The Nirvana of Sri Aurobindo

The Buddhist idea of Nirvana excludes all sense of personality and existence; it formulates upon the idea of a spiritual negation of Life, and while being in it, to follow a rigorous discipline aimed at cutting of the individual’s cord of life from everything living and non-living and live rather in a sense of impermanency till one attains a Nothingness.

It does not aim or attempt to consolidate either the contraries or discords of Life in a higher Consciousness and harmony of existence, which the Veda, Upanishads and all others Scriptures insist or lay emphasis on, for not in the consolidation or spiritual harmonisation of contraries of existence that Buddhism lays emphasis, but on the rejection of Life itself as the aim of all its endeavours here on the earth. For Life, in the Buddhist view, is a painful dream in which the soul of man has been imprisoned, and must forthwith be delivered out of its misery and bondage.

If Nirvana merely delivered souls from their suffering and cycle of death and not concerned about how it leaves the earth to its misery, then it is not so much of a noble state of the Spirit, however high it may be, but that was not the idea of Nirvana according to the ancient Mystics and Sages of India.

Sri Aurobindo in the year 1950

The Buddhist idea of Nirvana was a departure from the Vedic tradition, in which the fullness of Life within and around was embraced in the spiritual consciousness and attempted even to transform it. For Nirvana itself was not the goal of the Rishis, but a certain point of ascension to be attained to in order to strike down the apparent discord and sense of difference between the Supracosmic and the world; in the Nirvanic state, there is no objective sense of anything, either of the world or existence and the subjective is lost or melts into a Something and everything is seen from that Something. It is a higher Consciousness throwing itself into that ineffable matrix and experiencing the right truth of that experience and reflecting through a vastness of Knowledge greater than Nirvana itself the essential synthesis needed to further ascend into the Spirit.

It is not my aim to deride the Buddhist Nirvana as nothing or a mere subordinate figure or offshoot of a greater experience, but to faithfully point out the essential difference between the two different systems of knowledge and self-enquiry and arrive at a better understanding of them both, while keeping the critical element of our need and seeking from the high pursuit intact.

The Veda speaks of — not directly or bluntly — the world-conquest through establishing the natural law of the Spirit, not by spiritual negation or shunning the world out in the spiritual equation, but by an all-embracing Truth which seeks to transform the many disparate elements of terrestrial existence by lifting them up into its plenary light, giving each one of them a new life or a new existence and freeing them all from death and decay. All the Vedic gods attach themselves to the terrestrial field by submitting to the rule of the ritual and the symbolic, and the ritual itself becomes a prepared field of their manifestation here. The gods and the men together plough the field of manifestation, preparing the ground further for the Spirit and its manifestation in the world, besieged by death, incapacitation and perpetual cycle of suffering.

The Vedic Seers saw Nirvana as an essential experience of how Matter and the Spirit delineated by an ineffable state of the Spirit, not by an apparent division in the spiritual Consciousness, but by ceasing of the apparent — for it is neither by subjective or objective — and bringing into the essential recording of that experience the higher divine Consciousness which becomes the experiencer, exactly the way the Divine sees the world or reads it or so we assume! Nirvana is not the end of the line of the Spirit or Existence or Consciousness, but a beginning into the greater spiritual heights above into the Supracosmic.

Instead of self-annulment of oneself into a Nothingness, it is a revelation of a greater divine Consciousness, thought in the Nirvanic state it is not so much apparent as in the ascending scales of the Consciousness above, and from there a certain brightness is visible, a Sun-world of utter light, the स्वर् (Swar) of the Vedas or the Supermind of Sri Aurobindo.

We may say with a certain figure of speech that Nirvana is an ocean of luminous sleep, but in the fully awake consciousness, as in the case of Sri Aurobindo, one sees the ascending ladder of the Spirit into the Supracosmic Infinite. Sri Aurobindo captures it in the last concluding lines of his sonnet “Nirvana” thus:

Either to fade in the Unknowable
Or thrill with the luminous seas of the Infinite.

From there, the conscious Soul throws a lasso around into the supracosmic Infinite and pulls the spiritual ladder of ascension; it is a mounting of all sense of the finite into the Infinite, and thereby emerging into another Consciousness, Knowledge, Power and Truth of the Supreme Divine. It is not a freak show of the occult spirit here but a process and method of the higher Spirit employed meticulously and patiently in each one of the ascending realms till the soul reaches the first summits of the higher divine Consciousness. Nirvana is only a starting point of the pursuit of the evolving Spirit towards the greater heights of the Supracosmic Divine there as much as here in the earth-consciousness.

Note: There is no direct mention of either of the state or experience of Nirvana in the Vedic thought. It was out of my own inference by reading into its essential structure that I found the idea secretly woven into it. It is my understanding that the discovery of either the Swar or the higher spiritual planes of consciousness could not have been possible without passing through the Nirvanic state, and hence, my earnest submission of the idea.

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