The Five Sheaths of Our Self-VI-M.S.Srinivasan

Vignanamaya Kosha: The Gnostic Self

We  are  now  passing beyond mind and entering  into  the  transcendental realms  of consciousness.  Only the living experiences of Yogis can give  some glimpse  or  indication of this supramental frontiers of  consciousness.   The Yogis of Vedas and Upanishads used an imaged and symbolic language to describe the  nature of the supramental consciousness.  But modern mind  neither  likes nor can understand this imaged language.  The modern mind demands  philosophic clarity  and  analytic  and scientific precision.  This is  not  altogether  an unjustified demand.  Nature has evolved the intellectual and analytic mind  in man  with  a definite purpose; it is part of the integral development  of  the human  being.  So the legitimate demands of this part of the being should  not be  lightly  dismissed even in spirituality and mysticism.  Among  the  modern Yogis,  only in Sri Aurobindo’s writings we find the most gallant  attempt  to express the inexpressible in a language which is intelligible to the  thinking intelligence.   The highest we can do within the realm of our human mind is to  get some  glimpse  or intuition into the nature of this supramental  frontiers  of consciousness  in the light of luminous  writings  of  Sri Aurobindo and see what we can get out of it.  But the true knowledge of  these highest states of consciousness can come only come by living experience.

Vignana: The Idea that Governs the World

As  we have already discussed earlier each level of our individual  existence  or koshas  is a microcosmic expression of macrocosmic level of  consciousness  of the  divine Being.   In  the vedic and upanishadic vision,  Vijnana  is  the  creative consciousness  of  the Sat-Chit-Ananda Brahman.  It is the  linking  principle between the transcendent trinity of Sat-Chit-Ananda and the worlds made of the lower  trinity  of  Matter,  Life and Mind.  Vijnana  is  the  creative  self-awareness of Brahman which creates from the very essence, substance and  light of  the  highest  Truth, through the instrumentation  of  the  supramental  or gnostic  Idea.   The  gnostic  idea  is  not  the  intellectual  idea  of mind but the idea of the supramental  consciousness.   It  is  a  pregnant  vibration  of  the  supreme consciousness-force  Chit-Shakthi  of the Being, in which knowledge  and  will, conception,  execution  and  realisation form a single movement.   It  is  the source  of  the  principle of the divine Law, Rtm of the Vedas,  that governs the  Universe.   The gnostic  Idea is the creative spiritual core and self of each  individual  and group  existence;  it  contains  within itself the  essential  truth  and  law, swabhava  and  swadharma,  of each individual existence  in  the  universe  and governs  its  evolution according to this truth and law.  This is  infact  the Indian theory of creation.  As Sri Aurobindo explains:

“The totality of objects is the becoming of the lord in the extension  of his  own  being.  Its principle is double.  There is consciousness; there  is Being; consciousness dwells in energy(tapas) upon its self-being to produce an idea of Itself and form and action inevitably corresponding to the idea.  This is the original conception of creation, self-production, projection  into form (srsti, prasara).  Being uses its self-awareness to evolve infinite forms of  itself  by  the expansion of the innate idea in the  form.   This  is  the original conception of evolution prominent in certain philosophies such as the sankhya  (parinama, vikara, vivartha)……..  All objective existence is  the self-existent,  the self-becoming swayambu becoming by the force of  the  Idea within  it ———  It follows that every object holds in itself the law  of its  own  being eternally, sasvitabhyah, samabyah from  years  sempiternal,  in perpetual  Time………  Therefore all things are arranged by  Him  perfectly Yathatathyam  as  they  should be in their nature.   There  is  an  imperative harmony in the All, which governs the apparent discords of individualisation”. (3)

The Vedic sages expressed this creative spiritual principle of Vignana in the  triple terms of Sathyam, Rtm, Brhat, the Truth, Right and the Vash.   Sathyam is the static aspect of truth;  Rtm is truth in movement in the form of energy, rhythm, harmony, law; it is the harmony of ideas or principles which constitute the cosmic order.  Brhat means Vast, the infinite and unconditioned Vastness of Truth.

This  is the cosmic principle of Vignana.  In the individual this  cosmic Vignana  expresses  itself  as Vignanamaya Kosha which is  our  causal  body karana sarira.

