When we are rooted in the body consciousness, we experience intensely the reactions of the physical body to circumstances and events. We may experience a feeling of pleasure, or pain, and as the intensity of that experience captures our focus, we are generally unable to pay attention to vital feelings or focus on mental activity. As the attention shifts to the vital level we become fixated on the feelings, emotions and vital sensations and again the mental process is overshadowed. Further subtilisation of awareness brings us to the mental level. When the mind is intensely focused and vibrating with mental energy, we cannot pay attention to other things, either physical or vital, or on the other side of the spectrum, those energies which are more subtle yet than the mental energies. It is thus that those experienced with spiritual practices recommend that the mind needs to be quieted or stilled so that we can experience the more subtle forces operative on the yet more subtle levels of intuition, inspiration, spiritual sense. Swami Vivekananda in his lectures on Raja Yoga describes the process of quieting the mind and stilling the ‘mind-stuff’ so that it is removed as an obstacle to the spiritual consciousness. Sri Aurobindo briefly describes in his speech at Uttarpara the transformation he underwent during his time as an under-trial prisoner, as his mind was quieted and the consciousness widened and became receptive to the subtle spiritual force that constitutes the oneness of the universal manifestation. He was able to realize the truth of the vision of the universal Divine described in the Bhagavad Gita, not as a matter of intellectual understanding, but, in the force and vision of an all-encompassing spiritual experience of oneness.

It is also interesting to understand that each level, more subtle than the one before it, is also wider and more encompassing. Our experience of the physical body is very strictly defined within the compass of the outline of that body. As we shift to the vital level, we begin to feel things that are outside the frame of the defined physical form. With the entrance into the mental world, a much wider sphere of energy and vibration becomes available to us. At the more subtle spiritual level, we have yet to discover the boundaries of the spiritual consciousness, which leads sages and seers to proclaim that this force widens us to the universal level.

Dr. Dalal writes: “It us when the consciousness develops and becomes more subtle that it comes into a more direct contact with the inner reality of things and gains an awareness of forces. In Sri Aurobindo’s words:

“The ordinary man lives in his own personal consciousness knowing things through his mind and senses as they are touched by a world which is outside him, outside his consciousness. When the consciousness subtilises, it begins to come into contact with things in a much more direct way, not only with their forms and outer impacts but with what is inside them, but still the range may be small. But the consciousness can also widen and begin to be first in direct contact with a universe of range of things in the world, then to contain them as it were, — as it is said to see the world in oneself, — and to be in a way identified with it. To see all things in the self and the self in all things — to be aware of one being everywhere, aware directly of the different planes, their forces, their beings — that is universalisation.”

“It [consciousness] begins to know inwardly and directly and not merely by external observation and contact the forces at play in the world, feels their movement, distinguishes their functioning and can operate immediately upon them as the scientist operates upon physical forces…..”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Preface, pp. ix-x

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 19 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at http://www.sri-aurobindo.com
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at http://www.lotuspress.com