I’ is the first thought sprayed up by the spring of life’s being, but it is also the last. As this final thought is held in the focus of attention and questioned in a particular way, it suddenly disappears and the Overself takes its place, overwhelming both questioner and question in its divine stillness.”1
What do you think, from this, the Overself of the Maharshi is? Is it the Antaratman leading to or widening into the Cosmic Self or is it the silent Self of the Jnanis, the traditional Atman, realised directly?
[Sri Aurobindo did not immediately answer this question, posed on 4 March 1937. The correspondent sent two reminders, to which Sri Aurobindo answered as follows on 6 and 7 March:]
I had started answering your questions but it took on too long a development and I could not finish it – I don’t suppose I shall find time.
In the first place I do not want to go farther into the question of the Maharshi’s realisation which does not really concern us. As I have said comparisons are of no use; each path has its own aim and direction and method and the truth of one does not invalidate the truth of the other. The Divine (or if you like, the Self) has many aspects and can be realised in many ways – to dwell upon those differences is irrelevant and without use.
Transformation is a word that I have brought in myself (like supermind) to express certain spiritual concepts and spiritual facts of the integral Yoga. People are now taking them up and using them in senses which have nothing to do with the significance which I put into them. Purification of the nature by the “influence” of the Spirit is not what I mean by transformation; purification is only part of a psychic change or a psycho-spiritual change – the word besides has many senses and is very often given a moral or ethical meaning which is foreign to my purpose. What I mean by the spiritual transformation is something dynamic (not merely liberation of the self, or realisation of the One which can very well be attained without any descent). It is a putting on of the spiritual consciousness dynamic as well as static in every part of the being down to the subconscient. That cannot be done by the influence of the Self leaving the consciousness fundamentally as it is with only purification, enlightenment of the mind and heart and quiescence of the vital. It means a bringing down of a Divine Consciousness static and dynamic into all these parts and the entire replacement of the present consciousness by that. This we find unveiled and unmixed above mind, life and body and not in mind, life and body. It is a matter of the undeniable experience of many that this can descend and it is my experience that nothing short of its full descent can thoroughly remove the veil and mixture and effect the full spiritual transformation. No metaphysical or logical reasoning in the void as to what the Atman “must” do or can do or needs or needs not to do is relevant here or of any value. I may add that transformation is not the central object of other paths as it is of this Yoga – only so much purification and change is demanded by them as will lead to liberation and the beyond-life. The influence of the Atman can no doubt do that – a full descent of a new Consciousness into the whole nature from top to bottom to transform life here is not needed at all for the spiritual escape from life.
6 March 1937
1 Paul Brunton, A Message from Arunachala (London: Rider & Co., n.d. ), pp. 205 – 7.
2 SABCL, volume 22; Letters of Sri Aurobindo. 2 Ser. of each one
3 SABCL, volume 22; Letters of Sri Aurobindo. 2 Ser. these
4 SABCL, volumes 22, 26; Letters of Sri Aurobindo. 2 Ser. of the Divine
CWSA, volume 29: of Divine
5 SABCL, volumes 22, 26; Letters of Sri Aurobindo. 2 Ser. body
6 SABCL, volume 22: voids
[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.
Sri Aurobindo. On Himself // SABCL.- Volume 26. (≈ 35 vol. of CWSA)
Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga. II // CWSA.- Volume 29. (≈ 22-24 vol. of SABCL).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2013.- 522 p.
Sri Aurobindo. Letters of Sri Aurobindo: In 4 Series.- Second Series [On Yoga].- Bombay: Sri Aurobindo Sircle, 1949.- 599 p.
Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga // SABCL.- Volume 22. (≈ 28 vol. of CWSA).- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1971.- 502 p.