While reading the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, have you ever wondered from what level of consciousness they spoke? Was their brain constantly tingling with luminous revelations as they answered questions? Were subtle images of the past or future dancing before their eyes when they looked at people? There are recorded conversations where Sri Aurobindo admits to not knowing certain worldly matters, implying that either omniscience is not what it is projected to be or that he didn’t care to use his occult powers to investigate mundane matters (see Notes below)
Such questions were also voiced by Arjuna when he asked Krishna, “How does the Self-realized person speak? What is their state of consciousness?” (sthita-prajñasya kā bhāṣā….sthita–dhīḥ kiḿ prabhāṣeta – Gita 2:54). The Mother once provided a glimpse of her state of consciousness when she articulated that there are two modes in which she spoke – one transcendental and the other slightly inferior to it.
Mother: I have a whole flood of questions here! But before beginning to answer them, I am going to explain something to you.
You must have noticed on several occasions that my way of talking to you is not always the same. I don’t know if you are very sensitive to the difference, but for me it is quite considerable….
Sometimes, either because of something I have read or for quite another reason—following a question sometimes, but pretty rarely—it so happens that I have what is usually called an experience, but in fact it is simply entering into a certain state of consciousness and, once in that state of consciousness, describing it. In that case what is said passes through the mind, making use of it only as a “storehouse of words”, it could be said; the Force, the Consciousness which is expressing itself passes through the individual mind and attracts by a kind of affinity the words needed for its expression. That is the true teaching, something one rarely finds in books—it may be in books, but one must be in that state of consciousness oneself to be able to discover it. But with the spoken word, the vibration of the sound transmits something at least of the experience, which, for all those who are sensitive, can become contagious.
In the second case, the question asked or the subject chosen is conveyed by the mind to the higher Consciousness, then the mind receives a reply and transmits it again through the word. This is what usually happens in all teachings, provided that the person who teaches has the ability to pass on the question to the higher Consciousness, which is not always the case.
I must say the second method does not interest me very much, and that very often when the question or the subject dealt with does not give me the possibility of entering into an interesting state of consciousness, I would infinitely prefer to keep silent than to speak; it is a sort of duty to be fulfilled which makes me speak. I am just telling you beforehand, for it has often happened that I have cut short our conversation—if it could be called a conversation—and abruptly passed on to meditation; it was in cases like this. But still, someone has happened to ask me to explain this difference and so I am speaking to you about it this evening .
In her own words, the Mother is giving an alternate description of the time-worn theory of Vedic Vak which was first described in the ancient Hindu scriptures. There are four levels of vibrations: Para (highest undifferentiated light), Pashyanti (literally means “seeing speech”), Madhyama (subtle thought vibrations in the mind) and Vaikhari (the vibration of the spoken word). Ordinary men speak at the level of Madhyama and Vaikhari but those who have attained the Self ascend to the higher two levels. Geniuses also attain the level of Pashyanti when they have visions which get translated into thought forms.
The first mode that she spoke of above is intrinsically Para or Pashyanti where one bathes in a higher consciousness and the experience is translated by the mind into words. The second mode is an inferior imitation of the first where one attempts to convert from Madhyama to Pashyanti before formulating a verbal response.
In another remark, she elucidated that all preachings and prayers originated from the second mode of speaking:
…In fact, it could be said that all preaching, all exhortations, even all prayers and invocations come from what Sri Aurobindo calls the lower hemisphere, that is to say, one is still down below. It may be the summit, may be the frontier, it may be just the edge of this lower hemisphere, but one is still in the lower hemisphere. And as soon as one passes to the other side, all this seems, to say the least, useless and almost childish in the bad sense of the word —ignorant, still ignorant. And it is very interesting to be still in this state where one is at times on one side, at times just on the border of the other. Well, this border of the other, which for the human consciousness is an almost inaccessible summit, for one who can live consciously and freely in the higher hemisphere, is in spite of everything a descent .
On a related note, once while publishing a statement made by Sri Aurobindo, a disciple asked the Mother why Sri Aurobindo preferred to speak of himself in third person instead of writing “I think [or] I do not think”. She explained that he avoided the usage of “I” because the statement was being made by a vaster consciousness which was no longer solely identified with the body:
…It’s so as not to put “I” – I think that’s why It’s so there’s no sense of “I” in there. Or else, it’s the Consciousness which, through him, says, “Sri Aurobindo says,” because they asked Sri Aurobindo, and the Consciousness answers. That’s how it is. It means they are things that directly come from above .
We observe the same pattern in the recorded conversations of Ramana Maharshi. When someone directs a question at him, “Are you the Guru?”, he evades the question by giving an indirect or generic answer.
Champaklal: Many thefts are committed in the Ashram. Do you know who the thief is? Or perhaps you don’t want to know and wish to play the part of Ignorance?
Sri Aurobindo: Why would I know? It is not my work. It is the concern of the police. You are asking like those who ask me about the share-market or horse-racing in Bombay.
Champaklal: The Mother said she is much bothered by these thefts. She wants to know—
Sri Aurobindo: Does she?
Champaklal: She sees and knows many things-
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, she sees many things that she doesn’t want to see. It doesn’t mean that she will see this too. We are not concerned with it and she does not use her inner power for these things.
Champaklal: Then it is not that you can’t know; only you are not concerned with it. That is what I wanted to find out.
(Nirodbaran, Talks with Sri Aurobindo, vol. 1, 15 Jan 1940)
- Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 8, p 311.
- Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 9, p 13.
- Mother’s Agenda, Nov 15 1969
- Vedic Vak: four levels of sound
- Vedic Vak: illustration of Para Vak
- How does a Guru act?
- Self-control over speech
- Difference between genius and mysticism
- Four epistemic methods of consciousness
- The spiritual dawn
- My words will remain imprinted on your soul
- Identifying the celestial quality in music
- Four Powers of Intuition
- Comparing Roger Penrose and Sri Aurobindo on the Mind
- Why spiritual experiences do not repeat?
- Reconciling Samkhya, Vedanta and Tantra
- Sharing spiritual experiences with others
- Sravana Manana and Nidhidhyasana