A unique feature of Indian philosophy is that it is not a product of the speculative intellect as in the West but the intellectual expression of a spiritual experience. Behind every concept of Indian philosophy there is a spiritual experience which can be verified and re-experienced. Many of the concepts and experiences of ancient Indian seers were re-experienced by modern Indian seers and mystics. The main objective of this article is to illustrate this principle of Indian philosophy from the experiences of a modern spiritual master, the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram.
Bindu: The Universe in a Point
An interesting concept of tantra philospophy is the concept of Bindu, a spaceless and timeless point which contains the entire universes in seed form and from which the entire creation unfolds in space and time. In the following passage, the Mother talks about one of her inner experiences which gives an indication of the spiritual experience behind the concept.
“I must say that two days ago, I had an experience, an experience of the whole universe, like a general vision of an Immensity, and then, suddenly the consciousness seemed to become a point taking up no room, and that point was the Eternal Consciousness. But then, it was so strong! So strong … how all this, this whole unfolded universe was the result of this Consciousness (Mother shows a point). You understand, the consciousness here became this Eternal Consciousness (for a few seconds perhaps, I don’t think it lasted even a minute, but time had nothing to do with it), it was the Eternal, it was the Consciousness. And that experience already prepared something [in Mother] because the two were simultaneous; one didn’t abolish the other, the two were simultaneous; this Point that was taking up no room but was eternal, was everything, and at the same time, the unfolding [of the universe]. That was a very intense experience.”
At the mental level the process of imagination can perhaps help us to understand this concept and the experience. Before imagining something, we must have an idea or concept of what we want to imagine. For example, if we want to imagine the vast immensity of space with many worlds in it, first we must have the idea or concept of a vast space and the idea of many worlds. This idea or concept remains first in a mental bindu. Our imagination gives a form to the idea and unfolds it in our mental space. Similarly, using Sri Aurobindo’s terminology, we may say that the universe, before it is unfolded in time and space, exists as a “Real-idea” in a spaceless and timeless Bindu. Sri Aurobindo calls it as a real idea because it is not an abstraction as in our mind but a concrete spiritual reality. The real-idea is a pregnant vibration in the creative consciousness of the Supreme and contains all the principles which constitute a universe. The creative act unfolds this Idea and the principles in space and time and name and form. But in the consciousness of the Spirit nothing is imagination but everything is a Divine vibration in the Divine consciousness taking form in a Divine substance.
It Moves and Moves Not
Another fundamental concept of Indian philosophy is the concept of Sat-Chit-Ananda or Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, which are regarded as the essential attributes of the Divine Reality. An Upanishadic seer of ancient India described this Divine Reality as: “One Unmoving that is swifter than mind. That the Gods reach not, for It progresses ever in front. That standing passes beyond others as they run … That moves and moves not, That is far the same as near … That is within all this and That also is outside all this”. Here again, Mother’s experiences, given below, are similar:
The three Supreme Principles were very clearly there: Existence, Consciousness (an active, realizing consciousness) and Ananda. A universal vastness that kept going on and on and on …
It moves and it doesn’t move. How can you explain that? It was in motion, a constant, unceasing motion, and yet there was no shifting of place. I had the perception, or rather there was the perception, of something which WAS forever, which never repeated itself, neither began nor ended, which didn’t shift places yet was always in motion.
Words cannot express it. No translation, none, not even the most subtle mental translation can express this. It was … Even now the memory I have of it is inexpressible. You have to be in to feel it, otherwise …
However, to the consciousness it was very, very clear. It was neither mysterious nor incomprehensible, it was absolutely obvious – though untranslatable to our mental consciousness. For they were contradictory, yet they existed simultaneously, indistinguishable: they were not stacked one upon another – it was all simultaneous. How can you explain that? It’s too difficult. It must be experienced.
You seem when something goes beyond thought, a sort of conception of it, or superconception rather, remains behind. But in this case, in my experience, there was no question of thought – it was a question of physical sensation. It was not beyond thought, it was beyond sensation. I was LIVING this thing. And there was no more ‘I’. There was nothing but this thing, and yet there was a sensation. I can’t explain it!”
Life as Wave
Modern science was able to arrive at some right concepts about the truth of matter, but the scientific mind doesn’t have the corresponding experience. For example, according to quantum physics, the ultimate unit of matter is at once a particle and a wave. If you ask the physicist “What do you mean by wave? Is it a material wave?” he will say, “No, no it is a mathematical wave of probabilities like the crime wave in a city”. But the physicist doesn’t have the experience. He has stumbled upon a deep truth of matter through a sort of intellectual insight but he has not the experience of what he has perceived in his intellect. In the following passage, Mother describes her experience of her body and the material world as a wave, which shows that the “wave” of quantum physics is in fact “a material, corporal wave” and not merely a mathematical abstraction.
“The experiences are going on…
For instance, I am walking a little now, with someone’s assistance, to get the body used to it again. And when I started walking, I became aware of a rather peculiar state … I might describe it as: what gives me the illusion of a body (Mother laughs) … I entrust it to the person I walk with. In other words, it’s not my responsibility: the other person has to make sure it doesn’t fall, doesn’t bump into anything – you see what I mean. And the consciousness is a limitless consciousness, like a material equivalent or expression of these gusts – it’s like waves, but waves with no … Not separate waves, but a MOVEMENT of waves; a movement of what might be called material, corporeal waves, as vast as the earth, nut not … not round, not flat … Something giving a great sense of infinity but moving in waves. And this wave movement is the movement of life. And the consciousness (the body-consciousness, I suppose) floats along in this, with a sensation of eternal peace … But it’s not an expanse – that’s not the word for it. It is a limitless movement, with a very harmonious and very tranquil rhythm, very vast, very calm. And this movement is life itself.
I walk around the room, and that is what is walking.
And it is very silent – there is no thought; there is barely, barely the ability to observe… And all kinds of movements, an infinity of movements and vibrations of something that could be the essence of thoughts, move there, rhythmically, in a movement of waves without beginning or end, with a condensation like this (gesture from above down), with a condensation like that (horizontal gesture), and a movement of expansion (gesture like a pulsating ocean). That is, a sort of contraction, concentration, and then expansion, diffusion.”
The Mother’s Yoga, A compilation from Mother’s Agenda, Vol.1&2, published from Auroville, Puducherry.