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.