The Self of Light

Most  of  the Upanishadic imagery of Vignamaya Purusha will  become clear when  we examine it in the light of the above discussion.  The Upanishad  says “Rta  is his left side and Sathyam is his right side” and “Mahas is his  lower member”.   Here, if we take the word Mahat, which also means vast or great, as the Upanishadic equivalent for the vedic word Brhat, we have the substance of the Vignanamaya kosha.

The  Taithria Upanishad says further Yoga is the spirit and self  of  the Vignamaya  kosha.   Note  the difference between this  and  the  corresponding imagery  for  manamaya kosha.  Adesh is described as the spirit  and  self  of manomaya  kosha.  In the Vignanamaya Kosha there is no longer the  need  for any  commandment and control  or Adesh of the Buddhi, because Yoga is  perfect,  Vignanamaya Kosha  doesn’t function by the discriminating choice, commandment or control of  the intelligence and will but by a perfect conscious union (yoga) of the  individual consciousness  and will with the transcendent and universal Consciousness  and Will.  Here the human charioteer has become one with the Master of the chariot or  else he has realised himself as an eternal portion (amsa Sanathana)  of  the divine Master of the chariot and therefore his whole being, his soul, as  well as his inner nature is in perfect unbroken conscious communion with the divine self and the Master of his being.  Here there is no choice, no descrimination, no  distinction between the higher and lower Self, the former  commanding  the later  but the whole being becomes a single luminous whole;  thought,  feeling and will become indivisible and harmonious rhythmic movements of consciousness, Rta-chit, and  every  action becomes an automatic,  spontaneous  and  flawless movements of the eternal Truth and Law Sathyam, Rtm.

And  finally the Upanishad says “Sradha is the head” of  the  Vignanamaya Kosha.   The word Sradha is usually translated as Faith.  But  the  sanskrit word  means  something deeper than mere mental belief Sradha  is  a spiritual  act of faith which proceed from an intuition of the deeper,  inner, subliminal and superconscious parts of our being which is not yet manifest  in our  surface  conscious parts as organised knowledge or  experience.   As  Sri Aurobindo explains:

“The Sradha – the English word faith is inadequate to express it – is  in reality an influence from the supreme spirit and its light, a message from our supramental being which is calling the lower nature to rise out of its present to  a greater self-becoming and self-exceeding.  And that which  receives  the influence and answers is not so much the intellect, heart or the life-mind but the inner soul which better knows the truth of its own destiny and mission”(4)

The Evolutionary Dimension

Thus, Vignanamaya Kosha is not the intellect but part of the causal spiritual self in man which is beyond the belt of mental consciousness.

Vignana is not yet an organised centre of consciousness in  the human  being.  As Sri Aurobindo points out regarding supermind or Vignana,  “It has  no  centre in man  No home on earth”.  According to  Sri  Aurobindo,  the higher  principle has to be organised in the human being by the  “descent”  of the  supermind.   What is meant by “descent” here is the  manifestation  of  a higher cosmic or spiritual principle which is not yet organised or manifest in the  human  and terrestrial consciousness.  The  consciousness of the Mind and its powers descended from  the  cosmic mental planes and created in the terrestrial life Man, the mental being.  In a similar way the Supermind and its powers has to descend from the corresponding cosmic  and  transcendental planes, organise itself as  a  manifest  spiritual principle  in  the  terrestrial life and by its  direct  action  manifest  and organise  the Vignanamaya centre in man and create the superman, or the  Gnostic Being.  This is the next step in the terrestrial evolution.  This is also  the aim and goal of supramental yoga of Sri Aurobindo.

This bring us to the question what we can do as individuals to facilitate this descent or to become receptive to the descending supramental consciousness?  The evolution from the animal to human consciousness is affected entirely by Nature.  But the future evolution from the mind to supermind requires the consent of the human vessel.  How can be make this evolutionary transition?  Taittria Upanishad answer the question as one of the limbs of Vignanamaya Kosha: Yoga.  We have to purify our human consciousness from all forms of ego and desire, silence the mind and turn it inward towards the supramental self.  This will make our mind receptive to the light of Vignana and creates, the intuitive intelligence, Vignanamaya Buddhi, which can become the focal point for organising the Vignanamaya Kosha in us.

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