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According to the tradition, the ultimate reality goes by different names – God, Brahman, Krishna, Siva, Nirvana, Love, etc. Which one of these aspects of God or Divinity is the true Reality? He says all of them are true, but none of them is the whole Truth. Why does it matter to us whether we have the whole truth or not? Even a little bit of the Divine would be better for us than what we have now. It depends on what it is that we really want from the Divine. Are we relating to that aspect which can give us what we want? If we want to escape life, we can seek Nirvana. If we are in search of the ultimate truth; we can, like the Jnani, pursue ultimate knowledge for its own sake. But if we want success in life, happiness in life, fulfillment here on earth in the body, then we have to be sure that we are relating to a power that can deliver those results. Certainly Nirvana cannot do that. It can only lead us to the featureless void beyond manifestation and help us shed desire and attachment in the process.

The realization of the Transcendent Self can bring us peace, freedom and incalculable bliss, but it too is not a power that can uplift and perfect life.

People have experienced the Divine as formless, featureless Silence or as a witness Purusha or as the Lord of Creation. What is it that determines how we experience the Divine? It depends on our conception of the Divine and what we aspire for, as well as on the method we employ to reach it.

One of the traditional descriptions of That is as a formless Unmanifest out of which everything comes. Sri Aurobindo, in a humorous vein, discusses the theories which state that the world manifests out of a formless Void. He asks, how can something real come out of something unreal? The words ‘void’ and ‘vacuum’ suggest an uninteresting empty space. But to the modern physicist, the word ‘vacuum’ has turned out to be something quite complex and exhibiting unexpected behavior*. The physicists are not able to explain where matter comes from adequately. Physics is coming in contact with what Sri Aurobindo calls the Unmanifest. Because it is unmanifest, it is beyond form and even if we experience it, we experience it as being empty, as if it does not exist. The unmanifest is not an empty void; it is an infinite possibility beyond form and manifestation.

Some yogis, who have gone out of the manifestation and found a contentless, featureless emptiness beyond, have come to the conclusion, like the scientists, that there is really nothing beyond the manifestation. But Sri Aurobindo says that the error in both cases is that they have not gone far enough. They take each experience they have as the ultimate truth. He says if you go beyond the unmanifest, if you hold onto reality but go beyond it in your experience, you can ultimately come to something which includes both the manifest and unmanifest. That is what he calls the Absolute or Omnipresent Reality. It encompasses both Being (Sat) and Non-Being (Asat) and yet it is not limited even to these two. It is the ultimate Reality, because it includes all realities. It is something more than all, out of which all emerges.

Tradition says that this ultimate reality is unknowable and indescribable. The Gita says that the Parabrahman cannot be known by mind. Sri Aurobindo says the key word here is ‘mind’. That Unknowable is unknowable to mind, but that does not mean it is unknowable to our experience. What is unknowable depends on the instrument or plane of consciousness from which we relate to it. Sri Aurobindo is the first one who says that the Absolute can be known. The Absolute can be known from Supermind. He is the first one who has ever known the Absolute. 

 The term Asat or Non-Being is regarded by many as a negation of all that exists, a void or emptiness of non-existence. But Sri Aurobindo explains that in fact Asat is simply the status of the unmanifest that cannot be limited or qualified by any specific characteristics. It is not a non-existence but rather a state of complete freedom from all limitation, a more than everything, which means it is indescribable. So for him, the Absolute consists of all that is manifested in the infinite and eternal cosmos as well as all that remains unmanifest as infinite potential. Being and Non-Being are complementary aspects of the Absolute.

Manifestation is a constant process of change. The physicists know that the atom is in constant motion. The whole manifestation is energy in motion. Those who have experienced what lies beyond manifestation have felt no movement, a void. But Sri Aurobindo says that this void is actually energy at rest. The energy is there in potential, like the potential energy of the stone resting at the top of a mountain which is released as kinetic energy when it rolls down the cliff. The Absolute contains both of these, the manifest realm of constant change or energy in motion and the unmanifest realm of energy at rest. These two sides are not contradictory. They are two sides of the one reality, the reality manifesting as movement and as energy at rest. The Absolute is both Being and Becoming.

From the plane of Becoming in which we live and move, the plane of unmanifest Being appears insubstantial and unreal. So also, when you move to the plane of unmanifest Being, as in the experience of the immutable Self or Nirvana, the plane of Becoming appears equally insubstantial and unreal. But Sri Aurobindo tells us that when you go far enough, you can discover that both of them are real. Both Being and Becoming, Self and Universe, are the Divine, real aspects of one indivisible Omnipresent Reality. We need not say one is real and the other is unreal. It is the One that has become and manifests as the Many at every moment. The universe recreates itself at every moment.

This knowledge has great practical relevance to us. What we are today is a result of the process of the One becoming the Many. We have the power to be different the next second, if we want to be. Just as the Divine in its manifestation manifests itself differently in every second, we can also do so. When we look at ourselves, we are much more aware of our finiteness than our infinity. But if you divide infinity by any number, each of the parts is still infinite. He says the whole of the Divine is there in each of its forms. It is there in terms of quality and also in terms of quantity. The power of the smallest form and the power of the greatest form are both infinite. The only difference is how much they manifest it. The quality that the Divine has put into the ant is as great as that put into the mountain or the solar system.

Finally he says the Omnipresent Reality is both Time and Eternity. That eternal Time exists at every moment. The whole of the future and the whole of the past exist simultaneously. That has great relevance to us also. The past is not over. We can consecrate the past and change it even now. The past lives within us in the moment. If you look back to the first time you heard the name ‘Mother’, all that has happened to you since then was there in potential for one who could see it. Our whole future is there in potential right now. Because the whole future is here now, we can work on it and make that future what we want it to be.

There is a lovely story about a king in Satprem’s book, The Adventure of Consciousness. The king wants to be flattered by his poets and keeps asking them to create more and more poems praising his greatness. Finally one wise man comes and the King wants to push things to the limit, so he asks the wise man “Who is greater, me or God?” The wise man thinks for a minute, and then replies, “Undoubtedly you are greater, O King, because you can banish anyone from your kingdom, but God cannot banish anyone from his kingdom!” Sri Aurobindo would go further and say, it is not only true that God cannot banish anyone; it is also true that you cannot banish yourself, because you are God.

Sri Aurobindo says that even Mother’s punishments are Grace. The Divine Mother only has one thing that She can do. She has only one weapon in her arsenal: Grace. She does not give Grace to some and punishment to others. She does not have that capacity to punish. The only thing She has is a creative power. Even what we take to be a punishment is Her power coming to us. Why it appears as a punishment is the secret we have to discover in the next few days.

* “It is a truism that one cannot get something for nothing. The interesting question is whether one can get everything for nothing. Clearly, this is a very speculative topic for scientific investigation, and the ultimate answer depends on a sophisticated interpretation of what ‘nothing’ means. The words ‘nothing’, ‘void’, and ‘vacuum’ usually suggest uninteresting empty space. To modern quantum physicists, however, the vacuum has turned out to be rich with complex and unexpected behavior.” Excerpt from Encyclopedia Britannica 1998 CD-Rom article on Space-Time and the Origin of Universe. 


book | by Dr. Radut